The members of the Governing Body have given themselves unlimited power over the doctrines, the assets, and the money of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, they function as real dictators.
I show that when the elder arrangement was introduced in 1972, the bodies of elders in each congregation were to a great extent independent of the Governing Body, In 1976, they started to transfer power from the bodies of elders to themselves. But at the end of the 20th century, the bodies of elders still had some independence. But in the 21st century, the members of the Governing Body have functioned as a government for Jehovah’s Witnesses, taking all the big decisions and most of the small ones.
The members of the Governing Body portray themselves as humble Christians on the same level of their brothers and sisters and not as dictators with unlimited power. In order to hide the nature of the power of the Governing Body they have created several smokescreens, and four of these are discussed in this article:
- Contrary to the facts on the ground, they claim that they are not the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Again, contrary to the facts, they claim that they always follow the Bible.
- They cause the Witnesses to believe that when they obey the Governing Body, this is the same as obeying Jehovah.
- They also cause the Witnesses to believe that they never go beyond what is written in the Scriptures and that their interpretations are based on the contexts of the Scriptures.
The nine members of the Governing Body function as a government for Jehovah’s Witnesses; this is implied in the word “governing,” and it is seen in the unlimited power that the members have given themselves. They are the interpreters of the Bible, and the Witnesses believe that what the Governing Body writes is the spiritual food that Jehovah wants his people to have at each time — “food at the proper time” according to Matthew 24:45-47. Anyone who privately or publicly disagrees with the Governing Body may be disfellowshipped. The way the congregations function has been decided in detail, and when a letter with new instructions from the Governing Body comes, these instructions must be scrupulously followed. However, the Governing Body has been masking their true nature by pretending that they are on the same level as their brothers and sisters. This means that they have hidden the true nature of their power. I will now discuss this.
FROM INDEPENDENCE TO TOTALITARIANISM
The expression “the Governing Body” was first mentioned in The Watchtower in the year 1944. The expression was occasionally mentioned in the Watchtower literature in the following years. But the expression was not defined or connected with particular persons. We may illustrate the situation with the words of Paul in Romans 10: 11-13:
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!”
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was organized with the purpose of taking the lead in the worldwide preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. Missionaries and preachers were sent out all over the world, and the members of each congregation were taught how to preach as well. The expression “the Governing Body” was connected with the Watchtower Society and with those who took the lead in this Society. However, the article, “A Governing Body as Different from a Legal Corporation” in The Watchtower of December 15, 1971, pages 755-762, shows that the Governing Body was not identical to the directors of the Watchtower Society. This means that until the year 1971, the expression “the Governing Body” was undefined.
However, in that year a Governing Body was formed for the first time with 18 members, and these members could now be identified by name. Before the year 1971, there was no group of brothers with the name “the Governing Body” that regularly had meetings and made decisions on the part of the worldwide community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But now the group of 18 members had weekly meetings and made decisions for the worldwide organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In the year 1972, the elder arrangement was instituted, and a group of elders was formed in each congregation. The word “governing” was a part of the Governing Body, but at this time, and for the rest of the 20th century, the Governing Body was not a government of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the sense that they were ruling the organization and had all power.
The Governing Body made the program for the congregation meetings and assemblies, and it was responsible for publishing Bible literature. Apart from this, each congregation and its body of elders were to a great degree independent of the Governing Body. Before 1971, the circuit servants (overseers) had been the liaisons between the branch office, reporting to the Governing Body, and the congregations. And the circuit servants gave advice to the congregations, and they wrote a report to the branch office when they had visited a congregation.
In 1972, the circuit servants got a letter from the Watchtower Society telling them that they no longer had any authority over the congregations and could not give advice to the congregations. They were now traveling pioneers without any responsibility who could give advice if the congregation asked for advice.
New elders were suggested by the body of elders, without the circuit servant participating in the discussions, and the elders were appointed by the branch office. The congregations owned their Kingdom Halls, and they used their money in the way the congregation members wanted. The newly formed Governing Body did not have any direct authority over the congregations, and they did not have tools by which they could dictate the congregations. The only reason why the congregations continued to be a part of the worldwide community of Jehovah’s Witnesses was their loyalty to the organization and to the Governing Body based on their belief that this was the only true religion.
The members of the Governing Body evidently were not satisfied with the situation that the congregations and their bodies of elders to a great degree were independent. And in 1976, the first sign of this was seen. From the year 1972, the elders in the congregations were encouraged to make their own outlines for public talks with subjects that could interest the people in the district of the congregation. In 1976, a letter was sent to the elders, saying that from now on, only outlines from the Watchtower Society could be used for public talks. Gradually, and unnoticed by most Witnesses, the Governing Body transferred power from the bodies of elders and to themselves. But at the end of the 20th century, the bodies of elders still had some independence.
