JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE WATCHTOWER
Chapter 1God's Mistake
Chapter 2An Honest Devil
Chapter 3The Truth is False
Chapter 4May The Force Be With You
Chapter 5Dishonour Thy Mother
Chapter 6Thou Shalt Bear False Witness
Chapter 7The Kingless Kingdom
Chapter 8Faith Without Faith
Preface to the Internet Edition
This little book came about following a "Bible Study" with a Jehovah's Witness couple in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It was from the weekly meetings we had during 1994 that I discovered the extent of anti-Catholicism behind the Watchtower's message. The research that I did to defend the Church resulted in this book.
The book is presented from a Catholic perspective and is based more on doctrinal differences than cultural ones. There are already many excellent resources on the internet and elsewhere that examine Jehovah's Witness history and culture. Some of the positions I take will definitely offend practicing Jehovah's Witnesses. Some may also offend Protestants. Nevertheless, this book can be a resource for Catholic and Protestants alike. Therefore, I hope that Protestant readers will look beyond the Catholic-Protestant issues and use whatever material is useful for dissuading more people from joining the Watchtower (and hopefully even reconverting ex-Christian Jehovah's Witnesses).
For Catholic readers, please let me know if any of my arguments are not completely in line with Catholic teaching. The intention of the book is to stay with the strict teachings of the Magisterium, but an occasional error may have been overlooked. I would also welcome any contributions to this book. If you want to add a paragraph or a chapter, send me a note. If your material is used, you will be publicly acknowledged for your contribution. If any of the links in the bibliography or the text become obsolete or if you notice any spelling/grammatical errors, I would appreciate a note to this effect.
You will notice that the original text of this book is copyright. This is not because of any hope for remuneration, but rather to protect the integrity of the text. Therefore, feel free to copy the book and give it to anyone you wish, as long as it remains complete and unaltered.
Chapter 1God's Mistake
One of the major tenets of Jehovah's Witness doctrine is that God's select people will inherit a paradise on earth. This paradise will be like a wonderful fountain of youth where people of all races and nationalities will live together in perfect harmony. They appeal to science which they say cannot explain why people age. "Humans should be able to live forever," they assert. This was God's original intention when He placed people on earth, that "the entire earth [was to be] brought under the control of a righteous human family all living together in peace and happiness." If only Adam and Eve had not sinned, death would be unknown, and man would still be living in a garden of Eden. God never intended to have the world inhabited in such a manner as it is today, with war, poverty, illness and sin abounding everywhere.
Here a Christian must ask himself, "Is God capable of such a mistake?" Not if He is All Powerful, Almighty, and All Knowing. Surely if a meteorologist can predict whether a hurricane will hit the coast of Florida on Friday of next week, God knows this. He also knows if another one will hit the coast of Florida ten thousand years from now. How then, could He have not known that man would sin and rebel against His authority? Here the Witnesses will admit that God could know such things if it was His will to know. "But God chose not to know," they reply. For what purpose?
"We can be sure that God's purpose for the earth did not change." On this point we can agree. But what was God's purpose for the earth? Surely God did not intend the pinnacle of His earthly creations to be a slave to His will, mere robots. Rather, we all know that God created man in his own image. In order to do so, He also gave us free will. The difficulty, however, does not come from an inability to conceptualize a God that would allow His creation to disobey him, but rather from the inability to conceptualize infinity.
God is without beginning or end. Remember back to your summer holidays as a child. They seemed to go on forever. Having only lived a short time, two months was large stretch of that lifetime. Now that you are an adult, it seems like every time you sneeze, two months have gone by. It has become a smaller fraction of your life-span. Now imagine God. He has no beginning and no end. There is no relative time span. To Him, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (cf. Ps 90:4). He inhabits all time and all space. This concept is very important to an understanding of why the fall of Man could never have been unknown to God. The combined sins of man are as real to him now as the world before Adam, even before dinosaurs. This is why every time a priest celebrates mass, he offers the same sacrifice that Christ made when he died on the cross. Christ does not suffer over and over again during each eucharistic consecration. Time is an invention of man to help us put order into our lives.
Indeed, the Watchtower undercuts their own argument in this respect. "God is able to foretell the future," they note. "He describes himself as 'the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, My own council will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.' (Isaiah 46:10)" Still, wishing to show that God "chooses not to foreknow," the Watchtower presents the following argument: "would it not have been hypocritical for God to offer the prospect of everlasting life to Adam and Eve, fully aware that they would be unable to realize it?" How dare they call God a hypocrite! What blasphemy! God always gave Adam and Eve "the prospect of everlasting life" even after the fall, through the eternal and Holy Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. If God wanted our first parents to remain in paradise forever, he could have done so by simply not creating a tree of knowledge, thereby preventing any means for disobedience. Yet, predestination in no way implies that choice is not given. One is predestined to heavenly glory by choosing this glory freely just as one who is predestined to eternal damnation makes the choice to follow such a destiny. There is nothing hypocritical about God knowing who will betray him and who will be faithful. Holy Scripture tells us, for example, that Judas was "destined to be lost" (Jn. 13:11; 17:12). Since Judas had not yet betrayed Jesus, he was indeed predestined to be lost, not by any interference from God, but by Judas' own free will which God knew "from the beginning."
Reverend Francis Spirago in The Catechism Explained clarifies this issue with the following analogy. "When God foresees that some man will be lost forever, God's foreknowledge is not the cause of the man's damnation. The physician foresees the approaching death of his patient, but his knowledge is not the cause of the man's death." The Watchtower argues, "If God has already chosen the ones to be saved, would this not dampen the zeal Christians show in evangelizing? Would it not make the preaching work essentially pointless." To such arguments, Rev. Spirago relates the following story: "The learned Franciscan Duns Scotus, once heard a farmer uttering terrible curses and begged him not to damn his soul so thoughtlessly. The farmer answered: 'God knows everything. He knows whether I shall go to heaven or to hell. If He knows that I shall go to heaven, why to heaven I shall go; if He knows that I shall go to hell, I shall go to hell. What then does it matter what I do or say?' The priest answered, 'In that case why plough your fields? God knows whether they shall bear a good crop or not. If He knows that they will bear a good harvest, the harvest will be good, whether you plough the land or not. If he knows that they will be unfruitful, why unfruitful they will be. Why then should you waste time ploughing?' Then the farmer understood that it is not the omniscience of God, but the free action of man, that determines both our temporal and our eternal happiness or misery." That free action of man is determined in the mind of God by His absolute foreknowledge and is thereby predetermined. By His foreknowledge, God already knows who will be saved and who will be damned. Through this foreknowledge, God has "chosen the ones to be saved" based on their faith, humility, and obedience. Only a feeble mind would consider such virtues "pointless" simply because God knows who possesses them.
Yet, the Watchtower maintains, "the Scriptures reveal that there are situations in which God chooses not to foreknow the outcome. Just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he declared: 'I am quite determined to go down that I may see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me, and, if not, I can get to know it.' (Genesis 18:21). This text clearly shows us that God did not foreknow the extent of the depravity in those cities before he investigated matters." Really? Remember that God is here in dialogue with Abraham, and that Abraham attempts to intercede on behalf of Sodom, just as the Saints in Heaven intercede and "pray for us sinners." God willed this dialogue between Himself and Abraham as a means of drawing out and demonstrating that His pleasure is that the righteous plead on behalf of the unrighteous. He shows us how to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt. 5:44). Also take note that the language used in this passage is how God revealed himself to Abraham, for at the end of the conversation, "Yahweh went away." In the literal sense this is impossible since God "fill[s] heaven and earth?" (Jr 23:24) and "all things" (Ep 4:10). Just as God is not constrained by a burning bush (Ex. 3), He chooses various forms through which He reveals Himself to man. God already knew the fate of Sodom and He never says anything to the contrary. "God is no human being that he should lie, no child of Adam to change his mind" (Nb. 23:19). We only change our mind because of imperfection, yet God is Perfect. Who are we to question His will that we "pray for those who persecute [us]" or His will that Abraham plead for Sodom.
The Watchtower's position also creates problems in logic. They say "that there are situations in which God chooses not to foreknow," yet they do not describe the method which God uses to make this choice. How does God decide which events He will foreknow and those He will not? In making this choice He must have criteria, yet knowledge of the criteria already suggests foreknowledge. For example, the Watchtower asserts that "God exercised his foreknowledge to reveal the succession of world powers," and "God can see certain events." How did God decide to know that foreknowledge of "the succession of world powers" was relevant to His purpose and that foreknowledge of other events, such as "the extent of the depravity of [Sodom and Gomorrah]" were not? Would He not need to foreknow the events which were to take place in Sodom and Gomorrah in order to make His decision not to foreknow those same events? The answer to this question, according to Watchtower logic, is as impossible to define as the riddle about whether the chicken came before the egg, or the egg before the chicken. The only solution is to admit that God knows all things at all times, including our destiny.
But what is that destiny for the ones chosen to be saved? The Watchtower cites Scriptural passages which they feel imply that the earth will last forever, and that the righteous will always inhabit it. However, one must be careful to read the quoted passages in context. Often they refer to the return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon and Egypt. Other times, as in Psalms 67 and 72, they refer to blessings bestowed upon the king. In contrast, the Bible proclaims that His Kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). Neither will ours be.
What makes us Christians is our belief that God became Man. He only lived among us for a short time, after which He died to pay the ransom for our sins. This is a major point of contention with Jehovah's Witnesses who proclaim that Jesus is none other than Michael the Archangel. This will be discussed later in the book. However, this point is particularly relevant when interpreting Revelation 21: 3, 4. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as bride dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, 'Look here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone' (Rev 21:1-4)."
The Watchtower chooses to interpret the above passage as a reference to a renewed earth where there will be no death or sadness, and God will live among them. However, there are several problems with such an interpretation. First, cross reference this passage to Matthew's account of the nativity (Mt 1:23). Here, Immanuel is the name used to describe the child Jesus, meaning God-with-us. Surely in Jesus, God does live among human beings. Second, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, is a metaphor used by Jews and early Christians to describe heaven. This is particularly evident in an account given in the letter to the Hebrews (Hb 11:8-16). In this account, Abraham's descendants, which are "as numerous as the stars" are looking forward to "their heavenly homeland" since God has "founded the city for them." They recognize that they are "strangers and nomads on earth."
The story of Abraham and his descendants is also relevant to the question of time, which was discussed above. We know that salvation only comes through Christ Jesus as we are reminded in the famous passage of John 3:16. How then could God have founded the city of heaven for them unless Christ died for our sins for all time. For an infinite God this is possible; for one constrained by time, only those alive after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be saved, as only they will know who he is. Yet this is what the Watchtower proposes. Before Christ, nobody could even hope for a "heavenly homeland." As evidence, they point to John 3:13: "No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven." Yet what is the context in which he says this? After Jesus describes how one must be "born again" through baptism before he can enter the kingdom of God, Nicodemus asks, "How is that possible?" (Jn. 3:9). In reply, Jesus notes, "In all truth I tell you, we only speak about what we know and witness only to what we have seen and yet you people reject our evidence. If you do not believe me when I speak about earthly things, how will you believe me when I speak about heavenly things?" (Jn. 3:11,12). The point he is making here is not that nobody has ever gone to heaven, but that among those living, nobody has seen heaven, and therefore nobody, Nicodemus included, can understand it.
Quoting Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Francis de Sales supplements Jesus' point with the following parable: "Picture a pregnant woman who is put into prison, where she remains until the time of her delivery. She even gives birth there and is then condemned to pass the remainder of her life in the dungeon and to bring up her child there. As he grows older his mother desires to give him some idea of things in the outside world, for having lived only in continual darkness he has no idea of the light of the sun, the beauty of the stars, or the loveliness of nature. Since the mother wants to teach him all these things, they lower a lamp or a lighted candle to her. With this she attempts to make him conceive, as best she can, the beauty of a bright day. She tells him: 'The sun and the stars are made like this and spread out a great light.' It is all in vain, for the child, having had no experience of the light of which his mother speaks, cannot understand." Even though Abraham and his descendents could not understand heaven, heaven was still their hope. They trusted their Lord (Ps. 22:4) and His promise was their hope, just as the child in Gregory's parable trusted his mother and hoped that one day he would see the light of day, green flowing hills, and towering forests.
Continuing on, the Watchtower proclaims that the earth was made for man, and that the earth will last forever, even though Paul reminds the Philippians that "they will be lost...since their minds are set on earthly things. But our homeland is in heaven...(Phil 3:19-20)." Saint Luke also reminds us that when Christ comes again, "no one on the housetop, with his possessions in the house must come down to collect them...Remember Lot's wife (Lk 17:31-32)." Certainly there is greater glory in the presence of God in His heavenly kingdom than can ever be attained through all the riches of the world. Over and over, scripture tells us to set our eyes on God who has prepared the city of heaven, the new Jerusalem, for a multitude as numerous as the stars in heaven (cf. Hb 11:12). Those who set their eyes on the riches of this world will only find death. Of course Witnesses will deny that they are coveting the things of this world. The transformed earth will be vastly different from the one of today, since there will be no hoarding or greed. In fact, what they are describing is a perfect socialist utopia. In developing countries, the ranks of the Jehovah's Witnesses are swelling in alarming numbers. The poor of those countries are buying into a dream of a life that they cannot hope to attain in their present state. They are told that in the last days when the angels of God come to execute His judgement, only Witnesses will survive. Afterwards, they will be free to take what is left behind from wealthy Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, and others, who will not survive the final judgement. In the meantime, these hard working peasants will send what little they have to support the multimillion dollar publishing empire which the Watchtower has established in Brooklyn, New York.
Watchtower books are filled with beautiful colour illustrations of the paradise on earth. Happy smiling faces are waiting to greet those wanting to convert. "Look how healthy and youthful they appear! If you were told that these people had already lived thousands of years, would you believe it?," exclaims the Watchtower. To back up their claims about this, yet undiscovered, fountain of youth, they cite Job 33:25. There Elihu, Job's young and proud friend, tells Job that "his flesh will recover it's childhood freshness, he will return to the days of his youth." If you recall the story of Job, you will remember that Job had lost all his family and his wealth when God decided to prove Job's faith. In his despair, Job was counseled by four sages. The last and youngest to speak was Elihu. We know that Elihu cannot be trusted for God declares, "Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words? (Job 38:2)" When challenged on this, the Witnesses will respond that God was only referring to the other three sages. Yet, it is not until chapter 42 that the other three are rebuked (Job 42:7-9). Still, they will maintain that Elihu was wise and inspired by God. But this argument doesn't wash. First, in the same chapter quoted by the Watchtower, Elihu announces, "keep quiet, and I will teach you wisdom (Job 33:33)." Certainly Elihu was not only proud, but arrogant to declare himself as such in the presence of God's favoured servant Job. Doesn't Saint Matthew tell us that "Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up (Mt 23:12)." After all, "God opposes the proud, but he accords his favour to the humble (Jas 4:6)." As further evidence of his pride, Elihu also declares, "I guarantee, nothing I shall say will be untrue, you have a man of sound learning here (Job 36:4)."
What was lost by Adam's sin was the garden of Eden. The Watchtower promises that this state will be restored under Jesus Christ and the faithful of Jehovah will be permitted to reside in this paradise on earth. As evidence they cite Luke 23:43. Remember that Christ is speaking with a thief who, near death, sincerely professes his faith in our Lord. Jesus then "answered him, 'In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'" In the Watchtower's New World Translation (NWT), the comma is shifted so that it falls after today. "Truly I tell you today,..." it reads, thus permitting an interpretation where the good thief will be resurrected at Armageddon and live with Jesus in his earthly paradise. The thief will not be in paradise today. Jesus is telling him "today," that he will live in a paradise on earth some thousands of years into the future. This goes back to the conception of time and how man measures the seasons in a way far different from God, as we discussed earlier. But all this is beside the point. Paradise is referred to elsewhere in the New Testament. For example, Paul describes a vision in a letter to the people of Corinth. "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years agostill in the body? I do not know; or out of the body? I do not knowGod knowswas caught up right into the third heaven. And I know that this manstill in the body?or outside the body? I do not know, God knowswas caught up into Paradise (2 Cor 12:2-4)." Here, Paradise is equated to the third heaven.
Then we are asked to put ourselves in God's shoes (those are pretty big shoes to fill). "Would you bring to an end all the things that cause human suffering?...of course you would," declares the Watchtower. It's a good thing were not God. He has given us free will so that we can chose between good and evil, between Jesus and Satan, between Heaven and Hell. After all, if God could see no benefit in allowing us to sin and to suffer, he could have ended those things long ago. But then how would we ever hope to share in his divinity as mere automatons. Suddenly, your JW study partner objects. "You're not suggesting that Jehovah God created evil are you?," he retorts. God forbid, as St. Paul would say. All I am saying is that when man was created in the image of God, he was also created with free will. Along with free will comes Ego. And with Ego comes the desire to be God (cf. Gen 3:5). It is this desire to become God that has helped popularize the New Age movement. Take for example a family. The parents become one flesh, and through the gift of God, create new life. The children born unto them will grow up and become like them. They will make mistakes, but they will also have successes. They will hate, but they will also love. When my child does wrong, am I responsible? Not if I have given good guidance to the best of my abilities. On the other hand, children learn from their mistakes, which helps them to become more responsible, like mom and dad. Parents know in advance that when they procreate, their offspring will commit sin. Just because they sin, doesn't mean that couples should not have children, nor are they (usually) responsible for the sins of their children. So it is with our Heavenly Father. He knew that we would sin, but he chose to create man in his image so that man could someday share in his divinity. We are responsible for our own sins. God has given us a conscience and his Holy Word to guide us. We are free to choose.
To add to this, refer to Paul's letter to the Romans. "[God] decided beforehand who were the ones destined to be moulded to the pattern of his Son, so that he should be the eldest of many brothers; it was those so destined that he called; those that he called, he justified, and those that he has justified he has brought into glory (Rm 8:29,30)." In essence, God knows what we are doing today, tomorrow, and the next day. To Him, it is as though those things have already happened. Notice the tense used in the above verse. He knows that path our lives will take and to Him, those who love Him already share in His glory. As an illustration, if a king could see into the future and know the paths his children will take in life, he will be better able to plan the inheritance of his kingdom by those children who have shown to be responsible. Still, he must allow them to run the course of their lives so that they are able to mature and learn from their mistakes. If he were to suddenly divide his estate beforehand, he would be interfering in their destiny and impeding their ability to mature.
Our predestined salvation through Christ is also mentioned in Ephesians 1:4,5. We are told that He chose us before the world was made. The Watchtower condemns this theology since "they could not fail, regardless of what they did." There they make the big mistake of assuming that we are saved by our works, rather than the grace of God. If it were only for our actions that we are chosen, then none of us could ever hope to share in His glory. Rather, those who accept Christ are ransomed from death by His sacrifice from the cross. Instead, the Watchtower suggests that there will be a class of people who will prove faithful and receive a just reward. This notion does nothing but belittle Christ's sacrifice.
The Watchtower suggests that the passage in Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians is paralleled by Luke 11:50, 51 where the founding of the world refers to "the time of Abel," and thus after the fall of man. In this passage Jesus warns his listeners that they will be held accountable for the blood of the prophets which has been shed since the foundation of the world from Abel to Zechariah. There is false logic in this argument which I will illustrate in the following example. Suppose we transpose the words "blood of the prophets" with the words "airplane crashes." If we now say that they will have to pay for the airplane crashes since the foundation of the world from the Wright brothers to Locherbey, would this suggest that the foundation of the world corresponds to the invention of the airplane? God forbid! All it would mean is that there were no airplane crashes before the Wright brothers because there were no airplanes! The same holds true for the passage in Luke since there were no prophets murdered before Abel. Don't let them tell you that there were no prophets before Abel. What was Adam if not a prophet. Did he not speak to God and receive reply, and did he not hand down his story to his sons so that it could eventually be recorded by Moses into the book we now call Genesis. Still, Adam was never murdered.
