No Acknowledged Greek Expert Agrees with 'Jehovah's Witnesses' on Hebrews 1:8
Most of those of us who have studied New Testament Greek would say that the above words should be rendered, 'Your throne, O God.' It is the most clear and obvious translation - nothing too tricky or difficult - moreover, as we will shortly see, the huge majority of English language Bible versions agree.
For 'Jehovah's Witnesses,' however, this presents a problem because of their Arianism, which teaches that Jesus is not God, but a 'high creation' of God. Their 'Watchtower Society' comes up with an unusual rendition of this in their 'New World translation.' Instead of, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever..." as being addressed to Jesus, their version has Jesus being told, "God is your throne forever and ever..." No other major English Bible translation follows their odd translation of these words - the ASV, BRG, CJB, DLNT, DRB, ESV, GW, HCSB, ISV, JB Phillips, JUB, KJV, KJ21, Lexham, LITV, MEV, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, NRSV (Catholic version), RSV, RSV (Catholic edition), WEB, WNT, Webster and YLT all consider that Jesus is being addressed and that "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever..." is the best construction. A few others, such as the CEB, NCV and NEB vary just slightly but the meaning is essentially unaltered. Actually, this is not difficult Greek. There is some rather more difficult Greek in the New Testament, mainly in Luke's Gospel, but this is clear.
Of about 30 translations which I checked recently, only the James Moffatt Bible (1948 version) preferred the 'JW' way of translating these words. But the highly idiosyncratic Moffatt was viewed as a liberal and 'off-tracker' who was very sceptical of many of the Bible texts right from the start. It is also his own translation without the support of other Greek scholars. See this:
"But Moffatt's version [his Bible] was controversial in several respects. His preface put forth sceptical views concerning the truthfulness of the Bible. In the Old Testament he indicated by the use of different type fonts the hypothetical source documents of the Pentateuch (J, E, P, D), and frequently rearranged passages according to his idea of how they might have originally stood. For the New Testament he used the Greek text of Hermann von Soden, which was generally regarded as an eccentric text, and he often substituted conjectural emendations for the text of both Testaments. In the New Testament alone he adopts some thirty conjectures unsupported by any manuscripts." (source: http://www.bible-researcher.com/moffatt.html).
So Moffatt's support of the Watchtower Society's position on this text tells us little and cannot be regarded too seriously in any way.
So when one considers the accumulated New Testament Greek scholarship among the ranks of the translators of those aforementioned 28-30 versions, and the fact that 'The Watchtower Society' - as far as one knows - has never had a leading and acknowledged Greek expert within their ranks, one has to say that this tells us a whole lot.
Why look for an odd and off-piste translation of quite clear Common Greek which runs against the huge weight of established scholarship? There can only be one reason: it is a doctrinal reason.
Robin A. Brace, March 22nd, 2016.
Can you clarify Hebrews 1:8 and Psalm 45:6, "God is Your Throne." Do the Watchtower Society make a hash of this as I have been told?
UK Apologetics Reply:
Yes they do, and for a reason. Okay, let us look at this. First of all, let us check this Scripture in a few good translations :
8. But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (Hebrews 1:8-9, NIV).
Just to check out two other translations, the CEB has it thus:
8. But he says to his Son, God, your throne is forever and your kingdom's scepter is a rod of justice. 9. You loved righteousness and hated lawless behavior. That is why God, your God, has anointed you with oil instead of your companions. (CEB).
Finally, the NKJV has it:
8. But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 9. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions."
So we may see that the major Bible translations do not hugely differ in how they translate this. It is the throne of God which is under consideration, it is not really saying "God is your throne," that might conceivably be just allowable from the Greek, but the Bible translating panels had to look at all of these shades and nuances of meaning in arriving at a wise and sensible rendition in the light of all Bible teaching.
However, when we come to the Watchtower New World translation, the rendition is quite markedly different:
8. But about the Son, he says: "God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness. 9. You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your companions."
Now Jesus is no longer referred to as 'God,' but the text is changed to, 'God is your throne.' "Your throne, O God" (as applied to Jesus) obviously presents a huge problem for those who deny the divinity of Jesus. Instead, they go for a slightly odd construction because it gets them off the hook, theologically speaking - however, the great majority of other Bible translations reject the Watchtower's unusual way of rendering this verse.
So, because of the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' belief that Jesus is not God, they choose this particular rendition, otherwise, it might appear that the Father is calling Jesus 'God,' which, of course, goes against their theology; they believe that Jesus is a high creation, like an archangel, but not God.
In this interesting verse, God is apparently addressing the Son. The Greek construction of Hebrews 1:8 does allow for the text to be translated in these ways: "God is your throne forever and ever . . . " (very questionable), or "Your throne O God, is forever and ever . . . " (strongly supported by most translators, and with supporting Scriptures elsewhere), so we must gather evidence from elsewhere in the Bible to confirm the most likely and viable rendition.
We must remember that Hebrews 1:8 is actually a quote from Psalm 45:6, which says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever..." Again, most major translations do not differ too much in this, certainly the KJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, BBE, DRB, ISV, WNT and YLT all essentially agree. At the end of the day, we need to look at the context into which the writer of Hebrews puts Psalm 45:6. The writer addresses it to Jesus, therefore, Psalm 45 should be seen as a Messianic Psalm and must be interpreted in the light of the New Testament, not the other way around. Prejudices must not be allowed any place here. These are things which the major Bible translators took into account. Actually to say, "God is your throne," (as in the JW version), does not make much sense, that would be an odd thing to state and would receive support from nowhere else in Scripture. Looking back to Hebrews 1, we have more support, apart from just this one verse,
5. For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? 6. And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7. In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire." 8. But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (Hebrews 1:5-9).
So we see that the divinity of Jesus is established in other Bible verses as well, Hebrews 1:6, for instance, clearly states that God's angels were invited to worship Jesus; therefore we should be guided by this fuller Bible context and refuse to be guided by what certain people may want the Bible to say in Hebrews 1:8! It does not even end there. Psalm 2 is also clear affirmation of the divinity of Jesus, as are other verses. In John 10:30 Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." The disciples clearly acknowledged the deity of Christ. They claimed that Jesus had the right to forgive sins - something only God can do, as it is God who is offended by sin (Acts 5:31; Colossians 3:13; cf. Psalm 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34). In close connection with this last claim, Jesus is also said to be the one who will "judge the living and the dead" (2 Timothy 4:1). Thomas cried out to Jesus, "my Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Paul calls Jesus "great God and Saviour" (Titus 2:13), and points out that prior to His incarnation Jesus existed in the "form of God" (Philippians 2:5-8).
The Watchtower organization denies that Jesus is God. Even after all the years of their existence they still refuse to be corrected by Scripture. They still cannot easily permit any verses in the Bible to state that Jesus is God; they still have to accept a few of them and come up with all kinds of ways of explaining them away. This is why, in verses like Hebrews 1:8 - to say nothing of John 1:1-3 - they choose very questionable renditions which do not best fit the context nor the overall theology of the Bible.
Robin A. Brace. March 17th-22nd, 2016.