In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a power struggle inside the Governing Body between the hardliner Ted Jaracz and the liberal brother William Lloyd Barry. In 1999, Barry died, and Jaracz now became the leading member of the Governing Body. He had the final say in the appointments of new members of the Governing Body, and he chose hardliners as himself. During the ten years until the death of Jaracz in 2010, the number of disfellowshipping offenses without a basis in the Bible doubled, from 19 to 37, and the members of the Governing Body gave themselves more and more power. Today, the members of the Governing Body have all power over the doctrines, the assets, and the money in the organization, and they function as a Government for Jehovah’s Witnesses where they make all the big decisions, and most of the small ones as well.
. Details about the independent position of the congregations are found in my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, pages 139-141.
. See the article, “The power struggle inside the Governing Body in the 1980s and 1990s,” in the category, “The Governing Body.”
DIFFERENT SMOKESCREENS MADE BY THE GOVERNING BODY
In the political establishments in different countries, sometimes we see politicians working “undercover” in order to achieve a particular goal. They use influencers on different social platforms, and they do not present themselves as representatives for the politicians. These influencers try to sway the public opinion in a certain direction, and to achieve this, they often use true information in an exaggerated way, or they spread disinformation. It is important that no one should know that particular politicians are behind this scene.
In a similar way, the members of the Governing Body use four different schemes in order to mask their real power, 1) they deny that they, in reality, are dictators, 2) they use the words, “the Bible says” to cover up their own interpretation, 3) they put Jehovah in their front saying that “we must be obedient to Jehovah,” when the obedience is to the members of the Governing Body, and 4) they stress the importance of interpreting scriptures in the light of their context, while they themselves often make interpretations against the context. Each of these points represents a smokescreen, and I will illustrate how this works.
DENYING THAT THE MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY ARE DICTATORS
A very good example of how the members of the Governing Body are absolving themselves of responsibility for the consequences of the laws and interpretations made by themselves is found in the confidential book, Branch Organization January 2015, in chapter 1, point 1:
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is made up of brothers who are anointed servants of Jehovah God. They have the responsibility of giving direction and impetus to the Kingdom work. (Matt. 24:14, 45-47; Rev 12:17) Like its first-century counterpart, the Governing Body today looks to Jehovah, the Universal Sovereign, and to Jesus Christ, the head of the congregation, for direction in all matters. (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph 5:23) The Governing body is organized to take the lead as Jehovah directs it by holy spirit. The members of the Governing Body do not regard themselves as the leaders of Jehovah’s people. Rather, like all anointed Christians on earth, they “keep following the Lamb [Jesus Christ] no matter where he goes.” — Rev 14:4.
The members of the Governing Body say that they are not the leaders of Jehovah’s people. They just follow Jesus Christ by doing what the Bible says. However, the truth is that the members of the Governing Body have given themselves unlimited power over the doctrines, the assets, and the money of the worldwide organization. All Witnesses must believe that everything they write, say, and, do are directed by holy spirit. Anyone who disagrees with the Governing Body may be disfellowshipped. They are the leaders par excellence!
In 2015, the Royal Commission of Australia made a thorough investigation into the way Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia handled cases of sexual abuse of members. There was a court hearing, and the leaders in Australia as well as Geoffrey Jackson from the Governing Body were questioned. I use the court transcript of the examinations of Jackson to illustrate how smoke screens were made.
When we read the transcripts, we must keep in mind that when a person is examined in court, and he does not know the questions beforehand, there may be some slips of the tongue. We should also allow for this in Jackson’s examination. However, after the day in court, on September 2, 2015, Jackson sent a letter to the court in order to supplement what he said to the court. There was no correction of any of the quotations from him that are found below in his statement.
Angus Stewart was the counsel assisting, and he was the one who asked most of the questions, and for each sequence of questions and answers, I give the page numbers in the transcripts of the Public Hearing. The following exchange show again that the real power of the Governing Body is hidden:
Stewart: Do you, as members of the Governing Body, regard yourselves as being appointed by Jehovah God or under the capacity or authority of Jehovah God?
Jackson: What we view ourselves, as fellow workers with our brothers and sisters ‐ we have been given a responsibility to guard or to be guardians of doctrine. So just the same with elders, they are referred to as being appointed by holy spirit, as you probably are aware, we believe that means that when an elder is in harmony with what the Bible says is required of an elder, then he is appointed by the holy spirit. So the same is true with the Governing Body.
The members of the Governing Body view themselves as on par with the elders, they are “fellow workers with our brothers and sisters.” This is a smokescreen, for the truth is that the members of the Governing Body have unlimited power. Their representatives appoint the elders, and the Governing Body makes decisions that all brothers and sisters must follow. This means that they are dictating to the elders and the brothers and sisters. In the next exchange, Jackson denies that they are God’s spokespeople.
