"Estin" at Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19
"The NWT translates the Greek word "esti" as "is" in almost every instance in the New Testament (Mt 26:18, 38, Mk 14:44, Lk 22:38, etc.). See Greek-English Interlinear. Why does the NWT translate this Greek word as "means" in Mt 26:26-28, Mk 14:22-24, and Lk 22:19? Why the inconsistency in the translation of the word "esti"? If the NWT was consistent and translated the Greek word "esti" as "is" in these verses, what would these verses say?"
Answer: The simple criticism met with here is the charge of "inconsistency." We have to ask though if any translation, including the New World Translation, has always to translate a word the same way each time it occurs in the Greek text? Also, can this word "estin," a form of eimi, "to be," have the meaning that the New World Translation gives it at those places cited above?
The New World Translation Committee wrote, "Uniformity of rendering has been maintained by assigning one meaning to each major word and holding to that meaning as far as the context permits." -Introduction, Reference Edition 1984, p.7, "Estin" is not a "major" word. Also, the NWT Translation Committee allowed the context to have an important role to play in determining their translation of any word whether that word be a "major" one or not.(This is something critics continually ignore with the New World Translation). So what of "estin" at the above cited places?
Again(and this, the 'critic,' nearly always do!) the New World Translation is portrayed as if it is the only translation that in this case is not "consistent." However;
The New Testament-A Translation by William Barclay(1968) reads at Matthew 26:26,
"During the meal Jesus took a loaf. He said the blessing over it,and broke it into pieces, and gave it to his disciples.'Take! Eat!' he said. 'This means[Gk."estin"]my body.' "
The Authentic New Testament by Hugh J. Schonfield(1956)
"...Take, eat; this signifies[Gk."estin"]my body."
A New Translation of the Bible by James Moffatt(impression of 1948);
"Take and eat this,it means my body."
The Translator's New Testament(1973) reads, "this is my body," but in it's translational notes says:
"This saying is interpreted in different ways in different parts of the Church. In the original context the word "is" can only mean 'stand for','represents', as Jesus's actual body was there in it's physical form. Compare the use of 'is' in Mat 13;38; Lk 8:11; 1 Cor 11:24,25 and many other places, when it means 'represent' or 'stands for'. In Mat 26:26 and parallels, however, T[ranslator's] T[estament] has retained the literal translation 'is.' "
In those places cited by the The Translator's New Testament, Mat 13:38; Lk 8:11; they translate "estin" not as "is" but as "represents." So the critic would then have to find fault with this translation, as being "inconsistent," even though they translated "estin" literally at Matthew 26:26 etc!
The New Testament in Modern Speech by R.F.Weymouth(2nd edition of 1903) in a footnote to Matthew 26:26 says: "Is my body] Or 'signifies,' 'represents,' 'symbolizes my body.' In many places both in the O.T. and the N.T. the verb 'is' or 'are,' expressed or(as here)understood, may thus be rendered. A few examples are-in the O.T. Gen.xi.26; Josh.iv.6(where the literal rendering is "What(are)these stones to you?"); Isa.v.7,and numerous instances in Zech.iv.,v.,vi.; and in the N.T. Matt.xiii.19,20,22,23; Acts x.17(lit.,"what the vision might be");Rev.xvii.18;xix.10."
We could ask ourselves why did the NWT Translation Committee deem it best to render "estin" at Matthew 26:26 and parallel places as "means" rather than it's literal meaning "is"? For, if "estin" can mean "represented" in certain places such as Matthew 13:38 and the NWT does not so render "estin" there as "means," why here at Matthew 26:26? Probably because at such a place as Matthew 13:38 it is plain that Jesus is not to be taken literally. In his explanation of his illustration he says the "field is["estin"] the world." But as this is an explanation of an illustration then there is no danger that the reader of the New World Translation here would think that the "field" was actually, literally the "world." But is this the case before us at Matthew 26:26? As there is a different interpretation, even controversy, at this place, then the NWT Translation Committee might be considered justified in making it clear what they felt Jesus here meant. (see "Reasoning from the Scriptures", 'Mass, 'WTB&TS, pp.261-265) This is the right of any translation team. Furuli (pp.288, 289) has put forth the view that the readers interests would have been better met had the NWT translated "estin" at places such as Matthew 26:26 and 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25 as "is" with a footnote explaining with the sense "means" rather than translating it as "means" with footnotes giving the literal meaning as is done in the Reference Edition of the NWT(1984). The force of his view is felt. But it might be mentioned that most witnesses use an edition in their preaching work, indeed at their meeting places, that does not contain any footnotes. Also, the New World Translation, without footnotes, is often 'advertised' to the general public in the WTB&TS literature such as the Awake! magazine. Indeed, only the Reference Edition of the NWT contains any footnotes. As it is the desire of the NWT Translation Committee to put into the hands of sincere lovers of God's word a translation that accurately communicates the Author Jehovah God's thoughts, then one can understand why, with there being absolutely no warrant for criticism, for them to translate "estin" at Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19 as "means" in all editions.
"...: Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it to symbolize his death, and distributed the pieces to his disciples, saying, "This is my body." "Is" must mean "represents" or "symbolizes" my body, since the bread obviously was not identical with his actually present physical body." -A New Testament History, Floyd V. Filson(formerly Professor of New Testament at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago), SCM Press Ltd, 6th impression 1978, page 142.-italics ours.