Resigning from Jehovah’s Witnesses can be done by a formal request, oral or in writing. In addition to that, the Governing Body views three kinds of action as evidence that a person has resigned, 1) a violation of neutrality, 2) accepting blood without repentance, and 3) becoming a member of another religious organization.
The website jw.org raises the question, “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Shun Those who Used To Belong To Their Religion?” However, using circumlocution, a direct and honest answer to that question is dodged by the website, so that the truth about the shunning of those who resign is withheld. Thus, the reader will get the impression that only disfellowshipped persons are shunned, and that those who resign are not shunned. But the book “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock” (1991), page 102, a book that only elders are allowed to read, says: “Those that disassociate themselves should be viewed and be treated in the same way as disfellowshipped persons. (italics mine) This means that those who resign are, in fact, shunned by all Witnesses.
The Governing Body views those who have resigned on a par with the apostates and antichrists of 2 John 10, and therefore should be shunned. However, The Watchtower admits that 2 John 10, according to the context, only refers to those who deny “Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” Despite this acknowledgment, the Governing Body inexplicably asserts that 2 John 10 also applies to those who have resigned (have disassociated themselves) from Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The shunning of disfellowshipped persons has no basis in the Bible, and I show that the words of 1 Corinthians 5:11, “stop keeping company with,” refer to “not socializing with” and not to shunning.
The purpose of refusing to socialize with a disfellowshipped person is to cause him “to feel ashamed” and to repent and change his course. A person who has decided to resign has made up his mind, and is unlikely to be “shamed” into returning to the fold, and so there is no point, or benefit, in applying the sanctions of disfellowshipping or the unscriptural practice of shunning to such ones.
Shunning represents a violation of both Christian and humanistic principles. By shunning persons, the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount that Christians should love their enemies and greet their enemies are violated. Shunning also violates the right of all people to choose a religion or resign from a religion.
The shunning of those who resign has no basis in the Bible, it serves no purpose except to inflict punishment on the person resigning, and it is a violation of Christian principles.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF RESIGNING FROM JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
On the website jw.org the following question is asked: “Can A Person Resign From Being One Of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” The following answer is given:
Yes. A person can resign from our organization in two ways:
By formal request. Either orally or in writing, a person can state his decision that he no longer wants to be known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A person can take an action that places him outside our worldwide brotherhood. (1 Peter 5:9) For example, he might join another religion and make known his intention to remain part of it. — 1 John 2:9
Both answers represent the organizational procedures of Jehovah’s Witnesses and are correct. But the consequences of resigning in either of the two ways are not mentioned. One of the references at the end of the article is the related article “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Shun Those Who Used To Belong To Their Religion?” The following answer is given:
Those who were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses but no longer preach to others, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned. In fact, we reach out to them and try to rekindle their spiritual interest.
We do not automatically disfellowship someone who commits a serious sin. If, however, a baptized Witness makes a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code and does not repent, he or she will be shunned or disfellowshipped. The Bible clearly states: “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”—1 Corinthians 5:13. (author’s italics)
The two paragraphs represent the answer to the question in the heading, and this answer is false and misleading. The phrase “those who used to belong to their religion,” in the title of the article, must include all persons who were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses but no longer are a part of the denomination. Three groups are included, 1) disfellowshipped persons, 2) those who have resigned and have disassociated themselves, and 3) inactive persons who have not resigned.
The second paragraph in the quotation shows disfellowshipped persons (group 1) are shunned. The first paragraph shows that the group of inactive persons who have not resigned (group 3) is not shunned. But information about the treatment of persons who have resigned and disassociated themselves (group 2) are withheld.
