Does the Watchtower Society Claim to Speak for God?


John Ankerberg: We welcome all of you here that are in our audience today as well as our guests. We have the former Jehovah’s Witnesses back with us. Bill Cetnar used to answer all the questions for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in our country south of the Mason-Dixon Line all the way to Texas. You were on the radio for them; used to train people for them; you were one of the people who worked with the very president up there in Brooklyn. And then one day you found Christ. Second, Joan Cetnar. Joan, you also were there and met Bill at the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn and you also left, and it cost you possibly a million dollars because it cut you off from your family, you were disfellowshipped. And then Dr. Robert Countess is a Ph.D. in Greek and one of the few men who have taken the time and the trouble to write a book about the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible translation. It is entitled The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament, and we’re going to be talking about what you have found out about their research. Bob, we’re glad that you’re here.
Let’s start this off. First of all, a Jehovah’s Witness comes to our door. I think all of us have had the doorbell ring or somebody knock on the door and you look outside and here are two sharp-looking people, but they’ve got a Watchtower magazine under their arm or an Awake magazine, and they’re standing there and there’s a tip-off that they’re a Jehovah’s Witness, and we go to the door and we wonder what we’re going to say. Bill, what would you say to somebody that came to your house now, as an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, how would you start the conversation and how would you advise us to start the conversation?
Bill Cetnar: I do say when a Jehovah’s Witness comes to the door, “I am so happy that you came by. I knew you were really coming. “You did?” “Yes, Jesus said that you would be here in Matthew 7:15.” “What did He say?” “Jesus said to be aware of false prophets who come to you, and they would be dressed up in sheep’s clothing.”
Ankerberg: I’m not a false prophet.
Bill Cetnar: Well, I probably agree with you that you are not a false prophet. But I’m wondering if you are representing a prophet. Didn’t Jehovah’s Witnesses really claim to be speaking for God, to be God’s spokesmen?
Ankerberg: Alright, so you would start off with the claims the Jehovah’s Witnesses make as an organization. Okay. And what do they claim?
Bill Cetnar: Well, the big claim….
Ankerberg: Now, many people have written in for your book, Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses Who Love the Truth, and we’re going to use this. So the Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door and you say, “I’m so glad that you came,” and you start with what?
Bill Cetnar: It is vitally important to start with question #1, page 1. “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be God’s prophets?” Well, the April 1st Watchtower, 1972, says: “They shall know that a prophet was among them.” Then the important question, “Does Jehovah have a prophet to help them and to warn them of danger and to declare things to come?” This is identifying the prophet, and then the Watchtower identifies Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses as being God’s prophet. Now, that means that the information is not coming from the individual – from the President – it’s coming from God through the President of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: If I could ask you about some of the Presidents, how about Charles Taze Russell, the first one, leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Bill Cetnar: We have pictures of all four of these presidents.
Ankerberg: Okay, what did Russell claim?
Bill Cetnar: Charles Taze Russell claimed that he was the angel of Laodicea. He was the seventh messenger that God sent and the most important one. He said, “He was the faithful and wise servant.” And what is interesting is that the present President, who is Freddie Franz, says that Charles Taze Russell never claims to be the “faithful and wise servant.” And “the faithful and wise servant” said – Charles Taze Russell – that “everybody who reads the Watchtower magazine believes that I am the faithful and wise servant.” The next President said, “Our late beloved leader came into prominence as the chief representative of the Lord’s people and stood before them as that Servant of Matthew 24. So, all Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1879 up until 1916 believed that he was “the faithful and wise servant” spoken of in Matthew 24 and that he was a “faithful and wise servant” up until 1930.
Ankerberg: Okay, so actually you’ve got the documents of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their Watchtower magazine….
Bill Cetnar: That’s a blunt lie. Their current president says that he never said it. And there’s 6,000 pages that says he is “the faithful and wise servant” and everybody believed it. And even the Watchtower says that his writings were believed, he was the sole editor of the Watchtower, and that he says the only reason he didn’t say it openly was because of his modesty and humility.
Ankerberg: Okay. How about Judge Rutherford? After Russell came Rutherford, what kind of claims did he make about his authority?
Joan Cetnar: He was the mouthpiece of Jehovah.
Ankerberg: Actually said he was the mouthpiece of Jehovah God?
