Bible Translation and Study 

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation and the Deception of "MacGregor Ministries"

Now in three parts for easier reading

On the MacGregor "Ministries" website (hereafter referred to as "MacGregor"), there is an article entitled "How Reliable is the Kingdom Interlinear Bible Translation?"[1]  The page does not state who its author is or what his or her qualifications are to assess the reliability of a Bible translation.  However, we can get an idea of how well (or, how badly) the author understands the issues by analyzing what he or she has written.

Firstly, the site perpetuates the old myth of the 'spontaneously produced Bible translation', a Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1985 edition.theory about as probable as the spontaneous generation of life.  It states that the "New World Translation was done without any Greek or Hebrew scholars", an extraordinary assertion, considering that the translators of the New World Translation were anonymous.  In reality, MacGregor couldn't possibly know the scholarly abilities or qualifications of anyone involved in the production of the New World Translation.  Is it really so difficult to believe that an organization made up of millions of people from all different parts of the world should have in its ranks persons capable of translating the Bible? Surely a group the size of Jehovah's Witnesses has the resources to train the relatively small number of people needed to handle matters of original-language scholarship and Bible translation?  For a further discussion of this point, see the article 'Hommel and the New World Translation'

Concealing the Truth

MacGregor Ministries' website contains extracts from the preface to the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, in which it attempts to give the impression that the translators have made commitments that they are not keeping.  Specifically, the site seeks to convince its readers that the Watch Tower Society has promised to use the same English word in the translation every time any given Greek word is used in the original - something which no English translation has ever done and which is basically impossible.  Note how deceitful editing gives a false impression of what the KIT actually says:

What the Kingdom Interlinear says according to MacGregor Ministries:

The complete text of what the Kingdom Interlinear actually says:

"We offer no paraphrase of the Scriptures"...



 "nearly as possible word for word, the exact statement of the original"...

We offer no paraphrase of the Scriptures.  Our endeavor throughout has been to give as literal a translation as possible where the modern English idiom allows for it or where the thought content is not hidden due to any awkwardness in the literal rendition

In this way, we can best meet the desire of those who are scrupulous for getting as nearly as possible word for word, the exact statement of the original.

To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning...".

To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning as far as the context permitted.

Has the MacGregor site been honest in its quotation of the Kingdom Interlinear preface?    Note that the Interlinear preface qualifies the translation principle of a literal, word-for-word rendering with the caveat that this is done where modern English idiom allows for it, where the thought content is not hidden due to any awkwardness in the literal rendition, and as far as the context permitted.  All three of these qualifying expressions are omitted from MacGregor's edited version of the preface.  Later in the article, it attacks the NWT, asking:

What happened to their promise to assign one meaning to one word and stick with it? Apparently this only works when it is not exposing their false teachings!

Here, they are attacking a straw man.  The New World Translation Committee never promised to use only one English word for each different Greek word, but only stated that it had attempted to do so where the context permitted and the meaning of the original was not hidden.  As will be shown throughout this essay, these principles have been followed faithfully by the New World Translation.

Examining Individual Cases

Let us now examine some of the assertions made by MacGregor about the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, to determine whether they stand up to scrutiny.  Please note that all direct quotations from the MacGregor Ministries' website on this page are in blue for easy identification.

John 8:58

Like many critics of the NWT, MacGregor takes issue with its rendering of John 8:58:

Jesus said to them: "Most truly I say to YOU, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been."

Let us look at the matter of the tense labelling first.  MacGregor complains:

The footnote in the 1969 purple-cover edition of the KIT states that the "I have been" is "properly rendered in the perfect tense." However, in the l985 (sic) Navy-Blue-cover edition, the footnote states that "I have been" is "properly translated by the perfect indicative" (tense).

So far, so good.  But then, advertising their ignorance of fairly elementary grammatical terminology, they go on to protest:

Wouldn't true scholars KNOW the correct tense? Here the Watchtower has presented two different tenses for the same words. Which is wrong? Which is right? Actually they made three stabs at choosing a tense. In the 1950 NWT of the Christian Greek Scriptures the Watchtower "translators" claimed John 8:58 was in the "perfect indefinite tense". All three tries are WRONG, according to Greek Scholars. The correct tense is the present tense, and the correct translation is "I am", not "I have been".

