The Watchtower Mind Tricks

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).

They continue:

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).

Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? (II)

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One of the common charges levied against the Bible is that, since the New Testament writers exhorted slaves to obey their masters in the Roman social system, the Bible actually approves of slavery and has contributed to inhumanity and oppression.

First of all, the atheist has no moral or logical ground to stand on to condemn slavery. If our actions are determined by random collisions of molecules in our brain – as many atheists believe – then slavery cannot be morally wrong. It would be an expression of natural selection.

Unbelievers vainly boast that humans, not God, put an end to slavery in America while the slave traders justified their dehumanization with some Bible verses. The fact is, the abolitionists were Christians, and they appealed to the Bible to support their anti-slavery stance.

The chancellor of Protestant University, William Wilson, stated that slavery was “at war with the image of God in which man was created” as it treats other humans as less than human as God created him and lowering the person to property.

On the other hand, the biblical texts the pro-slavery advocates were able to cobble together were weak, astutely wrenched and tortured paths.

These men were simply a bunch of wicked, racist and bigoted folks who used the Bible to rationalize their atrocities. That didn’t mean the Bible was really on their side.

Even the most well intentioned religious text can be misinterpreted and misused by people for their own advantage. Interestingly, the Western slave masters and modern atheists are united in their absurd misinterpretation and mutilation of the Bible. They approach the Book the same way a butcher approaches a hog!

It’s not enough for skeptics of all stripes to quote some extracted Bible verses (often to “prove” their preconceived notions), we must examine the complete testimony and see the big picture.

Of course, the dogmatic Bible hater will derisively dismiss this, but once their false assertions are refuted, their propaganda collapses into a pile of pixie dust.

The following texts are often quoted to “prove” that the NT upholds slavery:

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Colossians 3:22).

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ” (Ephesians 6:5)

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative” (Titus 2:9).

1. Jesus Christ had already pointed to the mission of freedom from all forms of slavery: spiritual, mental and physical. Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, He declared:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk. 4:18).

The practical application of this verse is what led to the elucidation of freedom and the denunciation of forms of slavery.

2. The church was born into an already existing secular social world. Christianity didn’t come with a social reform programme for Israel and Rome, because that is not how the kingdom of God – which is inward, rather than geographical – works.

Therefore, when apostle Paul exhorts slaves within the Roman systems to behave themselves, he is not promoting or advocating the situation they were in, but was calling for good conduct while in such an already existing predicament in the hopes that their masters would see such good conduct and convert to Christianity and be saved (Titus 2:10). It was for the benefit of people’s eternal salvation.

3. The apostles weren’t revolutionaries and the early Christians were minorites. The older religions within the Roman Empire (Heathenism, Mystery Religions, State religion) should have borne a higher responsibility of emancipation of slaves because they had greater political might.

As for Eph. 6:5 what did unbelievers expect Paul to say? Should he incite Christian slaves to defy their Roman masters? What do they think happened to insubordinate slaves under Roman law? Did they even bother to think that far?

Under Roman law, a runaway slave was often mercilessly dealt with:

“He could be scourged branded, mutilated, or fitted with a metal collar, perhaps even be crucified, thrown to beasts, or killed. (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon, Doubleday Publishing, 2000, p. 28).

I am sure that if the NT had admonished Christian slaves to rebel against their Roman masters, modern atheists would still find a way to gripe over that. If believers walked by the Tiber, cynics would still say they walked because they couldn’t swim.

4. Paul exhorts slave masters to treat their slaves well. He commands those who are slave masters in this existing social system to be good to and not threaten their slaves.

Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your hearts. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free” (Eph. 6:6-8)

5. Paul affirmed freedom over slavery

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (1 Cor. 7:21).

Gleason Archer has shown that while Paul exhorted slaves to obey their masters, he said that slaves should do do all in their ability to purchase their own freedom. (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, p. 87).