Stewart: Does the Governing Body, or do the members of the Governing Body ‐ do you see yourselves as modern‐day disciples, the modern‐day equivalent of Jesus’s disciples?
Jackson: We certainly hope to follow Jesus and be his disciples.
Stewart: And do you see yourselves as Jehovah God’s spokespeople on earth?
Jackson: That I think would seem to be quite presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using. The scriptures clearly show that someone can act in harmony with God’s spirit in giving comfort and help in the congregations, but if I could just clarify a little, going back to Matthew 24, clearly, Jesus said that in the last days ‐ and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe these are the last days ‐ there would be a slave, a group of persons who would have responsibility to care for the spiritual food. So in that respect, we view ourselves as trying to fulfil that role.
There seems to be a contradiction in the words of Jackson. The Watchtower has said that the members of the Governing Body collectively speaking are the faithful and discreet slave. And this slave is, according to the Governing Body, appointed by God to interpret the Bible for the members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jackson says that “it would seem to be presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using.” But that is exactly what the members of the Governing Body are saying. They believe that there is only one faithful and discreet slave that is appointed by God to give spiritual food at the proper time.
We should also note the words “clearly, Jesus said.” The words of Jesus are clear, but the application of these words to a small group of men is not clear at all. As I will show in the next section, the members of the Governing Body often use the words, “the Bible says.” But very often, it is not the Bible that says what it is referred to — it is the interpretation of the Governing Body. In this way, they mislead the readers or listeners.
THE CLAIM, “THE BIBLE SAYS” WHEN IT IS THE GOVERNING BODY “THAT SAYS”
Several of the leading brothers at the branch office in Australia were questioned, and in many of their answers they referred to the Bible. I will now continue with the questioning of Geoffrey Jackson. The question is now how new members of the Governing Body are chosen.
Stewart: You have said that the Governing Body presently has seven members. How is it determined how many members there will be from time to time?
Jackson: There can be any number of members on the Governing Body. In the past few decades ‐ for example, when I was appointed on the Governing Body, there were 12 of us. I believe the number has been 18 at one stage. But the qualifications of a member for the Governing Body ‐ it involves someone who is considered an anointed Witness, who has worked in scriptural, with a scriptural background, either as a missionary or a full‐time servant for many years, and is able to fulfil the role of the Governing Body, which is, may I state, a group, a spiritual group of men who are the guardians of our doctrine, and as guardians of the doctrine, look at things that need to be decided based on our doctrines, which are based on the constitution of the Bible.
There are several points to note. Jackson says that the members of the Governing Body are “guardians of our doctrine,” and their constitution is the Bible. When there is a need for a decision, the guardians consider the issue in the light of “our doctrine” and this doctrine is based on the Bible. This is a very fine picture, but as we will see below, the reality is different.
Stewart asked about the role of the holy spirit in connection with the work of the Governing Body.
Stewart: By what mechanism would you understand God’s spirit to direct your decisions?
Jackson: Well, what I mean by that is, by prayer and using our constitution, God’s word, we would go through the scriptures and see if there was any biblical principle at all that would influence our decision ‐ and it could be that in our initial discussions there was something that maybe we were missing and then in another discussion that would come to light. So we would view that as God’s spirit motivating us because we believe the Bible is God’s word and came by means of holy spirit.
This is again a fine picture. Because the Bible is inspired by God, by praying to Jehovah and studying his Word his spirit will work on them. But let us see how this works out. The Bible is in focus in this comment, and also in the next.
Jackson: Very good. So Matthew 24, verses 45 and 46. This is how the Governing Body views their role, what they try to do. It says:
Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so!
So the goal of the Governing Body as custodians of our doctrine is to publish literature that helps people in everyday life using what the Bible says.
Stewart refers to Branch Organization January 2015 Manual, and he quotes the following words:
The Bible says: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.” The Governing Body obeys this direction by putting in place various helpful procedure and guidelines that ensure the smooth and orderly operation of the branch offices and the congregations.
Jackson makes a comment on this, and Stewart continues his examination:
Stewart: From the next sentence, “Responsible Christian men do their part by setting an example of obedience as they put such arrangements into effect”, are we to understand that the expectation of the Governing Body is that the branches around the world will act in accordance with those procedures and guidelines?
Jackson: That is the expectation. But may I put the proviso on this: you see, as paragraph 2 starts off, the second sentence, “The Governing Body obeys this direction” ‐ Mr Stewart, what you need to understand with regard to our organisation is it is a faith‐driven organisation. This is not an organisation of lawyers or those that are overly concerned with legal matters. So our primary allegiance is to Jehovah God. Now, the Governing Body realises that if we were to give some direction that is not in harmony with God’s word, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide who have the Bible would notice that and they would see that it was wrong direction. So we have responsibilities as guardians to make sure that everything is scripturally acceptable. So if the direction given is scripturally correct, then we would expect that these members of the branch committee,who themselves also are Christians, who accept the constitution, would follow that direction. But if I can also say, there are provisions for those branch committees to get back to us if they see that there is something thatdoesn’t work, and then we can adjust it accordingly.
