Arising from an Adventist Bible study group in America in 1870 led by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), 12.9 million people world-wide attended the annual memorial meal of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1996. Over five million baptised members actively seek converts (up 4% on 1995 and 75% over a decade), with 366,000 baptisms and almost five million ‘studies’ in 1996. They are expanding rapidly in countries with low literacy levels and in the former communist bloc, and outnumber churchgoers in Japan.
In the UK, there are around 130,000 baptised members (static over 1995 but up 33% over a decade); 220,000 attended the memorial meal and they conducted 50,000 ‘studies’ and nearly 5,000 baptisms in 1996 (R1 – see reference list). Around two-thirds of their converts are believed to have once had at least nominal involvement with mainstream Christian churches. In view of how often Jehovah’s Witnesses visit,
Christians would do well to spend a little time learning about this group. They would then be able to protect themselves (and family and friends) from being deceived by them, and witness to them when they call. It is worth noting that they consider ‘spiritual endangerment’ (i.e. trying to influence one’s spouse to cease involvement with the group) to be grounds for a marital separation – (R2).
It is not correct for evangelical Christians to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as just a denomination of Christianity because Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves view all other religions as being of Satan. They claim to believe the Bible, however, they deny some of the fundamental beliefs of evangelical Christians such as, the omnipresence of God, the deity of Christ, His death on a cross and His bodily resurrection.
In addition, they deny the Holy Spirit is God or personal, the hope of heaven for all believers, and the existence of hell. They believe that only an elite handful needs to be born again and take communion, and view speaking in tongues as being possessed by demons. They now claim that Michael the Archangel, whom they previously taught was the antichrist (R3), is Jesus.
What Every Jehovah’s Witness Needs to Know
1. The Watchtower’s publications, Should you believe in the Trinity? (1989) and Reasoning from the Scriptures (1985, 1989) are filled with quotes from religious and secular publications, which are taken out of context. In many instances, the use of partial quotations seems to constitute being dishonest. Did they look up any of the non-Biblical references to see if they were fairly and honestly quoted? Why would anyone deliberately misrepresent evidence about the true nature of God?
2. The Watchtower’s publications since 1879 contain many failed prophetic statements, doctrinal flip-flops and policy reversals and teachings. These are well documented in Index of Watchtower Errors (F1).Two of their own books illustrate these points well – volumes 3 and 7 of the Studies in the Scriptures: Thy Kingdom Come, 1903, and The Finished Mystery, 1917. Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to have the Watchtower’s blessing in reading these books – “…the various volumes of Studies in the Scriptures … what they contained was, indeed, ‘spiritual food at the proper time.'” (R4).
This evidence appears to show beyond reasonable doubt that the Watchtower has at times acted dishonestly and this brings into question whether they can really speak for God. Watchtower edicts now rescinded have caused death, sickness and imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as intrusion into marital privacy. Their false prophecies have led to ill-informed decisions concerning marriage, children, education and buying property.
3. Christian bookshops have many books explaining why evangelical Christians do not accept Watchtower interpretations of the Bible (e.g. F2). Have they read any such books, or indeed any religious literature other than Watchtower publications in the last five years? The Watchtower has after all taught that reasonable persons want to read both sides of an argument, which is how one arrives at truth (R5).
4. Evangelical Christians believe that salvation does not come from membership of a religious organisation, but through a personal relationship with Christ. It is therefore vital for them to be born again and to invite Jesus into their lives (Revelation 3:20). Their identification of Jesus as a created being separate from God obscures the meaning of this – He [Jesus] is infinitely more than The Watchtower presents Him to be.
General Principles on Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses
You should not enter into discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses or other such groups lightly. Deception is very real and they spend many hours each week learning how to convince you of their arguments. Some who have attempted to share the Gospel with them without being adequately prepared to question the beliefs put to them have ended up joining them. Only therefore speak to them in detail if you have
(1) a good understanding of your own faith position and the Bible
(2) a strong personal relationship with God and regular prayer life
(3) access to detailed refutations of their doctrines
(4) another Christian to discuss and pray through difficulties with, and ideally to be present when they come.
If they raise questions you cannot answer, admit it and then find out the answers before meeting them again. Before speaking with them at all make sure you understand the verses they use to ‘disprove’ the divinity of Jesus (see appendix 2). If you do not think you have sufficient understanding or strength to deal with them at present simply give a short and clear testimony and politely shut the door, however then start getting prepared for the next time they call.
If you wish to witness to them, the importance of knowing how to demonstrate your beliefs from the Bible and to refute those of the Witnesses cannot be overstated.
While they are very well trained at doorstep conversation, most will not be interested in learning from you. Indeed, they are taught that they are the teachers and you the student. They are very keen to teach you, and the most effective way for you to communicate is therefore to ask them questions. This indeed is the method Jesus often used. As Christians, always be respectful, polite, and calm; do not ridicule, bully or shout at them – try and make friends with them.
Avoid a ‘this proves you are wrong’ attitude – use a gentle ‘please could you explain this to me’ approach (see F3 for further details). If they think you are genuinely interested you will be able to get eye-opening Watchtower literature into their hands and discuss key Bible texts with them without being branded an “opposer”.
Remember, it is often difficult to get them to read anything, and subtle methods may be necessary. For example, you could say you saw this photocopy of a page from an old Watchtower book you find puzzling – is it current Watchtower thinking? They will then be much more likely to read it than if you present it to them in an aggressive manner.
If this doesn’t work, you could ask them to show you the passages in the original publications. Keep all counter-JW literature (including this article) out of sight, and if possible avoid reference to it. Be ready with a genuine explanation for how you heard about any little-known facts about JWs, or where you got photocopies of their literature from.
If pressed, you could refer to organisations (such as Reachout Trust) which provide information about various religions, and say you consider it quite normal to research other religious groups.
Remember that the JWs are very likely to be kind and sincere people deeply committed to their religion. Their conviction, study and knowledge of the Scriptures, zeal for witnessing, sense of urgency and dedication, willingness to endure ridicule, and above all the time they devote to their religion puts many to shame.
This attitude is often why they are growing in many areas where the churches are not. That does not alter the fact that their religion is very different from mainstream evangelical Christianity. A clear distinction should be drawn between the Organisation and the individual member.
It is important to realise that simply trying to correct their theology is not likely to achieve anything by itself. Most people who look to the Bible alone will conclude that it teaches the doctrines of the churches, as the Watchtower freely admits, with some puzzlement (R6). JWs do very little Bible reading, but instead read huge amounts of Watchtower literature, relying on it to interpret the Bible for them.
The myriad Bible verses quoted therein fool most people into thinking they are studying the Bible. Their faith and authority therefore is not in God and the Bible, but in The Watchtower and its writings. They are not allowed to challenge The Watchtower’s teachings (R7), criticise the organisation (R8), disobey its instructions (R9), nor read religious publications other than those by The Watchtower, especially those by former-JWs – ‘apostates’ (R10).
They are told to avoid independent thinking (R11). They are kept busy with meetings, study and preaching, and missing any is regarded as spiritual weakness. All this amounts to a subtle form of mind-control. The main objective of discussions should be to shake the JWs blind trust in The Watchtower so that they will look at its writings critically and try to understand the Bible for themselves. They may also then be willing to listen as you present the real Gospel to them.
If they call at an inconvenient time, or if discussions overrun, arrange a specific time for a return visit, and ideally ask them for their name and telephone number, otherwise they may quietly drop you. Do try to make friends with them, and avoid unnecessary offence. You will need to be able to share with them on three fronts: your own personal testimony of faith; showing that The Watchtower does not speak for God; and proof that their theology is not in accordance with the plain reading of the Scriptures. Those who feel it unfair to try to evangelise JWs might reflect on The Watchtower’s own words:
When persons are in great danger from a source they do not suspect or are being misled by those they consider their friends, is it an unkindness to warn them? They may prefer not to believe the warning. They may even resent it. But does that free us from the moral responsibility to give that warning? (R12)
In fact The Watchtower teaches that the exposure of false religion is public service (R13). Or put another way,
Accurate knowledge of God brings great relief. It frees us from teachings that are in conflict with God’s Word and from organisations that have apostatised. As Jesus said: ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). (R14)
Answers to What Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe
(a) AUTHORITY: They believe the Governing Body of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ of Matthew 24:45-47, and God’s ‘Channel of Communication’
Initially they believed that the term applied to all individual Christians (R15) – probably correctly, since the whole chapter is aimed at individuals. They then believed it applied to their founder, “Pastor” Russell (R16), something they have since sought to cover up. It seems that the current belief was adopted in the 1920s to help their second president, “Judge” Rutherford (1869-1942) gain control of the organisation and change certain doctrines and policies.