To counter this argument, they will say that the world does not refer to the earth, but rather to mankind. This will not help their argument, however, since Adam and Eve were the first humans and they were created without sin or shame. Therefore, when God speaks to us about those who are predestined to share in His glory, He does so from a vantage point before (and after) sin came into the world. If some are predestined to share in His glory, then others are not. Since the wages of sin are death, then He must have known that man would disobey Him even before mankind came into being. For this reason we all need a Saviour, and by putting our faith and trust in Him, He may redeem us from our sin, and lead us to everlasting life (cf Jn 3:16).
Next comes the Watchtower's proclaimed end to wickedness on earth. "It will mean an end to only bad people and their way of living." Would this not mean an end to us all? Absolutely, if it were not for the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Again, JWs are led to believe that they will be saved by their works and only the righteous will be saved. May I here suggest that none of us are righteous? "If we say, 'We have no sin,' we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth has no place in us (1 Jn 1:8)." It is by God's grace alone that we are saved. How can anyone claim a reward from Him who has given us all that we have. As C. S. Lewis puts it, we are like children who ask their father for ten dollars in order to buy him a present. Only a fool would suggest that the father is ten dollars richer. Nonetheless he is still pleased with the gift he receives. Do his children deserve a reward? This by no means invalidates the value of good works, for we are told that faith without works is dead (Jas 2).
The Watchtower's main tactic for converting people is to predict that the end is near. We must study the signs of the times, they claim. For this reason, the Watchtower uses statistics to prove that the present era is coming to an end. (If you have studied advanced statistics, you know that the outcome can usually be manipulated to prove any point unless the strictest guidelines are followed.) They say that earthquakes are increasing, as are wars, famine, lawlessness, etc. For biblical proof they point to the apocalypse in Matthew 24, failing however to mention verse 44 of that chapter. In that passage, Jesus promises that He will return at a time least expected. Therefore, all their calculations and statistics are pointless. To prove my point, all we need to do is refer to previous attempts by the Watchtower to predict the second coming. The years 1874, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975 have all been referred to for the ushering in of the new era where Christ will return and assume His kingly throne. Every time these predictions have failed, the Watchtower has moved the date forward, not by a large amount, just far enough that they can continue to instill fear. Do they not realize that Christ has always been Immanuel, God-with-us. Whenever we gather together to hear His word or pray together, He is with us (cf. Mt 18:20). For true believers, the date of His reign, the day of judgement, does not matter, since He has promised us salvation if we only believe in Him. We shouldn't only follow Him at times when we think the end is near, but at all times. The JWs will deny that they do this, but you just need to go back to 1974 in order to prove my point. They were expecting the end of the world to come the following year. Many quit their jobs, sold their houses, and began witnessing full time (standing on street corners, knocking on doors, etc.). Since the time was so near, they would not need material possessions any longer. After all, they were making an investment in their future. Surely Jehovah God would reward their good works. Their motto became "stay alive 'til 75." When 1975 came and went without any great calamity, many became disillusioned and left the Watchtower organization.
The Watchtower cautions that we are experiencing so much anguish, suffering, and despair, the end must be near. But I challenge you to consider whether this has not always been the case. Since the time of Christ there have been vast empires based on repression and genocide. Pagan Rome, the Mongolians, the Turks, the French under Napoleon, and, very recently, the Nazis have all bought victory at the price of innocent blood. And what of the great plague? Surely if anyone was to predict a time of great suffering it would have been during this horrific stage in world history. So what has changed that makes our time so special? Nothing! Man still oppresses others for the sake of his own greed, there are still wars, famine, and disease. Since the time of Adam these conditions have existed, and will continue to exist as long as man inhabits the earth. What the Watchtower fails to convey is the amount of love, charity, self-sacrifice, and peace that exists in the world today. These are precious gifts from God who is working through us and for us, God-with-us, for all time.
"If you love life and want to live forever on the earth...then you must hurry to take accurate knowledge of God..." declares the Watchtower. How can JWs ever hope to obtain accurate knowledge when they are forbidden to read almost anything that is not published by the Watchtower. The publishers of their literature are obviously free to read and quote from any source they choose (frequently they quote the New York Times and the Catholic Encyclopedia), selectively extract whatever statements suit their purpose, and then demand that their followers accept their version at face value.
Chapter 2An Honest Devil
The Watchtower claims that the world is governed by Satan, basing their whole argument on two verses in the Bible. "Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to him, 'I will give you all these if you fall at my feet and do me homage'" (Mt 4:8,9). "How else could he have offered them to Jesus," claims the Watchtower, unless they belonged to Satan. Did they ever think that Satan was lying, that he was trying to deceive Jesus? He promised Eve that if she ate from the forbidden fruit she would not die, but rather would become like a god (Gen 3:3-5). Elsewhere, we are told that he is a liar and the father of all lies (Jn 8:44). The Watchtower even contradicts themselves in their discussion of this matter when they refer to Satan as "a hateful liar" who "would like to mislead us." Now, all of a sudden, because it suits their purpose, they claim that Satan is telling the truth. So what about the kingdoms which Satan claimed to offer Jesus? Is he the "unseen ruler of all the nations of the world" as the Watchtower claims?
Beginning with Old Testament wisdom, God tells us, "By me monarchs rule and princes decree what is right; by me rulers govern, so do nobles, the lawful authorities" (Pr 8:15,16). Saint Paul adds, "Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God" (Rm 13:1). Saint Peter agrees when he requests "For the sake of the Lord" that the Christians of Asia Minor "accept authority of every human institution: the emperor as the supreme authority, and the governors as commissioned by him to punish criminals and praise those who do good" (1Pet 2:13, 14). Even our Lord, when placed before Pilate tells Pilate that he has no power over Jesus except as given to him from above. Rather it was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him, that "has the greater guilt" (Jn 19:11).
So what does God mean when he refers to Satan as the prince of this world? Since the fall of man, we all have borne the sign of original sin. Ever since our first parents decided to believe Satan's promise that they would be like gods, mankind has sought after this illusion. Every sin committed is a reflection of this desire. Modern psychology refers to it as Ego. So when Satan is called the prince of this world, we can be assured that he is appealing to our ego. Idolatry, whether it is a golden calf or money, places our love in the work of our own hands. It lifts us up and makes us feel as though we are the creator, thereby neglecting to offer credit where credit is due.
The Watchtower refers Ephesians 6:12 in its discussion of this matter, and so will I. They interpret that verse as saying that "we have to fight to keep from being influenced by [Satan]." On this point I would agree, but it also says that "it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle." To illustrate, put yourself before Pilate. All that is required for you to achieve your freedom is to deny that Jesus is God. For an ordinary Christian, the enemy would not be Pilate or any other oppressor, but rather his own ego. It is that ego which fails to surrender and trust in God. It is that ego which makes us deny Him and betray Him for gold and silver. And it is that ego that prevents me from saying a dinner blessing at a restaurant, when I never neglect to do so at home. Is it that we are embarrassed about our faith in a world which tends to reject God? Do we hold our own esteem in the eyes of others higher than our commitment to truth and love? How then could we hope to stay faithful when placed before someone such as Pilate who holds the balance of life and death in his hands? When we surrender ourselves completely to God, no enemy on earth can harm us. The real enemy, the prince of this world, is working within us, building up our egos.
In the Watchtower's discussion of Ephesians 6:12, they ignore the portion of the verse which I discussed above. Instead, they refer only to "principalities and ruling forces who are masters of darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens." The principalities and ruling forces are suggested as representing current governments and institutions (ie. religions other than Jehovah's Witnesses, universities, international relief agencies, etc.). But according to Saint Paul, these forces cannot represent "human enemies," and, therefore, cannot represent human governments and institutions. Read in context, that portion of Paul's letter is very allegorical. He speaks of the belt of truth, the breastplate of uprightness, the shield of faith, the burning arrows of the Evil One, and the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:14-17). And all the while that his words conjure up images of a holy war, he speaks of spreading the gospel of peace. When the Ephesians are asked to put on "the full armour of God" (Eph 6:11), Paul is not speaking of a hundred pounds of cast iron vestments. As such, it is highly misleading to take half a verse out of this context and interpret it literally.
The battle that Paul is describing rages within us each moment of each day. It is a war against the human ego in its attempt to separate us from God. Paul makes this very clear when he notes that "although we are human, it is not by human methods that we do battle" (2Cor 10:3). And "let anyone who wants to boast, boast of the Lord. For it is not through self commendation that recognition is won, but through commendation" (2 Cor 10:17,18). When the Watchtower externalizes Paul's message by focusing on governments and institutions, they throw away the belt of truth and open the door to the ego's burning arrows. Think of the message they proclaim. They have the truth, they are pure, and only those who follow them will survive the wrath of God against this wicked world. How much of Paul's message of hope, faith, and charity is contained in such absolutes. "If you pass judgement you have no excuse," he says. "It is yourself that you condemn when you judge others since you behave in the same way as those you are condemning" (Rm 2:1). After all, "there is no favouritism with God" (Rm 2:11). When you think of what a large institution the Watchtower has itself become, we must hope that Paul's warning does not fall on deaf ears.
Later in their discussion of Satan, the Watchtower speaks of Satan being present when the earth was created. "He knew that after a while the whole earth would be filled with righteous people worshipping God. That was God's purpose, "proclaims the Watchtower. What these statements seem to suggest is that Satan is, at times, more powerful than God. First, consider what we discussed in chapter one. Their idea that God did not know that man was going to sin is plainly unscriptural, and insults God. Now they further insult God by suggesting that Satan did know the future of the world, that he knew God's intentions, and that he succeed in defeating God's purpose, at least for a time. If their argument is valid, it would mean that God could not have seen into the hearts of mankind, whom He created, nor into Satan, whom He also created. Yet, if Satan could see a future hidden to the eyes of God, and succeed in thwarting God's plan, would this not place Satan higher than God?
"The lie the Devil told Eve," they say, " worked just as he planned." How unfortunate for God that His plan to fill the earth with righteous people was destroyed by Satan's more powerful influence. I hope I am not being too sarcastic, but this whole notion seems so ludicrous that I cannot help myself. Continuing, the Watchtower decrees that "God allowed time for Satan to try and prove his claims." Again, they seem to suggest that Satan's will is more powerful than God's, and that God has given in to Satan by allowing him time to prove himself.
The result was that "governments of men,...the scriptures show, have been controlled from behind the scenes by the Devil." What I have shown earlier in this chapter is that scripture, in fact, shows that all authority is given by God and that governments rule by Him. So what is the Watchtower saying? Are they saying that Satan is a god? Ask this question to any Jehovah's Witness, and the answer will be an unequivocal "yes." Are they saying that Satan is the God? If not, they seem to make him equal to, if not higher than, God.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that God will triumph over Satan in the battle described in Revelation 12. The version they present, however, is somewhat different than the one found in the Holy Scriptures. This tactic is often used by the Watchtower when quoting sources which tend to disagree with their doctrine, including the Bible. Other examples of this will be shown throughout this book. "Read carefully the following Bible account," they ask. Well, lets do just that. "War broke out in heaven: Michael [who is the resurrected Jesus Christ] and his angels battled with the dragon." Where in Revelation 12:7, or anywhere in the Bible for that matter, does it say that Jesus is Michael the archangel? Later in this book I will discuss the true nature of Jesus, but for my present purpose, let's see what scripture says about notions that Jesus is an angel. This belief seems to have been a problem for early Jewish converts to Christianity, since Paul devotes the entire first chapter of his letter to the Hebrews to refuting such heresy. How much clearer can he be when he writes, "To which of the angels has God ever said: Take your seat at my right hand till I have make your enemies your footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:13,14), and "It was not under angels that he put the world to come, about which we are speaking" (Heb 2:5). Yet, if Jesus is to be King over the new paradise on earth, as the Watchtower claims, how could he be an angel? They will reply that Jesus is not an ordinary angel, he is an archangel. Therefore, according to the Watchtower, Paul is referring only to ordinary angels, not archangels. If this were so, why wasn't Paul more clear? Why did he not say 'it was under an archangel that he put the world to come?' The reason is simple. There is no distinction between angels and archangels except rank. Just as there is no distinction between bishops and archbishops except rank. When someone makes a general statement about bishops, archbishops are included in such statements unless the author specifies clearly that they are not. And so it is with Paul; when he speaks of angels, archangels are clearly included in his statements.
When confronted on this, your Jehovah's Witness friend may refer to other verses which purport to prove that Jesus is Michael the archangel. First they will say that "at 1 Thessalonians 4:16, the command of Jesus Christ for the resurrection to begin is described as 'the archangels call'." Let's look at what that verse really says. "At the signal given by the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, the Lord himself will come down from heaven." Notice that they do not refer to the command of Jesus as "the trumpet of God," but through selective quotation misread the whole verse. One could as easily misinterpret it and say that since the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God are used together, that God is an archangel. In fact, that verse says neither.
The Watchtower obviously accepts, as it refers to the previous paragraph, that the Lord is Jesus Christ. With that in mind, let's go to the ninth verse of Jude's letter. There we are told that "not even the archangel Michael, when he was engaged in argument with the devil about the corpse of Moses, dared to denounce him in the language of abuse; all he said was, 'May the Lord rebuke you.'" Clearly Michael is not the Lord referred to in this passage.
Next they will refer to Revelation 19 which says that Christ will lead the armies of heaven in battle against Satan. Since Revelation 12 says that Michael and his angels will make war against the dragon, Christ and Michael must be one and the same. To equate the two would be like saying that since Churchill led the armies of England in battle against Hitler, and Montgomery made war against the Nazis, Churchill and Montgomery must be one and the same.
Further to this, they say that "the expression 'archangel' is never found in the plural in the scriptures, thus implying that there is only one." I beg to differ. Note that Daniel 10:13 refers to Michael as one of the chief princes. It does not say that he is the chief prince, nor does it refer to him as Lord or King. Also, does this verse not imply that there are more than one? In fact, we are told that there are "seven angels who stand ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of the Lord" (To. 12:15).
"The evidence shows," the Watchtower claims, that the war in heaven described in Revelation 12 "happened around the time of World War I." What evidence? They point to increasing lawlessness, food shortages, etc., as proof that Satan has been "hurled down to earth," but as I explained in chapter one, such conditions are not unique to this time. In fact, the conditions they describe are only regional in their impact. One of the examples they use is an increasing amount of disease. Surely they are not suggesting that disease has a greater impact today than during the Black Plague which killed off most of Europe and Asia, or during the Small Pox epidemics that wiped out nearly 90 percent of the aboriginal populations of North America and the South Pacific. As I write this, nearly all deadly diseases can be prevented or cured.
The purpose of this negative view of the world seems to be rooted in an attempt by the Watchtower to isolate their followers. The result is their members complete reliance on the Watchtower and their publishing empire. Even "Christendom" is considered part of "Satan's visible organization." 'Satan is everywhere and in everything except the Watchtower hierarchy' seems to be what they are saying. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Billy Graham, and Pope John Paul II are all members of "Satan's visible organization." That is why a faithful Jehovah's Witness can never be allowed to read anything not written by the Watchtower. God forbid that their publishing empire would have any competition! Their paranoia is so prevalent, that you cannot even ask a Jehovah's Witness to pray with you without sparking a negative reaction. This all goes back to giving Satan power over everything. As I have pointed out, they believe that Satan is even more powerful than God is some respects.
How can a Jehovah's Witness be saved from this wickedness which is all pervasive. "If we are to receive everlasting life," they are told, "we need accurate knowledge about God." So far, I think it is clear that accurate knowledge about God is not what they are receiving. In the sentence which I quoted, the Watchtower uses a cross reference to John 17:3. This verse does not exhort one to examine the Scriptures, as they suggest. At the time it was written, there was no printing press, there was not even a Bible. Many of the books of the Bible would not even be composed until many years later, and would not be compiled until some three hundred years after that. Jesus was certainly not speaking of Watchtower publications. So what was Jesus referring to? "And eternal life is this," He says, "to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3). He wants us to open our hearts so that the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son may dwell within us (cf Jn 17:26). He is also praying for the apostles who would endure many hardships for the sake of His glory and His purpose.
All the Watchtower's theology on the subject of Satan, let us remember, is based on one verse in the Bible which quotes the father of all lies, Satan himself. On this they base their condemnation of all world religions from Catholicism to Buddhism, and all institutions from the Red Cross to the United Nations. It is important to be aware of this xenophobia when speaking with a Jehovah's Witness. You will not be trusted regardless of who you are since they believe that you are controlled by Satan. Even Christmas Carols are Satanic. No matter how convincing your argument, it will take time to undo the "mind regulating" (also known as brain washing) which they undergo. You may think to yourself, "they seem harmless enough," but how harmless is a religion that hates anything different than itself, that quotes Satan as a source of truth, and that believes that Satan can be more powerful than God.
Chapter 3The Truth Is False
"Because they fail to worship God in the right way, most persons are on the road to destruction," proclaims the Watchtower. "Only a few are on the road leading to life." Let me guess which few they are referring to. As proof that today's religions are false, the Watchtower likes to use war as an example that "Satan...controls the religions practiced by the people of the world." They quote Catholic leaders on both sides during World War II as glorifying war and demanding that they kill each other. However, they leave no way for an inquisitive reader to verify their sources. "And Protestants did the same," they say. What they fail to point out is that the Catholic Church is credited with saving 800,000 Jews during the war, and that many<A HREF = "http://www.ici.net/cust_pages/ffi/whostmax.html"> Catholic priests died</A> in Nazi concentration camps. The Catholic Church and most Protestant churches have never glorified war, as they say, but acknowledge that one must protect freedom and liberty even at the cost of war if all other means have failed. If it were up to the Watchtower,<A HREF="nazi.html"> they would have allowed the Nazis to have continued unhindered</A> until all the world was under the heal of <A HREF = "http://www.nano.no/~telemark/Hitler/HitlerEng.html">Adolf Hitler</A>. They degrade the memory of those who gave up their lives so that we may be free from fascist oppression.
The Watchtower is very proud that, "Jehovah's Witnesses stand outside the establishment and accept no responsibility to bless whatever the secular government decides to do." This is also the basis for their doctrine that Jehovah's Witnesses must never serve in or act in a supportive role to any military service. However, scripture does not condemn military service even in countries which oppose God and religion. For example, when a centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus replies that He has not found faith as great as this anywhere in Israel, and implies that the centurion will have a seat reserved for him in heaven. Never does Jesus tell him to desert his regiment nor does He tell him to never fight another battle (Mt 8:5-13). Saint Paul writes to the Romans that they must submit to civil authority. He does not exclude military service from this demand. He even goes so far to say that the sword is the symbol of authority and is used to bring retribution (Rm 13: 1- 7).
Also consider the holy wars discussed throughout the old testament. The Watchtower will claim that these soldiers were serving under a theocratic government and, as such, were justified, but service under a civil government is condemned by God. However, we need only look as far as the example of King David to know that the Watchtower's notion is wrong. We all know that David was a humble servant of God, especially prior to his coronation. Samuel had ordained him as King to replace Saul who had fallen out of favour with God. Consequently, Saul made war against the surrounding pagan nations as well as David and his followers. When David was exiled into the Philistine kingdom of Gath, he and his followers offered allegiance to the Philistine king and offered to go to war for him against God's own chosen people. Nowhere does God condemn David for such actions (1 Sam 27-29).
