Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Biblical & Historical Critique

Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Biblical & Historical Critique January 5, 2018
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians. They deny that Jesus is God, and the Holy Trinity.


Part One

Scripture verses are from the Authorised Version (King James Version) of the Bible, unless otherwise noted. All primary works from the Jehovah’s Witnesses were published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York.



I. History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
II. Watchtower Authority
III. False Prophecies and Contradictory Date-Setting
IV. The Scholarly Incompetence and Dishonesty of the Watchtower


V. Christology
VI. The Trinity and the Holy Spirit (Theology / Pneumatology)
VII. Salvation (Soteriology)
VIII. Death and the Soul (Eschatology / Anthropology)
IX. The Doctrine of Hell (Eschatology)
X. Assorted Secondary Beliefs


I. History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
1. Origin in Arianism

Jehovah’s Witnesses (henceforth referred to as “JWs”) are, in many ways, a modern manifestation of the ancient heresy Arianism, named after Arius, a priest from Alexandria, who began airing his anti-trinitarian views in the early 4th century A.D. Arius taught that Jesus was not God the Son, but rather, God’s first and greatest creation, who served as an “agent” in the creation of everything else (including the Holy Spirit). Arianism was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

2. Founder Charles Taze Russell: Early Influences

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) was the charismatic and mild-mannered son of a clothing retailer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Raised as a Presbyterian, he later joined Congregationalism, before questioning his received Christian faith, in particular, the doctrines of predestination and hell.
In his early twenties, Russell was heavily influenced by the Adventist movement, begun by William Miller, who had predicted that Christ would return in 1844. This was the origin of one of the trademark JW characteristics: the creation of fanciful biblical chronologies and date-setting. Miller himself admitted that his chronology had failed (which was indeed self-evident after 1844). A number of his followers, however, rationalized the failure by inventing a doctrine of Christ’s invisible return.
Russell, who began to lead, in 1870, a Bible study group which evolved into today’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, repeated this unfortunate practice. He wrote in 1881 about the speculations of his short-term partner, Nelson H. Barbour, an Adventist from Rochester, New York, who had originally predicted the physical return of Christ in 1874:

. . . When 1874 came and there was no outward sign of Jesus in the literal clouds and in a fleshly form, there was a general re-examination of all the arguments . . . It was soon discovered that the expectation of Jesus in the flesh at the second advent was a mistake . . . that Jesus was quickened or made alive in spirit . . . Though the manner in which they had expected Jesus was in error, yet the time . . . was correct, and that the Bridegroom came in the Autumn of 1874. (Watchtower, Oct/Nov 1881, 3)

Russell and his followers agreed with Barbour’s original prophecy and explained its failure by transforming the Second Coming into an “invisible presence,” as is evident in Russell’s later account:

As we look backward, we can see that our pathway has been . . . progressive . . . A new view of truth can never contradict a former truth . . . Bro. Keith (one of our contributors) was used of the Lord . . . His surprise was, at finding that the Greek word parousia, which signifies “presence,” had in our common version been improperly rendered “coming” . . . Can it be possible that Jesus does not come in a fleshly body at his second advent? . . . Examination revealed the fact that Jesus since his resurrection is a totally different being from the Jesus who died . . . he is no longer a natural, but a spiritual body. (Watchtower, February 1881, 3)

Russell discussed biblical chronology with Barbour at length in January 1876 and adopted the view which he held until 1914, namely, that Christ returned invisibly in 1874, that the rapture of the church would occur in 1878, and that the dawn of a golden age would commence in 1914 (see section III). He wrote his first booklet, The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return (published by Barbour) in 1877. It set forth the doctrine of the invisible “presence” without delving into dates.
Also, in that year, Russell and Barbour co-wrote Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World, which elaborated upon the aforementioned chronology. Russell was assistant editor of Barbour’s newspaper, Herald of the Morning, from 1876 until 1878, when the two differed on the nature of the atonement and parted ways.
The 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1974, p. 36), dishonestly attempted to deny Russell’s early belief in the physical return of Christ in 1874 by backdating his first booklet to 1873! Concerning the Adventist predictions, it states:

Earnestly endeavoring to counteract such erroneous teachings, in 1873, twenty-one year old C.T. Russell wrote . . . a booklet entitled The Object and Manner of the Lord’s Return.

Yet Russell had stated on page 62 of that work, with regard to the time of the Second Advent:

I am deeply impressed . . . that the Master is come . . .

Another influence on Russell was George Storrs, former Adventist and former Methodist minister, who founded the Bible Examiner newspaper, from whom he apparently borrowed the concepts of “soul sleep” and annihilationism (the denial of consciousness after death, and the existence of hell), “ransom” or “partial works” atonement of Christ, the future paradise earth, and a pronounced anti-institutional church view. Russell also picked up the heretical notion that Jesus received a “spirit body” after His resurrection from one Joseph Seiss, editor of the Prophetic Times.

3. Formal Beginnings of the Watchtower Organization
Charles Taze Russell began the newsletter Zion’s Watch Tower in 1879; it was financed from the income of his clothing business. In 1884, he and his devoted followers, known as the “Bible Students,” incorporated as the Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, a non-profit corporation under Pennsylvania law, with Russell as President. The headquarters were moved from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn, New York in 1909, and a move was made into the current building in 1927.

4. Present-Day JWs Acknowledge Russell as Their Founder

JWs today have a markedly ambivalent attitude towards Russell, but they don’t deny that he is their founder:

In the early 1870’s, Charles Taze Russell and some of his friends began to make a thorough, nondenominational study of the Bible . . . This was the beginning of the modern-day activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Jehovah’s Witnesses — Unitedly Doing God’s Will Worldwide, 1986, 8)

Firm determination to uphold and declare Biblical truth had resulted in divine blessing for those Bible Students of the 1870’s . . . God had acted to identify the “wheat” or true Christians. (1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1974, 38)

Nor have JWs disavowed early editions of The Watchtower:

The Watchtower, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses continuously since 1879 . . . (The Watchtower [henceforth, “WT”], 1 April 1983, 2)

5. Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures
This was Russell’s “masterwork.” It was published in six volumes, with a seventh comprised of a collection of his writings and additional material by two others. It was originally known as Millennial Dawn (before 1904). The individual titles are as follows:

Vol. 1: The Divine Plan of the Ages (1886)
Vol. 2: The Time is at Hand (1889)
Vol. 3: Thy Kingdom Come (1891)
Vol. 4: The Battle of Armageddon (1897)
Vol. 5: The Atonement Between God and Man (1899)
Vol. 6: The New Creation (1904)
Vol. 7: The Finished Mystery (1917)
(prepared, with additions, by Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher)

This is Russell’s opinion of his own work:

. . . people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself . . . if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside . . . after he has read them for ten years . . . and goes to the Bible alone . . . within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read Scripture Studies with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures. (WT, 15 September 1910, 298-299)

6. Character and Credentials of Russell
A great deal about Charles Taze Russell was revealed at a remarkable trial before the High Court of Ontario, Canada, on 17 March, 1913. Rev. J.J. Ross, a Baptist minister from Hamilton, Ontario, had published a tract about Russell in June, 1912. Russell brought suit against Ross for criminal, defamatory libel. Ross wrote that Russell had:

. . . never attended the higher schools of learning, knows comparatively nothing of philosophy, systematic or historical theology, and is totally ignorant of the dead languages . . . “Pastor” Russell was never ordained, and has no church affiliation . . . he married Miss Marie F. Ackley, who divorced him a few years ago on the ground of cruelty and having wrong relations with other women.

