1. The Bible.
They write, “As the inspired word of God, it is a channel for the operation of God’s spirit” (The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s?, p. 181, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania). “The Bible is a gift from God, one for which we can be truly grateful. This unique book reveals things that we could never find out otherwise” (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, p. 18, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania).
They have produced their own translation of the Bible. It is known as the New World Translation. The New Testament was released in 1950, the entire Bible in 1961. The translators remain anonymous. They state that the reason for this is because, “The translators were not seeking prominence for themselves but only to honor the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 277, WTBTSOP).
This translation has done some very controversial things. Here are a few: (1) It uses the name Jehovah in the text of the New Testament. This is done, even though the sacred name (the Tetragrammaton, YHWH) does not appear in any New Testament manuscript. (2) In John 1:1 “the word was God” (NKJV) is rendered “the word was a god” (NWT). It is true that the definite article is not present. However, the definite article is not required in a predicate nominative when it is preceding the verb. E.C. Colwell has written, “Definite predicate nouns which follow the verb (this is the usual order) usually take the article. Definite predicate nouns which proceed the verb usually lack the article… The absence of the article does not make the predicate indefinite… When it proceeds the verb, it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it” (A Definite Rule For The Use of the Article In The Greek New Testament by E.C. Colwell, University of Chicago, Journal of Biblical Literature, 52 (1933): 12-21, ColwellRule.pdf). (3) In John 8:58, “before Abraham was, I Am” (NKJV) is rendered, “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (NWT). There is no justifiable reason for this. It is present tense, not perfect. Wayne Jackson comments, “Before Abraham was born [aorist], I am [present]” (8:58). The change in tense is no accident. The aorist, with reference to Abraham, declares that there was a point in time when he did not exist, and came to be. By want of contrast the present tense… reflects the timelessness of Christ. It affirms that he is an eternally existing being” (Wayne Jackson, Treasures From the Greek New Testament, p. 64). (4) In Colossians 1:16-17, the world “other” is supplied in brackets four times. “Because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon earth, the things visible and the things invisible… All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist” (NWT). This is not derived from the wording in the Greek text. It comes from their view of the meaning of Jesus being referred to as the firstborn (Colossians 1:15, for more info. See Jesus: A Created Being by B.H.).
They do indicate that they are willing to study with you out of the translation you prefer” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 279, WTBTSOP).
They claim that all teaching should be tested by the word of God. They write, “Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all religious teachings should be subjected to this test of agreement with the inspired scriptures, whether the teaching is offered by them or by someone else. They invite you – urge you – to do this” (Jehovah’s Witnesses – Who Are They? Wol.jw.org).
2. Watch Tower Material.
Consider their own words. Charles Taze Russell wrote, “Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years – if he lays them aside and ignores them and goes by the bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references and not read a page of the Bible as such, he would be in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the scriptures” (Charles Taze Russell, The Watchtower, Septempber 15, 1910, p. 258 – quoted in Josh McDowell and Don Stewart’s Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 45). These words appeared in the watchtower more, recently, “We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the scriptural guidance we need outside the “’faithful and discreet slave’ organization (The WT Organization – B.H.)” (The Watchtower, February 15, 1981, p. 19, wol.jw.org).
Robert Morey gives this advice, “A Witness is trained not to trust himself or others to interpret the Bible. In light of this, it is obviously fruitless to battle verse by verse with a Witness. Besides being a waste of great amount of time, it is not efficient because even if you manage to silence a witness, and to give him arguments which he cannot answer, he will just contact the Watchtower and they will give him answers. As long as the Witness trusts the Watchtower as a reliable and faithful guide, you will never get anywhere with him… you must demonstrate that The Watchtower is not trustworthy or reliable. You must prove that The Watchtower is not ‘God’s visible organization on earth’… until his confidence in the Watchtower is destroyed, a witness cannot place common ground between you and a Witness” (Robert Morey, How To Answer a Jehovah’s Witness, pp. 14-15). While we must be careful with our words, this is a point that one is wise to remember.
1. Failed Prophecies
It should be stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be prophets. These words appeared in the Watchtower, “So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come? These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is the prophet?… Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses” (They Shall Know That a Prophet was Among Them, Watchtower, April 1, 1972, p. 197, wol,jw.org).