Here we have one of the most extreme disclaimers I have ever seen in the Watchtower literature. The basic premise for the words of Jackson is that the text of the Bible is crystal clear, and every Witness knows the crystal clear text of the Bible. So if the Governing Body makes a decision that does not accord with the Bible, all Witnesses will discover this immediately. The implication of this claim is that the Witnesses of the world have not en masse objected to anything the Governing Body has decided. Therefore, this is proof that every decision made by the Governing Body is based on the Bible. This is pure nonsense!
When I became a Witness in 1961 and for three decades, the Bible knowledge among the Witnesses was great. The basic reason for this was that the focus at the meetings and in the Watchtower literature was to acquire accurate Bible knowledge. During the 21st century, the focus has been on meditation, and the Witnesses have no longer been encouraged to acquire accurate knowledge. The result of this is that the Bible knowledge among the Witnesses today is very low. Very few Witnesses have the biblical knowledge to be able to check the decisions of the members of the Governing Body. So, Jackson’s claim is a smokescreen.
We should also keep in mind that the members of the Governing Body today are treated as if they were inspired prophets. The Witnesses believe that God has appointed them to give spiritual food at the proper time. So almost no Witness would dream of checking the decisions made by the Governing Body. The brothers and sisters accept everything that comes from the Governing Body without asking any questions. This means that the words of Jackson are strange. It is as if Jackson lives in another world and have no idea of the real situation of most Witnesses.
Jackson quotes Matthew 24:45-47 above, and we could use this as a test for his claim that if a decision made by the Governing Body is not based on the Bible, every Witness would discover this by opening their Bibles. The members of the Governing Body claim that they collectively speaking are the faithful and discreet slave. How can this claim be tested with the Bible? There is no way to do that. The claim is that “food at the proper time” refers to the literature that the members of the Governing Body publish. How can this claim be tested with the Bible? There is no way to do that. Such claims cannot be tested.
The important point here is that the view that the members of the Governing Body is the faithful and discreet slave is their interpretation that cannot be tested with the Bible. I would also like to add that 37 of the 48 disfellowshipping offenses listed by the Governing Body have no basis in the Bible. These are invented by the Governing Body, and every time a new disfellowshipping offense is added, no Witness in the world can open his or her Bible and see that this disfellowhipping offense is based on the Bible.
For example, the Governing Body has introduced the “direction” (to use a word from Jackson’s answer) that looking at particular forms of pornography is a disfellowshipping offense. But looking at other forms of pornography is not a disfellowshipping offense. Pornography is not mentioned in the Bible, so no Witness can open his or her Bible and see that this “direction” is based on the Bible. So again, I must say that Jackson’s words are not only wrong; they are pure nonsense!
. Pages 15936 and 15937.
. Page 15937,
. Page 15933.
. Page 15935.
. Page 15939.
THE CLAIM “WE MUST OBEY JEHOVAH” WHEN IT IS THE GOVERNING BODY WE MUST OBEY
In the last section, we saw how the members of the Governing Body use the words “the Bible says” when the reality is that it is the members of the Governing Body that say. Another similar phrase is, “we must obey Jehovah.” Examples from the examination of Jackson follows. The counsel assisting quotes from the book Branch Organization January 29015 Manual, point 2.
Stewart: The Bible says: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.” The Governing Body obeys this direction by putting in place various helpful procedures and guidelines that ensure the smooth and orderly operation of the branch offices and the congregations… . From the next sentence, “Responsible Christian men do their part by setting an example of obedience as they put such arrangements into effect”, are we to understand that the expectation of the Governing Body is that the branches around the world will act in accordance with those procedures and guidelines?
Jackson: That is the expectation…
Stewart: Thank you, Mr Jackson. I will come to the question of adjustments, and so on, in a moment, but from what you have said, am I to understand that the Governing Body seeks to obey Jehovah God?
Stewart: And that the branches seek to obey the Governing Body?
Jackson: First of all, the branches seek to obey Jehovah. We’re all in the same arrangement. But because they recognise a central body of spiritual men who give spiritual direction, then we would assume that they would follow that direction or, if something is not appropriate, that they would identify that.
Stewart: In turn, the congregations are expected to obey the branches?
Jackson: Again, first of all, they have to obey Jehovah God. That is the very first thing that they need to do. But if direction is given based on the Bible, we would expect that they would follow that because of their respect of the Bible.
Stewart: And the definitive interpretation of the Bible from time to time is the Governing Body; is that right?