Bill Cetnar: He took over where Russell left off. They gave him ten years but he’d have taken over the authority sooner but he said that the world was going to end in 1925, all the churches would be annihilated in 1918, and that millions now living would never die. In 1925 – fasten your seatbelts – in 1925 you would have to add a room to your house…
Ankerberg: How come?
Bill Cetnar: … decorate it, and you can use the undertakers to decorate that room because there would be no dying after 1925. These poor fellows would be out of work and they’re used to decorating anyway, why not use them to decorate this room? Once you get the room decorated, you pick up the telephone and you call Jerusalem and you can ask for Abraham and say, “Abe, my father’s name is John Doe. My mother’s name is Mary Doe. Would you resurrect them for me?” Then you go to bed, and in the morning you will hear this rustling in this new room that you added, and they’re trying to blow out the electric light because they’ve never seen electric lights before, and they can’t understand what this iron post is with a cup on it. These are the things that Jehovah’s Witnesses put in writing, and I do not believe that there’s a Jehovah’s Witness in our audience or one that’s on television audience that has ever seen this book, The Way to Paradise, in 1925. And by the way, if you’re a black person you’ll become white in 1925.
Ankerberg: Why would you want, as a black person, to become white?
Bill Cetnar: Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses say, I can hardly keep a straight face when we’re talking about this….
Ankerberg: Now, all these statements that you’ve been giving us are documented right in the book, right out of their own literature.
Joan Cetnar: Right.
Bill Cetnar: The Jehovah’s Witness President, as with all other false prophets, in 1924 they began to teach that when the Kingdom of God was established in 1925, blacks would turn into whites. And this caused problems in Africa. Thousands of black Africans became Jehovah’s Witnesses because now they would be rid of the “goliath who is the white man,” because they would now be white. In fact, one Watchtower prophet, his name was Mwana Lesa and he called himself “the Son of God,” baptized people into Jehovah’s Witnesses, but he also would try to get rid of demons. And the way he checked out whether you had a demon or were possessed is that as he was baptizing you if you floated that meant you were demon-possessed and he would drown you.
Ankerberg: How many did he drown?
Bill Cetnar: A total of 174 people were murdered by Nyirenda [Mwana Lesa] before he was caught by British Colonial authorities. Now the Watchtower in the 1976 yearbook says it’s true that Mwana Lesa killed all these people, but you can’t pin the blame on us because he was an indigenous Jehovah’s Witness. In other words, he was a Jehovah’s Witness from Africa, so that absolved them of any responsibility for what this man did.
Ankerberg: Who do they claim is the editor of the Watchtower magazine?
Joan Cetnar: Jehovah God.
Ankerberg: Where do they say that? Document that.
Joan Cetnar: In a trial before a court of law.
Bill Cetnar: Mr. Franz was being sued for libel, the Watchtower Society was being sued, and the court asked him, “Who is the editor of the Watchtower?” because it was the Watchtower that made the libelous statement about their own attorney. So he just simply wanted to know who wrote the article. And Mr. Franz said, “It was Jehovah God.” That probably lost the case for them. They lost it anyway, but Jehovah God is the editor of the Watchtower magazine.
Ankerberg: Do they claim to be the only right religion on the earth?
Joan Cetnar: Absolutely.
Ankerberg: Where do they say that?
Bill Cetnar: In the Watchtower, February 15, 1955, they are the only right religion. Why? Because Jehovah God is the editor of the magazine.
Ankerberg: Okay, Bill, we’ve been listening to you say all those things and we have a question for you here.
Audience: Well, why, with all the chuckling we’ve been doing back and forth at all these claims that are made in the Watchtower and you are recognizing them as such now, why did you believe at that time? How could you believe it?
Bill Cetnar: There are probably two reasons. Number one, I was born at a very early age to two Jehovah’s Witnesses, my mother and my father. I absolutely believed my parents. My parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931. Now, at that time, they knew nothing about 1925 where Abraham was supposed to come up, the books were destroyed – try and get a copy; I’d like to see someone get a copy of The Way to Paradise written by the Watchtower Society.
Ankerberg: Why? What happened to them?
Bill Cetnar: These publications are destroyed. The president of Jehovah’s Witnesses called them in and said, “We need them for our libraries in new Kingdom Halls,” and their library is the furnace. So it’s very, very difficult to get the original editions. Joan and I, as I was growing up, Joan’s father was a Jehovah’s Witness during this time, and we asked him if they ever made a prophecy about the end of the world, and he said, “No.” Joan’s father deliberately lied to the both of us. Now, the Watchtower takes every edition and changes their prophecies. In the book, The Finished Mystery, they have over four editions, and in it they predicted the end of the world four different times, and then finally in the fourth one they said, “It’s going to come sometime.” So, whenever it does come….
Ankerberg: Give us some of those prophecies. Document it. Some people out there that are Jehovah’s Witnesses that are listening in might be getting mad at us right now saying, “I don’t believe that; you’re lying. Give it to us in our own literature.”
