Jehovah’s Witnesses – Understanding World Religions
History and back ground:
- Charles Russell 1872 -1916. Charles founded the JW in 1884 (known then as the Zion’s Watch Tower and Tract Society. He wrote 6 volumes of Studies in the Scriptures which laid the basic theology for his movement. He stated people would go into darkness without the aid of his studies.
- Joseph F. Rutherford 1917-42. As the new leader he replaced some of Russell’s interpretations of theology. He increased the power and control over the group. In July of 1931 he changed the name to Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was a prolific writer.
- Nathan H. Knorr 1942-77. He refined the organization. It grew from 115,000 to 2,000,000. He founded the “Watchtower Bible School” and “The Theocratic Ministry School”. Introduced “The New World Translation” the JW Bible. They changed verses to match their beliefs. They will add words to the Bible that are not in the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts.
- Frederick W Franz (1977-92 dismissed). He continued to work on their theology. However, he wanted to change some of the prophesies because they were not going to come true. Eventually he wanted to change too much the official doctrines and was dismissed and ‘defellowshipped.’
- Milton G Herschel 1992-2003. During his leadership JW cracked down on dissenters.
- Don Adams 2003 to present. He is the only president that has not been part of “The Governing Body”. His role is largely administrative.
Authority is a huge issue in the church.
- “Avoid independent thinking… questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization.” The Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1983, 22.
- Structure: Jehovah, The President and The Governing Body. The President and the Governing Body are “spokesman” for God and are not to be questioned.
- This is a very top down organization.
7 Step Indoctrination Program
- Placement of books and magazines into homes.
- Return visit to talk about the information they left and encourage them to go to Home Bible study.
- Home Bible study – They give you more of the Watchtower literature.
- Area Bible Study -These take place at Kingdom Halls (JW place of worship). They use 6.5% of the Bible and 93.5% of Watchtower theology.
- Watch Tower Study – Meet at Kingdom Halls. This is a chain reference study of the Bible, isolating proof text to prove the Watchtower point.
- Field Training -joins together an experienced Witness with a trainee.
- Baptism -makes the candidate a full-fledged ]W, now earning the title of kingdom publisher or minister.
- Heaven and Hell – Heaven is only for 144,000 “anointed class”, Paradise on earth is for “other sheep” – those who have faithfully passed all the tests. They do not believe in hell. If you don’t go to Heaven or Paradise then you just cease to exist when you die.
- They believe that Christ death may atone for Adam’s sin but the individual is stuck with his own sin.
- You have to work for your salvation. They keep record of how often you are sharing your faith. You need to average at least two door to door conversations a week.
- They believe they are the only true Christian church.
- They claim new divine inspiration including messages from angels.
- They do not believe in the Trinity. They claim that the Father Jehovah is the only God. Yet they say Jesus was a god. The Holy Spirit is an impersonal active force of Jehovah.
- They believe Jesus existed in three stages: 1) Archangel Michael (the Word); 2) the man Jesus of Nazareth – he became the Messiah when he was baptized; 3) a new superior, recreated Michael when in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. He (the man) ceased to exist in the new recreated Michael who has no marks of Jesus’ crucifixion. (Here are some verses that talk about His bodily resurrection: John 20:19-29 Luke 24:36-49)
- They believe Jesus died on a stake not a cross. (The Greek word can mean stake or cross. It is more commonly used as stake. They believe the cross is a pagan symbol. They will say this concept was introduced 4th Century. However, we need to look at Roman history of crucifixion at the time. They did crucify people on a cross. Early church fathers wrote about the cross in the second & third centuries. There were other archeological discoveries from the 15t century depicting a cross.) see note 1
- They have a very restrictive lifestyle. They ban birthdays, holidays, serving in the armed forces, saluting the flag and voting. (They consider these activities as being part of a pagan society. They take passages out of context to make their point -Jer. 10:3, 4 -Christmas trees, Gal. 4:8-11 about holidays)
- They don’t believe in blood transfusions or organ transplants. (They use passages like Acts 15:20, 29 that deals with eating the blood of animals. The focus of this law deals with taking a life. Transfusions deal with giving life.)
Talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses
When talking with a JW we must remember the principles found in 2 Tim2:24-26 – Don’t be quarrelsome, be kind and gentle as you present the truth of the scriptures. God is the one who changes the heart. Our job is to graciously present the truth.
They will want to jump from verse to verse using their bible, NWT, and try to control the discussion. Make sure the sharing is mutual and make sure you have a real translation: NIV, ESV, KJV, NASB, and Holman.
There will be three areas that you can focus on when talking with a JW: the deity of Christ, false prophecies and changing of scripture.
You might want to start off with: “I have been reading about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs. It has left me with a few questions:”
1. Who does the Bible say Jesus is?
JW -Recreated Michael the Arch angel, a god, not God himself.
