Last Monday I commenced a home study with the JW elder named Charlie, who I mentioned in my introductory post. About a month ago I had invited Charlie to take
[Left: "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, 2005]
me through the JWs home study for prospective new members but I thought he had refused.
In the meantime my Christian mother-in-law had given me a copy of "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" which a JW at her door had given her. I assumed this must be the very book that JWs use in their home studied for prospective new members.
So when Charlie returned earlier this month and said he would start meeting with me every Monday, I prepared for a discussion with him about one of the Appendices, "Who Is Michael the Archangel?" at pages 218-219 of the book.
However, Charlie wanted to work though the book from the beginning, and I agreed. But we only got as far as the first page of chapter 1, "What Is the Truth About God?" That is, when we got to:
"Children are not the only ones who ask questions. As we grow up, we keep asking. We do this in order to find our way, to learn of dangers that we need to avoid, or to satisfy our curiosity. But many people seem to stop asking questions, especially the most important ones. At least, they stop searching for the answers. ... Why is it often good to ask questions? ... Why do many stop trying to find answers to the questions that matter most?" (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, 2005, p.8).
I asked Charlie whether the Watchtower really encouraged asking questions about the Watchtower and its doctrines? I am not going to give Charlie's answers, to preserve his confidentiality, so all I will give here are my questions (in bold with the page number first).
I am posting these here so that they may be of help to either: a) other Christians ministering to JWs; b) prospective new JWs studying this book; or c) JWs who are having doubts about Watchtower doctrines. There are other online critiques of this book, which I have not relied upon and don't necessarily endorse, including: Catholic Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jehovah's-Witness discussion forum.
For our next meeting this coming Monday, I am going to ask Charlie the following questions (which at first will backtrack slightly):
P7a. Are we going to be "learning what the Bible really teaches" or just what the Watchtower organization says the Bible teaches?
"The fact that you are reading this book shows that you would like to find out what the Bible teaches. This book will help you. Notice that the paragraphs have corresponding questions at the bottom of the page. Millions have enjoyed using the question-and-answer method when discussing the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses. We hope you will too. May you have God's blessing as you now enjoy the thrilling and satisfying experience of learning what the Bible really teaches!" (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, 2005, p.7).
If someone with no previous Bible knowledge was shipwrecked on a desert island with just the Bible, would they just by reading the Bible discover JW's distinctive teachings?
P7b. Does the Watchtower organization really encourage its members to undertake a program of daily Bible reading" such that they "read the entire Bible in a year"?
"GET TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE ... You will quickly become familiar with the Bible by looking up the scriptures cited in this publication. Also, why not start a program of daily Bible reading? By reading three to five chapters a day, you can read the entire Bible in a year." (WB&TS, 2005, p.7. Emphasis original).
Why did The Watchtower of August 15, 1981, attack those JW's who "read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home"?:
"From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those who ... say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such `Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago ...." (The Watchtower, August 15, 1981, pp.28-29).
If by reading "the Bible exclusively" one would arrive at the "doctrines that ... Christendom's clergy were teaching" does not this show that JW doctrines are not based on "the Bible exclusively" but Christianity's doctrines are?
P8. Does the Watchtower organization really encourage its members to not "stop asking questions" about the Watchtower and its doctrines? (already asked-see above).
P12. Why does the Watchtower make so much of the name "Jehovah" when it does not appear in the original Hebrew and in fact was first used by a Roman Catholic monk in AD1270? (see `tagline': "Aid", p.884):
"If you want someone to get to know you, what might you do? Would you not tell the person your name? Does God have a name? Many religions answer that his name is `God' or `Lord,' but those are not personal names. They are titles, just as `king' and `president' are titles. The Bible teaches that God has many titles. `God' and `Lord' are among them. However, the Bible also teaches that God has a personal name: Jehovah. Psalm 83:18 says: `You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.'" (WB&TS, 2005, pp.12-13. Emphasis original).
Also the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was not used until it was invented by `Judge' Rutherford in 1931, i.e. 52 years after Charles Taze Russell founded the Watchtower Society in 1879. (see `tagline': "JWs Proclaimers").