Joan Cetnar: The most recent one is 1975, and they say now that they never said anything. The Watchtower magazine, 1968, and the Awake magazine in 1968 both said that 1975 was the end of the 6,000 years of man’s existence. And they’ll say, “Yes, but that’s not Armageddon,” but their book….
Ankerberg: What is Armageddon for us that may not know?
Joan Cetnar: Armageddon is the end, the annihilation of everyone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: So, according to the Jehovah’s Witness when Armageddon gets here… when was it supposed to get here?
Joan Cetnar: 1975. October, 1975.
Ankerberg: And when that happens all of those who are not…
Bill Cetnar: It was supposed to eight different times.
Ankerberg: All of us that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, what will happen to us?
Joan Cetnar: You’ll be destroyed from off of the face of the earth.
Ankerberg: Well, obviously we’re here, so that didn’t work out.
Bill Cetnar: The earth will be fumigated. Here an illustration of what I mentioned to the young man who asked the question. Here’s how they wrote it: “The world’s going to end before 1914.” That’s the original. And after 1914 they came out and put in the word “after”: “The world’s going to end after 1914,” which is really brilliant.
Ankerberg: Okay, so when did the first one come out?
Bill Cetnar: The first one was before 1914.
Ankerberg: Okay, and they said in 1914 it’s going to end, and then after that they published the same thing again? The same book and just changed the words?
Bill Cetnar: Just made it “after 1914.” What they predicted is that the world was going to end after 1914. I believe everybody in our audience knows that the world is going to end after 1914. First they said that they measured the pyramid in Egypt and they said the distance from the outside of the pyramid to the pit, which is the center, would determine the end of the world.
Ankerberg: Wait a minute. Why would you measure a pyramid?
Joan Cetnar: Why would you go to Egypt?
Bill Cetnar: The president believed in pyramidology, demonology. Jehovah’s Witnesses presidents all have an affinity with men who are spiritists, such as Johannes Greber, but in this case zeroing in on pyramidology they measured these 3,416 inches and each one of those inches represents a year, and you add that to 1542 – where did they get that? They probably measured a window – now they put the two together and it gave them 1874 when Jesus was going to return. Now, in the next edition after it failed they changed the inches in the pyramid.
Ankerberg: The pyramid enlarged?
Bill Cetnar: The pyramid got 40 inches longer, so they could have 40 more years to the end of the world. I checked the pyramid myself through scholars and I found that both editions were wrong.
Ankerberg: Now let me ask you this, because, people might be out there laughing. But you were one of the top honchos up there in Brooklyn. You were actually propagating this over the radio, you were training other people across the United States, you were answering questions. Why didn’t you see that stuff and turn away from it?
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged not to read the old publications. It is called “the old light.” God is always progressing. What is really curious according to them, God’s always changing. God’s a process of evolution. What He said yesterday doesn’t go today. Now, it takes a period of time to realize that. In my teenage years I relied heavily on my parents and then I wanted to go to the Watchtower Headquarters to really check them out. I wanted to sit next to the president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I wanted to know how he holds his fork. I wanted to know how they really made these decisions, and I learned how they made the decisions in our editorials meetings. The president of Jehovah’s Witnesses said, when we were in an argument about what we should write, he said, “You can argue about it all you want; once it gets off the sixth floor,” which was the press room where the presses turned out the books, he said, “then it’s the truth.”
Ankerberg: Okay. Now let me ask you this. For the folks who are listening in, what actually got to you one day that if you weren’t able to look at that literature, yet here you are actually spreading across the United States Jehovah’s Witnesses literature – and by the way, how many magazines go out every week right now?
Bill Cetnar: Ten million per week.
Ankerberg: Ten million magazines per week? Forty million magazines per month.
Bill Cetnar: That’s a big stack. That’s six stacks of literature as high as the Empire State Building every day. That’s another way to visually see it. Also, I’d like to add to answering that question, my parents taught me that the Bible is God’s book, I’d like this audience to know and Jehovah’s Witnesses to know that they all believe the Bible is God’s book and that’s what really saved me, because I did really take that first principle as Truth, that the Bible is God’s book. And I hope every Jehovah’s Witness sticks to that and it and he’ll gain everlasting life.
Ankerberg: Okay, coming back to this here. The first thing that you would advise us to do in talking to a person that comes to our door that’s a Jehovah’s Witness is: Take out your book, the literature of the Jehovah’s Witness themselves, show that they claim to be the prophet, the only true religion on earth, and then document in their own religion the false prophecies. Are there any other outstanding false prophecies they have made that you would mention right now?