In addition to misleading the readers by withholding important information, The Watchtower literature also has deliberately made statements that give the wrong impression regarding persons who formally resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses, either orally or in writing. “Shepherd The Flock Of God”, 18.1, says:
Whereas disfellowshipping is an action taken by a judicial committee against an unrepentant wrongdoer, disassociation is an action taken by a baptized member of the congregation who no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses… (italics mine)
The description of what disassociation is, simply is not true. The book for elders “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock” (1991), page 102, says:
Those that disassociate themselves should be viewed and be treated the same as disfellowshipped persons. (italics mine)
And the book for baptized Witnesses Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will (2005), page 155, says:
However, the person who disassociates himself by repudiating the faith and deliberately abandoning Jehovah’s worship is viewed in the same way as one who is disfellowshipped… Such a person is treated in the same way as a disfellowshipped person. (italics mine)
I will illustrate the situation in the following way: An employee enters his boss’s office and hands him a letter of resignation, and says, “I no longer desire to be an employee of this company, so I resign.” His boss smugly replies, “You can’t quit because I’m firing you!” Because the company has the employee’s resignation letter, it can, for PR purposes, claim that the employee resigned of his own free will. However, on the official books of the company, and in every other way, the employee was actually fired—thrown out. For example, unlike employees who are given two weeks after they resign, to transition their work with the company, a fired worker is immediately dismissed. He is not permitted to finish any work, he is not allowed to engage in conversation with fellow workers at the jobsite. Instead, he is escorted from the building by security. He may even lose any severance pay that would have come to him if his resignation had been an amicable one with the company. Therefore, while it can be said that the employee did, indeed, desire to resign from the company, he was not allowed to do so in the dignified and respectful manner he intended. The employee’s resignation letter notwithstanding, he was, in reality, thrown out of the company in disgrace.
In connection with disassociation, the Watchtower Society has presented to the public the misleading narrative that disassociated persons resign of their own free will. This is only partially true and only in connection with a Witness who writes a formal letter of resignation. Therefore, only his initial action in writing the letter involves his free will. What happens after that, is completely out of his control and goes against his desires and wishes. Instead of letting him resign in dignity, he is thrown out of the congregation, or fired, as it were. Information is also withheld from the public, that a disassociated person will invariably be shunned. Clearly, persons outside the organization are misled in connection with what resigning from Jehovah’s Witnesses really means.
Regarding honesty, I have been taught, and I have taught others, that there is no situation where a servant of God can lie. A Christian can refuse to answer a question or to speak. But when he or she speaks, what he or she says must always be true. What I have quoted above from the website jw.org. represent examples of how the truth is hidden. Because the readers have the right to know the full answers to the posed questions, the way the truth is hidden must be classified as lies — the readers are led to draw the wrong conclusions.
The dishonesty that is seen on the website jw.org. is also reflected by the members of the Scandinavian branch office in Denmark. The Norwegian authorities have posed several questions to the branch office, and in several instances, letters from the branch office have contained false information. The letter from the Scandinavian branch office of February 17, 2022, contained the following lies:
On the other hand, one who voluntarily chooses to reject his spiritual position as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses by formally disassociating himself will be respected for this, and everyone in the congregation has the opportunity to use their personal religious conscience to choose if they will delimitate or completely avoid any contact with this person.
A lie is to say or do something that a person knows is not true in order to deceive someone. I do not know if those who have written the other letters with false information fully understood that the information was false, and therefore I do not use the word “lies.” However, I personally know the brother who signed the letter from which I have quoted above, and I know that he knows that what the letter says is false. He has therefore told a lie to the County Governor of Oslo and Viken.
The letter claims that whether a Witness shall delimitate or completely avoid a person who has disassociated himself from Jehovah’s Witnesses is a matter each one’s conscience must decide. This is a lie because, from the year 1981, the Governing Body has required that the Witnesses must completely avoid a disassociated person.
It is also a lie that a person who resigns “will be respected for this.” When a person who resigns is punished for this be being shunned, he or she is not respected for his action.
The lies were an attempt to persuade the County Governor that there was no organizational requirement to avoid a disassociated person and that such a person would be respected. Therefore, the County Governor could not accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of punishing those who resigned and because this violate the law for religious denominations.
. See the article, “Members of the Scandinavian branch committee have been lying to the County Governor” in the category, “The Governing Body.”
. See the article, “Members of the Scandinavian branch committee have been lying to the County Governor” in the category, “The Governing Body.”