In order to justify their failure to submit to civil authority, the Watchtower quotes John 17:16, which reads, "they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world." This is a clear example of selective quotation, for the verse just before it reads, "I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil One." Later verses have a similar message. Jesus sees the importance of his disciples remaining free from temptation and distractions to God. He is here speaking of freeing them from the constraints of worldly possessions that compete with God, and only satisfy the ego (as discussed in chapter two). Note that this whole chapter from Saint John's gospel is a prayer for the twelve apostles. In their role as leaders of the Church, they would need to devote themselves completely to preaching the gospel to a world which has never heard of Jesus Christ. This tradition of separating themselves from the world is continued today in the Catholic Church by orders such as the Franciscans, who are forbidden to own material goods.
Next, the Watchtower refers to Acts 5:29 to support their notion that early Christians "obeyed God as ruler rather than men!" That verse actually reads, "obedience to God comes before obedience to men." Two messages can be taken from this verse. First, remember that Peter was speaking before the Sanhedrin. They did not like any suggestion that they had taken part in the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter could have said that he never meant to make them feel guilty, but that it had all been a big misunderstanding. If he had done so, he would have only been protecting himself and looking for praise from his accusers. Instead, he professes our Lord as Saviour. In so doing, he demonstrates his devotion to God above seeking praise from men. Second, we must consider times when we are asked to perform individual actions which are clearly offensive to God, such as procuring an abortion. In such cases, the law of God supersedes the law of man. Peter never said obey God instead of men, as the Watchtower suggests, but obey God above men.
Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans demands that early Christians submit to civil authority. "Anyone who disobeys an authority is rebelling against God's ordinance; and rebels must expect to receive the condemnation they deserve" (Rm 13:2). Can scripture be made any more plain than this. Paul adds, "Pay...respect where respect is due; honour where honour is due" (Rm 13:7).
The Watchtower quotes Paul's second letter to the Corinthians as proof that Satan is the leader of all other world religions. He writes, "the unbelievers whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world, so that they cannot see the shining light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor 4:4). Saint Paul is not referring to world religions, but unbelievers who are challenging the Corinthians with matters which seem to focus on worldly gain rather than the glorification of God. In the second verse of this chapter, Paul tells the Corinthians that he has no wish to deceive them or to falsify the word of God. This is good advice for the Watchtower when they quote scripture out of context even to the point of quoting Satan (Mt 4:8,9) or Elihu's "ignorant words" (Job 38:2).
The Watchtower is so hateful of other religions, they tell their follows that "[God] destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Soon he will do the same to all modern-day false religion." In this I must repeat Jesus' warning that "the judgements you give are the judgements you will get" (Mt 7:2). They go on to say that such religion is the prostitute spoken of in Revelation 17. Worldwide Bible scholarship is fairly consistent in their interpretation that the prostitute represents pagan Rome not modern day religion. In verse 16 where John speaks of them eating her flesh and burning the remains with fire, he is likely referring to Emperor Nero who sacked Rome upon his return. Even if this passage could refer to modern day religion, which it cannot, what makes them so sure that they are not included among these. After all, the Watchtower is but one hundred years old. As such, they should consider themselves more of a modern day religion than those which go back many hundreds or thousands of years. Regardless of one's interpretation, John's apocalyptic vision was certainly referring to events happening during his lifetime. I could elaborate further on Revelation, but I feel that it is sufficiently dealt with elsewhere. Pick up almost any study Bible or commentary and you will find many more plausible interpretations of this book.
The Watchtower goes on to say that "the crimes committed by members of different religions" have caused millions of people to turn away from God. Are Jehovah's Witnesses excluded from this statement? So it seems. I admit (even announce) that Christians commit crimes against goodwill and conscience. Every Christian, every day, is responsible for such sins. In a sense, we are all murderers, prostitutes, and thieves in varying degrees (cf. Rm 3:9,10 Eccl 7:20). It is to free us from this sin that Christ died for us (cf 1 Cor 15:3). If we were perfect, we would have no need for a Saviour. Even Job, who was a highly favoured servant of God, recognized this (Job 9:20, 21). Can anyone, including the Watchtower, claim to be free from the spiritual crimes which result from original sin? Anyone who does is a liar (1 Jn 1:10). Yet, if the Watchtower admits that they are not free from sin, that their followers are not free from sin, that all suffer from the human condition, then how can they condemn other religions for sins committed by their proponents. Saint James is very clear on this matter. He writes, "there is only one lawgiver and he is the only judge and has the power to save or destroy. Who are you to give a verdict on a neighbour?" (Jas 4:12).
Even though "the Church of the living God [is the] pillar and support of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15) She is made up of both the righteous and the unrighteous. This Church was given the power to exercise judgement on its members (Mt. 16:19) while those outside the Church, only God will judge (1 Cor. 5:12-13). If all the members of the Church were righteous, what need would there be "to judge those who are inside" the Church. Jesus instructs the Church to correct their brothers and if they do not listen, report them to the Church, since She has the authority to bind and loose (Mt. 18:15-18). What value would there be in saying this unless brothers would need correction. Indeed, only some among the house of the Lord are "fit for the Master" (2 Tim. 2:20,21). "Even from your own ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them" (Acts 20:30) despite our Lord's promise that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Holy Church (Mt. 16:18). Elsewhere He speaks of the chaff (heretics) in His barn (the Church) which He will burn with fire (Mt. 3:12). That members of the members of "the Church of the living God" have committed atrocities and espoused heresy does not prove that she is an apostate church, but just the opposite, that She is the True Church. She is the pillar of truth, Her doctrines are infallible, and within Her fold are both wheat and chaff, sheep and goat, saint and heretic.
"How can we know if we are...worshipping God in a way that he approves," asks the Watchtower. First, they say, "it is not any man, but God, who is the judge of what is true worship." Then they immediately contradict themselves by giving instruction on how to worship God, their instruction being based on the opinion of the author who is himself a man. Is he "not any man?" His instruction is as follows; "if our worship is to be acceptable to God, it should be firmly rooted in God's Word of truth, the Bible." I would agree that our worship should be rooted in the Bible, but the Bible does not say this anywhere. How could it, since it did not exist when the authors of the Bible were writing their respective books. We know that worship should be Biblical because various councils of Catholic bishops in the third and fourth centuries decided that it should be. The Catholic Church believes that these councils were guided by God's Holy Spirit when they put together the Bible. From there, they incorporated and followed scripture when developing the liturgy of the Mass. In the early church, there were in excess of fifty gospels in circulation, yet only four are contained in our present day Bible. Someone (or some few) had to decide not to include the larger portion of scripture as uninspired. How do we know that they made a correct decision? And if we cannot know so much as this, how can we base our worship on a Bible which may contain inaccuracies? By asking us to root our worship in the Bible, the Watchtower must concede that God worked through the Catholic bishops who put together the Bible. Why can they not concede that these same men were guided by God when they developed the various forms of worship used by the Christian Church?
To back up their argument, the Watchtower quotes Romans 3:4, "Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." They feel that Paul is telling us that we must not rely on men to guide us in our worship of God. However, this is not the message that Paul is conveying. I prefer the New Jerusalem Bible (NJ) rendering of the passage which reads, "God will always be true even if no human can be relied on." Paul wants to ease concerns that God will break his covenant due to the unfaithfulness of men. This is out of the question since God will remain true to His promises regardless of the actions of any man. Even if no one on earth can be relied on to remain faithful to God, He will never break His covenant. Even as much as it is impossible for man to be without sin, it is impossible for God to break a promise. Paul's message actually supports the Catholic position that God works through the Church even when members of the Church are not faithful to Him. For this reason, the Mass is still valid even when the priest is in mortal sin. It is not the priest who makes himself present to the congregation, but God. He uses fallible human beings to work his perfect mysteries. How else could fallible, sinful men write sacred scripture except by the marvellous grace of God. The Watchtower may think it impossible for God to work through a church of sinners, but our Lord says, "by human resources it is impossible, but not for God: because for God everything is possible" (Mk 10:27). Here He is speaking of salvation, but what is the Church if not God's instrument of salvation.
As further "evidence," they point to Matthew 15: 1-9. Their worship is in vain, we are told, "because they teach the commands of men as doctrines." This is not evidence at all, but another example of quoting scripture out of context. Here Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, not because they are men, but because they seek their own glorification above that of God. As an example He refers to their violation of the commandment to honour one's parents. By giving all their earnings to the temple, the Pharisees could avoid sharing their wealth with their parents. In fact, they never gave to the temple, but placed their earnings in trust, much like a bank, under the pretence that they were making a donation. This "tradition" was in direct violation of one of the ten commandments. They paid lip service by pretending to serve God (ie. donating to the temple) while in reality serving their own selfish interests. What the Watchtower fails to point out is that Jesus never criticizes sincere devotion to Semitic tradition. Even Moses, who handed down the most important Jewish laws and customs, was a fallible sinner. He was severely chastised for his lack of faith and trust in God (Num 20: 11,12). Is the Watchtower suggesting that Israel should not have followed Moses because of his imperfections? In fact, Israel did not, and severe retribution fell upon them. So what is the Watchtower really saying? On the one hand, they say 'do not follow men,' but on the other hand, they do not hesitate to condemn anyone who fails complete submission to their organization. What is this if not hypocrisy? Is it not hypocrisy that Jesus condemns in the very verses they quote?
The hypocrisy of the Watchtower is exemplified in the following statement: "The religion that is approved by God must agree in every way with the Bible; it will not accept certain parts of the Bible and reject others." What I have shown, and will continue to show throughout this book, is that the Watchtower breaks this rule in a very big way. Misquotations, quotations out of context, and outright deception are the tools that the Watchtower uses to reject the truth of the Bible. Even in a literal way they have rejected parts of the Bible, by changing many important passages in their New World Translation (NWT). The following passage is a blatant example:
And YOU, fathers, do not be irritating YOUR children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah. (Eph 6:4 NWT)
Compare this with the New Jerusalem Bible.
And parents, never drive your children to resentment but bring them up with correction and advice inspired by the Lord. (Eph 6:4 NJ)
May I venture to say that "mental-regulating" refers to "brain-washing."
Further, I must reiterate the dilemma faced by the Watchtower when they declare that "the religion that is approved by God must agree in every way with the Bible." As proof, the Watchtower refers to Saint Paul's second letter to Timothy. There he writes, "All scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding peoples lives and teaching them to be upright" (2 Tim 3:16). Which scripture? Is Paul referring to The Assumption of Moses, The Gospel of Thomas, or The Prayer of Manasseh? These books are, or have been, considered scriptural by various Jewish and Christian sects. Yet these are only a few of hundreds of books purporting to be scripture that are not contained in Catholic, Protestant, or Watchtower Bibles. Why are they not included if ALL scripture is useful? Because in the fourth century, the Catholic Church determined that these books were not scripture. Since the Watchtower asserts that the Church had fallen into apostasy well before the fourth century, how can they be sure that the religion approved by God must agree with the Bible? Without conceding the authority of the Catholic Church in this matter, they may as well follow that Koran or the Gnostic Bible.
The absurdity is carried further when you note the use of the singular in their quotation "the religion...approved by God." Yes, they are referring to all religions when they speak of false religion being destroyed by God. 'Unless you conform to the "mental-regulating" of the religion (headed by the Watchtower of course), damnation awaits you,' is the message which underlies Watchtower doctrine. If the Watchtower heads the one and only true religion upon which salvation is based, how do they explain the doctrinal inconsistencies and contradictions which seem to inhabit every corner of the Watchtower? Jehovah's Witnesses will claim that the light is getting brighter as they come closer and closer to the truth. It is a sign of the true religion that they are willing to change their doctrine as they discover more and more. They criticize the Catholic Church for never changing its doctrine. What they fail to realize is that Jesus Christ promised complete truth to His apostolic church and this truth has been handed down through apostolic succession to the present day.
God's truth is the same today as it was two thousand years ago. It was not discovered through studying the Bible, but given as a gift through God's Holy Spirit. In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles, "when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth" (Jn 16:13). He is not promising them partial truth, nor is he promising complete truth to some organization which will not exist for another 1,900 years. What he is promising the apostles is complete truth, nothing less. Saint Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Corinthians. "Such is the confidence we have through Christ in facing God; it is not that we are so competent that we can claim any credit for ourselves; all our competence comes from God. He has given us the competence to be ministers of a new covenant, a covenant which is not of written letters, but of the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:4-6). Paul was not one of the twelve to whom Jesus spoke of the "Spirit of truth." Therefore, Paul must have received this gift through apostolic succession. And Christ was not referring to everyone, otherwise there would not be more than 20,000 Christian denominations. "At the same time, we must recognize that the interpretation of scriptural prophesy is never a matter for the individual" (2 Pet 1:20). Therefore when the Watchtower claims that they are acquiring truth as they go along, and that truth is gained by individual study of the Bible, they actually contradict the Bible.
Yet, apostolic succession is nothing more than a myth according to the Watchtower. As apostolic succession is the basis for Catholic authority in matters of faith and morals, we should examine their position in some detail. When Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus replied, "Simon, son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my community" (Mt 16:17,18). The Watchtower declares that since "[Peter] would later deny Christ three times," "Jesus himself would be that solid rock foundation of the church, not Peter." However, Jesus clearly referred to Peter as blessed. Significantly, Jesus began his reply by calling Peter by his former name, Simon. This name referred to a small stone or pebble. Jesus had earlier on given Simon his new name, Peter or Cephas, which itself means Rock (cf. Mk 3:16). If modern day English had been the language in use, Jesus may have referred to him as "Rocky." Reading on into the next verse, the Watchtower's argument that Jesus is referring to himself is discredited. "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven," Jesus says, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19). Jesus didn't say he was giving himself the keys, but says you, referring to Peter. It is by this authority that sins may be absolved and indulgences may be granted.
That Peter could not be the rock because he denied that he knew Jesus on the night of the Passion is contrary to logic. Any human organization, regardless of its moral basis, is subject to human sin and error. Peter is an example of this, as was Moses, and every other human being that ever lived, save Jesus and Mary. The Watchtower likes to refer to the sale of indulgences in the middle ages as evidence of the apostasy of the Catholic Church. ("An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven"The Catechism of the Catholic Church). Yet, all they prove is that clergy are human and sinners. There were abuses in the middle ages, and there have been abuses before and after, even to the present day. However, such abuses are explicitly condemned by the Church. In 1551, the Council of Trent strongly condemned any exchange of favours, including money, for sacraments such as indulgences. A cartoon published by the Watchtower which depicts "the pope's sale of indulgences" is an outrageous falsification of history.
Getting back to Peter, the Watchtower claims that "there is no evidence in Scripture or history that Peter was regarded as having primacy over his peers." Besides the reference to Peter as the Rock, there are, in fact, many examples of his primary role among the apostles. In Matthew, as well as the other gospels, whenever dialogue occurs between Jesus and His apostles, Peter is more often than not the spokesman. He is referred to by name far more often than any other apostle throughout the New Testament. Continuing, the Watchtower notes, "He makes no mention of [his primacy] in his own letters." Was that the purpose of his letters? Popes throughout the ages have written apostolic letters on various matters, they do not need to explain the basis of their authority in each letter. Peter does, nonetheless, declare his role publicly. "Peter stood up and said to [the apostles and the elders], 'My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers'" (Acts 15:7 NRSV). Yet the Watchtower continues, "There is not even any absolute proof that Peter was ever in Rome." First, the issue is rather irrelevant since the papal office has been exercised in various locations in Egypt, Italy, and France over the past two thousand years. Second, Peter's first letter to the Roman provinces is addressed from Babylon (1 Pet 5:13) which is the term used at the time in reference to Rome (cf. Rev 17:5,18). Finally, the Watchtower reveals, "He was not a 'pope,' nor was he known as such." Of course he wasn't known as such since the title only developed some centuries later as an affectionate nickname for the Bishop of Rome and means Papa!
Clearly the Watchtower has a foundation of quicksand for their attack on the papacy. When all their false rhetoric is about complete, they still must resort to questioning the dialogue in which Peter is called the rock of the Church. "The other three Gospels," they note, "do not even mention Jesus statement to Peter." What is the point they are trying to make here? Are they suggesting that Matthew is a fraud, a forgery, or a fantasy? Does the message need to be repeated over and over again for it to be valid? It seems to me that they are backtracking on their assertion that the true religion must agree with the Bible in every way. In fact what they are saying is that it must agree with their interpretation of the Bible even to the point of questioning the validity of various passages. This is the same error that Martin Luther made when he questioned whether certain books that disagreed with his doctrine should have been included in the Bible. If part of the Bible is false, then it casts into doubt the whole Bible, and every religion based on it.
The Watchtower continues its attack on the Catholic Church in particular by claiming that doctrines of the immortal soul and terms such as heaven, hellfire, purgatory, paradise, and Limbo were invented "for a priestly class to keep their flocks submissive and in fear of the Hereafter and to extract gifts and donations from them." This led to a life of luxury for those "who have ruled in the sumptuous setting of the Vatican." This argument is the most ludicrous so far. First, a doctrine of the immortal soul certainly incorporates a much smaller element of fear than the Watchtower's doctrine that those who are not baptized and practicing Jehovah's Witnesses will be utterly annihilated. For some reason, even hell extracts less fear for the average person than being removed from existence altogether. With the exception of Limbo, all the afterlife destinations referred to by the Watchtower are solid doctrines based on scripture. They are all clearly explained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Limbo is a theory developed to explain what happens to infants, the unborn, and others who were never given the choice to know God when they died. Yet it is only a theory and espoused by the Church as such.) Contrast this with Watchtower doctrine that "when a person is dead he is completely out of existence", that only 144,000 will reach heaven, and that "millions now living will never die" but will reside forever in an earthly paradise reserved for faithful Jehovah's Witnesses. Which of the two doctrines are more likely to "keep flocks submissive and in fear of the Hereafter?" As far as the life of luxury is concerned, it takes a stretch of the imagination to envision the Vatican City's celibate priests living the good life. Contrast your own image of life at the Vatican with your image of a beachfront San Diego mansion. The Watchtower purchased such a mansion for the resurrection of the prophets in 1925. It just so happened that their president, Joseph Rutherford, who normally resided in Brooklyn, spent his winters at the San Diego mansion. After all, until the prophets came, there was no sense letting it go to waste.
Popes and Saints through the ages have given themselves to sacrifice and poverty, not the type of luxury enjoyed by leaders of the Watchtower. Pope Saint Gregory the Great was the son of a Roman senator and donated all his properties and estate to the use of the Church's religious communities and charities. Augustine, Francis of Assisi, and Thomas Moore are a few of the more famous saints who gave up wealth and glory for the sake of service to God.
Yet, as I pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, Catholicism is only one of many world religions they feel are doomed to destruction at Armageddon. In the Watchtower publication, Mankind's Search for God all the world's religions are examined and condemned. Granted, there is an inordinate focus on the Catholic Church. As well, the Watchtower presents heretics such as the Albigenses in a heroic light because of their rejection of "the Virgin Birth, hellfire, and purgatory." Suggesting that "they actively put in doubt the teachings of Rome." But the Watchtower's criticism does not end there. They go on to condemn the Protestant reformers and everyone else along the route that preceded their own religion. They claim that they root themselves in the same faith held by early Christians before apostasy spoiled God's plan in the second century. In fact, they are a bizarre offshoot of 19th century Adventists. Their examination of the world's religions ends with an exhortation to "avoid the broad road to destruction" which is "staring world religions in the face." "Practicing the truth, doing God's will, is what counts," claims the Watchtower. However, if everything we have, including out own existence, is due to God, how can we ever hope to repay him by good works. Nothing a person can do can ever come close to meriting salvation (Rm 3:20, 4:16).
