Skip to main content


By 14. November 2021Disfellowshipping


Raymond Franz was a Witness for Jehovah for 42 years, from 1938 to 1980. During most of this time, he was a full-time servant, and he was a member of the Governing Body for nine years. The beliefs of Franz gradually changed, and the two books he wrote show that he had developed a new religion. His basic views are that there are not two different hopes for salvation, one heavenly and one earthly hope, but all God’s true servants will live in heaven. God does not have an organized people on the earth, but every Christian lives a life independent of other Christians, and each one’s life is based on his or her relationship with God and not on written laws.

This study is based on what Franz has written in his two books Crisis of Conscience and In Search for Christian Freedom.

What was the reason for the turnaround of Franz?

The first chapter discusses this issue, but a clear answer cannot be given. One reason he himself gives is that his change of mind was caused by “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.” But I show that he himself does not follow this principle. Moreover, the expression itself is naïve, because it is impossible to understand the Bible without the help of others. It is, for example, impossible to read through the Bible and then understand what happens at death and all the different sides of the resurrection.

To understand the basic doctrines of the Bible, the following requirements must be fulfilled:

—A good understanding of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian.

—A good understanding of linguistics and semantics.

—A good knowledge of the contents of each book of the Bible.

—A good knowledge of world history.

—A good knowledge of who the people of God are and their history.

It is obvious that these requirements can only be fulfilled by a team of Bible students who work together.

The basic reason for the turnaround of Franz was that he developed a new religion that was very different from the religion of JW, and he read and understood the Scriptures in the light of this new religion. Not only did he give a new interpretation to the Scriptures, but he also denied that parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures included laws for Christians. Thus he denied that the law of abstaining from blood in Acts 15:29 is valid for Christians.

We do not know how or why the new religious ideas grew in the mind of Franz. But he showed that he was partial to the views of commentaries on the Scriptures written by theologians. And it is likely that he got some of his new ideas from these commentaries.

The chronology of the Bible

Franz criticizes the Bible Students’ understanding of the time periods in the Bible. But he does not discuss the situation in a sound historical setting. The Bible students realized from their study of the Bible that God’s servants were meant to understand the time periods mentioned in the Bible. However, because their Bible study was in its infancy, they had to use the calculations of the time periods made by others. In time, they discarded one calculation after the other, and only the time period of 2,520 years leading to 1914 remained standing.

Franz argues that JW have no evidence that the 2,520 years, for the appointed times of the nations, began in 607 BCE. I show that there is strong astronomical and historical evidence in favor of 607 as the year when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

I also discuss the year 1975. The focus on the year 1975 in the book Life Everlasting in the Freedom of the Sons of God impressed me. However, the comments of Fred Franz at the assembly in Baltimore the same year that the book was published taught me that we could not know if anything would happen in 1975. We could only wait and see if the last thousand years of God’s rest day would coincide with the beginning of the 6,000th year since the creation of Adam.

The basis for the Christian organization

Franz denied that there was a Christian organization in the first century CE, and he claims that every Christian is independent of all other Christians. I show that while there was no ongoing, sitting governing body in the first century, the Christian Greek Scriptures show that there was unity between all the Christian congregations. Each congregation had elders and ministerial servants, the members of the congregations came together at meetings, and some elders visited different congregations to build them up.

The book In Search for Christian Freedom is an All-out attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses

I only discuss three points from this book.

Franz claims that the elders have little time to help other Witnesses. I show that this is very far from the truth. He also claims that individual Witnesses are under strong pressure, and therefore they are not able to express faith and love freely from an inner motivation. I show that this is also very far from the truth. He claims that the focus should be on Jesus Christ, and therefore the use of the name Jehovah is wrong —it has no basis in the Christian Greek Scriptures. I show that his argument is shallow and that he overlooks all the data that require the use of the name of God.

In 1983, Franz’s book Crisis of Conscience was published, and in the same year, I read this book. His second book, In Search of Christian Freedom, was published in 1991, and in the same year, I read that book. The two books of Franz represent the strongest criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses that have been published. Because Franz was a member of the Governing Body for nine years, and therefore had firsthand knowledge of the organization’s inner circle, what he writes cannot just be brushed aside, but deserves to be scrutinized and studied.

When I wrote my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body in 2019 and all the articles on my website, that criticize different sides of the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I did not use the books of Franz as my sources. However, in October 2021, I studied the 2004 edition of Crisis of Conscience and the 2007 edition of In Search of Christian Freedom.

I have seen comments on the Internet that by publishing my book with criticisms of The Governing Body, I am “the second Ray Franz.” These comments could not be further from the truth. To be sure, I agree with Franz that any Christian doctrine must be scrutinized in the light of the Holy Scriptures and that dogmatism must be avoided. I also agree that the position of The Governing Body as a government with unlimited power violates several Bible principles and that the Christian freedom of ordinary Witnesses to some extent was curtailed in 2007 — and is curtailed to a greater degree today.

However, I strongly disagree with him that there is no Christian organization led by Jehovah today but that each Christian can serve God independently of other Christians. I also strongly disagree with most of his criticism of the doctrines held by JW today. So in most cases, I take the very opposite position of Ray Franz. I do not question his sincerity, as I do not question the sincerity of the members of the GB that I also strongly criticize. I will be careful not to use ad hominem arguments, criticizing the person rather than what he has written. But I must be allowed to say at this point that Franz discusses the Bible like a journalist or reporter and not as a scholar, and in many instances, he is just as dogmatic as the members of the GB that he criticizes for this. He does not know the original languages of the Bible, and he discusses historical data in a superficial way.


Ray Franz had been an active Witness since 1938 and until 1980. In 1942 he served as a special pioneer, and later, he became a missionary to Puerto Rico, where he became the branch overseer of Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic. He was invited to the headquarters in Brooklyn, and his assignment was to work with the lexicon Aid to Bible Understanding; and later, he worked in the Writing Department and ultimately became a member of The Governing Body. After he had been a very active full-time servant for 40 years, he wrote the following in Crisis, pages 273, 274:

I now began to realize how large a measure of what I had based my entire adult life course on was just that, a myth—“persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” It was not that my view toward the Bible had changed. If anything, my appreciation of it was enhanced by what I experienced. It alone gave sense and meaning to what I saw happening, the attitudes I saw displayed, the reasonings I heard advanced, the tension and pressure I felt. The change that did come was from the realization that my way of looking at the Scriptures had been from such an essentially sectarian viewpoint, a trap that I thought I had been protected against. Letting the Scriptures speak for themselves—without being first funneled through some fallible human agency as a “channel”—I found they became immensely more meaningful. I was frankly astonished at how much of their import I had been missing.

These words of Franz are strange indeed. At that time, in 1979, he suddenly realized that ‘a large measure’ of the faith of JW that he had strongly defended for 40 years was a myth. And now he claimed he was “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.” And he was “frankly astonished at how much of their import [he] had been missing.” His writings show that he was an intelligent person, so how could he suddenly realize that the whole foundation of his Christian life was a myth? After I have studied both his books, I still cannot give a satisfactory answer to that question.

“Letting the Scriptures speak for themselves”

I would like to discuss one important expression in the quotation, namely, “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.” This expression that on the surface seems self-evidently true and obvious is, in reality, naïve and very misleading. A person cannot just read the whole Bible through, and at the end, voila, he knows everything that is necessary to know about God in order to become his servant. As a matter of fact, a person cannot understand the Bible if it is not “funneled through some fallible human agency.” This is seen in Romans 10:11-15:

11  For the scripture says: “No one who rests his faith on him will be disappointed.” 12  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. There is the same Lord over all, who is rich toward all those calling on him. 13  For “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” 14  However, how will they call on him if they have not put faith in him? How, in turn, will they put faith in him about whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? 15  How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent out? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”

When Paul wrote these words, the Hebrew Scriptures were complete, but only parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures were extant. The goal of the preaching was to teach people about Jehovah God and his son Jesus Christ. Today, the whole Bible is complete. But most inhabitants of the earth do not know about Jehovah God and his Son. According to Matthew 24:14, Jesus said that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached to all the world as a witness, and such a worldwide witness would require an agency that sends out preachers. Moreover, to preach all over the earth, this agency must be a worldwide organization that systematically directs the preaching. In keeping with this, it is impossible for a person to understand the Scriptures if he is not taught by one of these foretold preachers.

Jesus used illustrations because the listeners should not understand the meaning

The reason why preachers are needed is because of the way the Bible is written. As an answer to one of his disciples’ questions, Jesus said that he used illustrations for the specific purpose that his listeners should not understand what he meant. The point is that persons who were not interested in the truth heard his words and went away without understanding them. But truth-seekers would ask about the meaning, and as a reward for their genuine interest, they would be taught this meaning. Please consider Matthew 13:10-16:

10 So the disciples came and said to him: “Why do you speak to them by the use of illustrations?” 11  In reply he said: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the Kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not granted. 12 For whoever has, more will be given him, and he will be made to abound; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 That is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations; for looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, nor do they get the sense of it. 14  And the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in their case. It says: ‘You will indeed hear but by no means get the sense of it, and you will indeed look but by no means see. 15 For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes, so that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back and I heal them.’ 16 “However, happy are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things you are observing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.

Jesus showed that there was a contrast between his disciples and other listeners. Many of his listeners had unreceptive hearts. They closed their eyes and ears, and they did not get the sense of the illustrations. However, the disciples approached Jesus and asked about the meaning. Consequently, Jesus pronounced them happy because they had come to understand his illustrations due to their sincere inquiry. A great part of the Bible is of the same nature as Jesus’ illustrations. I allude to all the prophecies about the future that are found in the books of the prophets; and in the Christian Greek Scriptures, we have the book of Revelation. An ordinary person cannot just read the illustrations, the prophecies, and the visionary pictures of Revelation and understand this material.

In addition to all the material in the Bible that is expressed in symbols and pictures, there are large portions with different kinds of accounts that are expressed in literal language. What kind of knowledge will a person get from reading these accounts? Will he or she be able to understand the purpose of God by reading them?  I will use one example. Suppose that a person wants to know what happens when someone dies and exactly what the resurrection is? Can he find the true answer to these questions just by reading the Bible? The answer is No because the truth about death and resurrection is spread all over the Bible. To understand this issue, all this information must be gathered and a synthesis must be made of it. One person who is reading the Bible will not be able to do this. In connection with death, there are the Greek words Gehenna and Hades that need to be clarified, as well as the right understanding about what the soul (Greek: psyche) is. In connection with the resurrection, there is a first and a second one. To what do these refer? And there are many additional questions to be asked: What is resurrected? Who will be resurrected? When will the resurrection occur? Will the resurrection occur on the earth or in heaven? It is obvious that an ordinary person cannot just read the Bible and the answer to all his questions will become readily obvious. So again, teachers are needed for those who want to understand the basic truths of the Bible.

The requirements for understanding the Bible  

In order to understand the basic doctrines of the Bible the following requirements are needed:

  • A good understanding of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian.
  • A good understanding of linguistics and semantics.
  • A good knowledge of the contents of each book of the Bible.
  • A good knowledge of world history.
  • A good knowledge of who the people of God are and its history.

One person could hardly fill all these requirements, and therefore, the understanding of the Bible must be based on teamwork. Different persons with different skills would have to combine their knowledge, and they would, in turn, teach other persons to become teachers. And in accordance with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14, these teachers would preach the good news of the Kingdom all over the world. Contrary to the view of Franz, this would require a worldwide organization that is led by Jehovah God.

