The extreme view of not greeting and not speaking with disfellowshipped persons was introduced by the author of the article about disfellowshipping in The Watchtower of March 1, 1952. No biblical reason for this treatment of disfellowshipped persons is given in the article. But it may be that the author’s interpretation of the Greek word synanamignymi (“keep company with”) in 1 Corinthians 5:1 is the reason. But this is not stated.
The point is: Since the shunning of disfellowshipped persons was introduced in 1952, and until now, no analysis of a Bible text has been performed to prove that shunning is a biblical requirement. Below it is shown that such an interpretation is wrong and that shunning contradicts the Bible!
Apart from 1 Corinthians 5:9, 11, the word synanamignymi is only found in 2 Thessalonian 3.14. Here it is used in a way that includes greeting and speaking with the person with whom Christians are instructed not to fraternize. This shows without a doubt that it is correct to greet and speak with disfellowshipped persons, even though Christians should not socialize with such persons.
The words of 2 Corinthians 2:4-7 are analyzed, and I show that members of the congregation in Corinth had rebuked the person who was disfellowshipped. In order to rebuke a person, one has to greet him or her and speak with him or her. This corroborates the words of Paul to the Thessalonians that they could greet and speak with those with whom Christians should stop associating (synanamignymi).
The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, contained articles with a softening of the treatment of disfellowshipped persons in connection with greetings and visiting blood relatives that had been disfellowshipped. However, this softening was never implemented, and after a short time, the members of the Governing Body stressed the importance of the extreme view of disfellowshipped persons. A member of the congregation who continues to have contact with one who has been disfellowshipped will himself be disfellowshipped.
First Corinthians 5:11 says:
9 In my letter I wrote you to stop keeping company (synanamignymi) with sexually immoral people…11 But now I am writing you to stop keeping company (synanamignymi) with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.
The issue that will be discussed is the actual meaning of the clause “stop keeping company with…” and the phrase “not even eating with such a man” in 1 Corinthians 5:11. The literature of the Watchtower has, for the last 70 years, claimed that not only should Christians refrain from socializing with disfellowshipped persons, but they should not even speak with such a person or say a greeting to him or her. They should treat them as if they did not exist. The discussion that follows shows that this view is wrong.
The maxim for this discussion is found in the frame below.
|Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say, will enable us to keep a balanced view toward disfellowshipped ones.—The Watchtower of 1974, page 472.|
THE CREATION OF THE COMMANDMENT AGAINST SPEAKING AND GREETING
The first time the different sides of disfellowshipping are discussed is in the article “Keep the Organization Clean” in The Watchtower of March 1, 1952. Page 134 of this article shows that persons practicing the sins mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 must be disfellowshipped. This is, of course, correct. The way disfellowshipped persons should be treated is described in The Watchtower of March 1, 1952, page 140.
At 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul told the Christian congregation: “But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” No communion at all with these persons that are disfellowshiped or put out of the congregation.
Why? Because this congregation of God must remain clean, undefiled, preserved for pure worship of the Most High. Consequently when that action of disfellowshiping is taken it really removes a person. He is out. Therefore all the congregation, all those who have dedicated their lives to God, should abide by the recommendation or the resolution on the part of the servants. They must support them.
The paragraph quotes 1 Corinthians 5:11 and says that between the congregation members and the disfellowshipped ones, there can be “no communion at all.” What does this mean, according to the author of the article? The answer is found on page 141.
Now meetings that are open to the public he [the disfellowshipped person] can attend as long as he behaves himself and acts orderly…If he comes into that meeting and sits down, as long as he is orderly, minds his business, we have nothing to say to him. Those who are acquainted with the situation in the congregation should never say “Hello” or “Good-by” to him. He is not welcome in our midst, we avoid him.
The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 30, expresses the same idea.
Yes, the Bible commands Christians not to keep company or fellowship with a person who has been expelled from the congregation. Thus “disfellowshiping” is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer. Their refusal to fellowship with an expelled person on any spiritual or social level reflects loyalty to God’s standards and obedience to his command at 1 Corinthians 5:11, 13. This is consistent with Jesus’ advice that such a person be considered in the same way as “a man of the nations” was viewed by the Jews of that time. For some time after the apostles died, those professing Christianity evidently followed the Biblical procedure. But how many churches today comply with God’s clear directions in this regard?
