We are continuing the series regarding the failings of the faithful and discrete slave in its conduct, where it has acted or spoken with hypocrisy, where it has lied, and where it has been deceptive. Any organisation that claims to be God’s sole channel and the only true religion would be expected to be exemplary in its conduct and in its words. All men make mistakes but, as we saw in part one, the Watchtower Society claims to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure everything it says is accurate.
We must assume, then, that what they have said in their literature is what they meant to say. Matthew 15 v 11 tells us that what comes out of a man’s mouth can make him unclean so we examine what emanates from the WTS to see if it is ‘unclean’.
We start with a few more examples of its hypocrisy.
Piñata vs Christmas and the Cross; Pagan ‘Roots’
The pre-nascent JWs (Bible Students) quite happily celebrated Christmas in to the mid 1920s despite acknowledging that it had pagan roots (1). This was even after the ‘cleansing’ of the organisation in the late 1910s leading to Jesus choosing them as His ‘faithful and discrete slave’. After 1927 it became a ‘pagan’ festival and not to be celebrated by Jehovah’s people (2).
The Watchtower Society points out many things with a pagan origin that they say should not be considered by JWs; such as birthdays, crosses, and Easter. However, should they come across a piñata then they make it clear that despite its clearly pagan origins it is OK because;
“When considering whether to include a piñata at a social gathering, Christians should be sensitive to the consciences of others. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) A main concern is, not what the practice meant hundreds of years ago, but how it is viewed today in your area. Understandably, opinions may vary from one place to another. Hence, it is wise to avoid turning such matters into big issues. The Bible says: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (Emphasis mine)(3)
Why can we be sensitive in one area and must be completely insensitive in another? The above article even includes the use of the piñata in Christmas celebrations! Surely the celebration of Christ’s birth has more validity than beating some poor papier-mâché model to pieces!
No such ‘pagan’ limitations are put on the use of such things as wedding rings which also have pagan origins. Similarly the symbol of the Watchtower, so clearly portrayed on the cover of their magazines is of pagan origin too as this statue of Artemis of the Ephesians shows;
The WTS makes a really big thing about cross having pagan roots, why not consider their own symbolism?
Excommunication vs Disfellowshipping
A key doctrine of the WTS is that of disfellowshipping, where a member is not only ejected from the congregation but physically ‘shunned’ by all other JWs, including those of their own family. Ostensibly this is to comply with the edict in 1 Corinthians 5 but is also applied to other circumstances outside this chapter, such as anyone who leaves the organisation for disagreeing with their doctrine – identified as ‘apostates’.
By ejecting the person from the organisation they are effectively preventing them surviving Armageddon or attaining to paradise earth. The Catholic Church has a similar concept in ‘excommunication’ though it appears to be used more judiciously than disfellowshipping. The WTS claims a scriptural backing for their disfellowshipping and yet they have decried excommunication as having pagan roots;
“In fact, it is altogether foreign to Bible teachings – Hebrews 10 v 26-31. Where then did this practice originate? The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that papal excommunication is not without pagan influence” (Emphasis mine)(4)
The threat of disfellowshipping, with its subsequent loss of friends and family, keeps many members from leaving and has resulted in a new ‘class’ of JW, the ‘PIMO’ – Physically In Mentally Out. This type of control is similarly decried in the same article where it states;
“Thereafter, as the pretensions of the Hierarchy [Catholic clergy] increased, the weapon of ex-communication became the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history”(5)
Why is it pagan for others but scriptural for the WTS?
The WTS makes much of being politically neutral and avoiding all connections with war. They claim only JWs do this but in fact there are quite a number of religious groups that are as anti-war as JWs(6) (See the section on ‘War’ further on in this article). Employment which is considered to make a member a ‘clear accomplice’ in non neutral activities would lead to disassociation (7). They also vehemently oppose smoking. Any JW who smokes could be disfellowshipped (8). However, the WTS is a very rich organisation and some of their income comes from investments.
One such source of income is from a trust called the ‘H M Riley Trust for Watch Tower Bible’. This was set up in the 1970s specifically to provide income for the WTS through investments of a lump sum donated by Henrietta M Riley (presumably a JW). It must be pointed out that the WTS does not own the investments held by the trust but they are the only benefactors of this trust.
Until 2003 this trust held a small but significant investment in Philip Morris Companies Inc., an American multinational cigarette and tobacco company. The trust also has investments in companies heavily involved in the military hardware business such as Northrop Grumman, Armor Holdings, and Lockheed Martin.
