How the Russian Translation of the New World was created (through the eyes of an interpreter) V. Davydov / Google translate

The story of Vadim Davydov, a former Witness of Jehovah, a member of the Bethel family, one of the translators of the NWT.

general information

I was introduced to the group that by that time had been translating NM (hereinafter – the NWT group) into Russian for several years, in November 1996, and worked there until June 1998 as a member of the core staff, and then until September 1998 Year as an "external employee".

In the described period the group worked on the fourth floor of the main administrative building in the Management Center of the JW in Solnechny. Offices were located in the wing, located above the transport department; In the wing also housed offices of the service department and a service that helps members of the organization in matters relating to the voluntary refusal of medical blood transfusion. In total, the group was allocated 5 comfortable offices, overlooking the nature. Each employee had a separate office, equipped with a personal computer and furniture.

My appointment to the NWT group was due to the small personnel reshuffles carried out in it. In autumn 1996, it consisted of 5 people, 3 men and 2 women. The average age is 25 years. By that time, the work on the Russian version of the NT NWT had been underway for 2 years, but the project, which by that time should have been completed, was in a stage very far from the final one. Some members of the group developed rather tense relations, which resulted in a lot of time spent on resolving interpersonal conflicts, which did not contribute to the success and promotion of the project. As a result, in November 1996, one of the employees asked the management of the Management Center to release him from work in the NWT group and transfer to another position; His request was granted. I replaced him in his place.

In November 1996, I began to familiarize myself with my official duties.

Supervision over the work of the NWT group was carried out by the American Matthew Kelly, who spoke Russian very well. However, this work he was engaged in part-time, his main activity was related to the work of the branch committee and the service department. Matthew Kelly was a very significant figure in the hierarchy of the SR in Russia, his opinion meant a lot. He enjoyed certain advantages over other workers – in particular, he was given a separate room, where he lived alone. (Usually, employees share one room for two, as in a dormitory). To the credit of Kelly, he was not conceited, he behaved rather modestly, than won the respect of the members of the group of the NWT.

Due to the heavy workload in the branch committee and the service department, Matthew Kelly was forced to shift most of the oversight responsibilities for the work of the NWT group to one of its members, which seemed to the members of the branch committee to be the most "spiritually minded". He was a native of Estonia, who came to study in 91st year in one of the Leningrad universities, finished his first course and in the autumn of 1992 was invited to work for the construction of the future Management Center. With the Russian language, he was quite a sign. He knew the rules of spelling and grammar well, learning them from textbooks and textbooks for editors, but he did not have a sense of language.

The first few days I got acquainted with the contents of the internal documentation regulating the process of work on the translation of NWT.

Among the requirements for the translation being created, the following four were identified: 1) accuracy; 2) the sequence; 3) reliability; 4) ease of reading. Accuracy means that the translation must accurately convey to the reader the thought of Jehovah God.

The sequence implies that every Greek or Jewish linguistic unit is assigned an exact analog of the Russian language, and wherever this unit occurs in the text, this analogue is used in translation. For example, according to this requirement, the Greek noun charis (Strong G5485) should everywhere be translated as "undeserved kindness" (in the Synodal translation – grace).

Credibility implies that the translation should not contain any gibberish, that the reader should not have a shadow of doubt that the will of God is incorrectly transmitted in him.

Ease in reading – according to this requirement, the reader should not have difficulties in reading the text, it should be easy to read for those people for whom the Russian language is native.

Since the authors of the documentation understood perfectly that paragraphs 2 and 4 are almost mutually exclusive, a remark was made that interpreters need prudence in their efforts to fulfill all these requirements simultaneously.


Translation was carried out from the English text of the Translation of the New World. That is, it was a double translation – in the beginning the translation was made from Greek to English, then from English to Russian. With all that it implies.

