January 5, 2009
"Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have." (1 Peter 3:15, ISV)
If you're like the average American, you've been paid a visit by the Jehovah's Witnesses at some point. Although I'm about to deliver a critique of Jehovah's Witness theology, and offer some unsettling facts about one of the founding members of the religion, I have the utmost respect for people who believe something so strongly they are willing to share it with the world, and I realize that Witnesses are coming to my door in love. What troubles me is that when I press them for answers to any of the following, they typically get a frumpy look on their face, clam up and walk away. This is highly discouraging, because if they can't or won't respond to these criticisms, what am I supposed to think? That they don't care? Don't have arguments? The last thing I'm going to think of such intellectual evasiveness is that their religion is something I want to be a part of.
1) One of the more remarkable stories involves the very first president of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, Charles Taze Russell. The man was found guilty of selling phony “Miracle Wheat” through his publication Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald’s of Christ’s Presence. Russell claimed that this “Miracle Wheat” was superior to regular wheat, and would grow five times as fast as any other brand. After the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a cartoon ridiculing Russell and his “Miracle Wheat,” Russell sued the newspaper. When the “Miracle Wheat” was investigated by government agencies, it was found to be slightly inferior to standard wheat. Needless to say, the Eagle won the suit. (p. 14, Nov. 1, 1916, Brooklyn Daily Eagle)
2) Second, Charles Taze Russell was a proven perjurer. In June of 1912, Rev. J.J. Ross of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, published a denunciatory pamphlet about Russell entitled, Some Facts About the Self-styled “pastor” Charles T. Russell. Russell in turn sued Ross for libel. During the trial which took place the following year, Ross’s defense attorney asked Russell if he knew the Greek alphabet. Russell’s reply was “Oh, yes.” When further asked to identify the Greek letters at the top of a page of the Greek Testament handed him, he was unable to do so, finally admitting that he knew nothing of the Greek alphabet. Furthermore, Russell had previously claimed to have been ordained by a recognized religious body. The defense also pressed him on this issue, finally asking point blank: “Now, you never were ordained by a bishop, clergyman, presbytery, council, or any body of men living?” Russell’s answer, after a long pause was, “I never was.” In this trial, therefore, Russell’s deliberate perjury was established beyond a reasonable doubt. (For the entire story of this trial, which includes other examples of Russell’s lying under oath, the reader is referred to p. 18-22 of Martin and Klann, Jehovah of the Watchtower, rev. ed., Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1959)
3) Russell implied that his own "Scripture Studies" were superior to the Bible. In the Sept. 15, 1910 issue of Watch Tower, p. 298, Russell writes: “Not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see also that if anyone lays the 'Scripture Studies' aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years – if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the 'Scripture Studies' with their references and not read a page of the Bible as such, he would be in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the scriptures.” Friends, this is about as dangerous as can be. Russell usurps the authority of the Holy Writ and posits that the Bible, which Witnesses claim as the inspired word of Jehovah, is inadequate by itself. Russell clearly elevated his own teachings above the authority of the Bible.
4) In his Divine Plan of the Ages, Russell prophesied that 1914 would see the battle of Armageddon and the dawn of Christ’s thousand year reign on the Earth. When this failed, it was changed to 1915, then 1918. Russell also taught that the end times had started in 1799, and that Christ had returned to earth in 1874. Incidentally, another WatchTower president, Joseph Rutherford, predicted Armageddon would take place in 1925. Similar predictions were also made for the year 1975. (See Franz, Life Everlasting in the freedom of the sons of God, p. 29) For one, Russell had directly defied scripture which states that, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) For some reason, Russell and Rutherford must have thought pretty highly of themselves to claim such enlightenment. Secondly, scripture plainly states in Deuteronomy 18:22 that, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message that the Lord has not spoken.” IMO, history has clearly proven that Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Rutherford and other Watchtower members were not messengers of the Lord.
I would now like to switch the focus of the discussion onto the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, and what I feel are a few points of erroneous exegesis in the Watchtower's Just What Does God Require Of Us?
5) The Watchtower teaches that Jesus died and was resurrected by God as a spirit creature. (p. 7, JWDGROU) This is in direct contradiction to Luke 24:36-43. Now, the disciples did initially think that the resurrected Christ was a spirit creature. However, Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (v. 39) Jesus also ate a piece of fish, and as far as I know, ghosts don't have that much of an appetite.
6) The Watchtower claims that, "Jehovah listens only to the prayers of righteous people. For your prayers to be heard by God, you must be trying your best to live by his laws.” Friends, this is nothing short of the voice of Satan. If this were true, then no one could repent and be saved, as in their natural state, “not one is righteous” in God’s sight. If this is true as the Watchtower would have us believe, then a blatant sinner would never be able to be heard by God. However, throughout the entire Bible, we find instances of unrighteous sinners having their prayers not only heard by God, but answered. For example, the robber who hung opposite Christ at Golgotha.
7) The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the version of the Bible accepted and promoted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, is worthy of doubt. It was translated exclusively by members of the Watchtower sect, all of whom entered into the Brooklyn headquarters, over a short period of three years. Of the seven translators known to this author, only Frederick Franz had any training whatsoever in the original biblical languages, and nowhere near the caliber we might expect of a qualified translator.
Franz was self-taught in Hebrew, and had studied Greek for two years. In Franz's autobiography, concerning his education at the University of Cincinatti, we find the following: "What a blessing it was to study Bible Greek under Professor Arthur Kensella! Under Dr. Joseph Harry, an author of some Greek works, I also studied the classical Greek. I knew that if I wanted to become a Presbyterian clergyman, I had to have a command of Bible Greek. So I furiously applied myself and got passing grades…" (The Watchtower, May 1, 1987, p. 24). Franz misleads the reader into thinking that biblical Greek studies were his primary pertinent coursework in this matter, and that his studies in classical Greek were supplementary. In fact, quite the opposite is correct: Franz took 2 hours of Bible Greek and 21 hours of classical Greek. Furthermore, Kensella lacked a Ph.D. and taught entry-level courses. Hence, he was an instructor, not a professor as Franz alleged, demonstrable by a quick perusal of the course catalog of 1911.
To contrast, the New International Version, which I also have my gripes about, was translated over a period of eighteen years by an international assembly of over one hundred scholars, from fifteen denominations. Why is that significant? I don't know about you, but the fact that only four members from the same sect were responsible for the New World Translation makes me suspicious. That's like four Republican writing a book about why the Republican party is the only true party. And we all know how that goes. Conflict of interest, to say the least.
So what do we have? We have an organization that has rewritten sections of the Bible to support their own teachings, which have been claimed to be superior to scripture. We have a history of Watchtower representatives caught in unscrupulous behaviors. We have failed prophesies. We have the principal translator of the New World Scriptures embellishing his arguably scant knowledge of the relevant languages. The list could go on, but for sake of brevity, now would be the time to pose the question: Is the Watchtower institution believable? Are you willing to rest your eternal future on an organization with such demonstrable error in their teachings? If you are a Witness, I do not mean to offend, but to sincerely ask: Do you really trust the Watchtower? Why?