It is often said by Christians that we should admire Jehovah’s Witnesses for their zeal in sharing what they believe, this is true. It is sometimes also said that we should admire Jehovah’s Witnesses because they teach from the Bible, and the Bible alone, this is not true.
Under the subject heading: ‘You can understand the Bible’, the Watchtower magazine December 2015 asks its readers a question: Why understand the Bible? It begins with three quotes:
“The Bible is a religious classic. But it’s a foreign book and not relevant to the Chinese.”—LIN, CHINA.
“I can’t even understand the holy books of my Hindu religion. So how could I understand the Holy Bible?”—AMIT, INDIA.
“I respect the Bible as an old book and have heard that it’s a best seller. But I’ve never personally seen a copy.”—YUMIKO, JAPAN.
As usual in Watchtower literature, most quotes often cannot be traced back to ‘real’ people, but these thoughts set up the rest of the article.
It begins by saying that people cannot understand the Bible, but understanding it will bring you the following benefits:
- Contentment and happiness
- Help dealing with family problems
- Help you to cope with anxieties
- Improve personal relationships
- Manage money wisely
We are then introduced to another Japanese lady ‘Yoshiko’ who wondered what the Bible was about so she read it for herself. What did she find? She said:
“The Bible has helped me to find a purpose in life and hope for the future,” she said, adding: “I no longer feel empty inside.”
This is really interesting. Yoshiko read the Bible for herself and understood it! We are then reintroduced to Amit (who is quoted earlier in the article). After examining the Bible personally, he said:
“I was amazed; The Bible contains practical information for everyone.”
It appears that Amit also read the Bible and found that he could understand it.
It is strange to find this in Watchtower literature, as it flies in the face of what the Watchtower believes and teaches its adherents:
“Only this organization functions for Jehovah’s purpose and to his praise. To it alone God’s Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book,” (Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p. 402).
“Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible,” (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587).
As these quotes show, only the ‘organization’ can truly understand the Bible, so the closing comment to the readers is confusing:
‘Why not examine it for yourself and see how it can benefit you?’ (Bold Italics mine)
Although there is the challenge to read the Bible for yourself, it is to be noted that this article is the first of three in this Watchtower magazine; with each article leading you towards the need for a ‘Bible’ study with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The next article is entitled: ‘A Book to Be Understood’ which has a picture of a gentleman reading the Bible. In the corner of the picture though, is a mobile phone showing the New World Translation and the reader is introduced to JW.ORG.
The article says:
If a book is to be a helpful and beneficial guide to people, it must be understandable and relevant to them. The Bible is just such a book. It offers satisfying answers to life’s most important questions. For example, have you ever wondered, ‘Why are we here?’ That question has baffled man for thousands of years, and it still does. Yet, the answer can be found in the first two chapters of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. There the Bible account reaches back to “the beginning”—billions of years ago—when our physical universe, including the galaxies, the stars, and the earth, came into existence. (Genesis 1:1) Then it describes, in progressive stages, how the earth came to be habitable, how various life forms came into existence, and how humans appeared on the scene—as well as the purpose of it all.
Perhaps in order to be relevant to its non JW readers, the article reveals here the Watchtower belief in theistic evolution, ‘billions of years ago’ and ‘progressive’ stages’. These terms are not found in Genesis, so it has to be ‘read into’ the Scripture. This appears to contradict what is said later in the article: ‘First, the Bible’s language is clear, direct, and appealing.’
A clear and straightforward reading of the Genesis account shows no ‘billions of years; but rather six creative 24 hour days. So we see despite their claims the Watchtower does not just use the Bible alone!
The article continues by saying that the Bible is ‘written to be understood’ and it is should be ‘available to all’; and offers reasons why this is the case. Then, at the end of the second article, we begin to see where this was all leading it says:
No other religious text can compare with the Bible in these respects. Clearly, the Bible is a book to be understood. However, understanding it can be challenging. But help is available. Where can you find it? And how can you benefit? Find out in the following article. (Bold italics mine)
The final article has the title: Finding Help to Understand the Bible. The premise is laid out that a person needs help from ‘qualified instructors of the Scriptures’. Moses needed to explain things to the Israelites; later Bible instructors were on hand to teach the people and then Jesus came along to explain things further.
Now let’s make it clear, Christians are not against using commentaries and other literature to help them understand the Bible. We acknowledge that we need help at times, but there is a big difference between this and what the organization claims:
“We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ organization,” (Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981).
This quote reveals that the organization’s role in understanding the Bible. Christians believe that God can and does speak to people directly through the pages of Scripture, whereas Jehovah’s Witnesses have been taught they cannot understand the Bible without the organization.
Now it is interesting to note that when the Holy Spirit inspired authors of the New Testament sent their letters to the early Christian congregations, they sent them assuming that their words could be understood. They didn’t send a Watchtower booklet along to explain what they ‘really meant’. But to read the Bible without Watchtower aids is, according to the Watchtower to be ‘like… Satan’:
“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 . . ,” (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1981).
This is an enlightening quote showing why the organization needs to teach you what the Bible means. If you read the Bible alone you will believe what Christians teach and NOT what the Watchtower teach. No one reading the Bible alone would ever come to the conclusion that you cannot celebrate birthdays or Christmas, that Jesus was only an angel or that you cannot have a blood transfusion. These teachings are imposed upon the Bible from an extra biblical source – namely The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
The article ends by inviting the reader to contact JW.ORG to arrange a free home bible study. Please be advised that it will not be a bible study, it will be a Watchtower book study. They will use their own ‘changed’ version of the Bible, and you will look at verses in the Bible, but this will be alongside a Watchtower publication which will guide you through the indoctrination process. My advice is to read the Bible, not the Watchtower, and ask God to speak to you through it. He will.