I will make some comments on the points above. The Bible is written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Many nuances and subtleties will be lost when these texts are translated into English and other languages. Therefore, it is impossible to understand the text of the Bible without a good knowledge of its original languages. An understanding of a text in a foreign language is dependent on the meaning of individual words but also on the word order (syntax) and on the forms of the words that are used (grammar). In order to understand the text of the Bible, it is necessary to have a good knowledge of the principles of linguistics and semantics.

Because the basic doctrines of the Bible are found in its different books, it is imperative to be familiar with the contents of each book. Putting together the whole truth of one doctrine is like a puzzle where the bits are found in different books. So it is important to know where the bits are. A large portion of the prophecies of the Bible would get their fulfillment in the events of the real world. In order to understand these prophecies, therefore, a good knowledge of world history is necessary.

As I show in chapter 1 of my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, there is only one true organization that is led by God. Inside this organization, there are some persons who fill the five requirements listed above. This organization sends out preachers all over the world, and only with the help of these teachers can the Bible be understood. There are several prophecies that are fulfilled on this organization, and it is necessary to identify this organization and its history for the understanding of the Bible.

The conclusion of this section is that it is impossible for one person to find the truth about God just by “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves,” as Franz claims. Moreover, Franz, himself, did not follow his own slogan.

Ray Franz denied what the Scriptures say

I will now return to the expression, “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.” I have already said that this slogan is naïve and misleading, and this is because teachers who know the Bible are necessary to help us understand it. On the other hand, in connection with a biblical text where a law or a principle is expressed, we can and must ‘let the Scriptures speak for themselves’.

My personal stance that I was taught by the Witnesses who studied the Bible with me is that when I read a text expressing a commandment, I will take this commandment in its all-inclusive meaning. This means that after I have considered the meaning of an original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic words, I will accept the saying at face value without making any exception. An exception is only possible if the context explicitly says that there is an exception. I use Acts 15:28, 29 (NWT13) as an example:

28  For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you except these necessary things: 29  to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”

The Greek word apekhomai has the meaning “to keep on avoiding doing something” according to Louw and Nida. To illustrate how the slogan “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves” applies to laws and principles in a given text, I use porneia (“sexual immorality”) as an example. The meaning is not that Christians must abstain from sexual immorality in this and that situation, but not in that situation — for example, the situation where those having sexual relations love each other and have planned to get married. The prohibition is all-inclusive without any exception because the context does not describe such an exception.

The same must be true with “things sacrificed to idols,” “what is strangled,” and “blood.” This means that we cannot say that we must abstain from blood in this and that situation, but not in that situation — for example, the situation where blood is the only food we have, and we will die if we do not eat blood. The prohibition must be all-inclusive and refer to the use of blood in any context. Ray Franz does not accept this, and this illustrates that he himself is not “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.” But he reads his own interpretation into them. I will now quote all his arguments in favor of taking the words “abstaining from blood” to be in a relative and not in an all-inclusive sense. He even views the words as a recommendation in a special situation and not as a law that is binding for all Christians.

The letter sent out by the apostles and older men of Jerusalem, recorded at Acts chapter fifteen, uses the term “abstain” in connection with things sacrificed to idols, blood, things strangled and fornication. The Greek term they used (apékhomai) has the basic meaning of “to stand off from.” The Watch Tower publications imply that, with regard to blood, it has a total, all-embracing sense. Thus, the publication You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, page 216, says: “abstaining from blood’ means not taking it into your body at all.” Similarly the Watchtower of May 1, 1988, page 17, says: “Walking in Jesus’ footsteps would mean not taking blood into the body either orally or in any other way.” But does this term, as used in the Scriptures, actually carry the absolute sense these publications imply? Or can it instead have a relative sense, relating to a specific and limited application?

That it may apply, not in a total, all-embracing sense, but in a limited, specific way can be seen from its use in such texts as 1 Timothy 4:3. There the apostle Paul warns that some professed Christians would introduce teachings of a pernicious nature, “forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain [the same Greek word used here as at Acts 15] from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving.” Clearly he did not mean that these persons would command others to abstain totally, in any way, from all foods created by God. That would mean total fasting and lead to death. He was obviously referring to their prohibiting specific foods, evidently those prohibited under the Mosaic law.

Similarly, at 1 Peter 2:11 the apostle admonishes:

Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul.

If we were to take this expression literally, in an absolute sense, it would mean we could not satisfy any fleshly desire at all. That certainly is not the meaning of the apostle’s words. We have many “fleshly desires,” including the desire to breathe, to eat, to sleep, to enjoy recreation and a host of other desires, which are perfectly proper and good. So, “abstaining from fleshly desires” applied only in the context of what the apostle wrote, relating, not to all fleshly desires, but only to harmful, sinful desires which do indeed “carry on a conflict against the soul.”

The question then is, in what context did James and the apostolic council use the expression to “abstain” from blood? The council itself specifically dealt with the effort of some to demand of Gentile Christians that they not only be circumcised but also “observe the law of Moses.” (Acts 5:5) That was the issue the apostle Peter addressed, observance of the Mosaic law, which he described as a burdensome “yoke.” (Acts 15:10) When James spoke before the gathering and outlined his recommendation of things the Gentile Christians should be urged to abstain from—things polluted by idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood—he followed this up by the statement:

For from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath. (Acts 15:9-21)

His recommendation therefore quite evidently took into account what people heard when ‘Moses was read’ in the synagogues. James knew that in ancient times there were Gentiles, “people of the nations,” who lived in the land of Israel, dwelling among the Jewish community. What had been the requirements placed upon them by the Mosaic law? They were not required to be circumcised, but they were required to abstain from certain practices and these are outlined in the book of Leviticus, chapters 17 and 18. That law specified that, not only Israelites, but also the “alien residents” among them should abstain from engaging in idolatrous sacrifices (Leviticus 17:7-9), from eating blood, including that of unbled dead animals (Leviticus 17:10-16), and from practices designated sexually immoral (including incest and homosexual practices).—Leviticus 18:6-26.

While the land of Israel itself was now under Gentile control, with large numbers of Jews living outside in various countries (those doing so being called the “Diaspora,” meaning the “scattered [ones]”), James knew that in many cities throughout the Roman Empire the Jewish community was like a microcosm reflecting the situation in Palestine in ancient times, in that it was quite common for Gentiles to attend synagogue gatherings of the Jews, and thus to mingle with them. (Compare Acts 13:44-48; 14:1; 17:1-5, 10-12, 15-17; 18:4.)

The early Christians themselves, both Jewish and Gentile Christians, continued to frequent these synagogue gatherings, even as we know that Paul and others initially did much of their preaching and teaching there. (Compare Acts 18:1-4, 24-28.). James’ reference to the reading in Moses in the synagogue in city after city certainly gives basis for believing that, when listing the things he had immediately before named, he had in mind the abstentions that Moses had set forth for Gentiles within the Jewish community in ancient times. As we have seen, James listed not only the very same things found in the book of Leviticus, but even in the very same order: abstention from idolatrous sacrifice, blood, things strangled (hence unbled), and from sexual immorality. He recommended observance of those same abstentions on the part of Gentile believers and the evident reason for this abstention was the circumstance then prevailing, that of an intermixture of Jew and Gentile in the Christian gatherings and the need to maintain peace and harmony within that circumstance. When Gentile Christians were urged to ‘abstain from blood,’ this clearly was to be understood, not in some all-embracing sense, but in the specific sense of refraining from eating blood, something abhorrent to Jews. To take the matter beyond that, and to try to assign to blood of itself a sort of “taboo” status, is to lift the matter out of its Scriptural and historical context and to impose upon it a meaning that is not actually there.

(Here, again, if one assigned an absolute sense to the expression to ‘abstain from blood,’ viewing it as a some kind of blanket prohibition, this would mean that one could not submit to blood tests of any kind, could not undergo surgery unless it were of a bloodless kind, and in other ways would have to “stay away from” blood in every respect. The context gives no indication that such a blanket prohibition was intended and indicates instead that the injunction was directed specifically to the actual eating of blood.)

Notably, James did not list such things as murder or theft among the abstentions urged. Those things were already condemned as much among the Gentiles in general as among the Jews. But the Gentiles did condone idolatry, did condone eating of blood and eating of unbled animals and condoned sexual immorality, even having “temple prostitutes” connected with places of worship. The recommended abstentions, then, focused on those areas of Gentile practice that were most likely to create great offense for Jews and result in friction and disturbance.

(As far back as April 15, 1909, the Watch Tower recognized this as the intent of the letter, saying (page 117): “The things here recommended were necessary to a preservation of the fellowship of the ‘body’ composed of Jews and Gentiles with their different education and sentiments.”)

The Mosaic law had not required circumcision for alien residents as a condition for living in peace within Israel and neither did James urge this.

The letter that resulted from James’ recommendation was directed specifically to Gentile Christians, people “from the nations,” in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (regions stretching contiguously to the north of Israel) and, as we have seen, it dealt with the specific issue of an attempt to require Gentile believers to “observe the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5, 23-29.) It dealt with those areas of conduct most likely to create difficulty between Jewish and Gentile believers. As will be demonstrated later, there is nothing to indicate that the letter was intended to be viewed as “law,” as though the four abstentions urged formed a “Quadrilogue” replacing the “Decalogue” or Ten Commandments of the Mosaic law. It was specific counsel for a specific circumstance prevailing at that period of history.

I will now analyze the words of Ray Franz. As an argument that the words “abstain from” (apekhō) have a limited and not an all-inclusive application, he quotes 1 Timothy 4:3 “. . . commanding to abstain from foods which God has created.” He argues that this does not mean the false teachers would be commanding others to abstain from all foods that God has created, and therefore epekho must have a limited meaning. This is a stupid argument because the words represent a prophecy foretelling that false teachers in the future will “command people to abstain from foods.” The word “foods” is plural and indefinite, and this indicates that which foods the people will be commanded to abstain from is not specified. But when this prophecy is fulfilled in the future, it will become clear which foods the false teachers speak of, and at that time, the word “abstain” will apply in an all-inclusive sense to those targeted foods — that is the very point of the prophecy. The command of the false teachers is to completely abstain from these foods.

The next argument is based on 1 Peter 2:11 and the words, “keep abstaining from fleshly desires.” Franz says, “If we were to take this expression literally, in an absolute sense, it would mean we could not satisfy any fleshly desire at all.” This argument is also stupid. The word “desires” is modified by the adjective sarkikos, which literally means “fleshly.” However, according to the UBS lexicon, the meaning of the adjective is, “belonging to this world, not under the control of God’s spirit, material.” Thus, the adjective shows that the focus of Peter is on “sinful desires” and not on all human desires in general. Therefore, Peter admonishes the Christians to abstain completely from the sinful desires in an all-inclusive and not limited sense.

The next argument of Franz against taking James’ words to “keep abstaining from blood” in an absolute sense is “the context.” We note that Franz does not refer to the immediate context — the chapter where the words are found. But he refers to the context of the law of Moses. On the basis of this distant context, he argues that the meaning of “keep abstaining from blood” is not “all-embracing,” but it only refers to the people of the nations and their eating blood, something abhorrent for the Jews. He is also self-confident enough to assert that his interpretation of “keep abstaining from blood” based on his use of the remote context “clearly was to be understood.”

We note that Franz consistently uses the word “recommendation” in connection with the four prohibitions and that the words of James should not be viewed as a law that was binding upon Christians. Rather, Franz argues, “It was specific counsel for a specific circumstance prevailing at that period of history.” Instead of “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves,” he actually takes something away from the Scriptures. He denies that the law about abstaining from blood, which was inspired by holy spirit, is valid for Christians today!