If you are sufficiently successful to get this far in your discussion with the Jehovah's Witnesses, you will have planted many questions, if not doubts, in their minds. Here it may be appropriate to ask them to take some of the Watchtower's advice that "if you learn from an examination of your Bible that you are traveling a wrong religious road, be willing to change."
Chapter 4May The Force Be With You
"GodWho is he," asks the Watchtower. "Can we be sure he exists?" Having considered the discussion to this point, you should not be surprised that the Watchtower conception of God is very simplistic. It leaves no room for forms of existence beyond human comprehension. "Since God is a person with a spiritual body, he must have a place to live." They go on to say "that the heavens are God's 'established place of dwelling,' citing 1 Kings 8:43. However, Solomon's prayer to God in heaven in no way implies that God is limited by physical space. As with their argument about God not knowing the future (see chapter one) they feel obliged to explain everything according to humanity's three dimensional conception of space. Their current doctrine is toned down from declarations made when the Watchtower Society was just starting. Not only did they believe that God resided in the constellation Pleiades, but the "Almighty [governed] his universe" from the star "Alcyone." No matter how much they argue the point, the Watchtower will never convince me that God is an astronaut. This was only one of many weird doctrines espoused by the founder of the Watchtower, Charles Taze Russell. Another was determining the end of the world (chronology) by calculating the angles and arcs of the great pyramids of Egypt. In fact, these two doctrines seem to have been borrowed from ancient Aztecs who calculated their century as the period of time required for the constellation Pleiades to line up with Aztec pyramids. When this occurred, a war party would be sent out to neighbouring tribes. Prisoners would be sacrificed to the sun god. Again the Watchtower demonstrates their hypocrisy when they criticize Babylonian astrologers because "they viewed the stars as the heavenly abodes of the gods."
Further to the Watchtower's argument that God has an "established place of dwelling," they note that Christ appeared "before the person of God for us" (Heb 9:24 NWT). The New Jerusalem rendering of that passage reads, "he now appears in the presence of God on our behalf." From their translation they infer that since God is a person, he must inhabit a particular physical space. The New World Translation also helps to support their position that Christ is separate from God and, therefore, cannot be God. This position is not supported in other renderings of the verse. Regardless of whether or not the word "person" is used to describe God, one cannot make a logical conclusion that God's being is confined to a relative space on this passage alone. The definition of person is simply an "individual divine being"Webster's Dictionary. There is never an automatic supposition that such a being is confined within three dimensional space. As mentioned in chapter two, the Watchtower likes to limit their concept of God (in a sense placing him in a box), thereby limiting his power such that even Satan appears to be more powerful than God at times.
Based on this false supposition, the Watchtower asks, "If God is a real person who lives at a certain place in heaven, how can he see everything that happens everywhere?" Here they delve into the realm of Science Fiction, with "his invisible active force" guiding the universe much like the Force from the Star Wars Trilogy. Because He can send out "his active force," he can "do whatever he wants even though he is far away." What a cold perception of God. He has never told us that "he is far away," but that he is ImmanuelGod with us (Mt 1:23). As Saint Paul puts it, "From one single principle, he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed the times and limits of their habitation. And he did this so that they might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him; and indeed he is not far from any of us" (Acts 17:26,27). When Paul says that God is not far from any of us, he is in direct opposition to Watchtower doctrine. Contrast such a theology with the Watchtower's declaration that "the religion that is approved by God must agree in every way with the Bible." After all, God's declares in Jeremiah, "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" (Jr 23:24). This too is said of Christ, "for the one who went down is none other than the one who went up above all the heavens to fill all things" (Ep 4:10). Clearly the One who went down is the One who descended to Hades for three days, was resurrected, and ascended into Heaven. Yet if Christ were a mere creature, an archangel as the Watchtower claims, how could He "fill all things."
"[He] also shows what kind of God he is...He does not show favoritism to certain races of people," notes the Watchtower. However, they did not always feel this way about God. In 1902, the Watchtower believed in a different "kind of God." At that time, the Watchtower announced "that the white race exhibits some qualities of superiority over any other."
So then, "who is this wonderful God," they ask. "Did Jesus ever say that he was God? No he never did." Such heresy is not new as the Watchtower would have you believe. In fact, it is almost as old as Christianity itself. Arius proposed the exact same position which became known as the Arian heresy. The Watchtower raises many questions with their position, so let us examine them one by one beginning with the assertion that Jesus never said that He was God.
Let's begin by examining Jesus' discussion with the Pharisees in Chapter 8 of John's gospel. In verse 56, Jesus explains that Abraham rejoiced because he saw His day. When the Pharisees challenged Him saying that He is not old enough to know Abraham, Jesus replies, "before Abraham ever was, I am" (Jn 8: 58). Here Jesus clearly asserts His divinity, for "I am" is the name by which God reveals Himself. When God disclosed Himself to Moses, Moses asked Him by what name should He be revealed to the Israelites. In reply, God said, "'I am he who is.' and he said, 'This is what you are to say to the Israelites, "I am has sent me to you...the God of Abraham...has sent me to you." This is my name for all time" (Ex 3:13-15). Jesus says "I am the light of the world," and "I am he" (Jn 8: 12,24). In fact, chapter eight of John's gospel contains no less than eleven references to Jesus as "I am." To the Pharisees, the Arians, the Watchtower, and all those who deny that "I am he," Jesus replies, "Why do you not understand what I say? Because you cannot bear to listen to my words. You are from your father, the devil, and you prefer to do what your father wants...because he is a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:43,44). As further evidence to the purpose of Christ's statement to the Pharisees, the Pharisees "picked up stones to throw at him" (Jn 8:59). Clearly Jesus' use of the divine name evoked a strong reaction in the Pharisees.
The Jews also sought to kill Jesus after He healed a man on the Sabbath day, not so much for violating the law, but because "he spoke of God as his own Father and so made himself equal to God" (Jn 5:18). The revelation that Jesus is equal to God is not isolated to this verse. Note what Saint Paul writes to the Church in Phillipi; "Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped" (Ph 2:6). If Jesus is equal to God, and this concept is something which cannot "be grasped," would it not then be a mystery? Yet the Watchtower contends that God would not allow mysteries beyond the comprehension of human beings, "because divine revelation itself does not allow for such a view of God." To support their position, they quote Paul's first letter to the Corinthians which reads, "God is not a God of confusion" (1 Cor 14:33). Taken in context, Paul advised the Church to use the gifts of the Spirit with prudence. He exhorted them to prophesy one at a time, since prophesying or speaking in tongues all at the same time would only lead to confusion. This context is a far cry from condemning belief in the Trinity, which Paul recognized as something which could not be grasped. He clearly recognized the "mystery" of faith in his letter to Timothy. He writes, "without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed: He was made visible in the flesh" (1 Tim 3:16). According to Webster's dictionary mystery is defined: of hidden meaning, especially in a religious sense. As such, the Watchtower contradicts itself on the very fundament of Christian belief. They say, "God's interests are not served by making him confusing and mysterious...it is [Satan the Devil] who promotes such false doctrines." Are they saying that Paul was "Satan the Devil" for promoting "the mystery of our religion?" Interestingly, the Watchtower's translation uses the term "sacred secret" instead of "mystery." Their purpose in doing so is clear, as any admission to the existence of mysteries undermines their entire theology. Perhaps you may wish to ask your JW friend what exactly a "sacred secret" is. I think you'll find their definition much the same as that for "mystery."
To counter the argument just presented, the Watchtower claims that it was "not Jesus" who claimed to be equal to God. Although that particular line does not appear as a direct quotation, it is neither attributed to the Jews. As such, the narrator, John the evangelist, has every authority, granted by God, to present this fact. But Jesus said that he could do nothing by himself, argues the Watchtower. "Can we imagine someone equal to Almighty God saying that he could do nothing by himself." Here they miss the whole point. Jesus is not "someone" claiming to be equal to Almighty God, He is Almighty God. If we grant that Jesus is the Word, which even the Watchtower will admit, then a word requires a speaker, just as the Word spoken by Almighty God. Without the speaker, there is no word. As long as the speaker is present, so is the word, whether spoken or in anticipation of being spoken. Part of the problem is that the Watchtower is stuck on the very ancient and pagan idea of gods confined by space and time but very powerful. We can imagine the clash of the titans very easily since they have their basis in human experience. As one god battles another, the more powerful is triumphant. Yet each is separate and different. This is how they view the Trinity as illustrated in their publications. As Jesus implored his disciples to be one, so this is how they view the Trinity: three separate beings united by some form of alliance or such. Yet, the true Church does not believe in three gods glued together by a unity of purpose, but in one God manifest in three persons.
Likewise, they answer the verse in Philippians 2:6 by suggesting that many different translations of the same verse oppose each other. Granted, this verse has been presented in many ways from "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God" (Douay-Rheims) to "He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to become equal to God" (TEV). However, Paul's intent here is clear. He writes, "and for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth, and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord" (Ph 2:9-11). Compare this with Isaiah's prophesy in which God proclaims, "There is no other god except me, no saving God, no Saviour except me!...what comes from my mouth is saving justice, it is an irrevocable word: All shall bend the knee to me, by me every tongue shall swear, saying, 'In Yahweh alone are saving justice and strength'" (Is 45:21-24). What is this "irrevocable word" except the Word, Jesus Christ. Throughout the New Testament it is Christ who is called Saviour. The Watchtower says that "Paul, and first century believers used the Scriptures as the foundation for their teaching." Of course, the scriptures in use at the time were of the Jewish Canon or Old Testament. If Paul used such scripture for his teaching why would he contradict Isaiah by proclaiming Jesus as Saviour. God says there is "no Saviour except me." The answer is clear, He is the selfsame God speaking to Isaiah who became flesh and lived among us (Jn 1:14). Paul knew this. After all, what name is "above all other names" besides the name of God Himself!
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1). To this the Watchtower claims that the reference to God in this passage is mistranslated from the original Greek. I am not familiar with ancient Greek and, therefore, refuse to argue the point. However, many Greek scholars have refuted the Watchtower's translation that "the word was a god." In their rendering they believe that this "word," who is Jesus, is a powerful being, the Archangel Michael. He, like Satan, is a god, but not Almighty God. In contrast, let us consider verses two and three; " He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him." Yet Moses tells us that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1). Then we are told that every time "God said...," something came into being. What is said is a Word, namely the Word of God. So John logically concludes, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that "not one thing came into being except through [the Word]." When the sixth day came, "God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves" (Gen 1:26). Notice the use of the plural. Yet in the next verse he uses the singular; "in the image of God he created him" (Gen 1:27). This has never created "confusion," but emphasizes the wonderful mystery of the Trinity. Paul clarifies this further, "for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible" (Col 1:16). To this the Watchtower claims that it was the Archangel Michael who was with God in the beginning. This claim has already been refuted in chapter two. However, let us consider one more point on this subject. If the Word was indeed Michael the Archangel, then he would be a creature. As a creature, Michael needed a creator. Yet Sacred Scripture tells us that "all things" were created by Jesus. Therefore as Michael, he would have had to create himself, which is impossible. To create "all things," one had to exist before "all things." As the only being without beginning or end, only God could be this creator. The Word is "the firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15) because "God said..." First He speaks the Word and then His creation comes into being. Hence, the Word is the first born.
The first born of creation is also revealed in the Apocalypse of John. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God...Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I was dead and lookI am alive for ever and ever" (Rev 1:8,17-18). Later, the Alpha and Omega, First and Last are used together to describe the same person (Rev.22:12,13). To this the Watchtower argues that the translations of Alpha and Omega are "spurious" and do not necessarily refer to the same person. From this, one can rightly conclude that the Watchtower is grasping at straws. In fact, there is no adequate refutation to God's revelation that he "was dead." No JW will ever admit that Jehovah God "was dead." Clearly it is God in the person of Jesus Christ since "everyone will see him, even those who pierced him" (Rev 1:7).
The Watchtower is further confounded when Thomas exclaims "My Lord and my God," (Jn 20:28) upon seeing Jesus resurrected. Here they must admit that "there is no objection to referring to Jesus as 'God'." They try to explain that great men are often referred to as "gods" in the Old Testament. However, such an explanation is inadequate. In Psalm 82, which they quote, the delineation between "the gods" and "God" is clear. That Thomas is referring to the one and only "God" is also clear. One unprepared JW actually commented that Thomas was just using a figure of speech which emphasized his surprise. It's a good thing Thomas didn't say "Holy Cow!" Perhaps this can be suggested to the Watchtower as consideration for future revisions of their translation.
"At Hebrews 1:6, the angels are instructed to 'worship' Jesus," notes the Watchtower. They go on to explain, " This is the term used in Matthew 14:33 to express what the disciples did toward Jesus; at Hebrews 1:6 to indicate what the angels are to do toward Jesus; at Genesis 22:5 in the Greek Septuagint to describe what Abraham did toward Jehovah and at Genesis 23:7 to describe what Abraham, in harmony with the custom of the time, toward the people with whom he was doing business." Here the Watchtower refutes their own argument. In all the examples they give, it is in reference to "Jesus" or "Jehovah," with the exception of Abraham's business dealings. Yet, are we to consider that the angels "worship" Jesus because it is "in harmony with the custom?" What the custom of angels is, the Watchtower fails to declare. Yet we need only return to the book of Revelation to learn the inadequacy of the Watchtower's innuendo. John writes, "when I had heard and seen them all, I knelt at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me, to worship him; but he said, 'Do no such thing: I am your fellow servant and the fellow servant of your brothers the prophets and those who keep the message of this book. God alone you must worship'" (Rev 22:8,9). Evidently, the "custom" of angels is to worship "God alone."
In dealing with the matter of the Trinity, the Watchtower contends, "a person who is really seeking to know the truth about God is not going to search the Bible hoping to find at text that he can construe as fitting what he already believes. He wants to know what God's Word itself says. He may find some texts that he feels can be read in more than one way, but when these are compared with other Biblical statements on the same subject their meaning will become clear." In fact, I couldn't have said it better myself. When raising the arguments presented in this book, observe how your JW study partner frantically searches his literature for an argument to counter the Catholic position. Then, finding none, he will change the subject, or rationalize it away. The hypocrisy the Watchtower's statement becomes even more clear when one notes the number of times they use enclosed brackets, italics added, or italics ours, to insert their own words into quotations, even into Scripture. For example, consider the following quotation from the Watchtower publication Reasoning from the Scriptures: "was John saying that Jesus was God? Obviously not. Toward the end of his Gospel, John summarized matters, saying: 'These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, [not God, but] the Son of God.'John 20:31 RS." The only way they can prove their point is to insert the words "not God" into Scripture where it never appeared in the original. This technique is repugnant.
The Watchtower would like you to believe that the Trinity was an invention of the Catholic Church in the fourth century. To substantiate this view, they misquote and mistranslate the early Church Fathers. As noted, the common practice of the Watchtower is to insert words and phrases that never existed in the original, the purpose of which is clearly deception. An example is a quotation of Hippolytus which reads, "But he was One, alone by himself; who willing it, called into being what had no being before, such as the created prehuman Jesus." Note that the italics portion is not part of the quotation, but is used in such a way as to deceive the reader into believing it is. The Watchtower further asserts that the doctrine of the Trinity began its development at "the Council of Nicaea in 325 C. E." (C. E. is used in place of A.D. in order to avoid any recognition of "the year of our Lord"). In fact, the early Church Fathers did recognize the divine nature of Christ. Irenaeus says, "in what manner, then, would the word of Godindeed the great God himself, since he is the Worddiffer from the word of men?" Tertullian confirms that "the Father makes him equal to himself, and the Son." Even Hippolytus, contrary to what the Watchtower would have you believe, recognized that the "Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God." And long before the Council of Nicaea, Dionysius, in the year 262 A.D., contends, "If the Son was made, there was a time when these were not, which would mean there was a time when God was without them, which is truly absurd." And how can a Jehovah's Witness question these words of Dionysius, since the Watchtower calls him "a professed Christian overseer." Other examples abound. Suffice it to say that the Watchtower has grossly misrepresented the Church Fathers in its publications, which any reading of the original will clearly reveal.
Yet, if the Bible teaches the Jesus is God, as do the Church Fathers, how can one explain Jesus' prayers to the Father. So the Watchtower asks, "if Jesus were the Almighty God, he would not have prayed to himself, would he?" Since they assert that God is "far from us," the purpose of prayer must obviously be to communicate one's desires and wishes, in a sense to make God aware. Yet is this the true reason for prayer? We have already determined that God is not "far from us" at all. In fact, He is always with us and knows intimately the hearts of everyone (1Sam 16, 7, Mt 1:23, Acts 1:24). And since it is the heart that prays, we do not need to communicate with God for Him to know us. He knows every thought that ever existed in our minds, even if we never say a single prayer. Nonetheless, since the faithful are instructed to pray constantly, prayer must serve an important function. The intentions of prayer are too numerous to include here. Entire volumes have been devoted to this subject. Clearly prayer allows one to become more attuned to the Holy Spirit, to demonstrate faith and love, to worship God, and to resist temptation. Christ, too, had many reasons to pray. He needed to teach His disciples how to pray (Lk 11:1). Since He had taken on human flesh, He also needed to humble His human nature (Rm 8:13, Gal 5:24). And He needed to fulfill His role as mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5). The Watchtower makes the error of assuming that God, according to the formula of the Trinity, must be either three gods, or one person. This is clear in their statement that "since Jesus prayed to God, asking that God's will, not his, be done, the two could not be the same person." In fact, He is one God in three Persons. The second Person, Jesus Christ manifested Himself in the flesh, and, therefore, had two natures, one human and one divine. Since this Word made flesh needed a Speaker, there must exist a relationship between the Speaker and the Spoken Word. So Justin in 155 A.D. maintained that These were "numerically distinct." As such, there is nothing in the Son's prayers to His Father which proves that he is not God. The Watchtower consequently reaches an impasse. This is the "mystery of our religion" (1 Tim 3:16).
Even as the Watchtower asserts that Jesus cannot be God since they are not "the same person," the author of this same document refers to the Holy Spirit as "the so-called third Person of the Trinity." What seems to be happening here is another intentional deception. The author clearly recognizes distinct Persons of the Trinity, but in attempting to advance his previous argument suggests to his readers that Christianity believes in one person. One may conclude that the author has distorted a truth, of which he is well aware, as an end to his goal. If this is so, one must also question the author's motives.
Yet, "at Matthew 4:1, Jesus is spoken of as being 'tempted by the Devil,' notes the Watchtower. "Satan was trying to cause Jesus to be disloyal to God. But what test of loyalty would that be if Jesus were God," they ask. "It is unimaginable that God could sin and be disloyal to himself...So if Jesus had been God, he could not have been tempted." In fact, Jesus was not "tempted," according to the proper context of the passage. Matthew 4:1 reads, "Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be put to the test by the devil." Here it is the devil who tests and in reply Jesus asserts His divinity as the Son of God for He replies, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Mt 4:7). This is the commandment given by God, and handed down to His people by Moses, for Moses declares, "Do not put Yahweh your God to the test as you tested him at Massah" (Dt 6:16). Clearly, God is tested by Satan and man. This fact, in no way, implies "that God could sin." On the contrary, Jesus commands Satan to depart and Satan is vanquished (Mt 4:10,11). After making this point clear to your JW friend, ask him where in scripture one finds that "Jesus could have been disloyal," as the Watchtower professes.