The article from 1952 shows that the basis for the extreme treatment of disfellowshipped persons that has been the hallmark of Jehovah’s Witnesses from 1952 and until this day, was pulled out of thin air. No biblical reason why congregation members should not speak with disfellowshipped persons and greet them is given. Here we see a typical example of a violation of the maxim in the frame above—something is read into the text of the Bible, that is not there! Paul’s words are that we should not have company with a disfellowshipped person and not even eat with him or her. The author of the 1952 article evidently had 1 Corinthians 5:11, 13 in mind, without analyzing the verses, when he made the rule that we should not even speak with the disfellowshipped person and greet him or her. But I will show below that “greeting” and “speaking” definitely are not a part of the semantic domain of synanamignymi (“to mix together; to associate with”) that Christians are instructed to refrain from in 5:11.
|The author of the article of March 1, 1952, made a gross error in his application of the expression “do not have company with.” Because of this error, disfellowshipped persons have been shunned with no scriptural basis for the past 70 years.|
SPEAKING WITH AND GREETING DISFELLOWSHIPPED PERSONS IS CORRECT
The word synanamignymi (“mix together”) occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, 11 (text above) and 2 Thessalonians 3:14 (text below):
9In my letter I wrote you to stop keeping company (synanamignymi) with sexually immoral people… 11 But now I am writing you to stop keeping company (synanamignymi) with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.
But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked and stop associating (synanamignymi) with him, so that he may become ashamed. 15 And yet do not consider him an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.
Courses in ancient Greek differentiate between Classical Greek and New Testament Greek. There is a close similarity between the two, but there are differences as well, particularly in the meaning and references of words. Therefore, we cannot just consult a Greek-English Lexicon when we are looking for the meaning of a Greek word and choose one of the meanings that the lexicon presents. Such lexicons both present meanings from Classical and New Testament Greek without distinguishing between them. The only way to find the meaning of a Greek word in the Christian Greek Scriptures is to look at the contexts in which the word occurs. Therefore, in connection with the word synanamignymi we have only three places to look.
I will now compare the situations in 1 Corinthians 5:9, 11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, Paul speaks about disfellowshipping wicked persons. This means that those Christians one should stop mixing together with or stop associating with were disfellowshipped persons. Below I will compare the study notes of the two passages in the online NWT13.
A comparison between the use of synanamignymi in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14
The situation that is painted in the note of 2 Thessalonians 3:15 is clearly misleading because the reference is not to those who are “walking disorderly.” True, these words are found in 2 Thessalonians 5:11. But Paul cannot refer to those who are walking disorderly because he does not refer to a concrete situation, he does not refer to something that has happened. But his words are conditional, something that is seen by his use of the Greek word ei (“if”) at the beginning of 3:14. So what Paul actually says is that if “anyone [is] not obedient to our word through this letter,” then the Christians should “stop associating with him.” This must, of course, include anything that Paul mentions in his letter, and not only those walking disorderly by not working and meddling with what does not concern them (3:11). In chapter 2, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians not to accept the words of those who say that the day of the Lord is here (2:2). He also says that they must “maintain your hold on the traditions that you were taught (2:16), i.e., they should not introduce new teachings.
The fact that Paul in 3:4 uses the words “our instructions” in the plural indicates that Paul wanted obedience to all he had written in the letter. As we will see, the study note says that those who should be marked were “not guilty of practicing a grave sin.” This is not correct! For example, Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:18 that Hymenaeus and Philetus “have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred.” The context shows that these were disfellowshipped.
If some members of the Thessalonian congregations were not obedient to Paul’s words regarding the day of the Lord, saying that this day “is here” (“is present”) that would be just as grave a sin as the one of Hymenaeus and Philetus. And similarly, if someone did not “maintain your hold on the traditions that you were taught (2:16), but rejected something or introduced something else, that would be a grave sin as well. So the attempt of the Governing Body through the study note of 2 Thessalonians 3.15 to show that the possible sins of the Thessalonians were not grave has failed. The motive of this attempt is, of course, to try to show that synanamignymi has a different and less severe meaning in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 compared with 1 Corinthians 5:11. But this is a futile attempt because Paul in 2 Thessalonians is not referring to a concrete situation but to a hypothetical situation whose content is unknown.