The view of Franz:

1)    The words “abstain from” (aphekomai) is not all-embracing but are limited.

2)    The law of Moses is the “context,” and it shows that the reference is only to the people of the nations, that they must not eat blood.

3)    The four abstentions only relate to a special situation in connection with the people of the nations.

4)    The four abstentions are only ‘recommendations’ and not laws that are binding upon all Christians.

The view of JW:

1)    Because the context does not say otherwise, the words “abstain from blood” are all-embracing and mean that it is forbidden for Christians to take any form of blood into their body.


Franz’s description of how he will treat the Scriptures; Crisis of Conscience, page 274:

The change that did come was from the realization that my way of looking at the Scriptures had been from such an essentially sectarian viewpoint, a trap that I thought I had been protected against. Letting the Scriptures speak for themselves—without being first funneled through some fallible human agency as a “channel”—I found they became immensely more meaningful. I was frankly astonished at how much of their import I had been missing.

Franz’s description as to how JW treat the Scriptures.

The following issues Franz denied:

1)    That Jehovah has an organization with a governing body.

2)    That the heavenly hope is not open for all persons.

3)    That there is a “faithful and discreet slave” is composed of a few Christians.

4)    That there are two hopes of salvation, a heavenly and an earthly one.

5)    That the number 144,000 is a literal number.

6)    That the last days began in 1914.

7)    That Jesus was enthroned as king in 1914.

8)    That Hebrews 11:16 does not show that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will live in an earthly paradise but that they will live in heaven.

As a comment to these issues Franz wrote in Crisis, page 331:

Not a single Society teaching there dealt with could be supported by any plain direct statement of Scripture. Every single one would require intricate explanations, complex combinations of texts and, in some cases, what amounts to mental gymnastics, in an attempt to support them. Yet these were used to judge people’s Christianity, set forth as the basis for deciding whether persons who had poured out their lives in service to God were apostates!

When we compare the view of Franz (four points) and the view of JW (one point) and read the arguments of Franz and the arguments of JW, is it JW or Franz who are “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves”? And is it JW or Franz who use “intricate explanations…what amounts to mental gymnastics”?

Why did Ray Franz conclude that what he had believed for more than 50 years was a myth?

The minds of human beings are different, and there are many subjective and objective things that influence the mind of each person. When we look at the actions of a person from the outside, it is often difficult to understand his motives. And in many instances, the person himself does not fully know why he is acting in the ways that he does.

Ray Franz wrote that most of his beliefs that he strongly had defended for 40 years as a full-time servant for Jehovah’s Witnesses simply were myths. Such an extreme turnaround is not easy to understand. We must assume that an intelligent person like Franz quoted the Bible extensively when he preached to others and tried to persuade them that the teachings of JW were the truth. But now, the same Bible passages have a completely different meaning.

I have studied his two books, and it seems to me that there were three reasons for his turnaround:

  • He had not performed a deep Bible study on his own for three decades.
  • He did not know the original biblical languages, and he lacked the basic skills of applying linguistic and semantic principles to the text of the Bible.
  • A new religion was gradually taking form in his mind, and his understanding of the Bible was being funneled through the channel of his new religion.

The lack of deep Bible study

From the early days of his full-time service, Franz had different responsible positions. From my own experience as a full-time servant for 15 years, where I also had different responsible positions, I know that the schedule is strict, and personal study can be neglected. Franz wrote in Crisis, page 24:

I personally had been on such a “treadmill” of activity over the previous twenty-five years that, although reading through the Bible several times, I had never been able to do such serious, detailed research into the Scriptures, in fact never felt great need to do so since it was assumed that others were doing it for me. The two courses at Gilead School I had attended were so tightly programmed that they gave little time for meditation, for unhurried investigation and analysis.

When I first read this, I was surprised because his views were contrary to the policy of the organization. A. H. Macmillan in his book, Faith On The March, pages 169, 170, 193, wrote regarding N.H. Knorr, who became the president of the Watchtower Society in 1942:

Knorr believed that not only should all Christians be ministers, but all should teach in exact unity of thought. Would this be possible without making “parrots” of them? Knorr believed it could be, and set out to do it…(some brothers in) the organization were recognized as accomplished speakers…But Knorr wanted everyone in the organization to be “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”…

Organizationally we were now on solid footing, and the maturity of the Society as a whole was quite evident. But Knorr realized that every minister must be personally equipped to preach…Now Knorr embarked on a campaign to bring maturity to every one of Jehovah’s witnesses and especially prepare them to preach individually yet without contradicting one another…

When I became a Witness in 1961, I saw how this teaching program worked, and I became a part of it. And regardless of how busy I was in my present assignment, I always found much time for deep Bible study. In the first part of chapter 7 in my book My Beloved ReligionAnd The Governing Body,  I show how all Witnesses were encouraged to have a good Bible study. And I also show that several tools were available and how I learned deep Bible truths by using these tools. The point here is that Franz neglected his own spiritual basis during the mentioned 25 years, contrary to the policy of the organization.

I would refer to an example illustrating the danger of neglecting one’s spiritual basis. In the Majorstua congregation in Oslo, a girl grew up and became a high school pupil. After some time, she approached me and said that she had some problems with her faith. I asked her about the reason for this, and she said that it had to do with organic evolution, which the JW literature denies, but her teachers had given her strong reasons to believe in evolution. During our conversation, it appeared that her parents, who were Witnesses, had never spoken with her about organic evolution. So now, when she suddenly was confronted with it and heard several convincing arguments in favor of evolution, she said that she was shocked and her faith in creation tottered. If her parents had discussed evolution with her and shown her that there were many seemingly good arguments in favor of evolution but that these arguments would not withstand scrutiny, she would not have been blindsided and shocked in her class.

I will apply the situation above to the situation of Franz. When he came to Bethel, he was assigned to work with some of the material that, in time, would be incorporated in the lexicon Aid to Bible Understanding. In connection with this work, Franz, for the first time, consulted different commentaries on the text of the Bible. And his impression was almost like the sister I mentioned above. In Crisis, pages 23, 24, he wrote:

The Society’s vice president, Fred Franz, was acknowledged as the organization’s principal Bible scholar. On a number of occasions, I went to his office to inquire about points. To my surprise he frequently directed me to Bible commentaries, saying, “Why don’t you see what Adam Clarke says, or what Cooke says,” or, if the subject primarily related to the Hebrew Scriptures, “what the Soncino commentaries say.” Our Bethel library contained shelf after shelf after shelf filled with such commentaries. Since they were the product of scholars of other religions, however, I had not given much importance to them and, along with others in the department, felt some hesitancy, even distrust, as to using them…

The more I looked up information in these commentaries, however, the more deeply impressed I was by the firm belief in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures the vast majority expressed. I was impressed even more so by the fact that, though some were written as early as the eighteenth century, the information was generally very worthwhile and accurate. I could not help but compare this with our own publications which, often within a few years, became “out of date” and ceased to be published. It was not that I felt these commentaries to be without error by any means; but the good certainly seemed to outweigh the occasional points I felt to be mistaken.

I began to appreciate more than ever before how vitally important context was in discerning the meaning of any part of Scripture, and that realization seemed to be true of others of the group who were working regularly on the Aid project. We also came to realize the need to let the Bible define its own terms rather than simply taking some previously held view or letting an English dictionary definition control. We began to make greater use of the Hebrew and Greek lexicons in the Bethel library, and concordances that were based on the original language words rather than on English translations. It was an education and it was also very humbling, for we came to appreciate that our understanding of Scripture was far less than we had thought, that we were not the advanced Bible scholars we thought we were.

Franz admired those who wrote these commentaries. He did not mention that some of the commentaries were devotional (theological) while others were grammatical. I have about 400 books that are grammatical commentaries on the Scriptures in my library, and I agree with him that they are still of value because they discuss Bible passages in the light of lexical meaning, grammar, and syntax. He concluded that the writers of these commentaries were much better scholars than the writers that were connected with the Watchtower Society. However, this comparison is like comparing apples and oranges. The linguistic value of these commentaries is great. But you cannot find any of the basic doctrines taught by JW that I discuss in chapter 1 of my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body as Bible truth in these commentaries. Thus, these commentaries cannot teach the readers the truth of the Bible, they can only give grammatical and syntactical analyses of the text of the Bible.

Franz gradually developed new religious viewpoints

I will quote the following word of Franz one time more and use them as a point of departure:

I now began to realize how large a measure of what I had based my entire adult life course on was just that, a myth—“persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”… Letting the Scriptures speak for themselves—without being first funneled through some fallible human agency as a “channel”—I found they became immensely more meaningful. I was frankly astonished at how much of their import I had been missing.

It is difficult to understand how a person who had used the Scriptures for 40 years to preach to others and to defend his faith suddenly realized that a “large measure” of that which he had based his entire adult life on was “a myth,” and that only now the Scriptures became “immensely more meaningful” and that “much of their import [he] had been missing.” What could have been the cause for this dramatic paradigm shift in viewpoint?

Paul describes a situation that resembles the situation of Franz. In 2 Timothy 2:16-18 we read:

16  But reject empty speeches that violate what is holy, for they will lead to more and more ungodliness, 17  and their word will spread like gangrene. Hy·me·naeʹus and Phi·leʹtus are among them. 18  These men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are subverting the faith of some.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, the Christian Greek Scriptures were not complete. Exactly what Hymenaeus and Philetus believed we do not know. But it was a new view of the Christian hope, and they denied that there would be a future resurrection. It is clear that the understanding of Hymenaeus and Philetus of the gospels and the other books that were extant was “funneled through” their new view of the resurrection. And because of this view, these Scriptures would now seem to be “immensely more meaningful” for them, and they would realize “how much of their import [they] had been missing.” This is so because all the prophecies about a new system of things would have to be reinterpreted, and that would be the case with many other inspired accounts as well.

In the two books of Franz, threads are laid down indicating that new views of the Christian hope and Christian requirements of serving God were gradually developing in the mind of Franz. This was a view that was close to the view of the mainstream Christian denominations. Let us look at some of these threads. One of the first issues that arose was the position of Jesus as “mediator.” (2 Timothy 2:5) A group of missionaries in Mali asked Franz the following question according to Crisis page 284:

“The Watchtower says that Jesus is the mediator only for the anointed, not for the rest of us. Can you clear this up for us? Not even in prayer is he our mediator?

On page 285, Franz says that he got the same question from a sister in a congregation of New Jersey. The role of Jesus as mediator is also mentioned several times in Christian Freedom, and on page 361, he quotes the view of a sister who had been a missionary for many years:

She mentioned, among other things, the limiting of Christ’s mediatorship to a special class and the impression created that salvation is something earned through specific works.

Why Franz spoke so many times about Jesus as mediator will not be clear for most readers. But the quotation from this sister illuminates his motives. The view that is presented in The Watchtower is that just as Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. And the partakers of the new covenant are the spiritual priesthood with 144,000 members. On this background, Jesus is only the mediator of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites who are partakers of the new covenant.  Saying that Jesus is not the mediator of all God’s servants is in no way a devaluation of the role of Jesus, as Franz implies. But it illuminates one of the roles of Jesus. The Watchtower also shows that Jesus is the savior for all and that all persons must approach Jehovah in prayer through Jesus Christ. But the real motive of Franz by often questioning the view that Jesus was not mediator for all God’s servants was to present his new view that there were not two different classes that were saved, one in heaven and the other on earth. But it was only one heavenly hope for all who would be saved. Crisis page 464 says:

Argumentation is used in an unusual way to deprive persons among Jehovah’s Witnesses of the relationship with God they should rightly have. This is by the teaching of a two-class arrangement for Christians, one class in a definitely more privileged relationship to God than the other. The teaching ultimately serves to support the authority structure in effect within the organization and create a sense of dutiful submissiveness on the part of the membership. What is the essence of this teaching and what forms of argumentation are used to support it?

