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Colossians 1:27-28 NWT: “But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones, to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret in union with you, the hope of his glory. He is the one we are publicizing, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in union with Christ.

I have noticed that the New World Translation has changed virtually every Bible verse that says “in me” or “in us” or “in them” to say “in union with me” or “in union with us” or “in union with them” (John 14:10, 11, 20; John 17:21, 22, 23).

The KJV, NIV and ESV all say "Christ in you". Is there any acceptable reason to add words to the original text in order to try and explain what the translator thinks is meant?

Specifically, does any other Bible translation say “in union with Christ” instead of “in Christ”?

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    If it's theologically motivated by the JW's non-Trinitarianism then that's interesting as Trinitarians see these verses as teaching the doctrine of Union with Christ. So I'm not sure it's that big of a deal... – curiousdannii May 4 at 11:44
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    @curiousdannii It is seen to be a big deal when the JW doctrine of the 144,000 is understood, for this is the real reason behind them adding "union with" to those verses. They change the internal presence of Christ in the Christian with a mere sense of unity with Christ. But the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ which is also the Spirit of God Romans 8:9) indwells all Christians (not just 144,000). That is the JW doctrine that requires those words be added – to make all JWs think they can also have a sense of unity with Christ despite 99% not having the Spirit’s indwelling. – Anne May 4 at 13:28
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    @curiousdannii If only 144,000 people ever have the indwelling Holy Spirit from Christ’s time on, then only those ones can read the N.T. passages addressed to Christians as being addressed to themselves. So as to make 99% of the JW membership think those verses also apply to them (though they happily admit they are not anointed with what they call ‘holy spirit’) they read the NWT saying they are “in union with Christ” just as are their 144,000 class. Subtle, or what? – Anne May 4 at 13:36
  • @Anne Ah, interesting. Please consider explaining that all in an answer! – curiousdannii May 4 at 13:56
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    From what I’ve learnt from the answers, this is an interesting Q! (+1). - From a personal perspective, it (this translation.) reflects a choice based on reasoning rather than revelation (understanding.) – Dave May 5 at 18:43
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Let us deal with these two verse in Col 1 separately.

V27 (BLB) - to whom God has willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,

The bolded phrase is ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης, which very literally translated, is exactly as translated above. The question appears to be how ἐν should be translated. Put simply, ἐν is NEVER translated "in union with". Of the more than 40 versions available in https://biblehub.com/parallel/colossians/1-27.htm, NONE translate the phrase "in union with".

All, except for one, translate it as above. The exception is Lamsa who translates from a translation into Aramaic to give, "among" rather than "in". Thus, (unsurprisingly) the NWT appears to be unique.

Further, the NWT also, without warrant, adds "the hope of his glory" - the word "his" is entirely absent and is not implied. I presume that this removes the difficulty (for JWs) of having people in glory. See Eph 1:18.

V28 (BLB) - whom we preach, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, so that we may present every man perfect in Christ.

Again, the bolded phrase is ἐν Χριστῷ = "in Christ". The only exception to "in Christ" I could find is:

  • Good News Translation - "in union with Christ."
  • Lamsa - "through Christ"

Again, I see no justification for either the GNT nor the NWT. I assume that in the case of the NWT, this unwarranted emendation of the sacred text is to avoid a similar theological embarrassment as above - but they would be better to answer than I. I would be unwilling to change the Bible text with such alacrity.

Note the comments of Ellicott in V27 -

Which is Christ in you.—This mystery specially committed to St. Paul to declare is. in Ephesians 3:6, defined thus, “That the Gentiles should be (or, are) fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel”; and the nature of this promise is explained below, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” Here the mystery itself is boldly defined as “Christ in you;” just as in 1Timothy 3:16, according to one interpretation of that difficult passage, “the mystery of godliness” is Christ Himself, “who was manifest,” &c. Here we have again a significant illustration of the difference between the characteristic ideas of the two Epistles. In the Ephesian Epistle the unity of all in God’s covenant is first put forth, and then explained as dependent on the indwelling of Christ in the heart. Here the “Christ in you” is all in all: the unity of all men in Him is an inference, but one which the readers of the Epistle are left to draw for themselves. On the great idea itself, in the purely individual relation, see Philippians 1:21, and also Galatians 2:20; in the more general form, see Romans 8:10; 2Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 4:19.

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  • Clear and concise - thank you for showing that ἐν is NEVER translated "in union with". Anne's answer explains why the NWT has seen fit to add "union with" to the text. – Lesley 2 days ago
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There is no translation warrant for rendering Col 1:27-28 the way that the New World Translation does. That is because the Greek text does not have any words in those verses that could be translated as “union with”. The text simply says “in you, and “in Christ”. In order to produce the NWT rendition, they have had to add words in English that are just not in the Greek text.

Let me be clear: this is less a matter of translation, more a matter of addition. That additions have been inserted into the English rendition by those producing the NWT is clearly seen in their own Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT). There the Greek text (of Westcott & Hort) is reproduced, with a literal English translation under the Greek. In the adjoining column is the NWT English rendition. Go to pages 897 & 898 of that 1969 edition and it is obvious that words have been added in English that simply are not there in the Greek text.