Jackson: Ultimately, as guardians of our doctrine and beliefs, yes, some central group needs to make that decision, but that doesn’t mean to say that we are just on our own unilaterally making those decisions without research and input from others.
Stewart uses the book Branch Organization January 2015 Manual, which shows that the branches must follow the instructions of the Governing Body, and the congregations must follow the instructions from the branches. When Jackson says, “First of all, they have to obey Jehovah God,” this simply is a smokescreen. What does it mean “to obey Jehovah”? What Jehovah wants his servants to do is written in the Christian Greek Scriptures. If the admonition to obey Jehovah was a general expression without any context, that would have been a fine admonition. The admonition would be to read the Scriptures and try to follow the laws and principles that have been inspired by Jehovah.
However, the words of Jackson relate to a particular context. As seen above, Stewart quotes paragraph 2 in the mentioned Manual. The text says that the Governing Body has put in place “various helpful procedures and guidelines,” and that “responsible Christian men do their part by setting an example of obedience as they put such arrangements into effect.” These procedures and guidelines are invented by the Governing Body and they are not found in the Bible. And these procedures and guidelines are what Christian men are expected to follow. So, when Jackson says that Christian men must, first of all, obey Jehovah, this is a smokescreen. This means, in reality, obeying what the Governing Body has decided.
Jackson argues that “the direction is given based on the Bible, we would expect that they would follow that because of their respect of the Bible.” But as seen above, this is another smokescreen. Most of the directions given by the Governing Body are based on their opinion and not on the Bible. For example, n recent years, the Governing Body has decided that two, three, or four, congregations should use the same Kingdom Hall, that many Kingdom Halls should be sold, and the money should be taken by the branch offices.
It is not possible to claim that these decisions are based on the Bible. It may even contradict Bible principles. The Kingdom Halls are just expropriated by the branch office, and the money for the sale is taken by the branch office. This happens without the consent from the congregation members who own the Kingdom Hall. This is a power grab on the part of the branch office, and this violates several Bible principles. Moreover, because of this new direction, some congregation members may travel long distances in order to attend meetings, and in some cases, it may prevent some Witnesses from getting the full portion of spiritual food that they need. This is again a violation of Bible principles.
THE MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY CLAIM THAT THEY DO NOT GO BEYOND THE SCRIPTURES
I have already shown that the members of the Governing Body use the words, “The Bible says” when it is the Governing Body that says. In this section, I will discuss their claim that they do not go beyond the Scriptures and that their interpretations are always based on the context of the verses.
Stewart: In making decisions on the publications, I understand from what you say that you are guided by the scriptures?
Jackson: That is correct.
Stewart: And that involves, obviously, interpreting the scriptures from time to time?
Jackson: That is the role of the Governing Body.
Stewart: Am I right in understanding that the Governing Body’s interpretation of the scriptures on any particular point might change or develop from time to time?
Jackson: That is correct as well.
Stewart: So I think some examples might be, for example, firstly, the question of blood fractions and whether that is or isn’t covered by the prohibition for the receipt of blood transfusions.
Jackson: That is correct as well, but if I could just mention, when blood transfusions were first introduced, there wasn’t a lot of options with regard to blood fractions.
Stewart: Yes, but my point is, or what I am seeking to understand is, there was an interpretation at one point which said that members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses should not receive blood fractions, but in more recent times it has been accepted, as I understand it, that there is no specific scriptural direction on that ‐ on blood fractions, that is ‐ so that is a matter for the individual conscience of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Jackson: That is right. And Mr Stewart, if I may mention, this is an example of the desire of the Governing Body not to go beyond the scriptures. Clearly, we have the direction in Acts chapter 15, 28 and 29 against blood. But if I could also mention, you see, as with anything in the community, more and more knowledge becomes available medically, it can be very overwhelming trying to see all the latest medical research, and so on. But the Governing Body tries to make sure that they don’t go beyond what is written. If we see that a direction from the scriptures has perhaps been used too broadly, then we are the first ones to try to correct the first ones to try to correct that.
Stewart: I take it, too, that the state of knowledge about the scriptures and, in particular, historical knowledge about scriptures, also improves or increases from time to time?
Jackson: That is correct. But there are some basic things in the Bible that have not changed right from the beginnings of the Jehovah’s Witness religion, and I won’t take your time, obviously, going through those, but it is important to realise what are basic things in the Bible. For example, is the Bible from God? There is no possibility of us changing our viewpoint on that.
This is an interesting exchange, because Jackson again contradicts himself. Stewart says that his understanding is that blood fractions are not mentioned in the Scriptures. Jackson answers that this is right. Nonetheless, he claims that the changed view of the Governing Body that previously all blood fractions were forbidden, but now that is not the case, is “an example of the desire of the Governing Body not to go beyond the scriptures.”