(a) Russell taught in 1910, that 1914 would bring about the end of earthly governments. He wrote, “We consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914. Then the prayer of the church, even since the Lord took his departure – ‘Thy Kingdom come’ – will be answered; and under that wise and just administration, the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Charles Taze Russell, The Time is at Hand!, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 2, p. 99, archive.org).
This did not happen. The end of earthly governments did not happen in 1914.
“After Russell’s death in 1916, and the failure of the end of the world to come to pass in 1914, Judge Rutherford changed from an emphatic end, to the year 1914 being the ‘beginning’ of the end” (Michael Demory, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “So-Called”: Exposing the Errors of the Watch Tower Society, P. 219). Rutherford wrote, “The things there prophesied (Matt. 24, B.H.) began to come to pass in 1914, and they are still in the process of fulfillment” (J.F. Rutherford, Prophecy, p. 52, archive.org).
This is still their position. They wrote in 1974, “The Bible clearly pinpoints the generation alive in 1914 C.E. as the one that will yet witness the ushering in of Kingdom rule free from satanic interference. Hence, many living today will have the opportunity to never die” (Is This Life All There Is?, p. 165, WTBTSOP). More recently, in 2005, they said, “1914 indeed marked the birth of God’s heavenly kingdom and the beginning of ‘the last days’ of this present wicked system of things” (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 218, WTBTSOP).
(b) Rutherford wrote in 1920 a book entitled Millions Now Living Will Never Die. In it he said, “There will be the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old… we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected and fully restored to prefect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on earth” (p. 88). Again, “Millions of people now on earth will still be on earth in 1925. Then, based upon the promises set forth in the divine word, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die” (p. 97, books.google.com).
Rutherford did not give up on this. In 1929, he built Beth-Sarim (House of Princes) in San Diego, California. It was designed to house the resurrected faithful (Rutherford, Salvation, p. 311, archive.org). The Watch Tower Society sold the house in 1948. It is located at 4440 Braeburn Rd. San Diego, California 92116. It is a 5,100 square feet house. The property has been designated a Historical Landmark by the city of San Diego (Wikipedia).
Other dates could be mentioned. However, not one such prediction is verifiably fulfilled.
They now admit that they have over-stepped at times. “Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus’ second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions, ‘in the name of Jehovah.’ Never did they say, “These are the words of Jehovah” (Why So Many False Alarms?, Awake!, March 22, 1995). This is a stunning admission.
2. Miracle Wheat Controversy
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on November 1, 1916. “’Pastor’ Russell’s Watch Tower publication advertised wheat seed for sale at $1.00 a pound. It was styled ‘Miracle Wheat,’ and it was asserted that it would grow five times as much as any other brand of wheat… The Eagle first made public this new venture of the Russellites and it published a cartoon picturing the ‘Pastor’ and his ‘Miracle Wheat’ in such a way that ‘Pastor’ Russell brought suit for libel, asking for $100,000 in damages. Government departments investigated the wheat… and agents of the Government were important witnesses at the trial of the libel suit in January, 1913. The ‘Miracle Wheat’ was low in the Government test, they said. The Eagle won the suit” (newspaper.com).
3. Changing Doctrines
Here are a couple of examples: (a) They once taught that Jesus should be worshipped (The Watchtower, October 15, 1945, p. 313). This is now taught against (The Watchtower, November 1, 1964, p. 671). (b) They now make a distinction between the use of blood fractions for the purpose of building up resistance to diseases by means of antibodies and the use of blood and blood plasma in transfusions. By their own admission, they did not always do so (The Watchtower, September 15, 1958, p. 575, wol.jw.org). The use of serums containing blood fractions for the purpose of building up antibodies to fight against disease is now left to the individual conscious (The Watchtower, November 15, 1964, p. 680, wol.jw.org).
Changes in doctrine are explained as “new light” being given. “God continues to shed light upon his people. As a result, their faith “is like the bright morning light that grows brighter and brighter (Proverbs 4:18). Increasing light from Jehovah continues to illuminate their way organizationally, doctrinally, and morally” (The Light Keeps Getting Brighter, wol.jw.org). Michael Demory comments on their use of Proverbs 4:18, “the witnesses believe this verse refers to their receipt of ‘new light’ (Revelation) from God… this verse is not speaking about revelation from God, but the righteous individual’s ability to increase his understanding of God’s will to live a holy life” (Demory, p. 185). Regardless of the context, one should realize that they believe in continuous revelation.