Franz has argued that he will not accept that the understanding of the Scriptures is “funneled through some fallible human agency.” However, the understanding of the Scriptures of Hymenaeus and Philetus were “funneled through” the “fallible human agency” of their own thinking — their denial of a future resurrection. And the understanding of Scripture of Franz is “funneled through” his denial of the view that some persons have a hope of living in heaven and others have the hope of living on a paradise earth and his view that Christians are not required to follow any laws.

There is one parallel between the views of Hymenaeus and Philetus and Franz. Jesus said:

28  Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice 29  and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.

Franz does not speak about a future resurrection in his books. But his denial that there is an earthly hope for great numbers of God’s servants implies that he denied that there will be an earthly resurrection to life and judgment. We can therefore draw the conclusion that Franz ‘says there is no future resurrection,’ just as Hymenaeus and Philetus did.

Franz argues that everything that is written in the Christian Greek Scriptures is written for every person who wants to serve God, such as being baptized with holy spirit, being a new creation, and ruling with Jesus Christ in heaven. It is understandable that reading the Scriptures from such a viewpoint will give a completely different understanding of these Scriptures compared with those who believe there will be both a new heaven and a new earth. Moreover, his view that Christians must be completely free from any organization and any law was the reason why he denied that there was a law against taking blood into our bodies, as I have shown above.

It is clear from his two books that the reason why he suddenly realized that “a large measure” of what he had defended as a Witness was “a myth” was that he now had developed a new religion, and so, naturally, he read and interpreted the Scriptures in the light of this new religion.

From where did he get these new thoughts? He does not say. But these thoughts of his are found in some of the commentaries that he was so impressed with. So, it is logical that his reading of the Scriptures funneled through the viewpoints of these commentaries, both devotional and grammatical commentaries, may have been the starting point of his new religion. Because he did not know the original languages of the Bible, and because he had no training in linguistic analyses of texts, he was not able to “separate the sheep from the goats” in these commentaries. That he was a novice as far as Bible study is concerned is seen by his words, “I began to appreciate more than ever before how vitally important context was in discerning the meaning of any part of Scripture.” The importance of the context was one of the first things I learned when I started to study the Watchtower literature, and any student who makes a deep study of the Bible will have a knowledge of its importance.


When we approach the Bible, we should keep in mind that in this book, there are two kinds of material. First, we have the kind of material where everything we need to draw conclusions is found in different places in the Bible. In this case, we need to gather all this material together and make a synthesis of it. Second, we have the kind of material where only half of what we need is found in the Bible, and we must find the other half ourselves — its application or fulfillment in the real world. This particularly includes the prophecies about the future.

Obviously, the second kind of material is much more problematic in determining its correct understanding than the first kind. Jesus Christ uttered several prophecies about the last days and his coming as the judge. Through the centuries, many persons have tried to apply these prophecies to events in their days. Many of these were sincere truth-seekers. But they erred because these prophecies could only be understood when the time of the conclusion (end) had arrived. When we distinguish between the two kinds of material that we are studying, we begin to deal with the text of the Bible in an intelligent way.

In his book Crisis of Conscience, Franz uses three chapters of 100 pages to present chronological errors that Russel and the Bible Students, Rutherford, and Knorr and his administration made. There are so many quotations and references to chronological issues that the reader may lose himself in all this material. Apparently, his objective in of all this is to show the enormous amount of chronological errors the Bible Students and JW have made. And this, in turn, would seem to indicate that they cannot be the people of God that they claim.

While the quotations and references, for the most part, are correct, the way the material is presented is unscholarly and amateurish, and basic scientific principles for the discussion of historical material are not followed. The scientific approach to such material has a critical aspect. When quotations are used, researchers present them in a greater context: The historical background of the quotations is shown. The sources that the writers of the chronological discussions used are scrutinized. How the general public would react when the material was presented must be considered, as well as the spirit of the times of these publications. All this is lacking in the books of Franz.

The basis for the chronological interest of Russell and the Bible Students

At the beginning of the 1870s, many persons from different religions, who believed that the whole Bible was inspired by God, but who realized that their own religion was wrong, gathered around C.T. Russell. They realized that a person cannot just read the Bible and on his own find the true religion. Therefore, they took one subject at a time, gathered all the places in the Bible where this subject was mentioned, and then they made a synthesis of all these expressions. After a few years, the basic doctrines that JW teach today were discovered.

The group around Russell worked with what we can call the objective side of the Bible — everything needed to draw conclusions are found spread around in the Bible. But as I mentioned at the beginning, the Bible also has a subjective side — where only half of the material needed is found in the Bible, and the persons themselves must find the other half in its application to the real world. This includes the chronological information in the Bible.

The Bible students realized that the chronological information in the Bible should be understood

The group around Russell believed that the whole Bible was inspired by God. So they would not just cherry-pick expressions that they liked and overlook other expressions. They read Paul’s words in Romans 13:4, and they drew the conclusion that God’s servants should in time understand all of what was written in the Scriptures.

 For all the things that were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.

The group also read the book of Daniel, and chapter 12, verses 7-13 answered several of the questions that they had:

 7  Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was up above the waters of the stream, as he raised his right hand and his left hand to the heavens and swore by the One who is alive forever: “It will be for an appointed time, appointed times, and half a time. As soon as the dashing to pieces of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things will come to their finish.” 8  Now as for me, I heard, but I could not understand; so I said: “O my lord, what will be the outcome of these things?” 9  Then he said: “Go, Daniel, because the words are to be kept secret and sealed up until the time of the end. 10  Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will act wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand; but those having insight will understand. 11  “And from the time that the constant feature has been removed and the disgusting thing that causes desolation has been put in place, there will be 1,290 days.12  “Happy is the one who keeps in expectation and who arrives at the 1,335 days!13  “But as for you, go on to the end. You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.”

The words of Paul, that every word in the Bible was written for the instruction of God’s servants, now got a time setting. As verses 9 and 10 says, the prophecies of Daniel could not be understood before the time of the end. Every attempt by truth-seekers to understand these prophecies, regardless of how sincere they were, would be futile.

Another point that the words of Daniel clearly showed was that God would have a particular people — “the holy people” — that could be distinguished from all other peoples. Enhancing the point that this had to be a tight-knit group of people are the words of verse 7 that the power of the holy people will be dashed to pieces at the end of a period of three and a half times. The holy people are mentioned several times in the book of Daniel, including in 7:27. At this point, I would like to mention that Ray Franz denies that God has a special people at this time or at the present time.

But the question that must have been asked by the Bible students was which period do these three and a half times refer to. And not only that; verses 11 and 12 speak about 1,290 days and 1,335 days that also must be connected with the people of God. To which time periods did these numbers refer? The important points the Bible Students learned from the mentioned scriptures was that the Bible included specific time periods that his servants were meant to understand.

The Bible students correctly understood that the specific time periods that the Bible includes were meant to be understood by God’s servants.

The importance of the spirit of the times

From the start of the 19th century, the interest in the chronology of the Bible was great. Some persons made predictions as to the time when Jesus would return, and others made calculations in connection with the time periods mentioned in the Bible.  Daniel 12:4 says:

“As for you, Daniel, keep the words secret, and seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rove about, and the true knowledge will become abundant.”

In connection with the time of the end, the knowledge would become abundant. The Hebrew word dā‘at refers to knowledge and understanding in a general sense and not to “true knowledge.” So the nature of the knowledge that would become abundant is not stated. As for the Bible students, their knowledge of the doctrines of the Bible had become abundant, and there were also an abundance of chronological calculations.

Scientific knowledge had become abundant as well.  The first electric generator was built by Michael Faraday in 1831, and electricity revolutionized almost every aspect of the life of people all over the world. Different inventions using electricity and other energy sources started to appear. The first steam-powered car was built in 1890; the first radio transmission occurred in 1896.  And the first refrigerator was built in 1899.  Persons who live today cannot imagine what it was like to live in the second part of the 19th century and experience the technical revolution that occurred at that time. However, the Bible students looked at all these new things that appeared in the light of their expectation of the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ that was soon to come.

But what approach would the Bible students take in their attempts to understand the chronology of the Bible? In connection with the doctrines of the Bible, the approach was simple. They found all the places in the Bible where one particular subject was discussed, analyzed and compared them, and then they drew their conclusion. But this was not possible with the time periods mentioned in the Bible because there were no other scriptures that mentioned these. The only way they could get some understanding of these time periods was to scrutinize the calculations that had already been made by others. This they did, and they rejected some calculations and accepted others. Ray Franz makes a big point of the fact that Russell and his friends did not make the original calculations of the time periods that they accepted, for example, regarding the date 1914 CE. This shows that Franz did not understand the situation of the Bible students in the last part of the 19th century — there was no other way they could do it. It also shows his strong intention to besmirch the Bible students and JW.

In contrast with Franz, we must conclude that Russell and the Bible students were people who followed the right course. Yes, they accepted several of the calculations that others had made. But in time, they rejected one after the other, and at last, only the date 1914 CE remained. One reason for their rejection of the calculations was the fact that the Bible students were not aware of the following: The time of the end had not started, and according to Daniel, the prophecies, including the time prophecies, could not be understood before the time of the end.

The year 1914

The first problem presented by Franz in connection with the year 1914 as the beginning of the time of the end  was that he could not find any evidence in favor of 607 being the year when Babylon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. On page 30 in Crisis, he wrote:

Charles Ploeger and I made a trip to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, to interview Professor Abraham Sachs, a specialist in ancient cuneiform texts, particularly those containing astronomical data. We wanted to see if we could obtain any information that would indicate any flaw or weakness whatsoever in the astronomical data presented in many of the texts, data that indicated our 607 B.C.E. date was incorrect. In the end, it became evident that it would have taken a virtual conspiracy on the part of the ancient scribes—with no conceivable motive for doing so—to misrepresent the facts if, indeed, our figure was to be the right one. Again, like an attorney faced with evidence he cannot overcome, my effort was to discredit or weaken confidence in the witnesses from ancient times who presented such evidence, the evidence of historical texts relating to the Neo-Babylonian Empire. In themselves, the arguments I presented were honest ones, but I know that their intent was to uphold a date for which there was no historical support.

In Crisis, on page 176, Franz again discusses the year 607, and he points to more evidence indicating that Jerusalem was not destroyed in 607 BCE.

As discussed in a previous chapter, the research I had to do in connection with the book Aid to Bible Understanding brought home to me that the Society’s date of 607 B.C.E. for Jerusalem’s destruction by Babylon was contradicted by all known historical evidence. Still, I continued to put trust in that date in spite of the evidence, feeling that it had Scriptural backing. Without 607 B.C.E. the crucial date of 1914 would be placed in question. I took the view that the historical evidence was likely defective and argued that way in the Aid book.

