Has the Watchtower Ever Lied, Covered Up, or Changed Important Doctrines, Dates, and Biblical Interpretations?/Program 1

By: Lorrie MacGregor; ©1989
Fascinating, historical information about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ first president and founder, Charles Taze Russell.


John Ankerberg: Welcome! During this program we’re going to examine portions of a new documentary film on the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, better known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s entitled Witnesses of Jehovah, and it covers many interesting areas. Now, tonight I’m going to ask all of those of you who are Jehovah’s Witnesses to watch these excerpts very carefully, and here’s the reason why. If you think that this film needs to be corrected in any way, I’m going to ask that you write to me, tell me, and I promise you that I’ll pass along your remarks to the film makers. I really would like to know if you think this film accurately depicts what you think and what you feel. I also want you to know that we did invite Mr. Fred Franz, the President of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, to come and to be a part of this program tonight and to comment on the film. And he replied back through the Watchtower that he was unable to attend, and I have his letter right here. I asked him to send another informed spokesman, anyone that he would choose to send, but they were not interested in sharing their views with you tonight for their own reasons. And that’s why I’m going to ask every Jehovah’s Witness, I want you to watch this material very carefully.

Now, when I want to learn anything about a religious organization, there are three crucial areas that I always examine: Number one, who are their leaders? And then I ask the question, “Are they credible?” And then, second, what books, what documents do they consider authoritative? Is that information accurate and honestly written? And then, third, what are some of the basic beliefs of the group, and what evidence is given to support those beliefs? Now, I’ve chosen excerpts from this documentary film that will address all three of these areas. I want to begin tonight by playing for you a very fascinating, historical excerpt about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ first president and founder, Charles Taze Russell. Please listen.

Excerpt from Witnesses of Jehovah

Narrator: It all began in Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s when Charles Taze Russell came under the influence of a Second Adventist preacher. Russell initiated his own Bible study class, a small group that would ultimately grow to become the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Borrowing directly from the prophetic speculations of Nelson Barbour, a New York Second Adventist, Russell claimed that in 1799 the world had entered “the time of the end”; that in 1874 Jesus Christ had returned invisibly, and that the world would come to an end in the year 1914.
In 1879, Russell, then 27 years of age, was so passionately convinced these prophetic dates were given by God, that he sold his prosperous clothing business and struck out in a new direction. With very little education or theological background, he began printing the magazine, Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Known today as The Watchtower, this publication, which has grown from an initial printing of 6,000 to well over 288,000,000 copies annually, dictates all major doctrines to Jehovah’s Witnesses. During his lifetime, Russell authored a vast amount of literature, including a series of volumes entitled Studies in the Scriptures. According to Russell, no one could understand the Bible without these books. And reading the Bible alone would lead only to spiritual darkness. One of Russell’s teachings was that Egypt’s Great Pyramid was designed and placed there by God as his second witness, next to the Bible. It would be an instrument to reveal his great plan of the ages for mankind.
C. T. Russell: “This measurement indicates the length of the year, the weight of the earth, the distance to the sun, etc. It…”
Narrator: Russell believed his dates and chronology were confirmed by the measurements of the interior passageways of the Great Pyramid. According to Russell, the passageways verified 1914 as the year the world would end. Finally, 1914 came. And went! Russell and his followers were not raptured from the earth and the end had not come. John Knight, who was 15 years old at the time, remembers what came next.
John Knight: Well, when 1914 came, of course, we had to change our views, just like we had to change some views later.
Narrator: The date was pushed forward to 1915, then, 1918. Certainly Armageddon was just around the corner. But in 1916, Charles Taze Russell died; sick, weary, and disappointed. A massive stone pyramid stands today at his gravesite as an embarrassing reminder of his false prophecies.