6. The Bible does not support Slave and Master casses

Slavery runs on the cultural machinery of racial, political, religious and social-economic superiority. But the Bible elevates man as created in the image of God and affirms the equality of all men. This conflicts with the idea behind slavery.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1)

Here, apostle Paul affirms both slaves and masters are equal having a true master in heaven, and that masters on earth must not mistreat their slaves.

7. The Bible condemns slavery and the slave trade

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

Notice that slavery is included in the list of vices here and slave traders are grouped together with murderers and ungodly people.

In Revelation 18:10-13 Babylon is rebuked and judged in the context of trafficking slaves and greedily making wealth with merchants:

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore … cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.”

Most unbelievers are fond of selectively citing bible passages and neglecting cross-references, hence giving a distorted picture. And the most arrogant part is how they believe they know the Bible more than Christians who have spent the whole of their lives studying it.

Are Women authorised to Teach?

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The role of women in the church has been a hotly debated subject for decades.

On one side are those who use selected Bible verses to demean and mistreat women, and on the other side are those who not only champion women’s rights but also treat men in the very exploitative and degrading ways that they have been treated by traditional religion.

In the latter category are critics who use certain bible verses to attack Christianity and the Bible as being sexist and misogynist.

Even within the church, some troublesome passages in the New Testament have led to different denominational positions – some forbidding women to teach or preach and some allowing them to do so. Let’s look at two examples:

1 Corinthians 14: 34-36

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God originate with you [Corinthians]? Or are you the only people it has reached?

In this chapter where Apostle Paul tells women to be silent, he had already told two other groups to be “silent”: those who spoke in tongues and who prophesied (1 Cor. 14:28, 32, 43).

No one takes “let him keep silent in the church” in the other two verses to mean a man cannot preach, pray, sing or testify in church. That is why the context of the word “silence” in the text should be understood.

These instructions were intended to bring order, propriety and politeness to the church services – not to silence the people forever or prevent them from teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the text, Apostle Paul appealed to the law to validate his stance. Some commentators believe he was referring to the Old Testament law – well, not exactly.

“He appeals to it in the context in 14:21 and also in 7:19 and 9:8-10 (cf. Rom. 3:19; 7:7). The problem is that he does not cite a text from the law, and no Old Testament passage instructs women to be silent” (1 Corinthians’ Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2003, 672).

Indeed, not all OT prophets were men. Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and Anna were also prophets (Ex. 15:20; Jud. 4:4; 2Kgs. 22:4). Even Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus prophesied (Lk. 1:42-55). So we can surmise that God used women in ministry just as He used men.

It appears that those who spoke in tongues, those who prophesied, and some of the women in the Corinthian church were disrupting the congregations and lacked self-control.

They were uneducated (men were more educated than women in that era) and asking questions at inappropriate times or weren’t using wisdom to know when to speak out.

It should be noted also that many of them in Corinth had been involved in pagan worship which involved wild feasts and untempered activities, so it seems some of the women reverted to this conduct.

From the context, it’s clear that the women were being admonished to be subordinate to the authority present, just as others were expected to do.

To cite an example, let’s say, some youths in several churches were always chatting and laughing and asking wild questions which engendered confusion during services.

If a church leader now writes a letter to tell the youths to be quiet in the church and reserve their questions till after service, or ask their parents at home, of course, no one would take it to mean that youths must be absolutely silent.

It’s difficult to know exactly what was going on when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, but to conclude from this verse that women are forever forbidden to speak in church would conflict with other passages. For example: 

1 Cor. 11:5 says “And every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…”

Prophecy involves reproving, admonishing, teaching and comforting. If women are required to always keep silent in the church, then they wouldn’t be praying or prophesying. They would not be singing, reading the Bible out loud or making announcements.

In Colossians 3:16, Paul says “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…”

This teaching could not be limited to men, since the church doesn’t consist of only men.

Similarly, 1 Cor. 14:13-26 addresses “the whole church being come together” in which “every one” could take part – with a revelation, song, doctrine or tongue to edify the entire church.

1 Cor. 12:11 says the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to “every man” as He wills. At the upper room during Pentecost, women were present there (Acts 1:14, 15).

