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By 12. November 2020February 23rd, 2023The Governing Body


David did not kill his enemy, King Saul, when he had the opportunity. But he said: “Who can lift his hand against the anointed of Jehovah and remain innocent?” These words have been misapplied to the GB as meaning: Do not criticize the GB who is appointed by Jehovah, but be obedient in all things.

Obedience to something or someone can be absolute or relative. The obedience of Christians to the superior authorities and to the elders in the congregation is discussed. I show that in both situations, the obedience must be relative. This means that we should be obedient to the rulers of our country and to the elders in the congregation in all things, except when the rulers or the elders violate the laws of God. This is relative obedience.

In the 21st century, the reverence for the members of the GB is so high among the ordinary Witnesses that they are treated almost as prophets. This is a violation of the principles that only Jehovah God and Jesus Christ deserve reverence.

The GB demands absolute obedience, not just relative obedience, and those who are not obedient will be disfellowshipped.  I show that this requirement is wrong. To be sure, we should be obedient to the members of the GB, because they are the leaders or the organization, but the obedience should be relative, just as in the case with the superior authorities and the elders.

Some will question whether grave errors can occur at all inside the organization of the true religion that has the backing of Jehovah. The messages to the seven congregations in Asia, written by the apostle John in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. are discussed. These were true Christian congregations, and yet grave errors arose in their midst.

Unfortunately, the members of the GB are guilty of a number of grave errors that have caused harm for tens of thousands of Witnesses and have ruined many lives. That is one self-evident reason why our obedience to the GB must be relative.

The gravest error is the GB’s rejection of the full inspiration of the Bible, and two sides of this are discussed in the article “The Governing Body Does not Believe in the Full Inspiration of the Bible.”

First, the Song of Solomon is used as an example. The GB denies that the drama in the book has any meaning for us.  According to them, we can only learn that unfailing love is possible. A great number of other accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures are treated in the same way—they have no direct meaning for us today.

Second, the members of the GB have elevated themselves to the status of prophets by refusing to analyze the text of the Bible to find its meaning. Instead, they ask what the text reminds the members of the GB of. And these reminders are presented to the readers as spiritual food. Examples from the Pure Worship Of Jehovah — Restored At Last (2019) are given. By utilizing this new method, the full authority of the text of the Bible is rejected. The authority is systematically taken away from the text of the Bible and is transferred to the opinions and words of the members of the GB.

In a talk on decency, the GB member Mark Sanderson referred to the situation when David had the opportunity to kill his enemy, King Saul. But David did not let his servant Abishai pin him to the ground with his spear. David said according to 1 Samuel 26:9 (NWT13):

However, David said to Abishai: “Do not harm him, for who can lift his hand against the anointed of Jehovah and remain innocent.”

Sanderson used this situation as an example of decency, which is fine. But in other situations, this account about David and Saul has been used in the following way: The Governing Body consists of anointed men, and they have been appointed by Jehovah as the faithful and discreet slave to give spiritual food to all JW. “Do not lift your hand against the anointed of Jehovah.” This means that anyone who criticizes the members of the GB or ignores their demand for absolute obedience, in reality, lift their hands against the anointed of Jehovah.  Below I will show that this is a wrong view.


The eight members of the GB claim to be anointed by holy spirit to become heirs of God’s kingdom. This is a personal matter between them and Jehovah, and of course, I do not dispute that. However, they also claim that they have been appointed by Jehovah to be a government of JW, and this I strongly dispute.

I refer to my book, My Beloved Religion—And The Governing Body. Chapter 3 shows that the words about “the faithful and discreet slave” have been misapplied. They do not refer to a small group of men during Christ’s presence, who should give spiritual food to other Christians. Rather, like Jesus’ other illustrations in Matthew 24 and 25, they refer to individual anointed Christians who will ultimately turn out to be either “faithful and discreet” or “evil” when Jesus comes as judge during the great tribulation. Chapter 4 shows that there was no ongoing, sitting governing body in the first century CE, and therefore, there is no biblical reason for a small group of men to be a government for JW during Christ’s presence.

Relative obedience to governments and elders

Regardless of what the NT says about “the slave” and a governing body, the facts on the ground are that eight men constitute a government for JW, and so the real question is: How should we view these eight men? And must we give them absolute obedience? We can get some clues for an answer by comparing Hebrew 13:17 and Romans 13:1. I quote from NWT13:

Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over you as those who will render an account.

Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.

The Greek word translated “be obedient” is peithō. Its basic meaning is “to persuade.” In connection with Hebrews chapter 13,  the Mounce Greek Dictionary has the following meanings: “to confide in, trust, rely on, place hope and confidence in.” And Louw and Nida’s Greek lexicon has the following meanings: “obey your leaders and submit to them.”

Those taking the lead in the Hebrew congregations were the elders, and the scripture admonishes the congregation members to be confident in these leaders and to obey them. The word translated as “be submissive” is hypeikō, and according to Louw and Nida, the meaning is “to submit to the orders or directive of someone.” The Greek word translated “be in subjection” in Romans 13:1 is hypotassō, and according to Mounce, the meaning is: “to place or arrange under; to subordinate.” Different Greek words are used in Hebrews 13:17 and Romans 13:1, but the basic ideas of “be submissive” and “be in subjection” are quite similar. So, the question is what do these expressions mean.

I will start with Romans 13:1 and the “subjection to the superior authorities.” The Watchtower literature has correctly shown that the subjection of the Christian to the governments of the world must be relative. They will obey the government in the country where they live in everything except when laws of the government clearly violate the laws of God. (Acts 5:29)[1]

Can we apply this idea of relative subjection to the situation in the congregations where the members must be obedient and submissive to those who are taking the lead? Absolutely! Of course, we expect the elders in the congregations to follow the Bible and only make decisions influencing the congregation members that are based on the Bible. However, if the elders make decisions that violate biblical principles, the congregation members should refuse to follow these. Absolute and blind obedience has its place in dictatorships but not in the Christian congregations.

Relative obedience to the Governing Body

The eight members of the present Governing Body functions as a government for Jehovah’s Witnesses, but should the obedience to the GB be absolute or relative? In a worldwide organization, many decisions must be made to maintain the unity of JW and to ensure the daily operation and overall smooth functioning of the organization. For this to happen, the members must be obedient. But if any decisions of the GB violate biblical principles, the members of the congregations must defer to what the Bible says regarding all other situations where obedience is required, namely, “we must obey God a ruler rather than men.” Therefore, even if the “men” violating biblical principles happen to be GB members, we cannot obey them in such situations. So, as in the case with the worldly authorities and those who take the lead in the congregations, the obedience of the Christians toward the GB must be relative.

But how can we raise the question about relative obedience in the only religious organization whose doctrines build on the Bible? Inside the true religion, should we not expect that all the decisions made by the leaders are always based on the Bible? That would be the ideal situation, but the facts on the ground show that this ideal situation does not exist. Interestingly, this was also the case in the Christian congregations at the end of the first century CE. Ungodly ideas and practices had slipped into the congregations, and that was the reason why Jesus used the apostle John to write letters to the angels (probably, the bodies of elders) of the seven congregations in Asia in order to correct the situation. The wrong ideas and actions are seen in the quotations below , I quote from the NWT13.

To Ephesus: 2:2-6:

  ‘I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot tolerate bad men, and that you put to the test those who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them to be liars. You are also showing endurance, and you have persevered for the sake of my name and have not grown weary. Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first. “‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first. If you do not, I will come to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Still, you do have this in your favor: that you hate the deeds of the sect of Nic·o·laʹus, which I also hate.

To Smyrna: 2:8-10:

 ‘I know your tribulation and poverty—but you are rich—and the blasphemy by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but they are a synagogue of Satan. 10  Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To Pergamum 2:13-16:

13  ‘I know where you are dwelling, that is, where the throne of Satan is; and yet you keep holding fast to my name,  and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Anʹti·pas, my faithful witness,  who was killed by your side, where Satan is dwelling.14  “‘Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, that you have there those adhering to the teaching of Baʹlaam, who taught Baʹlak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. 15  In the same way, you also have those adhering to the teaching of the sect of Nic·o·laʹus. 16  So repent. If you do not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will war against them with the long sword of my mouth.


To Thyatira 2:19-25:

19  ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance, and that your deeds of late are more than those you did at first.20  “‘Nevertheless, I do hold this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezʹe·bel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols. 21  And I gave her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality. 22  Look! I am about to throw her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. 23  And I will kill her children with deadly plague, so that all the congregations will know that I am the one who searches the innermost thoughts and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds. 24  “‘However, I say to the rest of you who are in Thy·a·tiʹra, all those who do not follow this teaching, those who did not get to know the so-called “deep things of Satan”: I am not putting on you any other burden. 25  Just the same, hold fast to what you have until I come.