The WTS cannot always know from where contributions come but in this case there was a clear paper trail to the source of the money. The WTS claims to go to great lengths to ensure what it writes is accurate – should it not go to the same lengths to ensure its source of money is also suitable?
The WTS also has investments held directly by itself and these can be found by trolling through US tax returns and searching on internet search engines. They’ve had significant investments in a group of companies under the RAND banner which have designed engines for use in Smart weapons for the US Navy. They also own (or have owned up to 2015) shares in Boeing Inc, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin amongst others. It is accepted that these companies do not produce only weapons but they are certainly heavily involved in those industries.
With the growth of the internet and easy access to these types of previously obscure data the WTS is finding it increasingly difficult to hide its ‘earthly’ activities.
Source of Spiritual food
The Faithful and Discreet Slave is has been open in the past and highlighted the fact that, ”… the only place to find the authentic “word about Christ” is in the Bible” (9).
However, when people go searching somewhere else than the FDS for their spiritual food they are quick to tell people that in fact the faithful and discrete slave is the “one true source of spiritual food” (10). It would seem they do not believe their own words!
The WTS has produced a vast amount of literature in its time and there are many inconsistencies in what it has said. Many JWs would see these simply as ‘new light’ but this get-out clause does not always work. Sometimes they have just come out and told an untruth; are these lies, deliberate attempts to deceive, or just ignorance? In any case they are not indicative of a faithful and wise servant!
The Bible Hasn’t Changed
In their booklet ‘The Road to Everlasting Life – Have You Found it?’ (11) they state;
“When we compare the Bible that we have today with ancient copies of the Bible, they are the same. This shows that the Bible has not been changed over the years.”
Where you and I might agree that this is the truth for the ‘Bible’ in general it is certainly not true of the New World Translation (NWT)– the WTS’s own Bible. There are at the very least over 500 very specific changes to the early Hebrew and Greek manuscripts; not least of all the addition of the word ‘Jehovah’ in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) some 143 times and in the Greek Scriptures (New Testament) 237 times where it never occurred in the original (12).
Other famous changes to the Bible are the inclusion of the word ‘other’ four times in Colossians 1 vs 16, 17 in order to prevent Jesus creating ‘all’ things. Despite this statement that the Bible is accurate they go on to claim that a serious apostasy occurred in the 2nd Century AD, causing the Greek Scriptures (New Testament) to be radically changed by the removal of God’s personal name (Jehovah?)(13). For the NWT this is a blatant lie designed to engender trust in their own version which has actually been changed to fit their theology.
‘We Recognise No Human as Our Leader’
In response to being called a ‘cult’ the WTS often makes the above claim, preferring to say that Jesus is the head of their religion, perhaps most recently in the Sep 2010 WT(14).
“CHRISTENDOM’S churches have human leaders, such as the pope of Rome, the patriarchs and metropolitans of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the heads of other religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize no human as their leader. They are not disciples or followers of any man.”
However, much of their literature makes a lie of this statement in that they require their members to come to them for salvation and that they must obey the ‘faithful and discrete slave’ to gain Jehovah’s approval.
“We need to obey the faithful and discreet slave to have Jehovah’s approval”(15)
In 1986 they said this;
“Approved association with the Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those scripture beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses”(16)
Who dictates those beliefs unique to the JWs – the Governing body (FDS) of course. If they followed no man then why are they JWs, an organisation led by eight men in New York state, USA?
No Clergy ‘Class’
In the Aug 2009 Awake there is a whole article on why the WTS has no separate clergy (and certainly no paid clergy) including the following statement;
“If, then, the clergy-laity distinction is not based on the model set by Jesus’ apostles and other early Christians, does that make it wrong? According to the Bible, yes.“ (17)
And yet they make great claims for how their organisation has an earthly hierarchy, as illustrated in this picture presented by them (18).
In a child abuse case (J Lopez v Watchtower and Bible Tract Society of New York Inc.) in Apr 2016 the WTS claimed the rights of clergy in not producing documentation about the abuse under clergy-penitent privileges (19). Also, in a court case in California in 2012 the attorney for the WTS stated that;
“I am general counsel for the National Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses out of Brooklyn, New York…We are a hierarchical religion structured just like the Catholic Church” (20)
At the least this is gross hypocrisy, but does lend credence to the claim that the above statement about no clergy is actually a lie.