P 13. Is it not misleading to claim that "God's name" (YHWH) "appears thousands of times in ancient Bible manuscripts" when that is only in Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts but not once is YHWH transliterated into Greek in any New Testament manuscript? (see `taglines': "Aid", p.886; Rhodes; Martin):
"The truth is that God's name appears thousands of times in ancient Bible manuscripts. So Jehovah wants you to know his name and to use it. In a sense, he is using the Bible to introduce himself to you." (WB&TS, 2005, pp.13-14. Emphasis original).
P14. If "Jehovah wants" us "to know his name and to use it" why does the New Testament emphasise knowing and using Jesus' name? (see `also tagline': Reed):
Name of Jesus: God's command is to have faith in (1Jn 3:23); believers have life in (Jn 20:31); apostles called on Jews (who already believed in Jehovah) to repent and be baptized in (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48); apostles spoke and taught in (Acts 4:18; 5:40); evangelists preached in (Acts 8:12; 9:27); Christians justified in (1Cor 6:11); Christians sanctified in (1Cor 6:11); apostles healed sick in (Acts 3:6,16; 4:10), performed miraculous signs and wonders through (Acts 4:30), demons cast out by (Acts 16:18); opposition to (Acts 26:9); Christians risked their lives for (Acts 15:26; 19:13); died for (Acts 21:13); churches assembled in (1Cor 5:4); Christians to call upon (1Cor 1:2); thanks to be given in (Eph 5:20); every knee should bow at (Php 2:10); everything to be done in (Col 3:17); to be glorified (2Th 1:12); Christians appealed to in (1Cor 1:10), Christians commanded in (2Th3:6).
We probably won't get as far as this, and this post is getting too long, so this will be continued in a future post: "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" pp.15-17.
The pronunciations `Jehovah' and `Yahweh' By combining the vowel signs of 'Adhonay' and 'Elohim' with the four consonants of the Tetragrammaton the pronunciations Yehowah' and Yehowih' were formed. The first of these provided the basis for the Latinized form `Jehova(h);' The first recorded use of this form dates from the thirteenth century. C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270." (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, "Aid to Bible Understanding," , Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, Second edition, 1971, p.884. Emphasis original).
"A milestone, though, was reached at a convention held in Columbus, Ohio, in 1931. On Sunday, July 26, at noon, Brother Rutherford delivered the public discourse `The Kingdom, the Hope of the World,' which was broadcast over a vast radio hookup, with more than 300 additional stations later rebroadcasting the message. At the end of the discourse, Brother Rutherford served notice on Christendom by reading a stinging resolution entitled `Warning From Jehovah,' which was addressed `To the Rulers and to the People.' To his invitation that they adopt the resolution, the entire visible audience stood and shouted, `Aye!' Telegrams later received indicated that many of those listening on the radio likewise raised their voices in agreement. From one o'clock, when the public discourse was finished, until four o'clock, when Brother Rutherford reentered the auditorium, the atmosphere was charged with excitement. Brother Rutherford had specially requested that everyone who was really interested in the noonday warning to Christendom be in his seat at four o'clock. Promptly at four, Brother Rutherford began by stating that he regarded what he was about to say as of vital importance to everyone who could hear his voice. His listeners were keenly interested. During his discourse he presented another resolution, this one entitled `A New Name,' which was climaxed by the declaration: `We desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, Jehovah's witnesses. `The thrilled convent' again jumped to their feet with the ringing shout `Aye!' They would henceforth be known as Jehovah's Witnesses!" (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, "Jehovah's Witnesses, Proclaimers of God's Kingdom," Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn NY, 1993, pp.79,82. Emphasis original).
"In view of this evidence, it seems most unusual to find that the extant manuscript copies of the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures do not contain the divine name in its full form. The name therefore is also absent from most translations of the so-called `New Testament.'" ("Aid to Bible Understanding," 1971, p.886).
"Jehovah's Witnesses are told through Watchtower publications that God's true name is Jehovah. They are taught that superstitious Jewish scribes long ago removed this sacred name from the Bible. But there is no need to worry, the Watchtower Society says! The Society's New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures has `faithfully' restored the divine name in the Old Testament where the Hebrew consonants YHWH appear. [Bodine, M., "Bible Answer Man," Christian Research Newsletter, May/June 1992, p.3] Moreover, the name `Jehovah' has been inserted in the New Testament by the Watchtower New World Bible Translation Committee in verses where the text is believed to refer to the Father. [Ibid] They have taken the liberty to do this despite the fact that it blatantly goes against the thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that we have-some of which date from the second century. (The New Testament always uses the words `Lord' [Greek: kurios] and `God' [Greek: theos], never `Jehovah'- even in quotations from the Old Testament. [Bowman, R.M., "Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1991, p.114])" (Rhodes, R., 1993, "Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses," Harvest House: Eugene OR, Reprinted, 2006, p.49. Emphasis original).