Ankerberg: Now, our guest tonight is Mrs. Lorri MacGregor who has studied the history and the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for 27 years. And, Lorri, as we looked at that segment, it kind of blows everybody’s mind to think that the first founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, actually declared those things and put them into print. Is that true? And if it is true, why is it that when he died and these things had not come to pass, why is it that people didn’t leave the Watchtower Society and it just wasn’t finished at that point?
Lorri MacGregor: When we look at any organization, John, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have to look at how they begin. On what foundation are they built? Charles Taze Russell was not a pastor, although they called him “Pastor.” He had no theological training. He was a clothier, who declared himself the “Faithful and Discreet Slave.” And he said, “Now, God is going to channel everything through me. I’m the one that you have to look at to get your ‘meat in due season,’ your spiritual food.” And so he was a very interesting man, first of all, to command the attention of as many people as he did. He was quite an orator and spoke very well.
He was embroiled in a lot of marital difficulties. These things are really hidden from Jehovah’s Witnesses today, but in an open court trial which is still on record he had to explain why he was behind a locked door with a serving girl in the middle of the night while his wife pounded on the other side. That made rather good reading. He was fascinated by pyramidology.
He was fascinated by phrenology, which is the science, so-called, of reading the bumps on your head. You feel somebody’s head and they pronounce what kind of a person you are. He was so taken with phrenology that he came up with some really interesting quotes in The Watchtower. I have one here of March 15, 1913, I’d like to read to you, and I quote: “The drawing power which the Almighty exercises over humanity is in different degrees. Some have a strong desire to worship God, others have a weak desire, and others have no desire at all. The difference is due to the shape of the brain.” He went on to say a little later in the same article, “Stand a man alongside of a dog. Look at their heads. The one slopes back. [We hope he means the dog!] There is no place for intellectual qualities at all…. If we could make a dog with the same head as a man, he would think the same as a man.”
Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses need to ask themselves, “Am I trusting in an organization that had a beginning like this? On a man that held these strange views?” We also saw from the film clip that he is a proven false prophet. He named 1874 as the time of Christ’s invisible presence, and he also said that 1914 would mark the end of everything. The world was not going to go beyond that time.
Ankerberg: Why didn’t Jehovah’s Witnesses leave the organization after he put that in print and they found it was untrue?
MacGregor: All I can answer you in that way, John, is that when people become so convinced that they have got God’s prophet, and they have given their loyalty, they have given their money, they have knocked on doors, they have studied, they just can’t swallow their pride somehow. And I believe also the Bible speaks of a spirit of deception. I think that they were determined that they were just going to remain loyal no matter what. That this really was God’s Faithful and Discreet Slave and, sure, he made a few mistakes. You know, the Watchtower even today is always saying, “Okay, so we made a few mistakes.” You know? “We’ve gotten new light.”
Ankerberg: But he did that in the name of God.
MacGregor: Yes, he did.
Ankerberg: We’re going to move on here, Lorri, to the second excerpt tonight for the people, because the Jehovah’s Witnesses right in this area, they claim that they are the only true religion on earth today. And they base that claim in part on their authoritative document, their own translation of the Bible. They call this the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Now, in the film clip that you’re going to see in just a moment, many times the Jehovah’s Witnesses will quote from Julius R. Mantey, one of the world’s greatest biblical grammarians concerning Greek. And the Society quotes him as being in favor of their view of John 1:1, “The Word was ‘a’ God.” And in this excerpt, Dr. Mantey is interviewed as to what he thinks about the New World Translation: “Is it a good translation? Is it an honest translation? Would he recommend it to somebody?” And I want you to listen.

