The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Incorporated is the publishing agency owned and operated by the Jehovah’s Witness (JW) organization. They publish Bibles, books, tracts and brochures. They also publish the Watchtower and Awake magazines. JW’s are taught that the Watchtower (Both the organization and the magazine) is God’s means of interpreting the Bible and making it understandable for people. JW’s are also taught that the Watchtower is Jehovah God’s sole “channel” of truth and that it has been from the time of it’s first being published in 1879. This is not only what the organization teaches but this is what the vast majority of JW’s sincerely believe. However, it’s interesting what an honest examination of past Watchtower teachings will reveal. One must look at the history of the organization to really gain an understanding as to whether or not the Watchtower is or ever was, “God‘s channel of truth.”
It’s unfortunate that the majority of JW’s will never look into the old Watchtower publications (Pre-1950) to get the actual truth of what used to be taught and how some of the doctrines were developed. For example, where did the doctrine teaching that 1914 started the time of Christ‘s presence come from, and how was the year 1914 chosen? How did they come up with 607 B.C.E. as the destruction of Jerusalem when all historical evidence proves that this occurred around 587-586 B.C.E? Where did they get the doctrine that Jesus’ return is invisible instead of literal and visible as the Bible teaches? (Acts 1:11, Revelation 1:7.)
(Also see, “Is Jesus’ Return Visible or Invisible?” within this blog.)
The answers to these questions are very interesting. Over the years, (even as recently as 2010) the Watchtower has had many, many changes of doctrine, particularly prior to the year 1950. JW’s call the old publications “old light” as opposed to “new light” or “brighter light” which is what they say the organization is teaching today. They base this statement on Proverbs 4:18 which says;
“But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established” (New World Translation NWT)
While I do believe the light of truth gets brighter as time goes on, I have never seen in the Bible where truth changes. In other words, if you have truth, the light getting brighter does not negate what you knew before, but it adds to it. It actually sheds more light or more understanding upon the subject. The problem with the Watchtower is that they have abandoned many of their teachings all together and are teaching things now that are diametrically opposed to what they taught originally, yet they are still calling it “truth!”
An example of this can be seen in the Watchtower’s Revelation book entitled, “Revelation – It’s Grand Climax At Hand!” Following is a quote from chapter 6 page 31 paragraph 17 of this Revelation book:
“In his parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus foretold the time of darkness that would exist while Christendom reigned supreme. Nevertheless, through all the centuries of apostasy, there would exist individual wheatlike Christians, genuine anointed ones. (Matthew 13:24-29, 36-43) Thus, when the Lord’s day dawned in October 1914, there were still true Christians on earth. (Revelation 1:10) It appears that Jehovah came to his spiritual temple for judgment about three and a half years later, in 1918, accompanied by Jesus as his “messenger of the covenant.” (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 13:47-50) It was time for the Master to reject finally the false Christians and to appoint ‘the faithful and discreet slave over all his belongings.’—Matthew 7:22, 23; 24:45-47.”
In laymen’s terms this is saying that Jehovah and Jesus examined all Christian denominations for a period of three and one half years beginning in October 1914 and concluding in the Spring of 1918. During this period of “Judgment” they found only Jehovah’s Witnesses (then known as the Bible Students) doing God’s will. So at this time, Jehovah and Jesus – being pleased with what they saw in the organization – appointed the “faithful and discreet slave” over all “true” Christians.
As a side point, It’s interesting to note that today this “slave class” is known to JW’s as the remaining ones of the anointed remnant or the 144,000. These (144,000) are the only ones that have a “heavenly hope” according to the Watchtower. The Watchtower magazine shows that this group numbered 9986 in 2008, 10,857 in 2009 and 11,202 in 2010. Surprisingly, this number has been growing each year over the past decade, while according to Watchtower doctrine it should be shrinking each year. (See Watchtower 1/15/2000 Page 13 Paragraph 18) This remnant “faithful and discreet slave” has absolutely no input as to the beliefs and policies of the Watchtower organization. The organization is controlled entirely by the Watchtower’s governing body (7 men at the time of this writing January 2011) while allowing no input from the remnant of the 144,000 or anyone else. I may talk more about this in another discussion.
Please consider the following. What did Jehovah and Jesus observe when they examined all of Christendom in 1918? What set the Bible students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, apart from the rest of “false religion”? Especially when you consider that the following points were taught as “truth” by the Watchtower organization in 1918:
1) Jesus’ parousia (or invisible presence as taught by the Watchtower) began in 1874
2) Tobacco use was permitted
3) Originally, the year 1914 was derived from measuring the great pyramid in Egypt (See Watchtower publication Thy Kingdom Come, pages 313-376)
4) Jesus died on a cross
5) Serving in the military was permitted as a conscientious objector
6) It was okay to celebrate Birthdays
7) All righteous go to heaven
8) It was okay to celebrate Christmas and Easter
9) Jesus was worshiped
10) 666 was the Papacy
11) All Christians were the faithful and discrete slave, not just 144,000
12) Blood transfusions were permitted
13) Jubilee for mankind begins at the beginning of the 1000-year reign of Jesus and lasts through the 1000 years.
