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How accurate is the New World Translation Bible? My grandfather is a Jehovah's Witness and told me that the NWT bible that the Watchtower Society has produced is one of the most accurate translations of the Old and New Testaments in history. How true is this? To give examples of different translations in the New World Translation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

John 1:1

Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”

John 8:58

Because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

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    "accuracy" depends on who's reading and what theology is expected. This is not a trinitarian based translation so you will see ideas presented that are not aligned with that philosophy of a 3in1 God. An example of a bible that strives to conform to the original text is the REV - a Unitarian version which has sought to remove the bias that has crept in to support a trinitarian view. Like 1John 5:7b for example and Heb 1:2 "through whom He made the universe" which is incorrect. Etc. Etc. revisedenglishversion.com
    – steveowen
    May 13 at 2:44
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    Related; related.
    – DLosc
    May 13 at 18:42
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    Are those the only different examples from the mainstream? 8:58 is correct.
    – Michael16
    May 14 at 14:03
  • @cj564. Was the "word" originally capitalized, or was it capitalized to support a doctrine that does not exist in the bible? May 15 at 5:32
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    @steveowen "accuracy" depends on who's reading and what theology is expected. Is it hilarious that you don't think this applies to you? The translation of every cult has "sought to remove the bias" or introduced another text to restore the long-lost truth. yesterday

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The NWT is contentious, not only for some of its "unique" translations, but also because it is one of the very few denominationally specific versions - used only by the JWs. However, let us be specific concerning the examples quoted by the OP.

John 1:1 - "a god"

The JW's defend this translation on the basis that the Greek has no article. (This is true.) However, they do not apply this ungrammatical argument to other texts in the NWT such as:

  • John 1:6 - There came a man who was sent as a representative of God; his name was John. [Note that "God" has no article but is not translated "a god" as the NWT demand in V1.]
  • Matt 12:28 - But if it is by means of God’s spirit that I expel the demons, the Kingdom of God has really overtaken you. [Note that the first "God" has no article and so "should" be translated "a god" while the second "God" has one, but it is not translated "The God".]
  • Matt 14:33 - Then those in the boat did obeisance to him, saying: “You really are God’s Son.” [Again, "God" here has no article and so, to be consistent it should be translated "a god".]
  • Matt 15:4 - For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Let the one who speaks abusively of* his father or mother be put to death.’ [Again, "God" here has no article and so, to be consistent it should be translated "a god".]

Indeed, very few of the hundreds of time "God" occurs in the Greek without an article are translated "a god" - so why this exception in John 1:1c??

Further, the NWT translation of "a god" in John 1:1c conveniently ignores the many times Jesus is given the title, ὁ Θεός = "The God", such as Matt 1:23, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8, 9, 2 Peter 1:1, etc.

Hundreds more examples of such inconsistencies could be cited but this is enough to show that, by its own standards, the NWT is inconsistent, preferring to translate according to its preconceived theology and NOT the Greek text.

Concerning John 1:1c, Daniel B Wallace, in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 269, says this:

The most likely candidate for Θεὸς is qualitative. This is true both grammatically (for the largest proportion of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall into this category) and theologically (both the theology of the Fourth Gospel and the NT as a whole). There is a balance between the Word's deity, which was already present in the beginning (Ἐν ἀρχῇ ... Θεὸς ἦν [1:1], and his humanity, which was added later (σὰρξ ἐγένετο [1:14]). The grammatical structure of these two statements mirrors each other; both emphasize the nature of the Word, rather than his identity. But Θεὸς was his nature from eternity (hence εἰμί is used), while σὰρξ was added at the incarnation (hence γίνομαι is used.)

That is, John 1:1c is a qualitative category statement.

The other difficulty with the NWT translation of "a god" is the charge that it opens the door to polytheism! How many gods are there? The NWT translators would answer "Only one!" So why introduce another god like this?

John 8:58 - "I have been"

The Greek of this text is abundantly clear:

... πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί. = before Abraham became, "I Am".

The tense of the last two words is simple present tense and CANNOT be translated (as per NWT) "I have been", which is a version of the past tense. It is simply bad translation.

Col 1:16 - "other things"

The Greek of the last part of this verse is:

τὰ πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται· = all things through Him and unto Him have been created

Note the conspicuous absence of the adjective "other" before "things". This unwarranted insertion by the NWT is an attempt to make the text fit their theology. However, the Greek text clearly says that all things were made by Christ.