To Sardis 3:1-5:

 “To the angel of the congregation in Sarʹdis write: These are the things that he says who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Become watchful, and strengthen the things remaining that were ready to die, for I have not found your works fully performed before my God.  Therefore, continue mindful of how you have received and how you heard, and go on keeping it, and repent. Certainly unless you wake up, I will come as a thief, and you will not know at all at what hour I will come upon you. “‘Nevertheless, you do have a few individuals in Sarʹdis who did not defile their garments, and they will walk with me in white ones, because they are worthy.  The one who conquers will thus be dressed in white garments, and I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life, but I will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels.


To Philadelphia 3:8-10:

  ‘I know your deeds—look! I have set before you an opened door, which no one can shut. And I know that you have a little power, and you kept my word and did not prove false to my name.  Look! I will make those from the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying—look! I will make them come and bow before your feet and make them know that I have loved you.10  Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test,  which is to come upon the entire inhabited earth, to put to the test those dwelling on the earth.


To Laodicea 3:15-19:

15  ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. 16  So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth. 17  Because you say, “I am rich  and have acquired riches and do not need anything at all,” but you do not know that you are miserable and pitiful and poor and blind and naked,18  I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may become dressed and that the shame of your nakedness may not be exposed, and eyesalve to rub in your eyes so that you may see. 19  “‘All those for whom I have affection, I reprove and discipline. So be zealous and repent.

The main points of the seven letters are as follows:

Ephesus: The congregation had left the love it had at first.

Smyrna: The congregation had experienced tribulation and poverty. But it was spiritually rich.

Pergamum: Some in the congregation were adhering to the false teaching of Balaam and to the sectarian teaching of Nicolaus.

Thyatira: The congregation tolerated Jezebel, who claimed to be a prophetess, and who misled the congregation members to commit sexual immorality and idolatry.

Sardis: The congregation had the name of being alive, but was actually spiritually dead.

Philadelphia: The congregation had little power. Nevertheless, the members kept the words of Jesus and were faithful to his name.

Laodicea: The congregation members were lukewarm, and they were miserable and pitiful and poor and blind and naked.

The seven congregations were a part of the only true religion. Nevertheless, bad things occurred in the congregations, and those elders taking the lead did not take appropriate actions to counter what was bad. There were false teachings in the congregations; there were sects, idolatry, and even sexual immorality. Yes, all of these bad things were committed by congregation members inside of the only true religion of the first century CE, while those taking the lead were complicit, or did nothing to stop it.

Then, in the second century, some elders in the Christian congregation gave themselves more power, and they became bishops. Later a clergy of priests below the bishops were created. Gradually, more and more unscriptural teachings and practices were added to the true Christian congregations until they, in time, ceased to be Christian.

If things that violated God’s laws could happen inside the true Christian congregations at the end of the first century CE, and in the second century CE, such violations of God’s law can also happen inside the true Christian congregations today. And in the 21st century, the members of the GB have followed the pattern of some elders in the second century by setting themselves up as “bishops.” We should remember that the congregation of Laodicea said that she was rich and did not need anything at all, and the GB today in effect says the same thing. But Jesus said that those anointed ones were “miserable and pitiful and poor and blind and naked.” Most of what is happening among JW today is good and right. But the GB has given themselves unlimited power and has violated a number of biblical laws and principles, and this has caused harm and ruined the lives of many Witnesses.

I will now return to the issue of obedience. The elders in Pergamum tolerated teachings that were contrary to God’s word, and the elders of Thyatira tolerated the “prophetess” who misled Christians to commit sexual immorality and idolatry. What should the congregation members do? They certainly should not follow the wrong leadership of their elders. But in all other situations, they should be obedient and submissive in order to keep the unity of the congregation. The elders in Sardis had fallen asleep spiritually. Did the few faithful members of the Sardis congregation blindly follow the spiritually lethargic directions of the elders? Apparently not. Notice the GB’s own take away regarding the situation in the Sardis congregation, as quoted from the book Revelation Its Grand Climax at Hand p. 57, par 10:

Because of negligence on the part of a body of elders, a congregation as a whole may fall into deep spiritual sleep. Yet, some individuals therein may strive courageously to keep their Christian identity pure and unspotted and thus continue to have a good name with Jehovah.