I will now return to the evidence showing that the members of the Governing Body use dishonest weights and deceptive scales. We can see this by comparing the study notes of 1 Corinthians 5:11 (above) and 2 Thessalonians 3:15 (below).
Study note of 1 Corinthians 5:11:
stop keeping company with: Or “stop associating with.” The Greek word sy·na·na·miʹgny·mai, rendered “keeping company with,” means “to mix together.” (The same Greek verb occurs at 2Th 3:14.) Thus, “keeping company” with others would imply having close fellowship or companionship with them and sharing their views and sentiments. Christians in Corinth had to “stop keeping company with,” that is, refuse to mingle with, any unrepentant sinner. They were to “remove the wicked person from among [themselves].”—1Co 5:13
The Watchtower of July 1, 1963, page 413:
Therefore the members of the congregation will not associate with the disfellowshiped one, either in the Kingdom Hall or elsewhere. They will not converse with such one or show him recognition in any way. If the disfellowshiped person attempts to talk to others in the congregation, they should walk away from him. In this way, he will feel the full import of his sin.
The Watchtower of September 15, 1985, page 22:
Yes, the Bible commands Christians not to keep company or fellowship with a person who has been expelled from the congregation. Thus “disfellowshiping” is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer.
Study note to 2 Thessalonians 3:14:
and stop associating with him: A person who was “walking disorderly” in the congregation was not guilty of practicing a grave sin for which he could be disfellowshipped (2Th 3:11) Still, he was persisting in a course that could reflect badly on the congregation and that could influence other Christians. Paul thus counsels Christians to “stop associating” with him, that is, to avoid socializing with him. (Compare 2 Ti 2:20, 21.) This action might help the disorderly one to realize that he needed to conform to Bible principles. Fellow Christians would not completely avoid the person, for Paul advises them to “continue admonishing him as a brother.” —See study note on 2 Th 3:15.
The Watchtower of April 15, 1985, page 31:
Paul said, “Stop associating with” the marked one “that he may become ashamed.” Brothers would not completely shun him, for Paul advised them to “continue admonishing him as a brother.” Yet by their limiting social fellowship with him, they might lead him to become ashamed and perhaps awaken him to the need to conform to Bible principles.
A synthesis of the different applications of synanamignymi
I will now show the two different wights and the two different scales that are used by the members of the Governing Body.
The comments on the Greek word synanamignymi in 1 Corinthians 5:11 are:
· Thus, “keeping company” with others would imply having close fellowship or companionship with them and sharing their views and sentiments.
· They will not converse with such one or show him recognition in any way. If the disfellowshiped person attempts to talk to others in the congregation, they should walk away from him.
· Thus “disfellowshiping” is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer.
The comments on the Greek word synanamignymi in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 are:
Paul thus counsels Christians to “stop associating” with him, that is, to avoid socializing with him.
Brothers would not completely shun him.
Why is the application of synanamignymi different in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3? The reason is that the members of the Governing Body, without any biblical reason, have decided that disfellowshipped persons must be shunned. And here we see that the Governing Body has used dishonest weights and deceptive scales— the same Greek word is, without any lexical or contextual reason, applied in diametrically opposite ways in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and 2 Thessalonians chapter 3.
Not only is shunning not included in synanamignymi in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 but included in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, but the definition of the word is different. In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, the Governing Body says that keeping company “would imply having close fellowship or companionship with them and sharing their views and sentiments.” But this definition is not found in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. This is a definition without any linguistic basis because it is not found in the contexts where synanamignymi is used. The only meaning we can construe from the contexts of the word is the general meaning “to associate.”
In a Christian congregation, all members are brothers and sisters showing each other love, and all members share the same view of the Bible and its basic doctrines. But some members are closer than others because of family relations or because they have known each other and have worked together for a long time. Apart from the uniting fellowship based on their service for Jehovah and their faith in him, the congregation members have different views and sentiments in connection with a range of subjects, and each member only has a close fellowship or companionship with a few others. Even Jesus had a different relationship with his disciples — John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 21:7)
The reason for the nonlinguistic definition of synanamignymi of the members of the Governing Body is to substantiate their treatment of disfellowshipped persons. If synanamignymi includes a close fellowship or companionship, to stop synanamignymi is the very opposite, which must be shunning without any spiritual or physical contact.