This is the basis of The Watchtower’s claim to religious authority over JWs. In practice, the Watchtower evades responsibility for its errors, whilst demanding its teachings be accepted as if they were divinely inspired truth. Once they accept this doctrine, new JWs no longer need other teachings to be based on the Bible or even founded on logic. If God’s Channel of Communication teaches it, it must be true. Efforts to debate with JWs on their beliefs are doomed to failure when this point is not understood
How a self-perpetuating governing body with absolute authority differs from the apostolic succession is unclear, but apparently the “doctrine that the 12 apostles have successors to whom authority has been passed by divine appointment” is “Not a Bible teaching”(R17). Ironically, it is the evil slave of Matthew 24:48-51 who orders the other servants around and speculates about when the master will return. Pastor Russell’s ancient warning seems appropriate:
… since the Lord expounded only a few of his parables, and since we know that they do not mean what they say, but are figurative, it would not be in order for anyone to be dogmatic in interpreting them; it is well also to remember that no doctrines should be built upon parables; at most they may be used to illustrate doctrines made plain by non-symbolic scriptures.” (R18).
(b) MEANS OF SALVATION: They believe Jesus’ sacrificial death provides mankind with the opportunity for salvation through participation in their program of study and preaching.
(1) The New World Translation has been biased to fit this view:
For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation. – Romans 10:9-10
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. – John 3:16
This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ. – John 17:3 (emphasis added in all quotes. NB The quote in the 2013 NWT says ‘coming to know you’ and a footnote says ‘taking in knowledge of you’, the footnote clearly illustrating how Witnesses continue to understand this verse).
They illustrate their view of the atonement as follows:
A family head may become a criminal and be sentenced to death. His family may be left destitute, hopelessly in debt. Perhaps their kindly grandfather intervenes on their behalf, making provision through a son who is living with him to pay their debts and to open up for them the possibility of a new life. Of course, to benefit, the children must accept the arrangement and the grandfather may reasonably require certain things as assurance that the children will not imitate the course of their father.(R19)
Or, put another way,
We want to give deserving ones the opportunity to learn of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and the Kingdom hope. (R20).
Their claims to moral superiority over all other religions should be seen in the light of the following admission,
Unfortunately during the 1986 service year, 37,426 had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practising sexual immorality. And this does not include the even higher number reproved for immorality but not disfellowshipped because they were sincerely repentant. (R21).
Baptised members spend an average of five hours a week in door-to-door work, however their continued growth seems to come mainly through contacts via family, friends and work, not door-to-door. The emphasis on door-to-door work derives from the Greek kat’oikon, rendered at Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20 in the New World Translation as, “from house to house,” but translated at Acts 2:46 as “in private homes.”
(ii) They do not believe they need to be born again (apart from an elite few).
This evangelical Christians would see as one of their most serious doctrinal errors. They simply do not take 1 John 5:1 at face value, “Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God”. Jesus made quite clear that if you want any part of His kingdom, heavenly or earthly, you need to be born again (John 3:3-8,12).
Jehovah’s Witnesses may reluctantly admit that they do not have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, as at 2 Cor 1:21-22. They believe they have some kind of half-measure, contrary to John 3:34 – He does not give the Spirit by measure. If they do not have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, then they do not have the Holy Spirit at all, and do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).
Ask them why they do not exercise their authority to become God’s children (John 1:12-13). By not partaking of the communion cup, they show they are not in the new covenant (Luke 22:20, Mt 26:27-28).
(c) NATURE OF GOD: They reject the Trinitarian understanding of one God in three persons
(i) They deny the omnipresence of God – they believe that God can only be in one place at a time, and that He is far away in heaven: See Psalm 139:7-10; Acts 17:27-28, 7:48-49; Proverbs 15:3, 1 Kings 8:27, Jeremiah 23:24.
The Watchtower uses an electric power plant as a demeaning illustration of God’s power (likening the Holy Spirit – or ‘holy spirit’ as they say – to electricity), and still feels able to declare, “What a marvellous God!” (R22). This fits in well with the doctrine that God lives on the star Halcyone (R23), a long-abandoned teaching they would now find ridiculous if they knew about it.
They view the nature of God very differently from Christians, and their rejection of the Trinity doctrine follows immediately from passages such as Mark 14:36 which show a distinction within the Godhead.
(ii) They believe that Jesus is a created being, Michael the Archangel, and is not God: (see appendix 2).
Since they do not accept that God can be in two places at once, then it is best simply to refute their arguments that Jesus was created (their understanding of monogenes – ‘only-begotten’ – is easiest to answer). The Bible teaches that Jesus is eternal, not created (Micah 5:2, John 1:1, Hebrews 13:8), is not an angel (Hebrews chapter 1), and is worshipped in a way that angels are not (e.g. Revelation 5:11-14).
(iii) They believe that the Holy Spirit is not God, nor personal, but an impersonal force.
Acts 5:3-5, Matthew 28:19, Hebrews 3:7-11 are evidence that the Holy Spirit is God. See Acts 8:29, 13:2, Hebrews 3:7, John 14:26, 16:13, Romans 8:26-27, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, 6:19, 12:11, Ephesians 4:30. A being must be personal to speak, be described as helper, teacher, guide and hearer, have a will or feel grief.
(iv) They believe that God’s name is Jehovah and that we should call him by this name
The divine name YHWH does not occur at all in more than 5000 ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts, and the Anglicised Jehovah occurs nowhere in the Hebrew texts. The New Testament teaches us to address God as Father (e.g. Matthew 5:9-13). This belief helps remove JWs from a close personal relationship with an omnipresent God (“Father”) to a distant God (“Jehovah”) viewed as organisational Chief Executive and a kindly ‘Grandfather’:
In such a way the heavenly Father of Jesus Christ will become the heavenly Grandfather of the restored human family. (R24).
They could usefully learn from their own quotation of A.T.Robertson,
The use of name (onoma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority. (R25).
(d) OTHER FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES DIFFER FROM CONVENTIONAL CHRISTIANITY
(i) They reject ‘orthodox’ understandings of the resurrection.
They believe that Jesus was raised only in the spirit (God disposing of his body) and materialised bodies when appearing to His disciples. The Watchtower explains, “In order to convince Thomas of who He was, He used a body with wound holes.” (R26) Was Jesus lying at John 2:19-21 and Luke 24:36-43?
(ii) They believe that the wicked will not face punishment in hell but extinction.
See Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 14:9-11, Luke 12:4-5, Mark 9:47-48. They misuse Ecclesiastes 9:5, where the speaker is a worldly person and in error, overlooking the fact that verse 6 (which they use to prove that we need not fear our dead ancestors) contradicts their doctrine of a future paradise on earth.
(iii) They believe that heaven is only for 144,000 – a ‘great crowd’ will live in paradise on earth.
Apparently this is by personal choice, although almost all Witnesses baptised after 1935 belong to this great crowd, and are not believed to be part of the new covenant nor born again, and do not take communion. Interestingly 1935 is not claimed to be a Scripturally marked date. The ‘great crowd’ of Revelation 7:9,15 is described as ‘before the throne’ [i.e. before God’s throne in heaven], which The Watchtower says is on earth and different from the ‘great crowd in heaven’ at Revelation 19:1,6.
It is hard to reconcile many Scriptures with the idea of a two-tier salvation (e.g. John 10:16, Ephesians 4:4). Coming face-to-face with God may be a frightening prospect for those who do not know Him, so living for ever in an earthly paradise may seem more appealing to some. However the latter is not Biblical.
(iv) They believe that Jesus died on an upright stake, not a cross.
Almost all scholars agree that Jesus was executed on a cross – see (F2) for a summary of the archaeological evidence. We know from John 20:25 that more than one nail was used, so Watchtower drawings of Jesus with a single nail through both hands are clearly wrong.
See also Matthew 27:37 – the sign is described as being above Jesus’ head (not His hands), again suggesting a cross. Interestingly The Watchtower quotes historian Tacitus as saying that the early Christians were “nailed up to crosses” (R27), even giving an illustration of this (R28).
(v) They believe 1914 is a Scripturally marked date when Jesus returned invisibly.
Indeed they claim this is the belief that sets them apart from all other religions. The Watchtower explains, “‘In what sense will ‘every eye see him’ [Rev 1:7] ? They will discern from events on earth that he is invisibly present.“ (R29), but see Matthew 24:23-27.
The biggest hole in their calculation of 1914 is that it requires the first destruction of Jerusalem to have taken place in 607 BC. However the authorities The Watchtower quotes for support are emphatic that it occurred in 587/6 BC (R30). Until the 1930s they believed that Jesus returned invisibly in 1874 (R31). Along with Zionism (R32), this earlier belief was one of the two [long abandoned] purposes embodied in the 19th century name of their magazine, Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.
(e) RESTRICTED LIFESTYLES
(i) Various Festivals and Activities are Banned.
They are not allowed to celebrate birthdays (justified by Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-28, but cf. Job 1:4, 3:12), Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day (all apparently of pagan origin, but see Romans 14, esp. verses 5-6; Colossians 2:16). Strangely, the pagan origins of baptism (R33) and wedding rings (R34) do not result in these being banned. They actually used to encourage Christmas celebrations (R35).