Then, in 1977, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sweden, named Carl Olof Jonsson, sent to the Brooklyn headquarters a massive amount of research he had done on Biblically related chronology and on chronological speculation. Jonsson was an elder and had been actively associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses for some twenty years. Having had experience researching chronology myself, I was impressed by how deeply he had gone into the matter, also by the completeness and factualness of his presentation. Basically he sought to draw the Governing Body’s attention to the weakness in the Society’s chronological reckonings leading to the 1914 date as the end point of the “Gentile Times,” referred to by Jesus at Luke, chapter twenty-one, verse 24 (called “the appointed times of the nations” in the New World Translation).

In the discussion above, I have argued that no person can just sit down and read the Bible, and by this discover the full purpose of God and come to understand the basic doctrines of the true religion. I listed five requirements for the understanding of the Bible. Because no one person can fulfill all these requirements, a team of people is necessary to understand the Bible. The five requirements are:

1) A good understanding of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian.

2) A good understanding of linguistics and semantics.

3) A good knowledge of the contents of each book of the Bible.

4) A good knowledge of world history.

5) A good knowledge of who the people of God is and its history.

The discussion of Franz with reference to Sachs and Jonsson underlines the need for requirements 1 and 4. Franz admits that he had no experience in chronological research, and he does not have any knowledge of Greek or of the three Semitic languages that I have mentioned.  A book where C.O. Jonsson presented his chronological conclusion entitled “Sluttade hedningernes tider 1914? (Did the Times of the Gentiles End in 1914?) was published in 1978, and I read this book in the same year that it was published.

I had no experience in chronological research at that time, and I did not know any of the Semitic languages — although I had studied Greek. The book gave an impression of thoroughness because much historical material from different sources were presented. However, I discovered that Jonsson neither had any experience in chronological research nor a knowledge of Greek or any of the Semitic languages. As a researcher without any experience, he had done a good job. But a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and even with my limited experience in chronological research, I was able to recognize several weaknesses in his arguments. This means that my belief in the Bible and its prophecies, including my belief that Jesus became king in 1914 CE, and that his visible presence started in that year, was not disturbed. But I had no positive evidence that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE.

I had studied Greek at the University of Oslo for one year in 1975 and 1976, and nine years after the publication of Jonsson’s book I started to study Semitic languages. In 1991, I got my exam in Akkadian, in 1995, I received my magister atrium degree in Semitic languages, and in 2004, I received my doctoral degree in Semitic languages and culture. From 1997 and to my retirement at the end of 2010, I taught Akkadian, Aramaic, Ethiopian, Hebrew, Phoenician, Syriac, and Ugaritic at the University of Oslo. Most teachers of Akkadian are not able to read astronomical cuneiform tablets. The signs on these tablets can be compared with modern English shorthand, and the astronomical language represents one special discipline inside the umbrella term Akkadian. I have done extensive research on astronomical tablets, and I have taught both ordinary Akkadian and astronomical Akkadian to my students.

On the basis of my University studies and teaching, I fulfill three of the requirements that are necessary to understand the Bible. I have a good knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian, linguistics and semantics, as well as of ancient history. In 2005, I visited Vorderasiatische Museum in Berlin, where I collated the astronomical tablet VAT4956, which is the backbone of the Neo-Babylonian chronology. I made electronic pictures of all the cuneiform signs on the tablet, and later I magnified these signs on my computer and studied each sign. Because of this, I discovered that most signs on the obverse side could be identified, but many signs on the reverse side were difficult to identify, particularly the signs that represented stars and constellations.

However, the signs that represented the 14 positions of the moon on 14 different days during one year were easy to identify. The tablet says that these positions were taken on different days in Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year, and in the book about chronology that I wrote, I show that seven of these positions have an excellent fit, five do not fit at all, and two have an inaccurate fit in the year 568/68. However, all the 14 positions have an excellent fit 20 years earlier in the year 588/87. If this year was year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar, the year when he destroyed Jerusalem must have been 607 and not 587. I have also read the dates of more than 10,000 business tablets from the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and the book has a list of around 90 of these, with dates showing that the Neo-Babylonian chronology is too short and must be expanded—they corroborate an expansion of 20 years, which VAT4956 shows.[1]

In 2008, a member of the Writing Department in Brooklyn contacted me in connection with the Neo-Babylonian chronology. We had some long telephone conversations, and we exchanged a number of E-mails. He had been assigned to write two articles about Neo-Babylonian chronology, and he asked for my help.[2] The brother told me that the reaction of the members of the GB to the drafts of the articles were very good. But one member meant that the articles were too difficult to understand and that parts must be simplified. This was done, and so some of the strong evidence in favor 607 was not included.

In order to have a sound foundation for the Neo-Babylonian chronology, at my request, two US brothers with astronomical background tested the positions on VAT4956. They used my translation of the tablet, and they calculated all the lunar positions based on the parameters on the tablet (the distance between the moon and a certain celestial object at a certain time on a certain day). All their 14 positions were exactly the same as my positions, with a difference of a few minutes in some of the positions. This means that today the Watchtower Society has concrete astronomical evidence in favor of the year 607 BCE being the year when Jerusalem was destroyed.

There is also another line of evidence, namely, that there is both a linguistic and a topical parallel between the phrase “the appointed time of the nations” in Luke 21:24 and the seven times in Daniel 4:16. However, in order to see this parallel, one has to know Greek, being familiar with the Septuagint and the Theodotion translations of Daniel, as well as Hebrew and Aramaic. Franz could not see this parallel because he did not know the original biblical languages, and the same was true with Jonsson, to whom Franz refers. A detailed discussion of this parallel is found in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, chapter 1.

In my opinion, there is strong evidence in favor of the year 1914 marking the end of the appointed times of the nations and the time when Jesus started to reign as king. However, because the basis for the year 1914 are different prophecies, and prophecies are of the kind of biblical material where only half is written, and we must find the other half ourselves — its application and fulfillment — we must always be open to the possibility that what we think we have found could turn out to be wrong. But at present, I see no reason why the chronological calculation of 2,520 years from 607 BCE to 1914 should be questioned.

The year 1975

In 1966, I attended a course for circuit and district servants (overseers) when the first copy of the book Everlasting Life in Freedom of the Sons of God arrived in Norway. The comments on the year 1975 had a strong impression on me. Could it be that the thousand-year reign of Jesus would start in that year? There were some discussions about the year 1975 by those who attended the course, and I remember that the branch servant said that we must never say that Armageddon would come and the thousand-year reign would begin in that year because we could not know that. However, in my mind, it was likely that this would happen.

After the course, I traveled to the northern part of Norway to serve as the circuit servant in circuit 9, the circuit next to the northernmost circuit, number 10. In the early winter, I visited an interested group in the countryside to the south of the city of Bodø. On my way back to Bodø, I received my mail, including the latest edition of The Watchtower. I remember that I stood on the quay in Beiarn and waited for the ferry to Bodø. It was snowing, and I read the magazine under a streetlight. One article in this magazine made a great impression on me and formed my view on the year 1975.  Those were the comments made by Fred Franz at a convention in Baltimore in the same year when the book was published.

‘What about the year 1975?  What is it going to mean, dear friends?’ asked Brother Franz. ‘Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished, with Satan bound, by 1975? It could! It could! All things are possible with God. Does it mean that Babylon the Great is going to go down by 1975?  It could. Does it mean that the attack of Gog of Magog is going to be made on Jehovah’s witnesses to wipe them out, then Gog himself will be put out of action? It could. But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975.  But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.

According to the chronology of the Bible, Adam was created in the year 4026 BCE. But the sixth day of creation did not end when Adam was created but when Eve was created. So the issue that we considered from the year 1966 on was how long Adam was alone before Eve was created. If the last 1,000 years of God’s seventh day of creation coincides with the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, the time when Adam was alone must be added to 1975 to get the year of the start of the thousand-year reign. And this time was unknown. Many articles in The Watchtower and Awake! placed too strong a focus on 1975, while a few argued in favor of caution. I for one, was very interested in seeing whether the start of the sixth millennium from Adam’s creation coincided with the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ. But because of the words of Franz at the convention in Baltimore, I would not make any strong statements.[3]

How should we view the year 1975 today? The members of the GB and most Witnesses do not place any emphasis on this year. But I disagree. The year 1975 is a special year because it marks the 6,000th year from the creation of Adam, and it is the last year that is marked in the chronology of the Bible. According to Matthew 12:8, Jesus said that he was “the Lord of the sabbath.” He was not the Lord of the Jewish sabbath, so the words must point to a greater sabbath. Moreover, the Jewish sabbaths were, according to Colossians 2:16, a shadow of something greater that would be fulfilled by Jesus Christ. So, I fully support the view presented in the book Everlasting Life in the Freedom of the Sons of God that the 50th year in the Jewish cycle, the Jubilee year, foreshadows the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, even though this idea is rejected by the present GB.[4]

[1]. Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian Chronology—Volume II Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian Chronology. Second edition, 2013.

[2]. The article “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed? — Part One Why It Matters; What the Evidence shows,” was published in The Watchtower of October 1, 2011, and, the article “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed? — Part Two What the Clay documents Really show.” Was published in The Watchtower of November 1. 2011.

[3]. See the footnote on page.. in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body.

[4]. Ibid. Pages …


Franz often refers to scriptures in the Bible, and his argument is that the Scriptures “must speak for themselves.” As I have shown above, in connection with Acts 15:28, 29 and the prohibition against blood, he does not follow his own slogan. In spite of the fact that there is no reservation in the context, he claims that the words about “abstaining from blood” are a ‘recommendation’ and not a law and that it was given in a special situation. Instead of letting the Scriptures speak for themselves, he nullifies what the Scriptures say about blood.

In his two books, Franz several times speaks about the importance of having a balanced viewpoint, such as in Christian Freedom pages 643, 644:

Balance indicates mental and emotional steadiness, calmness, the ability to resist pressures that sway, to avoid extremes both in thought and conduct…

Balance involves steering a course in all aspects of life that avoids both extremes; it involves sensing when one is passing over an invisible dividing line, in either direction.

However, in connection with whether Christians should be organized or not, he expresses an unbalanced and extreme view, and once again, he does not let the Scriptures speak for themselves. Franz has strongly criticized the Governing Body of JW because they are the leaders of a tight-knit organization with many non-biblical laws. In his two books, he rejects this organization, and, to be sure, a part of his criticism of the organization is correct.  But at the same time, he goes to the other extreme and argues that Christians should not have any organization at all. But every Christian must have a personal relationship with God and his Son Jesus Christ, while at the same time remaining independent of all other Christians. This viewpoint contradicts a number of expressions in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and Franz tries to explain away these expressions.

I have already shown above that a person cannot learn the basic doctrines of the Bible by reading it alone. And the understanding of the Bible requires a group of persons who have different skills. This alone shows that an organization of teachers is necessary to understand the Bible. This is also confirmed in Romans 10:13-17.  In my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, chapter 7, I give examples of how the teachers that helped me understand the Bible were connected with The Watchtower Society.

In the first century CE, the Christian organization was in its infancy. But from the Scriptures we see that individual Christians were not independent of each other:

  • James 5:14 shows that there were congregations with groups of elders.
  • Hebrews 13:7 shows that there were leaders (elders) in the congregations, and these were teachers for the congregation members. Verse 17 admonishes the congregation members to be obedient to those taking the lead among them.
  • 1 Peter 5:1-3 shows that there were congregations with elders charged with shepherding the flock.
  • Titus 1:5 shows that some were traveling elders who made appointments of elders in different cities.
  • Philippians 1:1 shows that there were elders and ministerial servants in the congregations.
  • Acts 2:38, 41 shows that believers were baptized, and obviously, there must have been representatives of God and his congregations who did the baptizing.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10 shows that Christians must have the same faith.
  • Acts 16:4 shows that all the Christian congregations had to accept the doctrines that had been decided by the apostles and the elders by the inspiration of the holy spirit.

