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Section 11... Cults/
Index To Jehovah’s Witnesses

    003white Index To Section 11 ... Cults       >        Index To Jehovah’s Witnesses     >       Origins and History

Kingdom Hall 2

Jehovah’s Witnesses - 

Introduction, History and Beliefs

Carol Brooks

Index to All Nine Chapters

Jehovah's Witnesses - Introduction
Because they are zealous evangelists many people have encountered the Jehovah's Witnesses at their front door but few seem to know very much about them. This introduction should help.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are a fairly large religious organization reporting a worldwide membership of 8.3 million members in more than 200 countries. [01]. They were founded in 1869 by Charles Taze Russell - a Pennsylvania businessman and are now led by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, a group of elders in Warwick, New York who establish all doctrine based on their interpretation of the Bible.

Although they operate under the banner of Christianity and "strive to adhere to the form of Christianity that Jesus taught and that his apostles practiced", they hold several beliefs that are very distinct from mainstream Christianity.

Religious Diligence
As far as their religion is concerned the Jehovah's Witnesses are very diligent. As noted by Pew Research (a nonpartisan fact tank that conducts public opinion polling, demographic research etc.) 

    Nine-in-ten Jehovah's Witnesses (90%) say religion is very important in their lives, while similar shares say they believe in God with absolute certainty (90%) and that the Bible is the word of God (94%).... Compared with U.S. Christians overall, Jehovah's Witnesses are especially likely to say they attend religious services at least once a week (85%, compared with 47% of all U.S. Christians), pray daily (90% of Jehovah's Witnesses Vs. 68% of all U.S. Christians) and – perhaps not surprisingly – share their faith with others at least once a week (76% Vs. 26%). They also are more likely than U.S. Christians overall to participate in prayer or scripture study groups and to read scripture at least weekly, among other religious behaviors.  [02]

They also state that they "strive to show unselfish love" in all their actions, "avoid practices that displease God, including the misuse of blood by taking blood transfusions (Acts 15:28, 29; Galatians 5:19- 21)". [03] They do not observe Christmas, Easter, birthdays or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan origins incompatible with Christianity.

See Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? HERE
And The Jehovah's Witnesses Ever Evolving Policy On Blood Transfusions in  Medical Quakery

Social and Political Stance
Additionally, because the denomination teaches that its members should remain politically neutral and abstain from voting or participating in "any action to change governments" [04] 75% of Witnesses say they are political independents who do not lean toward either major party and often decline to answer questions relating their political views or even whether they are registered to vote. They are also conscientious objectors for which they have been persecuted and imprisoned and even sent to concentration camps. This discrimination continues in some countries to this day. See Footnote I

Trained Evangelists
As said earlier, most Jehovah's Witnesses are are zealous door-to-door evangelists intent on proselytizing which they are very well prepared to do. They "receive training each week at the midweek meeting that helps them "know what to say on initial calls and return visits" and are taught "how to conduct Bible studies". [05].

However, few Christians are familiar with the details of the false doctrines they propagate and even fewer are in a position to counter what a Jehovah's Witness will tell them is Biblical - especially when they point to Scriptures that ostensibly support what he or she is saying. Even fewer realize they have rewritten their Bible to support their teachings.

Most Christian's religion is pretty much wrapped around a weekly service. Many do attend a regular Bible study which is a good thing but usually does little or nothing to teach them about the evidence (Biblical or otherwise) that under girds their faith.  How many believers who have a firm and unshakable faith that the Bible is God's book can come up with any objective evidence to support their beliefs? Similarly, Christ's resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith but again, how many can give reasons (other than faith) that justify why they believe the resurrection is fact rather than myth?

Yet there is evidence - plenty of it. It is actually quite remarkable as to how many times, God, Jesus, and the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, appealed to facts to support what they said and taught.

In other words, the Jehovah's Witnesses can usually run theological rings around the average Christian. In order to deal intelligently with them one has to be familiar with their beliefs, how and where those beliefs originated then 'evolved' over the years, how they have re-written their Bible to support their doctrines etc. etc.