Whilst practices such as smoking do not appear to be in harmony with the Bible’s teaching, outright bans “go beyond the things that are written” (1 Cor 4:6). One practical effect of banning Christmas and Easter (in line with getting rid of the cross – “a symbol of complete union with Christ” (R36) is less emphasis on Jesus, assisted by reduced singing about Him (R37). The Watchtower in doing these things belittles the nature and importance of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and elevates itself.
(ii) They do not participate in the military (even as cleaners), and use John 17:6 to ban holding political office or voting in any kind of [political] election.
See Luke 3:14, 7:2-10; Acts 10:1-48, 16:23-24. The Bible has many instances of godly people leading armies or holding high political office. Elijah interfered in politics with divine approval (1 Kings 19:15-18; see also Acts 12:12). They slam the churches for endorsing the League of Nations in 1919, forgetting that they did likewise (R38).
Participation in flag ceremonies is now banned, having once been encouraged (R39). A while back there were some 400 JWs in Greece and Cyprus in prison for refusing military service. Their position of long ago seemed more lenient,
… if the government refused to accept our conscientious scruples against warfare … and we ever got into battle, we might help to terrify the enemy, but need not shoot anybody. (R40).
For decades (until the policy was quietly reversed in 1996 – R41) tens of thousands of JWs worldwide went to prison to avoid disfellowshipping for accepting the offer of non-military alternative service. (By strange logic they could have accepted the sentence of alternative service, e.g. as punishment for refusing military service).
(iii)Former Jehovah’s Witnesses must be completely shunned (excluding spouses and dependants living in the same house).
The cost of leaving the organisation can be very high if parents, children, friends, etc., will not speak to you again, and marriages often come under threat. Tens of thousands (around 1% of members) leave or are expelled each year, sometimes for trivial offences (e.g. sending birthday cards). Those expelled have included a 91 year old man and a man on his deathbed (F4).
(iv) Jehovah’s Witnesses must refuse blood transfusions, or face expulsion – thousands have died.
They have distorted Acts 15:20 and used other texts out of context. These relate to consumption and not to lifesaving medical treatment which did not exist at that time. In Matthew 12:9-14 Jesus used medical necessity to set aside the Sabbath law. Thus blood transfusions to save life would appear to justify setting aside any laws they may violate.
The small risk of serious contamination (1 in 13,000 – R42, far less than the 0.5% to 1.5% increased operative risk of not using them – R43) can be overcome in most non-emergency situations by using your own blood, but The Watchtower bans even this. (The risk of food poisoning doesn’t stop people eating). The list of blood components which can or can’t be accepted is Pharisaical, contradictory, has undergone changes, and can’t be justified from the Bible (R44) – e.g. transfusions of white blood cells and plasma are banned, but organ transplants (which contain huge numbers of white blood cells) are allowed, as are transfusions of all the components of plasma.
Many JWs are unaware that The Watchtower banned vaccinations 1931-52 (R45) and organ transplants 1967-80 (R46). JW parents are required to “resist a blood transfusion that has been ordered or authorised by a court [for their children]”; suggesting for instance that they “avoid being accessible”, even if this may result in prosecution (R47).
Alarmingly, in an article discussing the hypothetical case of a JW medical assistant who encounters evidence that another JW has had an abortion [or presumably a transfusion], The Watchtower decrees,
… there may be times when a Christian is obligated to bring a matter to the attention of the elders … to strain or even breach the demands of confidentiality because of the superior demands of divine law (R48).
Your own Testimony of Faith
In talking about your own relationship with God, it is worth bringing out four main points.
First, our faith should be in Jesus Christ (Gal 2:16).
Second, we should come to Jesus for salvation (Acts 4:12).
Third, the authority and revelation they look to from the Watchtower Society is misplaced, and would be better placed in the Bible (2 Tim 3:15-16).
Fourth, we should do what we believe God is telling us to do, but this does not mean blind obedience to a religious organisation, finding salvation in it, or using it as God’s channel of communication. Useful quotes from Watchtower literature include:
Put faith in a victorious organisation! (R49)
… identifying themselves with Jehovah’s organisation is essential to their salvation. (R50)
Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using we will not progress along the road to life no matter how much Bible reading we do. (R51)
Respond to the directions of the organisation as you would to the voice of God. (R52)
By their own definition a Witnesses’ view of the organisation is a form of idolatry:
… any modern version of idolatry … the imputing of salvation to a person or an organisation. (R53)
Thus Israel learned the hard way the futility of relying on human organisations.(R54).
Useful Bible texts are: 2 Cor 13:5; Col 1:27; Eph 3:17; Gal 4:6; Rom 8:9-10; Rev 3:20. The early Christians were encouraged to put their faith in Jesus, not in the apostles (John 17:20; Acts 14:14-15; 1 John 5:13; 1 Cor 2:5). As can be seen, by their own definitions they practically worship their organisation:
If one renders obedient service to someone or some organisation, whether willingly or under compulsion, looking up to such as possessing a position of superior rulership and great authority, one can scripturally be said to be a worshipper. (R55).
Any questioning of The Watchtower is discouraged in the strongest (and most arrogant) possible terms:
We should meekly go along with the Lord’s theocratic organisation and wait for further clarification, rather than balk at the first mention of a thought unpalatable to us and proceed to quibble and mouth our criticisms as though they were worth more than the slave’s provision of spiritual food. (R7).
The Watchtower is not God’s Channel of Communication
(a) Dishonest Use of Quotations
This, I believe, is the clearest proof, beyond all reasonable doubt, that The Watchtower is not God’s channel of communication. The Watchtower has made scores of partial quotations of scholars (e.g. with regard to the Trinity). Crucial parts are left out to make it look as if the scholars agree with The Watchtower’s teaching, when in fact the reverse is true. (F2) and (F5) document over 60 examples of this deceit in “Should You Believe in the Trinity ?” (1989) and “Reasoning From The Scriptures” (1985, 1989) alone (both usually carried by JWs).
Examples are given in Appendix 3. Photocopies of some of the original source material is available from libraries or Reachout Trust and you can then ask the Witness to compare it with The Watchtower’s renderings. Partial quotes have been used to gain confidence in their New World Translation; one example is Samuel Haas who was quoted as having written of it,
While this work indicates a great deal of effort and thought as well as considerable scholarship, it is to be regretted that religious bias was allowed to colour many passages. (R56), [words in bold are omitted from the quotes].
(b) False Prophecies:
The Watchtower has claimed to be a prophet who speaks in God’s name, but according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22, the predictions of a true prophet always come to pass. The Watchtower has made prophecies of events that were to happen in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, 1940s, and 1975, none of which came to pass. Its latest prophecy (that dramatic events described in the book of Revelation will be fulfilled before the generation that saw 1914 dies out) was abandoned in 1995 (R57).
Worse, the “prophecies” were used to encourage or even order JWs not to get married, nor have children, nor pursue further education, and to sell their homes. (Details of just some of this are given in the Appendix 4, see (F1) for more information). Some Witnesses explain these as just opinions or mistakes. However the latest prophecy was put forward as “Jehovah’s prophecy through Jesus Christ”, and scores of times as “the Creator’s promise” (R58). Ask them what would have happened to them if they had rejected this “prophecy” before The Watchtower did.
The Watchtower’s denial of the true God – the deity of Christ – further proves it to be a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-4). Jesus told us to beware of false prophets who would deceive many (Matthew 24:24, 7:15-20), and that we would recognise them by their fruits – their prophecies, and their [lack of] good works. His words are fulfilled by The Watchtower, amongst others. In answering the question,
“Why don’t you people get involved in doing things to help make the world (the community) a better place to live?” (R59),
the Watchtower mentions three things: JWs must pay their taxes, preach, and offer what help they can on the doorstep. However, as The Watchtower says, “… the false prophet is not a person, but is a system, or an organisation” (R60). Does The Watchtower have any coordinated programs of good works, such as Christian Aid, Tear Fund, etc.? “The relief efforts of the Witnesses are not meant to care for the physical needs of everyone in the disaster area … these are primarily intended for ‘those related to them in the faith.'” (R61).
(c) Policy and Doctrinal Reversals
There are at least forty instances of the organisation teaching the reverse of what it used to teach, documented in (F1) and (F2) – see Appendix 5. Some of these have done damage in the lives of JWs. Many have died, got sick, gone to prison, or suffered other hardships in obedience to Watchtower dictates (later rescinded) on organ transplants, vaccinations, blood fractions, alternative service and ‘lewd practices’ (R62). Would they have been expelled if they had failed to change their minds along with the Organisation and would they have been welcomed back when it returned to its original belief?
What would they do if The Watchtower again banned organ transplants and they needed a cornea transplant to avoid going blind? How would they have felt if they had spent several years in prison for refusing the offer of alternative service, only to see it recently made a matter of individual conscience? Did these ‘mistakes’ come from God? Most writers would not insult their audience by reversing positions without apology, explanation or at least an acknowledgement of the fact. Sometimes, as with the League of Nations (R38), they even denounce those holding to the prior teaching.