All the books in the Christian Greek Scriptures are written as guidance for Christian congregations. The word ekklēsia (“congregation”) is used 111 times in these Scriptures. Christian elders like Paul and Barnabas visited different congregations in order to upbuild the members. We do not know exactly the relationship between the different congregations, and there was no ongoing, sitting governing body, as the present Governing Body of JW claims. But in any case, the congregations were united because the members had the same faith.

Chapter 18 of In Search of Christian Freedom is entitled “A Congregation of Free People.” On page 656 we read:

If we read the account that follows those words, as well as all the rest of the Christian Scriptures, we will find that Christianity is not presented as either a system-oriented or building-oriented way of life and worship; nor is it defined by creeds or law codes. Neither is it centered upon specific activities viewed as specially and distinctly devotional and religious and therefore as having superior merit before God over other activities not so viewed. It is a way of life that embraces all of life and all of life’s activities. In reading the words of God’s Son and the writings of his apostles we find that it is not a matter of belonging to some religious system, practicing certain religious acts at certain times and certain places, but what we are as persons in our daily life that shows whether we are his followers or not.

Franz is correct when he wrote that Christianity is not “defined by creeds and law codes,” and that we in our daily life ‘show whether we are his [Jesus’] followers or not.’ But he is wrong when he writes that Christianity is not “a system-oriented or building-oriented” way of life. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul wrote:

14  I am writing you these things, though I am hoping to come to you shortly, 15  but in case I am delayed, so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in God’s household, which is the congregation of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth.

The meaning of the Greek word that is translated by “household” is, according to Louw and Nida, “a building consisting of one or more rooms and normally serving as a dwelling place”  There is one “house of God” which is the one congregation of God. This “house” consists of Christians, according to Hebrews 3:6. In 1 Corinthians 12:13-28 the Christians are presented as Christ’s body, and each one is compared with the members of the body.

For  by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit.14  For, indeed, the body is made up not of one member but of many.

27 Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you individually is a member. 28  And God has assigned the respective ones in the congregation: first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then powerful works; then gifts of healings; helpful services; abilities to direct;  different tongues. 29  Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform powerful works, do they? 30 Not all have gifts of healings, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all are interpreters, are they? 31 But keep striving for the greater gifts. And yet I will show you a surpassing way.

It is absolutely clear that the illustrations of a house and a body show, contrary to the claims of Franz, that Christianity is “system-oriented and building-oriented.” The system described by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 is that every Christian is one of the limbs of the body and has a function that will help the other limbs. In chapter 14, Paul describes the different gifts of the members, and he shows in verse 26 that the Christians came together at meetings, and each one would contribute something for building up the others. This is also mentioned in verse 12.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, the Bible was not yet complete. That is the reason why some Christians by the inspiration of the spirt received different spiritual gifts. For example, some persons received miraculous knowledge by holy spirit. This knowledge was to be given to the other congregation members, and that was also true with the other gifts of the spirit. Paul gives instructions as to how women should conduct themselves at the meetings in “all the congregations of the holy ones.”

As in all the congregations of the holy ones,34  let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak. Rather, let them be in subjection, as the Law also says.

These congregations were organized (“system-oriented and building-oriented”) with elders and ministerial servants who took the lead and helped the members of the congregation. All the members of these congregations were members of the body of Christ, “God’s house,” and they were bound together, not by a central governing body, but because they accepted the leadership of the apostles, the prophets, and the teachers.

To be baptized is necessary to become a Christian. Acts 2:38 says:

38  Peter said to them: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.

On the day of Pentecost, persons who were together with Peter baptized 3,000 persons. But the question is who is authorized to baptize others. The answer of Franz is that anyone can baptize others. In Christian Freedom, page 704 we read:

The question of baptism at times arises. There may be an inclination to think of baptism in the context of affiliation with some religious fellowship, as an event sponsored by, or even authenticated by, some such fellowship. To the contrary, it would be difficult to think of a more personal act than baptism. The account of the Ethiopian eunuch and his baptism alongside a road while on a trip illustrates this beautifully. The act has nothing to do with becoming a member of some religious system but symbolizes one’s publicly made confession of faith in God’s Son and “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” In Scripture, baptisms are not presented as programmed occasions, not even the baptism of thousands at Pentecost. They were not some pre-planned part of a “convention” program. They were spontaneously carried out as the occasion arose, and whoever was present did the baptizing. There is, then, no reason why one must wait for special circumstances or a special occasion for baptism. A man might baptize members of his own household.

Franz also has some advice for those who leave JW and perhaps feel that they stand alone. In Christian Freedom page 696, he writes:

For those who have been moved by conscience to disengage themselves from a religious system, an obvious solution to their lack of association might seem to be simply to join some other religion. There are hundreds of denominations to choose from, all having a measure of truth and a measure of error, though the ratio of one to the other may vary. I personally have felt no inclination to align myself with any. It is not that I am looking for some affiliation that is totally free from error. I am satisfied that does not exist. I am quite sure that I myself am not free from all error and that no one else is either. The fact that there are serious wrongs to be found within the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not suddenly make everything right in other religions. They, too, have serious problems which at times they candidly acknowledge. I am satisfied that many religious organizations are less authoritarian than the one I left, that many allow for a fair measure of freedom of expression. There is today, in some respects, greater freedom to express difference even in the Catholic Church than exists in some of the smaller religions, that of Jehovah’s Witnesses included.

So the advice is: Choose a religion that you like; there are errors in all of them. How Franz can read the Scriptures and fail to see that the congregations of Christians in the first century CE were an organization who had the same faith and who were led by the spirit of God is difficult to fathom. The only answer I can come up with is that Franz felt so burned by the way he was treated by JW that he developed an extreme animosity toward this organization, and that led him to his extreme standpoints.

I agree with Franz that the leaders of the organization have no right to make decisions on issues of faith that are binding on others. However, when Franz was a part of the organization, it was still theocratic and not autocratic. But today, the organization is autocratic, with eight men at the top constituting a government with all power.  But this is not Christian and violates several principles in the Bible. Nevertheless, instead of taking an extreme stand against this organization, I only take a stand against the particular aspects of the organization that are scripturally wrong while continuing to cherish all the good ones, which are the majority.

There is no doubt in my mind that JW is the only religious organization whose basic doctrines build wholly on the Bible. For example, the book, Make sure of all things Hold fast to what is fine, contains 123 basic subjects that are based on the Bible. We will not find anything similar to it in any other religion. The bad side of the religion is the regime of disfellowshipping. In the article, “Jehovah’s discipline — the true regime of disfellowshipping,” in the category “Disfellowshipping,” I show in detail how the whole system contradicts what the Bible says about disfellowshipping. Instead of discarding the whole faith of JW because of this, I argue that the present regime must be discarded, and the biblical regime must be instituted. The result of this in my assessment would be that disfellowshipping would be reduced by 90% or more.

The other autocratic side of JW that should be discarded is the book Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence. Franz shows that this book has 114 pages with decisions made by the GB that influences the life of individual Witnesses.[1] This is a Talmud-like book of laws. The subjects of this book are important because many situations arise in the life of individual Witnesses, of which questions arise, and the different subjects of this book are what many Witnesses have asked about. My suggestion is to retain most of the subjects but to discard all the decisions the GB has made in connection with each of these subjects. The reason for this is that the GB has no right to make decisions that influence the lives of the individual Witnesses. But what should the content of each entry be?

There is a very good example in connection with blood fractions. To take blood into one’s body is prohibited, but the question is whether small fractions of blood such as albumin and coagulation factors are blood in the biblical sense of the word. Because of this, the GB has discussed the nature of these small fractions. And based on this information, the Witnesses are asked to consider whether their consciences will allow them to take a particular fraction into their bodies. If a Witness asks an elder for a clarification of a certain point, the elder is instructed not to ask leading questions or in any other way influence the decision of the Witness. This would be a very good pattern for the mentioned book. Instead of making laws, the GB should outline different principles in connection with each entry, and the branch office could convey these principles to the Witness asking a particular question without any attempt to influence the decision of the Witness.

There is also another way to give answers. The list of Franz shows that twelve pages are devoted to the subject “Employment,” and detailed discussions of right and wrong employment according to Branch Office Procedure are included. In Christian Freedom, page 254 we read:

A Witness barber might set up a barbershop adjacent to a military base in an area where there were no nearby residences. All his customers might be soldiers, whose pay comes from the military. He would not be judged guilty of ‘violating Isaiah 2:4.’ But if he did the same barbering on the base for those same soldiers, receiving pay from the military administration, he would, by this line of reasoning, be bloodguilty, worthy of disfellowshipment. Such reasoning can only be termed Pharisaical.

Nor is this a case of mere hypothetical examples. Many actual cases have been dealt with in precisely this manner, including situations involving Witness women who worked in “PX” stores on military bases and whose selling of such items as foodstuffs, cosmetics, etc., in that location somehow made them guilty of supporting the “overall objectives” of the military and hence bloodguilty. Elders have actually taken disfellowshiping action against a man simply for working in pest and rodent control—exterminating roaches and mice—because this work was regularly performed on a military base! Those viewed as infringing the Society’s policy are given a period of time, perhaps six months, to cease such employment, and if they do not do so they either are disfellowshipped or are declared “disassociated,” the results being in reality the same.

By promoting the Christian principles that the Watchtower Society followed in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970, all 12 pages discussing employment could have been deleted and the answer that we find in The Watchtower of 15 September 1951, page 574 could have replaced them:

As to other forms of activity or work the Society has no specific recommendation to make…

The Society’s silence on these matters is not to be viewed as giving consent, nor is it to be viewed as a condemnation we do not wish to openly express. It means that we think it is the individual’s responsibility to choose, not ours. It is his conscience that must be at ease for his course, not ours… So let each one accept his own responsibility and answer to his own conscience, not criticizing others or being criticized by them, when individual consciences allow different decisions on the same matter.

The Watchtower of 1 February 1954, page 94 follows the same line of reasoning in connection with gambling:

He may think that he can do so if he refrains from gambling himself or allowing his spiritual brothers to gamble through his services. One may be able to conscientiously do this, while another would not be able to do so in good conscience. Each one will have to decide individually whether he can or cannot do so conscientiously…

The Watch Tower Society does not decide as to an individual’s employment, as we previously stated in the September 15, 1951, Watchtower, page 574.

The Watchtower of 1972, page 589, expressed the same spirit as The Watchtowers of 1951 and 1954:


Thus there are many, many acts and practices that are specifically approved or condemned in the Bible. Many, many others are clearly in harmony with, or in violation of, principles contained therein. Yet, particularly in the modern, complex society that has developed in many parts of the earth, there remain situations and circumstances where personal decision, based on the individual conscience of the one involved, is required. So many things in life are a matter of degree. The difference between a gentle pat and a vicious blow is a matter of degree of force. The difference between simple respect​—as, for example, respect to a ruler or a national emblem—​and reverential worship is also a matter of degree. Where extremes are involved there is no real question. It is when the matter comes within what might be called a ‘gray area,’ approaching the borderline between what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong, that questions arise. The closer to such ‘borderline situation’ the matter comes, the greater the part the individual’s conscience must play in his decision. Faced with such circumstances, what should we do?

