Jehovah’s Witnesses And John 3:16

Apr 7, 2013 by

Jehovah's Witnesses John 3:16It is the single most well known and pivotal scripture in the entire Bible. Most people, even non Christians, can quote the passage from memory. In this single verse the entire purpose of the Old and New Testament is described in just a few words. The simplicity of this verse and the path of salvation it outlines is amazing and profound!

Given that this is the single most popular and well known scripture in the world, it is quite instructive to see what has been done to it by the Watchtower leadership in their New World Translation.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

John 3:16 New World Translation

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only‐begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Immediately an interesting difference emerges from this translation that plays right in to the heavily biased New World Translation’s overall mission.

The obvious departure from any other translation in existence is the “exercising faith” insertion. Every other translation that I’m able to find anywhere translates this strictly as “believing” or “having faith”. The insertion of the word “exercising” is a blatant attempt on the part of the Watchtower leadership to completely change the meaning of this scripture to fit their own preconceived notion of a works based path to salvation. The Greek word for “believe” simply doesn’t mean that.

It would be akin to taking something written like the following:

“The wife really loved her husband.”

and purposely altering it to read the following:

“The wife really worked at loving her husband.”

Did that change the meaning entirely? Yes it did. The wife went from truly loving her husband to having to work at loving her husband who, quite obviously, wasn’t very loveable without her constant effort to do so.

Do you get that nuance?

Let’s take a look, and I promise I won’t bore you, at the actual Greek word for “believe” here translated by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society as “exercising faith”.

The Greek word is pisteuōn which is always translated as “believe” or “having faith” by other translators. The same Greek word is shown in the following scripture. I’m including the New World Translation of that word so that you can see the obvious mistranslation of this key phrase in John 3:16 which they quote often to justify their works based theology.

John 3:15 (New World Translation):

that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life. (The same exact word i.e. πιστεύων or pisteuōn!)

This was the immediately preceding verse to John 3:16 and it was actually translated correctly. Yet the same exact word is translated with a completely different meaning in the famous passage at John 3:16 in the very next line!

There are 244 occurrences of this word in the Bible according to Strong’s Concordance. Not once is it translated as “exercising faith” by any other translators.

Let’s examine other parts of the New World Translation where this same Greek word occurs. For example the New World Translation in 1 John 5 translates this same word, mistranslated in John 3:16, in close to the same way as other mainstream translations.

1 John 5:1 New World Translation:

Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God, and everyone who loves the one that caused to be born loves him who has been born from that one.

1 John 5:5 New World Translation:

Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:10 New World Translation:

The [person] putting his faith in the Son of God has the witness given in his own case. The [person] not having faith in God has made him a liar, because he has not put his faith in the witness given, which God as witness has given concerning his Son.

All of these scriptures are from the New World Translation and they all render the Greek word, pisteuōn, correctly and far differently than they do in  John 3:16.


Why would the Watchtower change the meaning of the word in John chapter 3, in multiple cases rendering it as “exercising faith” and in other areas of the New World Translation render it as “believing” or “having faith”?

The reason is this: John 3:16 is such a popular scripture in the minds of most Christians that the Watchtower translators, aka Fred Franz, felt compelled to change it. To leave it as all other translators have rendered it would be to admit that the most fundamental Christian truth, that simply believing in Christ is the only thing required of the Christian for salvation.

Can you see where the Watchtower’s own adherents would start questioning their works based path to salvation if John 3:16 wasn’t severely altered in meaning to include works as part of their salvation?

When cornered about a “works based theology” Jehovah’s Witnesses will immediately claim that they don’t earn their salvation. They will say that Christ’s ransom sacrifice paid the way for their salvation. Yet when you really examine their teachings, you’ll find an entirely different mindset. This is the internal belief that if a Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t knock on enough doors, attend enough meetings, and work hard enough for Jehovah, that they will die at His own hands at Armageddon!

I recall hearing this from the platform on many occasions: “Now there is a reason that exercising faith is in John 3:16. There is work involved and not just faith or belief!” I heard it more times than I can count.

I welcome any Jehovah’s Witness or non-JW with any knowledge of Greek to weigh in on this. I’ve done the research using concordances and interlinear translations. It is painfully obvious to anyone who has even a basic knowledge of Greek that the Watchtower’s mistranslation of John 3:16 is, in fact, a deliberate attempt to take the word “believe” and completely change the meaning to make it appear that works (“exercise”) are necessary for salvation.

This isn’t the only place where the Watchtower translators make a major departure from all other translations. Every single time any scripture translation disagrees with Watchtower dogma, it is deliberately changed in the New World Translation. If it can’t be changed without incurring suspicion, then other words are added in brackets to make it appear that additional meaning was intended by the Bible writer.

These aren’t rare occurrences. These major departures from the actual meaning of the Greek and are found all over the New World Translation.

The reason the Watchtower leaders felt it necessary to come out with their own translation is quite obvious. They desperately needed a translation that would agree with their belief system. Up until then it was nearly impossible to convert a Christian that really knew their Bible.

