What is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society?
Question: "What is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society?"
Answer: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is an organization directed by the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower Society was founded in 1886 and is currently located in Brooklyn, New York. The Watchtower possesses tremendous control over its members and has gone so far as to produce its own translation of the Bible called the New World Translation. The Society has gone through several presidents since its founding and has positioned itself as a major competitor to evangelical Christianity. While claiming to be the only legitimate followers of Jehovah God, the Watchtower denies and even opposes several of the fundamental doctrines of the historic Christian faith.
To begin with, the Watchtower gets wrong one of the most important of all religious questions: Who is Jesus Christ? The Watchtower Society teaches that Jesus Christ is actually the first creation of Jehovah God, not God incarnate as the Bible clearly teaches (Titus 2:13; Colossians 2:9). In doing so, they have placed Christ in the category of creature rather than acknowledging His rightful place of Creator of all things (Colossians 1:16-17; John 1:1-3). They have repeated the deadly error of Arianism, which was condemned as heresy by the Christian Church at the Council of Nicea and is easily refuted by a fair reading of Scripture.
Since its inception, the Watchtower has denied the biblical teaching of the triune God (one Being who exists as three co-equal, co-eternal Persons) and gone so far as to say that the God of Christianity is a satanic counterfeit. Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and a former President of the Society, even referred to the Christian concept of God as, “the devil himself.” The God of the Watchtower is not the biblical God and is therefore not capable of saving people from their sins.
In an attempt to justify their doctrines through biblical exegesis, the Society produced their own translation of the Scriptures in 1961. This translation, known as the New World Translation, is regarded by the Jehovah's Witnesses as the only faithful rendering of the biblical text. The NWT is unique in that it is the first intentional, systematic effort at producing a complete version of the Bible that is edited and revised for the specific purpose of agreeing with a group’s doctrine. Greek scholars from across the theological spectrum have repeatedly criticized the NWT as an inaccurate rendering of key biblical passages.
The late Dr. Bruce Metzger, formerly Professor of New Testament Language at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of several highly acclaimed books on textual criticism, stated, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses have incorporated in their translations of the New Testament several quite erroneous renderings of the Greek.” Dr. Robert Countess, who completed his Ph.D. dissertation in Greek on the New World Translation, is on record as saying that the Watchtower’s translation “has been sharply unsuccessful in keeping doctrinal considerations from influencing the actual translation. It must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work. At some points it is actually dishonest.”
A further reason to reject the claims of the Watchtower is their long history of engaging in false prophecy. The Watchtower Society has on numerous occasions predicted in print the end of the world, the most recent dates being in 1946, 1950, and 1975. What makes their false prophecy all the more damning is when their false predictions are seen in the light of their claim to be "the true prophetic mouthpiece for God on earth at this time." The Society's history of false prophecy stands in stark contrast to the standard for a true prophet laid out in Scripture: "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" (Deuteronomy 18:22).
Moreover, the Watchtower continues to engage in cultic manipulation of its people through the prohibition of military service, the celebration of holidays, and the saluting of the nation's flag. The impetus for these restrictions is rooted in their false claim to be the exclusive organized collection of Jehovah's people. The Watchtower views these practices as devices of Satan to lead people away from Jehovah. The Watchtower sees the entire “world system” (any activity not connected with the Watchtower) as connected to Satan and is thus prohibited. This would include the practice of blood transfusions, which the Watchtower wrongly believes to be prohibited by Scripture. The Watchtower has stated that a blood transfusion "may result in the immediate and very temporary prolongation of life, but at the cost of eternal life for a dedicated Christian." The Society wrongly assumes that the biblical prohibition against eating blood (Genesis 9:4; Acts 15:28-29) extends all the way to the modern practice of blood transfusions, a restriction that, in practice, has cost the very lives of many Jehovah's Witnesses and even their children.
Despite a track record of repeated false prophecies, a cultic isolation of their own people, and a flagrant mistranslation of the Bible to justify their own theology, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society continues to gain unsuspecting converts every year. It is the job of biblically faithful Christians to be prepared to refute these errors with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). As Jude tells us, we must "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3).
Recommended Resources: Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Watchtower Bible Tract Society by Ron Rhodes.
We highly recommend Witnesses for Jesus for more information.
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