The situation can also be illustrated with the words, “not even eating with such a man.” (1 Corinthians 5:11) The study note in NWT13 says:
Both members of a congregation who have a close fellowship or companionship and those who barely know each other, such as a person who recently has moved to the congregation, share meals together. So it is clear that synanamignymi only includes the general notion of “associating with” and does not include an idea of a close relationship or the sharing of views and sentiments.
I have stressed that the only way to know the real meaning of a Greek word is to look at the context where the word occurs. The word synanamignymi occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The basic meaning of the word is “mixing together,” and in 1 Corinthians 5:9, 11, we learn one side of not socializing with the person is not having a meal with him or her. In 2 Thessalonians 3:15 we learn that Christians can “continue admonishing him as a brother,” and this means that the members of the congregation can speak with him and greet him, while they still must not continue socializing or fraternizing with him. These are the meanings that we can construe on the basis of the contexts where the word occurs. When we compare the study notes from NWT13 and the quotations from The Watchtower we clearly see how the members of the Governing Body use two kinds of weights and two kinds of scales (dishonest weights and deceptive scales).
There is absolutely nothing connected with the Greek word synanamignymi showing that if one must stop synanmignymi (“having fellowship with”) someone, that one has to shun this person and treating him or her as if he or she does not exist. Greek-English lexicons that give both meanings from Classical Greek and New Testament Greek agree with this, as I show below:
United Bible Society Lexicon: “Associate with, have dealings with,”
Mounce Greek Dictionary: “To associate with.”
Moulton and Milligan: “‘Mix up together,’ thence metaph. in mid. ‘associate with’.”
Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich: “Mix up together…pass: mingle, or associate with.
When the positive meaning of synanamignymi is “socializing with,” the negative meaning cannot be “shun” but it must be “not socializing with.”
|The word synanamignymy (“mix up together”) has the general meaning of “associate with.” It does not include the notion of “having a close fellowship or companionship and sharing the views and sentiments of each other. This is a claim of the members of the Governing Body that has no linguistic basis.|
The words of 2 Corinthians 2:6 show that Christians can greet and speak with disfellowshipped persons
There is no lexical or contextual reason why a disfellowshipped person cannot be treated in the same way as a person who is not obedient to Paul’s word, as this is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15. This means that the members of the congregation can greet and speak with a disfellowshipped person while they are admonishing him to repent. One reference to this is 2 Corinthians 2:5-7:
5 Now if anyone has caused sadness, he has saddened, not me, but all of you to an extent—not to be too harsh in what I say. 6 This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man; 7 now you should instead kindly forgive and comfort him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sadness.
The study note for the word “rebuke” in verse 6 in the online NWT13 says:
rebuke: Or “punishment.” In his first inspired letter to the Corinthians, Paul directed that a man who had unrepentantly practiced sexual immorality be removed from the congregation. (1Co 5:1, 7, 11-13) That discipline had good effects. The congregation was protected from a corrupting influence, and the sinner sincerely repented. The man performed works befitting repentance, so Paul now indicates that “the rebuke given by the majority [was] sufficient” and that the man be welcomed back by the congregation. This is consistent with the ways of Jehovah, who disciplines his people “to the proper degree.”—Jer 30:11.
The explanation of the study note is correct. But it fails to show what the word “rebuke” refers to and who those are who made the rebuke. Below I will look at some of the details. We need to consider the words “rebuke” and “the majority,” in order to understand the situation. According to the present procedure invented by the Governing Body, “the rebuke” would be that no member of the congregation in Corinth spoke with the man or greeted him. If he attended a meeting and spoke to someone, they would turn their back to him and not answer him.
However, the words “the majority” speak against this. The Greek adjective polus (“much; many”) is masculine plural, genitive, comparative. The English parsing of the adjective is positive: much; comparative: “more”; superlative “most.” It is not easy to translate the comparative form of polus into English. The rendering “the majority” is inaccurate because this would be the literal rendering of the superlative form (“most”). The rendering “many” would be a literal rendering of the positive form. The rendering “the more” would be a literal rendering of the comparative form but would not be good modern English. I, therefore, suggest the rendering, “The rebuke given by a great number is sufficient for such a man.”