Two different tenses?  Is the perfect tense a different tense from the perfect indicative?  Both are the same tense - the perfect.  The word 'indicative' is a grammatical term that relates to mood, not to tense.  When grammarians talk of the "perfect indicative", they mean the perfectego eimi tense[2], indicative mood.[3]  The two terms are not mutually exclusive; one is simply more specific than the other.  So, both versions of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation are saying the same thing, namely, that εγω ειμι (ego eimi) should be translated into English by "I have been".[4]

Incidentally, the footnotes referred to in both editions of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation are talking about the English tense used, not the Greek[5], which, as the NWT translators were well aware, is the present tense. 

MacGregor further criticizes the 1950 edition of the New World Translation, stating that the Watchtower  'translators' [inverted commas in original] claimed John 8:58 was in the 'perfect indefinite tense'."  But MacGregor's statement is in error.  The 1950 edition of the NWT clearly does not state that the Greek of John 8:58 is in the perfect indefinite tense.   What it actually says is that the phrase has been "rendered in the perfect indefinite tense".  Likewise, the 1969 edition of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation says that ego eimi is "properly rendered in the perfect tense."  The verb "rendered", of course, means "translated".  Thus, the 1985 edition of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation says that the action expressed by this verb is "properly translated by the perfect indicative."  Once again, MacGregor is attributing to the translators a position that they never held and refuting that position - another 'strawman' argument.

The translators of the NWT were fully aware that εγω ειμι is a present-tense verb in Greek and at no time asserted the contrary.[6]  This may be seen from the appendix to the 1985 Edition of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, which clearly differentiates between the tense used in the original Greek and the tense used in the translation:

Ειμί, which is the first-person singular present indicative, is properly translated by the perfect indicative. (page 1145; emphasis added)

MacGregor asks:

Why do they "translate" the words "ego eimi" as "I have been" in this verse (John 8:58, when, if you turn back two pages to John 8:18, 23, 24 and 28 you will see examples where "ego eimi" is translated correctly by them, as "I am".

The correct translation of εγω ειμι in John 8:58 is the subject of another essay on this site.  Suffice it to say here that Greek often uses the present tense to describe an action that began in the past and continues into the present.  English does not do this, and hence the use of the present perfect is appropriate in English.

Of course, the examples of 'ego eimi' in John 8:18, 23, 24, 28 are found in a different grammatical context.  None of them are accompanied by an expression of past time, such as that found at John 8:58, namely "before Abraham came into existence" or "before Abraham was" (KJV)Is MacGregor being disingenuous or just naive?  You decide.

Interestingly, although the MacGregor website has a scanned copy of the footnote from the 1985 edition of the Kingdom Interlinear, it does not present the footnote for the 1969 edition. 

Here is the scan of John 8:58 from the 1969 edition of the Kingdom Interlinear, the exact scan that appeared on the MacGregor Ministries Website:


And here is the footnote from the very same page of the 1969 Kingdom Interlinear, which MacGregor must have decided to cut out of the scanned page:

The 1969 edition points out in its footnote to John 8:58: "It is not the same as ο ων (ho ohn', meaning 'The Being' or 'The I Am') at Exodus 3:14, LXX."

This is significant because of what MacGregor goes on to say:

Numerous translations and Bible scholars correctly cross-reference this verse with Exodus 3:14 which reveals the divine name for God as "I AM". The Watchtower Society could not have its followers believing the revealing words of Jesus over their false doctrine. Jesus really is the "I AM".

Perhaps it is now apparent why MacGregor has excised the footnote from its scan of the 1969 edition of the Kingdom Interlinear.  They could not include it without publishing the Watch Tower Society's clear and powerful refutation of their own argument that John 8:58 is a reference to Exodus 3:14.  For a discussion of whether John 8:58 is an allusion to Exodus 3:14, please see the page "Assessing the NWT Rendering of John 8:58" as well as this thought-provoking analysis found on another website.

Finally, reflecting the views of many other NWT critics, McGregor asks:

Why have they changed the plain statement by Jesus Christ that He is the "I Am"?

Of course, there is no "plain statement" by Jesus that he is the "I am".   Think about it.  McGregor uses reported speech: "the plain statement by Jesus that he is the 'I Am".  How would you turn that into direct speech?  "Jesus said that he is the 'I Am'' in reported speech, would become "I am the 'I Am'" in direct speech.  But Jesus did not say: "I am the 'I Am'."  The expression 'I am' occurs only once in the Greek of John 8:58, not twice.

Jason Beduhn and Rob Bowman have conducted an online debate about the correct translation of John 8:58.  Read about it here.

John 17:3 - taking in knowledge

John 17:3 in the New World Translation reads:

This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ

MacGregor comments:

The NWT says "taking in knowledge of you" BUT the Greek text in the KIT says something quite different..."they may be knowing you." We need to know God through Jesus Christ in order to have everlasting life. All the knowledge in the world will not save us.