Further to this, the Watchtower notes that Jesus was a perfect human who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:5,6). "If Jesus, however, were part of a Godhead, the ransom price would have been infinitely higher than what God's own Law required," they claim. "It was only a perfect human, Adam, who sinned in Eden, not God." However, the Holy Catholic Church teaches that God took on human flesh, manifest in two natures, fully God and fully man. God in His human nature died for our sins to ransom us from death. To this, "John has borne witness to the Word of God and to the witness of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:2,9). The Watchtower admits that Jesus is this Word. In Saint John's Apocalypse, He is revealed as these two, the One who is First, through whom all creation came into being, and the One who is Last, in whom God manifested Himself clothed in human weakness, to become the Saviour, the spotless Lamb of God, the perfect offering to redeem man from the captivity of sin. To support their idea that "the ransom price would have been infinitely higher than what God's own Law required," they quote Moses who says a "life for life, eye for eye," and so on (Ex 21:23,24; Lev. 24:19-21). After all, Paul notes, "Just as all die in Adam, so in Christ all will be brought to life." Thus they argue that since one man caused death to come into the world, only one man was needed to redeem mankind. In contrast, Moses also says, "Parents may not be put to death for their children, nor children for their parents, but each must be put to death for his own crime" (Dt 24:16). Since God does not forgive Adam only, but rather forgives all our sins through "the blood of Jesus" (1 Jn 1:7), without His sacrifice we are all guilty before the Lord (1 Jn 1:8-10). It is through our first parents, Adam and Eve, that sin came into the world by way of a corruptible human nature that is passed on from generation to generation. If we trust what Moses is saying, Adam cannot be accountable for my sin or your sin, but each "for his own crime." Therefore, the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, died for many billions, each one "for his own crime." Then, by the Watchtower's own measure of a life for a life, how well would Christ measure up to God's justice if he were but a mere man.
The Watchtower continues; "Thus when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not a god-man, but a perfect man, 'lower than the angels.' (Hebrews 2:9; compare Psalm 8:5, 6.) How could any part of the Godhead," they add, "even be lower than angels?" The answer to this has been laid out above. First, that Paul calls the incarnation "the mystery of our religion," and angels who worship "God alone" have been instructed to worship Jesus Christ (1 Tim 3:16; Heb 1:6; Rev. 22:8,9). This also refutes their argument that "countless other created spirit beings, angels, are also called 'sons of God'." In addition, as was pointed out in chapter two, Paul has devoted the entire first portion of his letter to the Hebrews to refuting any notion that Christ is an angel (Heb 1,2).
This leads into their next argument. "If Jesus had been God, how could Jesus have been exalted, that is, raised to a higher position than he previously enjoyed." Further to this, they add, "If, before his exaltation, Jesus had been equal to God, exalting him any further would have made him superior to God." In answer to this, Paul notes that Jesus was made lower than the angels for "a short time" (Heb 2:7), and was made like man in every way except sin (Heb 4:15). The purpose for this was to share in our suffering and weakness (Heb 5:2) and to offer himself as an eternal sacrifice to redeem mankind from sin (Heb 10:14,17-18). If He became fully man, as Paul says, He would need to be subject in every way, except sin, to this human nature. And if His human nature was somehow greater than all other human beings, he would not have been fully human, but another species more advanced than humans. Nevertheless, this "mystery of our religion" maintains that Jesus has always been and always will be fully God (1 Tim 3:16; Heb 13:8). Even while He was subject to His human nature, His divine nature was maintained. Many do not take the time to understand this and pray for guidance through the Holy Spirit, for Paul says, "Do not be led astray by all sorts of strange doctrines: it is better to rely on grace for inner strength than food, which has done no good to those who concentrate on it" (Heb 13:9).
The mystery of His incarnation explains why Jesus would need to learn and advance in wisdom while subject to His human nature. Therefore, the Watchtower in confounded when they ask, "Can we imagine that God had to learn anything?" We do not imagine Jesus, on the day of His birth, immediately preaching on all the truths of the universe. Instead, we think of a newborn child not unlike any other newborn child. To be fully human He had to learn how to walk, how to speak, and, later, how to be a carpenter. The Watchtower maintains that this is proof that Jesus is not God, but then what do they believe He is, if not God. As we examined in chapter two, the Watchtower professes that Jesus is the Archangel Michael. They believe that he was the first creature created in the whole universe, and that he helped God create the universe. To do so, Michael would have had to have a knowledge of Astrophysics, Geology, Biochemistry, etc. Yet, when, as the Watchtower professes, Michael became Jesus Christ, he did not know any of these things. So lets turn their own argument on them and ask, "Can we imagine that" Michael who helped create the universe "had to learn anything?"
Given the matters as set out above, dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit becomes rather academic. The arguments presented by the Watchtower to show that the Holy Spirit is not God, but His "active force," are much the same as those presented in their denial of Christ as Lord. "John had been baptizing with water. Hence in the same way that water is not a person," argues the Watchtower, "holy spirit is not a person." They go on to say, "what John foretold was fulfilled when, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, holy spirit was poured out on his followers gathered in Jerusalem...Were they filled with a person?" Yet Jesus tells us that He will send the Paraclete from the Father, "the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father" (Jn 15:26). If God fills the heavens and the earth, as noted previously, and Christ fills "all things," how could He issue the Spirit? This question necessarily implies a relationship between the One who issues and the Spirit that is issued. Notice that such reasoning is not unlike the discussion on the relationship between the Speaker (the Father) and the Spoken Word (Jesus Christ). According to the Gospel of John, not only is the Spirit issued "from the Father," but is also sent by the Son. As such, the Spirit is numerically distinct from both the Father and the Son. This is also evident as the Paraclete witnesses to Jesus (Jn 15:26). Scripture further tells us that the Spirit is One who leads, speaks, and reveals. He is also One who says "only what he has been told" (Jn 16:13). Now let's consider the Watchtower's argument. They contend that the "holy spirit is not a person" in the same way as water. From this one must conclude that water leads, speaks, and reveals, and water does "only what he has been told." If one makes such a conclusion, he must necessarily be a Pantheist, a charge the Watchtower would deny.
But, the Watchtower would contend, "at 1 John 5:6-8 (NE) not only the spirit but also 'the water, and the blood' are said to be 'witnesses.' But water and blood are obviously not persons, and neither is the holy spirit a person." Let's look further into what John is really saying when he speaks of water and blood as "witnesses." John writes, "He it is who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with water alone but with water and blood, and it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is Truth. So there are three witnesses, the Spirit, water and blood; and the three of them coincide" (1 Jn 5:6-8). Notice how John makes very clear that "the three of them coincide." So it is that they coincide when Christ is pierced on the cross. "This is the evidence," we are told, "so that you may believe as well" (Jn 19:15). "Everyone will see him, even those who pierced him" (Rev. 1:7). So it is that these three coincide as testimony that Jesus is the Christ, but it is the Spirit who witnesses in all these.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 694 clarifies this further: "The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As 'by one Spirit we were all baptized,' so we are also 'made to drink of one Spirit.' (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus the Spirit is also the living water welling up from Christ crucified (Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8) as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. (Cf. Jn 4:10-14;7:38;Ex 17:1-6;Isa 55:1;Zech 14:8;1 Cor 10:4;Rev 21:6;22:17)"
Through Baptism we are born again of the Spirit, into the new covenant of Jesus Christ, for "the real circumcision is in the heart, a thing not of the letter but of the spirit" (Rm 2:29). But just as circumcision did not remove one's responsibility to make a sin offering before the Lord (Ex 29:36), so is it that Christ did not come "with water alone," but by His own blood which He offered up as a sacrifice for all time (Heb 10:10). Because of this, "the Holy Spirit attests this to us...there can be no more sin offerings" (Heb 10:15,18). Insofar as the water and blood are witnesses, therefore, they are the means by which the Holy Spirit reveals salvation in the new covenant of Jesus Christ. "We are the true people of the circumcision since we worship by the Spirit of God and make Christ Jesus our only boast" (Ph 3:3). Without the Spirit of Truth, water and blood reveal nothing. Salvation does not come from the blood of goats, but the blood of God's only begotten Son (Jn 3:16, Heb 10:3).
Next consider that the Holy Spirit is true God. When God's Spirit is sent out, creation comes into being (Gen 1:2, Job 33:4, Ps. 104:30), but it is God who is Creator of all. In a sense, the Spirit represents the will of God, and His love for creation. Furthermore, we are told that we are God's temple wherein His Spirit resides (1Cor 3:16). Let us further consider Saint Paul's letter to the Romans. In the eighth chapter, the Romans are exhorted to put to death their "natural inclinations." It is "by the Spirit that you put to death the habits of the body" so as not to be ruled by our human nature (Rm 8:12,13). Since God already fills everything, we do not obtain something lacking when we are filled with the Spirit. Rather, as we put to death the natural inclinations of the flesh, our awareness grows of that wondrous Spirit within us, as if being full of the Spirit without any hindrance from "the habits of the body." If the Watchtower replies that God's Spirit is different from the "holy spirit," the following proof texts should suffice. In corresponding passages in Matthew and Mark, disciples are warned of the persecution they must suffer. In one Jesus says, "what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you" (Mt 10:20). In the other He makes the same point: "it is not you who will be speaking; it is the Holy Spirit" (Mk 13:11).
How does the Spirit of God speak through the disciples of the Lord? According to the Watchtower, "The action of the spirit in such instances is like that of radio waves transmitting messages from one person to another far away." This is in keeping with the Watchtower's contention that "[God] is far away." Imagine, if you will, the Watchtower's image of Almighty God ruling the universe from his home at the star "Alcyone" in the constellation Pleiades, sending out radio waves to his followers "far away" on planet earth. On the other hand, Paul asks, "Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." One cannot imagine a temple for radio waves or anything that "is like that of radio waves," for a temple is consecrated to God.
We have already seen that God fills "heaven and earth" (Jr. 23:24), and Christ fills "all things" (Ep. 4:10). So too "the spirit of the Lord fills the world" (Wis. 1:7). There is nowhere one can go where the Holy Spirit is not also (Ps. 139:7,8). Therefore, both Christ and Holy Spirit are God. Elsewhere we find that when a man lies to the Holy Spirit, he lies to God (Acts 5:3-4). Can a man lie to "radio waves?" In addition, "whoever keeps his commandments remains in God" (1 Jn. 3:24). Does the person who keeps His commandments send "radio signals" back?
The arguments used by the Watchtower to deny our Lord and God's Spirit of Truth are fallacious and repugnant, especially in areas where deception appears to be deliberate. As such, a warning from Saint Paul may be appropriately directed to the Watchtower. "Anyone who tramples on the Son of God, and who treats the blood of the covenant which sanctified him as if it were not holy, and who insults the Spirit of grace, will be condemned to a far severer punishment" (Heb 10:29).
Chapter 5Dishonour Thy Mother
The Watchtower contends that anyone who venerates an image of a saint, the mother of God, or even God Himself, is an idol worshipper. Such acts will condemn Roman Catholics and Protestants alike to eternal oblivion. The Watchtower notes that "they may say they do not worship the image, but that seeing and touching it helps them worship God. Yet does God want us to worship him with the aid of images?" They go on to answer their question declaring, "it is wrong to use images in worship." The Watchtower condemns Catholics for "Mary Worship" which "echoes much older worship of pagan goddesses." These are strong indictments that must not go unchallenged.
First let us examine the use of images for veneration and worship. The Watchtower presents the following argument: "Moses told the Israelites that God never appeared to them in any visible form. (Deuteronomy 4:15-19) In fact, one of the Ten Commandments says: 'You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything...you shall not bow down to them or serve them.'" I hope I have adequately demonstrated in the previous chapter that God did appear in visible form as Jesus Christ our Lord. The events of the Old Testament are a foreshadowing of this salvific mystery. And such foreshadowing will be instrumental in the refutation that follows.
Ask yourself, what was the purpose of the first commandment? During the lifetime of Moses, pagan worship flourished (as it does today). The Egyptians had their own gods which they worshipped and many in Israel also worshipped these, even after their departure from Egypt (Ex. 32:1; 34:16). Graven images were considered gods in themselves, not images intended to lead to the Almighty. This contrasts images fashioned after various subjects that, in themselves, were blessed by God and, in turn, lead to God. The Lord Himself required this, for he commanded Moses; "Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive. Moses then made a serpent out of bronze" (Num 21:8,9). "Whoever turned to it was saved, not by what he looked at, but by...the Saviour of all" (Wis. 16:7). Even the New Testament recognized this, for John writes, "as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up" (Jn. 3:14).
God created matter and saw that it "was good...indeed it was very good" (Gen 1:4, 31). For this reason it is also good to use matter as a means of coming closer to God and His Truth. This is evident in the bronze serpent made by Moses. Yet, these objects have no power to save or heal except by the power of God. God simply uses matter to offer His gifts to man. In fact, He loves matter so much that the Word took on material form Himself through the incarnation (Jn 3:16). In His human form, the Son of man also used matter to perform miracles, as He did with the man who was blind from birth. "He spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man," further telling him to go wash. Upon returning, the blind man was cured an could see (Jn 9:6, 7). Yet, it was not the mud that cured the blind man, but the power of God.
Solomon also used matter to construct images for the Great Temple. These were "two great winged creatures of wild olive wood" (1 Kgs 6:23) and a large basin, known as a sea, which was supported by twelve replicas of oxen (1 Kgs 7:23-25). Contrast these oxen with the golden calf constructed by Aaron. Although the images may have been similar, Solomon's oxen were not worshipped.
As with many heresies adopted by the Watchtower, this refusal to accept matter as an instrument of God's salvation, whether it be the incarnation, or the use of images, is merely a reflection of Gnosticism. The Gnostics hated matter so much that they abused their own bodies through grotesque excesses that included widespread fornication. This is also reflected in liberal Protestantism with their ordination of active homosexuals and acceptance of abortion. The diseases associated with homosexual behaviour and the willful destruction of life can only be attributed to a hatred of matter. The Watchtower will deny any association with such groups as they are on the other end of the behavioral spectrum. However, the Watchtower speaks highly of the Albigenses who were a Gnostic cult of the twelfth century. The Albigenses also hated matter and engaged in widespread fornication and other abuses contrary to natural law, not to mention God's law. They considered marriage evil and promoted euthanasia. Yet the Watchtower defends Albigensianism since "they rejected the doctrines of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, hellfire, and purgatory. Thus they actively put in doubt the teachings of Rome...The root of the problem for the Catholic Church was evidently the existence of the Bible in the language of the people." Is the Watchtower suggesting that reading the Bible led to the development of Albigense doctrine? The appropriate use of the Bible will be examined in the next chapter. In the mean time, lets return to our examination of the use of images in worship.
The most important graven image of the Old Testament is the ark of the covenant, the construction of which is described in detail (Ex. 25). It was to be perfect in every way possible and treated with great care and veneration. It had to be carried and handled in a specific way, otherwise God would pour out His wrath on those responsible (2 Sam 6:6-7). Upon it were placed winged creatures, images of holy angels. "The winged creatures had their wings spread upwards, protecting the ark with their wings and facing each other, their faces being towards the mercy seat" (Ex. 37:9). Inside the ark was placed the word of God written by His own finger upon the tablets given to Moses (Ex. 25:21). Later, the Word of God "became flesh" (Jn 1:14) carried inside the womb of another perfect ark, Mary. So, too, she is to be treated with honour and veneration.
What makes Catholics so sure that the ark of the covenant foreshadows Mary? After all, the Watchtower is not the only sect to attack what they consider to be idol worship. Most Protestants as well are angered by the honour paid to Mary by the universal (Catholic) Church.
After Uzzah was struck down by God for touching the ark, David placed it in the care of Obed-Edom. It stayed there for three months during which time Obed-Edom's whole family was blessed (2 Sam. 6:10,11). Likewise, after Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, she went to visit Elizabeth for the same amount of time, and "the Lord...lavished on [Elizabeth] his faithful love" (Lk. 1:56-58). When the ark first came into David's possession, he asked "How can the ark of Yahweh come to be with me?" (2 Sam. 6:9). Elizabeth asks much the same question, "Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?" (Lk. 1:43). Then, "David danced...before Yahweh with all his might" (2 Sam.6:14). So too, "as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:41). If Mary is indeed the ark of the living God, should she not be given even more honour and veneration than an ark constructed by human hands out of acacia wood? After all, Mary was fashioned by the hand of God himself. When Elizabeth realized this, she paid honour and respect to Mary, even though Mary had probably visited Elizabeth regularly prior to her pregnancy. All of a sudden she is "honoured" by her visit and proclaims her "blessed." Elizabeth makes clear that she is referring to Mary, not the fruit of her womb, Jesus who of course is blessed above all (Lk 1:45).
Now consider the Watchtower's lowly estimation of Mary: "Over the centuries, one result of the Trinity teaching has been that the one true God Jehovah has been submerged in the quagmire of Christendom's God-Christ theology. The next logical consequence of that theology was that if Jesus really was God Incarnate, then Jesus' mother, Mary, was obviously the "Mother of God." Over the years, that has led to veneration of Mary in many different forms, this in spite of the total lack of texts that speak of Mary in any role of importance except as the humble biologic mother of Jesus."
Such language shows the utter contempt the Watchtower has for the mother of our Lord. Indeed, Holy Scripture shows just the opposite, since Mary was spoken of by the prophets (Is. 7:14;Mc. 5:1,2) and throughout the New Testament. If Mary did not have "any role of importance," why then did the inspired writers of the Bible speak of her for more than 700 years? Even the archangel Gabriel spoke of Mary as one who enjoys "God's favour" (Lk. 1:28).
Are we not to follow our Lord's example (Heb 12:1,2)? Did He not tell us to keep the commandments (Mt. 19:17) and to "honour your father and your mother" (Mt. 19:19)? We know that Mary was His mother, and that He honoured her as such. If our Lord honoured His mother, should we dishonour her by accusing her of sin, sexual union with her husband, and unfaithfulness to our Lord. This is the tactic the Watchtower, and many Protestant sects, use to ridicule Mary's holy name.
They say that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and, therefore, Mary could not have been a perpetual virgin. Yet, brother and sister are often used in the Greek to mean many things including, cousin, relative, friend, and disciple (see Jas 4:11). Next consider Christ's own words as He was dying on the cross, for John writes, "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' Then to the disciple he said, 'this is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home" (Jn 19:25-27). Now consider the Watchtower's claim, "she had other sons and daughters." If she had other sons and daughters, why would Jesus need to commend her to the care of one of His disciples. Were her other children so disrespectful that they did not want to care for her? Was she so poor a mother that they did not want to follow the fourth commandment and care for her in her old age? Impossible! But if she had no other children, this statement would make sense. Also consider that Mary the wife of Clopas is called Mary's sister. Does this make sense? Would Anne and Joachim have given two daughters the exact same name? Imagine the confusion if they had to call them. More likely, Mary the wife of Clopas is Mary's relative.
So what about the Watchtower's "evidence" that Jesus had brothers and sisters. Just look at Matthew 13:53-56, they say. "'When Jesus had finished these parables he left the district; and, coming to his home town, he taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, 'Where did the man get his wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter's son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers [Greek, a del phoi ] James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters [Greek, a del phai ], too, are they not all here with us?' (On the basis of this text, would you conclude that Jesus was Mary's only child or that she had other sons as well as daughters?)." However, elsewhere James and Joseph are referred to as children of another Mary, probably the wife of Clopas. Saint Mark writes, "There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee" (Mk. 15:40,41). The words, "they used to follow him" indicate that these were all His disciples. Saint Matthew confirms this; "And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's sons" (Mt. 27:55,56). Notice that neither Matthew nor Mark refer to Mary "the mother of Jesus" (Jn. 2:1) as she is referred to elsewhere. We also know that Mary, the wife of Clopas was with Mary of Magdala, an implicit reference to her as the same "sister" of Mary "his mother."