(d) Ridiculous Former Doctrines
The Watchtower has taught several doctrines (now long abandoned) which are such total nonsense that they can be used to help JWs decide to study current literature for less obvious errors. For fifty years, measurements of Egyptian pyramids were central to their prophecies, with one inch representing each year (R63). The doctrine that God lives on the star Halcyone (R23) is also worth mentioning, as is the teaching that Michael the Archangel was the Pope (R64), and that a monster called leviathan mentioned in Job chapter 41 is a prophecy of a steam locomotive (R65).
These are not Watchtower publications but ‘forbidden reading’ for Witnesses. Some of these can be purchased online.
(F1) ‘Index of Watchtower Errors’ by David Reed.
(F2) ‘The Jehovah’s Witnesses – their beliefs and practices’ by Doug Harris
(F3) ‘How to Rescue Your Loved One From The Watchtower’ by David Reed
(F4) ‘Crisis of Conscience’ and ‘In Search of Christian Freedom’ by Raymond Franz -former Governing Body member gives his account. Jehovah’s Witnesses who read these books almost always leave the organisation.
(F5) ‘Exposing “Should You Believe in the Trinity”‘ by Angel Arellano
All are from from official Watchtower publications except (R38), (R55) and (R57). The following abbreviations are used:
WT – “The Watchtower”;
“Paradise” – “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982;
“The Finished Mystery” – “Studies in the Scriptures”, Volume 7, “The Finished Mystery”, 1917;
“Reasoning” – “Reasoning from the Scriptures”, 1989;
“Proclaimers – “Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom”, 1993;
“Thy Kingdom Come” – “Studies in the Scriptures”, Volume 3, “Thy Kingdom Come”, 1903.
(R1) Figures are those published in WT 1st January 1997 / 1996 / 1986
(R2) “Knowledge that leads to Everlasting Life”, 1995 p122
(R3) WT December 1879 p55
(R4) “Proclaimers” p252
(R5) “Awake!” 22nd October 1973 p6
(R6) “… from among the ranks of Jehovah’s people … haughty ones … say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such ‘Bible reading’ they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom’s clergy were teaching 100 years ago …” WT 15th August 1981 pp28-9.
(R7) WT 1st February 1952 p80
(R8) WT 1st May 1957 p284
(R9) WT 15th June 1957 p370; WT 15th Feb 1976 p124
(R10) WT 1st May 1984 p31
(R11) WT 15th January 1983 p22
(R12) WT 15th January 1974 p35
(R13) WT 1st November 1963 p688
(R14) “Should you believe in the Trinity?” 1989 p31
(R15) WT 1st April 1895 p1797
(R16) WT 1st March 1917 p6049
(R17) “Reasoning” p37
(R18) WT 25th April 1894 pp16-7 (special issue)
(R19) “Reasoning” p308
(R20) “Our Kingdom Ministry”, December 1993 p7
(R21) WT 15th September 1987 p13
(R22) “Paradise”, 1982 pp36-7
(R23) “Thy Kingdom Come”, 1903 p327
(R24) “Worldwide Security under the Prince of Peace”, 1986 p169; “Reasoning” p308; WT 1st August 1995 p13
(R25) “Should you believe in the Trinity?”, 1989 p22
(R26) “Paradise” p145
(R27) WT 15th November 1993 p9
(R28) “How Can Blood Save Your Life?”, 1990 p7
(R29) “Reasoning” p343
(R30) “Reasoning” p61, quoting “Encyclopaedia Americana”, 1956, Volume 3 p9; “Light from the Ancient Past”, Princeton, 1959, by Jack Finegan, pp227-9
(R31) “The Finished Mystery”, 1917 pp68-71 says 1874; “Golden Age”, 1934 pp379-80 says 1914; “Harp of God”, 1937 edition p235 says 1874; 1914 taught since then.
(R32) e.g. publisher’s foreword to “Comfort for the Jews”, 1925; Zionism was abandoned in 1932.
(R33) WT 1st April 1993 p4
(R34) WT 15th January 1972 p63
(R35) WT 15th December 1926 p371
(R36) New Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1967, Vol IV p486, quoted in ‘Reasoning’ p92 (these words excluded from quote)
(R37) “Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand”, 1988 p36
(R38) “The Bible – God’s Word or Man’s”, 1989 p147; WT 15th February 1919 p51
(R39) WT 15th May 1917 p6086
(R40) WT 1st July 1898 p2332
(R41) WT 1st May 1996 pp19-20 (compare “United in Worship of the Only True God”, 1983 p167)
(R42) “Blood, Sin and Death: Jehovah’s Witnesses and American Patients’ Rights Movement”, by Dr C.H. Baron, a paper quoted by “Awake!” 22nd November 1993
(R43) WT 15th October 1993 p32
(R44) “[Gen 9:3-4; Lev 17:13-14; Acts 15:19-21] While these verses are not stated in medical terms, Witnesses view them as ruling out transfusion of whole blood, packed RBCs, and plasma, as well as WBC and platelet administration. However, Witnesses’ religious understanding does not absolutely prohibit the use of components such as albumin, immune globulins and haemophiliac preparations; each Witness must decide individually if he can accept these … Techniques for intraoperative collection or haemodilution that involve blood storage are objectionable to them. However, many Witnesses permit the use of dialysis and heart-lung equipment (non blood-prime) as well as intraoperative salvage where the extracorporeal circulation is uninterrupted …” “Awake!”, 22nd June 1982 pp25-6
(R45) “Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood.” “Golden Age” 4th February 1931 p293.
(R46) WT 15th November 1967 pp702-4.
(R47) WT 15th June 1991 p31
(R48) WT 1st September 1987 pp12-15
(R49) WT 1st March 1979 p1
(R50) “Our Kingdom Ministry”, November 1990 p1
(R51) WT 1st December 1981 p27
(R52) WT 15th June 1957 p370
(R53) WT 1st November 1990 p26
(R54) WT 1st January 1996 p9
(R55) WT 1st September 1961 p525
(R56) Personal Letter from the Society, ref EC:SE, 26th September 1985, quoting “Journal of Bible Literature”, December 1955 p283
(R57) “Awake!” 8th April 1988 p14; WT 1st November 1995 p17
(R58) “Awake!” 22nd March 1993 p4 (+ throughout 1980s); WT 15th May 1984 pp6-7
(R59) “Reasoning” pp207-8
(R60) WT 15th June 1974 p381
(R61) “Proclaimers” p315
(R62) WT 1st December 1972 pp734-6 – For a few years married couple faced interrogation by elders about their bedroom habits, and those indulging in ‘lewd practices’ faced disfellowshipping. This intrusion into marital
privacy did untold damage and marriages broke up (F4). The policy was revoked in WT 15th February 1978 pp30-2.
(R63) “Thy Kingdom Come”, p342 (cf 1903/23 editions)
(R64) “The Finished Mystery” p188
(R65) “The Finished Mystery” p85
Appendix 2: Bible Study -is Jesus God?
It is Scripturally possible for God to take upon Himself human nature and to become a man in every sense (Mark 10:27; Psalm 135:6; Job 42:2; Daniel 4:34-35). Similarly God is able to be everywhere at once, so verses such as Mark 14:36 do not disprove the deity of Jesus. There is one God, not many gods (Isaiah 43:10,11; 44:6,7; 45:5,6,21-23; 46:9; Acts 19:26; Galatians 4:8). Moses, the judges over Israel, and even Satan are at times called god (Elohim) in a figurative sense (Exodus 4:16, 21:6; 2 Corinthians 4:4), but never YHWH (Jehovah). They are never said to be God by nature, nor given Divine characteristics such as being eternal. We are never told to bow before them, worship them, pray to them.
God came down to earth in the Old Testament and manifested Himself to people in the form of a man (Genesis 18; Genesis 32:24-30; 35:1-13; Exodus 24:9-11; Isaiah 6:1-9). Moses could see God’s back (Exodus 33:18-23). God whom Isaiah saw was Jesus (Isaiah 6:1-9; John 12:37-43). If no-one has seen the Father, then YHWH who appeared to men in the Old Testament must have been Jesus (John 1:18). God will not share His glory with anyone else (Isaiah 42:8). God shares His glory with Jesus (John 17:5). We are to worship God alone (Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10). Men should not be worshipped (Acts 14:11-18). Angels did not allow themselves to be worshipped by men (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 22:8-9). Jesus is worshipped (Matthew 2:2,11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 28:9,17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Revelation 5:11-14). Jesus is superior to angels (Hebrews 1:1-14; compare Psalm 102:1,2,25-27; Psalm 45:6).
John the Baptist is sent to prepare the way for the coming of God (Isaiah 40:3,10; Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 1:76) and identifies Jesus as the one of whom He speaks (John 1:23,30). Jesus is equal to God (John 5:18,23). Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30,33; 8:58-59; 8:24; 20:28-29). See also Acts 20:28; Colossians 2:9 “Because in him dwells the fullness of the divinity” (from The Watchtower’s Kingdom Interlinear literal English translation, 1985 edition); Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Phil 2:6). Jesus is called Immanuel – God is with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Jesus’ throne is eternal (Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8). Jesus’ name is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The Holy Spirit identified with God (Acts 5:3-5).
TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS GIVEN TO BOTH GOD AND JESUS
I AM: Exodus 3:13-14; John 8:58-59 (see Appendix 6)
Shepherd: Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:1-11; John 10:1-14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4.
Coming with fire and justice: Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.
Ascending the high mount leading captives in his train receiving gifts among men: Ps 68:15-18; Eph. 4:8.
A rock of stumbling: Isaiah 8:12-15; 1 Peter 2:8.
The rock: Deuteronomy 32:1-14, 15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.
A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare His way”: Isaiah 30:3,9; John 1:23.
Coming: Isaiah 40:10; Revelation 22:12.
The Holy One: Isaiah 43:3; Acts 3:14.
The first and the last: Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 1:7,8;1:17,18;2:8;22:13.
Every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue confess Him: Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philipp. 2:10.
Searches heart and mind: Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Revelation 2:23.
Sends a messenger to prepare His way: Malachi 3:1, Matthew 11:10.
Laid the foundations of the earth: Psalm 102:25-27, Hebrews 1:10-12.
His recompense comes with Him: Isaiah 62:11-12; Revelation 22:12.
Unchanging: Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12.
Judge of all the earth: Genesis 18:25; 2 Timothy 4:1,8.
From everlasting: Psalm 90:2, Micah 5:2.
They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced: Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37.
Everyone who calls upon His name will be saved: Joel 2:32; Romans 10:9-15; Acts 2:21, Acts 4:10-12.
King: Psalm 47; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 19:11-16.
Creator: Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 40:28; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16,17; Hebrews 1:10-12.
Redeemer and Saviour: Psalm 78:34-35; Isaiah 47:4;44:6; 1 John 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:1.
You will be my witnesses: Isaiah 43:10; Acts 1:8.
VERSES JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES USE TO TRY TO ‘DISPROVE’ THE DIVINITY OF JESUS
John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9: ‘only-begotten’ – The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, by G.Kittel (1967, Vol IV, Eerdmans, p738) says:
[Monogenes] means of sole descent, i.e. without brothers and sisters … But the word can also be used more generally without ref to derivation in the sense of “unique”, “unparalleled”, “incomparable”‘ (‘Trinity’ p16, part in bold omitted as usual). Cf Hebrews 11:17 – Isaac was not Abraham’s “only-begotten” son in the sense of being his “only born” son, since Abraham had other sons before and after Isaac (Genesis 16:15-16; 25:1-4). Isaac was Abraham’s “unique” son, in that through Isaac God would fulfil his covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:2).
Colossians 1:15: ‘First-born’ refers to rank (CF verse 18; Psalm 89:27, note use of “For” in verse 16).
Revelation 3:14: Translates ‘the ruler [Greek ‘arkhe’, hence monarch] of the creation’ (see Luke 12:11, Awake! 22nd August 1990 p.16). Also possible ‘the origin (or source) of the creation’ [hence architect].
Mark 13:32; Rev 1:1: See John 16:30; 21:17; Genesis 18:20-21; also ‘Reasoning’ p141: “… Jehovah has the ability to foreknow events, but the Bible shows that he makes selective and discretionary use of that ability …”
John 20:17; Revelation 3:12: Compare John 20:28, Exodus 4:16, Hebrews 1:10 (The Father can call Jesus “my Lord” and still be Lord Himself, so Jesus can call the Father “my God” and still be God).
John 14:28: Compare use of word ‘greater’ with John 14:12 – refers to rank, not essence or nature.
1 Corinthians 15:28: Compare Luke 2:51; Ephesians 5:21-22 – again refers to rank.
ANSWERS TO OTHER ARGUMENTS USED IN THE TRINITY BOOKLET
1. The doctrine of the Trinity is beyond human comprehension, which is a sound reason for rejecting it.
The Watchtower accepts the doctrine that God had no beginning. ‘Our minds cannot fully comprehend it. But that is not a sound reason for rejecting it… Should we really expect to understand everything about a Person who is so great that he could bring into existence the universe ?’ (‘Reasoning’, pp148-9)
2. Belief in a “Trinity” occurs in a large number of pagan cultures, which is evidence that it is false.
The Watchtower uses different logic about the flood! “‘The universality of the flood accounts is usually taken as evidence for the universal destruction of humanity by a flood’ … So we can confidently conclude that the Flood legends confirm the reality of the Biblical account.” (“The Watchtower”, 15th January 1992 p8.)
New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge (edited by S.M.Jackson, Baker Book House, 1957, p19), quoted by the ‘Trinity’ booklet on page 11, but not the part that states: ‘
There is no reason to seek for sources or types of the doctrine of the Trinity outside of Christianity or of the Bible, although in the eighteenth century efforts were made to derive the Christian dogma from Plato, and later from Brahmanism and Parseeism, or later still, from a Babylonian triad. Even were the resemblance between the Christian Trinity and the pagan triads far greater than it is, there could be no serious question of borrowing.’
3. The doctrine of the Trinity was not believed by the Christians of the first three centuries.
We can be quite certain from their writings that the early Christians believed that Jesus was God on earth. In disputing this, page 7 of the ‘Trinity’ booklet gives no clue as to its references on this crucial aspect! Some changes in understanding did take place before the doctrine was formalised, but this has been grossly misrepresented. That the JW doctrine that Jesus is Michael the Archangel was absolutely rejected by them for almost a century does not deter them from believing it (The Watchtower November 1879 p48, The Watchtower December 1879 p55, “The Finished Mystery”, 1917 edition, p188)
4. The Bible contains no explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Note that the Bible contains no explicit statement of the JW doctrine that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, nor of various other Watchtower doctrines, yet any who denied it would be liable to disfellowshipping.
A Short History of Christian Doctrine (by B.Lohse, Fortress Press, 1966 p38), quoted in the ‘Trinity’ booklet p6, leaving out the part in bold:
‘As far as the New Testament is concerned one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity. This does not mean very much, however, for generally speaking the New Testament is less intent upon setting forth certain doctrines than it is upon proclaiming the kingdom of God, a kingdom that dawns in and with the person of Jesus Christ. At the same time, however, there are in the New Testament the rudiments of a concept of God that was susceptible of further development and clarification, along doctrinal lines.’
Appendix 3: Dishonest use of Quotations
Be very careful to be accurate in all statements you make. Use evidence honestly. In quotations do not twist the meaning of a writer or speaker or use only partial quotations to give a different thought than the person intended … And use reliable, capable authority… Also one wants to use evidence from an authority that the hearers will accept. – Qualified to be Ministers, 1967, p.199
Does The Watchtower practice what it preaches? The passages quoted below are from more than 100 examples in two publications alone, Reasoning from the Scriptures (1989) and Should You Believe in the Trinity (1989) carried by most Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower left out the parts in red.
Note: the ‘Trinity’ booklet contains no detailed reference list, unlike “The Bible – God’s Word or Man’s” (1989).
Constantine was not a Christian. Supposedly he converted later in life, but he was not baptised until he lay dying. Regarding him, Henry Chadwick says in The Early Church (Penguin, 1967, pp122-7) ‘Constantine like his father worshipped the Unconquered Sun … [three pages and a whole new chapter later] … The conversion of Constantine marks a turning point in the history of the Church and of Europe … But if his conversion should not be interpreted as an inward experience of grace neither was it a cynical act of Machiavellian cunning. It was a military matter. His comprehension of Christian doctrine was never very clear, but he was sure that victory in battle lay in the gift of the God of the Christians… He was not baptised until he lay dying in 337, but this implies no doubt about his Christian belief. It was common at this time (and continued so until about AD 400) to postpone baptism until the end of one’s life, especially if one’s duty as an official included torture and execution of criminals. Part of the reason for postponement lay in the seriousness with which the responsibilities of baptism were taken.’ What role did this unbaptised emperor play at the Council of Nicea ? … this pagan politician …” (Extract from ‘Trinity’, p8).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1971, Vol 6, p386 (quoted in ‘Trinity’ p8):
Constantine himself presided, actively guiding the discussions, and personally proposed (no doubt on Ossius’ prompting) the crucial formula expressing the relation of Christ to God in the creed issued by the council, “of one substance with the Father”…
N.B. Ossius was Bishop of Cordoba and Ecclesiastical Adviser to Constantine. COMMENT: The Watchtower smears Constantine, then overstates his role at Nicea.
Egyptian Religion (S.Morenz, 1973, Cornell UP, p255; see also pp251/4,162/3). Quoted in ‘Trinity’, p11:
The Trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians … three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology. In order to avoid any gross misunderstanding, we must at once emphasise that the substance of the Christian Trinity is of course Biblical …’ (Morenz goes on to say that several other doctrines are pagan, yet Biblical, including the doctrine of Creation).
Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, (by Lyman Abbot, Harper, 1875 p944). Quoted in ‘Trinity’ p4:
Precisely what that doctrine is, or rather precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitarians are not agreed among themselves …Sabellians… Others… Arianism… Tritheists… Swedenborgians… We think … the view of modern Trinitarians most current may be stated thus. It is not possible for the human intellect to comprehend fully the divine nature. The Bible represents God to us as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It represents them as equally entitled to our highest reverence, affection, and allegiance. It attributes to all the same divine qualities. It even uses these titles at times interchangeably (e.g. Jn 14:17,18; Romans 8:9). We are to accept reverently the teaching of the Scripture in respect of their relation to us, and to pay them equal honour, and render to them equal obedience, while we leave the relation which they sustain to each other in the eternal Godhead, among the unsolved and insoluble mysteries of the divine being – the hidden things which belong unto God.’
COMMENT: The word ‘Trinitarians’ is used here in a loose sense that includes Jehovah’s Witnesses.
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol 13, 1967, p575 (‘Reasoning’, p407; and ‘Trinity’, p22):
Although the NT concepts of the Spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the OT, in the NT, there is a gradual revelation that the Spirit of God is a person. The majority of NT texts reveal God’s spirit as something not someone, this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.’
Dictionary of the Bible (J.L.McKenzie, 1965, McMillan, p317). Quoted in ‘Trinity’ p28:
In the words of Jesus and in much of the NT the God of Israel (Gk ho theos) is the Father of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that the title ho theos, which now designates the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the NT to Jesus Himself; Jesus is the Son of God (of ho theos). This is a matter of usage and not rule, and the noun is applied to Jesus a few times. Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated “the word was with the God [=the Father], and the word was a divine being.” Thomas invokes Jesus with the titles which belong to the Father, “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28). The glory of our great God and Saviour which is to appear can be the glory of no other than Jesus (Tt 2:13).
Encyclopaedia Americana, 1977, Vol XXV p236 (‘Reasoning’, pp169-170)
Although the Hebrew word ‘nefesh’ is frequently translated as “soul”, it would be inaccurate to read into it a Greek meaning. Nefesh … is never conceived of as operating separately from the body. In the New Testament the Greek word psyche is often translated as “soul” but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means “life”, or “vitality”, or, at times, “the self”. While most Christians believe in a life after death, the Bible does not provide a clear description of how a person survives after death. Christian theologians have had to resort to the discussions of philosophers for an adequate means of describing survival of the individual after death, and philosophers have traditionally utilised the concept of the soul as the vehicle of immortality.
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, edited by Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Mich, 1976, Vol 2 p761 (‘Reasoning’, p286)
With the infiltration of the Gk doctrine of the immortality of the soul paradise becomes the dwelling place of the righteous during the intermediate state.
COMMENT: This is taken from the section on Old Testament usage [of the word translated as Paradise]. The section on New Testament usage states
In Lk 23:43 it is no doubt dependent on contemporary Jewish conceptions, and refers to the at present hidden and intermediate abode of the righteous. Jesus promises the robber fellowship with him already ‘today’ in paradise, and thus allows him to share in forgiveness and blessedness. The intermediate state thus becomes essentially fellowship with Christ (cf. Acts 7:58; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23).
Encyclopaedia Americana, 1977, Vol XIV, p68, quoted in “Reasoning from the Scriptures”, p175
Buddhism, which dates back to the 6th century B.C.E. in time came to feature both hot and cold hells. ‘[page 69] The utterly reprobate, along with Death and Hell itself, will finally be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:13-14) … In contemporary Christian theology there is a growing tendency to describe hell (like heaven) as a state rather than a place, and to identify it as the condition of misery endured by those who reject salvation through Christ.
The Imperial Bible Dictionary”, by P. Fairbairn, London, 1874, Vol 1 p225 (‘Reasoning’, p69)
The later Hebrews looked on the celebration of birthdays as a part of idolatrous worship, a view which would be abundantly confirmed by what they saw of the common observances associated with these days. Yet the language of Jeremiah, taken in connection with that of Job, does furnish some ground for thinking that birthdays in general were joyfully remembered, Job 3:3 &c; Jer 20:14 &c.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910, Vol 8 p.828 (‘Reasoning’ p179)
There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians… The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemoration of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover with a new conception added to it of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the first fruits from the dead, continued to be observed, and became the Christian Easter. Although the observance of Easter was at a very early period the practice of the Christian church …’
“The Greek word rendered ‘cross’ in many modern Bible versions (‘torture stake in NW) is stauros. In classical Greek, this word meant merely an upright stake, or pale. Later it also came to be used for an execution stake having a crosspiece. The Imperial Bible Dictionary” [by P. Fairbairn, London, 1874, Vol 1, p376] acknowledges this, saying: ‘The Greek word for cross, [stauros], properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling [fencing in] a piece of ground. But a modification was introduced as the dominion and usages of Rome extended themselves through Greek-speaking countries. Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time it began to be used as an instrument of punishment, a traverse piece of wood was commonly added … about the period of the Gospel age crucifixion was commonly accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood’ (‘Reasoning’, p89).
Below are some examples of The Watchtower quoting people who held beliefs different to both Jehovah’s Witnesses and orthodox evangelical Christians.
Encyclopaedia Americana, Vol XXVII, 1956, p294L. Quoted in ‘Reasoning’, p406, and ‘Trinity’, p9,
Without mentioning that this is from an eight page article on Unitarianism we read:
‘Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not accurately reflect early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching… [page 301] Neither will Unitarians accept any dogma as true because Scripture teaches it. The Unitarian Church … maintains that [the Bible’s] writers were subject to error… The alleged fact that Jesus died for our sins, and thus guarded us against the wrath of God, is categorically denied. … Moreover, man should not, Unitarians believe, accept such an offer on the part of Jesus.
The Paganism in our Christianity (Arthur Weigall, 1928, G.P.Putnam’s Sons, NY, London, p197). Quoted in ‘Trinity’, pp3,6 (twice),11
The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan … [final paragraph of book] The mistaken attitude of Christianity is very largely the fault of St Paul … Paul was not very interested in Christ the Teacher: he was more concerned with Christ the divine Human-Sacrifice.’
Article by G.H.Boobyer in John Ryland’s Library Bulletin 1967-8, Vol 50, p251. Quoted in ‘Trinity’, p20
The fact has to be faced that New Testament research, over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus himself may not have claimed any of the christological titles which the Gospels ascribe to him, not even the functional design “Christ” and certainly never believed himself to be God.
Story of Civilisation’, Part III, ‘Caesar and Christ’, Will Durant, 1944, Simon and Schuster, pp594/5). Quoted in ‘Trinity’, p11 (without actually naming the book at all!)
If we reread the famous exordium of the Fourth Gospel with all this in mind and retain the Logos of the Greek original in place of the translation Word, we perceive at once that John has joined the philosophers … Consciously or not he continued Paul’s work of detaching Christianity from Judaism … Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it … From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity, the Last Judgment, and a personal immortality of reward and punishment… from Syria the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps, the cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god. From Persia came millennarianism … Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.
The Rise of Christianity, by E.W. Barnes, London, 1947 p333, quoted in ‘Reasoning’, p.272
A careful review of all the information available goes to show that until the time of Marcus Aurelius, no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier after becoming a Christian, remained in military service. Against this conclusion it can be argued that, according to Acts (x 1-48), Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian band, was baptised, together with others, after he had received Peter in consequence of the direction of ‘a man in bright apparel’ – the usual description of an angel – who appeared before him; that according to Acts (xii 12), Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus, ‘believed’, after Paul had blinded Elymas the sorcerer, and finally that the jailer at Philippi (Acts xvi 23-34) was baptised after a miraculous earthquake in which ‘everyone’s bands were loosed.’ Stories in which such miraculous embellishments occur cannot be regarded as sober history: we have in fact, seen reason to hold that, in the first part of Acts, fact and fancy are blended so as to make a record which is sometimes allegory and sometimes literal truth.
Appendix 4: Watchtower”Prophecies”
False prophets: Definition: Individuals and organisations proclaiming messages that they attribute to a superhuman source but that do not originate with the true God and are not in harmony with his revealed will. – Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989 p132
This ‘prophet’ was not one man, but was a body of men and women… Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses … Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a ‘prophet’ of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to examine the record. What does this show ? – The Watchtower, 1st April 1972, p197
The Lord’s presence began in 1874, as heretofore stated. – Creation, 1927, p.306
Then measuring [the Egyptian pyramid] … we find it to be 3416 inches, symbolising 3416 years … This calculation shows AD 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble. – Studies in the Scripture, Vol 3, Thy Kingdom Come, 1903 edition, p.342
Compare 1923 edition:
Then measuring [the Egyptian pyramid] … we find it to be 3457 inches, symbolising 3457 years … This calculation shows AD 1915 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble.