Russell’s “divorce” was technically a legal separation. Further charges of financial mischief were made, and Russell’s theology was aptly condemned as “anti-Christian and a deplorable perversion of the Gospel.” Russell needed to prove these charges false, whereas Ross had to prove them true or stand guilty as a “defamer of character.” In a second pamphlet after the trial, Ross wrote:

Under oath, he positively and most emphatically denied every charge made against him. (Some Facts and More Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, p. 17)

It is abundantly clear from the court transcript that Russell lied repeatedly on the stand and perjured himself. Thus, the jury found no ground for the libel charge and handed down the verdict, “No Bill.”
The transcript (“Russell vs. Ross — Defamatory Libel) shows Russell admitting to having attended school for only seven years and dropping out at fourteen. Russell testified that he knew the Greek alphabet, but when asked to identify Greek letters, he admitted, “I don’t know that I would be able to.” Later, he said that he knew nothing about Latin or Hebrew, and had never taken a course in philosophy or theology. A short time before, he had sworn just the opposite. When asked, “Is it true you were never ordained?,” he said, “It is not true,” but later confessed, “I never was.”
Russell also swore that his wife had not separated from him, and had not been granted alimony. Both assertions were later shown to be false. She had separated from Russell on 9 November 1897 and, after sensational court testimony, was granted a legal separation in 1906 and $6,036 in alimony. Russell’s lawyer was none other than Joseph F. Rutherford, his successor as President of the Watchtower Society.
Charles Taze Russell had lost another libel suit less than two months before, this time to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, with regard to his infamous “miracle wheat” moneymaking scheme. The newspaper recounted these events in its obituary of Russell (1 November 1916):

“Pastor” Russell’s Watch Tower publication advertised wheat seed for sale at $1.00 a pound . . . it was asserted that it would grow five times as much as any other brand of wheat . . . Government departments investigated the wheat . . . The “Miracle Wheat” was low in the Government tests . . . The Eagle won the suit.

Also, during this trial, it was revealed that The Watchtower had printed reports of alleged sermons preached by Russell in Hawaii that in fact had never occurred (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 19 February 1912, p. 18). The Court declared:

It was shown in many cases that the sermons were never delivered in the places that were claimed.

7. Early JW View of Russell
Russell referred to “the truths I present as God’s mouthpiece,” and stated:

God’s due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out. (WT, 15 July 1906, 229)

His admirers were even less restrained:

. . . if any oppose the Lord by opposing the Channel and the Servant the Lord has delegated to do his work, to that extent he loses the favor, the Spirit of the Lord, light becomes darkness, and he is soon outside. (Preface, 1909 Convention Report)

Charles Taze Russell, thou hast, by the Lord, been crowned a king; and through the everlasting ages thy name shall be known amongst the people, and thy enemies shall come and worship at thy feet. (WT, 1 December 1916, 376-377)

. . . no one . . . can honestly say that he received a knowledge of the divine plan from any source other than by the ministry of Brother Russell . . . the Lord’s Servant. Then to repudiate him and his work is equivalent to a repudiation of the Lord. (WT, 1 May 1922, 132)

He listened to the word direct from the mouth of God . . . (The Finished Mystery, 1918 ed., 387)

It will be found that the place next to St. Paul . . . will be occupied by Charles Taze Russell. (Pastor Russell’s Sermons, 1917, 3)

. . . Satan has attempted . . . to cause the Lord’s people to believe that Brother Russell was not the only channel by which the Lord would lead his people. (WT, 15 September 1922, 279)

Brother Russell . . . was made ruler over all the Lord’s goods. (WT, 1 March 1923, 68,71)

8. Later JW View of Russell

The idea adopted by many was that C. T. Russell himself was the “faithful and wise servant.” This led some onto the snare of creature worship. They felt that all the truth God saw fit to reveal to his people had been presented through Brother Russell . . . In February 1927 this erroneous thought . . . was cleared up. (1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1974, 88)

Who is preaching the teaching of Pastor Russell? Certainly not Jehovah’s Witnesses! . . . they neither quote him as an authority nor publish . . . his writings. (Awake, 8 May 1951, 26)

Russell and his companions forthrightly championed . . . Bible teaching. (Let Your Kingdom Come, 1981, 143-144)

. . . a marvelously used servant of Jehovah God. (Then is Finished the Mystery of God, 1969, 111)

. . . his faithful service and his record of integrity . . . provides a stimulating record . . . Prejudice against his name still lingers. In spite of it, however, the facts speak for themselves . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses admire the qualities he possessed as a man. (Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, 62-63)

9. JW Citations of Russell’s Writings (1950-1981)
i) Three Worlds (1877) is cited as predicting “the end of the Gentile Times in 1914.” (Then is Finished the Mystery of God, 1969, 310-311)
ii) The book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose (1959), devotes nearly 50 pages to Russell and early JW history. Pictures of the Studies in the Scriptures appear on pages 11, 32, 67, and 75. At least 13 more citations occur on pages 10-11, 17, 19, 27, 31-32, 62, 67, 69, 75, 78, 90-91, and 149.
iii) Studies in the Scriptures is cited at least six times as authoritative concerning events in the Book of Revelation. (Then is Finished the Mystery of God, 1969, 45, 110, 264, 270, 274, 317)
iv) Studies in the Scriptures and early Watchtower magazines praised. (WT, 1 July 1973, 394-397)
v) The New Creation (1904) is quoted at length regarding the meaning of Romans 8:28-30. (WT, 1 May 1981, 15 / 15 July 1981, 31)
vi) The Divine Plan of the Ages (1886) quoted. (WT, 1 December 1981, 21-22)
vii) “Since 1879 . . . The Watchtower has consistently proven itself dependable.” (New World Translation, 1950 ed., 793)
viii) Early Watchtower editions cited in Then is Finished the Mystery of God (1969): July 1879 (p. 161), 15 November 1905 (p. 145), 15 October, 1914 (p. 267), 1 November 1914 (pp. 64, 263, 265).
ix) Watchtower on November 1880 cited as authoritative concerning the 144,000 doctrine (Then is Finished the Mystery of God , 1969, 260).
x) Watchtower editions of June 1882 and 1 January 1892 cited at length as authoritative concerning the definition of “minister.” (WT, 15 March 1981, 22)
xi) Watchtower editions of March 1883 and February 1884 quoted at length as completely authoritative with regard to JWs status as “God’s organization.” (WT, 1 May 1981, 15)
xii) Watchtower editions of July 1879 and early years pictured. (WT, 1 December 1981, 24)
Despite distancing themselves from the various false prophecies of their past, etc., JWs regard their organization as an unbroken historical continuity, beginning with Charles Taze Russell in 1870:

The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times has been filled with dramatic events. From one small Bible study in Pennsylvania back in 1870, the Witnesses by this year 1978 have grown to over 2,000,000. (Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 20th Century, 1979, 9)

