Last week, another bunch of “Christians” came up to me wanting to discuss the Bible. It’s actually amazing how many of these evangelists are specifically targeting English-speakers in Korea. Even most of the door-to-door evangelists bring along at least one English-speaker “just in case.” After letting them know that, “Yes, I too, am Christian” and telling them which church I go to (one of the largest in the city – and well-known around the world) – they continued to ask me to “discuss the Bible with them.” Obviously, this usually happens when the evangelists want to point out “faults” with traditional Christianity and convert me to their brand of it (i.e. a cult). So, unable to pretend any longer, I just asked them straight up, “Which Christian denomination are you?” To which they replied, “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Now, usually, from the moment I hear the name of a cult, I just turn off my ears, and push them away as quickly as I can – even if I come off as rude. After all, I know my God, and know they are trying to sell me on a false one. No sense hearing them out any longer. But this time, as the evangelist partner reached into his bag for one of their Watchtower Magazines and asked me to read it, I accepted. I guess I just wanted to know what, exactly, they write about, and what exactly they believe that differs from traditional Christianity. I opened the Magazine with complete skepticism, and wasn’t disappointed. I quickly found some things within that are contrary to traditional Christian doctrine – as well as one thing they strongly believe that is contrary to history books and encyclopedias.
The following is a breakdown of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that is divergent from Christianity. Each point has an appropriate graphical representation in today’s art.
The Trinity? No, no, no. There are only TWO “people.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity. In fact, they deny there are even three persons at all – they believe there are only two. The Holy Spirit, according to Jehovah’s witnesses is only God the Father’s “active force” (lightning bolt) – through which he creates and works. In fact, according to Jehovah’s witnesses, Jesus was God the Father’s first creation, and it was after his creation that God the Father created the rest of humanity through Jesus (Colossians 1:16). Therefore, as Jesus is a created being, he has a beginning, and cannot be eternal. He is not equal to God, and in fact, he never claimed to be God or equal to God in the Bible – or so they believe. (Although there are plenty of verses that disprove that notion.) Therefore, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is #2 to God. God the Father, is #1, the one and only, who answers only to the names “Jehovah” and sometimes “YHWH” as he did in the Hebrew Old Testament. In fact, it is because of this belief that they have produced their own translation of the Bible – called the “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.”
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
In order to justify some of their beliefs (i.e. the non-deity of Christ; God only answers to “Jehovah”; and so on), a new translation of the Bible was required. “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures” is the name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible. It was published in 1961 and is the first original translation of the ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts of the Bible. The translators claimed to have “a better understanding of the original intentions” of the original authors and justify their changes in the Bible in that way. In fact, many of the changes are in place to remove Jesus’ deity. Check out some of the examples below:
The Non-Deity of Christ
In the first verse in the NIV, Jesus calls himself God by using the name that God used for himself in Exodus 3:14. But, the NWT removes Christ’s deity by only saying that he was in existence – following their theology that he is a created being, created before Abraham.
In the second verse in the NIV, Jesus is the Word, and the Word IS God. However, in the NWT, it says just that the Word was “a god” because they believe that only God the Father is God, although there may be other gods (Jesus is one). In fact, they even believe that Jesus was created as Michael the Archangel at creation, and became the Messiah at his baptism. But, Jesus is not Michael, and God and Jesus ARE ONE as it says in John 17.
Cross and Resurrection? The text doesn’t literally say that…
Two more things Jehovah’s witnesses deny about Jesus are the cross and his bodily resurrection. Because the Bible – in the original Greek – never literally uses the word “cross” to tell of Jesus’ death (the Greek word “stauros” literally translates to “stake” or “tree”), the JW’s believe that Jesus was crucified on a post, with arms raised above his head and a single nail driven through them. However, the Bible clearly states that Jesus had “nailS“ driven through his hands and not just “nail.”
Additionally, JW’s don’t believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. The resurrection, they say, was only a “spiritual” resurrection, and didn’t include his original body. However, the Bible clearly shows people touching and interacting with Jesus’ post-resurrection body – so it can’t have been just a spirit – if they truly take the Bible as literally as they indicate they do from their cross denial. But as for taking the Bible literally, here’s a great clip from Mark Driscoll about the difference between Plain Literal language and Figurative Literal language in the Bible. It would be well worth a listen for people who like to take the Bible literally.
The Bible PLUS [_____]
Still, it is a bit odd that the JW’s claim to take the Bible so literally, yet also believe it is insufficient in and of itself. They may not come out and say so directly, but a publication of The Watchtower Magazine on February 15, 1981 says this: “We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ organization.” That “faithful and discreet slave” organization as it turns out is the JW’s own Watchtower organization.
According to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM):
They say that they read and study their Bibles and only use the Watchtower literature as a guide to understanding God’s word. But it is this very admission which condemns them because their doctrines are not found in the Bible. The proof is found, believe it or not, in the Watchtower’s own writings. Consider this quote from The Watchtower magazine, August 15, 1981 that says:
“From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah’s people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude…They 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…”
Basically, the Bible PLUS anything = nothing. The Bible IS sufficient on its own because it is the only true Word of God. That’s not to say that other books are worthless, but just that when they become a crutch on which people lean in order to understand anything of the Bible, then they are worthless.
And speaking of 100 years ago…
There’s another interesting bit of information about JW’s that won’t come out right away, but that they believe occurred nearly 100 years ago. In 1914, according to their mathematical calculations, Jesus invisibly returned to Earth, and began his invisible reign – but most humans just aren’t aware of it.
CARM reports this:
An absolutely critical date for the Jehovah’s Witnesses is 1914 AD. It is the date when, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the time of the Gentiles ended (Watchtower, 5/1/93, page 11) and “Jesus-the heavenly warrior Michael-became King of God’s heavenly Kingdom,” (Watchtower 11/1/93, page 23). To arrive at this date, the Witnesses take the account in Daniel 4 and apply a 360 day year for each of the seven “times” for a total of 2520 years. They add this date to 607 B.C., their date for the fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, and arrive at 1914 A.D., the date when Jesus supposedly returned invisibly in the heavens (The Truth Shall Make You Free, p. 300), the “appointed time of the nations” ended (The Time is at Hand, page 79), and the beginning of the end of the world commenced (Watchtower 11/15/50, page 438).
But the question is, “How did they determine that 607 B.C. is the date that Jerusalem fell when most historians and scholars agree it was 586 or 587 B.C.?” That’s simple. It’s based on another mathematical calculation using the Jewish Exile in Babylon. The Persian King Cyrus released the Jews to return to their homes from Exile in about 537 B.C. And according to a prophecy in Jeremiah 29, the Lord said there would be a period of 70 years in exile. So simply take 537 B.C. and go back the full 70 years to arrive at the critical date of 607 B.C. Simple, literal, perfect – but not historically accurate.
Think you’re going to heaven? Think again.
The final thing I’ll highlight that JW’s believe that differs from Christianity is that only 144,000 people will go to heaven. This is a number that is referred to in Revelation 7 and 14. The JW’s believe that those “anointed” ones will rule Earth together with Jesus from heaven. So what happens to the other JW’s? They’ll enjoy a paradise on Earth like the Garden of Eden (which was God’s original plan in the first place). And how do you know if you’re one of the anointed? You just do. You just feel it, deep down, in your gut, you just know. There is no official selection or voting to be an “anointed” – you just know it.
For further research on Jehovah’s Witnesses, I encourage you to check out the plethora of information on CARM’s site: http://carm.org/
Also, the BBC Religions site has some great info: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/witnesses/