At the first stage of the work, which I did not find, every Greek language unit was assigned an analog of the Russian language. Thus, the document (or database, or dictionary) underlying the project was created, called Workbook. This work used the Dictionary Of Bible Words by James Strong (James Strong), well known to all who are interested in serious study of the Bible. As is known, in the English NWT many Greek words relating to the essence of the Christian religion, the committee for the translation of NM were selected by their own, and not generally accepted in the English language counterparts. You can be familiar with them – for example, undeserved kindness (instead of grace), torture stake (instead of cross, Greek stauros, Strong G4716), system of things (instead of world, universe, Strong G165), etc. Therefore, when compiling the Workbook, in many cases, it was not the translation of the Greek word itself into Russian (according to the available dictionaries of the Greek words of the New Testament), but the translation of the English expression corresponding to it in the NWT. For example, the Greek noun parabola (Strong G3850), commonly translated in Russian as a "parable" (the parable of Lazarus, the parable of the Sower, etc.), should have been translated from English illustration, which is traditionally translated by the JW as a "visual example" (Matthew 13:13, for example).

Further, the created Workbook was integrated into a computer program developed by the programmers of the Watchtower Society to facilitate the work of translators. At first we worked in OS / 2, then computers were transferred to the rapidly developing Windows 95 in those years.

The interface of the Watchtower Bible Translation Tools program allowed the translator to display several windows on the monitor, in particular, the text of the English NWT, the Workbook, the text of the Synodal Translation, the window for the Russian translation and the remarks of the translator and the editor. The program made it easy to select the desired verse and the Bible, for example, John 1: 1, and then with a simple click of the mouse, it is easy to synchronize all the windows on this text. Thus, before the translator appeared the English text of John 1: 1, Workbook with Strong's numbers and Russian words, the text of John 1: 1 in the version of the Synodal translation, the window for the creation of the Russian translation of NM John 1: 1. This made the interpreter work quite handy.

At the disposal of the translator were various symphonies, dictionaries (English explanatory, English-Russian, English dictionaries of the Greek words of the New Testament, etc.), a large number of English translations of the Bible (about 15 translations), modern Russian translations (in particular, translations by Kuznetsova). Also in the library assigned to the translation department, you could use a large number of dictionaries (for example, the 17-volume Academic Dictionary of the Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Sciences, encyclopedias, reference literature, etc.).

In this regard, it should be noted that the Watchtower Society spares no money for acquiring the means of production necessary for the translator's work, and any translator of the Bible would have dreamed of such financing. The computers we had were very expensive Compaq with Pentium processors, monitors – color CRT Viewsonic with a diagonal of 22 inches (in 1996, all this cost a lot of money in Russia, about 6-7 thousand dollars per workplace).

After the completion of the Workbook and the configuration of the computer program, translation began.

Initially, all NZ books were equally divided among the translators, for the translation.

According to the methodology, it was necessary to translate all the books of the NZ, then each other should read two more other translators from the NWT group, and make their comments. After commenting on two other translators, they gathered together with the interpreter and discussed the comments made. After acceptance or rejection of the proposed proposal, the text was accordingly corrected or left unchanged, and was further considered ready for feedback to proofreaders.

However, soon after the beginning of the work on the translation, the group was faced with the fact that some members of the group simply did not have the qualifications, horizons, erudition, sense of the Russian language, in general, much that is required to create a more or less acceptable draft version of the New Testament translation. The text turned out to be ugly, rude, it was difficult to read it, there were many stylistic, semantic errors in it. Much without laughter, it was simply impossible to read.

In general, this circumstance caused many conflicts, which led to my appointment to this group.

Among the translators there were two young women who had a philological education (one of them – three courses at the philological faculty of Leningrad State University). They showed three other young people who did not have higher education in general, let alone philological, that the "creations" created by their work deserve only a trash can. One of them did not endure the guilt of conscience and left the group himself. In his place, I was appointed, and soon another young interpreter was practically expelled from the group – for being unfit for work.

After that, the conflicts subsided a bit, and the group proceeded to further work.

Difficulties of translation

Naturally, translators faced a whole mass of issues that inevitably arose during the work.