10. 2nd President: Joseph Franklin “Judge” Rutherford (1917-1942)
The JWs experienced a leadership succession crisis when Russell died on Halloween, 1916, aboard a train near Pampa, Texas. By means of power politics, Rutherford ascended to the throne of “God’s organization on 6 January 1917, after ferocious in-fighting, which resulted in splinter groups known today as Dawn Bible Students, Layman’s Home Missionary Movement, and the International Bible Student’s Association (these groups still publish Russell’s writings, unlike JWs). Rutherford, born in 1869 on a farm in Booneville, Missouri, did indeed serve as a judge for a short time.
He was a boisterous and brash individual who reigned in the manner of a dictator, who raised Russell’s anti-church rhetoric to even greater antagonistic heights. He purged his ranks frequently in order to maintain absolute control. By 1930, all dissenters were classed as “evil slaves,” no matter how trivial their disagreements. He demanded unconditional allegiance on the grounds that he was communicated to by angels (see his books Light, vol. 1, 1930: pp. 64, 106, 120, 218; Light, vol. 2: pp. 12, 20). A typical example is quite enlightening (no pun intended):

. . . angels are delegated by the Lord to convey his instruction to the members of his organization on earth. Just how this is done is not necessary for us to understand. (WT, 1 December 1933, 364)

Rutherford made some notable changes during his tenure. Door-to-door preaching was increasingly stressed after 1925, and the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was adopted in 1931 (based on Isaiah 43:10-12). Radio was used extensively (403 stations by 1933) as well as phonograph records. Rutherford challenged many clergymen to debate. He authored 19 major books and innumerable pamphlets, with numbers running up to multiple millions of copies; presided over 150 or so minor doctrinal changes, and was a false prophet just as Russell was, most notably in predicting that 1925 would see the beginning of God’s physical kingdom on earth. He died on 8 January 1942.

11. 3rd President: Natahan Homer Knorr (1942-1977)
Knorr, who was born in 1905 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, preferred to work behind the scenes. He was a master administrator, refined the group’s internal structure, and established missionary training schools and weekly training meetings. Publishing fantastically expanded, with books and magazines circulating in hundreds of millions of copies. Membership increased from 115,000 to over two million by the time of Knorr’s death on 8 June 1977.
The policy of anonymous authorship of all publications began under his tenure, the New World Translation was produced (NT: 1950; whole Bible: 1961), and worldwide missionary activity increased greatly. Knorr lived to see the Watchtower’s predictions of a 1975 apocalypse fail, just as Russell outlived his 1914 false prophecy and Rutherford his 1925 “doom-date.” Perhaps this is God’s way — in His mercy — of giving these men one last chance to repent of their foolish, misguided pride before they die. Let’s hope so, for their sakes.

12. 4th President: Frederick W. Franz (1977-1992)
Franz (born in 1893 in Covington, Kentucky), vice-president under Knorr, was the leading JW ideologue after Rutherford. Like Russell, 41 years earlier, he also perjured himself in court. In November 1954, the JWs went to court in Scotland, in an effort to prove that they were another denomination (after 80 years of denouncing denominationalism), and in hopes that their ministers would be granted military deferment.
A copy of the case can be obtained from the Scottish Record Office, H.M. General Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland (Douglas Walsh vs. The Right Honorable James Latham Clyde, M.P., P.C., representing the Ministry of Labour and National Service — Scottish Court of Sessions, Cs 258/2788, November 1954). Here are some interesting highlights from the transcript:

Q. Have you also made yourself familiar with Hebrew?
A. Yes.
Q. So that you have a substantial linguistic apparatus at your command?
A. Yes, for use in my biblical work.

Later, during the same cross-examination, we discover:

Q. You yourself read and speak Hebrew, do you?
A. I do not speak Hebrew.
Q. Can you . . . translate . . . that fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis?
A. No, I wouldn’t attempt to do that.

In fact, Franz held no degree and dropped out of college in 1914 as a sophomore, as he testified (“Q. Did you graduate? A. No, I did not. I left the University in 1914.”). Yet he later testified that:

I was offered a Cecil Rhodes Scholarship. I took an examination for that in the University of Ohio, the State University at Columbus, Ohio . . . in 1914.

Faith on the March, by JW A.H. Macmillan (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1957, 181-182), a book endorsed by the Watchtower Society, elaborated upon Franz’s alleged educational credentials:

Franz . . . carried away the honors of the University of Cincinnati and was offered the privilege of going to Oxford or Cambridge under the Rhodes Plan. Instead, in 1914, he entered the ministry . . . He is also a scholar of Hebrew and Greek as well as of Syriac and Latin.

The Rhodes Scholarship Trust (American Office: Wesleyan University: Middletown, Conn.), in a letter dated 14 January 1981, has stated that Franz’s “claim to have been a Rhodes Scholar is incorrect.” Moreover, it isn’t even possible to attend Cambridge University on the Rhodes Plan.
Franz also testified that he and Knorr headed the translation committee for the New World Translation, and that they had the last word. The translations were invisibly communicated by means of “angels of different ranks who control Witnesses” (see also, Scottish Daily Express, 24 November 1954). Knorr did not attend college at all, nor did the other three known translators (which perhaps explains the appeal to angels). Franz, then, was a liar and perjurer; neither a theologian nor a scholar: rather like Russell himself. He died on 22 December 1992 at the Watchtower headquarters, at the age of 99.

13. 5th President: Milton G. Henschel (1992-2000)
Henschel was born in 1920, was on the “translation committee” for the New World Translationand was Secretary-Treasurer of the Watchtower Society during the Knorr administration, then later Vice-President. He was succeeded by Don Adams (not the guy who starred in Get Smart) in 2000.


II. Watchtower Authority

1. JW Claims of Extraordinary Spiritual and Theological Exclusivity


All heretical sects make an exclusive claim to truth and superior wisdom: this is one of their most outrageous and identifying traits. JW literature is full of such claims, and the JW initiate is constantly conditioned to accept the notion that JWs are the only true Christians. Lets examine some of the more astounding declarations:

One who . . . no longer considers himself to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . is renouncing his standing as a Christian. (WT, 15 September 1981, 23)

True religion, as represented on earth by Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . (WT, 15 January 1981, 15)

. . . a name that would distinctly identify Christ’s true followers in this day . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses. This name has properly distinguished Jehovah’s true Christian worshipers from others who claim to be Christian today. (Jehovah’s Witnesses — Unitedly Doing God’s Will Worldwide, 1986, 11)

The one organization that Jehovah is using in the earth today. (WT, 15 August 1981, 28)

Only this organization functions for Jehovah’s purpose and to his praise. (WT, 1 July 1973, 401-402)

. . . the one approved channel representing God’s Kingdom on earth . . . (WT, 1 March 1981, 24)

Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using . . . we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do. (WT, 1 December 1981, 27)

Jehovah’s organization alone . . . is directed by God’s holy spirit. (WT, 1 July 1973, 401-402)

He does not impart his holy spirit . . . apart from his visible organization. (WT, 1 July 1965, 391)

To serve and praise the Universal Sovereign, one must associate with the organization of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses. (WT, 1 July 1973, 401-402)

The Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind. (WT, 1 October 1967, 587)

