In biblical translation classes, there’s a saying: “There is no translation without interpretation;” it’s a way of acknowledging that whenever a disputed passage is up for translation, you’re not likely to going to go against your biases.

But one group — one with an American origin — is in a unique position: their interpretations are based on a specific translation.

The group? The Jehovah’s Witnesses. The translation? The New World Translation.

The Witnesses go back further than the existence of the New World Translation, which their organization — the Watchtower Society — publishes. But many of their doctrines or teachings that stand in opposition to orthodox Christianity are best supported by the New World Translation.

For example, their Christology is supported by the NWT’s rendering of John 1:1-2:

1 In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. 2 This one was in [the] beginning with God.

Compare this to the Authorized Version, which many Witnesses used before the NWT was widely available:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

Likewise, the NWT is used to support their teaching that Christ was killed on a stake rather than the traditional cross; in fact, the NWT says he was impaled. See John 19:14-25a:

14 Now it was preparation of the passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews: “See! YOUR king!” 15 However, they shouted: “Take [him] away! Take [him] away! Impale him!” Pilate said to them: “Shall I impale YOUR king?” The chief priests answered: “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 At that time, therefore, he handed him over to them to be impaled.

Then they took charge of Jesus. 17 And, bearing the torture stake for himself, he went out to the so-called Skull Place, which is called Gol´go·tha in Hebrew; 18 and there they impaled him, and two other [men] with him, one on this side and one on that, but Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate wrote a title also and put it on the torture stake. It was written: “Jesus the Naz·a·rene´ the King of the Jews.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this title, because the place where Jesus was impaled was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, in Greek. 21 However, the chief priests of the Jews began to say to Pilate: “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered: “What I have written I have written.”

23 Now when the soldiers had impaled Jesus, they took his outer garments and made four parts, for each soldier a part, and the inner garment. But the inner garment was without a seam, being woven from the top throughout its length. 24 Therefore they said to one another: “Let us not tear it, but let us determine by lots over it whose it will be.” This was that the scripture might be fulfilled: “They apportioned my outer garments among themselves, and upon my apparel they cast lots.” And so the soldiers really did these things.

25 By the torture stake of Jesus, however, there were standing his mother and the sister of his mother…

Then, there’s the teaching that Christ was raised as a spirit person, based on the NWT’s rendering of 1 Peter 3:18:

Why, even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous [person] for unrighteous ones, that he might lead YOU to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.

For comparison, again, here’s the Authorized Version:

3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

The examples go on.

Many Jehovah’s Witnesses will adamantly demand that the NWT is the most accurate translation of the Bible ever rendered. That the most accurate translation ever rendered exactly affirms their teachings is not lost on them.

So, what great biblical scholars translated the NWT?

No one knows.

The translation committee was anonymous at their request, though some have hazarded a guess at who it could have been.

You can read the NWT online at the Watchtower Society’s website.