If the pyramid is not mentioned in the Bible, then following its teachings is being led by vain philosophy and false science and not following after Christ … It is more reasonable to conclude that the great pyramid of Gizeh, as well as the other pyramids … were built … under the direction of Satan the Devil … Those who have devoted themselves to the pyramid … The mind of such was turned away from Jehovah and his Word. – The Watchtower, 15th November 1928, pp.341,344
In the passages of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh … the correspondency of dozens of measurements proves that the same God designed both pyramid and plan – and at the same time proves the correctness of the chronology … Its reliability has been abundantly confirmed by the dates and events of 1874, 1914, and 1918. – The Watchtower, 15th June 1922, p.187
These internal connections of the dates impart a much greater strength than can be found in other chronologies. Some of them are so remarkable a character as clearly to indicate that this chronology is not of man but of God. Being of divine origin and divinely corroborated, present-truth chronology stands in a class by itself, absolutely and unqualifiedly correct. – The Watchtower, 15th July 1922, p.217
In this chapter we present the Bible evidence proving that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e. the full end of their lease of dominion will be reached in AD 1914 and that that date will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men. – The Time is at Hand, 1912, pp.76-7
Also in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by the millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of ‘Christianity’. – The Finished Mystery, 1917, p.485
There will be no slip-up … Abraham should enter upon the actual possession of his promised inheritance in the year 1925 AD – The Watchtower, 15th Oct 1917, p.6157
Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection. – Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920, pp.89-90
… those faithful men of old may be expected back from the dead any day now … the Scriptural and physical facts prove that Job is due to be resurrected shortly with those faithful men and to appear on earth with them. – The New World, 1942, pp.104, 130
Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the longed-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then ? Possibly … It may involve a difference of weeks or months, not years. – The Watchtower, 15th August 1968, p.499
Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realise the import of what happened in 1914, … it would still make the youngest of ‘this generation’ nearly 70 years old today … – Awake! 8th October 1968, p.13
It is the generation of people who saw the catastrophic events that broke forth in connection with World War I from 1914 onward … If you assume that 10 is the age at which an event creates a lasting impression … – The Watchtower 15th October 1980, p.31
… the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older … Jehovah’s prophetic word through Christ Jesus is: ‘This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur’ (Luke 21:32). And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfilment of his Son’s words in a relatively short time (Isaiah 46:9,10;55:10,11). – The Watchtower, 15th May 1984, pp.5-7.
The words ‘[of 1914]’ are in the original but compare
Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah’. – Awake! 22nd March 1993, p.4
Compare from the same page!
Why Awake! Is Published … Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.” (emphasis added – quote included on page 4 of Awake! for most of 1980-95)
Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah’s people have at times speculated about the time when ‘the great tribulation’ would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However, we ‘bring a heart of wisdom in’, not by speculating about how many years or days make up a generation, but by thinking about how we ‘count our days’ in bringing joyful praise to Jehovah (Psalm 90:12). Rather than provide a rule for measuring time, the term ‘generation’ refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics. – The Watchtower 1st November 1995, p.17
… their prophecies to date have not come to pass; and that alone is strong evidence that they are false prophets. – Light, Vol 2, 1930, p.47
… the false prophet is not a person, but is a system, or an organisation – The Watchtower 15th June 1974, p.381
‘For the reason that YOU men have spoken untruth and YOU have visioned a lie, therefore here I am against YOU,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. And my hand has come to be against the prophets that are visioning untruth, and that are divining a lie … And they will have to bear their error. And the error of the inquirer will prove to be just the same as the error of the prophet. – Ezekiel 13:8,9; 14:10 New World Translation
THE COSTS OF FOLLOWING A FALSE PROPHET
Now as ever before, ‘the time left is reduced’ … It is, therefore, appropriate for Christians to ask themselves how getting married or, if married, having children will affect their share in that vital work. – The Watchtower, 1st March 1988, p.21
Those who forbid marriage have departed from the faith. – The Watchtower, 15th Sept 1979, p.31
Yes, the end of this system is so very near ! … Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end. – Kingdom Ministry, May 1974, p.3
Today there is a great crowd of people who are confident that a destruction of even greater magnitude is now imminent. The evidence is that Jesus’ prophecy will shortly have a major fulfilment, upon this entire system of things. This has been a major factor in influencing many couples to decide not to have children at this time.” Awake! 8th November 1974 p11 Do not pursue higher education. There is very little time left. – The Watchtower 15th March 1969, p.171
Appendix 5: Watchtower Policy Reversals
RESURRECTION OF THE SODOMITES
The men of Sodom will be resurrected. (“The Divine Plan of the Ages”, 1886 & 1924, p110)
The men of Sodom will not be resurrected. (“The Watchtower” 1st June 1952 p338)
The men of Sodom will be resurrected. (“The Watchtower” 1st August 1965 p479)
The men of Sodom will be resurrected. (“You Can Live Forever in Paradise On Earth”, 1982 edition p179)
The men of Sodom will not be resurrected. (“The Watchtower” 1st June 1988 p31)
The men of Sodom will not be resurrected. (“You Can Live Forever in Paradise On Earth”, 1988 edition p179)
The men of Sodom will not be resurrected. (“Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand”, 1988 p273)
The men of Sodom will be resurrected. (“Insight on the Scriptures”, Volume 2, July 1988 p985)
The men of Sodom will not be resurrected. (“Our Kingdom Ministry” December 1989 p7)
Each individual must decide for himself on organ transplants. – The Watchtower 1st August 1961, p.480
All organ transplants are cannibalism, hence unacceptable. – The Watchtower 15th Nov 1967, pp.702/4
Organ transplants are not necessarily cannibalistic, individuals must decide for themselves. – The Watchtower 15th March 1980, p.31
Serums + blood fractions are matters of individual conscience. – The Watchtower 15th September 1958, p.575
… for it is not just whole blood but anything that is derived from blood and used to sustain life or strengthen one that comes under this principle. – The Watchtower 15th February 1963, p.124
Serums are a matter of conscience. – The Watchtower 1st June 1974, p.352
Bone marrow transplant is a matter of conscience. – The Watchtower 15th May 1984, p.31
WHAT ARE THE HIGHER POWERS OF ROMANS 13?
… governments. – Studies in the Scriptures, Vol 1, The Divine Plan of the Ages, 1886, p.250
… Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. – The Truth Shall Make You Free, 1943, p.312
… governments. – The Watchtower 15th May 1980, p.4
ARE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES MINISTERS?
Yes. – The Watchtower 15th April 1970, p.250
No. – The Watchtower 1st December 1975, p.733
Yes. – The Watchtower 15th March 1981, p14/7
PASTOR RUSSELL INFLUENCING THE WORK AFTER HIS DEATH
Hence our dear Pastor, now in glory, is without doubt, manifesting a keen interest in the harvest work, and is permitted by the Lord to exercise some strong influence thereupon. – The Watchtower 1st November 1917, p.6161
No one of the temple company will be so foolish as to conclude that some brother (or brethren) at one time amongst them, and who has died and gone to heaven, is now instructing the saints on earth and directing them as to their work. – Jehovah, 1934, p.191
… anointed ones already in heaven … may be involved in the communicating of divine truths today. – Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand, 1988, p.125
SHUNNING FORMER JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
… the brother may be treated in the kindly courteous way in which it would be proper for us to treat any publican or Gentile… – The Watchtower 1st March 1919, p.6397
… a disfellowshipped relative who does not live in the same house, contact with him should be kept to what is absolutely necessary … curtailed completely if at all possible. – The Watchtower 15th July 1963, p.443
… if a disfellowshipped parent goes to visit a son or daughter or to see grandchildren … this is not the concern of the elders. Such a one has a natural right to visit his blood relatives and his offspring. – The Watchtower 1st August 1974, p.471
Christians related to such a disfellowshipped person living outside the home should strive to avoid needless association… – The Watchtower 15th September 1981, p.29
It is a serious matter to represent God and Christ in one way, then find that our understanding of the major teachings and fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures was in error, and then after that, to go back to the very doctrines that, by years of study, we had thoroughly determined to be in error. Christians cannot be vacillating ? ‘wishy-washy’ ? about such fundamental teachings. What confidence can one put in the sincerity or judgement of such persons? – The Watchtower 15th May 1976, p.298
Appendix 6: Biased Renderings in the New World Translation
(a) The name ‘Jehovah’ has been inserted 237 times into the New Testament:
Since the name YHWH does not occur at all in more than 5000 ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts, this contradicts their belief that God has ensured extremely accurate transmission of the Scriptures (e.g. “Awake!” 8th May 1985 p14).
(b) John 8:58 – “Before Abraham was, I have been”; Exodus 3:14 – “I will prove to be”:’
In not a few instances the New World Translation contains passages which must be considered as “theological translations” … John 8:58 … On grammatical grounds alone … cannot be justified. It cannot be called a historical present, since the words are not narrative, but a part of Jesus statement. To express the meaning ‘I have been,’ John would have used the imperfect en … The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation.’ (Robert M.McKay, “Andover Newton Quarterly”, 3, 1963, pp29-31, quoted in Personal Letter from the Society, ref EC:SE, 26th September 1985, omitting parts in bold, as usual).
It appears clear that these verses have been changed to avoid Trinitarian implications. The large-print edition of the ‘New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References’ (1984) has a footnote on Exodus 3:14, admitting that the Hebrew would be rendered into Greek as “Ego eimi”. Their 1985 ‘Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures’ reveals that Jesus’ words at John 8:58 are the same, “Ego eimi”.