The Watchtower further argues, "No one claims that the reference to Jesus' mother means anything different from what it says. Is it consistent, then, to reason that his natural brothers were not that but were perhaps cousins? When what is meant is not brothers but relatives, a different Greek word [syg ge-non ] is used as at Luke 21:16." In fact there are many references to brothers that go far beyond the meaning of brothers, or even relatives, to encompass then entire community of believers, even mankind as a whole. The epistles provide ample evidence of this usage. As I am not versed in the Greek language, I defer to someone who is. In his booklet, Refuting the Attack on Mary, Father Mateo notes, "The writers (except for Luke) and the very early readers of the New Testament, being Jews of that period, were 'Septuagint conditioned." They were accustomed to the Septuagint usage of adelphos/adelphe as the ordinary Greek rendering of the Hebrew word ach in all its familial and extra-familial meanings, meanings much broader than uterine brother/sisterhood. Texts which call James, Joses, Simon, Judas and unnamed women the adelphoi and adelphai of Jesus cannot be understood except by calling these people Jesus' relatives, not his uterine brothers and sisters." Father Mateo also refers to New Testament scholars who concur that the Greek used is taken after the Septuagint usage. Henry Wansborough, editor of The New Jerusalem Bible notes in his introduction to the Gospel of Luke, "Luke writes in a more sophisticated Greek than the other evangelists." As such, the Watchtower's reference to Luke 21:16 proves nothing other than their, usually deliberate, misrepresentation of the facts. Saint Luke tells us of the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem made by Jesus and His parents. When He was twelve, Jesus stayed behind to discuss theology with the teachers "without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was somewhere in the party, and it was only after a day's journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances" (Lk 2:43,44). If Luke had used the same form of Greek as the other evangelists, the passage would possibly read, 'they went to look for him among their brothers and sisters.' As it stands, there is no reference in this passage, already twelve years after the birth of Christ, that Jesus had any brothers or sisters. Considered along with the fact that there is never reference to Mary giving birth to any other children, one can see the gross error of the Watchtower. The doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity is theologically sound.
Nothing unclean can enter into the presence of God (Ex. 3:5,6; 19:21,22). Since Mary is the mother of God, she would need to be preserved from sin (uncleanness) in order to act as an ark for the new covenant (see below). This is why she remained a virgin. Since nothing is impossible for God, Christ could have been conceived by the Holy Spirit after she had "knowledge of man," but such sexual union, even under holy matrimony, would have defiled her, making her unsuitable to be the Theotokos (God-bearer). This is foreshadowed by Moses instructions to refrain from sexual union prior to God's descent on Mount Sinai. Even then, the people were to remain at the base of the mountain distant from God's actual appearance "on the top of the mountain" (Ex. 19: 15,20).
In his address to the Corinthians, Saint Paul elaborates further on this theme. He writes, "the unmarried woman, and the virgin, gives her mind to the Lord's affairs and to being holy in body and spirit" (1 Cor. 7:34). Paul continues, "If someone with strong passions thinks that he is behaving badly towards his fiancée and that things should take their due course, he should follow his desires. There is no sin in it; they should marry" (1 Cor. 7:36). How could Mary be the handmaid of the Lord (Lk. 1:38) without devoting "her mind to the Lord's affairs" as the ever-virgin? Can one describe the mother of God as one with strong passions and desires. In addition, there can be no other explanation for her surprise when the angel told her she would conceive and give birth to a Son (Lk. 1:34). Was she not already "betrothed to a man named Joseph" (Lk. 1:27)? If she had planned to enter into sexual union with her husband, she would expect to conceive at some point in her life. The only explanation for her surprise is that she planned to remain chaste even after her marriage.
The Church fathers understood this clearly. In the fourth century, Saint Athanasius wrote the following in regard to the Arian heresy, but it may as well have been written to the Watchtower: "Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary." Saint Augustine, in the early fifth century, was more direct: "Heretics called Anti-dicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband."
The Watchtower further denies that Mary was preserved from original sin. They feel that she was a sinner like everyone else. Yet, in the beginning, Genesis, after Eve had eaten from the forbidden fruit, God tells the serpent who tempted her, "I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed" (Gen. 3:15 NWT). How can this be so? In every other Bible passage, the seed only refers to the male, who is the father (i.e. Gen. 19:32,34). Since Mary is the only woman to ever conceive a child without the aid of a human father and his seed, Jesus must be this seed. He, being free from sin, would have enmity between Himself and His adversary Satan. This passage cannot refer to Eve and her descendants since they were all sinners and under Satan's influence. And even if it could refer to Eve's descendants, why would God not refer to Adam's seed. Further to this, consider the next thing God says to the serpent, "He will bruise you in the head." Notice, God does not say they, but He (singular). Therefore, the Israelites are not the ones to bruise Satan in the head. But God also put enmity between Satan and the woman. In order to be an enemy to Satan, Mary would also need to be preserved from sin.
Indeed, the Watchtower unwittingly points out this very fact. "But did Adam and Eve's sin really thwart God's purpose?" asks the Watchtower. "No, for immediately after their sinning, God announced that he would raise up a 'seed' to destroy Satan and his agents and that he would again set matters straight." The Watchtower further identifies that Jesus is the seed since it is Jesus who "cleansed the heavens of Satan and his demons," and "the Warrior-King Jesus Christ removes Satan and his unrighteous world." As such, if Jesus is the "seed" who destroys Satan and his agents, then Mary must be "the woman." This point will come as a surprise to your Jehovah's Witness friend since he has been taught that "the woman" is Eve, yet nothing will be more convincing to him than the very words of the Watchtower.
The Watchtower also refers to Jesus as the "second Adam." Adam was made perfect out of the dust, they say, as part of a plan to make the world "into a paradise." When that plan was thwarted by sin, Jesus "provided the ransom. This is because Jesus is the only man that ever lived that was equal to Adam as a perfect human son of God." According to their logic then, would there not also need to be a perfect woman to equal Eve "as a perfect human" daughter "of God?" This is not to say that Mary was in any way equal to Christ, for that is a heresy long condemned by the Church, but rather to expose the false logic of the Jehovah's Witnesses who claim that Christ was but a mere man, perfect like Adam, but certainly not God.
"Well then," the Watchtower retorts, scripture tells us that "everyone has sinned. (Rom. 5:12)" The answer to this is not at all complicated. First, Paul's letter is directed to "God's beloved in Rome" (Rm. 1:7) of whom Mary is not included. Next, ask yourself if there could be exceptions to Paul's edict. Are the unborn, little children, and the mentally handicapped capable of sin? Do not many of these die (especially now with the widespread promotion of abortion) before they are ever capable of committing a single sin? Also consider what the archangel Gabriel told Mary. Did he not say "nothing is impossible for God" (Lk. 1:37)? However, the Watchtower has anticipated such a response, to which they reply, "Mary offered at the temple in Jerusalem a sin offering for purification from uncleanness. She, too, had inherited sin and imperfection from Adam." On the contrary, this act points to Mary's sinlessness through her humble service of God. When the angel comes to announce that she will be the mother to the Saviour of Israel, she does not say 'of course, I only expected as much since I am perfect,' a statement which would imply pride and, therefore, sin. Rather, she replies, "how can this come about?" (Lk. 1:34). After this mystery is explained by the angel, she answers, "You see before you the Lord's servant" (Lk. 1:38). A humble "servant" of the Lord would not, all of a sudden, abandon a tradition more than a thousand years old, for that too would imply pride. Our Lord is a perfect example of this. Baptism, according to the Baptist himself, is "for repentance" (Mt. 3:11). Yet, Christ, who is without sin, was Himself baptized (Mt. 3:16). John recognized the irony in this and protested, "it is I who need baptism from you" (Mt. 3:14). Since Mary is "blessed," she too would humble herself to sacred traditions and sacraments, for "blessed are those who are poor in spirit" (Mt. 5:3). From the beatitudes, we can see that Mary is also gentle, merciful, and pure in heart. She hungers and thirsts for uprightness, is persecuted, and mourns (Mt. 5:3-10). For all this, hers "is the kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 5:3,10).
The whole concept of veneration is lost to Jehovah's Witnesses. They do not understand it and dare not try to understand it. From the examples of humility by both our Lord and His mother, the Watchtower sees "evidence" that they are other than what we claim them to be. Our Lord is not God because He humbled himself and Mary is not immaculately conceived because she humbled herself. On the contrary, such acts support the conclusion that they are, in fact, what the Church believes them to be, the Word of God and the Immaculate Conception.
The Watchtower's conclusions about Mary and Jesus lend themselves to further errors. "Should we venerate 'saints' as intercessors with God, perhaps using images of them as aids to our worship?" As always, they distort Catholic theology by inserting ideas different from the ones that they are condemning in an attempt to falsely discredit the practice. In this case, they equate veneration with intercession, two very different concepts. Both are very important aspects of the spiritual life of the Church, but the act of one does not necessitate the act of the other.
First, let us examine the act of veneration. As we have seen above, veneration of objects has a long standing history going back to Moses and the veneration of the ark of the covenant. The word veneration itself means 'worthy of religious respect.' The Watchtower claims that the Bible is worthy of religious respect and, as such, venerate it. How, then, can they condemn those who they feel "are not worshipping God 'in spirit' but...depend on what they can see with their physical eyes?" Interestingly, they also condemn oral tradition, advocating instead for sola scriptura or the Bible alone. This in itself denies the "spirit" as present in the early church which had no Bible. Contrary to what the Watchtower may claim, the Catholic Church also venerates the Bible as the holy word of God, but without rejecting other traditions.
The Watchtower's concept of veneration confuses it with worship, which is more than religious respect, but adoration. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this very clear: "The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, 'the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,' and 'whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.' The honor paid to sacred images is a 'respectful veneration,' not the adoration due to God alone." Further to this, Pope John Paul II writes, "By proclaiming and venerating the holiness of her sons and daughters, the Church gave supreme honor to God Himself; in the martyrs she venerated Christ, Who was at the origin of their martyrdom and their holiness."
As an example of the Watchtower's confusion on the matter they state: "'As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. But Peter helped him up. 'Stand up,' he said 'I am only a man after all!' (Since Peter did not approve of such adoration when he was personally present, would he encourage us to kneel before and image of him? See also Revelation 19:10.)" Here again, their hypocrisy is showing. Remember, in our examination of the divinity of Christ in Chapter Four, we examined Revelation 19:10 as evidence that Jesus is God since this passage demands that worship be directed to God alone. However, in denying that Christ is God, the Watchtower claims that Paul's statement in Hebrews 1:6 does not refer to the angels worshipping Jesus, but rather "[showing] him reverence." In essence, then, they are saying on the one hand, that veneration, also defined as reverence, is due to God alone, but on the other hand, it is also due to Jesus, who they claim is not God, but an angel.
The Watchtower's example of Peter confuses also the matter of intercession. Faithful Catholics around the world, and at all times throughout history, have asked the saints to intercede on our behalf. Interestingly, this is evident in the very same passage which the Watchtower quotes in promoting their distorted point of view. In Paul's first letter to Timothy (2:5), the Watchtower notes: "'There is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus.' (There is no allowance here for others to serve in the role of mediator for the members of Christ's congregation.)" Aux contraire! Here we must examine the context in which Paul is saying this. "I urge then first of all," Paul writes, "that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be offered for everyone" (1 Tim. 2:1). He clearly states that the faithful, who are united to Christ in His body (1 Cor. 12:12-30), are to offer "petitions, prayers, [and] intercessions." The Watchtower fails to recognize that the saints are "members of Christ's congregation," His body. For what purpose did Paul ask the faithful to offer intercessions? "For everyone," Paul continues, "for Kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live peaceful and quiet lives with all devotion and propriety" (1 Tim. 2:2). Paul believed that God would pour out His Spirit of grace to everyone, including those in authority, as a direct result of the intercessions of the faithful. Such intercessions are very similar to those of the Fatima prayer which is frequently prayed after each decade of the rosary: "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." The prayers of the early Church were answered when, in the year 312 A.D., the Roman Emperor, Constantine himself, converted to Christianity. Paul speaks of Christ as the one mediator, in this context, because he wanted to point out that Christ is the saviour of "everyone," not just Christians. He wanted the faithful to pray for the conversion of sinners everywhere because God "wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4).
Other examples abound which call for the faithful to intercede on another's behalf (see Jas. 5:16). That such intercessions are effective, one only need look at Abraham's intercession on behalf of Sodom (Gen. 18:16-33). And how often can we see Moses interceding on behalf of the Israelites (Ex. 32:11-14). Even consider how Solomon was spared the wrath of God because of his father, David, who had long since passed away (1 Kg 11:9-13). But here the Watchtower objects. "The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead," the Watchtower points out, "they are conscious of nothing at all" (Eccl. 9:5). Through selective quotation, the Watchtower again attempts to deceive the uncatechized. The author of Ecclesiastes shares with us his journey to try to uncover the meaning of life. Early in his quest he is clearly disillusioned, for he writes: "Human is in no way better off than animal-since all is futile" (Eccl. 3:19). Surely the Watchtower would not suggest that mankind is no better off than sea slugs! In contrast, towards the end of his quest, the author of Ecclesiastes discovers, "the spirit returns to God" (Eccl. 12:7). Yet, in all this, one must not draw conclusions since the salvation of mankind, Jesus Christ, was yet unknown. To this, the Watchtower adds, "Scientists and surgeons have found no evidence of any conscious, living part of humans that survives when the body dies." Since when does one rely on "scientists and surgeons" for spiritual advice? Would you ask a priest or minister to remove your tonsils or construct a nuclear power plant? To notions that no "living part of humans...survives when the body dies," Christ answers, "have you not read what God himself said to you: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead, but of the living" (Mt. 22:31,32). Also, were Elijah and Moses dead when they appeared to Peter, James, and John, conversing with Jesus (Mk. 9:2-8).
"In fact," writes the Watchtower, "[Christ's] apostle wrote: 'We are walking by faith, not by sight.' (2 Corinthians 5:7)." In quoting this passage, the Watchtower hopes to discourage the practice of veneration. In doing so, however, they refute their argument that the dead "are conscious of nothing at all." They would be conscious of nothing if they were really dead, but instead they are alive in the spirit as Paul shows in this passage. Let's consider the context. "We are always full of confidence," he writes, "realizing that as long as we are home in the body we are exiled from the Lord, guided by faith and not yet by sight; we are full of confidence, then, and long instead to be exiled from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Unlike Thomas who would not believe until he actually could see the risen Lord (Jn. 20:29), Christians must rely on faith. Yet they hope "to be at home with the Lord" some day, and on that day they will be perfected (cf. Rev. 21:27). Why would those who are perfected need to pray (cf. Rev. 5:6; 8:4) if they are lacking nothing. The only purpose could be to offer intercessions on behalf of those who have not yet reached perfection (1 Tim. 2:1).
In the Apocalypse of John, the elders, we are told, offer the "prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8; 8:4). This was well known to early Christians. Origen (233 A.D.) writes, "The souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep...pray for those who pray sincerely." And Saint Jerome in the fourth century writes, "If the saints had such power when in the flesh, what can they not obtain for us now that they have secured their victory?" There are many similar quotations both before and after Jerome too numerous to reproduce here.
How unfortunate that the Holy word of God has fallen into the hands of dogs (Mt. 7:6), who misuse it to dishonour our Lord, His blessed mother, and the Holy martyrs and saints. In keeping with the theme of this chapter, let us offer our prayers and intercessions for those under Watchtower's "mental-regulating." Ask your patron saint to pray for them or say a decade of the rosary on their behalf. Moreover, pray that Christ's Holy Church will be renewed through the promotion of catecheses, which I'm afraid is sorely lacking everywhere. The truth is too important to keep to ourselves. In the words of Saint James, "My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from his erring ways will be saving his soul from death and covering over many a sin" (Jas. 5:19,20).
Chapter 6Thou Shalt Bear False Witness
"For some time the Catholic religious leaders fought to keep the Bible from being put into the language of the common people," writes the Watchtower. "They even burned at the stake persons possessing the Bible. They did this because the Bible exposed their false teachings and bad practices." Nothing can be so repugnant and contrary to the truth than this statement. Yet that is not all. The Watchtower goes on to say, "Should we not expect that a book from God would come under attack from agents of the Devil?" Do they not realize that it is this very same Church which they call an "agent of the Devil" gave them the Bible in the first place? Nowhere in Watchtower literature is this fact acknowledged. Such acknowledgement, in itself, undermines not only their position with regard to the Bible, but their entire reason d'etre.
Let us embark first of all on an examination of how the Catholic Church gathered the various inspired writings of the early Church and placed them in one volume, which we know today as the Holy Bible. In doing so, I will demonstrate that sacred scripture is, indeed, "under attack from agents of the Devil." However, these "agents" are not the Catholic Church, as the Watchtower claims, but rather the Watchtower itself.
Our examination of the history of the Bible will be brief and far from comprehensive. For a more thorough introduction, Reverend Graham's Where We Got the Bible comes highly recommended. Originally published in 1911, it has gone through seventeen printings and remains available today without revision. Written in layman's language, this book is indispensable for the modern Catholic apologist or anyone interested in the rich heritage of Catholic tradition and veneration of the sacred scriptures. Selective quotations from this book are used below.
"Is the Bible really true?" asks the Watchtower. In answer to this, they provide various examples of what they consider to be the historical accuracy of the Bible. "Even when it touches on matters of science," they explain, "it is marvelously accurate. In perfect agreement with scientific evidence, the Bible reports that God is 'hanging the earth upon nothing.' (Job 26:7) And rather than saying the earth is flat, as many believed in the past, the Bible says that God 'is dwelling above the circle of the earth.' -Isaiah 40:22." Despite their claims, however, the Bible in not a textbook on Physics nor a chronicle of world history. Neither does it claim to be. Instead, it is the revelation of God's word, free from moral or doctrinal error. Christ did not ask the thief who died with Him on Calvary whether he believed the world was round. Such opinions are certainly no requisite for admission to heaven. Rather, it is a pitiful attempt by the Watchtower to divert attention from the real evidence for the truth of Sacred Scripture, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Watchtower frequently quotes (or misquotes) various encyclopedias, including the New Catholic Encyclopedia. However, if one turns to any modern encyclopedia for an examination of this history of the Bible, they will discover that more than fifty different gospels were in circulation and use in the early Church. Yet all the Bibles ever published, including the Watchtower's own badly butchered version, only contain four gospels. What happened to the others, such as the Gospel of Thomas, and why are they not in the Bible? After all, "all scripture is inspired by God," the Watchtower points out. This goes back to the question asked earlier in the book, what is scripture?
The Watchtower asserts, "by the end of the second century, there was no question that the canon of the Christian Greek Scriptures had been closed." Such a statement either underscores the author's ignorance of the topic, or his willful distortion of history. Fred Craddock, professor at Emory University notes, "By AD 200, 20 of the 27 books of the New Testament seem to have been generally regarded as authoritative. Local preferences prevailed here and there, and some differences existed between the eastern and western churches. Generally speaking, the books that were disputed for some time but were finally included were James, Hebrews, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation. Other books, widely favored but finally rejected, were Barnabas, 1 Clement, Hermas, and the Didache; the authors of these books are generally referred to as the apostolic fathers. The 39th festal letter of St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, sent to the churches under his jurisdiction in 367, ended all uncertainty about the limits of the New Testament canon. In the so-called festal letter, preserved in a collection of annual Lenten messages given by Athanasius, he listed as canonical the 27 books that remain the contents of the New Testament, although he arranged them in a different order."
Indeed, St. Athanasius, a Catholic clergyman, was the one who "ended all uncertainty" about the Canon of scripture accepted by all Christian denominations throughout the world, as well as by various pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. In addition, the year the canon was proposed to the Church was well after the Church, so the Watchtower claims, fell into apostasy. If this were the case, why do they accept it as the inspired word of God, and claim to base their religion on the Bible and the Bible only? At least the Mormons solved this problem by claiming divine inspiration.