The situation in 2015, when this exchange occurred was that whether to accept the infusion of blood fractions, such as albumin, immunglobulins, and coagulation factors, was a matter of the consciences of each Witness. But that was not the case with the fractions of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and blood plasma. These fractions are not mentioned in the Bible. But Jackson and the other members of the Governing Body have forbidden the use of these fractions. And the contradiction is the claim that the Governing Body does not want to go beyond the Scriptures.
The real problem is that the members of the Governing Body have made a great number of laws and rules that have no basis in the Scriptures. And they demand that these must be followed, in some cases with a threat of disfellowshipping if they are not followed. If they really had the desire not to go beyond what is written, they could have written articles dealing with different issues and by this given advice to the Witnesses. But each Witness had to make a decision whether he or she would follow the advice or not. When the Governing Body has decided that the four mentioned blood fractions are forbidden, and those who break this law can be disfellowshipped, this is a clear example showing that the Governing Body has gone beyond what is written in the Scriptures.
. Pages 15938 and 15939.
. For a discussion of this new direction of the sale of Kingdom Halls, see my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 145-157.
. Pages 15945 and 15996.
THE GOVERNING BODY APPEALS TO THE CONTEXT BUT IGNORES THE CONTEXT
It is a basic linguistic principle that the meaning of words or sentences must be seen in the light of the context. Jackson refers to this principle in one of his exchanges with Stewart. The point that Stewart tries to get Jackson to admit is that because social attitudes and standards change over time, we cannot just take an expression in the Bible saying that it is binding for all humans today. He uses the example of corporal punishment.
Stewart: Which imposes the obligation on fathers to bring their children up in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah. What is the “discipline of Jehovah”?
Jackson: Your Honour, the original language, discipline, indicates a process of teaching, educating, making a disciple.
Stewart: Well, from that reference in Ephesians, your Bible takes us back to Proverbs chapter 13, verse (sic) 34 (Should be 13:24)?
Stewart: And the exact quote is: What does that mean?
Jackson: So, your Honour, you will notice there is an asterisk there on the term “rod”, and you see the footnote.
Jackson: “Discipline or punishment”. So in the application of this, the term “rod” is used as a symbol or a metaphor to indicate the authority to give some punishment. For example, in a modern‐day setting, my father could say to me I don’t go to the movies because I had broken some of the rules of the home.
Stewart: So it’s not about inflicting corporal punishment, then?
Jackson: It absolutely is not about inflicting corporal punishment.
Stewart: It would have been when first written, wouldn’t it?
Jackson: How people applied it back then, at that time, of course is open to question.
Stewart: Well, what you are telling me, as I understand it, is that your religion, your church, is prepared to interpret the Bible having regard to contemporary social attitudes and standards; is that right?
Jackson: Obviously, your Honour, we need to take that into consideration, but the primary responsibility we have is to think what does Jehovah God mean by this, and we look at other scriptures. One of the problems that many folk have when they read the Bible is they take one verse and they assume it means something out of context or not in reference to other scriptures. So for our understanding, Jehovah has said that children should be raised in a loving environment. Jesus was raised in such an environment.
Stewart: Well, I have taken you to the way your own church constructs the biblical references, which, as we have noticed, takes us back to Proverbs; correct?
Jackson: That is correct.
Stewart: But what you have given us is the understanding which your church now has about how that is to apply in contemporary society; is that right?
Jackson: That’s a good question. Obviously, I can only speak about what we understand this to mean now, but I would argue the case that even back in ancient times God did not have in mind for children to be beaten up in a bad way.
Stewart: Does your church accept corporal punishment for children?
Jackson: Our church accepts the family arrangement and expects that parents have the responsibility to discipline and raise their children.
Stewart: That doesn’t answer my question. Do you accept corporal punishment?
Jackson: I see. In our literature, I think you will see time and time again we’ve endeavoured to explain that here “discipline” is referring to more a mental point of view, not corporal punishment.
Stewart: I am going to tell you, you are still not answering my question.
Jackson: Oh, sorry.
Stewart: Do you accept corporal punishment?
Stewart: You don’t?
Jackson: Not ‐ not personally, no, and not as an organisation ‐ we don’t encourage it.
Steward: But do you prohibit it?
Jackson: Our literature has pointed out that the true way to discipline children is by educating them, not giving corporal punishment. Your Honour, I can only tell you the spirit behind our writings.
This exchange was rather difficult for Jackson. He evidently realized that Stewart wanted him to admit that something that was done when the Bible was written, could not be done in the present cultural context. If Jackson had admitted that, Stewart could, for example, say that this difference could also apply to the requirement of two eyewitnesses in abuse situations.
The scripture under consideration is Proverbs 13:24:
24 Whoever holds back his rod (shævæt) hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines (mūsār) him diligently.
When Jackson says that it is an open question whether “rod” refers to corporal punishment, he said something that he must have known was wrong. There is absolutely no doubt that the Jews in ancient times used to strike their child with a literal rod.