Firstly, it should be noted that the New World Translation committee has not tried to hide the ginoskofact that the Greek text basically says 'knowing you'.  Indeed, the footnote of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures - With References reads: "Or, their knowing you."  So there is nothing underhand about it.  Note the comments by well-known and respected scholars:

W. E. Vine: “GINOSKO (γινωσκω) signifies to be taking in knowledge, to come toExpository Dictionary of New Testament Words (W. E. Vine) know, recognize, understand, or to understand completely.”[7]

J. H. Moulton: “The present simplex, γινωσκειν, is durative, ‘to be taking in knowledge.’”[8]

Word Pictures in the New Testament (Robertson)A. T. Robertson: Should know (ginoskosin). Present active subjunctive with hina (subject clause), “should keep on knowing.”[9]

We see, then, that McGregor Ministries' criticism of the NWT reading is entirely unjustified. 

John 20:28 - Is Jesus Given the Title 'ho theos'?

The Macgregor website refers to John 20:28, which reads in the New World Translation much the same as it does in the King James Version and other translations: "My Lord and my God." 

Since this is not a translation issue, despite the fact that it appears on the page, "How Reliable is the Kingdom Interlinear Bible Translation?", we shall confine ourselves to a brief comment on MacGregor's assertion:

The JW argument is that the Greek term "Ho Theos" (The God) always refers to Jehovah God, whereas "Theos" without the definite article "Ho" could be just Jesus. Yet, In John 20:28, we have the disciple Thomas exclaiming to the risen Christ.

Is this true?  Do Jehovah's Witnesses claim that "the Greek term 'Ho Theos' (The God) always refers to Jehovah God"?  Note the subtle difference between the above statement of MacGregor and the quotation they proceed to make from The Watchtower,

The Watchtower magazine of July 1, l986 (sic), page 31 claims in a footnote that.

"The title ho theos (the God, or God), which now designates the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the N(ew) T(estament) to Jesus Himself; Jesus is the Son of God (of ho theos)..."

Now, for good measure, let's look at the full quotation, as it was printed in The Watchtower, July 1, 1986:

“The title ho theos [the God, or God], which now designates the Father as a personalho theos mou reality, is not applied in the New Testament to Jesus Himself; Jesus is the Son of God (of ho theos). . . . Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God [=the Father], and the word was a divine being.’”—Dictionary of the Bible (1965), by John L. McKenzie, S.J.

Leaving aside for a moment the possibility that Thomas's words were not directed at Jesus but at God[10], there are still certain important observations to make: 

  1. MacGregor omits to mention that this is not merely the opinion of The Watchtower but that of the Jesuit scholar John L. McKenzie who made the above statement.  This type of selective quotation certainly casts considerable doubt on MacGregor's objectivity and intellectual honesty.
  2. McKenzie did not state that "the Greek term 'Ho Theos' always refers to Jehovah God", as MacGregor asserts.  He actually refers to the title ho theos. There is a subtle but important difference.  Ho theos is not a title at John 20:28.

When 2 Corinthians 4:4 refers to the Devil as ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου (ho theos tou aionos toutou), clearly the reference is not to God.  The expression ho theos (God or the god) is qualified by a genitive phrase tou aionos toutou, 'of this world/age/system'.  Hence it is not a title but rather explains the position occupied by the Devil in relation to this world, namely, that he is its god.[11]

Similarly, John 20:28 has ο θεός followed by a genitive, in this case μου (mou, of me, or my).  Therefore itKingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969 edition. is not a title, but rather shows the position occupied by the one addressed in relation to Thomas, i.e. he was God (or a god) to Thomas.

The presence of the definite article (ho) before theos in John 20:28 need not be taken as proof that Jesus is God (ho theos).  Scholars generally recognize that Koine Greek can use an articular noun[12] in the nominative case instead of a vocative.  This is done particularly under the influence of the Hebrew language, which employs a similar form of address.  Daniel Wallace, who is a conservative Greek scholar, classified John 20:28 as nominative-for-vocative, "most likely due to Semitic influence".[13]

Hence the fact that the expression ho theos is used by Thomas in John 20:28 does not prove that Jesus is Almighty God.

