This is topic #1 in my Jehovah's Witnesses A-Z. By "Apostasy" I mean the "great apostasy from true Christianity" that theWatchtower Bible & Tract Society claimed resulted in what it calls "Christendom":
"Identifying the `Third' As we shall see, when the first four trumpets are blown, plagues are inflicted on `a third' of the earth, of the sea, of the rivers and fountains of waters, and of the earth's sources of light. (Revelation 8:7-12) ... So which `third' would be most deserving of these plagues? ... the whole of mankind is in danger of receiving an adverse judgment. But one section thereof is particularly guilty. One part-'a third'-should have known better! What is that `third'? It is Christendom! In the 1920's, her realm embraced about one third of mankind. Her religion is the fruit of the great apostasy from true Christianity-the apostasy that Jesus and his disciples foretold. (Matthew 13:24-30; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:1-3)" ("Revelation: Its Grand Climax At Hand!," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, 1988, p.133. Emphasis original).
The Watchtower Society claims this happened "during the centuries since the death of the apostles" and reached its "culmination" in "325 C.E. ... [when] the unbaptized Roman emperor Constantine founded `Christendom'":
"Because Jesus spoke the truth, proclaiming the `good news" of God's purpose to deliver mankind, those religious leaders had Jesus put to death. And though Jesus established the Christian congregation as `a pillar and support of the truth," the Devil, Satan, continued to oppose the `good news,' using his religious agents on earth to this end.-1 Timothy 3:15. The apostle Paul foretold what would happen, when, in 56 C.E., he said to the elders of the Christian congregation of Ephesus: `After my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.' (Acts 20:29, 30) True to this prophecy, within three centuries the great apostasy took place. It was in 325 C.E. that the unbaptized Roman emperor Constantine founded `Christendom.' Its religious system twisted Christian doctrine and combined it with many of the Satan-inspired mysteries of ancient Babylon, which the Bible shows to be the mother city of all false religion. Thus the religion of Christendom became part of the world empire of false religion, `Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.' (Revelation 17:3-5)." ("Good News to Make You Happy," Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, 1976, pp.42-43).
"It seems that in all probability during the centuries since the death of the apostles, even since the culmination of the great apostasy by the formation of Christendom in 325 C.E., Jehovah had some on earth at all times who were loyal to his Word, his teachings, Christ Jesus as the Redeemer and to himself as the Supreme One. If this is correct, he was not at any time entirely without witnesses. Of course, such would not have been organized, at least not in a large organization. There were religious organizations, but these were and are part of Babylon the Great, false religion, and in fact Christendom is the most reprehensible part of Babylon the Great." ("1982 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses: Containing Report for the Service Year of 1981," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, 1982).
First, while there are Bible verses that predict a future Great Apostasy from true Christianity, they indicate it will be at or near the end of the age, not AD 325. Indeed, the Bible verses the Watchtower cites above indicate this. In the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds (Mt 13:24-30 NWT), it is specifically stated that the wheat and the weeds would "both grow together until the harvest"
Mt 13:30 NWT. "Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse."
which will be at "the conclusion of the system of things":
"Mt 13:39 NWT. "and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. 40Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the conclusion of the system of things."
This is evident in another of the verses cited above by the Watchtower 2Thess 2:3 NWT, which is in the context of the Jesus' parousia or Second Coming, which will be "the day of Jehovah" (also called the Day of Christ in Php 1:10; 2:16 NWT, thus proving yet again from the NWT that Christ is Jehovah!):
2Thess 2:1-3 NWT:1However, brothers, respecting the presence [Gk. parousia "coming as the first stage of presence"] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of YOU 2not to be quickly shaken from YOUR reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here. 3Let no one seduce YOU in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction."
Clearly the "apostasy" is closely prior to the "day of Jehovah" and not 1686 years (and counting after AD 325) before it. Even on the Watchtower's view that Jesus' parousia happened in 1914, that is 1589 years after AD 325!
Second, Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30 NWT, only warns of an apostasy that is local ("enter in among YOU"), partial ("draw away the disciples [some not all] after themselves"), to happen in the near future ("after my [Paul's] going away") and in the lifetime of Paul's hearers ("among YOU yourselves") not ~270 years in the future:
"29I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, 30and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves."
Third, the Watchtower's claim of a great apostasy that would, beginning after the death of the Apostles, within three centuries totally corrupt and destroy the Church that Jesus founded, is contradicted by Jesus' own statement in Mt 16:18 NWT that "the gates of Ha´des will not overpower it":
Also, I say to you, You are Peter, and on this rock-mass I will build my congregation ["church"], and the gates of Ha´des will not overpower it.