THOSE WHO HAVE RESIGNED ARE VIEWED AS APOSTATES AND ANTICHRISTS
Until the year 1981, a person who wanted to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses and no longer would be counted as a Witness could do that without being punished for it. However, that was now changed. The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 23, said:
One who has been a true Christian might renounce the way of the truth, stating that he no longer considers himself to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or wants to be known as one. When this rare event occurs, the person is renouncing his standing as a Christian, deliberately disassociating himself from the congregation. The apostle John wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us.”—1 John 2:19.
Or, a person might renounce his place in the Christian congregation by his actions, such as by becoming part of an organization whose objective is contrary to the Bible, and, hence, is under judgment by Jehovah God. (Compare Revelation 19:17-21; Isaiah 2:4.) So if one who was a Christian chose to join those who are disapproved of God, it would be fitting for the congregation to acknowledge by a brief announcement that he had disassociated himself and is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Persons who make themselves “not of our sort” by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshiped for wrongdoing.
How to view those who resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses is also discussed in The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 30:
Did 2 John 10, which says not to receive into one’s home or to greet certain ones, refer only to those who had promoted false doctrine?
In context this counsel concerned the “many deceivers” who had gone forth, “persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” (2 John 7) The apostle John offered directions on how Christians back there should treat one who denied that Jesus had existed or that he was the Christ and Ransomer. John directed: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10, 11) But the Bible elsewhere shows that this had a wider application…
In contrast, John’s words indicate that some went further than spiritual weakness and inactivity; they actually repudiated God’s congregation. Someone may have come out openly in opposition to God’s people, declaring that he no longer wanted to be in the congregation. He may even have renounced his former faith formally, such as by a letter. Of course, the congregation would have accepted his decision to disassociate himself. But how would they then have treated him? John says: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.” (2 John 9, 10) Those words certainly would have applied to a person who became an apostate by joining a false religion or by spreading false doctrine. (2 Timothy 2: 17-19) But what about those who John said “went out from us”? While Christians in the first century would know that they should not associate with an expelled wrongdoer or with an active apostate, did they act similarly toward someone who was not expelled but who willfully renounced the Christian way?
Aid to Bible Understanding shows that the word “apostasy” comes from a Greek word that literally means “ ‘a standing away from’ but has the sense of ‘desertion, abandonment or rebellion.’” The Aid book adds: “Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Heb. 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb. 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2 Pet. 2:15-22), the heeding of the ‘counterfeit words’ of false teachers and ‘misleading inspired utterances’ (1 Tim. 4:1-3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist.’ (1 John 2:18,19)”
A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description [of an apostate]. By deliberately repudiating God’s congregation and by renouncing the Christian way, he would have made himself an apostate. (the author’s italics)
I will now look at the details in the quotation above. The first text in brown shows rightly that according to the context, the persons that Christians should not greet or welcome into their houses were the antichrists denying “Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” The second text in brown, however, says that “the Bible elsewhere shows that this has a wider application.” What “elsewhere” refers to is not mentioned, and the very claim that the words in the verse have a wider application than the application shown by the context is a contradiction of terms. The words of a verse can only have the application indicated by the context. Therefore, unless it can be shown that another inspired Bible writer specifically references the words of the apostle John and expands on their application, it is impossible for John’s words regarding antichrists to have ‘a wider application elsewhere in the Bible.
The text in blue reveals the real issue. It is not true that the Bible “elsewhere” shows that the words about not greeting and not welcoming can be applied to others than the antichrists. It is the members of the Governing Body, by means of the article itself, who have devised their own “wider application” by claiming that the words of the apostle John regarding “antichrists” should be extended to include those who merely leave the congregation!
The text in green expands this thought. The lexicon Aid to Bible Understanding is used to define apostasy. And a person who has “formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description [of an apostate].” Thus, a person who has disassociated himself has “become part of the ‘antichrist’.”
What we see in the quoted words is that the view of the Governing Body has been smuggled into the text, and intermingled with the comments from the lexicon. And this hybrid conclusion based on their own reasoning is presented as the promised “wider application” that, supposedly, “the Bible elsewhere shows”.
|The context of 2 John 10 shows that those whom Christians should not greet and welcome into their homes are the antichrists. It is not true that “the Bible elsewhere shows” that the words also can be applied to others. It is the Governing Body who makes that claim, and without any basis in the Bible.|
The conclusion is that the words “never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him” can only be applied to the antichrists, who denied Jesus Christ. To apply these words to disfellowshipped and disassociated persons, as does the GB, is a clear abuse of the Holy Scriptures. The reason why those who have resigned are treated in such a cruel and inhuman way is that the Governing Body has decided to treat them that way, without any basis in the Bible.
