« Main Search

Advantages of the New World Translation:

New World Translation: Why is the Greek word translated differently?

At Romans 8:27, the New World Translation renders the Greek phronema as "meaning," but in Romans 8:6, 7, the rendering is "minding." Why is the same Greek word translated differently?

The context recommends the two renderings chosen. The Foreword of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (1950) stated: "To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning as far as the context permitted." Some would not consider phronema a major word, since it occurs only four times. It is, though, related to words that are used more often. One is phrone, meaning "to think, to be minded in a certain way." (Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33; Romans 8:5; 12:3; 15:5) Other related Greek words convey the idea of using practical wisdom, sense, or discretion.—Luke 1:17; 12:42; 16:8; Romans 11:25; Ephesians 1:8.

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures shows that phro~ne~ma occurs four times at Romans 8:6, 7, 27 and that its literal meaning is consistently "minding." Greek scholars Bauer, Amdt, and Gingrich explain phrohema as: ‘way of thinking, mind(-set), aim, aspiration, striving.’—A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

In Romans chapter 8, the apostle Paul counseled Christians not to walk according to the imperfect human flesh. To succeed in this, they should guard against the tendencies or impulses of the flesh, as well as the reasonings of an imperfect heart. ‘Setting their minds’ on the things in accord with God’s holy spirit will help in this.—Romans 8:1-5.

Paul offered this contrast: "The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God." (Romans 8:6, 7) Humans are the subjects in these two verses. Humans, particularly Christians, ought not set their minds on, or be "minding," the things of the fallen flesh. Instead, they ought to set their minds on, or be "minding," the things that are in harmony with and stimulated by the spirit.

In contrast, Rom. 8:27 is dealing with God himself We read: "Yet he [Jehovah] who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in accord with God for holy ones." Yes, the "he" here is Jehovah, the Hearer of prayer.

The word phronema could have been rendered in Rom. 8:27 as "minding." But holy spirit is not a person that actually thinks or has its own thinking. The spirit is the active force of God, who knows how his holy spirit works in accomplishing his will. Further, the import of this verse differs from that of Romans 8:6, 7. Those earlier verses highlighted the need humans have to control their thinking and actions. But Jehovah does not have to work, or struggle, to control himself. He knows what was recorded in the Bible under inspiration, such as Biblical expressions that indicate his will for his earthly servants. Dr. Heinrich Meyer comments on Romans 8:27: "God would in every case know the purpose of the Spirit."

Hence, the rendering "meaning" is in line with the context or thrust of Romans 8:27, and it is allowed by the Greek. The Translator's New Testament renders it: "He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means."

Why does the New World Translation at times render the Greek word pisteu’o as "believe" (like most translations) and at other times as "exercise [or put] faith in"?

This is done to reflect different shades of meaning that are expressed by the Greek word pisteu ‘o.

For example, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by James Moulton, notes that early Christians clearly recognized "the importance of the difference between mere belief.., and personal trust." Both these thoughts can be expressed using the Greek word pi’steu’o.

Often, the different shades of meaning of pisteu ‘0 must be discerned from the context. At times, though, different grammatical constructions help us to see what the writer had in mind. For example, if pi’steu’o is followed merely by a noun in the dative case, the New World Translation usually renders it simply as "believe"—unless the context indicates something different. (Matthew 21:25, 32; but see Romans 4:3.) If pi’steu’o is followed by the word e’pi’, "on,"it is generally rendered "believe on." (Matthew 27:42; Acts 16:31) If it is followed by eis, "to," it is usually translated "exercise faith in."—John 12:36; 14:1.

Leviticus 18:20 (NWT) says: "You must not give your emission as semen to the wife of your associate." However, the King James Version simply says: "Thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife." The New English Bible and New American Standard Bible read similarly.

Most translations paraphrase this verse. The New World Translation renders it literally, as do both the NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament and The Interlinear Hebrew/Greek English Bible. The latter renders this verse: "And you shall not give your seed of copulation to the wife of your neighbor."

Why does the New World Translation render the Hebrew word ‘arum’ at Genesis 3:1 as 'cautious’ since other Bible translations say ‘cunning’ or 'clever'?

That scripture reads: "Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?"’

At Proverbs 12:23 and other places, the New World Translation renders the Hebrew word ‘arum’ as "shrewd," which is one basic meaning of the word when applied to humans. But as is the case with so many words, ‘a’rum’ has various shades of meaning. For instance, Benjamin Davidson defines a’rum’ as follows: "I. crafty, cunning, subtle.—II. prudent, cautious."— The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon.

Why, then, does the New World Translation select the secondary meaning of "cautious" at Genesis 3:1? That choice is in hannony with other translations. For instance, when Genesis 3:1 was translated into Greek in the Septuagint version of the third century B.C.E., the word phronimos was used—the same word later used at Matthew 10:16: "You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves."—Today’s English Version.

Hebrew scholar Ludwig Koehler commented back in 1945: "The serpent is shy. This can be very well expressed in Greek with phronimos, for by this shyness or caution the serpent manifests possession and practice of phrenes." Phrenes here means a kind of instinctive wisdom that other animals also manifest.—Compare Proverbs 30:24.

There is, however, a more important reason for the use of the word "cautious" instead of "shrewd" or "clever" at Genesis 3:1. To call the serpent clever here, right before it is described as seducing Eve into sin, might lead many readers to conclude that the Bible depicts a mere snake as working out this scheme by dint of its own unusual cleverness. Such an interpretation would reduce the account to the status of myth—and a rather silly myth at that.