The important point in verses 5 and 6 is the contrast between “all” and “a great number” (“the more”). All of the congregation members were saddened by the actions of the man, but only a great number of them rebuked him. If the rebuke was shunning, it was required that all members of the congregation would participate in this action. But only a great number (“the more”) participated in the rebuke. This corroborates the view that the members of the congregation could greet the man and speak with him while rebuking him, in the same way as the Thessalonians could greet and speak with a man who was marked and admonish him. Let us look at the Greek words.
The Greek noun that is translated as “rebuke” is epitimia, and it occurs only in 2 Corinthians 2:6. This means that we cannot construe the meaning of the word on the basis of the context. NWT13 has the rendering “rebuke” and the alternative rendering “punishment,” and this is the rendering of most English Bible translations. However, there are several reasons why the rendering “punishment” is not fitting. What was the punishment that the man received? According to 1 Corinthians 5:5, the man “was handed over to Satan,” i.e., he was disfellowshipped. This was something that all the members of the congregation who were saddened by his action stood behind. But not all the congregation members but only a great number of them were behind the apitimia that led the sinner to repentance. This indicates that epitimia was not the disfellowshipping of the man and that “rebuke” is a better rendering than “punishment.”.
The verb epitimaō corresponds to the noun epitimia, and according to Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich the meaning of the verb is “rebuke, reprove, censure also speak seriously, warn, in order to prevent an action or bring one to an end…punish.” We cannot just take one meaning from a Greek-English Lexicon and insist that this is the meaning in a certain passage. But I will point out that the epitima of a great number was what led the man to repentance, and this fits the last part of the definition above: to rebuke or reprove in order to bring an action to an end.
The Greek verb that is used in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 with the purpose of causing the man to repent is noutheteō, and the same lexicon defines this verb as “admonish, warn, instruct.” The verbs epitimaō and noutheteō have both different meanings and similar meanings. But both verbs can be used to try to cause a sinner to repent. So there are good reasons to believe that the use of the noun epitimia in 2 Corinthians 2:6 shows that the members of a Christian congregation could greet and speak with disfellowshipped members while they were rebuking them and admonishing them to repent, exactly in the same way that the Thessalonians according to 2 Thessalonians 3:15 could greet and speak with persons who were marked in order to cause them to repent.
|The words of 2 Corinthians 2:6 that members of the congregation in Corinth rebuked the man who was disfellowshipped show that Christians can greet and speak with disfellowshipped persons while they rebuke or admonish them.|
DIFFERENT VIEWPOINTS REGARDING THE TREATMENT OF DISFELLOWSHIPPED PERSONS
From the year 1952 onward, disfellowshipped persons were treated like lepers. But two articles in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, softened the view somewhat of disfellowshipped persons.
In addition to 2 John 10 and 1 Corinthians 5:11, the words of Matthew 18:17 “Let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector” have been used in connection with disfellowshipped ones. However, The comments in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, page 665, are interesting:
There is, however, nothing to show that Jews with a balanced and Scriptural viewpoint would refuse to greet a “man of the nations” or a tax collector. Jesus’ counsel about greetings, in connection with his exhortation to imitate God in his undeserved kindness toward “wicked people and good,” would seem to rule against such a rigid stand.—Matt. 5:45-48.
These words suggest that not greeting a disfellowshipped person is an extreme action that is not becoming for Christians. I will quote the reference to Matthew 5:45-48:
43 “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48 You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.
When we apply the words of Jesus to disfellowshipped persons, we will not treat them as if they were lepers. Also in connection with disfellowshipped relatives, the viewpoint was softened. The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, page 471, says:
As to disfellowshiped family members (not minor sons or daughters) living outside the home, each family must decide to what extent they will have association with such ones. This is not something that the congregational elders can decide for them. What the elders are concerned with is that “leaven” is not reintroduced into the congregation through spiritual fellowshipping with those who had to be removed as such “leaven.” Thus, if a disfellowshipped parent goes to visit a son or daughter or to see grandchildren and is allowed to enter the Christian home, this is not the concern of the elders. Such a one has a natural right to visit his blood relatives and his offspring. Similarly, when sons or daughters render honor to a parent, though disfellowshiped, by calling to see how such a one’s physical health is or what needs he or she may have, this act in itself is not a spiritual fellowshiping.
