We complete our three part investigation into the less savoury aspects of the Watchtower Society (WTS) by looking at some of their deceptions employed over the decades. Deception can be defined as ‘the act of hiding the truth, especially to get an advantage’ (1). What is said may actually be true in itself, as it is written, and yet still convey a lie.
A ‘faithful and discrete slave’ could not be described as faithful if it employed deception to make its point; if you need to employ deception then there is something wrong with what you are saying and the way you are saying it. Jesus tells us that He is the truth (John 14 v 6) so if we are portraying Him then there is no need for deception.
One of the key deceptive practices employed by the WTS is the use of the ellipsis (…) to denote a section of the quote is missing. In normal usage this occurs where the missing part has no relevance to the aspect of the quote under reference. In WTS usage it often means that the section missing does not support their conclusions from the quote that is shown
Unless you go to the effort to track down the book containing the quote (and who has time to do that?) you are left with the impression the quoted article supports the WTS’s ideas. The Watchtower Society also rarely makes it easy for anyone to check up on their ‘quotes’ as they do not specify the version of the publication nor its volume/page number etc.
The deceptions listed below are but a small sample of those that can be found with research; to quote them all would be a mammoth task!
“Should You Believe in the Trinity” (Trinity)
In 1989 the WTS brought out a publication trying to refute the doctrine of theTtrinity (2). The whole book is packed with misquotes, each designed to support their view but, if the whole quote is read, in fact usually support the opposite. For example; the booklet semi quotes the Encyclopedia Americana (though gives no actual reference such as the year of publication or page number) in stating;
“The Encyclopedia Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is considered to be ‘beyond the grasp of human reason’.” (3)
Whereas the actual quote from the encyclopaedia says this;
“It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formulations of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind” (Emphasis mine).
In the 1918 edition of the encyclopaedia it states
“In the New Testament it is evident that the doctrine of a trinity in the divine nature is clearly and copiously taught” (5)
On page 6 of the Trinity booklet it quotes a Yale University Professor in his book ‘Origin and Evolution of Religion’ who it claims states the following;
“To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it.” (6)
The actual quote from Washburn’s book is;
“The beginning of the doctrine of the Trinity appears already in John (c.100 AD.”) To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; at any rate they say nothing about it.” (Emphasis mine)
The words missing and replaced by the ellipsis (…) in the WTS booklet are ‘…at any rate…’ which do change the meaning of the quote.
There is much on the internet deriding the quality of the quotes from this booklet and the style of language it uses and only a person who is already convinced that the WTS can say no wrong could be convinced by what it says.
Worship of Christ – Quotations
Since its inception right up until 1954 the WTS promoted the worship of Christ as prescribed by Scripture. In fact in the 1945 charter for the Incorporation of the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society one of the purposes of the society was declared as to;
“…teach, train, prepare and equip men and women… for public worship of Almighty God and Christ Jesus;” (Emphasis mine) (7)
This ‘purpose’ actually remained on the charter until sometime in the 1990s even after this worship was banned in 1954 (8). This charter was quoted a number of times by the WTS articles subsequent to 1954 and in each case the quote was doctored to avoid the embarrassing wording.
For example in 1971 the WT quoted;
“The purposes of this Society are…public worship of Almighty God [through] Christ Jesus…” (addition in the WT article) (9)
The word ‘through’ is added which is not there in the original, demonstrating they even change their own publications to maintain the current ‘truth.’.
In the 1969 WTS Yearbook the charter is extensively quoted but when it comes to the offending sentence the words ’and Jesus Christ’ are replaced with the ubiquitous ellipsis (…). (10)
It’s bad enough that the WTS promoted the worship of another god, but to then try and hide it in such a way is unforgivable.
The Watchtower Society president ‘Judge’ Joseph Rutherford declared in the later 1910s that an earthly resurrection was about to happen prior to the end of this system in 1925 (11). Despite the failure of his prediction regarding 1925 he persisted in his ideas of this resurrection and actually authorised the purchase of a property to house the resurrected princes in San Diego, California, as the climate there was similar to that of Palestine (12).