2. JW View of Christians and “Christendom”

The Catholic spirit is one of compromise with demonism, Babylon’s religion, for world control. Christendom today . . . is another Babylon or Babel . . . Though independent of the Pope, the Protestant systems are still in bondage to Babylonish religion. Christendom’s religion in all its sectarian forms is an apostasy. (What Has Religion Done For Mankind?, 1951, 277, 293-295, 319)

Christendom’s religions were based on Babylonian doctrine and ritual . . . not on God’s Word . . . false religion. (Let Your Kingdom Come, 1981, 143)

The antichrist . . . finds its expression in present-day Christendom . . . the most powerful part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, under the emperorship of Satan the Devil. (WT, 1 May 1981, 14)

3. Insight Into the JW Perspective on “Unity”
One of the JWs who testified at the 1954 Scotland Trial (see section I, 12) was Haydon C. Covington, former vice-president of the Watchtower Society and its legal counsel. Here are some highlights of his testimony:

A. Jehovah God is the Creator, the Former and Founder of the organization . . . he is its directive Head . . . it is governed by Jehovah God, the Most High.
Q. It is for that reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses accept without questions doctrines and biblical interpretations as expounded by the Watch Tower . . . through its Directors?
A. Yes.
Q. In publications both periodical and in book form?
A. Yes
(pp. 24-25 of Pursuer’s Proof)
Q. A Witness has no alternative, has he, to accept as authoritative and to be obeyed the instructions issued in The Watchtower or . . . Awake?
A. He must obey those.
(p. 123)
Q. You have promulgated — forgive the word — false prophecy?
A. We have . . . That was the publication of a false prophecy, it was a false statement . . .
Q. And that had to be believed by the whole of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
A. Yes, because you must understand we must have unity; we cannot have disunity with a lot of people going every way; an army is supposed to march in step . . .
Q. If a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses took the view himself that that prophecy was wrong and said so would he be disfellowshiped?
A. Yes, if he said so and kept persisting in creating trouble, because if the whole organization believes one thing, even though it be erroneous, and somebody else starts on his own trying to put his ideas across then there is disunity and trouble; there cannot be harmony, there cannot be marching together . . . the organization would disintegrate and go in a thousand different directions. Our purpose is to have unity.
Q. Unity at all costs?
A. Unity at all costs, because we believe and are sure that Jehovah is using our organization . . . even though mistakes are made from time to time.
Q. And unity based upon a forced acceptance of a false prophecy?
A. That is conceded to be true.
Q. And the person who expressed his view, as you say, that it was wrong, and was disfellowshiped, would be in breach of the Covenant, if he was baptized?
A. That is correct.
Q. And . . . would be worthy of death? . . .
A. I will answer yes, unhesitatingly.
Q. Do you call that religion?
A. It certainly is.
Q. Do you call it Christianity?
A. I certainly do.
(pp. 340-343)

Covington was later disfellowshiped himself, perhaps partly because of this testimony. Frederick Franz, the 4th President of the Watchtower Society, also had his say on the stand:

Q. So that what is published as the truth today by the Society may have to be admitted to be wrong in a few years?
A. We have to wait and see.
Q. And in the meantime the body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been following error?
A. No. They have been following misconstructions of the Scriptures.
Q. Error?
A. Well, error.

Asked about the date of Adam’s creation, which had been “altered three times,” Franz replied:

A. The date has been corrected.
Q. But once the date was published by the Society all Jehovah’s Witnesses were bound to accept it as Scripturally true?
A. Yes.
Q. And liable to be disfellowshiped if they demurred to that date?
A. If they caused trouble over it, because the Scriptures say that if anyone is a disturber inside the congregation he is hindering the growth of the congregation . . . and should be disfellowshiped.
Q. Even though he perchance were supporting that date now taken by the Society when the Society was publishing a wrong date?
A. . . . he will abide by what is published for the time being . . . he gets blessing because of his submission and waiting upon Jehovah and not leaving it to his own understanding.

4. Disfellowshiping

Raymond Franz, the disfellowshiped former member of the Governing Body and nephew of the 4th President, wrote:

I know many persons who clearly evidence concern (for truth), yet who are labeled as “apostates,” “antichrist,” “instruments of Satan.” In case after case after case, the sole basis for such condemnation is that they could not honestly agree with all the organization’s teachings or policies. (Crisis of Conscience, Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1983, 32-33)

JWs are instructed not to speak to anyone who may leave the organization, and to avoid them like the plague, with only slight concessions made to relatives. They are told to psychologically “punish” those who leave. Evil motives or wicked sins are automatically attributed to “apostates” who have “left the truth.”
5. Hatred Condoned

Haters of God and His people are to be hated . . . We must hate in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme and active aversion, to consider as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest . . . We cannot love those hateful enemies, for they are fit only for destruction . . . The modern-day Moabites are the professing Christians. (WT, 1 October 1952)

Under certain conditions and at certain times it is proper to hate . . . This hate does not seek to inflict injury on others and is not synonymous with spite or malice. Rather, it finds expression in its utter abhorrence of what is wicked . . . Christians rightly hate those who are confirmed enemies of God . . . men who have deliberately and knowingly taken their stand against Jehovah . . . Christians have no love for those who turn the undeserved kindness of God into an excuse for loose conduct. (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, “Hate,” 719; echoed almost word for word in Insight on the Scriptures, 1988, vol. 1, 1043)

The Bible commands us to love our enemies, to do good to them, to bless and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 6:27-28). It does not make exceptions, as JWs do. Besides the explicitly immoral, whom they are told to hate, those who “leave the truth” or who protest too strongly against JW dogma, are included as well. Such teaching is indicative of a spiritual darkness indeed at the highest levels of the Watchtower.

6. JW Claims of Openness to Self-Examination and Dialogue

We need to examine . . . what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 1968, 13)

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all religious teachings should be subjected to this test of agreement with the Scriptures, whether the teaching is offered by them or by someone else. They invite you, urge you, to do this in your discussions with them. We are sure that you have other questions about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs. Perhaps some of them are controversial in nature. We would like to answer them. (Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 20th Century, 1979, 3-4, 31-32)


III. False Prophecies and Contradictory Date-Setting
  1. False Prophecies and Claims of “Prophet” Status: 1886-1987
[The Bible condemns date-setting at Matthew 24:42, Mark 13:32-33, Luke 21:8, and Acts 1:7]

The marshaling of the hosts for the battle of the great day of God Almighty, is in progress while the skirmishing is commencing. (WT, 1 January 1886, p. 817 in reprint)


In this chapter we present Bible evidence that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e., the full end of their lease of dominion, will be reached in A.D. 1914; and that that date [1] will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men . . . that at that date the Kingdom of God . . . [2] will have obtained full, universal control, and that it will then be “set up,” or firmly established, in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions.

Secondly, it will prove that he whose right it is thus to take the dominion will then be present as earth’s new Ruler . . . the overthrow of these Gentile governments is directly caused by dashing them to pieces . . . (Ps. 2:9, Rev. 2:27) and establishing in their stead his own righteous government.

Thirdly, it will prove that [3] some time before the end of A.D. 1914, the last member of the . . . Church of Christ . . . “the body of Christ,” will be glorified with the Head; because every member is to reign with Christ . . .

Fourthly, it will prove that from that time forward Jerusalem shall no longer be trodden down of the Gentiles . . .