(c) Greek word ‘stauros’ rendered as ‘stake’ instead of ‘cross’:
‘Apart from a few semantic peculiarities like translating the Greek word stauros as “stake” instead of “cross”, and the often startling use of the colloquial and the vernacular, the anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts both Greek and Hebrew with scholarly ability and acumen.’ (“The Faiths Men Live By”, by Charles F. Potter, World’s Work, Kingswood, Sydney, 1955, pp263-4, quoted in the above letter).
(d) John 1:1 – “and the Word was a god”:
‘A definite predicate nominative has the [definite] article when it follows the verb; it does not have the [definite] article when it precedes the verb. Of course this can be claimed as a rule only after it has been shown to describe the usage of the Greek New Testament as a whole or in large part … It is indefinite [“a” or “an”] in this position only when the context demands it. The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas [John 20:28]’ (Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol 52 (1933) pp13, 21 (quoted in ‘Trinity’ p28).
English Translations which agree with the New World Translation at John 1:1 claimed for support
‘The New Testament in an Improved Version Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation’ (1808), quoted in ‘Trinity’ p27 [by Unitarians: see The Watchtower, 15th September 1962 p554]
‘Emphatic Diaglott’ (1864), interlinear [word-for-word] reading, by Benjamin Wilson, quoted in ‘Trinity’ p27 [by Christadelphians according to Awake! 8th November 1944 p26 – final reading reads “was God”].
‘The New Testament’, (1938), by Johannes Greber, quoted in ‘The Watchtower’, 15th September 1962 p554, despite knowing spirits helped him with his translation (“The Watchtower” 15th February 1956 p111).
(e) Colossians 1:16 – the word ‘other’ inserted four times:
‘ On the whole one gains a tolerably good impression of the scholarly equipment of the translators (their names are not divulged) … Some of the translations which are simply indefensible … The introduction of the word “Jehovah” into the New Testament … John 1:1 … is not justified despite a lengthy note … the translators have not hesitated to insert four times the word “other” (totally without warrant from the Greek) … in Col[ossians] 1:16f.’ (Professor Bruce M. Metzger, “The Bible Translator”, Vol 15, 1964 pp151-2, quoted in the above letter)
(a) ‘The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed -a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek … It is clear that doctrinal considerations influenced many turns of phrase …’ (S.Maclean Gilmour, Norris Professor of New Testament, “Andover Newton Quarterly”, 1966, pp25-6, quoted in the above letter).
(b) ‘The translation by the anonymous committee is thoroughly up to date and consistently accurate.’ (“The Classical Journal”, April-May, 1974, pp375-6 quoted in the above letter, deceitfully implying this was written about the New World Translation when in fact it is written about the Kingdom Interlinear Translation).
Appendix 7: ‘The Finished Mystery’ – A Powerful Commentary?
“Studies in the Scriptures”, Volume 7, “The Finished Mystery” (1917) – What did it teach ?
Leviathan in Job chapter 41 is a prophecy of a steam locomotive (pp84-6)
Nahum 2:3-6 is a prophecy of a steam locomotive (p93)
Michael the archangel is the Pope (p188)
Abaddon in Revelation 9:11 is Satan (‘Then is Finished the (p159) Mystery of God’, 1969 p232 identifies Abaddon as Christ)
The great crowd numbers 411,840,000 approximately (p103)
88 proofs that Jesus’ second advent began in 1874 (pp68-71)
6000 years ended in 1874 (p301) – Russell runs the organisation from beyond the grave (pp144,256)
The millennium began in 1874 (p386)
In 1918 God will destroy the churches wholesale and church members by the million (p485)
Russell is the faithful and wise steward of Matthew 24:45-47 (pp5,418)
The speaker at Ezekiel 24 is Russell (p484)
The establishment of the kingdom in Palestine will probably be in 1925 (p128)
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the greatest corporation in the world (p144)
Revelation 14:20 is predicting the distance from Scranton, Pennsylvania (where “The Finished Mystery” was written) to Brooklyn, Bethel (where it was distributed), via road, rail and ferry (with accompanying official distances quoted from railway guides, etc. to prove it). (p230)
[The Finished Mystery] … a powerful commentary on Revelation and Ezekiel – Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand, 1988, p.165
…the various volumes of Studies in the Scriptures … what they contained was, indeed, ‘spiritual food at the proper time. – Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, p.252
NOTE: What confidence can one put in a religious organisation which confuses the identity of Satan and Christ (Abaddon), or the Pope and Christ (Michael the Archangel)? There are other examples of this; the Egyptian Pyramid was “God’s Stone Witness and Prophet” (“Studies in the Scriptures”, Volume 3, “Thy Kingdom Come”, 1903 p313), and later “Satan’s Bible” (“The Watchtower”, 15th November 1928 p344). More recently, the sower of the mustard grain at Matthew 13:31-32 was identified as Jesus (“The Watchtower”, 1st October 1975 p600), and also Satan (“Man’s Salvation out of World Distress at Hand”, 1975 p208).
Appendix 8: Matthew 24 – What does it Mean?
This chapter is often raised for discussion by Jehovah’s Witnesses and many Christians find it confusing, even believing it to be in error. The following suggested interpretation may prove helpful:
Verses talking about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70: 15-22, 32-35.
Verses talking about Jesus’ return at the end of time: 27-31, 36-51.
Verses talking about things which will occur throughout history and which should not mislead people into thinking the end is imminent: 4-14, 23-26.
Three words should probably be translated by secondary meanings to help make sense of the passage:
verse 3: ‘presence’ (parousia) – also royal visitation.
verse 8: ‘birth-pangs’ – also simply anguish.
verse 29: ‘immediately after’ – also next in sequence, without reference to the length of time in between.
Then if anyone says to YOU, “Look! here is the Christ!” or “There!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise … to mislead … even the chosen ones … if people say to YOU, “Look! He is in the wilderness,” do not go out; if “Look ! he is in the inner chambers,” do not believe it. (Matthew 25:23-26, New World Translation, emphasis added)
Appendix 9: Lies?
The Watchtower has made valiant efforts to face up to its critics over damaging policy changes and false prophecies. This has resulted in statements which whilst true are not the whole truth. A good example of this is blaming ‘People’s Pulpit Association’ for publishing The Finished Mystery and the errors it contained (“God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years has Approached”, 1973 p347). In fact ‘People’s Pulpit Association’ changed its name in 1939 to ‘Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc’ (“Qualified to be Ministers”, 1955 p309). Sometimes, however, The Watchtower defends itself with outright falsehoods.
CLAIM: “Previous articles in this journal and its companion, The Watchtower, have presented a consistent position: It would be up to the Bible-trained conscience of the individual Christian as to whether he would accept [vaccinations] for himself and his family. – Awake! 8th August 1993, p.25
EARLIER STATEMENT: Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood. [banned 1931-52] – Golden Age 4th February 1931, p.293
CLAIM: Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently shown from the Scriptures that the year 1914 marked the beginning of this world’s time of the end – The Watchtower 15th August 1993, p.9
EARLIER STATEMENT: … which is another proof that 1799 definitely marks the beginning of the ‘time of the end.’ – Creation, 1927 p315 (early editions) p.294 (later editions)
CLAIM: The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence … that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914. – The Watchtower 15th January 1993, p.5
EARLIER STATEMENT: The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 AD – Prophecy 1929, p.65
CLAIM: Russell never claimed to be the be the faithful and wise servant. – God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years has Approached, 1973 p.346
EARLIER STATEMENT: Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell’s writings believe that he filled the office of ‘that faithful and wise servant’ … His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation. – The Divine Plan of the Ages, 1924 p.7
NOTE: Russell published letters from his readers claiming he was the faithful and discreet slave (FDS), and also taught that it was one person (see The Watchtower 1st March 1896 p.47). Since he was the sole editor until his death (The Finished Mystery, 1917 p.4), readers would have understood this to be himself. The Watchtower covers up the fact that Russell died (in 1916) believing he was the FDS and accepted as such by the Organisation. Otherwise, since JWs believe that only the FDS can alter doctrines, The Watchtower would have no authority to alter any of his teachings, including that of the identity of the FDS.
CLAIM: The organisation “never published a biography of Pastor Russell.” (NOTE: Doing so would be seen as exalting him ). – Jehovah’ s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p.63
LATER STATEMENT: A brief biography of Russell along with his will and testament was published in The Watchtower of December 1, 1916, as well as in subsequent editions of the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures. – Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993 p.64
CLAIM: Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah’. Awake! 22nd March 1993, p.4
COMPARE (on the same page!): Why Awake! Is Published … Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away. (emphasis added; quote included on page 4 of Awake! for most of 1980-95)
EARLIER STATEMENT: Jehovah’s prophetic word through Christ Jesus is: ‘This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur’ (Luke 21:32). And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfilment of his Son’s words in a relatively short time (Isaiah 46:9,10;55:10-11). – The Watchtower, 15th May 1984, pp6-7.
A religion that teaches lies cannot be true. – The Watchtower, 1st December 1991, p.7