Children Dying from Lack of Blood Transfusions
In an article in the 1 Dec 1998 WT entitled ‘Defending Our Faith’ the WTS fights back against what it calls ‘false accusations’. One such false accusation is stated thus;
“The accusation that numerous children of Jehovah’s Witnesses die each year as a result of refusing blood transfusions is totally unfounded.” (21)
This statement is difficult to believe bearing in mind the WTS’s very strict dogma on accepting blood transfusions, but they call themselves out by boasting;
“In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms with blood transfusion the issue” (22)
Boasting of the death of children from a warped theology is bad enough, but to lie about it to their members is inexcusable.
Quotes about 1914
!914 is of course a pivotal date in both WTS history and its theology. The date was identified even before the Bible Students came in to existence and has remained a key foundation stone ever since. However, what was stated about the date prior to 1914 is markedly different to what is stated today. The WTS has tried to whitewash its failed prophecies from that time, putting a better spin on them in their later publications. There are many contradictory statements to be found but here is just one prime example of the lies told about that date;
“We see no reason for changing the figures—nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the endof the time of trouble.” (Emphasis mine) (23)
Yet in 1973 they stated this;
“Of all men used by God to prophesy, Jesus is outstanding. Based on what he said, along with the words of Daniel and John, Jehovah’s witnesses pointed to the year 1914, decades in advance, as marking the start of “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Emphasis mine) (24)
Again, it is bad enough to prophesy and get it wrong, but to then lie about it should hardly promote trust in this so called ‘faithful’ slave!
of the many criticisms the WTS has of Christendom is how it has many
different denominations and thus cannot be the ‘true’ church. The WTS
claims that it has no such ‘splinter; groups. This is a lie as there
have been a number of splits within the movement even from early on
in its history. They may claim that those splinter groups are not JWs
but ‘Christendom’ could equally claim that each of its denominations
has no splinter groups within them.
” …unlike the Protestant movement, which has splintered into hundreds of denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintained a united global brotherhood.” (25)
The diagram below gives a brief outline of the groups that have splintered off since 1878
The WTS’s 1993 ‘history’ book openly talks of splits within the group in 1917 while trying to put a positive spin on the sorry matter (26)
Since 1931 when they officially became known as Jehovah’s Witnesses (to differentiate them from the other groups) there have still been a number of splinter groups. Such as; True Faith Jehovah’s Witnesses Association in Romania in 1992, Post war Germany (27), The Goshen Fellowship in the UK (28), the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Theocratic Organization in post cold war Russia, and the Christian Witnesses of Jah in the USA (29). Certainly these splinter groups are small but they are there, making a lie of the WTS’s claim to be so united.
The WTS claims distinctiveness in their refusal to be involved in war:
“Who are no part of the world and learn war no more? Again, the historical record of the 20th century testifies: only Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (30)
However, there are many different religious groups worldwide who are equally against war as the WTS and refuse military service. A long list of such groups can be found on the excellent jwfacts.com website (31) along with other relevant points regarding the WTS’s stance. The WTS promotes this lie of distinctiveness to further convince its members of its claim to be the one true religion.
After the death of the organisation’s founder, Charles Taze Russell (CTR), in 1916 there remained a great reverence for the man amongst many of the Bible Students. The WT attempted to distance itself from this excess importance put upon him and claimed that no biography had been written of him (32). However, this is a lie as there was a biography written in the 1 Dec 1916 WT (33), this was eventually owned up to in the 1993 Proclaimers book, (34).
Translation of the NWT
In the foreword to the WTS’s 1985 Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) it states;
“To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning as far as the context permitted.” (35)
This is not true; for example, in their translation of the Greek word pisteuo (Πιστεύου) meaning ‘to believe‘. This word occurs 217 times in the Greek Scriptures and the KIT translates it as ‘believe‘ in 209 instances. However, the NWT only translates it as ‘believe‘ in 131 instances while using ‘exercises faith’ on 27 occasions. This is simply to try and avoid the Bible’s clear statement of salvation through belief and not through works – exercising faith.
The most blatant failure to stick to this commendable ethos is in John 3 v 15,16 where in verse 15 the word ‘believe‘ is correctly used but in verse 16 the exact same Greek word is mistranslated as ‘exercises faith’. By trying to convince people of its commitment to proper translation techniques the WTS attempts to validate its own NWT Bible version.