Fifthly, it will prove that by that date, or sooner, Israel’s blindness will begin to be turned away . . . (The Time is at Hand, 1912 ed., 76-77)

A later edition of the same book (1920) was doctored to salvage the false prophecies. The phrases italicized and numbered above were changed to read, respectively:

[1] “will see the disintegration of . . . ”
[2] “will begin to assume control, and that it will then shortly be “set up” . . .
[3] “some time before the end of the overthrow . . . “


Within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved. (The Time is at Hand, 1889, 98)

We consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914. (The Time is at Hand, 1906 ed.; the 1915 edition reads, “near the end of A.D. 1915”)

The “battle of the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership is already commenced. (The Time is at Hand, 1909 ed., 101)


. . . the full establishment of the Kingdom of God in the earth at A.D. 1914. (Thy Kingdom Come, 1907 ed., 126; the 1925 ed. reads, “. . . after 1914”)

With the end of A.D. 1914, what God calls Babylon, and what men call Christendom, will have passed away, as already shown from prophecy. (Ibid., 153)

That the deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914 is manifest. (Ibid., 228; the 1923 ed. reads, “very soon after 1914”)

Russell even used the Great Pyramid in his biblical calculations (a practice which second President Rutherford denounced in 1928), and “stretched” it when he changed his mind:

. . . measuring down the “Entrance Passage” . . . to find the distance to the Entrance of the “Pit,” representing the great trouble and destruction with which the age is to close . . . we find it to be [1] 3416 inches, symbolizing the 3416 years . . . This calculation shows [2] A.D. 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble . . . Thus the Pyramid witnesses that [3] the close of 1874 was the chronological beginning of the time of trouble . . . Nor should any doubt the fact that the [4] forty years of judgment and trouble began in the fall of 1874. (Thy Kingdom Come, 1901 ed., 342)

The 1907 edition changed the italicized and numbered passages to the following:

[1] “3457 inches, symbolizing 3457 years”
[2] “A.D. 1915”
[3] “the close of 1914”
[4] “forty years of ‘harvest’ . . .”

To top off this folly, Russell was wrong in both measurements. The exact length is 3384.9 inches, so that he was off about 31 inches in the first edition and 72 inches (6 feet!) in the second (see Pyramid Discourse, Morton Edgar, 1929)

The date of the close of that “battle” is definitely marked in Scripture as October 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October 1874. (WT, 15 January 1892, 21-23)


. . . 1914 date . . . we see no reason for changing the figures — nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. (WT, 15 July 1894)


. . . end of the “Times of the Gentiles,” October 1914 (The New Creation, 1904, 579)


. . . the harvest began in A.D. 1874 and will end in A.D. 1914 in a world-wide trouble which will overthrow all present institutions and be followed by the reign of righteousness of the King of Glory and his bride, the Church . . .

Suppose that A.D. 1915 should pass . . . with the evidence that the “very elect” had not all been “changed” and without the restoration of Natural Israel to favor . . . What then? Would not that prove our chronology wrong? Yes, surely! Would that not prove a keen disappointment? Indeed, it would! (WT, 1 October 1907, “Knowledge and Faith Regarding Chronology,” 4067 in reprint)


October 1914 will witness the full end of Babylon, “as a great millstone cast into the sea,” utterly destroyed as a system. (WT, 15 June 1911)

May 1, 1914

There is absolutely no ground for Bible students to question that the consummation of this Gospel age is now even at the door, and that it will end . . . in a great time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. (WT, “Chronology Based on Faith,” 5450 in reprint)

September 1, 1914

Christ is about to take to himself his great power and reign . . . Armageddon may begin next spring, yet it is purely speculation. (WT, 261-263)

October 5, 1914

The war will proceed and will eventuate in no glorious victory for any nation, but in the horrible mutilation and impoverishment of all. Next will follow the Armageddon of anarchy. After that, peace . . . it will be brought in by Messiah’s Kingdom. For forty years I have been proclaiming this very war and its glorious outcome . . . with the close of the present year Messiah should . . . begin his glorious reign of a thousand years, the beginning of which . . . will be a very dark hour. (New York Times, p. 8, “Distress of Nations With Perplexity”)

November 1, 1914

We did not say positively that this would be the year. (WT)

. . . just how long after the Gentile Times close will be the revealment . . . we do not know . . . we might expect a transition to run on a good many years. (WT, 327)

December 14, 1914

The present war is permitted for the weakening of the nations, preparatory to the utter collapse of the Present order of things — and the ushering in of the New Order — the Reign of Righteousness, under Messiah’s Kingdom. (WT)

April Fool’s Day, 1915

The Battle of Armageddon, to which this war is leading . . . will signify the complete and everlasting overthrow of the wrong, and the permanent establishment of Messiah’s righteous Kingdom. (WT, 1 April 1915, 5659 in reprint)

September 1, 1916

The Times of the Gentiles ended in October, 1914, and . . . a few more years will witness their utter collapse and the full establishment of God’s Kingdom in the hands of the Messiah. (WT, 5950 in reprint)

. . . our eyes of understanding should discern clearly the Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty now in progress. (WT, 265-266)


The present great war in Europe is the beginning of the Armageddon of the Scriptures. (Pastor Russell’s Sermons, 676)

Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale, and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of “Christianity.” (The Finished Mystery, 485; the 1926 ed. of the italicized words reads, “. . . begins to destroy the churches . . . “)

. . . the ravages of worldwide all-embracing anarchy, in the fall of 1920 (Rev. 11:7-13) (Ibid., 542)

Charles Taze Russell’s biblical chronology and prophecy was completely discredited on New Year’s Day, 1915. The kingdoms of the world had not been destroyed in 1914, the “church” (JWs, according to him) hadn’t been glorified, Israel had not been restored to favor, Armageddon hadn’t occurred, Messiah’s Kingdom had not been established on earth, etc., etc.
When the prophecy failed, Russell took “solace” in the “fact” that he had supposedly predicted World War I, and then he prophesied Armageddon and Christ’s Kingdom on earth as the inevitable outcome of the Great War. In actuality, he had predicted that the “Time of Trouble” would end in October 1914 (see his prophecy from 1894). The lie to the contrary is maintained by JWs to the present day. Russell said that his chronology would be an “irreparable wreck” if 1915 passed without seeing a “New Age” (see the prophecy of 1907).
Yet Russell and Rutherford, in their foolish pride, kept moving their doomsday date up a few years until, finally, the Watchtower attempted to salvage the botched 1914 predictions by contending that Jesus’ Kingdom began invisibly in heaven then, rather than physically on earth, and deceitfully claiming that this is what Russell had predicted all along.
Thus, the “Kingdom in heaven” rationalization for 1914 was a repeat of Russell’s tactics concerning his prediction of Christ’s physical return in 1874, which was desperately transformed into an invisible “presence,” which in turn was influenced by the early Adventists’ special pleading about an 1844 Advent.
Rather than honestly admit these huge mistakes, the Watchtower, supposedly God’s “channel,” preferred to alter books in a sneaky fashion, distort Russell’s predictions, and go right ahead making more false prophecies. After another spectacular failure in 1925, these were greatly toned-down, but a marked tendency of apocalyptic date-setting has persisted as a trademark of the Watchtower to this day.

