This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 33, number 04 (2010). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).2
Like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christianity died with the last of the apostles. They believe Christianity was not resurrected until their founder, Charles Taze Russell, began organizing the Watchtower Society in the 1870s. In their view the cross is a pagan symbol adopted by an apostate church and salvation is impossible apart from the Watchtower. While the Witnesses on your doorstep consider themselves to be the only authentic expression of Christianity, the Society they serve compromises, confuses, or contradicts essential Christian doctrine.
First, the Watchtower Society compromises the nature of God. They teach their devotees that the Trinity is a “freakish-looking, three headed God” invented by Satan and that Jesus is merely a god. In Watchtower theology Jesus was created by God as the archangel Michael, during his earthly sojourn became merely human, and after his crucifixion was re-created an immaterial spirit creature. JWs also deny the physical resurrection of Jesus. According to Russell, the body that hung on a torture stake either “dissolved into gasses” or is “preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God’s love.”
Furthermore, although Christians believe all believers will spend eternity with Christ in “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1; 22:17), the Watchtower teaches that only 144,000 people will make it to heaven while the rest of the faithful will live apart from Christ on earth. Thus in Watchtower lore there is a “little flock” of 144,000 who get to go to heaven and a “great crowd” of others who are relegated to earth. The heavenly class are born again, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and partake of communion; the earthly class do not. To substantiate the notion that heaven’s door was closed irrevocably in 1935, JWs point to “flashes of prophetic light” received by Joseph F. Rutherford at a JW convention in Washington D.C. Other false “flashes of prophetic light” include Watchtower predictions of end-time cataclysms that were to occur in 1914…1918…1925…1975.
Finally, under the threat of being “disfellowshipped,” Jehovah’s Witnesses are barred from celebrating Christmas, birthdays, or holidays such as Thanksgiving and Good Friday. Even more troubling are Watchtower regulations regarding vaccinations, organ transplants, and blood transfusions. In 1931, JWs were instructed to refuse vaccinations—by 1952, this regulation was rescinded. In 1967, organ transplants were ruled a forbidden form of cannibalism—by 1980, this edict was erased. In 1909, the Watchtower produced a prohibition against blood transfusions. No doubt, this too will one day become a relic of the past. In the meantime, tens of thousands have not only been ravished spiritually by the Watchtower Society but have paid the ultimate physical price as well.
While Watchtower adherents are often willing to do more for a lie than Christians are willing to do for the truth, these and a host of other doctrinal perversions keep JWs from rightly being considered Christian.
Is the New World Translation of the Bible Credible?
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the New World Translation (NWT) is the “work of competent scholars.” Conversely, they contend that other Bible translations are corrupted by religious traditions that are rooted in paganism. In reality, the NWT is the work of a Bible Translation Committee with no working knowledge of biblical languages. Their bias is so blatant that Dr. Bruce Metzger, professor of New Testament at Princeton, not only characterized the NWT as a “frightful mistranslation” but as “erroneous,” “pernicious,” and “reprehensible.”
First, the NWT mistranslates the Greek Scriptures in order to expunge the deity of Jesus Christ. Against all credible scholarship, Jesus is downgraded from God to “a” god in John 1 and demoted from the Creator of all things to a mere creature who created all other things in Colossians 1. According to the translation committee of the Watchtower Society, as noted above, Jesus was created by God as the archangel Michael, during his earthly sojourn was merely human, and after his crucifixion was recreated an immaterial spirit creature.
Furthermore, the Translation Committee has sought to conform the NWT to their religious traditions by replacing the cross of Christ with a torture stake. Matthew 10:38, for example, has been altered to read, “And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.” In Watchtower lore, the cross is a pagan symbol adopted by an apostate Christianity when Satan took control of the early church. Jehovah’s Witnesses view wearing a cross as a blatant act of idolatry. Conversely, Christians wear crosses as a reminder of what was at once the most brutal and beautiful act in redemptive history.
Finally, the Watchtower Society claims that the Christian Scriptures have “been tampered with” in order to eliminate the name Jehovah from the text. In reality, it is the Translation Committee of the NWT that can rightly be accused of tampering. In well over two hundred cases the name Jehovah has been gratuitously inserted into the New Testament text. In passages such as Romans 10:13 this is done to obscure the unique deity of Christ. In other passages, it is done under the pretext that referring to God as Lord rather than Jehovah is patently pagan. Ironically, in The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, Watchtower translators themselves fall into this “pagan” practice by translating the Greek word kurios as “Lord” even in cases where it specifically refers to the Father.
For these and a host of other reasons, Greek scholars across the board denounce the NWT. Dr. Julius Mantey, author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, called the NWT a “shocking mistranslation,” and Dr. William Barclay characterized the translators themselves as “intellectually dishonest.”
Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast heard daily throughout the United States and Canada via radio, satellite radio XM-170, and the Internet. For a list of stations airing theBible Answer Man, or to listen online, log on to equip.org.
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- Excerpted from Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Book (Nashville: J. Countryman, 2004).
- All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.