An important point here is that Jackson says that it is always important to consider the context of a verse. Otherwise the verse may be misunderstood. The best way to do that in this case is to look for verses with the Hebrew substantives mūsār (“discipline”) and shævæt (“rod”). There is one such verse in Proverbs 23:13,14. In addition to the two mentioned Hebrew nouns, both verses have the Hebrew verb nākhā (“strike; smite”). So, there cannot be any doubt that the book of Proverbs speaks about corporal punishment by striking the child with a rod.
13 Do not hold back discipline (mūsār) from a boy. If you strike (nākhā) him with the rod (shævæt), he will not die.14 With the rod (shævæt) you should strike (nākhā) him in order to save him from the Grave (sheol)
When I became a Witness 62 years ago, corporal punishment of children among Jehovah’s Witnesses was not uncommon. However, the punishment was not very hard, usually a short administration of pain. I bring three quotations below, two quotations from The Watchtower of August 15, 1963, page 497, (above) and September 15, 1973, page 557 (middle), and one from Awake! of May 22, 1987, page 11 (below):
8 All children of Adam need correction, and at times firm discipline requires the rod, in the administration of pain. “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15) Jehovah’s discipline is thus not a watered-down discipline such as that advised by some worldly authorities who would always hold back the rod. But the literal rod is what is basically meant at Proverbs 23:13, 14: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.” At times, then, a parent will need to speak to the child by the administration of pain. This pain, God’s Word assures us, is not going to kill the child; but it will have beneficial effects, protective benefits for the child, protecting “his very soul from Sheol.”
21 God is man’s Creator. There is no higher authority. His Word is very clear on the matter. It says: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol [the grave] itself.” (Prov. 23:13, 14) The life of the child is at stake. If he is allowed to pursue a wrong course, it will lead to his own unhappiness and eventual death outside God’s favor. Thus the Bible says: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” (Prov. 13:24) It shows real love on the part of a parent to do whatever he can to correct his child, including spanking him. This is God’s way. “For whom Jehovah loves,” the scripture says, “he disciplines; in fact, he scourges [whips or lashes] every one whom he receives as a son.”—Heb. 12:5, 6.
A lot of tomatoes are also thrown at the Bible because of its counsel on discipline. “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” (Proverbs 13:24) On this verse the New International Version Study Bible footnote says: “rod. Probably a figure of speech for discipline of any kind.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines “rod” as a “sceptre, as an emblem of rule.”
Parental rule may involve spanking, but more often it need not. According to 2 Timothy 2:24, 25, Christians are to be “gentle toward all, . . . instructing with mildness.” The word “instructing” here is translated from the Greek word for discipline. Discipline is to be given with regard for children’s feelings: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
In several countries, including Norway, laws were made to protect children from corporal punishment. In order to comply with the laws of the country, the Watchtower literature no longer advocated corporal punishment when such legislation was passed in a country.
As for the point of Stewart that all texts in the Bible cannot necessarily be applied today, this is correct. But the reason is different from what Stewart thinks. When the Hebrew Scriptures were written, the law of Moses was valid. When Jesus died, this law was abolished. So, we cannot take texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, including the book of Proverbs, and insist that their requirements must be followed today.
The words of Jackson regarding the importance of the context for the correct understanding of a verse are important. But unfortunately, there are a great number of examples from the Watchtower literature where the context is ignored, and a verse is used contrary to the context. This is, of course, a way of misleading or cheating the readers. I will give one example in order to illustrate this, namely, 2 John 7-11:
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Look out for yourselves, so that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward. 9 Everyone who pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. The one who does remain in this teaching is the one who has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. 11 For the one who says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.
The words in red are used as proof that Christians should shun those who have been disfellowshipped. If we take these words alone, they certainly indicate shunning — not greeting the person and not inviting him into your home. However, if we consider the context, we must draw a very different conclusion, by asking who they are that should be treated in this way. The persons mentioned by John are deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. They are called antichrists, and persons who try to deceive the Christians and were active propagandists should not be invited into the homes of the Christians.
The Governing Body are aware of who these persons are. In an online article about the coming of Jesus, we read:
Misconception; The words of 2 John 7 show that Jesus will come in the flesh.
Fact: The Bible verse states: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.”
In the apostle John’s day, some denied that Jesus had come to this earth as a man. They were called Gnostics. Second John 7 was written to refute their false claim.
When the members of the Governing Body know that those who should not be greeted or invited into the house were Gnostics and not those who were disfellowshipped, why do they apply these words to disfellowshipped ones? The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, page 465, says:
Do the apostle’s words here necessarily apply to all persons who are put out of the congregation for wrongdoing?…Are, then, all who have been disfellowshipped like the persons described in John’s second letter? At the time that they had to be disfellowshiped they were apparently following a course like such ones or at least manifesting a similar sentiment.
