Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Survey
AUTHOR: Gruss, Edmond/ Branch, Craig
PUBLISHED ON: April 24, 2003

                      Jehovah’s Witnesses:
                          A Survey

    (Updated and expanded by Craig Branch from Edmond Gruss’
“Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Survey”)

                    Watchman Fellowship, Inc
                        P.O. Box 19416
                      Birmingham, AL 35219

In 1975 the Witnesses had an active worldwide membership of 1.9
million.  As of 1988, the figure of active Jehovah’s Witnesses
had risen to 3.5 million, with some 750,000 members, in America
alone, doing door-to-door witnessing.  That the outreach and
influence of this organization greatly exceeds its membership
becomes evident from the circulation figures of the magazines and
books published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,
Brooklyn, New York, the governing body of the Jehovah’s
Witnesses.  Also, the Witnesses had over 9 million in attendance
at their 1988 Memorial meal, which indicates at least that many
consider the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be “the truth”.

The work of the Witnesses among nominal Christians, new converts
and on the mission fields, has caused a great deal of confusion
and heartache.  This is the case because this cult denies most of
the major doctrines accepted by evangelical Christians.

This brief survey presents a few highlights concerning the
Witnesses’ history, doctrines, publications and program.  The
study is concluded with some suggestions on dealing with the
adherents of this cult and their doctrinal views.

                          JW History

The history of the Witnesses is conveniently divided into four
periods which coincide with the four presidents which have led
the movement.

Charles T. Russell (1852-1916) founded Zion’s Watch Tower-now The
Watchtower-in 1879 and Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society in 1884
(later renamed).  In addition to his speaking and editorial work
Russell penned six volumes titled Studies in Scriptures
(originally Millennial Dawn), which appeared between 1886 and
1904.  By the time of his death in 1916, the legal and doctrinal
foundation of the Society had been established.

“Judge” Joseph F. Rutherford (1869-1942), the second
president-under whose leadership the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses”
was taken in 1931-was a prolific writer.  In addition to his
speaking and editorial work, and the publication of dozens of
booklets, he wrote an average of one new book each year.  A
number of doctrinal and Scriptural reinterpretations marked his

Rutherford became the “new oracle of God’s message for this age”
and Russell’s writings and interpretations were often neglected
or rejected as not abreast of progressive light.  By 1938 the
independent ecclesiae of Russell’s day were brought under the
“Theocratic” control-subservient to the Society’s headquarters in

Nathan H. Knorr -following Rutherford’s death in 1942, officially
took over the leadership of the Witnesses, a movement then
slightly over 115,000.  Knorr has demonstrated his
organizational ability in that great growth has taken place under
his direction in the areas of membership, outreach, buildings and
publications (2.25 million members in 1977).

Fred Franz – When Knorr died in 1977, Fred Franz was elected the
Watchtower’s fourth president.  Although now very old he
continues to rule with an iron hand.


The easiest way to treat the doctrinal system of this cult is to
present its denials of evangelical Christianity.  Other
characteristic doctrines are also stated.

Doctrinal denials include the:
1)  denial of the Trinity;
2)  denial of the deity of Christ (Arian view);
3)  denial of the Personality of the Holy Spirit (viewed as
    “God’s active force”);
4)  denial of man’s immortal soul (It should be noted that
    Scripturally “immortality” applies to man’s future body.
    Orthodoxy uses immortality as a term to explain that
    man’s soul or spirit continues to exist after death.);
5)  denial of the Biblical view of the Atonement (Christ’s
    death is viewed by the Witnesses as that of only a
    perfect man and as a “corresponding ransom”); Christ is
    the mediator only for the 144,000.
6)  denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ (the
    witnesses teach that He rose a spirit creature as Michael
    the archangel and materialized bodies on various
    occasions in order to be seen by His disciples);
7)  denial of salvation by faith in Christ alone; A two class
    system of salvation – 144,000 in heaven, and the great crowd
    on a paradise earth.
8)  denial of salvation outside their organization;
9)  denial of the “born again” experience for all (this
    experience-they say-is just for 144,000 of the Witnesses);
10)  denial of the eternal punishment of the lost (claiming
    annihilation is their fate);
11)  denial of the bodily, visible return of Christ (Christ
    “returned” invisibly in 1914 and there was an invisible
    “rapture” in 1918).