The house was named Beth Sarim, or House of Princes in Hebrew. The house was made available for the president to use until such time as the princes would return and claim it for their own use. The deeds to the property actually name David, Gideon, and Samuel as persons authorised to claim the property (13).
Ignoring the obvious conclusion that Rutherford just wanted a great place to live at the society’s expense the history of this embarrassing episode is not told with accuracy in later WTS literature. For example; when discussing the house the WTS ‘history’ book ‘Jehovahs Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom’ (Proclaimers) makes no allusion to the princes and claims only that the house was built for an ailing Rutherford and does not mention the details held within the deeds;
“In the 1920’s, under a doctor’s treatment, he [Rutherford] went to San Diego, California, and the doctor urged him to spend as much time as possible there. From 1929 on, Brother Rutherford spent the winters working at a San Diego residence he had named Beth-Sarim. Beth-Sarim was built with funds that were a direct contribution for that purpose. The deed, which was published in full in “The Golden Age” of March 19, 1930, conveyed this property to J. F. Rutherford and thereafter to the Watch Tower Society.” (14)
The house was eventually sold in 1947 after Rutherford’s death (15); in 1950 the whole idea of the princes being resurrected to earth prior to Armageddon was dropped after ‘further study’ of the Scriptures! (16). Putting the name Beth Sarim in to jw.org brings up no mention of this embarrassing episode in the WTS’s history.
Luke 23 v 43
“And he said to him: “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”” (Luke 23 v 43 NWT).
“Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23 v 43 NIV)
This verse deals with Jesus’ response to the thief on the cross next to Him. The position of a comma in this response completely changes the meaning of the verse, but note the punctuation.
Should the comma be before ‘today’ (as in all biblical translations except the New World Translation) then this verse shows that the thief would not cease to exist on death, but would be in paradise with Jesus that day. If the comma is after ‘today’ then no such statement can be made. However, the deceptive aspect of the WTS’s translation of this verse comes in when you read the footnote in the 1969 Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT).
“”Today.” Westcott and Hort text [the Greek translation from which the KIT is taken] puts a comma in Greek text before the word for “today.” In the original Greek no comma is found. Hence we omit comma before “today.” (17)
This sounds very studious and correct until you realise that Greek never used ANY commas when written so in fact there was no comma after “today” either, despite the NWT putting one in there. Leaving out this important fact gives the impression that their translation is more correct than many others – not true. The 1985 KIT footnote is slightly more circumspect, but still leaves in the comma after ‘today’.
Stake or Cross?
The Watchtower Society is very keen on the idea that Jesus was not crucified on a cross but on a vertical stake (18). They say that the cross is a pagan symbol and so should not be used by Christians. In reality, of course, whether Jesus died for us with His arms above His head or stretched out to His sides is actually pretty irrelevant yet the WTS tries to make a big thing of it.
They attempt to cite scholarly works to support their idea such as that of 16th century Catholic Justus Lipsius’ who wrote a book entitled De Cruce Liber Primus (The Book of the Cross) (19). In the 1969 KIT (20) they print an illustration from this book (21) showing a man hung on a vertical stake (see below) and claim (22 “This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled” clearly implying this was Justus’s opinion.
What they deceptively fail to tell us is a few pages further on in Justus’ book (23) he goes on to discuss the form Jesus was actually crucified upon and shows the illustration of a man on a cross (see below). In the 1985 version of the KIT the upright stake picture is still there but no comment is made upon it.
Additionally there are more illustrations in Justus’ book of a two beamed ‘cross’ than there are of a one vertical stake. Whether Jesus died on a cross or a stake is a valid discussion to be had, but the WTS uses very deceptive means to put forward their side of the argument.
“There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics.” So goes the saying and an excellent example of the use of deceptive statistics can be found in the 1997 Awake magazine when discussing divorce rates. In that issue of their PR magazine the WTS makes this statement;
“By applying unselfish love in their marriages, Jehovah’s Witnesses achieve stable relationships. In some countries one marriage out of every two or three ends in divorce. But the above-mentioned survey [of 145,958 German JWs] indicated that presently only 4.9 percent of the Witnesses are divorced or separated from their mates.” (24)
On a first reading this would give the impression that JWs are somehow far and away more devoted to their ‘mates’ than the rest of the world. However, what they are doing here is comparing two entirely different statistics. For a start it does not give the percentage of German JWs who actually have ‘mates’; if only 10% of JWs are married then this would be a far less impressive statistic wouldn’t it?