THE SHUNNING OF THOSE WHO HAVE RESIGNED
Four articles in the category “Shunning not based on the Bible” on this website show that shunning was made up and invented by the author of an article about disfellowshipping in 1952. The articles also show that shunning violates several Bible principles. I will now discuss shunning from the point of view of the purpose of this cruel and inhuman procedure.
The words “stop keeping company with” are being twisted
I start this section by quoting Proverbs 16:11; 20:23:
11 Honest scales are from Jehovah.
23 Dishonest weights are detestable to Jehovah, And deceptive scales are not good.
One of the many instances where the members of the Governing Body use two kinds of wights and two kinds of scales is in their application of the word synanamignymi. When the same word is interpreted in two different ways without any linguistic or contextual basis, in order to support a procedure they have invented that contradicts the Bible, they use dishonest weights and deceptive scales. I will show this below.
The word synanamignymi (“mix together”) occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, 11 (text above) and 2 Thessalonians 3:14 (text below):
9 In my letter I wrote you to stop keeping company (synanamignymi) with sexually immoral people, 11 But now I am writing you to stop keeping company (synanamignymi) with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.
But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked and stop associating (synanamignymi) with him, so that he may become ashamed. 15 And yet do not consider him an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.
Courses in ancient Greek differentiate between Classical Greek and New Testament Greek. There is a close similarity between the two, but there are differences as well, particularly in the meaning and references of words. Therefore, we cannot just consult a Greek-English Lexicon when we are looking for the meaning of a Greek word and choose one of the meanings that the lexicon presents. Such lexicons both present meanings from Classical and New Testament Greek without distinguishing between them. The only way to find the meaning of a Greek word in the Christian Greek Scriptures is to look at the contexts in which the word occurs. Therefore, in connection with the word synanamignymi we have only three places to look.
I will now compare the situations in 1 Corinthians 5:9, 11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, Paul speaks about disfellowshipping wicked persons. This means that those Christians should stop mixing together with or stop associating with were disfellowshipped persons. Below I will compare the study notes of the two passages in the online NWT13.
The situation that is painted in the note of 2 Thessalonians 3:14 is clearly misleading because the reference in the note is to those who are “walking disorderly.” True, these words are found in 2 Thessalonians 5:11. But Paul cannot refer to those who are walking disorderly because he does not refer to a concrete situation, he does not refer to something that has happened. But his words are conditional, something that is seen by his use of the Greek word ei (“if”) at the beginning of 3:14. So what Paul actually says is that “If anyone [is] not obedient to our word through this letter,” then the Christians should “stop associating with him.” This must, of course, include anything that Paul mentions in his letter, and not only those walking disorderly by not working and meddling with what does not concern them (3:11). In chapter 2, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians not to accept the words of those who say that the day of the Lord is here (2:2). He also says that they must “maintain your hold on the traditions that you were taught (2:16), i.e., they should not introduce new teachings.
The fact that Paul in 3:4 uses the words “our instructions” in the plural indicates that Paul wanted obedience to everything that he had written in the letter. As we will see, the study note says that those who should be marked were “not guilty of practicing a grave sin.” This is not correct! For example, Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:18 that Hymenaeus and Philetus “have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred.” The context shows that these were disfellowshipped.
If some members of the Thessalonian congregations were not obedient to Paul’s words regarding the day of the Lord, saying that this day “is here” (“is present”) that would be just as grave a sin as the one of Hymenaeus and Philetus. And similarly, if someone did not “maintain your hold on the traditions that you were taught” (2:16), but rejected something or introduced something else, that would be a grave sin as well. So the attempt of the Governing Body through the study note of 2 Thessalonians 3.15 to show that the possible sins of the Thessalonians were not grave has failed. The motive of this attempt is, of course, to try to show that synanamignymi has a different and less severe meaning in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 compared with 1 Corinthians 5:11. But this is a futile attempt because Paul in 2 Thessalonians is not referring to a concrete situation but to a hypothetical situation whose contents are unknown.
