The Watch Tower published an article on their website in which they address the question of Bible accuracy. They offer seven principles by which to test the accuracy of a Bible translation. How does the New World Translation, and Watchtower Society itself, stand up when held to their own Watch Tower Standards?
They insist, ‘The entire Bible is harmonious. While some passages might seem to show the Bible contradicting itself, they can usually be understood correctly by applying one or more of the following principles:’
‘Any author can appear to contradict himself if his words are taken out of context.’
You may know that Jehovah’s Witnesses insist Jehovah has an organisation. Yet Charles Russell solemnly warns his Bible students:
‘Beware of ‘organization.’ It is wholly unnecessary. The bible rules will be the onlyrules you will need. Do not seek to bind others’ consciences…and do not permit others to bind yours. Believe and obey as far as you can understand God’s Word today…’ (Watchtower, Sept.15, 1892, p.216)
‘…it is plain that the forming of a visible organisation of such gathered out ones would be out of harmony with the spirit of the divine plan…’ (Watchtower, Dec.1, 1894, p.384)
What context would make Russell mean the opposite of what he is saying here? He is, of course, contradicting the later Society that is obsessed with organisation and the type of control Russell warns against.
‘Eyewitnesses might describe an event accurately but not use the exact same wording or include the same details.’
Is it just viewpoint that explains why the Watchtower Society originally taught that the ‘higher authorities’ of Ro.13:1 were the secular governments then, in Jehovah Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959 [page 91], insisted those higher powers were God and Jesus only.
Then, in Jehovah’s Witnesses, Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, pages 146-147 under the heading The Light Shines More and More they return to the original doctrine, even citing the earlier adjustment.
They didn’t point out that they were going back to the original teaching, but simply insisted this was an example of ‘progressive understanding.’ Are they simply saying the same thing but different simply because of the wording? Of course, they are changing their minds, being blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph.4:14)
Which Watch Tower Standards are we meant to be considering here?
Historical Facts and Customs
‘Take into account historical facts and customs.’
STAY ALIVE TILL 75
1975! The Watchtower predicted the end of ‘this system of things’ in 1975. ‘STAY ALIVE TILL 75’ was the watchword for the Watchtower. This is an historical fact and the evidence is overwhelming. Faithful Witnesses delayed marrying, starting families, planning for the future in anticipation of this date that came…and went. In a Watchtower of March 15, 1980 the Society danced around the unfortunate confusion between ‘possibility’ and ‘probability,’ saying:
‘Unfortunately…along with…cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year (1975) was more of a probability than a mere possibility.’
Who published those confident statements on the basis of which people rearranged their whole life plans to fit in with Jehovah’s plan? We all know the answer to that question.
Figurative and Literal
‘Distinguish between the figurative and the literal uses of a word.’
This is a good place to look at the 144,000 (Rev.7). The Society takes literally the text about the 144,000, making an unsupportable link with the ‘little flock’ of Luke 12:32. This link is snatched from thin air. Traditional church thinking is that the 144,000 are figurative of either the Israelites to be saved at the last day, or of the church as the Israel of God, comprising all peoples (Gal.3:28).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses make this number literal, comprising special anointed ones destined to rule from heaven with Christ. The great crowd later in Rev.7 and literally described as ‘standing before the throne and before the lamb’ they insist are only figuratively before the throne, only ‘within sight’ of the throne. It is not at all clear by what criteria they make this literal/figurative judgement unless it is to fit their preconceptions.
We do know Rev.7:15 clearly states this multitude ‘serve him day and night in his temple, or sanctuary,’ therefore they must be in heaven. Further, Rev.19:1 clearly describes a ‘great multitude in heaven.’
A good dictionary might come in handy to help the Society literally understand the difference between literal and figurative.
Attribution of Action
‘Recognize that an action may be attributed to someone—even if he did not personally carry it out.’
The Bible clearly attributes the creation to Jesus (John 1:3; Col.1:16) yet Genesis tells us ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ God created everything, Jesus created everything. If Jesus created everything, how can God have created everything?
‘Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ (1 Cor.8:6, ESV)
‘…there is actually to us one God, the Father, from whom all things are and we for him, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and we through him.’ (NWT)
God is the source, Jesus the dynamic, through both all things came into existence.
‘For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.’ Heb.2:10)
In the same way, God is the source and Jesus the dynamic of our salvation, our new creation and adoption as sons of God. Both are equally, in both instances, responsible for creation and recreation. What does this make Jesus?
‘Use an accurate Bible translation.’
The New World Translation is the first complete translation designed specifically to support and agree with the Watchtower doctrine (see dogma below). The result is the indefensible introduction of the name Jehovah into the New Testament (See Did Jesus use the Name? and The Name, it isn’t Jehovah).
Theologian William Barclay concluded, “the deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in the New Testament translation… It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”
Dr. J R. Mantey, co-author of the highly acclaimed Manual Greek Grammar of the Greek New Testament along with H. E. Dana, has made this comment in response to a question,
‘I would advise him to get a translation other than the NWT, because ninety-nine percent of the scholars of the world who know Greek and who have helped translate the Bible are in disagreement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. People who are looking for the truth ought to know what the majority of the scholars really believe. They should not allow themselves to be misled by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.’
Dr Mantey outright stated that the Watchtower deliberately misquotes his work to draw conclusions opposite to what his work actually says. He even wrote a letter to the Watchtower! It has been estimated that as much as 20 percent of the NWT is seriously inaccurate. See more here.
Watch Tower Standards seem to be very low.
‘Avoid trying to reconcile what the Bible says with mistaken religious ideas or dogma.’
Where to start? Let’s pick just one JW dogma. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Unitarians, and perhaps we can respect that, although we profoundly disagree. However, they break their own rule on this issue all over the Bible.
They add the word ‘other’ to Colossians 1:16 to make Jesus a created being instead of the one who created everything (cf John 1:3).
They add ‘a’ to John 1:1 to make Jesus less than ‘Almighty God,’ making Jesus ‘a god.’
In Zechariah 12:10 they completely mistranslate part of the text to make sure God isn’t ‘the one whom they have pierced,’ as the text plainly states. Their Bible is dogma-driven through and through.
It is true to say the Watch Tower Society are pleased to make rules for others, but fail consistently to keep those same rules. I am reminded of Jesus’ words:
‘They tie heavy burdens hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.’ (Mt.23:4)
Watch Tower Standards seem not to be the same as Jesus’ standards, indeed, Watch Tower Standards seem confusingly Pharisaic.
This article first appeared on Bridge of Reason, the Reachout Trust blog. Why not pop over there if you haven’t already, check it out, and hit the follow button.