The quoted survey was only of German JWs whereas the comparable divorce rate was ‘in some countries’; what was the JW divorce rate like in those countries? In fact, on average, roughly 5% of the general population is divorced or separated, a figure which would actually allow a one to one comparison showing JWs are basically no better than the rest of us.
The two figures quoted in the Awake magazine cannot be used for comparison without supplying a lot more information as they are not directly related. But the WTS doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!
The WTS ‘history’ book ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses —Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom’ (Proclaimers) was published in 1993 and does cover many of the embarrassing episodes in the WTS’s history, though not always in a truly honest fashion. For example;
“Higher Powers”; On page 147 it discusses the ‘new light’ about Romans 13 v 1-7 and who are the ‘higher powers’. The book puts a clever spin on the story, highlighting the ‘careful reanalysis’ of the Scripture to change the WTS’s teaching on this passage from referring to Jehovah to now referring to secular authorities.
What the book fails to mention is that this was not the first change of ‘tack’ and the WTS originally taught that the ‘higher powers’ were secular authorities (25) so not ‘new light’ but another flip-flop!
“Evil as these Gentile governments have been, they were permitted or “ordained of God” for a wise purpose. (Rom. 13:1) “ (26) (emphasis mine)
“They taught the Church to obey the laws, and to respect those in authority because of their office, even if they were not personally worthy of esteem; to pay their appointed taxes, and, except where they conflicted with God’s laws (Acts 4:19 page 266; 5:29), to offer no resistance to any established law. (Rom. 13:1-7; Matt. 22:21)” (27) (emphasis mine)
The original change from ‘secular powers’ to ‘divine powers’ came in 1929 (28) where it is stated that “The instruction of the thirteenth chapter of Romans has long been misapplied” though failing to point out it was ‘misapplied’ by the Watchtower.
1975; the whole 1975 prophecy was another embarrassing failure for the WTS but the Proclaimers book tries to put a positive spin on it.
“In the years following 1966, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses acted in harmony with the spirit of that counsel [not to be too specific about what will happen in 1975]. However, other statements were published on this subject, and some were likely more definite than advisable.” (29)
Again, deceptively the book fails to identify that it was the WTS that published those ‘other statements’ such as;
“Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly…It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years.” (30) (Emphasis mine)
1925; Over pages 425 onwards the book gives an ‘exciting’ account of the work carried out by Rutherford and others in proclaiming that “Millions Now Living Will Never Die”. The account tells of how much advertising by way of pamphlets, lectures, posters, and newspaper adverts went in to proclaiming this message.
This all sounds very worthy. What the book fails to point out is that the message was that Armageddon was to occur in 1925 and this patently failed to occur. So all the advertising and hard work was, in fact, a complete waste of time in that it proclaimed error.
The Proclaimers book is a master class in PR and spin, giving a very deceptive view of the organisation and its work. There are a number of internet sites that go into this book in much greater depth than is possible in an article such as this (31)(32).
Suffice to say that, despite the publishers’ claim in the foreword to the book to have “…endeavoured to be objective and…candid”, the book is anything but. Its purpose seems to have been to give JWs an idea of points ‘opposers’ might bring up and to ‘inoculate’ them against these points by giving them a rose tinted view of such matters.
When reading through WTS material there are always a smattering of Bible verses referenced, but it is always worth reading the actual verse quoted. Very often they fail to support the idea being put forward. Certainly reading the verse in context often completely changes the bearing of the verse away from how the reference intended to use it. Here are just a few examples;
The jw.org article on ‘What is the Holy Spirit’ opens with the line
But, should you read the two verses they say nothing of the sort, Micah says that he [Micah] is filled with power BY the Holy Spirit and Luke says the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary AND the power of the most High will overshadow her. Further on in this same article it states;
“By referring to God’s spirit as his “hands,” “fingers,” or “breath,” the Bible shows that the holy spirit is not a person. (Exodus 15:8-10)”
The Exodus verses do not mention the Holy Spirit at all but simply God’s ‘breath’.