Now, it is elementary logic that if Christ created "all things" then Christ cannot be one of the created things. It is this problem that the NWT attempt to alter that betrays their bias in this case. The NWT of Col 1:16, 17 is:

because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all other things, and by means of him all other things were made to exist,

No less than four times the NWT adds an unwarranted "other" to the text which is absent in the Greek.

There are many hundreds more such examples of NWT unwarranted alterations to the text of the NT, but this is not the place for such an extensive discussion. See thr appendix below for a brief sample.

APPENDIX - A Few More NWT "Problems"

The examples below are quoted directly from the NWT:

  • Gen 1:1 - Now the earth was formless and desolate,* and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep, and God’s active force was moving about over the surface of the waters. ["active force is their translation of the Hebrew word "ruach" = Spirit]
  • John 14:10 - Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? The things I say to you I do not speak of my own originality, but the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works. [The words "union with are absent from the Greek text.]
  • Acts 20:28 - Pay attention to yourselves+ and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son. ["Son was added here to avoid the obvious conclusion that Jesus is God. The Greek is quite clear. " ... the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."]
  • Phil 2:9 - For this very reason, God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name [The highlighted words are not in the Greek which simply reads: "Therefore, God highly exalted Him and granted to Him the name above every name".]
  • Col 2:9 - because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily. ["divine quality" is a distorted attempt to translate "divinity".]
  • Heb 12:9 - Furthermore, our human fathers* used to discipline us, and we gave them respect. Should we not more readily submit ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live? [The Greek of the highlighted text is simply "spirits", not our spiritual lives.]
  • Heb 12:23 - in general assembly,+ and the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect, [Again, the actual text of the Greek is just "spirits" not "spiritual lives".]

Many, many examples could be quoted but this shows the general trend.

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    Another inconvenient reality that the JWs seem to overlook is in John 8:59. Right after Jesus said whatever he said, the crowd picked up stones to throw at him. Why would they do this if he merely said "I have been"? That has no blasphemous connotation. But if indeed Jesus said "I AM" that would be blasphemy.
    – jwh20
    May 13 at 16:15
  • I think the difference is in the prepositions: "through Him and unto Him" in the text (δι’ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν), but then "by Christ" in the paraphrase. "Through" and "by" have rather different connotations in the context of this debate.
    – DLosc
    May 13 at 18:17
  • Re your astute observation with regard to Colossians 1:16: "This unwarranted insertion by the NWT is an attempt to make the text fit their theology. However, the Greek text clearly says that all things were made by Christ." That is not the only place in the NWT where they have inserted "other", which is effectively adding to the word of God in order to support their anti-trinitarian bias.
    – Lesley
    May 14 at 15:37
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For a full analysis of how the NWT renders John 1:1 and Colossians 1:16, I refer you to Section IV in the following article: http://www.bible-researcher.com/metzger.jw.html Here is a partial quote from the article written by By Bruce M. Metzger in 1953:

  1. “… and the Word was God.” Some years ago Dr. Ernest Cadman Colwell of the University of Chicago pointed out in a study of the Greek definite article that, “A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb. … The opening verse of John’s Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun. The absence of the article [before θεος] does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it. The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas [John 20:28, ‘My Lord and my God’].” 19

In a lengthy Appendix in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation, which was added to support the mistranslation of John 1:1, there are quoted thirty-five other passages in John where the predicate noun has the definite article in Greek. 20 These are intended to prove that the absence of the article in John 1:1 requires that θεος must be translated “a god.” None of the thirty-five instances is parallel, however, for in every case the predicate noun stands after the verb, and so, according to Colwell’s rule, properly has the article. So far, therefore, from being evidence against the usual translation of John 1:1, these instances add confirmation to the full enunciation of the rule of the Greek definite article.

Furthermore, the additional references quoted in the New World Translation from the Greek of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, 21 in order to give further support to the erroneous rendering in the opening verse of John, are exactly in conformity with Colwell’s rule, and therefore are added proof of the accuracy of the rule. The other passages adduced in the Appendix are, for one reason or another, not applicable to the question at issue. One must conclude, therefore, that no sound reason has been advanced for altering the traditional rendering of the opening verse of John’s Gospel, “… and the Word was God.”

  1. In Col. 1:15-17 the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation falsifies what Paul originally wrote, rendering it: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth. … All other things have been created through him and for him. Also he is before all other things and by means of him all other things were made to exist.” Here the word “other” has been unwarrantably inserted four times. It is not present in the original Greek, and was obviously used by the translators in order to make the passage refer to Jesus as being on a par with other created things. As a matter of fact, the ancient Colossian heresy which Paul had to combat resembled the opinion of the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses, for some of the Colossians advocated the Gnostic notion that Jesus was the first of many other created intermediaries between God and men. For the true meaning of Paul’s exalted description of the Son of God, therefore, the above translation must be read without the fourfold addition of the word “other.”

