From the Foreword of "The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures"
*** Rbi8 p. 5 Foreword ***
IT IS a very responsible thing to translate the Holy Scriptures from their original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into modern speech. Translating the Holy Scriptures means rendering into another language the thoughts and sayings of Jehovah God, the heavenly Author of this sacred library of sixty-six books that holy men of long ago were inspired to write down for our benefit today.
That is a very sobering thought. The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They also feel a responsibility toward the searching readers who depend upon a translation of the inspired Word of the Most High God for their everlasting salvation.
It was with such a sense of solemn responsibility that over the course of many years this committee of dedicated men have produced the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The entire work was originally released in six volumes, from 1950 to 1960. From the start it was the desire of the translators to have all these volumes brought together into one book, inasmuch as the Holy Scriptures are in actuality one book by the One Author. While the original volumes contained marginal references and footnotes, the revised one-volume edition, released in 1961, contained neither footnotes nor marginal references. A second revision was released in 1970 and a third revision with footnotes followed in 1971. In 1969 the committee released The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, which presented under the Greek text revised by Westcott and Hort (1948 Reprint) a literal word-for-word translation into English. During the past 34 years the New World Translation has been translated in part or in its entirety into ten other languages, with a total printing and distribution surpassing 39 million.
This new edition is not just a refinement of the translated text beyond its already previous revisions, but it offers a complete updating and revision of the footnote apparatus and marginal (cross) references that were initially presented in English, from 1950 to 1960.
For information as to the features of this revised edition and the service it can render to the users, we refer you to the Introduction. This 1984 revision has been released by us to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania for printing, translation into other leading languages and distribution. We thus make it available with a deep sense of gratitude to the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, who has so privileged us and in whose spirit we have trusted in producing this revision. We pray for his blessing upon those who use this translation for spiritual advancement.
January 1, 1984, New York, N.Y.
And from the introduction:
*** Rbi8 pp. 6-7 Introduction ***
THE TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH
METHOD: Since the Bible sets forth the sacred will of the Sovereign Lord of the universe, it would be a great indignity, indeed an affront to his majesty and authority, to omit or hide his unique divine name, which plainly occurs in the Hebrew text nearly 7,000 times as( יהוה YHWH). Therefore, the foremost feature of this translation is the restoration of the divine name to its rightful place in the English text. It has been done, using the commonly accepted English form “Jehovah” 6,973 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. For a detailed study of this matter, see App 1A-1D.
In the New World Translation an effort was made to capture the authority, power, dynamism and directness of the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures and to convey these characteristics in modern English.
This translation is presented in modern English, using current speech forms, and does not use archaic English even in the various prayers and addresses to God. Thus we have not used the now-sanctimonious formal pronouns thou, thy, thine, thee and ye, with their corresponding verb inflections.
Paraphrases of the Scriptures are not offered. Rather, an effort has been made to give as literal a translation as possible where the modern-English idiom allows and where a literal rendition does not, by any awkwardness, hide the thought. In that way the desire of those who are scrupulous for getting an almost word-for-word statement of the original is met. It is realized that even such a seemingly insignificant matter as the use or omission of a comma or of a definite or an indefinite article may at times alter the correct sense of the original passage.
Taking liberties with the texts for the mere sake of brevity, and substituting some modern parallel when a literal rendering of the original makes good sense, has been avoided. Uniformity of rendering has been maintained by assigning one meaning to each major word and by holding to that meaning as far as the context permits. At times this has imposed a restriction upon word choice, but it aids in cross-reference work and in comparing related texts.
Special care was taken in translating Hebrew and Greek verbs in order to capture the simplicity, warmth, character and forcefulness of the original expressions. An effort was made to preserve the flavor of the ancient Hebrew and Greek times, the people’s way of thinking, reasoning and talking, their social dealings, etc. This has prevented any indulgence in translating as one may think the original speaker or writer should have said it. So, care has been taken not to modernize the verbal renderings to such an extent as to alter their ancient background beyond recognition. This means the reader will encounter many Hebrew and Greek idioms. In many cases the footnotes show the literalness of certain expressions.
The original Hebrew is terse, since its linguistic structure allows for briefness of expression. However, in rendering the sense and feel of the action and state of Hebrew verbs into English, it is not always possible to preserve the brevity due to a lack of corresponding color in English verb forms. Hence, auxiliary words that lengthen the expression are at times required to bring out the vividness, mental imagery and dramatic action of the verbs, as well as the point of view and the concept of time expressed by the Bible writers. In general the same is true of the Greek verbs. Thus, imperfect verbs have been kept in the imperfect state denoting progressive action. Participles have been rendered as participles involving continuous action. For a discussion of Hebrew verb translations, see App 3C.
Note that some original-language words have been carried over into English, for example, “Sheol,” “Hades,” “Gehenna,” “Amen,” “manna” and “Messiah.”