To help in the search for answers, the Security Council Society provided the group with several tools. Firstly, the group had at its disposal a constantly updated database "Questions and answers of other translation groups". As is known, the NWT has been translated into many languages ​​of the world. All questions asked by the NWT groups and their responses to the Patterson Committee are documented, translated into an electronic form and included in this database. Secondly, if there was no necessary answer in the database, the question could be sent directly to the US, to the branch office of the WT in Patterson. There is a committee for oversight of NWT groups around the world. Questions are usually sent once a week. After a while, the group received an answer, usually very short. Sometimes the delay with the answer reached a month or more. Thirdly, the WT regularly organized the visits of members of the committee for the supervision of the NWT groups in Solnechnoye, where the translators directly could ask them questions of interest to them. At me two times as the adviser there came Nicholas Aladis, the Greek by origin.

It was at this stage that I came across a misunderstanding of the meaning of this Bible translation.

I will explain.

The greatest difficulty for the group was the translation of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. As you know, the thought of the apostle is very deep and twisting, periodically thought changes direction very sharply, Paul quickly switches from one to another, and it is often difficult to grasp the meaning.

As a result, for each verse of the messages we had accumulated a few questions, while for the other groups for some reason they did not arise. Thus, we could not find anything in the database of questions and answers.

But the answers that came to us from Patterson were often very brief, and the essence of them was reduced to the main statement: "We do not quite understand the problem that arose in the Russian translation. Use the option that is in accordance with the publications and the teachings of the Society. "

After these answers, there was nothing else to do but to once again rip all the publications of the WT in search of a MODERN (for the mid-1990s) understanding of this verse. However absurd, many of the poems in Paul's epistles are used 1-2 times, or are not mentioned at all. There are "worn out" verses that the Society uses constantly (for example, Romans 5:12), and which are well known to everyone, and there are – even never mentioned. This, by the way, showed me that the WT exercises are not based on the entire Bible, but only on certain verses from it, sometimes taken out of context.

As a result, the meaning of many texts remained unclear to us (there were 2-3 possible interpretations), and the translation had to be done intuitively. This violated the requirement of the accuracy and reliability of this translation. To stay on the safer side, a simple literal translation was often chosen, although the meaning in it was difficult to catch. If we consider that it was a double translation, from Greek to English, and then from English to Russian, it is quite clear that its reliability can be violated.

I will give just a few examples.

Philippians 2: 6 Literally the Greek text translates as "who in the form of God existed by the theft did not consider being equal with God." In the Synodal Translation, he was given as "He, being in the form of God, did not consider it embezzlement to be equal with God." In general, pretty close to the original. But this in fact, from the point of view of the WT, supports the idea of ​​the Trinity. Therefore, the English NWT gives a pearl – "who, although he was existing in God's form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God." As we see, a completely different interpretation appears, in which the key role is played by the incomprehensible gave no consideration to a seizure, with the addition of namely, which in the Greek text generally does not. Seizure in English – this is a pretty strong noun, talking about the seizure of something by force, for example, the seizure of territory during military operations, seizure of property by bailiffs. Accordingly, the question arose – how to translate, Christ did not think about the power to seize the opportunity to be equal with God? (And how could such an idea come to him at all-an idea that is clearly satanic in its genesis! -that was the question that tormented me when translating, which is what the WT interpreters wanted to hint at!) It is this idea that prompts the English text. In the final version they did "not think about infringement – about being equal to God." But "encroachment" is far from seizure in English. Some of the English translations in this verse say that Christ, although in the form of God, did not grasp for his equality with God, but rather, humbly accepted the Father's will and assumed the image of a minister. Other English translations simply give this text verbatim, like our Synodal. Thus, this verse illustrates well that in the Greek original, which is almost literally translated by the Synodal Translation, the English and Russian NWT introduce their interpretation of the verse – which is at variance with most English translations – because of the anti-trinitarian teachings of the WT.

External Readers

In parallel with the process of reading the translation of the book by two other translators, the text was sent to so-called external readers. These were randomly selected from the country's assemblies by brothers and sisters. As far as I remember, in the period I described, there were 12 of them. Their task was to read the text and make comments on the margins. Unfortunately, most of them for some reason viewed the translation as inspired by God, and proceeding from the organization, and therefore made only minor comments, generally admiring the text sent. Only a few external readers sent quite acceptable, sometimes devastating comments.