See Choose Life That You Might Live
Many, if not most, non-Christians assume that Christianity is a "blind faith"... that Christians ignore reality and have unquestioning loyalty to an absolute belief system without proof or evidence. In fact, that they believe contrary to all evidence and facts.  Much to the contrary, the Christian faith is a commitment based on evidence. Here is some of it.

The Name Jehovah

The Jehovah's Witnesses say they "worship the one true and Almighty God, the Creator, whose name is Jehovah" [06]However, no one in the Bible ever called God "Jehovah". Jesus, the disciples and apostles used the Greek word theós that, long before the NT was written, referred to the Supreme Being. In the Old Testament the name of God was written in the Hebrew Scriptures as YHWH (there were no vowels in the Hebrew.).

However, one cannot pronounce word without vowels therefore when the scribes read the Hebrew Bible they used the necessary vowels which they recalled from memory - that is for all words but one. God's Name that conveyed the essence of God Himself was another matter altogether. In written form it was represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH) - often referred to as the Ineffable Name, or the Unutterable Name. However, His name was considered too sacred to be uttered and was replaced vocally by the Hebrew word Adonai (Lord). Even the translators of the Septuagint (the Old Testament in Greek), used Kurios (Lord) in place of YHWH

In the fifth century a group of dedicated scribes called the Masoretes wanted to preserve the spoken form. However, the text was considered sacrosanct which meant they would not alter it in any way. The solution was to place vowel symbols above or below the consonants. Thus the vowels of Adonai were placed under the the consonants of YHWH. However, some Christian translators mistakenly combined the vowels of Adonai with the consonants of YHWH and came up with the word "Jehovah."

In other words, Jehovah was the result of mixing letters of the alphabet from two different languages.

However, this accidental blend still doesn't tell us how God's name was originally pronounced because there was no true J sound in ancient Hebrew. Thus most Jewish and Christian biblical scholars and linguists do not believe Jehovah is the correct pronunciation of YHWH. In fact, they are uncertain whether it should have two syllables or three. "YAH-way" or "YAH-weh" may be the most likely choices.

To be noted is that other people including John Gresham Machen (professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary 906 - 1929), and James Oscar Boyd (also at Princeton as assistant Professor of Oriental and Old Testament Literature) also use the term Jehovah. Neither was a Jehovah's Witness.

Origins and History
William Miller: The roots of the Seventh Day Adventist church can indirectly be traced back to William Miller a New England Baptist itinerant preacher born in February 1782 and who studied the Bible intensively. In 1818 based on his analysis of specific Bible texts - Daniel 8:13–14 in particular - Miller came to the "solemn conclusion" he was living in the final period of human history and that the present world would end with the advent of Christ in 1843—1844 A. D. when "pomp, vanity, wickedness and oppression would come to an end" and "the peaceful and long desired kingdom of the Messiah would be established under the whole heaven". DETAILS

Nelson Barbour: (1824-1908) came into contact and associated with a number of 'Millerites' in the area of Geneseo NY. When 1844 came to a close without any sign of Christ's reappearance, Barbour suffered a crisis of faith and went on to do other things. Eventually he and a small group recalculated the year of the Second Coming and adopted the belief that Jesus would return to earth in 1874 and that Christians would be caught up to heaven three and a half years later, in the spring of 1878.

In the fall of 1873 Barbour started a monthly magazine to promote his views calling it The Midnight Cry, the name later changed to Herald of the Morning. Barbour also authored a book entitled Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World.

Charles Taze Russell (1852 - 1916) Although he was neither a Millerite nor an Adventist, Russell read Barbour's Herald of The Morning in January of 1876. He so agreed with Barbour's idea of an impending rapture that he published and promoted Barbour's magazine and financed his book that was published in 1877. However, when 1878 came to a close with the feet of believers still firmly planted on the earth Russell was forced to look for answers eventually coming to believe that not only was Christ's Second Coming invisible but the expected rapture could also have been unseen.

See Jesus' Resurrection - Physical or Spiritual?