I will now return to the evidence showing that the members of the Governing Body use dishonest weights and deceptive scales. We can see this by comparing the study notes of 1 Corinthians 5:11 (above) and 2 Thessalonians 3:15 (below).
Study note of 1 Corinthians 5:11:
stop keeping company with: Or “stop associating with.” The Greek word sy·na·na·miʹgny·mai, rendered “keeping company with,” means “to mix together.” (The same Greek verb occurs at 2Th 3:14.) Thus, “keeping company” with others would imply having close fellowship or companionship with them and sharing their views and sentiments. Christians in Corinth had to “stop keeping company with,” that is, refuse to mingle with, any unrepentant sinner. They were to “remove the wicked person from among [themselves].”—1Co 5:13
The Watchtower of July 1, 1963, page 413:
Therefore the members of the congregation will not associate with the disfellowshiped one, either in the Kingdom Hall or elsewhere. They will not converse with such one or show him recognition in any way. If the disfellowshiped person attempts to talk to others in the congregation, they should walk away from him. In this way, he will feel the full import of his sin.
The Watchtower of September 15, 1985, page 22:
Yes, the Bible commands Christians not to keep company or fellowship with a person who has been expelled from the congregation. Thus “disfellowshiping” is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer.
Study note to 2 Thessalonians 3:15:
and stop associating with him: A person who was “walking disorderly” in the congregation was not guilty of practicing a grave sin for which he could be disfellowshipped (2Th 3:11) Still, he was persisting in a course that could reflect badly on the congregation and that could influence other Christians. Paul thus counsels Christians to “stop associating” with him, that is, to avoid socializing with him. (Compare 2 Ti 2:20, 21.) This action might help the disorderly one to realize that he needed to conform to Bible principles. Fellow Christians would not completely avoid the person, for Paul advises them to “continue admonishing him as a brother.” —See study note on 2 Th 3:15.
The Watchtower of 15 April 15, 1985, page 31:
Paul said, “Stop associating with” the marked one “that he may become ashamed.” Brothers would not completely shun him, for Paul advised them to “continue admonishing him as a brother.” Yet by their limiting social fellowship with him, they might lead him to become ashamed and perhaps awaken him to the need to conform to Bible principles.
A SYNTHESIS OF THE DIFFERENT APPLICATIONS OF SYNANAMIGNYMI
I will now show the two different wights and the two different scales that are used by the members of the Governing Body.
The comments on the Greek word synanamignymi in 1 Corinthians 5:11 are:
· Thus, “keeping company” with others would imply having close fellowship or companionship with them and sharing their views and sentiments.
· They will not converse with such one or show him recognition in any way. If the disfellowshiped person attempts to talk to others in the congregation, they should walk away from him.
· Thus “disfellowshiping” is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer.
The comments on the Greek word synanamignymi in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 are:
Paul thus counsels Christians to “stop associating” with him, that is, to avoid socializing with him.
Brothers would not completely shun him.
Why is the application of synanamignymi different in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3? The reason is that the members of the Governing Body, without any biblical reason, have decided that disfellowshipped persons must be shunned. And here we see the dishonest weights and deceptive scales that the Governing Body has used — the same Greek word is, without any lexical or contextual reason, applied in diametrically opposite ways in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. In one place it refers to shunning but in the other place, it does not refer to shunning. It is no longer God’s thoughts in the Bible that are used as the authority but the thoughts of the members of the Governing Body that are presented as God’s thoughts.
I have stressed that the only way to know the real meaning of a Greek word is to look at the context where the word occurs. The word synanamignymi occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The basic meaning of the word is “mixing together,” and in 1 Corinthians 5:11, we learn one side of not socializing with the person is not having a meal with him or her. In 2 Thessalonians 3:15 we learn that Christians can “continue admonishing him as a brother,” and this means that the members of the congregation can speak with him and greet him, while they still must not continue socializing or fraternizing with him. These are the meanings that we can construe on the basis of the contexts where the word occurs. When we compare the study notes from NWT13 and the quotations from The Watchtower we clearly see how the members of the Governing Body use two kinds of weights and two kinds of scales (dishonest weights and deceptive scales).