Other characteristic doctrines:
1)  the Bible cannot be understood today without the Society;
2)  blood transfusion is rejected-if a Witness received one
    willingly it would result in his eternal death;
3)  Witnesses refuse to serve in the military and to salute the
    flag-to salute the flag is an act of idolatry;
4)  holidays and celebrations, such as Christmas, Easter and
    birthdays, are rejected as pagan in origin.


The printed page has been one of the most effective tools of the
Witnesses.  As of 1989, their two semi-monthly magazines, The
Watchtower and Awake!, had publication figures of 13 million and
11.25 million respectively.  The Watchtower magazine is the
“theological” publication of the Society.  The publication of one
or more books each year, with a first printing of millions of
copies, have a real impact.

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was completed in
1961.  Dr. Hoekema agrees with what many others have said
concerning this version: Their New World Translation is by no
means an objective rendering of the sacred text into modern
English, but is a biased translation in which many of the
peculiar teachings of the Watchtower Society are smuggled into
the text of the Bible itself  {Anthony A Hoekema, The Four Major
Cults, pp.238,239}.

Greek scholar, Dr. Robert Countess wrote a well documented and
thorough critical analysis of their New World Translation in
which he concluded, “(it) must be viewed as a radically biased
piece of work.  At some points it is actually dishonest.  At
others it is neither modern nor scholarly” (The Jehovah’s
Witnesses’ New Testament pg.93).

The Witnesses also have two Greek interliner New Testament texts.
The older work is The Emphatic Diaglott, translated by Benjamin
Wilson, a Christadelphian with no credentials in Greek. The other
is  The Kingdom Interliner Translation of the Greek Scriptures,
published in 1969, combines the Westcott and Hort Greek text with
the Society’s translation and an improved text of the New World
Translation.  Both works clearly reveal a doctrinal bias.

Three topically arranged Bible-verse handbooks (with verses
frequently out of context) should be mentioned:  Make Sure of All
Things (1953) and Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What is
Fine (1965); and their most recent tool, Reasoning From the
Scriptures (designed to answer most questions).  A Bible
dictionary, Aid to Bible Understanding, and their most recent
Insight Into the Scriptures, reflect the Witnesses’ understanding
on most topics.  A Jehovah’s Witness can now “study” the Bible
and never leave Watchtower Society publications.


All movements have a program of some kind to bring in the
converts.  It was William Schnell, author of Thirty Years a Watch
Tower Slave, who clearly explained the Witnesses’ “seven-step

1)  Get literature into the hands of people through
    house-to-house or other outreach.
2)  Follow up with a “back call” to determine and encourage
3)  Try to arrange a “book study,” using the Society’s latest
4)  Get the person showing interest to come to the
    congregational “book study.”
5)  Bring those showing interest to the “Watchtower study.”
6)  Encourage attendance at the “Service meeting” and the
    “Theocratic Ministry” school.  These two meetings train the
    Witnesses in their outreach program.
7)  The last step is the dedication of the life to Jehovah in

In the steps presented above, the reader will notice the absence
of a definite time of being “born again”, an experience only for
the 144,000 according to the Society.

                  Dealing With the Witnesses

The individual Witness:
1)  He is trained in a particular doctrinal system.
2)  He is committed to the Society without reservations as
    “God’s channel.”
3)  He is “brainwashed,” a fact attested to by many former
4)  He normally rejects being “born again”; therefore, he cannot
    give a testimony of an accomplished personal salvation.

Dealing with the Witness:
1)  Do not argue.
2)  Don’t get sidetracked.
3)  Deal only with primary doctrines: the Person and Work of
    Christ are vital.
4)  Give your personal testimony of salvation.
5)  Don’t deal with the Witness without your Bible.
6)  Pray that he will be saved.

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