In an article on ‘What Does it Mean to Be Born Again’ (jw.org) when talking of Jesus resurrection it says
“God fulfilled this hope by resurrecting Jesus as a spirit creature,—Acts 13:33” If you actually read Acts 13 v 33 it doesn’t mention anything about Jesus being resurrected as a ‘spirit’ creature at all.
The WTS claims that God’s kingdom is often called the kingdom of heaven (33) as it will rule from heaven and quotes Mark 1 v 14, 15 and Matthew 4 v 17, neither of which give any indication that anything will rule from heaven. In fact Matthew says that the kingdom had ‘drawn near’ which would seem to contradict what the article is trying to say.
If you should ever talk with a JW and they teach from one of their books or magazines always read out the verse quoted, including the surrounding verses giving context, and check to see if it actually supports what they say – you’ll be amazed at the number of times it doesn’t!
So, in summary, this article is only able to point out a tiny proportion of the deceptive actions by the Watchtower Society over its history. God’s sole channel should surely not need to be deceptive at all if it is telling the truth. The joy of always telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said and you don’t have to be deceptive to hide what you said either.
The history of the WTS is packed full of hypocrisy, lies and deception which are all very unbecoming of an organisation which claims to be God’s ‘faithful and discrete slave’. When talking with JWs these points can be brought up as many have been awakened by having such things highlighted.
However, you should be careful not to push the point too hard otherwise you will just make them defensive and less likely to actually check out what you’re saying. Always pose them as questions you would like answered rather than as criticism as JWs are taught that ‘apostates’ and ‘opposers’ will attack them. By being open and questioning you can help break down the barriers they all put up.
If you have any questions or comments on this article do please post them and I will endeavour to get back to you. Feed back is always welcome, particularly from interactions with JWs. Barry can be contacted at [email protected].com
- Cambridge English Dictionary
- WTS booklet ‘Should You Believe in the Trinity’ 1993, republished in 2006
- Ibid page 4
- Encyclopedia Americana – Trinity Doctrine
- 1918 edition Encyclopedia Americana (Vol 27 p69) (https://archive.org/details/encyclopediaame22unkngoog)
- Professor E Washburn ‘Origin and Evolution of Religion’ ISBN-10: 0766141993
- State of Pennsylvania County of Allegheny Charter of Articles of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society dated 27 Feb 1945, page 3 under article 7(II). (http://www.rozcesti.org/eknihy/1945-Charter-of-WTBTS.pdf)
- Watchtower (WT) 1 Jan 1954 page 31
- WT 15 Dec 1971 page 760
- WTS 1969 Yearbook page 50
- WTS book ‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die’ (MNLWND) pages 89-90
- 1931 Messenger Convention report page 8
- Golden Age 19 March 1930 pages 406-407
- WTS book ‘Jehovahs Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom’ (Proclaimers) page 76
- WT 15 Dec 1947 page 382
- WT 1 Nov 1950 pages 414-417
- WTS Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) 1969, footnote to Luke 23 v 43
- Awake 22 Sep 1974 pages 27, 28
- De Cruce Liber Primus (The Book of the Cross) Justus Lipsius (1547-1606)
- WTS KIT 1969 page 1156
- De Cruce Liber Primus (The Book of the Cross) Justus Lipsius page 647
- WTS KIT 1969 page 1155
- De Cruce Liber Primus (The Book of the Cross) Justus Lipsius page 650
- WTS 8 Sep Awake1997 page 11
- Studies in the Scriptures Series I – Divine plan of the Ages pages 250, 266
- WTS Proclaimers book page 250
- Ibid page 266
- WT 1 June 1929 page 163
- WTS Proclaimers book page 104
- WT 15 Aug 1968 page 499
- jw.org ‘What is the Kingdom of God’