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Jehovah's Witnesses: A Survey

Written by: Gruss, Edmond/ Branch, Craig    Posted on: 04/24/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

                      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 administration.

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 Brooklyn.

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 program."

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     interest. 3)  Try to arrange a "book study," using the Society's latest     books. 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     baptism.

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     Witnesses. 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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