Basis for 606BC
The WTS is founded on the belief that Jesus returned in 1914 which is itself based by them on the date for the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. Initially the WTS used the date for the fall as 606BC before eventually needing to change it when he realised there was no year zero (AD or BC!). Notwithstanding this embarrassing failure of the maths they claimed that the date of 606BC for the fall was ‘fixed’ by secular historians. (36).
However, that date has never been accepted as the true date of the destruction of Jerusalem by any noted historian. Interestingly, the WTS had to change this date to 607BC to ensure the figures still led to 1914, further showing that the date of 606BC was not so ‘fixed’ after all.
CTR Denied Being the Faithful and Discrete Slave (FDS)
The exact identity of the FDS has changed many times over the years (somewhat negating the WTS’s claim to it, being as they cannot make up their mind who it is!). But, in 1973 they categorically stated that;
“From this it clear that the editor and publisher of Zion’s Watchtower [CTR] disavowed any claim to being individually, in his person, that “faithful and discrete slave”. He never did claim to be such” (37)
But did CTR claim to be that servant, yes, he did.
“Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell’s writings believe that he filled the office of “that faithful and wise servant,” and that his great work was giving to the household of faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation. ” (38)
Free from All Religious Defilements
As part of its claim to authority the WTS claims that after the cleansing of 1914-1918 (when Rutherford and others were imprisoned for sedition) they were made free of all religious defilements.
“In the post war year of 1919 CE…He cleansed them from any religious defilements that still clung to them from association with Babylon the Great and bondage to her” (39)
This is a strange claim when in fact they continued to celebrate and actively promote Christmas until 1927 (40) and actually encouraged angel worship (of Christ) until 1954; some examples of religious ‘defilement’ they were still involved in. Much of what they taught in 1919 has subsequently been removed as ‘new light’ took its place; clearly the 1919 Bible Students were not as ‘cleansed’ as the WTS would have us believe.
Any organisation claiming to have Jehovah’s ear and to act as His sole channel of communication must surely exhibit exemplary conduct and avoid even the smallest hint of dishonesty and hypocrisy. This small snapshot of their dubious history of speaking untruths in attempts to promote themselves and their literature as pure, shows that they cannot be this sole channel.
References and footnotes:
- Watchtower (WT) 1 Dec 1904 page 364
- 14 Dec1927 Golden Age page 178 and WTS 2014 book ‘God’s Kingdom Rules’ page 102
- WT 22 Sep 2002 pages 22-24
- Awake 8 Jan 1947 page 27
- WT 1 Apr 1992 page 12
- 2014 WTS book ‘Shepherd the Flock of God’ page 112
- Ibid page 64
- WT 1 Oct 1980 page 4
- WT (SE) April 2018 of the WT, Questions from readers
- 2012 WTS book ‘The Road to Everlasting Life – Have You Found it?’ page 7
- Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) 1969 Foreword page 11 “The Divine Name: One of the remarkable facts, not only about the extant manuscripts of the original Greek text…is the absence of the divine name”
- ‘New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – With References’ page 1564 1D The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures
- WT 15 Sep 2010 page 21
- WT 15 July 2011 page 24
- WT 1 April 1986 page 31
- Awake Aug 2009 page 22
- WT 15 Apr 2013 page 29
- Cobb v. Brede (California Superior Court, San Mateo County February 22, 2012) –
- WT 1 Dec 1998 WT page 14
- Awake 22 May 1994 page 2
- Zion’s Watch Tower 15 Jul 1894 page 226
- Awake 22 Jan 1973 page 8
- WT 1 Nov 2009 page 19
- 1993 WTS Book ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom’ pages 66-68
- Hesse, Hans (1998). Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses During the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945. New York, US: Berghahn Books. ISBN3-86108-750-2.
- Willis, Tony. A People for His Name: A History of Jehovah’s Witnesses and an Evaluation. 2007. p. 268
- WT 1 Apr 1992 page 12
- 1953 WTS Book ‘JWs in the Divine Purpose’ page 63
- WT 1 Dec 1916 WT page 354 (reprint page 5997)
- 1993 WTS Book ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom’ page 64
- 1985 WTS Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) Foreword page 10
- WTS 1928 book ‘Government’ page 164
- WTS 1973 book ‘God’s kingdom of a thousand years has approached’ page 346
- WT 1 Dec 1916 page 356
- WT 1982 1 July page 24
- WTS 2014 Book ‘God’s Kingdom Rules!’ page 102