We note that the claim of the Governing Body is that all those who have been disfellowshipped are like the antichrists at the time when they are disfellowshipped, and therefore, they must be shunned like the antichrists. So it is not the Scriptures that say that disfellowshipped persons must be shunned but the Governing Body. From 1981 onward, those who disassociated themselves were also shunned. And the The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 31, has the following question:
Did 2 John 10, which says not to receive into one’s home or to greet certain ones, refer only to those who had promoted false doctrine?
The article first quotes the lexicon of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Aid to Bible Understanding: “Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist’ (1 John 2:18, 19).”
Then the article continues:
A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description [of being a deceiver and an antichrist]. By deliberately repudiating God’s congregation and by renouncing the Christian way, he would have made himself an apostate. A loyal Christian would not have wanted to fellowship with an apostate.
This is a glaring example of how the members of the Governing Body do the opposite of what Geoffrey Jackson told counsel assisting, Angus Stewart. In connection with shunning disfellowshipped and disassociated persons, with open eyes they apply 2 John 7-11 against the context. And they teach the Witnesses that it is the Christian Greek Scriptures that say that disfellowshipped and disassociated persons must be shunned. But the truth is that it is the Governing Body that has invented this shunning contrary to the Scriptures.
. Pages 15945 and 15996.
. Pages 15948 and 15949.
. See the article, “Do not say a greeting A discussion of 2 John 7-11” in the category, “Shunning not based on the Bible.”
We have now discussed different smokescreens made with the purpose of hiding the true nature of the power of the Governing Body.
Smokescreen 1: The members of the Governing Body are not the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses
In the book Branch Organization January 2015, the members of the Governing Body say that they are not the leaders of Jehovah’s people, they are on par with other anointed Christians and they just follow Jesus Christ. Jackson claimed that the members of the Governing Body “are fellow workers with our brothers and sisters, but they have been given the responsibility to be guardians of doctrine.” He also said it would have been “quite presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using.” These quotations present the members of the Governing Body as humble Christians who only are following the Bible. But the truth is that they are dictators with unlimited power.
Smokescreen 2: The members of the Governing Body claim that they always follow the Bible
Jackson said that The Governing Body is “a spiritual group of men who are the guardians of our doctrine, and as guardians of the doctrine, look at things that need to be decided based on our doctrines, which are based on the constitution of the Bible.” “The goal of the Governing Body as custodians of our doctrine is to publish literature that helps people in everyday life using what the Bible says.” “Well, what I mean by that is, by prayer and using our constitution, God’s word, we would go through the scriptures and see if there was any biblical principle at all that would influence our decision.”
If the Governing Body always follow the Bible, they have no real responsibility for their decisions and for the laws they make. This is not true because they do no longer accept the full inspiration of the Bible, and they have made a great number of laws, including the invention of 37 disfellowshipping offenses that have no basis in the Bible.
Smokescreen 3: “We must obey Jehovah” where “Jehovah” in reality is the Governing Body.
Stewart has quoted from Branch Organization January 2015, point 2. Regarding decisions and arrangements decided by the Governing Body, the book says that: “Responsible Christian men do their part by setting an example of obedience as they put such arrangements into effect.” When Stewart asks whether it is expected that the branches obey the Governing Body and whether the congregations are expected to obey the branches, Jackson to both questions says that “they have to obey Jehovah God.”
So, the claim is that all Witnesses must obey any law or instruction invented by the Governing Body because this is the same as obeying Jehovah. In the discussion of smokescreen 1, Jackson said that it would be “quite presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using.” But now, this is exactly what Jackson is saying. Obeying the Governing Body is equivalent to obeying Jehovah God.
Smokescreen 4: The members of the Governing Body claim that they do not go beyond the Scriptures, but interpret the texts in the light of the context.
This is definitely not true. I show that the context is ignored over and over again in the Governing Body’s interpretation of the Scriptures. I show that this is the case in connection with corporal punishment of children where Jackson gives an answer that he must know is wrong, I show that it is also wrong in connection with the use of Jude 7-11 as evidence that disfellowshipped and disassociated persons must be shunned. And we see the same in numerous interpretations given by the members of the Governing Body.
These four examples show that he members of the Governing Body portray themselves as humble Christians on the same level as their brothers and sisters. But the truth is that they have given themselves unlimited power, and they hide themselves behind the Bible and make smokescreens, and those who do not follow their decisions and laws may be disfellowshipped. Thus, the members of the Governing Body, in reality, function as dictators.
. See the article, The members of the Governing Body do not believe in the full inspiration of the Bible,” in the category “The Governing Body.” See also my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, chapters 5 and 6, where all the 37 disfellowshipping offenses without basis in the Bible are discussed.