This leads to another problem. Early Christians had no Bible until the fourth century. What authority, then, did they use to validate their Christian beliefs? Surely, they had some authority to appeal to, otherwise they would have fallen into anarchy. That authority was the apostolic college, then consisting of twelve, and those appointed to represent them (see Mt. 16:13-20; Jn. 21:15-19; Acts 4:33). This college did not die with the apostles, but continued through the ages through apostolic succession. "In the book of Psalms it says: Reduce his encampment to ruin and leave his tent unoccupied. And again: Let someone else take over his office" (Acts 1:20). Among these Peter, the first Pope, was given preeminence (Mt. 16:18;Acts 15:7). Peter and the other apostles "gave orders" (Acts 10:48) to the faithful directly by mouth (2 Tim. 2:2) or by sending them epistles to clarify areas of dispute (Acts 15:22-23;1 Cor. 1:10). The Church's traditions were to be maintained by both methods of transmission, as Saint Paul writes, "keep the traditions we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Th. 2:15). That the first Christians relied mainly on the former is evident when writing to the Romans that "it is in that way that faith comes, from hearing, and that means of hearing the word of Christ" (Rm. 10:17). Indeed, this is the only means which would have been available to the disciples in Rome as Paul's letter precedes the writing of the Holy Gospels. Without that great authority granted him by God through the apostles, there would be no method of verifying the authenticity of the preacher. Yet, by their authority, the apostles did send preachers to be "messengers of good news" (Rm. 10:15).
Clearly, the apostles had been granted authority in persona Christi, otherwise it would have been rather presumptuous for them to be giving "orders" to other Christians. Still, as evidence for their position, the Watchtower notes: "Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible is complete. The apostle Paul's second letter to Timothy chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, well states their conviction. There we read: 'All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be holy." Consider first what Paul was speaking of here. He was certainly not speaking about the Bible, since it would not exist for another three centuries. Rather, the only scriptures he could be speaking about, the only scriptures then in existence, were those of the Hebrew Canon, or the Old Testament. If this is the Watchtower's only argument to base their belief that one should rely solely on the Bible, then they had better rip out the entire New Testament.
Having granted that the Church existed and exercised authority prior to the existence of the Holy Bible, that traditions were handed down orally and in written form, and that the Catholic Church was responsible for the Christian Canon (New Testament), what about these other charges; Namely that "the Bible exposed their false teachings and bad practices," and "Catholic religious leaders fought to keep the Bible from being put into the language of the common people." Again, Professor Craddock, himself a Protestant, points out the fallacy of this argument. He writes, "The rapid spread of Christianity beyond the regions where Greek prevailed necessitated translations into Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, and Arabic. Syriac and Latin versions existed as early as the 2nd century, and Coptic translations began to appear in the 3rd century. These early versions were in no sense official translations but arose to meet regional needs in worship, preaching, and teaching. The translations were, therefore, trapped in local dialects and often included only selected portions of the New Testament. During the 4th and 5th centuries efforts were made to replace these regional versions with more standardized and widely accepted translations. Pope Damasus I in 382 commissioned St. Jerome to produce a Latin Bible." Latin, itself, was the "language of the people" far more than Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic would be, at least for the Gentiles.
'That was fine for the early Church', the Watchtower might argue, 'but during the 'dark ages' Latin was obsolete and could not be understood by the common people.' This too is a fallacy since writings from the time are filled with scriptural references. Reverend Graham notes that "conversations, for example, correspondence, law deeds, household books, legal documents, historical narratives-all are full of it; full not only of ideas, but often the very words of scripture...The reason, of course, was that books were scarce in those days, and expensive, and the Bible was the most common and popular and accessible." How then does the Watchtower suppose that the Catholic Church was trying to keep the Bible from the people in order to prevent them from finding out "their false teaching," or that the Church failed to instruct the people about scripture. They completely fail to recognize that the Bible was read every day during Holy Mass, and that the entire Bible was read aloud and explained in the priest's homilies over the course of three years (liturgical cycle). Considering that most people were illiterate, this was a far more effective means of transmitting scripture than placing a Bible in each person's hand, even if it were possible.
And why were books so expensive in those days? This is another fact of history the Watchtower seems to ignore: there was no printing press. Every manuscript was copied meticulously with ink and pen by Catholic monks. One complete manuscript of the Bible would take at least ten months to reproduce. No average citizen could ever afford to pay a monastery nearly a year's salary to commission such an undertaking. Had it not been for their effort, there would not even be a Bible today since none of the original manuscripts are now extant. If these monks were, in fact, "agents of the Devil," as the Watchtower claims, wouldn't they then have been able to secretly change the Bible so that it would conform to "their false teachings?" In contrast, the Watchtower places far more trust in these Catholic recluses than the Catholic Church does, for the Watchtower bases its religion on the Bible and nothing else. They do not claim divine inspiration, nor divine protection, yet they accept the whole Bible, word for word, at face value.
The problem in the Watchtower's argument is revealed in their own statement regarding this fact. "The oldest authoritative copies of the 'New Testament' in the original Greek language went back only to the 10th century- over 900 years after the originals were penned. No one could prove that tampering or the pen of careless scribes had not destroyed the Christian message." This statement raises a number of issues. First, the Watchtower is rather ungrateful for the monumental efforts of monks who laboured day in and day out in rather poor conditions so that the God's word could be sent forth to the nations (Mt. 28:19). Such conditions surely would result in errors of the pen, not because of carelessness, but simply because under those conditions errors are unavoidable. Second, a Church which has been given "all truth" (Jn. 16:13) has the power of discernment in matters of faith and morals. Therefore, if a manuscript does not conform to the deposit of faith given to the Church, the Church has the ability to discern that error has creeped in. The Church has done so with various erroneous versions of scripture from that of Marcion in 150 A.D. to the Watchtower's New World Translation. Third, a manuscript from the tenth century could hardly be "in the original Greek" after more than "900 years."
To add to these concerns, Reverend Graham notes, "What care, what zeal, what loving labour was spent by these [monks] in their work of transcribing the word of Scripture we can judge by viewing their handiwork. Yet the work was very slow and liable to error; and that errors did creep in we know from the simple fact that there are about 200,000 variations in the text of the Bible as written in these manuscripts that we have today...The variations may have been (a) intentionally introduced or (b) unintentionally. (a) Under this class we must unfortunately reckon those changes which were made by heretics to suit their particular doctrine or practice, just as, for example, the Lutherans added the word 'only' to Saint Paul's words to fit their new fangled notion about 'justification by faith only'."
Of course, the Lutherans were not the only ones to do this, for the Watchtower does the same with unbridled rigour. Just consider John 1:1 where they add "a" to "the Word was 'a' god." Also consider Colossians where the Watchtower adds the word "other" over and over again in brackets. For example: "All [other] things have been created through him and for him." The purpose here is clear, for they wish to convince the reader that Christ is not God, but a mere creature. They will tell you that their version of the Bible is more accurate because it has been translated faithfully from the original Hebrew or Greek. Yet none of the original manuscripts, written by the hand of prophets, apostles, or evangelists, exist today. Also consider the Watchtower's explanation that "brackets enclose words inserted to complete the sense" and you can just imagine, by the example used above, how faithful their translation really is by what "sense" they wish to convey. Considering the 200,000 variations in existing manuscripts, one must also wonder if the manuscripts which they used were the correct ones, or whether they used any manuscripts at all. After the president of the Watchtower was forced under oath to admit that he had participated in the translation, some have speculated that the "New World Translation" was merely plagiarized from other respected versions. Why? The president of the Watchtower has no training whatsoever in Greek or Hebrew that would qualify him to translate from "the original tongues."
Only one translation has ever been declared free from error to all the faithful of the Church. Thus was the Vulgate, translated by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. Surely many of the truly original manuscripts, written by the apostles and evangelists themselves, still existed in Saint Jerome's day. And from the Vulgate came the Douay-Rheims English Bible in the sixteenth century. Other English translations have been approved by the Church for regional use, but none, other than the Vulgate, have been given universal approval.
Still, the Watchtower objects, "Wycliffe was particularly outspoken when it came to the Church's neglect in teaching the Bible." The Watchtower cannot speak highly enough about this fourteen century priest and heretic. After all, "in the last years of his life, [Wycliffe] undertook the task of translating the Latin Vulgate Bible into English." Your Jehovah's Witness friend may add 'This was why he was branded a heretic. By making the Bible more available, he was exposing the Church's false teaching.' Not so. In fact, it was Wycliffe's introduction and the foot notes, not his translation, that espoused heresy. Even the Watchtower recognizes this: "he wrote and preached against...the doctrine of transubstantiation (the claim that the bread and wine used in the Mass literally change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ), the confession, and church involvement in temporal affairs." For this, the Watchtower claims that Wycliffe showed "devotion to the Bible." As far as his criticism of the Church's "involvement in temporal affairs," Wycliffe, himself, was appointed to a royal commission by King Edward III. So much for staying away from "temporal affairs."
Although we have clearly demonstrated that the Bible was made available in many languages in the early centuries of the Church, we have not addressed the Watchtower's claim the Catholic Church "fought to keep the Bible from being put into the language of the common people" in England. For this let us defer once again to Professor Craddock, who notes, "between the 7th and 14th centuries, portions of the Bible were translated into English, and some rough paraphrases appeared for instructing parishioners." If the learned professor is correct then England had the Bible in the vernacular for almost 700 years, as far back as the beginning of the English language itself and long before Wycliffe's heretical version. Unquestionably, the Church did not disapprove of translating the Bible per se, but translating it without authorization. Such authorization was the only way to prevent error and heresy from corrupting the Holy Word.
In 1450, the printing press made widespread distribution of Sacred Scripture a reality. In fact, contrary to what the Watchtower would have you believe, the first book ever printed on a printing press was not only the Holy Bible, but an approved Catholic version of the Bible called the Mazarin Bible. Today it is better known as the Gutenberg Bible after inventor Johann Gutenberg of Germany. What more evidence does one need to demonstrate the Watchtower's distortion of truth in claiming that the Catholic Church tried to prevent people from reading the Bible. "The highest good the Reformation achieved," says the Watchtower, "was that it made the Bible available to the common people in their own language." In truth, it was the printing press that achieved this, not the reformation.
"Luther's first Bible," writes Graham, "came out in 1520. Now, will you believe it, there were exactly 104 editions of the Bible in Latin before that date; there were 9 before the birth of Luther in the German language, and there were 27 in German before ever his saw the light of day...In Italy there were more than 40 editions of the Bible before the first Protestant version appeared...25 of these were in the Italian language before 1500, with the express permission of Rome...Spain began to publish editions in  and issued Bibles with the full approval of the Spanish Inquisition." Reverend Graham goes on to list country after country which possessed Bible in "the language of the common people" with the full authority of Rome, prior to any Protestant version appearing on the scene. "In all, 626 editions of the Bible, in which 198 were in the language of the laity, had issued from the press, with the sanction and at the instance of the Church...before the first Protestant version of the scriptures was sent forth in the world." He goes on to note that countries which had Catholic Bibles in the vernacular were the most difficult to convert to Protestantism. So much for exposing "false teaching."
In contrast, consider the Protestant revolution heralded by King Henry VIII. Reverend Graham describes how Henry was "determined to 'purge his library' of all Popish and superstitious books, and consequently gave orders for the destruction of such things as 'missals, legends, and suchlike'; but notice the next point of command'to deliver the garniture of the books, being either silver or gold, to his officers'. That was the real motive; avarice, cupidity, greed of gold. The books thus plundered and stripped of their precious stones were largely Bibles and copies of the Gospels...Cartloads of books were carried off to the fire or sold to merchants to wrap their wares in...Which side showed more veneration and regard for God's written Word may be safely left to the judgement of all reflecting minds."
Prior to the release of their own heretical version of scripture, the Watchtower consistently used the so called "authorized version" for their Bible studies. Also known as the King James Version, it was never authorized by the Church, but by the reputedly homosexual King James, after whom it is named, in the year 1611.Although the King James Version is a beautiful translation which has greatly impacted the English language, it cannot compare with the beauty, accuracy, and completeness of the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible which preceded it in 1609. Because of persecution in England, the Douay-Rheims version was completed in exile. It was prepared for those brave Catholics who remained in England under constant threat of imprisonment or execution. Such heroic efforts included smuggling of this Sacred Volume across the English Channel and into the hands of small groups of Catholics who met secretly to worship.
The Watchtower would have you believe that the Catholic Church burned Protestants at the stake with Bibles hanging around their necks. Oh how they lie (cf. Jn. 8:44)! In this they even seem to want people to believe that the Catholic Church was personally responsible for the execution of Jesus. They do not say this, but they do not need to. Instead of portraying Jesus on the cross they show him nailed to a stake much like those on which Protestants were allegedly burned by the Catholic Church, contrary to all historical and archeological evidence. Subtle and not so subtle images like these are regularly used by the Watchtower as a way of "mental-regulating" their followers. But more than that, they are an attack on God, for when the Watchtower attempts to persecute the Church, regardless of whether they are successful, they persecute God (Acts 9:4).
The Watchtower's particular hatred of the Catholic Church above all others is demonstrated by the fact that there is no mention of Henry VIII's rampage against the Holy Word and his execution of Catholics such as Saint Thomas Moore. Nor is there mention of John Calvin's burning of all copies of the Servetus Bible, although there is brief mention of Calvin's execution of Michael Servetus himself for his public denial of the Trinity. Nor is there mention of the Salem witch hunts in the Americas in which many were falsely accused, some because of schizophrenia or other diseases, and burned as witches. How they hate Catholics indeed! And what is sad is how many Catholics are persuaded to become Jehovah's Witnesses because they do not know any better and do not take the time to find the answers to the Watchtower's erroneous claims.
Even so, the Watchtower's contempt for Protestants shows as well. What is not unusual is that in espousing the argument that the Protestant reformation exposed the "false teachings" of the Catholic Church by making "the Bible available," they contradict their own argument which follows: "Nearly all Protestant churches subscribe to the same creeds...and these profess some of the very doctrines that Catholicism has been teaching for centuries, such as the Trinity, immortal soul, and hellfire. Such unscriptural teachings gave the people a distorted picture of God and his purpose." What follows is about the only accurate statement ever made by the Watchtower: "Rather than aid them in their search for the true God, the numerous sects and denominations that came into existence as a result of the free spirit of the Protestant Reformation have only steered people in many diverse directions. In fact, the diversity and confusion have caused many to question the very existence of God."
If the Bible is the end all and be all of "the true religion," then why is there so much "diversity and confusion?" Didn't the Watchtower say that "[The Catholic Church] even burned at the stake persons possessing the Bible. They did this because the Bible exposed their false teachings and bad practices." If this were true, why do Protestants "profess some of the very doctrines that Catholicism has been teaching?" And why are there still one billion Catholics in the world despite the fact that the Bible is the most widely published book ever. As Father Mateo points out in Refuting the Attack on Mary, "It is unbiblical to suggest that at some point in the third or fourth century (opponents are vague) Christ the bridegroom divorced his Church-bride on grounds of infidelity (from which he had promised to preserve her), lived a bachelor for about 1200 years, and then married more than 22,000 denominations." The Watchtower goes further suggesting the Christ divorced His Church as early as the second century long before there was a Bible. How then does the Watchtower know that "By holding to the Bible and to the example of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses demonstrate they are practicing the worship of the true God, Jehovah?"
Out one side of their mouth, the Watchtower says that the Bible reveals the "false teachings" of Catholics, while out the other they say that Bible reading leads to "confusion." Even though they do not claim divine inspiration, they maintain that "the most beneficial study you can do is to read the Watchtower or Awake," not the Bible. The Watchtower even goes as far as to claim that "the Bible is a sealed book except to the organization" and "an individual must have the Watchtower in order to understand the Bible." Never let them fool you into thinking that they want the Bible open to all. "Through such 'Bible reading,'" they write, "they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines." When indoctrinating new Jehovah's Witnesses, they say, "if you learn from an examination of your Bible that you are travelling the wrong religious road, be willing to change." This is all smoke for their real motive which they only teach when someone is fully incorporated into "the organization." In reality, they have no intention of encouraging their followers to examine the Bible, but rather to avoid such "independent thinking" which, they say, is "evidence of pride." So why is the Watchtower so critical of the Catholic Church when indeed it is the Watchtower that is so guarded when it comes to Scripture. Allow me to borrow the Watchtower's own argument and suggest that the Bible exposes "their false teachings and bad practices."
Today you would be hard pressed to find a Catholic home without a Holy Bible. Although the printing press has made this possible, let us not forget the laborious efforts of those dedicated monks during the middle ages to whom all Christians are indebted. And we must also recognize the debt we owe to Saints Augustine and Athanasius for providing the Christian Canon and to Saint Jerome for providing the first universal translation in Latin. Without these great men, there may not be a Bible today. In English alone there are many approved Catholic translations to choose from. Among them are the Douay-Rheims, New American, Jerusalem, New Jerusalem, Revised Standard, New Revised Standard, Confraternity, and Knox versions. The translators of these versions, by their meticulous study of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, have been guided by the Holy Spirit to undertake such good work. In contrast, one must wonder what spirits are guiding the Watchtower.
Chapter 7The Kingless Kingdom
The year 1914 has always played an important role in Watchtower theology. In 1897, the founder of the Watchtower, Charles Taze Russell, wrote, "We have seen that the period of our Lord's presence from 1874 to 1914 is a 'harvest' time, the earlier part of it for gathering his elect bride, and the latter part at time of trouble, for the overthrow of the present institutions, in preparation for the new kingdom...Our Lord, the appointed King, is now present, since October 1874...The beginning of the earthly phase of the Kingdom in the end of A.D. 1914 will, we understand, consist wholly of the resurrected holy ones of olden time,from John the Baptizer back to Abel." Well, 1914 came around and "the present institutions" remained in place, and there was no sign of "the resurrected holy ones." As damage control, the Watchtower announced that the First World War was a sign of the "war in heaven." At that time "Satan was removed from the heavens" and unleashed on Earth. "This means that Jesus Christ began to rule as king of God's heavenly government in 1914." In such recent publications, the Watchtower has selective amnesia with regard to Russell's self declared prophesy. Consider what he was preaching, namely that Christ would establish His "new kingdom" in 1914 consisting "wholly of the resurrected holy ones of olden time." Surely, this "new kingdom" would be beautiful and peaceful. These days the Watchtower undercuts their founder by declaring that "prominent world leaders...just before 1914...were saying that conditions promising world peace were never more favorable." Russell was not only saying that such conditions were "favorable," but that they were inevitable. By including him among "world leaders" because of his predictions, the Watchtower is declaring that Russell was among "Satan's human representatives." Further to this, Russell never said that "Christ began to rule...in 1914." Instead, he insisted that Christ has been ruling "since 1874."
Either way, both claims are contradicted by Holy Scripture which show that Christ has always reigned through His Holy Catholic and apostolic Church. Even when Christ passed on His authority to the apostles at Pentecost (Jn. 16:13; Acts 2:1-12), He remained Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22). The reign of the Church is also the reign of Christ. So closely He identifies with His Church that when His Church is persecuted, so is He (Acts 9:5). Indeed, the Church is His Body (Eph. 4:12). How ludicrous to suggest that Christ could sever Himself from His Body, in a sense decapitating Himself, only to transplant Himself onto another body in 1914. Saint Paul rules out such a possibility in his letter to the Romans. He writes, "There is no change of mind on God's part about the gifts he has made or of his choice" (Rm. 12:29).