The hardest part of this work was the discussion, during which three people gathered at the computer – the author of the translation and two other translators who read the text and made their comments. Also by this time in the electronic text have already been made comments from external readers.

In my first such discussion, I suggested that the group begin with a prayer to God, so that he would be present with his Spirit and help guide him in the right direction. The reaction was as if I said something indecent. It turned out that it's a mauvaisis – to pray before discussing the translation. As I was told, prayer is not needed, because it will thus become a routine. I was new in the group, so I did not insist, although it all surprised me. We never again, for all my time in the group of the NWT, prayed together to God.

The discussion proceeded according to a simple scheme: the author read the verse, then the comments made by other translators and external readers. Each comment required a decision, whether to use the proposed one or not. That's where the most difficult thing began. As I already mentioned, the employee of the group, who was acting. Her supervisor, originally from Estonia, had a bad feeling for the Russian language. Therefore, in his translations, and in the comments to the work of other translators, he used such language constructions that either without laughter or without crying they could not be read. At the same time, he did not understand at all what the problem was, because the proposed one does not differ from the rules of grammar, punctuation. To instill in a person the feeling of a living Russian language – if he is not a child – is almost impossible. Therefore, sometimes for the whole hour it was required to convince him of the most elementary things, as a result of which the emotional atmosphere was often heated, and then it was necessary to find out the relationship, and not to disassemble the biblical verses. As a result of such circumstances, the work on the translation was extremely slow, and it was not visible to the end and the edge, despite the fact that more than 2 years have passed since its inception.

All this could not but concern the branch committee, since it was required to report to Brooklyn about the progress made. The meetings simply wanted to receive the "most accurate translation of the Bible," therefore, in the summer of 1997, shortly after the official dedication of Bethel in Solnechny, the Greek Nick Aladis and his wife arrived with the visit to the group. As it is written in the classics, "the inspector is coming to us."

Nick Aladis

Nick Aladis was very nice and nice person, charming, sincere and prudent, with a good sense of humor. He quickly found a common language with each member of the group, everyone fell in love with him. Nika's consultations helped move things forward.

First, according to his advice, the structure of the work was reorganized. It was decided that from now on only women will translate directly, because they have a philological education, and two other interpreters – the Estonian and I – will be engaged in reading their translations and making their comments. By that time I had only translated the message to the Philippians, so my direct translation activity in the group of the NWT ended with this.

Secondly, Nick spent with us for a total of two weeks, attending each discussion and helping solve the long-running issues. As a Greek by birth, he naturally knew Greek well, and could, if necessary, convey to us the meaning written in Greek. It was very helpful.

Nicholas also helped us sort out the incomprehension of the requirements for the Russian translation of NM. As I already mentioned, a sequence of using Russian analogues of English words was required. It is quite clear that this is impossible, because there are certain established language constructions, the destruction of which by their foreign words will lead to unreadable text. Nick assured the group that it is impossible to be absolutely consistent and to give out in this way a practically literal translation. On the example of some African countries, he showed that after the release of such a literal translation, he simply dusted himself on the shelves of the libraries of meetings – the SI refused to use it, because he lost to the one to which they are accustomed. The data of several "incidents" caused the revision of the strict requirements for consistency by the NWT Group Monitoring Committee. Moreover, a new trend has emerged: the main thing is to make an easily readable translation. Nicholas stressed that, ideally, the reader should not, by reading, feel that this is a translation. It was required to learn how to convey in words the emotions of the characters of the New Testament. "Pushkin, of course, you will not succeed" – joked Nick – "but still, you need to try." In general, Aladis said a lot of reasonable, common sense words. As far as they were possible to realize – this is already decided by the reader of this translation.

After the departure of Nick, the work went a little faster, however, and a year later, by the time I left the group, until the end, it was still oh how far. Nicholas Aladis came with the next visit in August 1998, when I did not work in the group on a permanent basis. I remember that when I met, asking me about how my life is improving after Bethel, he joked: "There is life after Bethel" ("And after Bethel is life").


