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Every aspect of the supposed disfellowshipping offense expressed in the quotations below is made up and invented by the Governing Body and has no Bible basis. Moreover, the descriptions of the sins are ambiguous and unclear, and one judicial committee will disfellowship a person while another committee will not do that for the same offense. This offense is a particularly revealing part of the unbiblical judicial system made up by the Governing Body.

The members of the judicial committee must decide:  What is “heavy petting” How many times are “on numerous occasions”? What is “a measure of greediness”? What is “brazen conduct”? It is obvious that judgments based on these ambiguous and unclear descriptions are difficult and subjective. The lives of tens of thousands of Witnesses have been ruined because of such arbitrary judgments.

Moreover, the idea of “greed” or “greediness” is not found in the Bible, so the Greek word pleonexia is wrongly translated by NWT13. The idea of “brazen conduct” neither is found in the Bible, so the word aselgeia is wrongly translated by NWT13 as well.

In addition, there are several problems. The Bible does not give the elders the right to interrogate fellow Witnesses to find out if they have committed serious sins. The elders in the congregations have not been trained to be judges in judicial cases and, therefore, they often make unbalanced decisions.

The book for elders “Shepherd The Flock of God” 12. 15 (1) says:

Momentary Touching of Intimate Body Parts or Caressing of Breasts: If such conduct occurred on a few isolated occasions, especially between two persons involved in a courtship with the intent to marry, counsel from two elders may suffice to handle such minor uncleanness. The elders should inform the coordinator of the body of elders of the situation. However, if the conduct occurred on numerous occasions and the actions escalated in gravity and frequency, it may constitute gross uncleanness with greediness, requiring judicial action. Their wrongdoing may constitute brazen conduct if they give evidence of a disrespectful, insolent attitude toward God’s laws. For example, individuals may have no intention of pursuing marriage.

Sadly, every aspect of the supposed disfellowshipping offense expressed in the quotation above is made up and invented by the Governing Body and has no Bible basis. In what follows, I will discuss in detail all the problems with cases dealing with “momentary touching.”

Problem 1: Do the elders have the authority to interrogate members of the congregation?

The answer is No! James 5:14-16 says that if a Christian is (spiritually) sick, “Let him call the elders of the congregation to him.” The elders will help the sick brother or sister to become well. No place in the Christian Greek Scriptures do we read that the elders have the right to ask a member of the congregation questions about whether he or she has violated God’s law, and they absolutely do not have the right to interrogate him or her, which is necessary to find out what happened in accord with the rules quoted above. So, a great number of the judicial actions that are mentioned in the book for elders are made up and invented by the Governing Body and have no basis in the Bible.

In cases involving the touching of intimate parts, the elders are taught not to ask more questions than is absolutely necessary. However, it is still necessary to ask many questions in order to find out the details of what happened, how it started, how it went wrong, as well as the feelings and emotions of those involved. The two will be interrogated separately. But will they remember exactly what happened? It is possible that they view what happened and how many times it happened somewhat differently. In that case, the elders could get the impression that one or both are hiding the truth, and that they, therefore, have a brazen attitude.

Problem 2: Are the elders qualified to interrogate and judge congregation members?

The answer is No!  The book God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 144, says: “Christian elders are carefully trained to care for judicial matters in Jehovah’s way.” This is not true! About 30 years ago, there was a course for elders where all the different aspects of a judicial hearing were discussed in detail. Since then, the elders have attended courses approximately two days per year. Judicial matters have occasionally been mentioned in these courses. But the elders in no way have been “carefully trained”  to handle judicial cases.

When serious wrongdoing occurs, the body of elders decides which three elders will handle the case. The only help these elders can get is to read the book for elders. But it is not possible to read in a book how to treat humans in a tense situation and how to interpret the different reactions of a person when he or she is confronted with some kind of wrongdoing. Some cases are also rather complicated, and inexperienced elders can make several unbalanced decisions in such cases.

Problem 3: The ambiguousness of the law about “Gross uncleanness” made up by the Governing Body

The Watchtower of July 15, 2006, page 30, says:

Suppose an engaged couple indulged in passion-arousing heavy petting on numerous occasions. The elders might determine that even though these individuals did not manifest a brazen attitude characterizing loose conduct, there was a measure of greediness in their conduct. So the elders might take judicial action because gross uncleanness was involved. Gross uncleanness might also be appropriate grounds for handling a case involving a person who repeatedly makes sexually explicit telephone calls to another person, especially if he was previously counseled about the matter.

When we consider the text in red, we realize how problematic it will be to disfellowship someone because the person is supposed to be guilty of “gross uncleanness.” In the discussion of the term “Gross uncleanness,” I show that this concept was invented by the Governing Body without any Bible basis, and the very concept is vague and ambiguous. (See the article, “Gross uncleanness” in the category “Disfellowshipping offenses not based on the Bible”).