10 Jehovah God expects us to use our faculties of intelligence, our knowledge, understanding and judgment, and to do conscientiously what our faith points us to do. God does not place us under the conscience of some other human in such matters. We must each make our own decision in harmony with conscience​—conscience molded by God’s Word. We must also take the consequences of our own decisions, not expect someone else to make the decision and bear that responsibility for us.

11 It would therefore be wrong in such matters to try to extract from someone else, from a body of elders or from the governing body of the Christian congregation, some rule or regulation that ‘draws the line’ on matters. Where God’s Word does not itself ‘draw the line,’ no human has the right to add to that Word by doing so. God in his wisdom allows us to show what we are in the “secret person of the heart,” and the decisions we make in such personal cases may reveal this. True, we may err at times without wrong motive, and God, who reads our hearts, can discern this.

The book Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence could answer questions related to its entries in two different ways.  One way would be to say that The Watchtower Society has no special recommendation in connection with this issue, so each one must use his or her conscience to make a decision. The other way is to outline biblical principles (not laws) that should be considered as a basis for a decision without influencing the decision of the Witness in any way.

[1]. Franz lists the subjects of this book on pages 242-245 in Christian Freedom.


Franz’s first book, Crisis of Conscience, is relatively balanced. He tells about what he experienced among JW from his start as a full-time servant in 1942 until he left headquarters in 1980. This includes his work as a missionary and branch overseer in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as the nine years when he was a member of the Governing Body. He was a man who made notes of what happened, and basically, the information he gave seems to be trustworthy. His account stretches over many years, and therefore, it must be selective. But there seems to me to be some bias in his account as well. His description of the president of the Watchtower Society, N.H. Knorr is, for example, much more negative than the description of Knorr by A.H. Macmillan and of others who worked together with Knorr.

His second book, In Search of Christian Freedom, has a different quality than the first one. In this book he casts off all restraints and makes an all-out attack on everything that JW stand for — I find little or nothing that is constructive; everything is negative and destructive! In his first book, he took on the role of a journalist reporting on things that happened. In his second book, he took the role of a scholar, arguing that the basic doctrines and procedures of JW are wrong and have no basis in the Bible. I always try to discuss cases and not persons. But in this situation, I must be allowed to say that Franz was not qualified to take on the role of a scholar — first, because he did not know the original languages of the Bible, and second, his way of doing research is rather superficial, and he seldom drills down to the bottom of an issue.

I start this section by quoting the word of Franz in Crisis, pages 273, 274, once more:

I now began to realize how large a measure of what I had based my entire adult life course on was just that, a myth—“persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” It was not that my view toward the Bible had changed. If anything, my appreciation of it was enhanced by what I experienced. It alone gave sense and meaning to what I saw happening, the attitudes I saw displayed, the reasonings I heard advanced, the tension and pressure I felt. The change that did come was from the realization that my way of looking at the Scriptures had been from such an essentially sectarian viewpoint, a trap that I thought I had been protected against. Letting the Scriptures speak for themselves—without being first funneled through some fallible human agency as a “channel”—I found they became immensely more meaningful. I was frankly astonished at how much of their import I had been missing.

I have already shown in connection with Franz’s view of the prohibition against blood in Acts 15:27, 28 that he is not “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves,” as he claims. He denies that the words that were inspired by holy spirit represent a law for Christians. This means that he rejects a part of the Scriptures. Regarding his arguments against JW in the different chapters of his second book, these arguments are, ironically, funneled through the “fallible human agency” of his self-made new religion, where there is total freedom and no laws.

I agree with Franz that the regime of disfellowshipping, as it is practiced by JW, is completely rotten, and almost all the procedures that the GB has introduced violate different Bible principles. I also agree that the way the GB functions represents a violation of Bible principles as well. I also agree that in 2007, when In Search For Christian Freedom was published, the GB had become autocratic and exercised dictatorial powers. But that was not the situation in May 1980 when Franz resigned from the GB.

In my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, pages 135, 136, I show that in 1971, the year before the elder arrangement was introduced, the circuit servants (overseers) lost all their power over the congregations. I give some examples showing that the bodies of elders in the congregations, to a great extent, were independent of the GB. But from 1976 on, power started to be transferred from the body of elders to the GB. The first step that was taken was to give the circuit overseers some power over the bodies of elders. But still the bodies of elders were independent in relation to the circuit overseer. This was also the case in 1980 when Franz left the GB. This means that while the GB had made some wrong decisions that had a bad effect on individual Witnesses, the organization in 1980 was still theocratic and not yet autocratic.

Apart from my agreement with some of the criticisms of Franz, as I have stated above, I will say that most of his basic conclusions in all the chapters of his second book are not based on a solid Bible basis or a sound scientific basis. But these arguments are funneled through the new religion that Franz has created. I see no purpose in discussing all the wrong arguments one by one. But I will discuss three subjects, 1) the claim that elders do not have time to function as shepherds, 2) the claim that the organization prevents individual Witnesses from expressing love and faith from an inner motivation, and 3) his claim that the use of God’s name Jehovah is wrong.

The elders have very little time to help those in need

Regarding the elders (the shepherds) Franz wrote in Christian Freedom, pages 314, 315:

I have no question that most Witness elders believe themselves to be, and undoubtedly desire to be, like the first shepherd described. But I think that the evidence regrettably shows a high incidence of organizational policies producing a circumstance like that described in the second account, a circumstance where the sheep are consistently pressured by their shepherds, with even the strong being pushed at a demanding pace, but where very, very little time is spent aiding the weary, the sick, the hurt, the straggling and the lost among them. In congregation after congregation, it is a sad truth that members find that elders have little time to spend with them in periods of difficulty, illness, depression or discouragement, but that their time is spent primarily in pushing for greater field service activity. They are “too busy” to provide strengthening and encouraging help but very prompt to act if there is any suspicion of misconduct and can then make available many hours for investigation or deliberation.

This may be the worst of all the untrue statements made by Franz. I simply cannot understand how a person with his experience as a missionary, branch overseer, and member of the GB could make such a statement. In 1965, I started as a circuit servant, and I visited all the congregations in my circuit three times a year. When I met with the servants (today, elders and ministerial servants) the importance of the shepherding work was stressed. In 1974 and 1975, I was the instructor of 30 two-week courses of elders, and again, the shepherding work was stressed. Because Franz at this time was a member of the GB, he must have read this course and seen the stress on the shepherding work. And this questions his motives behind his claims that are quoted above.

In this time, only around 11 disfellowshipping offenses were listed, and only rarely would there be a judicial case. That the “sheep [were] consistently pressured by their shepherds” and that “very, very little time [was] spent aiding the weary, the sick, the hurt, the straggling and the lost among them,” is as far from the truth as one can get. For example, in 1990, the Hospital Liaising Committees, that should help sick Witnesses to get the best treatment without the use of blood, were formed. I was a member of the HLC in Oslo for 30 years.

In one typical instance, I got a phone telling me about an emergency situation. I stopped my work and drove home. My wife had been informed, and she had clean clothes in her hands and a sandwich that I could eat while I drove to the hospital. The phone could also ring in the middle of the night, and I had to rush to the hospital. When I entered the room, I saw the smile on the face of the sick brother, and I imagined that he was thinking: “Jehovah’s Organization has sent a brother to help me.” This was my reward. A full-time servant used 80 hours per month in the preaching work, and during the first year in the HLC, I used more hours to help sick Witnesses than a pioneer used in the preaching. The other members of the HLC also used much time for sick Witnesses. I will also mention that there was another Committee of brothers whose duty was to visit sick Witnesses at different hospitals. Both arrangements continue to this day.

Because of my intimate knowledge of the congregations in Norway, I can report the very opposite of Franz. There is a good Christian spirit in the congregations. The members show love toward one another, they work together in the Christian service, they meet privately in their homes, and if someone has a problem, other congregation members quickly come to his or her aid. The elders generally are approachable, they regularly visit the congregation members in their homes and are ready to help when necessary.

Some years ago, I conducted a Bible study with an interested man. One time he asked me: “What is the best evidence that the holy spirit is working in the congregations of JW?” After a moment of consideration, I answered: “That so many imperfect humans can work together in peace and unity with so few problems is evidence that holy spirit influences the congregations.” My experience relates to Norway. But on the basis of my contacts with persons in other countries, I am certain that the situation is the same in these countries. There are, of course, congregations with problems both in Norway and abroad, and sometimes the elders make unbalanced decisions that negatively influence others. But congregations with problems are rare compared with all those with a high spiritual standard.

True Christian personalities are prevented by the organization

The view of Franz of the individual Witnesses is very negative. He admits that a few witnesses do not fit the description of the personality of the Witnesses quoted below. But “they are all affected to some degree.” I quote from Christian Freedom, page 15:

For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Does that climate of Christian freedom flourish within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, fostering expressions of love and faith that freely result from inner motivation and not from external pressure? I believe the evidence shows that it does not. My years on the Governing Body of that organization convince me that it does not.

But I believe they are all affected to some degree [of organizational pressure] and that the effect is inevitably a hurtful one. The attitude inculcated is based, not on truth—the truth that makes one free—but on a distortion of truth. It distorts their understanding of what being a follower of God’s Son actually embraces. It hinders them in making the fullest expression of his qualities. It restricts them in doing many acts of love and faith which their hearts would indicate and obliges them to perform other acts for which they see no convincing Scriptural reason. In one way or another, in greater or lesser measure, freedom is sacrificed. Obscured or forgotten is the truth that, “when Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free.”

The words of Franz in this quotation represent an accusation. The individual Witnesses build their lives on a myth, as he himself claims he once did. They build their lives on a distortion of truth, and this prevents them from understanding what it means to be true followers of God’s Son. And the Witnesses are not able to express love and faith freely resulting from inner motivation. I think that persons who read these words and who do not have any negative feelings against JW, will understand that what Franz writes is not true. When Franz wrote these words, there were 5 million Witnesses. So, to make an accurate general characterization of the faith and love of all individual JW, even such an extremely negative characterization is impossible. The words of Franz tell more about his own faith and love than about the faith and love of these millions of Witnesses.

In order to put his words into a greater context, we may ask: “Why did he make this claim? What were his premises?” I have already mentioned that the whole book In Search of Christian Freedom is extremely negative and is an all-out attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses. The message of Franz seems to be that almost everything that is connected with JW is wrong, and I can hardly find any positive characterization of JW in the book. In the quotation above, there are two expressions that illuminate his premises, namely, “external pressure” and “distortion of truth.”

Franz has developed a new religion with two principal points, 1) There are not two hopes for God’s servants, a heavenly and an earthly one, but all God’s servants have a heavenly hope, and 2) Christians have total freedom with no organization and no laws. When Franz looked at the doctrines and the practices of JW in the light of his new religion, he saw a distortion of truth. I strongly disagree with Franz regarding the doctrines and practices of JW, and in chapter 1 of my book My Beloved Religion — And the Governing Body, I make a detailed analysis and show that JW is the only religious denomination whose doctrines are based on the Bible. This includes the doctrine that a small group of God’s servants will rule with Jesus Christ in heaven while billions of persons will live forever in the earthly paradise — a doctrine that has overwhelming support in the Bible. From my point of view, it is Franz who is distorting the truth!

When Franz speaks about “external pressure,” he refers to the dictatorial position of the members of the GB and their position as a government and who have made a great number of extra-biblical laws that the individual Witnesses must follow. According to Franz, the position of the GB prevents individual Witnesses from showing spontaneous expressions of faith and love — their lives as God’s servants are the result of pressure from the GB and from the elders. In 1980, when Franz left JW, the organization was still theocratic, and the GB did not function as dictators. However, in 2007, when Franz’s book was published, the organization had, indeed, become autocratic, and today, the members of the GB have all power over the doctrines, the assets, and the money, and they serve as dictators. The basic error of Franz in connection with his “external pressure” claim is that he connects the dictatorial position of the GB with the personal faith and love of each Witness. I will show why Franz errs in this respect, and I take his words about “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves” as a point of departure.