There will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and other faithful ones of old . . . We may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel . . . fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on earth. (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, J. F. Rutherford, 88-90)

Russell had predicted the resurrection of the “princes” in 1914, after the church was glorified (Thy Kingdom Come, 1891, 94, 265). Rutherford advanced the date to 1925, then revised it to “within a comparatively short time” (Government, 1928, 276). In 1929, as a gesture of “testimony,” Rutherford had “Beth-Sarim” (“House of the Princes”) built in San Diego, to provide lodging for the soon-coming Princes, but the Society sold it shortly after Rutherford’s death in 1942.

Scripturally, scientifically, and historically, present-truth chronology is correct beyond a doubt. Its reliability has been abundantly confirmed by the dates and events of 1874, 1914, and 1918. (WT, 15 June 1922, 187)

Nevertheless, this overall chronology was rejected in 1943 with the publication of The Truth Shall Make You Free, (pages 141-152); perhaps not coincidentally a year after Rutherford’s demise.

The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures. (WT, 1 September 1922, 262)


1925 is definitely settled by the Scriptures. (WT, April Fool’s Day, 1923, 106)


Many have confidently expected that all members of the body of Christ will be changed to heavenly glory during this year. This may be accomplished. It may not be. (WT, 1 January 1925, 3)

It is to be expected that Satan will try to inject into the minds of the consecrated the thought that 1925 should see an end to the work. (WT, 1 September 1925, 261)


It matters not whether he proclaims his message with deliberate, willful and malicious intent to deceive, or whether he is the blinded and deluded dupe of Satan . . . In either case, he is a false prophet, and hence the agent of Satan. (WT, 15 May 1930, 154)


The great climax is at hand. (Light, J. F. Rutherford, vol. 2, 327)

Armageddon is at hand . . . within an early date. God’s judgment is upon Christendom and must shortly be executed.

There was a measure of disappointment on the part of Jehovah’s faithful ones on earth concerning the years 1914, 1918, and 1925 . . . they also learned to quit fixing dates. (Vindication, J.F. Rutherford, vol. 1, 147, 338-339)


. . . in the remaining months before Armageddon. (WT, 15 September 1941, 288)

Armageddon is surely near . . . We can well defer our marriage until lasting peace comes to the earth. (Children, J.F. Rutherford, 366)


. . . the unknown day and hour of the beginning of the final war is dangerously near. (The Truth Shall Make You Free, 341)


. . . it is becoming clear that the war of Armageddon is nearing its breaking-out point. (You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World, 331)


Through this agency he is having carried out prophesying on an intensified and unparalleled scale. All of this activity is not an accident. Jehovah is the one behind all of it. (WT, 15 June 1964, 365)


The seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975. (Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, 29)

Within relatively few years we will witness the fulfillment of the remaining prophecies that have to do with the “time of the end.” (Awake, 8 October 1966, 19-20)

Armageddon is, in fact, very close indeed . . . Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished, with Satan bound, by 1975? It could! It could! . . . Time is running out, no question about that . . . (WT, 15 October 1966, 628-629, 631)


. . . autumn of the year 1975 . . . Will it be the time when God executes the wicked and starts off the thousand-year reign of his Son Jesus Christ? It very well could, but we will have to wait and see . . . The time is close at hand . . . the time is short. (WT, 1 May 1967, 262)


Within a few years at most the final parts of Bible prophecy relative to these “last days” will undergo fulfillment. (WT, 1 May 1968, 271-273)

[Title of Article] Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975? (WT, 15 August 1968, 494)

There have been those in times past who predicted an “end” to the world, even announcing a specific date . . . They were guilty of false prophesying . . . Missing from such people were God’s truths and the evidence that He was using and guiding them. (Awake, 8 October 1968)


Regardless of how Christendom views or regards this group of anointed witnesses of Jehovah, the time must come, and that shortly, when those making up Christendom will know that really a “prophet” of Jehovah was among them. (The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah — How?, 70)


Does Jehovah have a prophet . . . ? . . . Who is this prophet? . . . This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women . . . Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses. They are still proclaiming a warning . . . under angelic direction and support . . . And since no word or work of Jehovah can fail . . . the nations will see the fulfillment of what these witnesses say as directed from heaven . . . Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a “prophet” of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show? . . . Jehovah is interested . . . in vindicating his “prophet.” (WT, April Fool’s Day, 1972, 197, 200)

Does this admission of making mistakes stamp them as false prophets? Not at all, for false prophets do not admit making mistakes. (WT, 1 November 1972, 644)


It is not advisable for us to set our sights on a certain date. (WT, 15 July 1976, 440-443)


Not human predictions, but the inspired prophecies of God are what come true with unerring accuracy (Is. 46:9-11; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Hence, God’s word condemns false foretellers of events — Deut. 18:10-12. (WT, 1 May 1981, 11)


Shortly now there will be a sudden end to all wickedness and wicked people at Armageddon. (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 154)


. . . the need to revise our understanding somewhat does not make us false prophets. (WT, 15 March 1986, 19)

Each issue of Awake magazine featured the following masthead, up to and including the issue of 2 December 1986:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new system before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.

Beginning with the issue of 8 January 1987, the statement was dropped. This may have been due to a backing off of this self-imposed deadline. The 1914 “witnesses” were “those old enough to witness with understanding what took place . . . youngsters 15 years of age” (Awake, 8 October 1968, 13). These youngest witnesses are now 103 years old, in 2002. That generation is about to pass away. So it was better to dispose of yet another false prophecy.

2. Further Date-Setting Contradictions in JW Theology and Eschatology

Jesus’ Invisible “Presence”: 1874 or 1914?

According to The Battle of Armageddon (1897, p. 521), this occurred in October 1874. This was also held by Judge Rutherford in his books Prophecy (1929, p. 65), The Harp of God (1921, p. 236), and Creation (1927, p. 298).
Yet in Watch Tower Publications Index: 1930-60, under “Dates of Prophetic Significance,” the year 1874 does not appear (pp. 77-78), and the date is now considered 1914 (see, e.g., Let Your Kingdom Come, 1981, 138-139)
The “Time of the End”: Does it Begin in 1799 or 1914?
Russell’s Thy Kingdom Come of 1891 (p. 23) dated this entire period from 1799 to 1914. Rutherford followed suit (The Harp of God, 1921, 239). The year 1799 also cannot be found under “Dates of Prophetic Significance,” in the Yet in Watch Tower Publications Index: 1930-60.
The current dogma is that “‘the times of the end’ began in 1914” (From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, 1958, 178).
Does the Kingdom of God Begin in 1878 or 1914?
For Founder Russell, the Kingdom began in 1878 (The Time is at Hand, 1889, 1909 ed., 101). But the fullest manifestation was to occur in “1914 . . . at that date the Kingdom of God . . . will then be . . . firmly established in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions” (ibid., 1912 ed., pp. 76-77).
Now the year is regarded as 1914 (From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, 1958, 170; The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 1968, 93, But of course that is meant in the “invisible” and “spiritual, heavenly” sense, whereas previously it was thought to be in a literal, physical, earthly sense.
1914: Beginning or End of the “Time of Trouble”?
Russell’s Thy Kingdom Come (1891, 1901 ed., 342) placed the beginning of this period at “the close of 1874.” He believed that “the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble” (WT, 15 July 1894).
But then God somehow contradicted Himself, by communicating to his “prophet” Russell that “the close of 1914” is “the beginning of the time of trouble” (Thy Kingdom Come (1891, 1907 ed., 342).
The First Resurrection: 1878 or 1918?
Russell’s date for this heavenly event was 1878 (The New Creation, 1904, 663).
Now, it is regarded as 1918 (From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, 1958, 213).
The End of 6000 Years Since Adam: 1872 or 1972 or 1975?
For Russell, 6000 years from Adam were up in 1872 (The Time is at Hand, 1889, 33).
The Truth Shall Make You Free (1943, p. 152) introduced a new chronology, in which 1972 marked the end of the 6000 years. In 1966, this date was moved up to 1975 (Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, 1966, 29).