Excerpt from Witnesses of Jehovah

Narrator: Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that theirs is the only true religion. All others constitute the worldwide empire of false religion, the “Whore of Babylon” spoken of in the book of Revelation. The Watchtower says these religions are guilty of spiritual fornication with the political and commercial rulers of the world, and will all be slaughtered by God at Armageddon. Only the true Christians – Jehovah’s Witnesses – will survive. F. M. Gipe, a Watchtower spokesman and member of the headquarters staff explains:
F. M. Gipe: Well, we feel Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only true religion, otherwise we would be teaching something else. But the reason is because we follow the Bible completely.
Leonard Chretien: To support its beliefs the Watchtower organization has published its own version of the Bible called the New World Translation. To lend credence to this translation, the Watchtower society has deliberately misquoted a number of well-known Greek scholars. Dr. J. R. Mantey, an eminent Greek scholar, was one of the authorities quoted out of context. The Watchtower Society has implied that he supports the New World Translation. Dr. Mantey disagrees.
Dr. Julius R. Mantey: I have never found any so-called translation that goes so far away from what the Scripture actually teaches as these books published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are so far away from what there is in the original Hebrew and the original Greek.
L. Chretien: Dr. Mantey called the Jehovah’s Witness Bible a “shocking mistranslation, obsolete, and incorrect.”
Mantey: You can’t follow theirs because it’s so biased and it’s deceptive because they deliberately changed words in a passage of Scripture to make it fit into their doctrine. They distorted the Scripture in many passages… scores and scores of passages in the New Testament dealing with the deity of Christ especially.
L. Chretien: To find additional support for their altered Scriptures, the Watchtower has even turned to the occult. The New Testament, a Bible translation by Johannes Greber, has been used as an authority in many of their publications. Johannes Greber was a spiritualist, heavily involved with the occult. His translation was completed under the direction of “spirit messengers” with the aid of his wife who was a self-professed spirit medium.

Ankerberg: Let me ask you, Lorri. Is the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation of the Bible an accurate and honest translation?
MacGregor: No, it certainly is not. It has removed or distorted all the references to the deity of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: Give me an example. Give me proof.
MacGregor: The most famous distortion is John 1:1 where they said, “The Word was a God.” Now, of course they could not find any reputable Greek scholars to back them up on this distortion, so they had three choices. They went to the spiritistic occult world of Johannes Greber and got his support. The ‘holy spirits’ during séance-type meetings told him that. They quoted him. Now, they claim that they didn’t realize he was a spirit medium and that’s why they quoted him. But since 1956 The Watchtower magazine put out an article on him saying he was a spiritist, “don’t listen to him.” Then, they proceeded to use him while they did their Bible, which came out in its full form in 1961. And so they’re guilty there. They went to the Christadelphians; they also went to the Unitarians, both of which had altered recognized texts to teach that Jesus was an extra God; “a” God.
We don’t have the time to go into it tonight. I have a long list of Greek scholars who say that the translation is absolutely incorrect. Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to lamely say that theos in the Greek, the word for God, does not have ho in front of it, and so they can’t say Jesus is “the” God but “a” God. So every Jehovah’s Witness needs to find out whether or not Jesus Christ is ho theos, “the God”, or isn’t He?
Ankerberg: We’re making available to you Dr. Mantey’s letter that he wrote to the Watchtower Society, telling them that they had misquoted him and he took the exact opposite position concerning the deity of Christ that they said in their Bible that he was taking. [See Appendix.]
Alright. The third excerpt that I’ve chosen tonight that I’d like you to examine has to do with the basic beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning Jesus Christ. Please listen very carefully.