"The first major error we shall discuss is that Jehovah's Witnesses have restored the divine name `Jehovah' to the text of the New Testament. But let us observe this pretext as they stated it in their own words. `The evidence is, therefore, that the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures has been tampered with, the same as the text of the LXX [The Septuagint ... a Greek translation of the Old Testament] has been. And, at least from the third century A.D. onward, the divine name in tetragrammaton [The Hebrew consonants YHWH] form has been eliminated from the text by copyists.... In place of it they substituted the words kyrios (usually translated `the Lord') and theos, meaning `God' ` (NWT, 1950, p.18). The `evidence' that the Witnesses refer to is a recently discovered papyrus roll of the LXX which contains the second half of the book of Deuteronomy and which does have the tetragrammaton throughout. Further than this, the Witnesses refer to Aquila (A.D. 128) and Origen who both utilized the tetragrammaton in their respective Version and Hexapla. Jerome in the fourth century also mentioned the tetragrammaton as appearing in certain Greek volumes even in his day. On the basis of this small collection of fragmentary evidence, Jehovah's Witnesses conclude their argument: `It proves that the original LXX did contain the divine name wherever it occurred in the Hebrew original. Considering it a sacrilege to use some substitute such as kyrios or theos, the scribes inserted the tetragrammaton at its proper place in the Greek version text' (NWT, p. 12). The whole case the Witnesses try to prove is that the original LXX and the New Testament autographs all used the tetragrammaton (NWT, 1950, p. 18) but owing to `tampering,' all these were changed; hence their responsibility to restore the divine name. Such is the argument, and a seemingly plausible one, to those not familiar with the history of manuscripts and the Witnesses' subtle use of terms." (Martin, W.R. & Klann, N., 1953, "Jehovah of the Watchtower," Bethany House Publishers: Bloomington MN, Reprinted, 1981, pp.131-132. Emphasis original).
"To explain this error of translation is an elementary task. It can be shown from literally thousands of copies of the Greek New Testament that not once does the tetragrammaton appear, not even in Matthew, possibly written in Hebrew or Aramaic originally, and therefore more prone than all the rest to have traces of the divine name in it-yet it does not! Beyond this, the roll of papyrus (LXX), which contains the latter part of Deuteronomy and the divine name only proves that one copy did have the divine name (YHWH) , whereas all other existing copies use kyrios and theos, which the Witnesses claim are `substitutes.' The testimonies of Aquila, Origen, and Jerome, in turn, only show that sometimes the divine name was used, but the general truth, upheld by all scholars, is that the Septuagint, with minor exceptions, always uses kyrios and theos in place of the tetragrammaton, and the New Testament never uses it at all. Relative to the nineteen `sources' the Watchtower uses (NWT, pp. 30-33) for restoring the tetragrammaton to the New Testament, it should be noted that they are all translations from Greek (which uses kyrios and theos, not the tetragrammaton) back into Hebrew, the earliest of which is A.D. 1385, and therefore they are of no value as evidence." (Martin & Klann, 1953, p.132. Emphasis original).
"Jehovah's Witnesses misuse the name Jehovah ... They teach that it `is wrong to fail to use that name.' (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, page 44) For them it is one of the identifying marks of the true religion, so that any church or denomination that does not feature the name continually in its worship services and in its literature is automatically part of Satan's empire of false religion. The most obvious refutation for this is that such a standard would condemn Peter, Paul, John, and the other New Testament writers and the first century churches associated with them. There is no evidence that the apostles or the early Christians-particularly the Greek-speaking converts who quickly made up the majority of the early Church-attached any such special significance to the use of this name. Rather, congregations of believers were `assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus.' (1 Corinthians 5:4 NIV) In seasons of persecution Christians were `insulted because of the name of Christ.' (1 Peter 4:14) The apostles taught `in the name of Jesus' and proclaimed that `there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.' (Acts 4:12, 18 NIV)" (Reed, D.A., 1996, "Answering Jehovah's Witnesses: Subject by Subject," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Second printing, 1998, pp.143-144. Emphasis original)