If women didn’t need the power to effectively preach the gospel, they wouldn’t have been included in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In the OT prophecy foretelling this experience, both men and women were included as recipients of the Spirit of God (Joel 2:28, 29).

When persecution broke out in the early church, women were also imprisoned (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2). That implies they were also teaching and preaching the gospel publicly.

Of the 39 co-workers that Paul mentioned throughout his writings, at least one-fourth was women.

In Romans 16:7, he wrote, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me.” That’s another woman, and she couldn’t have been arrested for being silent.

In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul encourages Euodia and Syntyche to keep cooperating and states that they had toiled along with him in preaching the gospel.

The Corinthian church may have been dealing with a troublesome woman or some women who had an unscriptural attitude towards authority, but all women shouldn’t be permanently punished or kept from participating in teaching God’s Word for it.

1 Timothy 2:11-12

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be silent.”

Again we are faced with another directive to women to learn in submission and not exercise authority over men. But this time around, nothing in the text suggests it applies to a church setting.

Let accept for the sake of argument that this instruction to Timothy applied to a church situation. We must realize that there are absolute truths in Scripture and there are certain instructions that must be understood in a specific, limited sense.

The early Christians largely congregated in one another’s homes. But that later changed as they owned property and had buildings since the late second century. Does this mean that Christians meeting today in church buildings are violating God’s Word? Some people believe so.

In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul said that women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately without elaborate hair arrangements, gold, pearl or expensive clothing. Does this mean that any woman today who wears gold or pearls is disobeying God’s Word? Some Christians believe so.

If we took first century Greek or Roman culture as divine precepts, we would all be dressed in tunics and writing on parchments and greeting everyone in our churches with a nice kiss.

That something was done in a certain way at a period of church history doesn’t mean it must always be done at every stage of history – especially when there’s an allowance of cultural exceptions.

If we applied 1 Tim. 2:11-12 in an absolute sense, then it would mean that women cannot even be school teachers! But in the world today, women are politicians, judges, policewomen, professionals and lecturers and they exercise authority over men.

However, from the context of this passage in Timothy, it’s referring to married women accepting the headship of their husbands in the home and not usurping his authority (see Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22).

Unlike the passage in Corinthians, it doesn’t apply to a church setting. It refers to order in a marriage.

Those who advocate for women to be silent in the churches accuse those who differ of “rejecting Scripture and subjecting it to the personal inclination and creativity of the reader.”

This line of argument can be also utilized in other issues on which Christians respectably disagree (e.g. baptism, Lord’s supper, music etc.), thus it’s irrelevant.

One thing I’ve observed in some denominations where women are forbidden from teaching, preaching or pastoral roles is that, women are allowed to be evangelists and missionaries in foreign nations. Fair enough, but they are still teachers and preachers!

And you can’t insist women must remain silent in church and then have them lead prayer services, teach Sunday school or teach a congregation via Skype or YouTube.

If men alone have the authority to teach, then men alone should take the responsibility for teaching. But as it often turns out, that is not so.

Priscilla and her husband , Aquila, had a church in their home and her being mentioned equally with him may suggest she pastored the church along with him (Acts 18:2-26).

We are also told of Philip’s daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). In Romans 16:1-2, Paul asked the church in Rome should receive Phoebe a female “minister” with all due respect and honour.

Note that the Greek word for “minister” (diakovos) used for Phebe was also used for Timothy (1 Tim. 4:6), Epaphras (Col. 1:17) and Paul himself (Eph. 3:7-8).

The Lord instructed us to pray that He would send labourers into the harvest (Lk. 10:2). He didn’t say “male labourers.” He didn’t limit the preaching of the gospel or proclamation of His Word to a gender.

We can’t tell the Holy Spirit what ministerial gift to impart to whom. The Holy Spirit guards His own sovereignty and if He wills, He can call and appoint some women into positions that conflict with our denominational traditions.

These ministers are accountable to Him, not to us, and we have no right to dictate to God what gender He must use to fulfill His purposes.