Frequently Jehovah’s Witnesses make the assertion that this passage teaches that God created the Son. 22 Actually the verb “to create” in reference to the relation of the Son of God to the Father appears neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament. Here he is spoken of as “the first begotten of all creation,” which is something quite different from saying that he was made or created. If Paul had wished to express the latter idea, he had available a Greek word to do so, the word πρωτοκτιστος, meaning “first created.” Actually, however, Paul uses the word πρωτοτοκος, meaning “first begotten,” which signifies something quite different, as the following explanation by a modern lay theologian makes clear.... To return now to Col. 1:15 where Paul speaks of Christ as “the first begotten of all creation,” it is important to observe that the adjective “first” refers both to rank as well as time. In other words, the Apostle alludes here not only to Christ’s priority to all creation, but also to his sovereignty over all creation.

  1. The New World Translation, in harmony with its bold twisting of Col. 1:15-17 (considered above), is also in error at Rev. 3:14, where it makes the exalted Christ refer to himself as “the beginning of the creation by God.” The Greek text of this verse (ἡ αρχη της κτισεως του θεου) is far from saying that Christ was created by God, for the genitive case, του θεου, means “of God” and not “by God” (which would require the preposition ὑπο). Actually the word αρχη, translated “beginning,” carries with it the Pauline idea expressed in Col. 1:15-18, and signifies that Christ is the origin, or primary source, of God’s creation (compare also John 1:3, “Apart from him not even one thing came into existence”).

It would be remiss not to point out that the members of the New World Translation committee had no scholastic qualifications in either Hebrew or Greek. With regard to the Christian Greek Scriptures, one of their sources was the work of Doctors Westcott and Hort.

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  • Very helpful material. Thank you. +1.
    – Dottard
    16 hours ago
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Consider John 1:1

Greek English equivalent
Ἐν in
ἀρχῇ beginning
ἦν was
the
λόγος word
καὶ and
the
λόγος word
ἦν was
πρὸς with
τὸν the
θεόν god
καὶ and
θεὸς god
ἦν was
the
λόγος word

Notice the two uses of the word "god":

  • The first is "the god", corresponding to the proper name "God".
  • The second has no "the" article, corresponding to the indefinite "a god".

Which is the better translation of the second instance, the NWT's "a god" or the more common "God"?

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    Which is the better translation? it depends on what all the other NT texts say.
    – steveowen
    May 13 at 3:03
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    I notice that this policy is NOT followed elsewhere in the NT by the NWT. See my answer here for specific examples.
    – Dottard
    May 13 at 5:50
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    Leaving aside the specific issues around θεὸς, I would point out that ἀρχῇ in this sentence doesn't have an article, yet it is translated as "the beginning," not "a beginning." The usage of the article in Greek is complex and doesn't map directly onto the English articles. An exegesis of John 1:1 needs to go beyond its mere absence or presence.
    – DLosc
    May 13 at 18:27
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    This same logic doesn’t work well when applied to other words we commonly prefix with a definite article. That doesn’t negate your argument, either. It’s just that we seem to be asking a theological question but trying to answer with a linguistic / grammatical response. They are separate modes of discourse. Our preconceived ideas about the underlying theology necessarily influence how we translate this. But it’s also a poor argument linguistically as well haha
    – Dan
    May 14 at 5:06
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    But whole books and many articles have been written on this, so I won’t waste my time rehashing haha
    – Dan
    May 14 at 5:07
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When translating from Greek to English (or between any two languages), we must understand that the understanding of, and implications present in, any given text in one language, are separate to the matter of simple translation into another language. That is to say, one must be able to serve as a translator, and also be agnostic to the beliefs subscribed to either by the speaker in the original language, or the target language. As such, the question of whether a translation is accurate or not has very little if not nothing to do with theology or worldview. Therefore, those who understand the ancient languages are equipped and able to judge whether a given translation accurately renders the source language into the target one. To that end, let's review the NWT of the passages provided.

John 1:1

εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.

The translation I've provided is accurate, since it respects the rule of Greek that when an anarthrous noun (no 'the') precedes a to be verb (here, "was"), followed by an arthrous noun (having a 'the'), such is an identification of the arthrous noun with the anarthrous one fundamentally speaking, and not an identification to the point of making the two nouns identical.