The articles on disfellowshipped persons in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, took away a part of the extreme view and treatment of disfellowshipped persons. But the problem was that this softened stand was not implemented. I was the district overseer between 1972 and 1974, and in 1974 and 1975 I was the instructor of the two-week course for all elders in Norway. I can confirm that there was no time when the Witnesses were allowed to greet disfellowshipped persons. Several Witnesses had contact with relatives because the article said that “it was a natural right to visit his blood relatives.” But rather quickly the softened stand of the articles of August 1, 1974, was contradicted by the Governing Body, and the previous extreme view of disfellowshipped persons was reintroduced. Below I give some quotations showing that:
The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 31, says:
Scripturally, a person who repudiated God’s congregation became more reprehensible than those in the world. Why? Well, Paul showed that Christians in the Roman world daily contacted fornicators, extortioners, and idolaters. Yet he said that Christians must “quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother” who resumed ungodly ways. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11) Similarly, Peter stated that one who had “escaped from the defilements of the world” but then reverted to his former life was like a sow returning to the mire. (2 Peter 2:20-22) Hence, John was providing harmonious counsel in directing that Christians were not to ‘receive into their homes’ one who willfully ‘went out from among them.’—2 John 10.
John added: “For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 11) Here John used the Greek word of greeting khaiʹro rather than the word a·spaʹzo·mai, found in 2Jo verse 13.
Khaiʹro meant to rejoice. (Luke 10:20; Philippians 3:1; 4:4) It was also used as a greeting, spoken or written. (Matthew 28:9; Acts 15:23; 23:26) A·spaʹzo·maimeant “to enfold in the arms, thus to greet, to welcome.” (Luke 11:43; Acts 20:1,37; 21:7, 19) Either could be a salutation, but a·spaʹzo·mai may have implied more than a polite “hello” or “good-day.” Jesus told the 70 disciples not to a·spaʹse·sthe anyone. He thus showed that their urgent work allowed no time for the Eastern way of greeting with kisses, embraces, and long conversation. (Luke 10:4) Peter and Paul urged: ‘Greet [a·spaʹsa·sthe] one another with a kiss of love, or a holy kiss.’—1 Peter 5:14; 2 Corinthians 13:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 5:26.
So John may deliberately have used khaiʹro in 2 John 10, 11 rather than a·spaʹzo·mai (2Jo verse 13). If so, John was not urging Christians then to avoid merely warmly greeting (with an embrace, kiss, and conversation) a person who taught falsehood or who renounced the congregation (apostatized). Rather, John was saying that they ought not even greet such an individual with khaiʹro, a common “good-day.”
On the basis of the comments above the readers are misled. The words about greeting relate to the antichrists, who probably were the pre-Gnostics. Applying these words to disfellowshipped Christians, in reality, is a twisting of God’s Word. However, the article shows that the softened stand on greeting from 1974 was no longer valid. The view of “the natural right to visit blood relatives” for disfellowshipped persons was also abandoned.
The Kingdom Ministry of August 2002, page 4, discusses how to treat disfellowshipped and disassociated persons:
12 Benefits of Being Loyal to Jehovah: Cooperating with the Scriptural arrangement to disfellowship and shun unrepentant wrongdoers is beneficial.
This means that loyal Christians do not have spiritual fellowship with anyone who has been expelled from the congregation. But more is involved. God’s Word states that we should ‘not even eat with such a man.’ (1 Cor. 5:11) Hence, we also avoid social fellowship with an expelled person. This would rule out joining him in a picnic, party, ball game, or trip to the mall or theater or sitting down to a meal with him either in the home or at a restaurant. (author’s italics)
What about speaking with a disfellowshipped person? While the Bible does not cover every possible situation, 2 John 10 helps us to get Jehovah’s view of matters: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.” Commenting on this, The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 25, says: “A simple ‘Hello’ to someone can be the first step that develops into a conversation and maybe even a friendship. Would we want to take that first step with a disfellowshiped person?”…
Relatives Not in the Household: “The situation is different if the disfellowshipped or disassociated one is a relative living outside the immediate family circle and home,” states The Watchtower of April 15, 1988, page 28. “It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum,” in harmony with the divine injunction to “quit mixing in company with anyone” who is guilty of sinning unrepentantly. (1 Cor. 5:11) Loyal Christians should strive to avoid needless association with such a relative, even keeping business dealings to an absolute minimum.—See also The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, pages 29-30.