3. Conclusion

Jehovah never makes any mistakes. Where the student relies upon man, he is certain to be led into difficulties. (Prophecy. J.F. Rutherford, 1929, 67-68)

False prophets were to be put to death — Zech. 13:2-3; Deut. 13:5. (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, “Prophets: Distinguishing the True From the False,” 1348)

A faithful witness will not lie; but a false witness will utter lies. (Proverbs 14:5)

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that he shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

IV. The Scholarly Incompetence and Dishonesty of the Watchtower 
1. Introduction 
The pattern of intellectual incompetence and lack of proper education within the leadership ranks of the Watchtower (and among all its members) was set by its founder Charles Taze Russell, who dropped out of school at fourteen and had no theological education whatever, and yet considered his Studies in the Scriptures of equal import with the Bible. Both Russell and 4th President Frederick Franz (who made it to sophomore status in college) lied about their academic credentials under oath.
As one would expect, JWs oppose higher education, believing it to be a waste of time. Since education encourages the outlook of free and critical thinking, it runs counter to the JW policy of absolute conformity. A survey taken in the early 1970s revealed that less than 5% of JWs had completed college, and less than half had even finished high school.

2. The New World Translation
The “Translators”
Nowhere is this lack of academic credentials more evident than in the “translation” committee of the New World Translation (NT: 1950; OT: 1961). The committee requested anonymity, for the supposed reason of modesty and humility, but it was revealed by William Cetnar, a former JW who worked at the headquarters in Brooklyn at the time of the undertaking, and by President Frederick W. Franz at the Scotland Trial in 1954, who stated that he and then-President Nathan H. Knorr headed the committee (see I, 12).
None of the five known “translators”: Franz, Knorr, George D. Gangas, Milton G. Henschel (later the 5th President of the Watchtower), and A.D. Schroeder, earned a college degree, or any credentials in languages. None but Franz attended college at all, let alone seminary. Franz demonstrated on the witness stand in 1954 that he could neither read nor speak Hebrew, after having earlier lied about his alleged abilities in both. Thus, the NWT is a farce, the purpose of which was to tamper with the Word of God in order to justify false and unbiblical doctrines and practices.
A legitimate translation is the work of one or more Hebrew and/or Greek scholars, usually a large group. The New International Version (1978), for example, was produced by over 100 prominent scholars with Ph.Ds and impressive academic credentials. For these reasons, the great Greek scholar Julius Mantey, whom the Watchtower dishonestly cites in support of their John 1:1 rendering, among other things (see the next section), is on record describing the NWT:

. . . grossly misleading . . . ridiculous . . . diabolical and abominable . . . distortion of the Word of God . . . deliberate dishonesty . . . distortion of other people’s translations . . . We need to be exceedingly suspicious of what they have given in their New Testament that’s contrary to what you find in the regular translations of the New Testament. (taped lecture)

John 1:1 Rendering

In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (NWT)

The NWT reads this way because JWs do not believe that Jesus was God the Son, as Nicene, Chalcedonian Christianity in its three major branches has always held. Greek grammar, however, simply will not permit such a rendering. This is why at least 44 legitimate versions of the New Testament clearly proclaim the deity of Christ in this verse:

The Word was God: KJV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, MLB, Amplified, NKJV, Phillips, Beck, Williams, Rotherham, ASV, Douay, Knox, Jerusalem, Darby, Weymouth, 20th Century, Montgomery, Geneva, Wesley, Riverside, NT in Basic English, Young’s Literal Translation, Confraternity.
God was the Word: Lamsa and the following interlinears: Follett’s, Berry, Zondervan, Jay Green, Nestle, and Marshall.
What God was, the Word was: NEB, REB
. . . he was the same as God: Today’s English Version (aka Good News Bible)
Christ . . . is himself God: Living Bible
The Word was as to His essence absolute deity: Wuest
The Word . . . shared his nature: Translator’s NT
The Word was divine: Goodspeed
The Logos was divine: Moffatt
The nature of the Word was the same as the nature of God: Barclay
The Word was with God and was truly God: CEV

The Watchtower cites three translations as precedent for their own rendering of John 1:1 (see, The Word — Who is He? According to John, 1962, 4-5). The first is The Emphatic Diaglott, a corrupt interlinear version of 1864, by Benjamin Wilson, who was self-educated and no scholar, and a Christadelphian: an Arian heretical sect similar to JWs. The Watchtower may have even tampered with the text of the Diaglott, however. A photocopy of the work which I have seen has “the LOGOS was God” in the right-hand translation of the supposed Greek “a god.”
A second translation cited is The NT in an Improved Version, by Archbishop William Newcome, published in London in 1808. This NT, however, did not originally read “a god.” The edition cited by JWs was not issued until years after Newcome’s death; it was printed by a Unitarian Society, which changed John 1:1 to match up with its own non-trinitarian beliefs.
The third translation mentioned by JWs, and the only one which indisputably has “a god,” is The New Testament (1937), by Johannes Greber, a former Catholic priest who had — by his own admission — become a spiritist; his wife was a medium. In his Introduction, he wrote: “I have used the text as it was given to me by those spirits,” and mentions his book, Communication With the Spirit-World (p. 15). The Watchtower even made reference to this:

Very plainly the spirits in which ex-priest Greber believes helped him in his translation. (WT, 15 February 1956)

Yet the Watchtower has elsewhere correctly denounced spiritism:

. . . a work of the flesh . . . It appeals to the desires of the sinful flesh, not to the things of the spirit, and the apostle warns that “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom” — Gal. 5:19-21 (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, “Spiritism,” 1550)

Make Sure of all Things; Hold Fast to What is Fine (1965) even counsels JWs to “destroy objects related to spiritistic practices” (p. 470). Despite all this, Greber is cited as an authority in the very same book! (p. 489), as well as elsewhere in the Aid . . . (pp. 1134, 1669), and in at least three Watchtower magazines (9-15-62, p. 554 / 10-15-75, p. 640 / 4-15-76, p. 231). Apparently, “new light” was received by 1983, since The Watchtower of April 1st, in the “Questions from Readers” section, stated that:

. . . The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism (Deut. 18:10-12). The scholarship . . . in the New World Translation is sound and for this reason does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority. Nothing is lost, therefore, by ceasing to use his New Testament.