Let me illustrate by an English example:

The Word dwelt with man: and the Word was man.

Here, the second instance of man does not imply or mean that the Word is identical with "man" in general, but that He is of the same nature as they. Similarly, here, the Word was "with God" and "was God" without being identical to whoever the first instance of "God" refers to, namely, the Father: "The only-begotten of the Father."

The article ('the') in Greek simply does not work as it does in English. When is the last time you heard anyone in English refer to Jesus as "the Jesus," for example? Or for that matter, when is the last time you heard someone in English refer to "God" as "the God," even when they were not distinguishing Him from any false god? Such is the usage of the article in Greek, for just two examples.

To write anything else in Greek is to identify the Word as the Father.

Even the Latin Vulgate (translated by someone with more than simply an apt familiarity with both Greek and Latin) uses the Latin:

In princípio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.

John 8:58

ειπεν αυτοις ο ιησους αμην αμην λεγω υμιν πριν αβρααμ γενεσθαι εγω ειμι

And Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you: Before Abraham was, I am.

The Greek is straightfoward, and the deliberate contrast between was and am is absolutely intentional—it's as clear in Greek as it is in English. Now while "I have been" is true of someone who simply "is" without respect to time (i.e. so that Abraham's being born before Him doesn't matter), it is not what the Greek actually says. What something says, and what it implies, are two separate things. What something implies should be left to the reader to discern, not hoarded by the translator, and left for the reader to only discover later, as something hidden or concealed and thought of no import by the translator.

Colossians 1:16

οτι εν αυτω εκτισθη τα παντα τα εν εν τοις ουρανοις και τα επι της γης τα ορατα και τα αορατα ειτε θρονοι ειτε κυριοτητες ειτε αρχαι ειτε εξουσιαι τα παντα δι αυτου και εις αυτον εκτισται

For by him all things were made, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, be it thrones, lordships, principalities, powers: all things were made by him, and for him.

As if it wasn't obvious, the point of this passage was to exhaust everything in existence — "all things, whether in heaven or on earth." The translation of "all things" by "all OTHER things" is not a translation, but is patently theological and absurd (not to mention novel and unheard of before the cult itself) and unwarranted by any passage in the entire Bible.

The New World Translation is not only not the "most accurate," but it is one of the least accurate I've ever come across. It reads like a translation by someone who knows neither Hebrew nor Greek, but has gotten their hands on an interlinear, and is interested in the Greek and Hebrew languages, and is 'living their best life' by convincing others they do know them.

If one word were to be used to describe the NWT translation, it would be "inconsistent" — I dare anyone to find a translation which translates the same Greek in more ways (depending on who is being spoken of—which violates the most basic rules of translation) than the NWT.

What the NWT implies is that to say Jesus created all things, or that all things were created by Jesus, or that Jesus is God as the Father is God also, is different in Greek than in English, and that in Greek, it's more ambiguous, whereas in both Greek and English, there is no ambiguity present whatsoever; they rely on the ignorance of the reader to get away with how they 'translate' what is present in the Greek.

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  • "It reads like a translation by someone who knows neither Hebrew nor Greek, but has gotten their hands on an interlinear, and is interested in the Greek and Hebrew languages, and is 'living their best life' by convincing others they do know them". is an opinion. May 15 at 4:43
  • Naturally, yes... May 15 at 15:25
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The first two words (NOT three) of John 1:1 should have been translated "In a beginning..." There is no article. The translators disregard their "rule" right at the start of the first verse! That is an EASY one to point out.

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    Welcome to Hermeneutics! Answers here can't be anecdotal, they need sources or at least explanation. So, either you need to cite and quote from a Greek or relevant translation-related book, such as Kittel or many others, or display the Greek and demonstrate how articles can be translated with consistency. If not, your Answer could be deleted because of the need for minimal academic quality.
    – Jesse Steele
    yesterday
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A very similar question is asked in an article on the jw.org website. In the article "Is the New World Translation Accurate?", are listed the following comments from non-Witness scholars:

  • In a letter dated December 8, 1950, noted Bible translator and scholar Edgar J. Goodspeed wrote regarding the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures: “I am interested in the mission work of your people, and its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify.”

  • Professor Allen Wikgren of the University of Chicago cited the New World Translation as an example of a modern speech version that rather than being derived from other translations, often has “independent readings of merit.”​—The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I, page 99.

  • Commenting on the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, British Bible critic Alexander Thomson wrote: “The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing.”​—The Differentiator, April 1952, page 52.