There is absolutely nothing connected with the Greek word synanamignymi showing that if one must stop synanmignymi (“having fellowship with”) someone, one has to shun this person, treating him or her as if he or she does not exist. Greek-English lexicons that give both meanings from Classical Greek and New Testament Greek agree with this, as I show below:
United Bible Society Lexicon: “Associate with, have dealings with,”
Mounce Greek Dictionary: “To associate with.”
Moulton and Milligan: “‘Mix up together,’ thence metaph. in mid. ‘associate with’.”
Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich: “Mix up together…pass: mingle, or associate with.
When the positive meaning of synanamignymi is “socializing with,” the negative meaning cannot be “shun” but it must be “not socializing with.”
There is no lexical or contextual reason why a disfellowshipped person cannot be treated in the same way as a person who is not obedient to Paul’s word, as this is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15. This means that the members of the congregation can greet and speak with a disfellowshipped person while they are admonishing him to repent. One reference to this is 2 Corinthians 2:5-7:
5 Now if anyone has caused sadness, he has saddened, not me, but all of you to an extent—not to be too harsh in what I say. 6 This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man; 7 now you should instead kindly forgive and comfort him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sadness.
The study note for the word “rebuke” in verse 6 in the online NWT13 says:
rebuke: Or “punishment.” In his first inspired letter to the Corinthians, Paul directed that a man who had unrepentantly practiced sexual immorality be removed from the congregation. (1Co 5:1, 7, 11-13) That discipline had good effects. The congregation was protected from a corrupting influence, and the sinner sincerely repented. The man performed works befitting repentance, so Paul now indicates that “the rebuke given by the majority [was] sufficient” and that the man be welcomed back by the congregation. This is consistent with the ways of Jehovah, who disciplines his people “to the proper degree.”—Jer 30:11.
The explanation of the study note is correct. But it fails to show what the word “rebuke” refers to and who those are who made the rebuke. Below I will look at some of the details. We need to consider the words “rebuke” and “the majority,” in order to understand the situation. According to the present procedure invented by the Governing Body, “the rebuke” would be that no member of the congregation in Corinth spoke with the man or greeted him. If he attended a meeting and spoke to someone, they would turn their back to him and not answer him.
However, the words “the majority” speak against this. The Greek adjective polys (“much; many”) is masculine plural, genitive, comparative. The English parsing of the adjective is positive: much; comparative: “more”; superlative “most.” It is not easy to translate the comparative form of polys into English. The rendering “the majority” is inaccurate because this would be the literal rendering of the superlative form (“most”). The rendering “many” would be a literal rendering of the positive form. The rendering “the more” would be a literal rendering of the comparative form but would not be good modern English. I, therefore, suggest the rendering, “The rebuke given by a great number is sufficient for such a man.”
The important point in verses 5 and 6 is the contrast between “all” and “a great number” (“the more”). All of the congregation members were saddened by the actions of the man, but only a great number of them rebuked him. If the rebuke was shunning, it was required that all members of the congregation would participate in this action. But only a great number (“the more”) participated in the rebuke. This corroborates the view that the members of the congregation could greet the man and speak with him while rebuking him, in the same way as the Thessalonians could greet and speak with a man who was marked and admonish him. Let us look at the Greek words.
The Greek noun that is translated as “rebuke” is epitimia, and it occurs only in 2 Corinthians 2:6. This means that we cannot construe the meaning of the word on the basis of the context. NWT13 has the rendering “rebuke” and the alternative rendering “punishment,” and this is the rendering of most English Bible translations. However, there are several reasons why the rendering “punishment” is not fitting. What was the punishment that the man received? According to 1 Corinthians 5:5, the man “was handed over to Satan,” i.e., he was disfellowshipped. This was something that all the members of the congregation who were saddened by his action stood behind. But not all the congregation members but only a great number of them were behind the apitimia that led the sinner to repentance. This indicates that epitimia was not the disfellowshipping of the man and that “rebuke” is a better rendering than “punishment.”.