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he announced, "The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the house of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end" (Lk. 1:32-33). That Christ's "reign will have no end" openly contradicts the Watchtower's notion that "Jesus Christ was enthroned as king...in 1914." In fact, the Watchtower cannot help but contradict themselves. "In the true church," they write, "there is only one Head, Jesus Christ, who since his resurrection, is 'alive forever,' and so needs no successors." If the Watchtower recognizes Jesus Christ as "Head...since his resurrection," what was He if not King (def.: 1. A male sovereign; 2. One that is preeminent in a group, category, or sphere)? How could He be "enthroned" in 1914 if He had already been enthroned at His resurrection. The Catholic Church, in her God given wisdom, goes further declaring that she is the kingdom and that Christ was her King even before His resurrection. Christ Himself declares, "Mine is not a kingdom of this world" (Jn. 18:36).
Some time before His death, Jesus also tells His disciples, "there are some standing here that will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming with his kingdom" (Mt. 16:28). Not only were most of them were still alive when they saw Jesus "coming with his kingdom" at the transfiguration, but with exception of Judas, we find them also present at His resurrection. Our Lord not only came with His angels (Mt. 28:2) and the full authority of His kingdom (Mt. 28:17,18), but also with the keys to the kingdom of Heaven which He promised to give Peter (Mt. 16:19; Jn. 21:15-17). Yet, according to Watchtower teaching, believe it or not, Jesus is speaking to the generation of Jehovah's Witnesses who lived prior to 1914. Some of them, they say, will not taste death. As time goes by, very few from that generation remain alive, such that soon the Watchtower will need to revise their doctrine and hope once again that their followers will have selective amnesia. In any event, the Watchtower has a vested interest in interpreting this passage as such, for it shows that Christ has always been King and Lord. When He spoke the kingdom of Heaven was already His. The future tense only refers to His coming with the kingdom which He has always possessed, clothed with the glory which He surrendered for only a short time (Hb. 2:7). How could our Lord ever be "enthroned" as king of a kingdom which already belongs to Him.
God cannot withdraw from the covenant He has made with His Church since "His dynasty shall endure for ever" (Ps. 89:36). How contrary to the Watchtower's notion that His dynasty ended in apostasy in the second century. Does Christ not tell His disciples, "I am with you always; yes, to the end of time" (Mt. 28:20)? In this instance, the Watchtower may claim that Christ was only referring to those in His midst, yet this cannot be so for He also says, "make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19). There can be no denial that Christ's promise was succeeded to subsequent generations (Acts 1:20).
As further evidence that Christ never divorced His Bride, consider how the Catholic Church with its rich diversity of traditions has survived 20 centuries of adversity and persecution. Scripture reveals that if the Church had been of human origin, she would have broken up of her own accord, but by her very survival, the Church is revealed to be from God (Acts 5: 38-39). On the other hand, so many heresies have come and gone that they are impossible to count. Today among Protestant and pseudo-Christian sects there is so much division, one cannot keep up. Every day new cults and denominations seem to appear out of nowhere. Each is teaching something different, and all are claiming to follow the Bible. In contrast, consider the Rock, instituted by Jesus. Her doctrine has never wavered from the truth; she has never submitted to public opinion. Her unbroken lineage can be traced back to Christ Himself when He said to Peter, "on this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18).
Indeed, how absurd to suggest that God would instruct the faithful to report erring brothers to the Church if the Church was herself erring (Mt. 18:17). What value would there be in this? Even more so, would God not be instructing the faithful to commit evil when He asks them to bring their erring brothers to "the whore of Babylon," as the Watchtower refers to God's Holy Church? Even in suggesting this, the Watchtower makes God a liar. What blasphemy! By such notions does the Watchtower not also call Christ the Head of this despicable whore. Surely, the Watchtower should "take care not to find yourselves fighting against God" (Acts 5:39), "for every unfounded word people utter they will answer on the Judgement Day, since it is by your words you will be justified, and by your words condemned" (Mt. 12:36-37).
"Beyond all doubt, the evidence points to 1914 as the year when the kingdom of God went into operation," proclaims the Watchtower. "Beyond all doubt?" How many times Jehovah's Witnesses have told me that the Watchtower is not "inspired" or "infallible," I cannot count. When all the errors in predicting "the end of this wicked system" are pointed out, they claim that "the light is getting brighter as time goes on," and they "are coming closer to the truth." Yet, the Watchtower's statement here does not sound like speculation. "Beyond all doubt" leaves no room for error. In addition, if the kingdom of God "went into operation" in 1914, what was this kingdom prior to 1914, 'out of operation,' or like the sign on pay phone which reads "out of order." In contrast, King David sings, "Your kingship is kingship forever, your reign lasts from age to age" (Ps. 145:13). How could He make His "mighty deeds" known to "the children of Adam" if His kingdom was not operational? When Jesus was "asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, he gave them this answer, 'the coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, 'Look it is here! Look it is there!' For look the kingdom of God is among you'" (Lk. 17:20,21).
So how did the Watchtower come up with the year 1914 in the first place? What makes them so sure that this was the year the "Jesus Christ was enthroned as king?" In the early years of the Watchtower "the present truth chronology" was calculated from "the passages of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh" and proves that "God designed both pyramid and plan." By calculating the length of these passages with each inch corresponding to a year, "the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1914 was the chronological beginning of the times of trouble." In later years the Watchtower decided that the pyramids of Gizeh were built "under the direction of Satan the Devil." But rather than admit their mistake and abandon their predictions, they decided to prove that 1914 was still the year by manipulating scripture to agree with their conclusions. Always keep in mind that they have already decided that their initial calculations were done using an instrument built by "Satan the Devil." These days, according to the Watchtower, "in Revelation chapter 12, verses 6 and 14, we learn that 1,260 days are equal to 'a time, that is 1 time, and times, that is 2 times, and half a time.' That is a total of 3 and a half times. So 'a time' would be equal to 360 days. Therefore, 'seven times' would be 7 times 360, or 2,520 days. Now if we count a day for a year, according to Bible rule, the 'seven times' equal 2,520 years.Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6. We have already learned that 'the appointed times of the nations' began in the year 607 BCE So by counting 2,520 years from that date, we come to 1914 C. E."
For heaven's sake! The Watchtower comes up with some pretty unusual concepts, but this equation takes the cake. Yet, Jehovah's Witnesses, believe it or not, swallow it without question. Let's look at what the Watchtower is saying and see if their theory measures up. First, the year "607 BCE" refers to the year that Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar. Yet authoritative sources place that event closer to 587 B.C.. In any event, no one can be certain of the date that this event took place. Since the Watchtower does not claim to be inspired or infallible, they cannot claim to know any disputed historical dates "beyond all doubt." So even on this one variable, their calculation is thrown completely out.
Next consider their interpretation of the passages in Revelation. The Watchtower makes several assumptions here. One is that "Bible rule" shows that a day is equal to a year. Yet there are no Bible rules without the proper authority to interpret the Bible, which comes only from the Church. The Church has never held that the days in Revelation refer to years, besides which, elsewhere Holy Scripture makes clear "that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years" (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8). Since the Watchtower is referring to the time appointed by God for Christ to assume the throne, you would think that any calculations should be based on the Lord's time, where "a day is like a thousand years." Applying this "Bible rule" to the Watchtower's equation, Jehovah's Witnesses should not expect Jesus to be "enthroned as king" for another two million years. The passage referred to also never says anything about multiplying the number of days in a time by seven. Interestingly, the Watchtower comes up with a very elaborate equation in order to explain away the reference to 42 months in the wilderness, yet they interpret the 144,000 servants in Revelation 7:4 as literally representing a heavenly population limit of 144,000. Surely you can't have your cake and eat it too.
The Watchtower's conversion of days into years parallels the conversion of the passages of the pyramid of Gizeh from inches to years allowing the Watchtower to come up with their initial prediction of 1914. Are they now saying that the passages of this pyramid also follow "Bible rule?" How could this tribute to the pagan gods of Egypt correspond so closely to the Bible? The answer is simple: it doesn't. Both are instruments of the Watchtower's "mental-regulating," with the express purpose of instilling fear in their adherents. They have always, and will always, keep Jehovah's Witnesses looking just around the corner for Armageddon. Yet with all their usage of pagan instruments and theology, such as those borrowed from the Egyptians and Aztecs, they dare denounce "veneration of Mary with a child" as echoing "much older worship of pagan goddesses" such as "Egypt's Isis." Hypocrites! Not even our Lord's beloved mother, Mary, Queen of Heaven, is sacred in the eyes of the Watchtower.
Jesus told his disciples in no uncertain terms, "It is not for you to know the times or dates that the father has decided by his own authority" (Acts 1:7). In addition, the Watchtower's obsession with calculating the end of the world can easily be interpreted as a form of divination. Does the Lord not command that "there must not be anyone among you...who practices divination" (Dt. 18:10)? Later in the same chapter Moses asks, "How are we to tell that a prophecy does not come from Yahweh? When a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh and the thing does not happen and the word is not fulfilled, then it has not been said by Yahweh" (Dt. 18:21,22). In those days the penalty for such heresy was severe; "the prophet who presumes to say something in my name which I have not commanded him to say...that prophet must die" (Dt. 18:20). Well, the world is not inhabited by "the resurrected holy ones" and the Nazis did not "destroy the British" as the Watchtower predicted. Indeed, the number of times the word of the Watchtower has not been fulfilled are too numerous to count. Luckily, today the world is much more tolerant.
Unlike Christ's message to "love your enemies" (Mt. 5:44), Jehovah's Witnesses long for the day when God will put an end to "this wicked system." According to the Watchtower, after Christ was enthroned as king in 1914, Satan was given a short time to rule the world. Following this, will come Armageddon when God "will use angelic forces under Christ to carry out the execution" of mankind, save Jehovah's Witnesses of course. Christ will even execute little children, for the Watchtower declares, "when God destroyed the wicked he likewise destroyed their little ones." So one finds Jehovah's Witnesses glued to their radios and televisions during news time watching for "signs" and reveling in every human tragedy. Whenever a new war starts or an earthquake devastates a region of the world, Jehovah's Witnesses rejoice, for these are all signs that Christ is coming to destroy the wicked. Meanwhile, the rest of the world mourns these tragedies and come together to offer whatever assistance is available. Truly, Jesus "felt sorry" for the crowds that came to Him (Mt.9:36). How morbid and evil the Watchtower must be to suggest that the "Prince of Peace" will come to execute "the children of unbelievers". Did Jesus not say, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs" (Lk. 18:16)? Should Christ be compared with the wicked King Herod who destroyed all the "little ones" in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:16-18)?
"So there will be no more newspaper lists of war casualties, no more war widows or war orphans, no more homes and cities bombed into ruins." Of course there won't be any of these if Christ comes and executes everyone. An all-out global thermonuclear war would have much the same effect. Only, according to the Watchtower, the "elect" will be spared and have free access to the spoils of the executed. Picture the world inhabited by Jehovah's Witnesses as they loot and pilfer the goods that we shall leave behind when we are destroyed by Jesus. Unlike Abraham, who set his eyes on his heavenly home (Hb 11:8-16), Jehovah's Witnesses place their hope in world. Yet the world is passing away and those who place their hope in it do not have the love of the Father in them (1 Jn. 2:15-17). May God have mercy.
Chapter 8Faith Without Faith
"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he has said the blessing he broke it and gave it to his disciples. 'Take it and eat,' he said, 'this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them saying, 'Drink from this all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Mt. 26:26-28). The central point of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the memorial consecration which transforms, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ. Likewise, Jesus taught at the synagogue at Capernaum that "if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn. 6:53). But, the Jews at the synagogue found his teaching "intolerable" and "many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more" (Jn. 6:60,66). As with the Jews, so too we find the objections of the Watchtower.
"Regarding the expressions 'this is my body' and 'this is my blood,'" writes the Watchtower, the New World Translation reads, "'it means my body,' 'this means my blood.'" Elsewhere they ask, "What kind of translation is this?" A very good question indeed. According to the Watchtower, "it is an accurate, largely literal translation from the original languages. It is not a loose paraphrase." Yet in explaining the difference in translating the aforementioned passage, they admit that "These renderings agree with what is stated in context." Well, you can't have your cake and eat it to. On the one hand they claim to translate "literally," but when their doctrine is contradicted, they choose to alter the text to agree with what they claim to be the "context."
"Is this to be understood as meaning that they were literally to eat Jesus' flesh and drink his blood," they ask. "If so, Jesus would have been advocating a violation of the Law that God had given Israel through Moses. That Law prohibited the consuming of any sort of blood. (Lev. 17:10-12)" On this point, the "context" is critical. First, immediately prior to His command to abstain from blood, the Lord demands that everyone refrain from offering sacrifices to false gods (Lev. 17:7). Part of this ritualistic sacrifice may have involved drinking the blood of victims, a practice not uncommon among pagan cultures. But more importantly, the Jews are here admonished to stay within the bounds of kosher dietary laws. If Jehovah's Witnesses truly wish to follow "the Law that God had given Israel," they must also abstain from pork, rabbit, and all shellfish (Dt. 14:7-10), but they don't.
Despite this, the Watchtower concludes, "Jesus spoke out strongly against breaking any of the requirements of the Law." Can anyone deny that the Jews found Christ's teaching "intolerable?" Did He not heal on the Sabbath day, contrary to the law? In His defence, Christ asks the other Jews, for He too was a Jew, "Is it permitted on the Sabbath day to do good or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?" (Mk. 3:4). So the Watchtower takes a giant leap from kosher law and declares that blood transfusions are the same as eating blood. How many Jehovah's Witnesses died because of this belief. Just recently an air ambulance was dispatched to a small community near my home to evacuate a pregnant Jehovah's Witness who was having complications due to her pregnancy. She was refusing a blood transfusion and therefore needed treatment that she could only receive in the city. On the way, under cover of darkness, the plane crashed killing all on board, including doctors nurses, and two pilots. The woman is not to blame by any means for this tragedy. Yet I cannot help but wonder how many people must die because of this ridiculous interpretation. "Is it permitted...to save life, or to kill?"
"In a hospital," the Watchtower notes, "when a patient cannot eat through his mouth, he is fed intravenously. Now, would a person who never put blood into his mouth but who accepted blood by transfusion really be obeying the command to 'keep abstaining from...blood'? (Acts 15:29)" Yes he would. Blood transfusions have never been considered unkosher. In addition, the requirement laid out in the letter to Antioch only goes so far that it does not scandalize another. Nearly the entire fourteenth chapter of Saint Paul's letter to the Romans deals with this matter. "No food is unclean in itself." Later, he writes, "any kind can be evil for someone to whom it is an offense to eat it" (Rm. 14:14,20). Therefore, one would offend God if he knowingly ate pork in front of a Jewish convert to Christianity. A more modern example would be drinking in front of an alcoholic. Drinking in itself is not evil, but when it causes a dry alcoholic to regress, then it becomes evil. Certainly, violation of kosher law is not "equated with idolatry and fornication," as the Watchtower asserts. If the Watchtower chooses to literalize Scripture to the extreme, as in this case, they should also ask their adherents to refrain from meat, since all meat contains some blood. If they say that the meat has been properly drained of most of the blood, but not all, then they go back to devotion to kosher law (Lev. 17:13), which they violate by eating pork, rabbit, and shellfish.
Because of their obsession with abstaining from blood, with regard to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the Watchtower wrongly concludes that "what Jesus had in mind must have been eating and drinking in a figurative sense, by exercising faith in the value of his perfect human sacrifice." How does the Watchtower know what Jesus had "in mind?" They are not inspired. How do they know that He was speaking figuratively? There is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this view, even though the Watchtower may beg to differ. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly agree with the latter part of the statement. One must have "faith in the value of his perfect human sacrifice," and part of that faith includes believing in the real presence of our Lord as the Eucharist; "because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation" (1 Cor. 11:29). In "recognizing the body," not the bread, one exercises faith, but woe to him who eats the body of Christ without believing. Such a person has nothing but contempt for the sacrifice that is offered. He mocks Christ and blasphemes the Holy Spirit.
But, the Watchtower protests, "Jesus did not say that what he did at the Last Supper was a sacrifice of himself or that his disciples were to renew his sacrifice." Although the Watchtower would have you believe that they are protesting Catholic doctrine, that each Mass is "a" sacrifice that is performed over and over, this is not the case. If we love Jesus, we are not going to sacrifice Him again and again, in effect crucifying Him daily. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice...The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it represents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross...which he was to accomplish once for all." The teaching of the Church is never contrary to the truth of Holy Scripture which proclaims that Christ "offered himself only once" (Heb. 9:28). Therefore, the sacrifice offered by the priest at the alter represents that one sacrifice, the same sacrifice that our Lord and High Priest Jesus Christ offered at the Last Supper. But what about the Watchtower's claim that "Jesus did not say that...the Last Supper was a sacrifice?" Did He not say, "This is my body given for you" and "my blood poured out for you" (Lk. 22:19,20)? And although Christ did not ask that His disciples repeat His sacrifice, He did ask them to "do this in remembrance of me."
In essence, the Watchtower has no valid argument against the Mass. The only way they can attack the sacrifice of our Lord is to misrepresent it, twisting it so that it appears to contradict scripture. The Watchtower's motive is clearly not truth. In fact, the Watchtower has their own version of a mass which they call "the Memorial." "Jehovah's Witnesses observe the Memorial after sundown on Nissan 14, according to the reckoning of the Jewish calendar." Only those 144,000 that are destined for heaven are permitted to partake of the bread and wine at "the Memorial." "That group began to be selected in 33 C. E.. Reasonably, there would be only a small number partaking now." Yet, Saint Paul in his letter to the Hebrews indicated that God has founded a city, a "heavenly homeland" for a multitude "as numerous as the stars in heaven" (Heb. 11:12-16). And Saint John, in his Apocalypse, saw "a huge number, impossible for anyone to count" (Rev. 7:9). But now, by selecting those who are worthy to partake at "the Memorial," the Watchtower has made itself judge of those who will receive the gift of heaven. What purpose then does it serve for Christ to come again to judge the living and the dead? The Watchtower has supposedly already done so.
For those privilege few, what does "the Memorial" represent? According to the Watchtower, "Eating his flesh and drinking his blood in a figurative sense is done by exercising faith in the redeeming power of Jesus' flesh and blood laid down in sacrifice." If this were the case, then one who had no faith could not partake of the flesh and blood since the flesh and blood is faith. But Saint Paul tells us that "a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation" (1 Cor. 11:29). Since one who does not recognize the body does not have faith, according to the Watchtower's interpretation this passage should read 'a person who exercises faith without faith is eating and drinking his own condemnation.' Therefore, eating and drinking are not the same as "exercising faith," since it is impossible to exercise faith without faith.
"Earlier, in verse 40, when explaining what people must do to have everlasting life, what did he say was the will of the father," asks the Watchtower in reference to John 6:40? "That 'everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.'" But do the Jehovah's Witnesses really exercise faith when they deny the Eucharist is really the body of Christ? In essence, the Watchtower refuses to accept that eating the body of Christ will lead to eternal life. This kind of questioning doubts the will of God to provide for His people (Mt. 6:25-34). It questions God's reason for using the matter of His creation to work His miracles. Consider the serpent made by Moses (Num.21:8,9), surely God did not need a statue to cure the people from snake bites (Wis. 16:6). Why was Naaman required to bathe in the Jordan River in order to be cured of leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:8-14)? Surely God could have cured him by His very command. And what of the blind man? Did Jesus not rub mud on his eyes and command that the blind man wash in the Pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:6,7)? The miracle of the Eucharist is very clear, "for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink" (Jn. 6:55). By questioning God's will, the Watchtower only exercises the antithesis of faith, doubting the very words of Jesus.
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The contents of this book are copyright. You may copy and distribute it by any means in its entirety and free of charge. You may not use any of the book's contents for sale or profit without the permission of the author. Copyright 1995 by David Wesley.