But if Jesus' Church fell into near total apostasy within three hundred years of His founding it, and it was not restored until another 1554 years when Charles Taze Russell founded in 1879, what was to become the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, then the "gates of Ha´des" did "overpower it," making Jesus a false prophet and Jehovah a weak God who was unable to prevent Satan from allegedly twisting "Christian doctrine" and combining "it with many of the Satan-inspired mysteries of ancient Babylon" for most of it its existence.
Fourth, if there was any historical support for the Watchtower's claim that the Christian Church became almost totally apostate by AD 325, then they would quote it. But they don't, and therefore there isn't. And moreover there is positive evidence which refutes the Watchtower's claims:
"The Watchtower considers all other organizations that call themselves Christians as part of a world-wide apostasy from Christianity. This `apostasy,' they say, began on a large scale in the fourth century, when the Roman emperor Constantine began influencing the church. In order to refute this idea, one must first establish that (1) there was no apostasy in the fourth century as the WT claims, and (2) the Witnesses themselves embrace teachings considered as heretical when compared with 1st century Christianity. This can primarily be done by establishing that the doctrine of the Trinity was not a new teaching as the WT claims (see TRINITY), and that the doctrines of the church were historically sound and verifiable up through the 4th century and beyond. There is ample historical evidence to demonstrate what was sound orthodoxy and what was heretical. Sources for establishing this are the writings of the early church fathers, such as Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, etc. as well as the church historian Eusebius." (Watters, R., "Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses," , Bethel Ministries: Manhattan Beach CA, Third edition, 1996, pp.1-2).
Therefore Christianity's near total corruption and apostasy by AD 325 is merely a historical fiction made up by the Watchtower's founder Russell, to justify the founding of his `Johnny come lately' new religion in 1879.
Fifth, if there had been an almost total apostasy from Biblical Christianity, the Church could recover from it simply by reading and obeying the Bible. The Watchtower's hidden assumption that once there was a near total apostasy from Biblical Christianity, it was final for eighteen centuries, is clearly unrealistic. And in fact the Watchtower has unwittingly admitted that if one reads " the Bible exclusively" one will revert back to the doctrines of "Christendom"!:
"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 ..." ("Serving Jehovah `Shoulder to Shoulder'," The Watchtower, August 15, 1981, p.29).
not those of the Watchtower Society!
Sixth, the Watchtower also claims above that "Jehovah had some on earth at all times who were loyal to his Word, his teachings ... and to himself as the Supreme One" but "such would not have been organized, at least not in a large organization." But then where is the evidence of this? We should be able to "find some record of a religious group in the" first, "second or third century with views resembling ... those of the JWs. But such is not the case":
"Where Were the Jehovah's Witnesses? All this raises an interesting question. Where, during the centuries following the New Testament era, were the ancient counterparts to today's JWs? According to the Witnesses, the church fell into apostasy sometime after the apostolic era, and the truths of the Bible were restored only in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in their religion. If this is so, we would expect to find some record of a religious group in the second or third century with views resembling at least somewhat those of the JWs. But such is not the case. The closest parallel is the Arian movement, but it did not exist until the fourth century." (Bowman, R.M., "Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1989, Third printing, 1990, p.37. Emphasis original).
Seventh," there is indeed a Great Apostasy, and WE ARE NOW IN IT (see Newsweek cover above)! And the Jehovah's Witnesses themselves are, unwittingly, further evidence that we are now in that final Great Apostasy immediately prior to Jesus' Return!:
"WHO ARE THE REAL APOSTATES? One who partakes of the `faith that was once delivered to the saints' (Jude 3) and who then rejects such truths and promotes new doctrines could be classed as an apostate and should be `rejected after a first and second admonition.' (Titus 3:10). As 2 John 9-11 says, we should not even associate with a person such as this. The real question that must be presented to the JW is: Who are the real apostates? For if through an investigation of early Christianity and its teachings we find the WT leaders to be the REAL heretics, then we can truly understand their active opposition to the Christian church. In the WT publication What Has Religion Done For Mankind? (p. 271) the claim is made that the truth about Christ was corrupted in the 4th century when Emperor Constantine proclaimed 'the Trinity' to be the true doctrine. Thus, according to the WT, apostasy first appeared with the doctrine of the deity of Christ and the Trinity. ... They argue that the early Christians did not believe in a Trinity, while ignoring the fact that their own peculiar theology on the nature of God long post-dated the trinitarian theology. There is no record of a belief system like the Jehovah's Witnesses until C.T. Russell came along centuries later." (Watters, 1996, pp.3-4. Emphasis original).