Watchtower’s much-anticipated 129th Annual Meeting was held today at the Stanley Theater, New Jersey. In an unprecedented move, the event was streamed live to 1,830 locations – a global audience of nearly 1.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Sadly I was among those without an invitation. The Governing Body does not tend to welcome with open arms those like me who are critical of some of their teachings and policies.
But thankfully I have not been left entirely in the dark, and neither has anyone else for that matter! One brave blogger going by the name of “DrJohnChrist” who attended one of the streaming locations has provided a running commentary via a thread on the Reddit social network.
Much of the hype leading up to the Annual Meeting surrounded the fact that there has been a far-reaching shortage of New World Translations over the last few months, with congregation stocks running dry. This led to rumors that a new version of the English New World Translation was in preparation – and it seems these whispers were not wide of the mark.
It fell to Governing Body member Geoffrey Jackson to announce the new release. Revised into 21st Century English with a grey cover and silver edges, a revision of the New World Translation bible has been released today with the PDF version available on Monday 7th (presumably on JW.org). This is what it looks like…
Nicknamed the “witnessing bible” (according to Stephen Lett), a large-print version will be available in 2014 followed by a pocket version. A large bible with wide margins for note-taking is also planned. The new bibles feature a “mini reasoning book,” an “extensive appendix,” a glossary, outlined summaries at the start of each book, maps and other references.
You can check the play-by-play thread yourself by clicking here.
A sexist faux pas?
In explaining the development of the new bible, Geoffrey Jackson is said to have commented extensively on the work that was done – which included designing a new font set for copyright reasons.
When commenting on the new bible’s appearance and durability, Jackson is reported to have joked that it is both “witness-proof” and “sister proof.” Quite what this means isn’t immediately obvious, but it could be that he was alluding to a stereotype of women as being overly fastidious as to how an item looks rather than its content and purpose.
While many Witnesses would likely shrug off such a remark, it was undoubtedly sexist assuming, of course, that these were Jackson’s words. You could imagine the uproar if a politician on camera described the appearance of any item as “woman proof.” It would also not be the first time a Governing Body member has made a chauvinistic remark from the platform, as certain videos featuring Stephen Lett and Samuel Herd will show.
A revised translation
It seems that, rather than being an entirely new translation (which would require a new name) this new bible is a revised translation – meaning that it is predominantly an updated and improved version of the original English New World Translation.
About two years ago I was informed by a translator in a non-English bethel that it was only a matter of time before the NWT English version would be revised, because it was originally written in 1950s English whereas subsequent translators in other languages have had the luxury of rendering bible verses in a more contemporary lexicon. This prediction was clearly accurate.
A number of terms have thus been changed as follows (according to the Reddit thread)…
- “Long-suffering” is now “patience”
- “Loose conduct” is now “brazen conduct”
- “Fornication” is now “sexual immorality”
- “Impaled” is now “nailed to a stake”
- “Sheol and hades” is now “the grave”
- “Revelries” is now “wild parties”
- “Soul” is now a variety of words depending on context
- “Kidney” now means “deepest emotions”
- “In want of heart” is now “lacking good sense”
- “Sons of Israel” is now “Israelites”
- “Fatherless boy” is now “fatherless child”
- “Alien” is now “foreigner”
- “Ass” is now “donkey”
- “Impale him” is now “to the stake with him” (a regression if you ask me!)
- “Dumb demon” is now “speechless”
- “Loving kindness” is now “loyal love”
- “Jacob’s ladder” is now “Jacob’s stairway”
- and Joseph’s “coat of many colors” is now his “special robe.”
Parts of the gospels that are disputed have been removed, namely the long and short conclusions to Mark, and John 7:53-8:11. You will be familiar with these passages as the parts that appear in small font in the original version. This adjustment will doubtless not meet with widespread approval.
It will be interesting to see how certain key texts often used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to support Watchtower teachings have now been rendered, but without having seen the bible I am personally willing to trust that no attempt has been made to alter the meaning of verses or distort scripture. I will know more once I have seen the bible for myself.
Though this bible revision first-and-foremost represents a straightforward improvement to the original English, the extent of changes (i.e. removal of disputed gospel passages and addition of extra reference material) should necessitate new versions of bibles in other languages. Otherwise you would have an English bible that differs significantly in content from its non-English counterparts. The question of how and when other language versions will be introduced apparently wasn’t addressed at the annual meeting, so we will have to wait and see what transpires. [Edit: this question WAS in fact raised during the meeting, and Guy Pierce indicated that other language editions WOULD be released, but not in the immediate future.]