What is “heavy petting”? One definition is: “Petting is when two people kiss and touch each other in a sexual way, but without having sexual intercourse.[1] In order to find out what really happened, many questions must be asked. But because the elders were not present, it is impossible for them to understand exactly what happened. In addition to that, they must consider what is heavy in connection with petting? Different elders would answer this question in different ways.

The next question is: How many times are “numerous occasions”? Again, there will be different answers from different elders.

And what is “a measure of greediness”? This is a particularly important question because one of the umbrella terms for serious sins connected with uncleanness is “uncleanness with greediness.”The study note of Ephesians 4:19 in NWT13 defines the Greek word pleonexia as “an insatiable [= impossible to satisfy] desire to have more.” On the basis of this definition, we must conclude that “a measure of greediness” that the elders will look for when they interrogate sinners, in reality, is a contradiction of terms.

Because “greed” is a desire to have more than is impossible to satisfy, it is impossible to have “a measure of a desire to have more than is impossible to satisfy.” Either you have the insatiable desire that cannot be satisfied in full or you do not have this desire. Therefore, when the elders look for “a measure of greediness” they are looking for something that does not exist.

However, the situation is more severe than the description above. My article “Greed” in the category “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses” shows that there is no word in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek with the meaning “an insatiable desire to have more.” The article shows that the Greek word pleonexia does not have the meaning “greed” or “greediness” but the meaning “exploited gain” and “exploiting.” This means that the concept “uncleanness…with greediness” is pure fiction. It is a concept that has been invented and introduced by the members of the Governing Body without any biblical or linguistic reason.

Problem 4: What is a brazen attitude?

The NWT84 translates the Greek word aselgeia as “loose conduct,” and NWT13 translates it as “brazen conduct.” There are two basic problems with the NWT13 rendering.  First, the use of the word “conduct” indicates that aselgeia refers to particular actions. But no actions are connected with the word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. So, we have good reasons to view it as an abstract word. Second, the word “brazen” is very far from the use of aselgeia both in Classical Greek and in the Christian Greek Scriptures. My translation of the word is “unrestrained lust.”[2]

I am tempted to believe that the rendering “brazen conduct” is chosen to give the members of the Governing Body some basis for different disfellowshipping offenses that they have made up. This means that when the members of the judicial committee are admonished to consider whether the sinner has “a brazen attitude,” this is not based on the real meanings of words of the Bible but on the unbiblical viewpoints of the members of the Governing Body.


[2]. A detailed discussion of aselgeia is found in My Beloved Religion—And The Governing Body, third editionpages 224-236.

The ambiguous definitions: “What is ‘heavy petting’?” “How many times are ‘on numerous occasions’?” “What is ‘a measure of greediness’? “What is ‘brazen conduct’?”

The wrong definitions: No word in the Bible has the meaning “greed” or “greediness.” Thus, pleonexia is wrongly translated in NWT13. No word in the Bible has the meaning “brazen conduct.” Thus, the word aselgeia is wrongly translated in NWT13 as well.

The application of “momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts” is a glaring example of the arbitrariness of the decisions of the members of the Governing Body, who continue to forge ahead in the opposite direction of sound biblical exegesis. The Shepherd-book references to The Watchtower of  July 15, 2006, pages 29-31, in connection with “Uncleanness with greediness.” As examples of  “momentary touching…” the article of 2006 mentions “passion-arousing heavy petting on numerous occasions.” This action, according to the article,  is put under the umbrella term “Gross uncleanness” (akatahrsia). However, in the book for elders “Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All Your Flock” which was published in 1991, “passion-arousing heavy petting…” was put under the umbrella term “Loose conduct” (aselgeia). What is the reason for this discrepancy? The term “gross uncleanness” was not yet invented in 1991, but the members of the Governing Body needed a biblical reference, and they used what they had—the term “Loose conduct.”


The most important point is that the expression “momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts” is not mentioned in the Bible. So, making this a disfellowshipping offense is a human commandment. The members of the Governing Body try to justify its claim that this is a serious sin, even though it is not mentioned in the Bible, by introducing the concepts of “Gross uncleanness” and “Uncleanness with greediness.” But the problem is that these concepts are not found in the Bible.

In addition to being unbiblical, all facets of this supposed disfellowshipping offense are vague and ambiguous. The elders are not only asked to find out what happened, but they are also asked to interpret the feelings, emotions, and the mind-set of the “sinners.” But this requires the ability to read the minds of the brother or sister. There is no possibility of making just decisions in cases dealing with “momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts.”

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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