Spanning over decades, the Watchtower Society cited the Bible translation of former priest Johannes Greber to support their translation of John 1:1 in their New World Translation Bible, which reads: "the Word was a God", rather than “the Word was God,” in addition to using Johannes Greber’s writings to support other teachings and doctrines.
Below is what The Watchtower magazine, September 15, 1962 issue states in the article, “The Word” - Who Is He? According to John” in paragraph 5:
“But most controversial of all is the following reading of John 1:1, 2: “The Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This Word was in the beginning with God.” This reading is found in The New Testament in An Improved Version, published in London, England, in 1808. Similar is the reading by a former Roman Catholic priest: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without it nothing created sprang into existence.” (John 1:1-3)*
* [Footnote]: The New Testament—A New Translation and Explanation Based on the Oldest Manuscripts, by Johannes Greber (a translation from German into English), edition of 1937, the front cover of this bound translation being stamped with a golden cross.”
The Watchtower Society continued using Johannes Greber’s writings as a reliable and trusting source for Jehovah’s Witnesses on several other occasions.
The Watchtower October 15, 1975 issue in its ‘Questions From Readers’ article has the following information:
“Does Matthew 27:52, 53 mean that at the time of Jesus’ death some persons in the grave were resurrected?
Without wresting the Greek grammar, a translator can render Matthew 27:52, 53 in a way that suggests that a similar exposing of corpses resulted from the earthquake occurring at Jesus’ death. Thus the translation by Johannes Greber (1937) renders these verses: “Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.”—Compare the New World Translation.”
Also, the Watchtower from April 15, 1976 on page 231 under ‘Insight on the News’ provides the following details:
“Event Clarifies Bible
The recent Guatemalan earthquake affected even some of those already dead. “Time” magazine reports that “several mourners who went to bury their dead in family plots found that the coffins of long-dead relatives had been uncovered by the quake.” Something similar occurred during an earthquake in the Jerusalem area at Jesus’ death. At that time, dead bodies were customarily placed in vaults or chambers cut from Palestine’s soft limestone rock, often in hillsides. A report in the Bible, as translated by Johannes Greber, says that when Jesus died, “the earth quaked, and the rocks were shattered. Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.” Hence, rather than a resurrection, as some Bible translations imply, there appears to have been merely an exposure of the dead to observers, as in Guatemala.—Matt. 27:51-53.”
Besides the Watchtower magazine article quotes shown above, the Watchtower Society also used the writings of Johannes Greber as support in these other publications:
The Word, Who is He? - According to John (1962) p. 5
Make Sure of All Things (1965) p. 489
Aid to Bible Understanding (1971) pp. 1134, 1669
However, despite the Watchtower Society quoting Johannes Greber's writings as a reliable and trustworthy source in support of their teachings and doctrines, the fact is Johannes Greber was heavily influenced by the occult when he was translating his version of the Bible. The following quotations are taken from the 'Johannes Greber Memorial Foundation' entitled "Communication with the Spirit World of God", demonstrating Johannes Greber's occult background:
"Johannes Greber was surely an Apostle of Truth. It is the purpose of his book, written in a spirit of love for his fellow man, to describe the path which brought him into the world of God's Spirits and laid the Truth open to him.
Pastor Johannes Greber also translated the New Testament. The task was not simple. Many contradictions between what appears in the ancient scrolls and the New Testament, as we have grown to know it, arose and were the subject of his constant prayers for guidance - prayers that were answered, and the discrepancies clarified to him, by God's Spirit World. At times he was given the correct answers in large, illuminated letters and words passing before his eyes. Other times he was given the correct answers during prayer meetings. His wife, a medium of God's Spiritworld was often instrumental in conveying the correct answer from God's Messengers to Pastor Greber."
Interestingly, the Watchtower Society provided the following in the Watchtower from April 1, 1983 under the ‘Questions from Readers’ section located on page 31:
“Why, in recent years, has The Watchtower not made use of the translation by the former Catholic priest, Johannes Greber?
This translation was used occasionally in support of renderings of Matthew 27:52, 53 and John 1:1, as given in the New World Translation and other authoritative Bible versions. But as indicated in a foreword to the 1980 edition of The New Testament by Johannes Greber, this translator relied on “God’s Spirit World” to clarify for him how he should translate difficult passages. It is stated: “His wife, a medium of God’s Spiritworld was often instrumental in conveying the correct answers from God’s Messengers to Pastor Greber.” The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) The scholarship that forms the basis for the rendering of the above-cited texts in the New World Translation is sound and for this reason does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority. Nothing is lost, therefore, by ceasing to use his New Testament.”
So the above Watchtower is claiming that since they found out about Johannes Greber’s ties to the occult due to information discovered in 1980, they have deemed it improper to make use of his work.
Such an explanation would provide the argument that the last time the Watchtower Society used Johannes Greber as a reference was in 1976 and once they found out about his occult background in 1980, they stopped using him as a reliable and trustworthy source. Therefore, the Watchtower Society was not aware of Johannes Greber’s connection to the occult when they used him as support.
The truth is the Watchtower Society was fully aware of the strong occult ties and used the information in support of their teachings and doctrines.
This is proven in the Watchtower, February 15, 1956 issue under the article ‘Triumphing over Wicked Spirit Forces’, on paragraph 10 the following is written:
“Says Johannes Greber in the introduction of his translation of The New Testament, copyrighted in 1937: “I myself was a Catholic priest, and until I was forty-eight years old had never as much as believed in the possibility of communicating with the world of God’s spirits. The day came, however, when I involuntarily took my first step toward such communication, and experienced things that shook me to the depths of my soul. . . . My experiences are related in a book that has appeared in both German and English and bears the title, Communication with the Spirit-World: Its Laws and Its Purpose.” (Page 15, ¶ 2, 3) In keeping with his Roman Catholic extraction Greber’s translation is bound with a gold-leaf cross on its stiff front cover. In the Foreword of his aforementioned book ex-priest Greber says: “The most significant spiritualistic book is the Bible.” Under this impression Greber endeavors to make his New Testament translation read very spiritualistic.”
The Watchtower Society knew that Johannes Greber was influenced by and made use of the occult as early as February 1956, but still continued using his Bible translation and writings regardless, even as late as April 1976. They tried to give the appearance of ignorance to the facts prior by the 1983 Watchtower referencing a source from 1980.
To summarize, the Watchtower Society used a source with strong ties to the occult to support their teachings and doctrines for years – Up to 20 years after having knowledge of the fact. When trying to explain such actions they ignored their own well-documented history of the matter. That is both a cover-up and deceitful.