It didn't take long before Barbour and Russell parted company. Russell withdrew his financial support and began to publish his own magazine - Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence which was primarily aimed at proclaiming the message that Christ had already come - the main reason he got into the publishing business. The cover page of the first issue published in July 1879 issue in on Wikipedia HERE.

    (Russell was apparently familiar with The Emphatic Diaglott - an 1864 interlinear translation of the New Testament that translated the Greek word parousia as 'presence' rather than 'coming' in Matthew 24:3 and other verses. Thus "they felt that they were already living in the invisible presence of the Bridegroom". [07]

The magazine was later called The Watch Tower, the two years 1874 and 1878 mentioned many times. (More on The Watchtower below).

 Joseph Franklin Rutherford
"Russell was succeeded as president in 1917 by Joseph Franklin Rutherford  who changed the group's name to Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931 to emphasize its members belief that Jehovah, or Yahweh, is the true God and that the Witnesses were his specially chosen followers". [08]

Note although he was called "Judge Rutherford" there are claims that he was nothing of the sort. See Footnote 2

Nathan Homer Knorr Rutherford's successor, Nathan Homer Knorr, assumed the presidency in 1942. It was under his direction that a new translation of the Bible was undertaken. He also helped establish a school to train missionaries for service in foreign countries and almost quadrupled the number of branch offices world wide.

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society And Its Self-Appointed Exalted Status 
Russell founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society that was incorporated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 15, 1884. In 1896, the society was renamed Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society [09] and eventually became an extensive publishing business that is still used used by Jehovah's Witnesses to publish Bibles and Bible-based literature.

Over the years the Watchtower has placed itself in an exalted position previously occupied by the Bible alone.

    The Watchtower is not the instrument of any man or set of men, nor is it published according to the whims of men. No man's opinion is expressed in The Watchtower. God feeds his own people, and surely God uses those who love and serve him according to his own will. Those who oppose The Watchtower are not capable of discerning the truth that God is giving to the children of his organization, and this is the very strongest proof that such opposers are not of God's organization. [10]

It discourages all individual thinking and requires all who "love God" to believe that the Watchtower is now God's sole channel of communication.

     "We cannot claim to love God, yet deny his word and channel of communication," [11].

It further claims that individuals are not able to rightly interpret the Bible apart from guidance received by the Watchtower .

     the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah's visible organization in mind. [12]

Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book," [13]

 We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the 'faithful and discreet slave' organization. [14]

Note: The faithful and discreet slave' referred to is the faithful and wise steward of Luke 12:42 which reads "And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? (Luke 12:42)

Submission to the organization is required

We should meekly go along with the Lord's theocratic organization 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 and opinions as though they were worth more than the slave's provision of spiritual food. Theocratic ones will appreciate the Lord's visible organization and not be so foolish as to put against Jehovah's channel their own human reasoning and sentiment and personal feelings" ... [15]

The Watchtower went even further claiming to be a A "Prophet of God" and God's SOLE Channel of Communication. See Chapter 7 - False Claims Made by The Watchtower.

The beliefs held by Jehovah's Witnesses are a very mixed bag. In fact, in a few cases they are closer to the truth than the orthodox church (please note "closer" does NOT mean completely accurate). 

Tragically, traditional church doctrine and the Scriptures are less in agreement than most Christians are aware of - VERY provable if one is willing to closely examine the Scriptures and not take anyone's word at face value. It is an immense tragedy that some beliefs staunchly held by people in the so called traditional church are likely to have a very adverse effect. For example, the belief in a pre-tribulation rapture is very likely to shake some people's faith. Does The Timing of The Rapture Matter?  

Also there are some beliefs and practices held by churches that far from being Biblically based are directly or indirectly acquired from other religions and even the occult. See Doctrines of Demons

But I digress.

The following points are from an article that summarizes the Jehovah's Witnesses' basic beliefs [16]

The Kingdom of God. "This is a real government in heaven, not a condition in the hearts of Christians. It will replace human governments and accomplish God's purpose for the earth. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10) It will take these actions soon, for Bible prophecy indicates that we are living in "the last days." (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 24:3-14.) Jesus is the King of God's Kingdom in heaven. He began ruling in 1914. Revelation 11:15".