  • Despite noting what he felt were a few unusual renderings, author Charles Francis Potter said: “The anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts, both Greek and Hebrew, with scholarly ability and acumen.”​—The Faiths Men Live By, page 300.

  • Although he felt that the New World Translation had both peculiarities and excellences, Robert M. McCoy concluded his review of it by stating: “The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement [Jehovah’s Witnesses] of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation.”​—Andover Newton Quarterly, January 1963, page 31.

  • Professor S. MacLean Gilmour, while not agreeing with some renderings in the New World Translation, still acknowledged that its translators “possessed an unusual competence in Greek.”​—Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966, page 26.

  • In his review of the New World Translation that forms part of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, Associate Professor Thomas N. Winter wrote: “The translation by the anonymous committee is thoroughly up-to-date and consistently accurate.”​—The Classical Journal, April-May 1974, page 376.

  • Professor Benjamin Kedar-Kopfstein, a Hebrew scholar in Israel, said in 1989: “In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translations, I often refer to the English edition of what is known as the New World Translation. In so doing, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible.”

  • Based on his analysis of nine major English translations, Jason David BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies, wrote: “The NW [New World Translation] emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared.” Although the general public and many Bible scholars assume that the differences in the New World Translation are the result of religious bias on the part of its translators, BeDuhn stated: “Most of the differences are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation of the original expressions of the New Testament writers.”​—Truth in Translation, pages 163, 165.

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    I note the conspicuous absence of such comments in the last 30 years since the major revision of the NWT!!
    – Dottard
    May 13 at 6:49
  • 1
    To the downvoter(s), please explain what is wrong with my answer. If it is because you disagree with what I posted, that is your prerogative but I provided quotes from non-JWs that answer the original question.
    – agarza
    May 13 at 16:59
  • 4
    I'm not your down-voter, but it strikes me that you quote from a selection made by the Jehovah's Witness official website. As such I'd expect the sentiment expressed by such non-Witness comments to be attenuated in their criticism.
    – hardmath
    May 13 at 20:43
  • 1
    There's enough people who would have encountered NWT that handpicked testimonials of non JWs could easily present that it's much better than it is by random chance alone. Why do you trust it so much?
    – Joshua
    May 14 at 2:47
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I would concentrate on the question regarding Colossians 1:16 as the other 2 have been discussed at length on this site. My answer was taken from jw.org.

all other things: A literal rendering of the Greek text would be “all things.” (Compare Kingdom Interlinear.) However, such a rendering could give the impression that Jesus was not created but was the Creator himself. And that idea would not agree with the rest of the Bible, including the preceding verse, which calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation.” (Col 1:15; compare Re 3:14, where Jesus is called “the beginning of the creation by God.”) Also, the Greek word for “all” can in some contexts have the meaning “all other,” as for example at Lu 13:2 (“all other”); Lu 21:29 (“all the other”); Php 2:21 (“all the others”). This agrees with Paul’s inspired teaching found at 1Co 15:27: “God ‘subjected all things under his [Christ’s] feet.’ But when he says that ‘all things have been subjected,’ it is evident that this does not include the One who subjected all things to him.” So both the Bible’s teachings as a whole and the probable meaning of the Greek word used here support the rendering “all other things.”​

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    Does the official Jehovah's Witness explanation (above) confirm they altered the wording of Colossians 1:16 because of their belief that Jehovah God created the mighty spirit known in heaven as Michael the Archangel who was then born as Jesus, and that through him everything else was created? Jesus was a created angel?
    – Lesley
    May 15 at 7:24
  • 1
    @Lesley. Jesus was a created being. John 6:57,John 3 :16, Revelation 3:14.. May 15 at 8:04
  • 2
    To which of the angels did God ever say "You are my Son; today I have become your Father" or "Sit at my right hand..." (Hebrews 1:1-14). My saviour is no created angel. You should see how the NWT has altered the original words in Hebrews chapter 1 to support their belief that Jesus is a created angel.
    – Lesley
    May 15 at 11:46
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    @Lesley. Jesus pointed to his God as the source of his life. John 6:57..John 3:16 says Jesus is begotten. Revelation 3 :14 says Jesus was created. Colossians 1:15 says he is the firstborn of God's creation. Jesus' God is the Creator. Jesus himself ascribed creation to his God, Mark 13:19. I believe the plain statements of Jesus and his God. If Jesus is not the Creator, he is not the only true God, His God is the only true God. John 17 :3. May 15 at 12:14

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