Bill Cetnar: The first false prophecy that their first President made, which no Jehovah’s Witness is familiar with, is that they said that Jesus would come visibly on the earth in 1874. Visibly. When He refused to show up, the next year he wrote a booklet, The Object and Manner of Christ’s Second Coming, and he said, “Jesus really did come; you just can’t see Him. He’s going to come invisibly.” And he picked a Diaglott which was written by a Christadelphian who had never studied Greek as our doctor here did [reference to Dr. Countess]. He was a “do-it-yourselfer” in Greek, a linotype operator. And he created a Bible and he took the word parousia, and he said, “See, Jesus is going to be present but not here physically,” which is not what the Bible says. In fact, anybody who has ever read the last sentence in the book of Matthew, God’s prophecy, Jesus’ prophecy, is that He will be with us always.
Ankerberg: Yea, they’ve used that word parousia and said that they are the only ones who know how to translate that and it’s translated the same all the way through. Dr. Countess, quickly, what would you say to that?
Dr. Robert Countess: Well, they always translate it as “present,” and they don’t like the idea of a coming….
Ankerberg: And like a visible presence, a bodily form of Jesus there.
Countess: Right. They make it sort of an ethereal thing.
Ankerberg: Is there any verse in the Bible that stands out that can’t be translated any other way than just a bodily presence of the Lord Jesus?
Joan Cetnar: Revelation 1:7.
Bill Cetnar: “Every eye shall see him.”
Joan Cetnar: Those are “eyes of understanding,” though.
Ankerberg: What’s an eye of understanding, or two eyes of understanding?
Joan Cetnar: Well, you’ll see it through your eyes of understanding. In other words, you’ll read things in the Bible that you’ll know that He came invisibly.
Ankerberg: You actually won’t see Him; only the believers, and they’ll feel it somehow.
Bill Cetnar: However, that same verse says that “Even those that pierced Him will see Him.” [Rev. 1:7] Are you telling me, Mr. Jehovah’s Witness, that the ones who nailed Jesus to the cross have eyes of understanding?
Ankerberg: They would say, “No.”
Joan Cetnar: What’s interesting is they wrote a book in 1929, which was 15 years after 1914, saying that their eyes of understanding told them that He came in 1874. The person who wrote it in 1929 should have seen Him come invisibly in 1914.
Ankerberg: How many years then did it take them to figure out that they should have been seeing Him?
Bill Cetnar: Well, He was supposed to come in 1914. I would think they would see Him by December. But they didn’t see Him until 1930.
Ankerberg: Bill and Joan, why are you here tonight? Are we here to put down the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Bill Cetnar: We’re here because Jesus made the warning in Matthew 7:15: Beware of false prophets who are going to come to you, and they are going to have sheepskin on, they are going to look like Christians following the Great Shepherd Christ Jesus, but they will kill you, they will take away your everlasting life. Mr. Jehovah’s Witness, you had better pay attention to Jesus’ warning, and He said, “You’re going to recognize them and you’re going to recognize them by their product,” which is false prophecies. A false prophet has one product: false prophecies.
Ankerberg: What is the good news that you would want to share with them, quickly.
Joan Cetnar: That Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. [John 14:6] The organization says, “No, we are the way, and if you are in the organization, you are in the truth and there is no life outside the organization.” So that has taken the place of Jesus. And He said there is no life outside of Him, for He’s the only way.
Bill Cetnar: Jesus said you are going “to die in your sins unless you believe that He is the I Am.” [John 8:24] No Jehovah’s Witness believes that. That means that every Jehovah’s Witness is dead in his sins. The book of Revelation says that also. Those are going to die in their sins because they don’t believe that Jesus is God.
Ankerberg: Okay, we’re going to get into next week the topic of the deity of Christ. But a few things in closing here, do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is God, the I Am?
Bill Cetnar: Absolutely not.
Ankerberg: Do they believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross for our sins?
Bill and Joan: No.
Ankerberg: Do they believe in eternal punishment or hell for those that do not invite Christ into their lives?
Bill Cetnar: They tell you you’ll go to sleep.
Ankerberg: Okay. And all those things we want to talk about, what the Scriptures actually have to say.

About our Guests:

Bill Cetnar. For more than 25 years he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He worked in the Brooklyn headquarters of the Watchtower Society and used to answer all the questions for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in our country south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Joan Cetnar. Wife of Bill Cetnar. She too was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and has worked at the Watchtower Society.
Dr. Robert Countess. He is a military chaplain; has a Ph.D. in Greek; has a published work, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament.

Read Part 2

1 Comment

  1. […] How To Witness to a Jehovah’s Witness – Program 1 By: Dr. Bob Countess, Joan Cetnar, Bill Cetnar […]

Leave a Comment