 Earth: Although "God created the earth to be mankind's eternal home. (Psalm 104:5; 115:16; Ecclesiastes 1:4) a relatively small number of people — 144,000 — will be resurrected to life in heaven to rule with Jesus in the Kingdom. (Daniel 7:27; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1, 3)".

Death: People who die pass out of existence. (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) They do not suffer in a fiery hell of torment.

Jesus: They say they "follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and honor him as our Savior and as the Son of God. (Matthew 20:28; Acts 5:31) but have learned from the Bible that Jesus is not Almighty God and that there is no Scriptural basis for the Trinity doctrine - John 14:28."

Footnote I - Conscientious Objectors

The Jehovah's Witnesses are largely peaceful and law-abiding. They are conscientious objectors who cooperate with governmental authorities in all things except when they consider that man’s laws conflicts with God's law in which case they choose to 'obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) whatever the consequences.

Although to one extent or another, many religious groups count themselves as conscientious objectors including the Pentecostals, Mormons. Mennonites, Quakers, Jews etc. See Statements from Religious Organizations the Jehovah's Witnesses have been the target of much persecution.

In Nazi Germany

    Historically, their decision has been to refrain from acts of violence against their fellow men of other nations, for they regard these as their "neighbors" whom they should love....  To maintain such political neutrality, Jehovah's Witnesses have endured concentration camps, prison sentences, and many have given their lives. For example. during World War II in Europe, at least 260 Witnesses, according to incomplete reports, were executed because of their stand. This figure does not include those who died from starvation, disease and other brutal treatment in concentration camps... [17]

    "Unlike the other prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses could free themselves instantly by signing a retraction of their faith but few did so" And "despite the ban still preached when opportunity afforded, and and gained converts" [18]

Persecution in Britain, Canada, and the United States
In the United States thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned for not "taking the sword" (Matthew 26:52). This is true of Witnesses in many other countries as well.

    The U.S. government sent Rutherford and other Watchtower leaders to prison for sedition during World War I, and Witnesses were also persecuted in Britain, Canada, and the United States. After the war the Witnesses brought several suits in American courts dealing with their beliefs and practices, resulting in 59 Supreme Court rulings that were regarded as major judgments on the free exercise of religion. They continue to face persecution in several countries, however, particularly for their refusal to serve in the military, and they are often publicly derided for their door-to-door evangelism. [19]

In Russia
Even as few as three years ago

    Russia's Supreme Court accepted a request from the Justice Ministry to declare the Jehovah's Witnesses an "extremist" group, banning the Christian denomination from Russia and ordering the seizure of its property. The court issued an order requiring the closure of the group's Russian headquarters and all 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of Jehovah's Witness property. [20]

Thirteen young Jehovah's Witnesses have been

    imprisoned in Singapore for their conscientious objection to military service. Six of them are serving a second sentence because they refused to change their stance after serving their first prison term. These young men have no legal recourse in Singapore, as the government enforces compulsory military service and does not recognize the right of conscientious objection. [21] [PLACE IN TEXT]

Footnote II - "Judge" Rutherford
According to an online article entitled Joseph Franklin Rutherford - Biography Of His Missouri Years, Joseph F. Rutherford' was never a judge nor was he ever Public Prosecutor at/for Boonville, Missouri. While I have not checked the details myself anyone who is interested can do so themselves.

    Joseph F. Rutherford's background as a "Judge" in Cooper County Circuit Court was even weaker. J. F. Rutherford NEVER, EVER served as the "Circuit Judge" of Cooper County. Joseph F. Rutherford actually had run for the office of "Circuit Judge" of Cooper County in 1900, but he had been EASILY DEFEATED in the Democratic Primary. Joe Rutherford also had run for "State Representative" in 1896, but he had been DEFEATED in the Democratic Primary. Cooper county voters KNEW what kind of man was Joe Rutherford, and most did NOT like him.

    Missouri Law then provided that whenever a "Circuit Judge" could not make a scheduled court date that the local members of the Bar could elect one of their own to handle some of the Circuit Judge's routine duties for that day, as well as hear minor, routine cases. That generally meant that whichever local Attorney had no business before the court that day got to be "Special Judge" for an hour or so. In reality, practically every Attorney in rural Missouri got to be a "Special Judge" for a few days during their career. None of them would have ever dared to have assumed the title "Judge" for having done so, otherwise they would have been the laughing stock of their community. In the case of "Judge" Rutherford, he had served a grand total of four times as a "Special Judge" -- 2/17/1897, 6/3/1899, 3/15/1905, and 3/29/1905. Only two of those four times included hearing of minor, routine cases. Read More HERE

What I do know is that he made some pretty ridiculous statements unsubstantiated by Scripture, claiming for example that Lucifer was God's son

    From the very beginning of the experience of man the controversy was between the great Creator and His son Lucifer concerning man. The record shows that Lucifer was one of the "morning stars" who, being informed of God's purpose to create the earth and the creature man for the earth, joined in a song of praise to 'Jehovah. Man was created and placed in Eden and was there put under the supervision of Lucifer by Jehovah's appointment. Lucifer knew that it was the duty and privilege of man to worship his Creator. Lucifer selfishly desired and coveted the worship of man for himself. He rebelled against God and led man to his downfall. Then his name was changed to Satan, which means adversary of God. [22] [PLACE IN TEXT]

Continue on To Part II - What The Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe about Salvation, The Second Coming, God's Kingdom, Heaven and Hell Etc..
The accuracy of the Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs on these important issues range very widely. They can be absolutely correct on some issues, closer to the truth than the orthodox church (Note "closer" does NOT mean completely accurate) on others, and very far from what the Bible teaches on some very important issues.

End Notes
[01] About Jehovah's Witnesses. https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/

[02] Michael Lipka. A closer look at Jehovah's Witnesses living in the U.S.

[03] What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe? https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/

[04] Why Do Jehovah's Witnesses Maintain Political Neutrality? https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/political-neutrality/

[05] Watchtower Online Library. What help is Jehovah giving us to teach people the truth?

[06] What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe? https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/

[07] Seven Times - The Times of The Gentiles. https://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2008/06/seven-timesthe-times-of-gentiles-in.html

[08] J. Gordon Melton. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Jehovahs-Witnesses

[09] Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society. Report For Fiscal Year Ending Dec. 1, 1896. https://chicagobible.org/htdbv5/r2077.htm

[10] The Watch Tower. November 1, 1931. Pg. 327. https://faithleaks.org/wiki/documents/3/39/W_E_19310000.pdf

[11] Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, Pg. 591 https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1967722?q=the+Bible+is+an+organizational+book&p=par

[12] Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1967722?q=the+Bible+is+an+organizational+book&p=par

[13] Watchtower, July 1, 1973, Pg. 402. https://faithleaks.org/wiki/documents/8/8a/W_E_19730000.pdf

[14] The Watchtower — February 15, 1981. https://faithleaks.org/wiki/documents/1/1d/W_E_19810000.pdf

[15] The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, p. 79-80. https://faithleaks.org/wiki/documents/9/97/W_E_19520000.pdf

[16] https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/

[17] Jehovah's Witnesses. https://centeronconscience.org/jehovahs-witnesses/#tab

[18] Tony Wills. A People for His Name: A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and an Evaluation. Publisher: Lulu.com; 2 edition (February 20, 2007) Pgs 209-211

[19] J. Gordon Melton. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Jehovahs-Witnesses/Beliefs

[20] Charles Fain Lehman. Russia Bans Jehovah's Witnesses, Seizes Property After Supreme Court Ruling. Washington Free Beacon. https://freebeacon.com/issues/russian-supreme-court-bans-jehovahs-witnesses-seizes-property/

[21] Imprisoned for Their Faith. https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/singapore/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/

[22] The Controversy. Broadcast from Station WBER, New York, by Judge Rutherford. The Golden Age. January 8, 1930.


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