The implications are clear; if an entire body of elders can become ‘negligent’ and can fall into a “deep spiritual sleep,” the only way congregation members can avoid suffering the same spiritual fate is not to obey the wrong directions, or imitate the bad examples, of such derelict elders.

This is a good example for us today in our relationship with the GB. When we see that the GB violates God’s laws and principles with laws and rules they have made-up and invented, we cannot be obedient to them in these situations. But in all other matters, we should be obedient and submissive in order to support the unity of the organization. This is what relative obedience means.

We must be obedient to the members of the GB in all things, except when they make their own laws and rules that violate God’s laws and rules.

[1]. NWT84 and NWT13 renders the Greek word hypotassō with “relative positions,” and I am not aware of any other Bible translation that uses this expression. However, this is a fine rendering. The Greek word was used in connection with a victorious army. The general stood on a platform and one group of soldiers marches past him, then another group, and a third group. And these groups had their positions relative to each other. In a similar way, one government reigned and then passed away, then another government reigned and passed away, and then a third government. All these governments had their positions relative to each other. The important point to understand is that the expression “relative positions” does not describe the relation between the government and its subjects, as relative obedience. But the expression describes the relation between the governments that arise and then disappear.


The articles related to the category “The Governing Body” should be read in light of this Introduction. The articles show how the members of the GB have made grave errors and are continuing to do so. But because they are leading the organization of JW, individual Witnesses should be obedient and submissive to them in all other areas with the exception of those situations where they violate biblical laws and principles.

The article “The Governing Body Does not Believe in the Full Inspiration of the Bible” in the same category discusses the gravest error of the GB, namely, their rejection of many parts of the Hebrew Scriptures as having a meaning for us today. This is simply false teaching. Hymenaeus and Philetus had “deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection already had occurred.” (2 Timotheus 2:17, 18) In a similar way, the eight members of the GB “have deviated from the truth, saying that many parts of the Hebrew Scriptures have no meaning for us today.” The Song of Solomon is used as an example of the rejection of the full inspiration of the Bible:

  • Several persons are speaking and acting in the drama in the Song of Songs. But the GB does not accept that this drama has any meaning for us today.
  • The GB views the book as a love-song. The article discussing the book admits that the love described is between a man and woman. This is erotic or romantic love, expressing the affection between the sexes. But the article applies love in a much broader sense, which is wrong.
  • My argument is that God would not use eight chapters and 117 verses of his Holy Book just to describe the strength of erotic or romantic love between the sexes. But there they are in the Bible; all eight chapters and 117 verses! If the book is a prophetic drama portraying the strong love between Jesus Christ and his bride of 144,000, the prophetic drama  has a purpose and makes sense. Moreover, if the book contains prophetic types with greater fulfillment, the beautiful expressions of the erotic and romantic love get an antitypical meaning showing the beautiful and strong love between Jesus and his bride.
  • The main points of an article in The Watchtower of 1 December 1957, about the antitypical fulfillment of the prophetic drama, are discussed.
  • The members of the GB deny that the drama of the Song of Songs has any meaning for us, and they also deny that many other accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures have any meaning. In so doing, they reject the full inspiration of the Bible.

The members of the GB have also deviated from the truth by elevating themselves to the status of prophets.

  • Because the members of the GB have put themselves above the text of the Bible, they have implicitly given themselves the status of being prophets.
  • The prophecy of Ezekiel is discussed in the book The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah — How? (1971) In this book, the same approach to the Bible that the organization had used for 100 years was followed: The Hebrew text was analyzed, and the meaning of this text for us today was presented. The approach of the book Pure Worship Of Jehovah — Restored At Last (2019) is nothing like the approach of any other book published by JW. This book does not analyze the Hebrew text in order to find its meaning for us. But what the English translation of Ezekiel’s text reminds the members of the GB of is what is presented as spiritual food for the readers.
  • The new method of interpretation takes the authority away from the text of the Bible and transfers it to the GB. Currently, it is the opinions and the words of the members of the GB that is considered “the truth.” In this way, the members of the GB have set themselves up to serve as prophets.
Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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