In a bid to uphold their false doctrine about the afterlife, the Watchtower Society resorts to various tactics to validate its position.
1. Deliberate mistranslation
In their New World Translation, they swallowed a camel in a bid to sustain their annihilation belief.
Matthew 27:50. “Again Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up his breath” (NWT).
Luke 23:46. “And Jesus called with a loud voice and said: Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (NWT).
These are parallel passages describing the same event: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s account, ‘the Society’ had no difficulty substituting the word “breath” for the Greek “spirit” (pneuma), whereas based on the context and grammar, there’s no justification for such a replacement.
Jesus yielded up His spirit, not His “breath.” JWs forced the word “breath” into the Matthew text in order to cement their doctrine; it’s a Jedi mind to condition the Witness’ mind.
When they arrived at the passage in Luke, the JW translators too realized that their messy cat would be easily let out of the bag if they rendered it: “Father, into your hands I entrust my breath,” so they used the correct rendering “spirit” instead.
But the very fact that Christ dismissed His spirit proves the survival of the human spirit beyond the grave, or as Solomon so wisely put it: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).
Let me give another example.
Philippians 1:21–23. “For in my case to live is Christ, and to die, gain. Now if it be to live on in the flesh, this is a fruitage of my work—and yet which thing to select I do not know. I am under pressure from these two things; but what I do desire is the releasing and the being with Christ, for this, to be sure, is far better” (NWT).
Notice how the word “departing” was replaced with “releasing.” In their appendix to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (pp. 780-781), they wrote:
“In no way is the apostle here saying that immediately at his death he would be changed into spirit and would be with Christ forever … It is to this return of Christ and the apostle’s releasing to be always with the Lord that Paul refers at Philippians 1:23 … It must refer to the events at the time of Christ’s return and second presence…”
First of all, no reputable lexical work defines the Greek word analousai as “releasing.” The passage grates against their cherished belief, so they twist the text to conform to it.
Second, what apostle Paul is saying in Philippians 1 centers on his possible death and subsequent presence with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), and also his concern toward the believers in Philippi. The coming of Christ is not the subject of discussion at all.
Paul never believed he would “sleep” in the grave till the resurrection because he clearly states he could either be with Christ after death or continue in the body to minister to the people. He described death as “gain.” There would be no gain in dying if men became non-existent after death. God is not the God of the dead or the non-existent (Mark 12:27).
Now, by denying that apostle Paul “would be changed into spirit and would be with Christ forever,” the Watchtower is also indirectly implying that he is not part of the 144,000 “anointed class.”
Why God would bypass Paul the apostle who “laboured more strenuously than all the rest” for the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:10) and was “poured out as a drink offering” as a martyr (Phil. 2:17), and consign him to the “great crowd” is a fatal contradiction that Jehovah’s Witnesses will have to explain.
2. Misquoting sources
In Reasoning from the Scriptures (pp. 169-170), a quote is offered from Encyclopedia Britannica (vol XXV, 236) to disprove the soul’s immortality. The part appearing in bold was intentionally omitted:
“In the NT, the Greek word psyche is often translated as “soul” but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means “life” or “vitality,” or at times “the self.” While most Christians believe in a life after death, the Bible does not provide a clear description of how a person survives after death. Christian theologians have had to resort to the discourse of philosophers for an adequate means of describing survival of the individual after death, and philosophers have traditionally utilised the concept of the soul as the vehicle of immortality.”
3. Poisoning the well
They always link the Christian doctrine of the afterlife with paganism by misquoting their sources or utilizing the biased works of other annihilationists.
They also project a very negative image of pastors or Christian Bible teachers as ‘servants of Satan.’ This is a preemptive tactic deployed to seal the minds of JWs to whatever their opponents say.
“The Bible’s teaching about the condition of the dead leaves many of Christendom’s clergymen in an awkward position. The very book on which they claim to base their teachings, the Bible conflicts with their doctrines. Yet, consciously or unconsciously, they feel impelled to reach into the Bible to seize on something to prove their point, thereby blinding themselves and others to the truth” (Is this Life All There Is? 1974, 98, 99).
“The ‘burning anger of Jehovah’ is against all who have misled their fellowmen by lying about God and his purposes. And he does not hold guiltless those who support such men by attending their religious services or being members of their organizations. The time left before the execution of divine judgement is short…you need to act quickly…to break all ties with the world empire of false religion.” (Ibid p. 187)
The scare-mongering and the appeal to isolation in these quotes are obvious. The amusing thing is that, on the one hand, JWs are told to quickly cut all ties with all churches, yet the JW who wrote this claims to know what church clergymen might say or do “consciously or unconsciously.” How did he know them?
Such a screeching rhetoric is aimed at preventing JWs from reading any reputable Christian work exposing the lies of the Watchtower Society. A renowned cult expert provides some interesting insights:
“First and foremost, the belief systems of the cults are characterized by closed-mindedness. They are not interested in a rational cognitive evaluation of facts. The organizational structure interprets the facts to the cultist, generally invoking the Bible and/or its respective founder as the ultimate source of its pronouncements … Secondly, cultic beliefs are characterized by genuine antagonism on a personal level since the cultist almost always identifies his dislike of the Christian message with the messenger who holds such opposing beliefs” (Walter Martin and Hank Hanegraaff, The Kingdom of the Cults, revised edition Bethany House, 1997, p. 33).
4. Comma shifting
Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Here, Jesus was promising the pernitent thief that he would be with Him in paradise that very day. This is another proof of the immortality of the inner man and an eternal destination. This would torpedo the JW annihilation doctrine, so they shifted the comma to after the word “today” in their New World Translation (NWT) bible to read as:
“Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise”
To defend this spurious translation, they argue that:
“Westcott and Hort text put a comma in the Greek text before the word today… in the original Greek, no comma is found” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, 408).
The fact is, the punctuation in English is determined by the context of the passage. The NWT has no scholarly support for this mis-punctuation. This is why all Bible versions (with the exception of the NWT) renders the comma after “you” and not “today.”
Greek scholars are in agreement. Dr Randolph Yaeger in his work, The Renaissance New Testament translates Luke 23:43 as:
“Therefore He said to him, truly I am telling you, Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest renders it:
“And He said to him, Assuredly I to you am saying, Today you will be with me in paradise” (The New Testament- An Expanded Translation, Grand Rapids, MI, 1961, 203).
As stated elsewhere, these are the tactics employed when a religious organization is bereft of truth.
Dr. Ron Rhodes explains why the JWs had to tamper with this Bible text:
“It is helpful to observe how the phrase, ‘Truly, I say unto you’ is used elsewhere in Scripture. The phrase – which translates the Greek word amen soi lego – occurs 74 times in the Gospels and is always used as an introductory expression …
“In 73 out of 74 times the phrase occurs in the Gospels, the New World Translation places a break – such as a comma – immediately after the phrase, ‘Truly I tell you’. Luke 23:43 is the only occurrence of the phrase in which the New World Translation does not place a break after it. Why? … this would go against Watchtower theology” (Reasoning from The Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Harvest House, 1993, 328).