The first thing Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to do is to take you out of your own Bible and introduce you to theirs! They will say that the New World Translation is “easier to understand in the modern English”. They also make the New World Translation easy to afford. Back when we had the “green Bible” it was only a dollar to the householder while other versions of the Bible cost many times that.

Was it in the Watchtower leaders best interest to make their version of the Bible easy to own? You bet!

What Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t tell you is that their Bible has intentionally altered every single key scripture that disagrees with their beliefs and teachings in order to make it easier for them to convert you.

If you want to get a real education regarding the scriptures that the Watchtower has altered, simply get a copy of their Greek Interlinear (the purple Bible) and read the actual Greek translation in the left margins and compare it to the New World Translation in the right margin! You’ll see glaring differences in the actual translation and I’ve included a photo of their rendering of John 3:16 shown below for instructional purposes.

The first is the entire page:


The next photo is of the actual translation shown at the bottom left of the Greek Interlinear page 428:

john 3:16

I’m going to make a challenge to any Jehovah’s Witness who owns a Greek Interlinear. Look up any scripture that varies from standard translations and read the actual Greek translation in your own Interlinear. You’ll be positively shocked at what you find.

I’m going to give you a short list of scriptures that are radical departures from all other translations. Read them in the NWT Greek Interlinear and then tell me what you think:

John 8:58

Colossians 1:16-20

John 1:1

When you read the actual Greek translation for yourself out of your own Greek Interlinear published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, you’ll know, without any doubt, that you’ve been hoodwinked by the not so “faithful and discreet slave”.

Doug Shields

Related Posts


Share This


  1. Pamela

    Ugh…how I wish I could post his on my fb page! BRAVO!!!

  2. You can if you are BRAVE enough! LOL!

    Oh and thank you! I studied Greek for many years and it was one of the key reasons I left the organization. When I realized how biased and twisted the New World Translation really was it was a virtual “no brainer”.

  3. Pamela

    Bahahahaa! Well…I did the next best thing and posted it on Pinterest where I have a few Witnesses following me. 😉 I used just the pic of the Greek Interlinear and basically pointed out the deceitfulness in changing the translation. I also emailed my mom with a link to your article as she is now seeing with opened eyes as well. Praise the Lord for that!

  4. You rock Pamela! I’m so happy for you and for your mother!

    Praise the Lord! 🙂

  5. Daniel7

    Thayers Greek to English Lexicon pg. 511 Strong’s coded #4100:
    “conjoined with obedience to Christ”

    — King James
    James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe (Strong’s coded #4100), and tremble.

    — Living Bible
    James 2:19 Are there still some among you who hold that “only believing” is enough? Believing in one God? Well, remember that the demons believe this too–so strongly that they tremble in terror!

    The word “believe” has to go far beyond simply understanding a fact, hence “exercising faith” is more appropriate.

  6. We all know that the Christian life is more than just a conscious belief Daniel. Once we become believers and accept Christ as our Lord and Savior then He begins to work in our lives and we begin to manifest the fruits of the spirit. This is an automatic outgrowth of Christ working in us. However these fruits do not BUY us into God’s love or give us a pass for salvation. Christ punched that ticket for all of us and if we believe in Him and openly confess that He is Lord we will be saved…period. (Romans 10:9)

    However mistranslating a word and putting a totally different spin on it to mean something entirely different than the Greek intends is nothing short of deception. The fact that the Greek Interlinear backs my claim up should at least give you pause.

    How presumptuous it would be for some haughty man (who had no credentials with which to translate Greek into English) to say:

    “Hmm…I don’t think that is exactly what God meant when He had John write that so I’m going to put in my “two cents worth” and breathe a little sweat into that verse!”

    That is exactly what has happened here.

    Acts 16:29-34

    The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

    They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

    Romans 4:4-6

    Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

    Paul clearly outlines here that works are not part of the process of salvation. He couldn’t put it any plainer than he did here. Notice at no point do those preaching the word of God give some elaborate “system” whereby these people can EARN their salvation.

    Now if the apostles had been Jehovah’s Witnesses this would have gone an entirely different track:

      Okay, first you have to study with us for six months.
      Then you have to answer a bunch of questions and you have to answer them correctly.
      Then you have to cut your hair.
      Then we want you to shave your beard.
      You’ll have to attend meetings and assemblies.
      You must go door to door or you’ll die at Armageddon because you’ll be “bloodguilty”.
      You’ll have to give up all “bad” habits including the ones we think are bad but aren’t spoken about in the scriptures.
      You can’t serve in the military.
      You can’t celebrate any holidays.
      When we are satisfied that you have passed all of our “tests” then and ONLY THEN can you get baptized into our organization. No we won’t baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No we will only baptize you into the organization.
      You can never be 100% sure that you’re saved. There will always be a huge question mark in your mind about whether you are “good enough” for Jehovah. We’ll constantly remind you of this with our “probably maybe” scripture so that you will work harder!

    Daniel this isn’t how the Christian life operated then and it isn’t how it works now. These “laundry lists” of “approved activities” and “unapproved activities” are nothing but a modern version of the Pharisaic/Mosaic Law.

    Bottom line? You don’t EARN your salvation. Christ paid for it with His blood. Any group that preaches a different gospel is not only wrong, but they are making the sacrifice that Christ made for them null and void.