The Watchtower for October 2017, page 16, shows more areas where contact with disfellowshipped and disassociated persons should not occur:
Respect the discipline of Jehovah. His arrangement can bring the best long-term outcome for all, including the wrongdoer, even though the immediate effect is painful. (Read Hebrews 12:11.) For example, Jehovah instructs us to “stop keeping company” with unrepentant wrongdoers. (1 Cor. 5:11-13) Despite our pain of heart, we must avoid normal contact with a disfellowshipped family member by telephone, text messages, letters, e-mails, or social media. (author’s italics)
The book for elders shows that the punishment for unnecessary association with disfellowshipped or disassociated family members needs not be as severe as association with those who are not family members. Point 12.17 (2) says:
If a member of the congregation is known to have unnecessary association with disfellowshipped or disassociated relatives who are not in the household, elders should use the Scriptures to counsel and reason with him. Review with him information from the Remain in God’s Love book, page 242. If it is clear that a Christian is violating the spirit of the disfellowshipping decree in this regard and does not respond to counsel, he would not qualify for congregation privileges, which require one to be exemplary. He would not be dealt with judicially unless there is persistent spiritual association or he persists in openly criticizing the disfellowshipping decision. (the author’s italics)
The expression “deal with judicially” means that the person will be disfellowshipped if he does not change his attitude. A father will not be disfellowshipped if he visits his disfellowshipped or disassociated grown-up son, but his punishment is that he loses his privileges in the congregation. If he, for example, is a ministerial servant or an elder, he will lose these privileges. However, there needs not be much wrong action before he will be disfellowshipped. If he, for example, continues to speak with his son about the Bible, he will be disfellowshipped. These words from the book for elders show that a Witness no longer has “a natural right to visit his blood relatives” if he or the relatives are disfellowshipped.
|An article in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, softened the way disfellowshipped persons should be treated. This softening was not implemented in the organization. And after a short time the extreme treatment of disfellowshipped persons again was stressed.|
. See the article “The members of the Governing Body are twisting God’s thoughts” in the category “The Governing Body,” and the article “Do not say a greeting Discussion of 2 John 7-11,” in the category “Shunning not based on the Bible.”
. The book says: “When someone who has seriously sinned does not repent and refuses to follow Jehovah’s standards, he can no longer be a member of the congregation. He needs to be disfellowshipped. When someone is disfellowshipped, we have no more dealings with that person and we stop talking to him. (1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 John 9-11)”
In 1952, the author of the article on disfellowshipping, without any argument or Biblical reference, inadvertently invented the rule that disfellowshipped persons must be shunned. No member of the congregation should greet them or speak with them; they must be treated as if they did not exist. This rule has now been followed for 70 years. This is a very clear example of reading into the Bible something that is not found there.
In the Watchtower literature, 1 Corinthians 5:11 and the words “Quit mixing in company with” are referred to in connection with no greeting and no speaking with disfellowshipping persons. Both The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, and the comments beside the verse in NWT13 show that “greeting” and “speaking” are not included as a part of the meaning of the Greek word synanamignymi. To the contrary, the use of synanamignymi in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 shows without a doubt that greeting and speaking must of necessity occur between those with whom Christians are not fraternizing or mixing company.
In a similar way, 2 Corinthians 2:6 shows that members of the congregation in Corinth rebuked the person who is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and who was disfellowshipped. This shows that members of the congregation can greet and speak with disfellowshipped members to exhort them to repent, while they are not associating with them. Disfellowshipped parents and grandparents have the natural right to visit their children and grandchildren who are not living in their household.
The conclusion is that an error committed by the author of an article in 1952 has yet to be recognized and corrected. And that is the reason for the inhuman and cruel treatment of the more than one million Witnesses who have been disfellowshipped during the past 20 years.