What happens when a person becomes a Witness? He meets a preacher of the good news, and a Bible study is started. When Franz was a Witness, the book The Truth that Leads to Eternal life was used for such a study. And this is a book that is truly “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.” In addition to the teaching of the basic doctrines of the Bible, the focus of the book is on prayer to God, building a happy family life and that true worship is a way of life. In such a study, there is absolutely no “external pressure,” but the student is admonished to change his way of life according to Bible principles and take on the new personality.

This is the phase in the life of the Bible student when his faith and love develop — without any “external pressure.” Hebrews 2:14, 15 describes one side of the Christian freedom that results from such a Bible study:

14  Therefore, since the “young children” are sharers of blood and flesh, he also similarly shared in the same things, so that through his death he might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil, 15  and that he might set free all those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.

The life of the Bible student has changed. He is free from fear of the future, including fear of death, and he has received a new hope for the future. This creates a very strong impression on the Bible student. He appreciates what God has done and will do for him, and that results in love for God. He also appreciates the role of Jesus Christ and his ransom sacrifice. And the student wants to help others to learn what he has learned, and therefore he voluntarily becomes a preacher of the good news of the Kingdom.

When the Bible student is baptized and he becomes a part of a congregation, he becomes a part of a Christian community that functions as a great family. He cooperates with the other members of the community, he preaches the good news, and he continually works to become more and more like Jesus Christ. As I have already mentioned, most elders are approachable, and they admonish the Witnesses to live according to the Bible.

But where is the dictatorial Governing Body in all this? This is an important question because Franz does not realize nor distinguish between where the power of the GB is working and where it is not working. I agree with Franz that the GB in 2007, when his second book was published, exercised dictatorial power and their position and actions violated several Bible principles. But it is important to note that in the process of Bible study when a person learns the basic truths of the Bible, the power of the GB is not at work in their lives. In this compartmentalized process, the Bible student freely and voluntarily develops faith and love from inner motivation.

When the Bible student is baptized, he or she becomes a part of the congregation, which is a Christian community. He is taught that the eight members of the GB is “the faithful and discreet slave” and that what they do and say come from God and must be accepted as truth. This means that a small group of humans is placed on par with the Bible, and this is a clear violation of several Bible principle. There is one truth in this view, however, and that is that to understand the Bible, we are dependent on other human teachers. And contrary to Franz, I will say that Bible truth can only be learned by the help of preachers who are connected with the Watchtower Society. So the right view of the literature of the Watchtower Society is that articles that are published are the best that the teachers of the organization can present at the present moment. The Witnesses should therefore do as the Beroeans according to Acts 17:11,  who “accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

When I became a Witness sixty years ago, other Witnesses and I were encouraged to follow the example of the Beroeans in making a deep study of the Bible. We were also taught in the Watchtower literature how we could make such a deep study. The present GB no longer stresses the importance of personal Bible study, but instead, the word “meditation” has become the new mantra. This prevents some Witnesses from expanding their knowledge of the Bible, and this can be viewed as a kind of negative, passive pressure.

In the life in the congregations, the dictatorial power of the GB is seen in several instances. As I show in My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body pages 134-137, the Bible Students and JW had never been soliciting money. But this has changed in the 21st century when congregations members are asked to contribute with a sum of money every month. Every witness can give the amount of money of his or her choice, but still, this new system represents a measure of pressure to give money. This violates Bible principles.

There are other areas where the dictatorial power of the GB can be felt by a congregation member. If an issue arises that is discussed in the book Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence, the service department at the branch office will demand that the decision of the GB be followed. If not, the Witness may be disfellowshipped. The GB has also made decisions regarding issues that are not based on the Bible, such as higher education. In many congregations, the elders exert strong pressure on young persons and their parents to prevent such young ones from pursuing higher education.

But the area where the negative power of the GB particularly is felt, is in connection with the now 37 disfellowshipping offenses that the GB has invented and introduced. The whole regime of disfellowshipping is rotten, and the lives of tens of thousands of Witnesses are ruined because of these unbiblical procedures. And individual Witnesses have no power to even question these procedures.

The important point that Franz did not understand is that the dictatorial power of the GB influences the lives of members of the congregation only in restricted areas — and not in the all-embracing sense asserted by Franz. Apart from these situations, the congregation members are neither coerced nor pressured, and they show faith and love that come from their hearts. Therefore, the following words of Franz represent a perverted description that is simply not true:

It [organization pressure] distorts their understanding of what being a follower of God’s Son actually embraces. It hinders them in making the fullest expression of his qualities. It restricts them in doing many acts of love and faith which their hearts would indicate and obliges them to perform other acts for which they see no convincing Scriptural reason.

In fact, the very opposite is true: Most Witnesses understand what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. And their love for God, his Son, and fellow humans causes them to continue to do many acts of love and faith in accordance with God’s purpose that is written in the Bible.

 Franz attacks Jehovah’s name  

That Franz also attacks the way the Witnesses use the name Jehovah is something that is very surprising for me. It is surprising because the importance of Jehovah’s name is so clearly expressed both in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But the arguments of Franz show that he is very far from being a Bible scholar, and he betrays his lack of knowledge in connection with the name of God — the sanctification of which is the central theme of the Bible itself. On page 491 in Christian Freedom, Franz pose the following question:

By what right, then, do men who claim to be footstep followers of God’s Son select a name which does not even bear witness to the Christ? How do they justify choosing a name that reaches back some 700 years before his appearance as the Messiah, back to words spoken to the Jewish people under the Law Covenant.

This question shows that Franz follows the tradition in the main Christian denominations and puts undue stress on Jesus Christ at the expense of God — not “to the glory of God” — who is put into the background (Phil 2:11). The viewpoint of Franz here is the very opposite of what reality is. The name Jehoshua (Jesus) means “Jehovah is salvation,” and therefore, the name Jesus bears witness to Jehovah, pointing out that he is the real cause of salvation.

On page 495 Franz argues against the inclusion of “Jehovah” in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in the following way:

What is remarkable is that, beyond these four occurrences of that abbreviated form in Revelation, nowhere else in the Christian Scriptures contained in these ancient copies do we find a single occurrence of this name. Since there are an estimated 5,000 existing copies in Greek of these Christian Scriptures, the fact that not a single one of these thousands of copies contains the Tetragrammaton is all the more impressive.13 The same is true of the earliest translations of those Christian Scriptures into other languages, such as the Syriac, Armenian, Sahidic and Old Latin translations. For this reason, in the vast majority of translations of the New Testament the name “Jehovah” does not appear outside of its abbreviated appearance in the book of Revelation. By contrast, if we turn to the Watch Tower Society’s New World Translation we will find the name “Jehovah” (and “Jehovah’s”) 237 times from Matthew to Revelation. The fact is, however, that when the New World Translation places the name “Jehovah” in any part of the Christian Scriptures it does so without any support from a single one of the ancient manuscripts of those Christian Scriptures.

I have written the book The Tetragram — Its History, Its Use in the New Testament, and Its Pronunciation (2019). All the arguments of Franz against the use of God’s name in the Christian Greek Scriptures and in the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom are authoritatively refuted in this book.

The statements that Franz makes in the quotation above are correct. But it is used in the wrong setting, and therefore the readers are misled. What Franz does not mention, and what he, himself, probably has not considered, is that none of the 5,000 Greek manuscripts represents the autographs, i.e., the original manuscripts that the authors of the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures wrote. Why is this so important? Because we know and do not only assume, that several words that were written in the autographs have been changed in the thousands of extant copies of these autographs Franz referred to. We know that because all the copies from the first three centuries BCE have abbreviations where God’s name is supposed to have been written, this is compelling evidence that this word has been changed. About ten other different words are also abbreviated, and I have never heard any scholar claim that any of these abbreviations occurred in the autographs.

The abbreviation where God’s name is supposed to have been is ks with a bar above the letters. Some would argue that ks is an abbreviation for kyrios (“lord”), and this abbreviation shows that yhwh did not occur in the autographs. This argument sounds logical, but there are some data that definitely contradict this conclusion. The abbreviation ks is also found in the manuscripts of the Greek LXX from the first three centuries CE. In the few fragments of the LXX that are extant from the BCE period and one from 50 CE, the name of God is written as yhwh with old Hebrew or Aramaic letters or with the Greek letters iao and never as kyrios. Thus, the data shows that only after 50 CE and before the end of the first century CE where ks starts to occur in Greek manuscripts, did the name of God began to be removed from the LXX manuscripts that were copied and substituted with ks. Because the oldest manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures have the abbreviation ks for the name of God, this is good evidence that the name of God was also removed from the Christian Greek Scriptures and replaced by ks in tandem with this trend in connection with copies of the Greek Septuagint translation (LXX). Thus, the lack of God’s name in the 5,000 Greek manuscripts does not, in fact, show that God’s name was not written in the autographs of the Christian Greek Scriptures. So the translators of NWT had good manuscript evidence and thus, a solid basis when they used the name “Jehovah” in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

Franz uses several speculative arguments in favor of his view that the name “Jehovah” should not be used by Christians. I will discuss one that seems to have a textual basis. On page 515 of Christian Freedom he wrote:

Contrary to the common practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses when addressing God in prayer Jesus consistently addressed Him, never as “Jehovah,” but always as “Father” (employing that expression six times in just his final prayer with his disciples).

In connection with this argument, Franz overlooks the context. On pages 148-152 in my Tetragram book, I show that Jesus stressed the filial relationship between God and his servants on the earth, and in several situations, he, therefore, addressed God as “Father.” In other situations Jesus used Jehovah. Contrary to popular theory, I show in my book that there is no evidence that the Jews stopped using God’s name Jehovah in the BCE era. On the contrary, there is evidence that God’s name was freely used by the Jews in the days of Jesus and that it was in the last part of the first century CE that the Jews stopped using the name of God. When Jesus quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, in Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:18, he used God’s name Jehovah. I also show in my book that when the angel spoke to Mary about the birth of Jesus, both she and he used Jehovah, as did Peter and Paul in their speeches. Thus, contrary to Franz, there is strong evidence that God’s name was freely used in the Christian congregations in the first century CE and that it should be included in the Christian Greek Scriptures.


I never stop wondering why Franz, who was an intelligent man, could turn around so completely that he viewed almost every doctrine and every practice among JW that he had defended for 40 years as myth. But this is what his two books show, particularly the book In Search for Christian Freedom, which is an all-out attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What happened was that new religious viewpoints developed in the mind of Franz, and like Hymenaeus and Philetus, who denied that there would be a future resurrection, Franz denied that there would be a future earthly resurrection. The slogan of Franz of “letting the Scriptures speak for themselves” was one that he, himself, did not follow.

Franz argues that Christians do not need any organization or any set of laws, and one of his important points is that the understanding of the Bible should not be “funneled through some fallible human agency” (= Jehovah’s witnesses). But I have shown that it is not possible to just read the Bible and understand it. So whether we like it or not, our understanding of the Bible must be funneled through some fallible human agency. So the real issue that every sincere truth-seeker must consider is: Where can we find the fallible but true Bible teachers who can help us to understand the purpose of God?

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

More posts by Rolf Furuli

Leave a Reply