Replacement for Watchtower Library?
A new application is also said to have been announced at the annual meeting by Guy Pierce, with the insinuation that it will replace Watchtower Library.
“JW Library” is reported to include five other bible translations, and will be available for download from Monday 7th onwards from Google Play, the Apple Store, the Windows Store, and Amazon.
It remains to be seen whether a price will be attached to this new software. If there is, this could prove to be a very clever and unprecedented way of guaranteeing extra cash flow. However, I would rather give the organization the benefit of the doubt and assume it is a free download until I am able to check on Monday!
[Edit: I am pleased to confirm that this app is free to download. Furthermore, having listened to the announcement, I personally doubt JW Library is an immediate replacement for Watchtower Library, since it is only really designed for touch-screen devices. That said, it would not surprise me if there are long term plans for JW Library to be the successor to Watchtower Library.]
In the build-up to this meeting, rumors were rife on the internet that there would be another major new scriptural understanding, or “new light,” unveiled. These rumors were understandable given the magnitude of the doctrinal changes at last year’s event, in which the Governing Body announced itself to be the faithful slave.
In opening this year’s annual meeting, Guy Pierce could be said to have somewhat goaded his audience and raised expectations unnecessarily.
This is what he reportedly said, according to DrJohnChrist…
“Will important bible questions be answered? Yes. Proverbs 4:18. There will be new light. The righteous ones (Jehovah’s people) will get the light. Will bible truths be refined at this meeting? Absolutely.”
You can arguably excuse the “bible questions” remark as a joking acknowledgment of the number of enquiries doubtless received at headquarters as to the lack of availability of bibles.
Even so, if Guy Pierce truly said the above, then he was leading his audience up a blind alley. “Bible truths” were not “refined” at this meeting, certainly not in the sense that people would understand that statement. There was no “new light.”
Again, it remains to be seen what Pierce’s exact words were, but if this is a fair representation of what he said to introduce the meeting, then in my view his words were misleading.
Question marks can also be raised over the words of another Governing Body member. In his Watchtower summary, Gerrit Lösch is reported to have said the following…
“It’s good for us not to have association with relatives who love worldly pursuits. Are our children acting worldly? Using worldly slang? Actively STEER children toward baptism. What are your children’s conversations like? Can they sing worldly songs by heart but not kingdom songs? Do I permit my children to play with worldly children? Do they talk only about kingdom interests?”
Firstly, surely children should not be “steered” or coerced into making a lifelong commitment that they cannot fully appreciate until they have matured? Is this not a main reason why so many youths get disfellowshipped and end up being shunned by their parents?
As to the remarks about “worldly” relatives, inactive “faded” Witnesses including me will once more let out a collective sigh of disappointment at the “us versus them” mentality encouraged by the Governing Body – if this is truly what Lösch said. Deprivation of normal family contact and association is yet again used as a tool for control and punishment, as with the recent convention reminders on shunning (which all but admitted that shunning is a form of emotional blackmail).
The future is bright
But despite the disappointments, I take great encouragement from this meeting. If the above information turns out to be verified, as I hope it will be over the next few days, it will represent the THIRD major leak over the past 12 months. First we had the leak of the October 2012 elder’s letter regarding child abuse. Then in March the so-called “new light” July 15th Watchtower was leaked on this website weeks in advance of its normal release.
Now we have a thinking Witness providing a live blog feed from inside a tightly controlled and confidential meeting where use of social media was expressly banned. The bravery that DrJohnChrist has shown in getting the word out is highly commendable, and I am excited to think of what other significant leaks of information we can look forward to in the near future as yet more thinking Witnesses inside the organization decide to push the boundaries and make a difference.
UPDATE: To read my follow-up article, click here. I am now in receipt of audio files for the annual meeting which correspond with the above notes, and I can confirm the accuracy of what was written in this article based on those notes. I would, however, like to clarify two aspects of DrJohnChrist’s notes that seem to be causing some confusion: (1) when Gerrit Lösch said that God’s will is to be completed by the end of the millennium, this has given some the impression that Lösch was referring to the end of this century, when in fact he was referring to the end of Christ’s millennial rule, and (2) the phrase “bum witnesses” was never used in Lösch’s talk. The word “bum” was used once in Anthony Morris’ talk, but only in an illustration.