On the contrary, the Bible teaches that there was much more than some clever snake at work there in the garden of Eden. Revelation 12:9 clearly identifies Satan the Devil with that "original serpent." He was the unseen, superhuman power manipulating the simple reptile the way a master ventriloquist works his dummy. The natural caution of the serpent made it an ideal choice for the ruse. When it did not shy away cautiously as was its nature but instead boldly opened its mouth and began to speak to Eve, it caught Eve’s attention all the more effectively.

God’s inspired Word is free of myths, and by accurate rendering, the New World Translation helps us to appreciate this fact.—2 Timothy 3:16.


In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the quality of love is mentioned nearly 200 times (over 250 times, if related words such as "loving-kindness" are included). What is not generally realized is that Greek has four basic words for the English equivalent "love." In the Christian Greek Scriptures, three of these words are employed: Storgé, relating to the special love existing between parents and children; philía, denoting personal attachment and tender affection among friends; and agape, often described as the love that is governed or guided by principles—such as Jehovah’s love for the human family.—John 3:16.

To differentiate between these words calls for skilled translating—a fine point not always acknowledged by those who undertake the task. The conversation between Jesus and Peter, recorded at John 21:15-17, is a clear example. Here most translations use the simple word "love" seven times. But not so the New World Translation. This is because the Gospel writer John, in quoting Jesus, twice used agape, calling for Peter’s unselfish love in ministering to others ("Simon son of John, do you love me?"). However, in giving Peter’s answers, John used phi/ía, denoting very personal affection for Jesus. The use of philia when citing Christ’s third question ("Simon son of John, do you have affection for me?") underlines the love that existed between Jesus and Peter.

You may recall that, according to Matthew chapter six, Jesus condemned in a very forthright way those who hypocritically made a showing of their gifts of mercy. Most translations are content to say that such ones already ‘have their reward.’ The Greek verb apécho, however, carries the distinct thought, conveyed by the New World Translation, that they were "having their reward in full." (Matt. 6:5) They sought the praise of men and that was all they would receive. How pointed were Jesus’ remarks!

The King James Version of 1611 always uses the word "hell" to translate three distinct Greek words, Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus. Modern translations often differentiate between these words, but not consistently so, as does the New World Translation. Hades, transliterated from the Greek, literally means "the unseen place." Peter’s use of it, as noted at Acts 2:27, shows that it is equivalent to the Hebrew word Sheol (the common grave of mankind), whereas Gehenna, descriptive of the Valley of Hinnom to the southwest of Jerusalem, denotes everlasting destruction. Tartarus occurs but once, at 2 Peter 2:4, and applies only to the fallen angelic spirits.

For many sincere people, the word "hell" is an emotive one on account of their religious training. A concise and accurate translation of the Greek clears out false teachings. Not all translators desire this, however, as seems apparent from this paraphrase of Matthew 7:13: "Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it." (Good News Bible) The introduction of "hell" here for the Greek apóleia, meaning "destruction," is quite misleading. The precision of the literal New World Translation dispels any ambiguity, in stating: "Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it."

Why is the rendering of 2 Peter 1:19 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures different from that in other Bibles?

Stressing the value of God’s inspired word, the apostle Peter wrote: "Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts."—2 Peter 1:19.

Notice that the phrase "until day dawns and a daystar rises" is set off by commas. Most Bible translations do not do this. For example, Dr. James Moffatt renders the latter part of the verse 2 Peter 1:19:".. . it shines like a lamp within a darksome spot; till the Day dawns and the daystar rises within your hearts." Renderings like this one lead to the view that the rising of the daystar occurs within the hearts of believers, such as when they experience some sort of spiritual illumination.

However, even back in Moses’ day, there was indication that ‘a star out of Jacob’ would arise. (Numbers 24:17; compare Psalm 89:34-37.) Jesus clearly identified himself as that "offspring of David, and the bright morning star."—Revelation 22:16.

This identification of the "daystar," or "morning star," fits the context of what the apostle Peter was discussing. He had just referred to the transfiguration vision that he had seen some 30 years earlier. (Matthew 16:28—17:9) That brilliant vision pointed to the time when Jesus would ‘come in his kingdom,’ or be glorified in Kingdom power. What Peter had seen emphasized the value of God’s word; similarly, Christians today need to pay attention to that prophetic word.

While the hearts of mankind in general were—and still are in darkness, that need not be so with true Christians. It is as if they have a lamp shining in what otherwise would be dark, their hearts. Peter knew that by paying attention to the illuminating prophetic word of God, Christians would keep alert and enlightened to the dawn of a new day. That would be the time when the "daystar," or "bright morning star," would actually reign in Kingdom power.

It is interesting that E. W. Bullinger wrote on 2 Peter 1:19: "Here, it is clear that there must be a parenthesis, for it is prophecy that is the light that shines, and Christ and His appearing are the Day-star and the Day-dawn. Surely, the meaning cannot be that we are exhorted to take heed to the prophetic word until Christ is revealed in our hearts! No; but we are to take heed in our hearts to this prophetic word, until the fulfillment comes in the appearing of Christ—the rising of Him who is called ‘the Morning Star."’— Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, 1898.

Accordingly, a number of Bible translations employ parentheses at 2 Peter 1:19. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures maintains the basic order of presentation found in the original Greek. But it uses commas to set off the phrase "until day dawns and a daystar rises" from the admonition to pay attention to the word ‘as to a lamp shining in a dark place, in your hearts.’

[Next Article]

    Previous Top
© 1999 - 2007 Jehovah's Witnesses United. All rights reserved. Terms of Service
home-icon.gif (1K) Home:
General News
Human Rights
Study Tools
Site Search
Web Search
genexe-icon.gif (1K) EXEGESIS:
Study Links
genexe-icon.gif (1K) GENERAL:
resources-icon.gif (1K) Resources: