How the Jehovah’s Witnesses approach Scripture: guest blog by Pastor Dave

When Travis and I talked about this blog, I offered to do my part and write a few posts. Here is a brief post about how the Jehovah’s Witnesses approach Scripture. Feel free to comment and to share. I hope this only adds to the discussion in our Sunday School class.

            Jehovah’s Witnesses do not embrace the same position as Orthodox Christianity in regard to Scripture. “Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) claim to regard the Bible as the absolute Word of God and to base all their beliefs on it.”[1] But what does this claim mean, and is this claim the same as the one upheld by Christians when they refer to the Bible as the Word of God? The answer is a resounding no.

Copies of both The Watchtower and AWAKE! two of the official publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses operate one of the largest publishing houses in the world.

            Russell (the founder of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) and his followers struggled to locate their doctrines in Scripture and in the original languages of the text. The response to this dilemma was creating a unique translation of Scripture. This allowed them to “translate”out the theological positions they reject or insert into the text words to confirm their theology.[2] The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, commenting on their translation of the Bible state, “Outstanding among Bible’s is the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. . . . Accuracy, uniformity, clarity, and up-to-date language mark this excellent work. Bible study aids without equal make this an indispensable help to sincere searching students of God’s Word.”[3] The cultish element of the Witnesses begins with the way they present their translation of the Bible. By their account, they are simply correcting theology where Orthodox Christians have gone astray. According to the Watchtower, historic Christianity made egregious errors because all translations of the Bible are wrong except the New World Translation. This position is odd because the New World Translation did not begin to be released until 1950, and Charles Russell and Joseph Rutherford never used the New World Translation. Therefore, the very founders of the faith could have never used the correct translation of the Bible.

            The preface to the New World Translation itself reads that “The endeaver [sic] of the New World Bible Translation Committee has been to avoid this snare of religious traditionalism.”[4] The underlying element projected by the Society is that historic Christianity has gone astray because it has never had the true translation of Scripture. The deceptive move is obvious; the Society acts as if they have uncovered a deeper truth. If one disagrees with the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, it is because this person does not have the correct translation of Scripture.

            The other misleading tactic, in regard to the Bible, is rooted in the concept that the ultimate authority for a Witness is not Scripture. Robert Bowman explains, “Jehovah’s Witnesses must accept every new teaching of the Governing Body without question, even if it contradicts their long-held view or appears to them to be unbiblical.”[5] An Evangelical appeals to Scripture as the ultimate authority. The Jehovah’s Witness, though confessing the same position, is forced to accept the “Governing Body” as the ultimate judge of what to believe. The Jehovah’s Witnesses present the notion that they embrace a form of Sola scriptura while redefining what it means to accept the Bible as God’s Word.

[1]Robert M. Bowman Jr., “Are the Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses Compatible with the Bible?” in The Apologetics Study Bible, ed. Ted Cabal (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p. 1562.

[2]Martin, Jehovah of the Watchtower, p. 133.

[3]House, Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements, p. 152, citing What Has Religion Done for Mankind, (Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1951), p. 351.

[4]Ibid., citing New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (Brooklyn NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1950), p. 6. 

[5] Robert Bowman Jr. Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p. 18, citing The Watchtower, February 1, 1952, pp. 79-80.

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