    Ask ANY Jehovah’s Witness if they will die at Armageddon if they don’t go door to door and if they are honest they will answer in the affirmative!

    This is nothing short of spiritual extortion: “Do what I say or God is going to KILL YOU!”

    Jesus Himself preached against this to the Pharisees of His day. Later the apostle Paul and the other apostles did the same thing.

  7. Anonymous

    Excercising faith and believing is one and the same thing.The mere critic done by an apostate is very unfortunate and ingeneous.The NWT is made to simplfy the translation to every day day English used in this morden days.Who still speak English as in King James Version.Jehovha’s Witiness speak the truth and they stand for the truth.

  8. Anonymous

    Woman loves husband and woman really work at loving husband .these two phrases has totally different meaning .I would say the illustration to the bible verse here is also off the mark.If you see in bible context the overall meaning of King james and NWT has not deviated.Believe is believe period ,without history monology of Greek medieval meaning.Faith is faith same thing.If I say Doug I am excersing faith in you ,iexcercise simple shows a continuous process and not a once off.Believe is constant faith

  9. I find it difficult to debate shades of meaning and the Watchtower’s “spin” of John 3:16 with someone who can’t spell or use proper grammar in English much less Greek. Perhaps a New World coloring book would be more appropriate for your needs.

    The word you should have used is “DISINGENUOUS”. “Ingenuous”, the word you tried to use (and spell), would imply that I was acting innocently and in good faith.

    One would think with as much time as you obviously spend reading the Watchtower propaganda, your grammar, usage and spelling would be better than that of a fourth grader.

    I probably should take that back. It might offend fourth graders.

    If you detect the sarcasm in my words then you’ve gotten my point.



  10. Wolfgang

    I myself have become outraged toward a high leader of JW here in the country of Bolivia.

    He will constantly attempt to stear one away from one’s own understanding of the KJV. bible.
    They do appear as nice people but now realizing
    again the radical changes they made for the NWT I will not go near or have them alter my faith in Christ Jesus.

  11. RG

    Pistis is the greek word translated as “faith” and it is a noun. Pisteuo is a greek word for which we have no equivalent which is a verb. It is the “verb” or “doing” form of pistis. That is, it is “doing faith” or better said as “execising faith”. It is usually translated as believe in most bibles but that then allows a modern interpretation of “intellectual ascent” to be wrongly placed on it. This would not have been the case in the original language. Examine John 3:36 where as many as half of the bibles contrast 3:16 with “..whoever disobeys the Son will not see life…” and it is clear what is meant in 3:16. Not only do nearly all bibles wrongly translate 3:16 but you just can’t go by one versus for doctrine as our bible translations have too many translational discrepancies within themselves. You must take an overall balanced view from all the New Covenant scriptures and that is one in which the conclusion is that “Faith without Works is dead.” The Apostle Paul clearly states that “Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation” for example and elsewhere he says that he could have all faith and yet without a working love for others he is nothing. Jesus himself teaches faith without works is useless in several places too. The list could go on and on but it is best for the reader to read it for himself and not simply go along with the easy believism crowd.

    In Christ – RG

  12. So how, pray tell, do you explain Romans chapter 4?

    We can dig into semantics with virtually any Greek or Hebrew word we want and draw our own conclusions based on our own preconceived opinions and ideas. This has left a virtual “Pandora’s Box” wide open for those who claim a knowledge of said languages to twist the scriptures to their own ends. That is what the Watchtower leaders have done.

    I maintain that works are an outgrowth of faith. Using works as a justification for our beliefs or worse, for our own redemption is completely missing the point of Christ’s dying for us.

    The price has already been paid. We just have to accept the gift.


  13. Here’s a live account that sheds a lot of light on the “works based salvation” crowd:

    Acts 16: 29-34

    The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

    They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

    No litany of rules and regulations. No works based salvation path. Just belief.


  14. So let me get this straight: You maintain that “almost all Bibles wrongly translate John 3:16”?


    Are you that misled? Tell you what: You go ahead and state your full name and tell us where you obtained your PhD, Masters degree or even just took a two year degree in Greek and we’ll consider your statement’s validity. Otherwise you need to take whatever Watchtower generated drivel that you lifted this from and go throw it into the trash because that, RG, is what it is.

    Let me state for the audience here exactly what Romans 4:1-8 says:

    1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

    7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
    8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

    The Apostle Paul makes very clear in just a few sentences that works are not, in any way, a part of our salvation. Why? Because there were many who were seeking to perpetuate the idea of a works based, Judaic view of salvation in the early church.


  15. jim meyer

    Thank you Doug for All you do.

  16. Thank you Jim!


  17. Tonya Land

    I also am a former Jehovah’s Witness and am obsessed with finding discrepancies in their translation.
    The word grace seems to be totally taken out of the new world translation and replaced with undeserved kindness. Also, Phillippians 2:5-8 is deliberately translated so as to confuse the reader.

  18. Yes their “translation” is riddled with such discrepancies.

    That’s why they are so bent on getting the householder out of their preferred translation and into the NWT.


  19. Anonymous

    Like it !