The verb epitimaō corresponds to the noun epitimia, and according to Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich the meaning of the verb is “rebuke, reprove, censure also speak seriously, warn, in order to prevent an action or bring one to an end…punish.” We cannot just take one meaning from a Greek-English Lexicon and insist that this is the meaning in a certain passage. But I will point out that the epitima of a great number was what led the man to repentance, and this fits the last part of the definition above: to rebuke or reprove in order to bring an action to an end.
The Greek verb that is used in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 with the purpose of causing the man to repent is noutheteō, and the same lexicon defines this verb as “admonish, warn, instruct.” The verbs epitimaō and noutheteō have both different meanings and similar meanings. But both verbs can be used to try to cause a sinner to repent. So there are good reasons to believe that the use of the noun epitimia in 2 Corinthians 2:6 shows that the members of a Christian congregation could greet and speak with disfellowshipped members while they were rebuking them and admonishing them to repent, exactly in the same way that the Thessalonians according to 2 Thessalonians 3:15 could greet and speak with persons who were marked in order to cause them to repent.
What is the purpose of shunning those who have resigned?
Not socializing with a disfellowshipped person or with one who has deviated from the way has a purpose—to cause them to become ashamed and repent of their course—but what is the purpose of shunning those who voluntarily resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses? The purpose cannot be to try to cause him to become ashamed and change his course because he has made his final choice.
The Watchtower of April 15, 1988, page 27, gives the following reason for shunning those who have resigned:
By also avoiding persons who have deliberately disassociated themselves, Christians are protected from possible critical, unappreciative, or even apostate views.—Hebrews 12:15, 16.
The reason given in the quotation is in line with the description of those who leave the organization by disassociating themselves from the congregation. According to the Governing Body, these persons are apostates and antichrists, they repudiate the Christian way, and they have bad motives. This painted picture of those who resign is very far from reality. I will look more closely at the reason that is given.
First of all, we must realize that those who resign are not necessarily bad persons. After I published my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, I received a number of e-mails from persons who have read the book. Two of these told me that they were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses when they were eight years old. But they did not understand what they had done. One of them told me that he had resigned from the congregation because he did not understand the organization and did not feel at home there.
Another reason why some have resigned is that they do not agree with the autocratic nature of the organization, that is, with eight men having all power. And that caused them to leave. A third reason is that a brother or sister has been treated badly for a long time by the elders of the congregation. And the person finally reached a point where he or she could not take it anymore, and so resigning seemed to be the only option. In the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, usually, there is a good spirit. But because of the dictatorial spirit that has developed in the organization in the 21st century, I am aware of several cases where a brother or sister has been treated in a very bad way.
In most cases where a brother or sister leaves the organization, the person gradually drifts away and becomes inactive. In such cases, the person will not be shunned. But I can understand a person in the situations I have described above who wants to officially mark his departure by writing a letter of resignation.
The conclusion to this section is that while there is a good reason why Christians should not socialize with disfellowshipped and marked persons, there is absolutely no reason for shunning persons who resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses. But what about those who say: “You seem to be saying that those who disassociate themselves get to walk away scot-free. How is that fair? After all, leaving the congregation is wrong. Shouldn’t there be a punishment for that?”
We must always keep in mind that the scriptural reason for not socializing with disfellowshipped ones is not to punish them per se. The purpose of disfellowshipping is to help the wrongdoer reflect on his actions in the hopes that he will feel “ashamed” of what he has done and repent. In the case of one who resigns from Jehovah’s Witnesses, the only wrong he may have committed is the act of resigning itself. Cutting off association from such a one will hardly make him feel ashamed for walking away, but may, instead, become an added incentive for leaving. And since the Governing Body has added to disfellowshipping the cruel and unscriptural practice of shunning, how much more so will such sanctions serve no purpose but to drive such ones further away from any possibility of ever changing their minds and returning. Therefore, such behavior on the part of the congregation members is the hallmark of punishment and can in no way be of any help to the one who has resigned.
. The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 30.
SHUNNING THOSE WHO HAVE RESIGNED IS A VIOLATION OF BIBLE PRINCIPLES AND OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The shunning of disfellowshipped persons and of those who have resigned is not only cruel but it violates both basic Christian teachings and humanistic principles. I have never heard of any other religion that treats its former members in such an inhuman way as do Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A violation of biblical principles
A good example showing how Jehovah’s Witnesses violate biblical principles is found in The Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:43-48 (NWT13):
43 “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48 You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus said that his followers should love their enemies. A person who quietly resigns from Jehovah’s Witnesses without doing harm in any way to anyone can hardly be viewed as an enemy. And even if he or she was viewed as an enemy, Christians should love this person. Is a Christian showing a person love if he refuses to say a greeting to him and completely ignores this person?
Even worse than that: If a grandfather regularly visits his grandchild who has resigned from his congregation and has bilical conversations with him, the grandfather will be disfellowshipped from the congregation. And because of this, the grandfather’s family and friends will now treat him as if he does not exist, they will have nothing to do with him. Is this an expression of the love Jesus mentioned, the love that is so strong that it includes one’s enemies? This is not even “tough love;” it is simply cruel and inhumane and unchristian. And please remember that the act of shunning was made up and invented by the author of an article in The Watchtower in 1952, and it has no basis in the Bible whatsoever.
I also mentioned that basic humanistic principles are violated by the act of shunning.
A violation of humanistic principles
The letter from Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Branch Office of Scandinavia to the County Governor in Oslo and Viken, dated 17 June 2020 says:
Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the fundamental rights that we have in Norway, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
Human rights are:
The right to freedom of thought, belief, and religion has two aspects under human rights law:
- the right to hold or change religious or other beliefs
- the right to put your thoughts and beliefs into action (‘manifestation’)
The right to hold, not to hold, or to change your religious or other beliefs is absolute and cannot be interfered with under any circumstances. 
The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9 says:
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion of belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall besubject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedom of others.
According to the declaration, the right to change one’s religious beliefs is absolute. This means that a person should have the right to become a member of a religion or resign from a religion without any pressure being put on him.
But a Witness knows that if he writes a letter of resignation, he will lose all his relatives who are Witnesses, except those who live in his household, and he will lose all his friends as well. This is strong pressure against ever writing such a letter of resignation, and it violates his absolute right to change his religion. So, the words in the letter, dated 17 June 2020, that Jehovah’s Witnesses “recognize the fundamental rights that we have in Norway, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” are simply not true.
In a letter of January 21, 2022, the County Governor of Oslo and Viken denied Jehovah’s Witnesses the government grants of about 16 million kroner (US$ 1.8 million) for 2021. One reason was that persons who resigned were shunned and the second reason was that children could be disfellowshipped and shunned. This shows that Norwegian authorities understand that the Witnesses are violating the laws about the religious freedom of the individuals.
. See the article «A Translanslation of the decision of the County Governor to deny Jehovah’s Witnesses government grants for 2021” in the category “The Governing Body.”
Resigning from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is possible, according to the website jw.org. But the significant caveat that those who resign (disassociate themselves) are viewed and treated like disfellowshipped persons is withheld from the website. This information is found in the book for elders “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock” and in the book for baptized Witnesses Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will.
The Governing Body abuses the text of the Bible in connection with those who disassociate themselves. The Watchtower admits that the words in 2 John 10, saying that Christians should not greet particular persons or welcome them into their homes, according to the context, refer to the antichrists who deny “Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” Nevertheless, the Governing Body incorrectly applies these words to those who disassociate themselves because the Governing Body says—but not the Bible—that these are like the antichrists.
Of particularly importance is the reference to 2 Corinthians 2:6 where Paul shows that a great number of the congregation members rebuked a disfellowshipped man. This shows that Christians can greet and speak with disfellowshipped persons in order to admonish them to repent, while they are not socializing with the disfellowshipped persons. There is absolutely no purpose in shunning persons who have disassociated themselves; this can only serve as a scripturally pointless punishment simply to inflict pain and suffering.
The shunning of disassociated persons is a violation of Jesus’ words that Christians should love their enemies. And it is a violation of the human right of choosing a religion and of resigning from a religion.