Colossians 1:26 - "mystery"

MacGregor objects to the New World Translation's use of the expression 'sacred secret' in Colossians 1:26 and elsewhere, stating:

"Jehovah's Witnesses do not like to hear the term "mystery" in connection with God, as they claim God is no mystery to them!" 

and adds

"Why do they not want Jehovah's Witnesses to know that there is mystery about God?"

mysterionIf there is a mystery here, it is where MacGregor Ministries got this idea from.  This is a particularly odd criticism of the NWT, and not one that is encountered frequently.  Perhaps that is because it is so obviously false.  One of the organization's most famous books, published in 1917, was entitled "The Finished Mystery".  Another book, published in 1969, bore the title: "Then is Finished the Mystery of God."[14] 

Let's look at how a number of versions render the Greek word μυστηριον, mysterion at Colossians 1:26.

Analytical-Literal Translation


Bible in Basic English


German Elberfelder Bible

das Geheimnis (the secret)

German Luther Bible

das Geheimnis (the secret)

Good News Translation


Goodspeed New Testament


International Standard Version



truth which has been kept secret

Young's New Testament

the secret that hath been hid

Now let's look at how some lexicons define μυστηριον, mysterion:

BDAG: The Pauline lit. has m. in 21 places. A secret or mystery, too profound for human ingenuity

UBS Lexicon: secret, mystery (of something formerly unknown but now revealed) 

Louw-Nida Lexicon: the content of that which has not been known before but which has beenLouw-Nida Lexicon revealed to an in-group or restricted constituency - 'secret, mystery.'  ... There is a serious problem involved in translating μυστηριον by a word which is equivalent to the English expression 'mystery,' for this term in English refers to a secret which people have tried to uncover but which they have failed to understand. In many instances μυστηριον is translated by a phrase meaning 'that which was not known before,' with the implication of its being revealed at least to some persons.

In view of the fact that the word 'secret' is used by many other translations and appears alongside 'mystery' in reputable Bible lexicons, it is difficult to see what MacGregor's point is.  Apparently they are simply hoping that their readers will not check any other translations or any Greek lexicons.  Their argument from ignorance is a very weak argument indeed!


 Part 1   -   Part 2   -   Part 3

"Yet these men are abusive in matters of which they know nothing" -
Jude 10, Weymouth.


[1] After much thought I have decided not to link to this site as it contains material not only critical of the New World Translation but also extremely inflammatory and slanderous material that assails the good reputation of Jehovah's Witnesses in the community, thus contributing to religious discrimination and hatred against Jehovah's Witnesses.  However, readers of this site can be assured that I have made every effort to give an accurate representation of the site's claims about the Kingdom Interlinear Translation and have double-checked all quotations made from the page.

[2] Merriam Webster defines the grammatical term "perfect" as "of, relating to, or constituting a verb form or verbal that expresses an action or state completed at the time of speaking or at a time spoken of" (Definition)

[3] Merriam Webster defines "indicative" as meaning "of, relating to, or constituting a verb form or set of verb forms that represents the denoted act or state as an objective fact <the indicative mood>"  (Definition)

[4] The 1969 edition simply mentions the perfect tense, without specifying the mood.  It could safely do this, since the perfect is rarely used in English outside the indicative mood.  Nonetheless, the 1985 version improves on this explanation by making it more precise.

[5] This is seen by the fact that the 1969 KIT uses the phrase "properly rendered in the perfect tense", the 1985 edition similarly remarking that it is "properly translated by the perfect indicative".  Both footnotes are dealing with the proper tense to use in English, not what tense is used in the original Greek.

[6] Rolf Furuli in The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation, page 239, comments on the phrase "perfect indefinite tense", shedding some light on the likely reasons why it was changed in later versions of the NWT.  There he states that although "the semantic contents of the phrase may be fitting, and the term can be found in old English grammars, it was not standard grammatical terminology in 1950".  This is, however, a very minor criticism.

[7] Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

[8] A Grammar of New Testament Greek

[9] Word Pictures in the New Testament, comment on John 17:3.

[10] Hal Flemings pointed out in a letter to a Mr. Marks: "If I saw you tomorrow and said to you: "My God, is that you Ed Marks?", would that be sufficient evidence since I "said to you" in clear terms "My God" that I was acknowledging that you were a God--and not only that but MY God?" (source)

[11] Virtually all English versions recognize that ho theos is not a title in 2 Corinthians 4:4, as is seen by the fact that they do not capitalize it.

[12] An articular noun is one that has the Greek article, in this case ho.

[13] Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 58.

[14] Jehovah's Witnesses do not dispute that there are mysteries.  "The Bible does refer to divine mysteries, or sacred secrets. But none of these conflict with clearly stated Scriptural truths." - Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, page 264.

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