Bible: Teaches He is God
–John 20:28 Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and My God”
–John 10:30 “I and the father are one.” One means same essence in Greek. Read the response of the Jews vs. 31-33.
–Col. 2:9 All the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
–Heb. 1:6 Angels worship Christ. Only God is supposed to be worshipped.
–John 1:1-14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
In the NWT they falsely translate the verses. They translate the word “a” before the word God. They violate Greek grammar rules.
They will point out that Theos, the Greek word for God, doesn’t have a definite article “the”. They are right, but it doesn’t mean that it should be translated with an “a” or a little g.
In Greek you can tell a noun, verb, and predicate by the ending of the word. Usually the predicate follows the verb (like English). However, in Greek it is possible to have a predicate before the verb. Greek writers did this for emphasis… it is like when we BOLD letters.
Grammar rules: 1) When a definite predicate nominative is in front of a verb there is no definite article. 2) Theos is a definite noun since it can’t have an indefinite article like “a”.
–Col. 1:15-18 Jesus is called the first born. What does that mean?
JW – Believe it means the 1st created.
Bible – You need to read the context to understand the meaning. Some questions to ask: Can Jesus be the first created if all things are created through Him and for Him? How could He be the first created if He is before all things?
Note: The NWT inserts the word “other”four times in this passage. Example: “he is before all (other) things”. The problem is the word “other” is not in the Greek. They add it to make it fit their theology.
What does “first born” mean? It was a term that meant preeminence. It was a statement of position in that culture. In verse 18 it says Jesus was the first born from the dead. We know Jesus wasn’t the first to be raised. After all, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead before He was crucified. Again, it is a statement position and preeminence.
2. I have some questions about the prophecies made by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Read Deut. 18:20-22. It states that if a prophecy doesn’t come true or can’t come true, then that prophet is not from God.
The leadership has made false prophecies and even admitted they were wrong.
-In 1914 they predicted that World War I would end in a glorious outcome – the Messiah setting up His Kingdom (Watchtower reprints 9/1/16 pp. 5951) Admission: Watchtower publication Light page 194 “When that time came and passed there was much disappointment, chagrin and mourning, and the Lord’s people were greatly reproached.”
-In 1920 they predicted that Abraham Isaac, and Jacob ‘will be resurrected and living on the earth fry 1925 (”Millions Now Living Will Never Die” pp. 89) Admission: 1975 Yearbook, pp. 145-146 … “1925 was a sad year for many brothers. Some of them were stumbled; their hopes were dashed. They had hoped to see some of the “ancient worthies” [men of old like Abraham] resurrected.”
–In Man’s Salvation 1975 p. 287 the WS admits that Russell was wrong in his 1874 prediction of Christ second coming. According to “Studies in the Scriptures Vol. 4 p.621” Russell claimed, “Our Lord, the appointed King, is now present, since October 1874, A.D.”
In light of Deut. 18 how do you deal with these admitted false prophecies?
3. I have some questions about the New World Translation.
There are a number of mistranslations and words added to the text that aren’t there. (We have already gave examples in John 1:1-14, Col 1:15-18 here are a few more)
NWT -”And these will depart into everlasting cutting off but the righteous ones into everlasting life. “
Bible -”And these will go away into eternal punishment, but in the righteous into eternal life.”
[The word in the 1st century always meant punishment. Punishment does not fit the theology of the JW so they changed it to cutting off.]
NWT – “Jesus said to them:”Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence, I have been.“
Bible -‘Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.'”
[I AM is an Old Testament name for God. They changed it in order to circumvent Christ’s claim to deity.]
The word Jehovah does not appear in the Greek New Testament. Yet the NWT translates it 237 times. The NWT sometimes translates the Greek word “kurios” as Jehovah or sometimes as Lord. The word means Lord. Based on their theology they change the translation. Example: Romans 10: 11, 13. In verse 11 they translate it Lord, in verse 13 Jehovah. In both places the term “Lord” refers to Jesus and connotes His deity, but the NWT hides this by the translation of “Lord” in verse 11 and “Jehovah” in verse 13.
Other important verses:
Salvation by faith alone: Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Rom 2:28
Who sheds light in the new Jerusalem: Rev. 22:5 and 21:23. (NWT says Jehovah in 22:5 and Jesus in 21:3. This is an example of Christ’s deity in their own Bible.)
The deity of the Holy Spirit. Acts 5:3, 4; Hebrews 10:15; Isa.6:8, 9 with Acts 28:25-26
• Evangelizing the Cults by Ronald Enroth
• Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions by John Ankerberg and John Weldon
• STR.org (Stand to Reason)
1. Archeological evidence from the 1st century. (Ancient Times, Vol. 3, No.1, July 1958, p. 35. See also Vol. 5, No.3, March 1961, p. 13.) Early Church Fathers that talked about the cross, Irenaeus, Clemente of Alexandria, Tertullian. Anti-Christian from the 1st Century: Octavius of Minucius Felix, chapters IX and XXIX.
Compiled by Dave Friese