One day, Vasily Kalin summoned me and an Estonian. Having asked briefly how we are doing in the group, Vasily described the essence of the challenge. As it turned out, he was concerned for a long time with the question of naming the elders of the SI by the prison word "supervisor". Because of these guards, he constantly had problems in talking with officials who occasionally teased him over this word, and at times tried to find out if there were any prison arrangements with the guards in the organization. In general, Vasily tearfully asked, if there is a possibility, the word is replaced in translation. About the same as once removed from the publications of the Governing Corporation and replaced it with the Governing Council.

Remembering the "good old" 60's, Kalin suggested calling the elders an old term – "servant".

Here the Estonian quickly explained to him that, according to the requirements of consistency, the Greek word for "servant" was already assigned to the Russian "minister", and the Greek noun bishopos can not be appointed because the sequence is broken. For the episcopus in English, the word overseer is assigned, to the Russian being translated as a warden.

Kalin asked me to think about what I could do.

I had to look again at synonyms for the word overseer. The "overseer" was not fit, the "guardian" was busy, the "bishop" could not be placed for dogmatic reasons, and therefore there was a last chance – to use the word "caretaker". The 17-volume Academic Dictionary of Russian of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in principle, gave various examples of the use of this word, including quite similar to our situation. They decided to put the caretaker wherever the overseer costs, and sent out the texts to external readers. Part took a new word enthusiastically, another – wary. It was decided to wait a while. I do not know what ultimately influenced the release of the final version – but there were still wardens with service assistants. And since it would be fresh: the presiding overseer, the district inspector, the service superintendent. And no prison with supervisors. No wonder they say "Language determines the culture of society". What language, such and society. With the warders.


In fact, there was no one to control the group. There was not at our disposal an intelligent uncle who could read our translation and say: "Guys, this is a complete mess. Remodel. " We had no one at all who could guide us and check the results of our work. We were, in military terms, free hunting. Overseas visitors who came from time to time could not understand our difficulties, since they did not know the Russian language. Older employees who were members of the branch committee – Fedunishin, Savitsky, Kalin – could not help us either, since their level of education did not meet the necessary requirements. Therefore, I do not even know how much the final product corresponds to the English original, not to mention the Greek language. He simply had no one to check. It remains to be hoped that the error count in it goes not to hundreds. Maybe there is a nice person who has an English NWT, an interlinear translation of the NT and the final Russian NWT NT, and will check if everything is in order there.


In these notes, I tried to summarize my scrappy memories that remained after the work in the group of PNM – it's been 10 years since that time, and much has been forgotten. Although, strangely enough, some episodes are very bright in front of my eyes. When writing notes, I did not set out to analyze the correctness of the translation of certain Bible verses – after all, I am not a profound connoisseur of the Greek language on which the books of the New Testament are written. So, I can only bring my subjective point of view on the validity of this or that version of the translation. However, while working on the NWT, I understood a few things important for myself. Firstly, no matter how easily readable the Russian NWT appeared, it still remains a double translation – from Greek to English, then from English to Russian. Probably, this is the only such translation in the world. And any translator knows that a double translation is a bad translation. And they do it only in the most extreme cases, when in another way it is impossible. Secondly, the NWT is a purely "witness" translation, made solely to justify the WT dogma. However, in doing so, the WT has put a time bomb in it – the dogmas of society are changing, and the Russian translation is made in accordance with current, modern dogmas. If the dogmas change – you will need to change and translate. One subtle place is Matthew 24:34, where in Russian translation "this generation will not pass." I do not know how the word "generation" leaked into the final version, because in principle it contradicts the modern understanding of this verse by the WT, but here there is an obvious shakiness of the bundle of dogma / NWT. Thirdly, people who are educated, with knowledge of NT and OT languages, with experience of research and scientific work should translate the Bible. We, ordinary boys and girls, without any experience in this field, by the will of the WT were forced to aim at a task beyond our control. No matter how admired the publishers in the collections of this translation, it was made by people who did not have the necessary skills for this matter. And no one controlled them and no one checked the final version, with the exception of proofreaders. So, by reading this translation, you risk getting an incorrect idea about the will of God. How dangerous it is for you to decide.



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