Here is the literal English translation of the Greek text: 27 “to whom willed the God to make known what the riches of the glory of the mystery this in the nations, which is Christ in you, the hope of the glory;” 28 “whom we are announcing down putting mind into every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we might present every man perfect in Christ;

Now here is the KIT rendition of those same verses: 27 “to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret among the nations. It is Christ in union with you, the hope of [his] glory.” 28 “He is the one we are publicizing, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in union with Christ.”

Note that the KIT puts ‘his’ in square brackets, to denote an added word, but does not do so for the two times ‘union with’ occurs.

The Theological Implications: The reasons why the NWT adds those words is not being asked for here. They have their reasons, of course. But because you asked what the theological implications are, then explanation needs to be made of how NWT readers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses could be impacted, theologically. Non-JW readers might not appreciate the subtle implications of those added words, unless they know that JWs believe only 144,000 people from the time of Christ are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who is “in” the believer. Nearly all of the N.T. is addressed to Christians who are in the new covenant, and the evidence that they are, is stated in 2 Corinthians 13:5, where the test of a Christian is how they recognise that Jesus Christ is in them (and that is via the indwelling Holy Spirit). Ah, but the NWT adds those two little words again! The KIT reads, “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are. Or do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in union with you? Unless you are disapproved.”

It’s the same with Romans chapter 8 where the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer is every Christian’s guarantee that now they belong to Christ and will be with him in heavenly glory. Yet the KIT reads, “Therefore those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation. For the law of that spirit which gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death… [vs 10] But if Christ is in union with you…”

But for verse 9 the KIT correctly translates exactly what the Greek text says, “However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him.” Then comes verse 10, as above.

Because 99% of all JWs are stated by their Governing Body not to be in the new covenant; not indwelt with the Holy Spirit, Romans 8 raises the question, then who do those ones belong to, if not Christ? Only those who have the Spirit of God (which is equally the Spirit of Christ) dwelling in them belong to Christ. Only they have no condemnation. But once the KIT has added those little words, the idea becomes that all who are in union WITH Christ belong to him and have no condemnation. And being in union with a person is different to being united with Christ by his indwelling Spirit! JWs suppose that they can still be in union with Christ without being indwelt with Christ (2 Cor 13:5 again.)

Theologically, 99% of the JW membership think those verses DO apply to them (though they happily admit they are not anointed with what they call ‘holy spirit’, and that only this 144,000 class are in the new covenant) so they read the NWT as saying they are “in union with Christ”. They take that to mean an agreement with Christ, united to him by faith in him, yet without the Holy Spirit having anointed and ‘sealed’ them. But they understand that to mean that they are equally in union with Christ as are the 144,000 because they have lost the impact of what it actually means to “be in Christ, the hope of glory” with Christ, in heaven as kings and priests alongside him. That 99% have no hope of heavenly glory being with Christ, ruling as kings and priests. However, if their NWT did not add that words that it does, they might see how it is only those who will be in glory with Christ in heaven who pass the test of 2 Corinthians 13:5. That is the theological danger of adding words to such texts – people supposing they can be “in union with Christ” without having Christ’s Holy Spirit anointing them.

Does any other Bible translation say “in union with Christ” instead of “in Christ”? As has already been stated, it appears that only the Good News Bible sometimes adds the words ‘union with’. Yet it does not make those additions as often does the NWT. In Col. 1:27 it simply says “Christ is in you” but in verse 28 it adds “union with”. In Romans chapter 8 the GNB says “union with” in verse 1 but not elsewhere in that chapter. In 2 Cor. 13:5 it sticks to the text and says, “Surely you know that Christ Jesus is in you?”

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  • Please proof read since in numerous places you have KIT when you must mean NWT. – Kris May 4 at 18:16
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    @Kris I have quoted from the KIT, its frotispiece stating, "Produced by New World Bible Translation Committee - 1969 C.E." It IS the New World Translation of Christian Greek Scriptures produced by the Watchtower Society, including Greek text and a literal English rendition of that. It is an interlinear version of the New World Translation. The two go hand in glove. Elsewhere I refer to the Good News Bible. If you get hold of a copy of the KIT you will see its English column is identical to the NWTs of that era. – Anne May 4 at 19:58
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    @Anne what is confusing is that you say here is the KIT word for word translation and here is the KIT rendering of the verse. When you are quoting the NWT words call it NWT not KIT. – Kris May 4 at 21:22
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    @Alex Balilo Romans 8:9-11 says to Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of GOD lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of CHRIST, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you... And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you..." This is about that one Spirit being IN the Christian. Those verses are perfectly clear except in the NWT which speaks of 'harmony" (not 'controlled') and 'in union with you' vs. 10 (not 'in you'). – Anne May 5 at 13:02
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    @Kris Do you not know what an Interlinear Bible is? Please get the Kingdom Interlinear of the Christian Greek Scriptures [KIT], either as a book or on-line, and you will see on one page the Greek text, under every line of it the literal, word-for-word English. Then on the adjoining page is the English translation of the Greek text by the NWT team. My quotes of the literal translation on one side need to be compared with the NWT rendition on the other side to see where they have added words not in the Greek text (as confirmed by the literal word-for-word English). I hope this helps. – Anne May 5 at 13:14

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