14) Voting was not wrong
15) The Flag salute was not wrong
These are but a few of the doctrines formerly taught by the organization though the list is much longer. A reasonable question for the Jehovah’s Witness is, how could Jehovah accept the worship of these Christians and appoint them over all of His belongings in 1918? What makes this a pertinent question is the fact that if you are a JW and you make known that you believe any of these things today, you will be disfellowshipped, (Completely shunned) for believing them unless you keep these thoughts to yourself.
The fact is, if the founder of the JW organization Charles Taze Russell were alive today, he wouldn’t even recognize the organization that Jehovah’s Witnesses say in their own publications was and still is the only religion accepted by Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, otherwise known to JW’s as “the truth”.
Has Jehovah changed? Malachi 3:6 says,
“For I am Jehovah; I have not changed.”
Hebrews 13:8 says,
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.”
You and I both know that Jehovah has NEVER approved of or accepted false worship nor will He ever! The Watchtower’s Revelation book page 209 paragraph 10 says:
“By the 1870’s anointed Christians began to make determined efforts to disassociate themselves from the whorish ways of Babylon the Great. They abandoned false doctrines that Christendom had brought in from paganism and boldly used the Bible in preaching that the times of the Gentiles would end in 1914. The chief instrument of Babylon the Great, the clergy of Christendom, opposed these stirrings of restoration of true worship.”
How could this be called “true worship” when you consider the aforementioned list which was still being taught in 1919 and especially when you compare it to what is taught now? The fact is, in the early 20th century before 1914 it was taught that the world would end and all righteous Christians would be taken to heaven in October of 1914! (See Proclaimers book chapter 6 pages 61-62 under headings “Great Expectations” and “Brother Russell, Were You Not Disappointed?”) Obviously this “truth” did not turn out to be the truth after all. The doctrine that all righteous would go to heaven for the 1000 year reign of Christ didn’t change until the mid 1940’s. This was also when the doctrine of only 144,000 going to heaven and the no-blood doctrine was introduced. Fortunately the organization rid themselves of the use of tobacco in the 1970’s.
It’s interesting to note that the Watchtower had a few of these things in the list right in the early 20th century but left those truths during J.F. Rutherford’s Regime and never recovered them. (For more information on the false teachings of J.F. Rutherford just read his books in the Kingdom hall library. See a red book entitled Salvation pages 311-313)
If you have a copy of the Watchtower CD library then I’m sure you have noticed that it only goes back to 1950 for the Watchtower magazine and 1970 for the Awake magazine. This is by design! There are too many embarrassing changes which the governing body would rather not address. They have a tendency to sweep their mistakes under the rug, so to speak. If the Watchtower has had the truth through the years, then why the secrecy?
If you know someone in a very high position and can get a behind the scenes tour of the Brooklyn Bethel branch writing department as I have had on numerous occasions, then you may be able to see the CD that is available for the writing department, and the writing department only, which has every publication of the organization from 1879 to present. This is guarded very well. Why is this not available to you? Because the governing body knows that this would raise many unanswerable questions from the rank and file witnesses if they had these old publications at their disposal.
As of 2004 most congregations had started to purge some of the old C.T. Russell and J. F. Rutherford publications from their libraries at the governing body’s request through the Circuit overseer. A few of these books may still be in your Kingdom hall library. If so, I encourage you to read through them. Prayerfully examine the history of the organization and see what you find. If the organization is the truth, then you have nothing to fear. If you find that it’s not, then my prayer is you will be willing to make whatever changes are necessary.
Don Cameron in his book ‘Captives of a Concept’ deals extensively with the JW claim that in 1919 only they were appointed to represent God and Christ on earth see:-
Cameron only uses their own publications to disprove their 1919 claim. Belief by JW’s of the claim empowers their Governing Body to both direct their lives and interpret the scriptures for them. All JW’s should read Cameron’s book, sadly through Governing Body directives few will.
My opinion is that our brothers and sisters have gotten intellectually (or spiritually) lazy. They don’t study to rightly divide the word but rather to support the Societies theology. They are only looking for confirmation and their mind is conditioned such that any contrary view points aren’t even noticed. It’s easier to have someone tell you what to believe. If they were to study independant of their JW world view they would soon be at odds with the Governing Body and this would cause a crisis of conscious and most like a loss of fellowship. The path of least resistance is most times easier for the friends. This is only MHO.
You Brother in Christ,
I think you hit the nail on the head most JWs will take the path of least resistance when they sniff the possibility of a crisis of consience. However their are those who will ride it through and find some truth. The prophets of old suffered from a crisis of conscience but never left their loyalty to Jehovah or his congregation. They endured their loyalty with much suffering. Something today most who claim to know the truth don’t wish to do especially at the hands of their own brothers as did the prophets. Thus it is not a real sacrifice of ones self on behalf of Jehovah’s people. So I ask where is the imitation of Christ.