When real scholars are cited by the Watchtower in desperately hoped-for support of its “a god” distortion, the result is just as dismal. Dana and Mantey’s Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament is misquoted in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation (“KIT,” 1969, 1158, under “John 1:1 — ‘a god'” in Appendix), as if it supports this rendering. But Julius Mantey wrote a letter to the Watchtower, dated 11 July 1974, in which he replied:

There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply that “a god” was a permissible translation of John 1:1 . . . you have been quoting me out of context.

In the very same paragraph from which the KIT quotes (pp. 148-149), Dana and Mantey had clearly stated:

As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied in Theos . . . “The word was deity” . . .

Well-known Bible commentator and scholar William Barclay was quoted (WT, 15 May 1977, 320) with reference to John 1:1 also, but he wrote in a letter dated 26 August 1977:

The Watchtower has, by judicious cutting, made me say the opposite of what I meant to say . . . The Watchtower has . . . left the conclusion that Jesus is not God in a way that suits themselves. They missed the whole point.

In the Expository Times (November 1953), Barclay wrote that “a god” was:

. . . grammatically impossible. It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.

The JW rationale for their translation of John 1:1 is as follows: the second occurrence of “God” in the verse (Theos) lacks a definite article (“the” in English), so it is correctly rendered “a god” (see, e.g., the Appendices in the NWT and KIT), whereas Theos with an article should be translated “God.” This arbitrary distinction is absurd, according to Greek grammar.
Without delving into technical linguistic matters, it is sufficient to note that the NWT violates its own stated principle for John 1:1 94% of the time in the NT. Of the more than 1300 appearances of Theos, 282 lack the definite article. Yet in only 16 places does the NWT use for those instances, “god,” “gods,” “a god,” or “godly.” Even the passage John 1:1-18 clearly shows the arbitrary dogmatism of the NWT. Theos occurs eight times (Jn 1:1,2,6,12,13,18), with an article appearing in verses 1 and 2. But the NWT has “God” six times, and “a god” and “the god” once each.
Such examples could be multiplied, of course, but let’s examine what would happen if the NWT actually followed its own “pseudo-scholarly” rule. The following verses lack an article, but the NWT has “God” in all of them. If we change “God” to “a god” (again, following their own reasoning) will the rule make any sense?:

Matthew 6:24: You cannot slave for a god and riches.
Luke 1:35: . . . what is born will be called holy, a god’s Son.
Romans 1:17: . . . a god’s righteousness is being revealed.
Philippians 2:11: Every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of a god the Father.
Titus 1:1: Paul, a slave of a god . . . [making Paul an idolater . . . ]

John 8:58 Rendering

Before Abraham came into existence, I have been. (NWT)

This is another literally impossible translation. The 1950 NWT cited this verse as an example of the “perfect indefinite tense” in its notes. No such tense exists in the Greek language! In the KIT, one can see the Greek phrase ego eimi in the left hand column with the literal rendering, “I am.” But because this is an obvious reference to God’s own proclaimed name — I AM — of Exodus 3:14 (also ego eimi in the Greek Septuagint Version of the OT, from which the NT writers quoted), and clearly teaches the eternality and deity of Jesus, the Watchtower had to change it.
It is interesting to note that the Jews then tried to stone Jesus, as recorded in the next verse. The only plausible reason for this would be His claiming to be God, especially in light of the Jewish response on other occasions (e.g., John 5:18, 10:33, 19:7, and Matthew 26:63-66). In the other three appearances of ego eimi (John 8:24, 13:19, 18:5), the NWT has “I am” — yet another case of inconsistency.
The Watchtower can find no Bible version which corresponds to the NWT at John 8:58, but at least 30 translations have “I am”: KJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, ASV, NIV, NEB, REB, NAB, TEV, MLB, NKJV, CEV, Phillips, Amplified, Jerusalem, Confraternity, Rotherham, Barclay, Weymouth, Wuest, Douay, Darby, Knox, Geneva, Montgomery, Norlie, Jay Green Interlinear, Bible in Basic English, Young’s Literal Translation.
The outstanding Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, author of the largest Greek Grammar ever (more than 1200 pages), who is also often cited by the Watchtower (see section 3 below), commented on this verse as follows:

“I am” (ego eimi). Undoubtedly here Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. (Word Pictures in the NT, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1932, vol. 5 of 6, 158-159)

Likewise, Marvin Vincent’s Word Studies in the NT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1946; orig. 1887; vol. 2 of 4, 181) — also cited as authoritative by the Watchtower — states:

Jesus’ life was from and to eternity. Hence the formula for absolute, timeless existence, I am (ego eimi)

Colossians 1:16-17 Rendering

. . . All (other) things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all (other) things. (NWT)

This passage clearly teaches that Jesus is the eternal Creator, i.e., God. But the Watchtower preferred to distort Scripture rather than subordinate their viewpoints to it. “Other” is simply not found in the Greek text, as a look at the JW KIT will quickly reveal. By adding “other,” the impression is left that Jesus, too, is a thing (a creation). The NWT again makes a mockery of its own avowed intention of translation:

Our endeavor all through has been to give as literal a translation as possible . . . word for word, the exact statement of the original . . . sometimes the use of so small a thing as the definite or indefinite article or the omission of such may alter the correct sense of the original passage. (Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, Foreword, 10)

3. Linguistic Scholars Cited as Authorities in JW Books
1. W.E. Vine (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words): The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 1968, 142-143; Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 94, 181, 315, 646, 666, 752, 1003, 1134, 1139, 1156, 1214, 1260, 1333, 1335, 1376, 1534-1535, 1548, 1567, 1573.
2. Joseph H. Thayer (Greek-English Lexicon of the NT): Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, Foreword, 18; Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 316, 995.
3. H.F.W. Gesenius (Hebrew Grammar): NWT (1981 ed.), 1446; The Word — Who is He? According to John, 1962, 56; Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 155, 513-514, 1573.
4. A.T. Robertson (Grammar and Word Pictures in the NT): The Word — Who is He? According to John, 1962, 56; Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, 1157, 1159, 1161 (Jn 1:1 and Mt 28:1); Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 694, 1133, 1207, 1543, 1601, 1616; Let Your Kingdom Come, 1981, 130.
5. Marvin R. Vincent (Word Studies in the NT): Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 61, 208, 458, 715, 834.
6. Strong’s ConcordanceAid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 316.
7. New Bible Dictionary (1962): Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 54, 71, 88, 113, 215, 393, 421, 737, 740, 749, 752, 824, 1225, 1290, 1495.
8. William Barclay: Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 995, 1156.
9. Gerhard Kittel (Theological Dictionary of the NT): Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 1019, 1260, 1325, 1393, 1530, 1542.
10. International Standard Bible EncyclopediaAid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 668, 738, 989, 1135, 1179, and throughout.
Foreword of Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971 (p. 5)

. . . some forty translations of the Bible in many different languages were consulted . . . In this way the best scholarship . . . could be brought to bear on each subject . . . Knowledge of the original languages of the Bible — Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek — has been greatly increased by the research of lexicographers . . . In our considering such material, care was exercised to evaluate properly the views advanced and the conclusions drawn by secular researchers and other scholars, in this way distinguishing between mere theory and clear fact.

(originally written in 1987, during my evangelical Protestant days; revised slightly on 8-9-02. I didn’t even own a computer in 1987, so this was originally done on a typewriter and later scanned)

Photo credit: Jehovah’s Witnesses founder Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) in 1911. [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


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