Excerpt from Witnesses of Jehovah

F. M. Gipe: Our teaching on Jesus Christ is that Jesus is the Son of God. He was the first thing that Jehovah created and through Him other creative works were done. Now, some religions teach that God and Jesus are one and the same, but the Bible does not teach that and therefore neither do Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Watchtower Society Representative: We believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus carries out a number of functions for Jehovah God, the Most High. For example, in the Hebrew Scriptures He is referred to as Michael. Michael, literally translated into English means “Who is like God.”
Narrator: Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ is a spirit-creature, a super-angel, the first creation of Jehovah God, who prior to coming to earth as a man, existed in heaven as Michael, the archangel. Jesus started out originally as the Logos, or Michael, the archangel, who then came to earth as the virgin-born Son of Mary. He was a perfect, sinless man; but He was only a man – devoid of all divinity. Jesus walked the earth as a man, becoming the Christ only when He was baptized. Jehovah’s Witnesses hold the cross in contempt, feeling that it is nothing more than a pagan symbol used by apostate Christendom. Instead, they teach that at the completion of His ministry, Jesus died, not on the cross, but on an upright stake. Christ’s body was then laid in a tomb where it was disintegrated by God, totally destroyed forever. Jesus was then re-created by the Father. Before going to heaven, He materialized in different bodies on different occasions to convince His disciples and others that He had really been resurrected. Jesus returned to His Father in heaven, where once again He became Michael the archangel. He will never again be seen on the earth in visible form, but instead rules invisibly from the heavens. When He executes judgment over the world at Armageddon, He will destroy all but the faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jesus, alias “Michael,” will always remain invisible to those on earth and can be seen only by the 144,000 select Jehovah’s Witnesses who rule with Him from heaven.

Ankerberg: Lorri, this is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, and all other biblical Greek scholars disagree with their views concerning Jesus Christ. Is there anything that you can do to share with Jehovah’s Witnesses from their own biblical text that would point them in a different direction concerning their views on Jesus?
MacGregor: Yes. I would invite Jehovah’s Witnesses to look in their own publication, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. This has the Westcott and Hort text on one side with the English words under, and on the right hand column is what the Watchtower has done with the English to Greek. And it will prove very revealing.
In the foreword of this publication it says that ho theos is only Jehovah God. It is only Almighty God, nobody else. So I would invite Jehovah’s Witnesses to take the time to look up the witness of Scripture to see what it says. Because you see, prophecy called Jesus Christ ho theos. In Matthew 1:23 where the prophecy came to Mary, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means God [ho theos] with us.” You will find Jesus called ho theos there.
The disciples said so. When the risen Christ came and Thomas realized who he was, he fell down in worship and said, “My Lord and my God” – ho theos again. Did Jesus correct him and say, “No, no, no, Thomas. Get up. I’m not God. I’m only an archangel. I’m just a secondary God.” No! He accepted the worship and He blessed Thomas. [John 20:28-29]
And I think the greatest witness is God the Father, because He called His Son Jesus Christ ho theos. In Hebrews 1:8, “But of the Son He says, Thy throne, O God [ho theos], is forever and ever.” So if even the Father Jehovah calls the Son “the God,” we have to believe it.
You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a two true-God doctrine. And the Bible says there’s only one true God. They have a big God – Jehovah; and then beside Him they’ve got a secondary God – Jesus Christ. Okay? Which one is the true God? They have to say, “Well, Jehovah.” Since the Bible says there is only one true God, what does that make Jesus? Either they have to say He’s a false God, because there is only one true God, or they’re stuck with a two true-God doctrine. But the Bible doesn’t teach that. Jehovah Himself said in Isaiah 43, “There was no God formed before me and there will continue to be none after me. There’s no God beside me.” [Isa. 43:10-11]
Who are we going to believe? Jehovah God, or the Watchtower Bible? In 1 Timothy 1:16-17 Jesus Christ is called “the only God.” That should be clear enough. Jehovah’s Witnesses hate to read this in context, but I want you to notice where the “Amen” is. 1 Timothy 1:16-17 Paul says, “And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ [subject] might demonstrate his perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal [notice, not “created”], immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Only then does the thought end. The whole chapter is on the subject of Jesus Christ. Will you believe He is eternal, not created? Will you believe He is the only God? He really is. And Jehovah’s Witnesses need to check this out very, very carefully.
Ankerberg: Okay. We’re going to do more of this in the weeks to come. Next week we’re going to turn to Judge Rutherford. We’re going to take a look at some of the things that he said, some of the things that he did as the second president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses after Charles Taze Russell. And then we’re going to take a close look at the worldwide Governing Body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. I think you’ll find it fascinating. I hope that you’ll join us.

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