Paul shows that Christians can be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. This is a very strong punishment. And it is important to follow the instructions in the Christian Greek Scriptures as to who deserves to be disfellowshipped. I am sorry to see that these instructions are no longer followed by the Governing Body. Last year, about 80,000 Witnesses, which is 1% of all Witnesses, were disfellowshipped. My estimate is that if the biblical principles had been followed, more than 90% of these should not have been disfellowshipped.
This article, and the following ones, discuss what the Bible says and do not say about disfellowshipping. And I compare this with the procedures Jehovah’s Witnesses are following in connection with disfellowshipping.
DISFELLOWSHIPPING OFFENSES BASED ON THE BIBLE, AND THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN INVENTED BY THE GOVERNING BODY
Jesus Christ said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17) and “and yet the scripture cannot be nullified” (John 10:35). And Paul wrote in 2 timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” For about 130 years since the 1880s, the Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses have used these scriptures to express their belief that the whole Christian faith is found in the Bible, and no human being has the right to add anything to the text of the Bible and claim that this is a part of the Christian faith. After 2010, the new view that the Bible is not fully inspired was developed by the members of the Governing Body.
Because the true Christian religion is spread all over the earth, and it is organized to preach the good news of the Kingdom, some Christians must take the lead in the organization. Rules must be made by those who are taking the lead, so the organization can function in a smooth way. However, Peter said regarding the elders who were taking the lead, according to 1 Peter 5:2:
2 Shepherd the flock of God under your care, serving as overseers, not under compulsion, but willingly before God; not for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.
These words show that the elders should not be a kind of government, lording it over their fellow Christians, but they should become examples for everyone. This means that rules that are made must relate to organizational matters and must not interfere with the Christian faith and Christian lives of the members of the congregations. On this background, it is obvious that Christians who are taking the lead in the worldwide preaching work have no right to make rules regarding who are allowed to become members of the Christian congregations and who are not allowed to become and remain members. Such rules are found in the Bible and nowhere else!
The Christian Greek Scriptures show there are 11 violations of God’s laws that can lead to disfellowshipping if these are practiced. In addition to these 11 disfellowshipping offenses, the members of the Governing Body have invented 37 other disfellowshipping offenses that can lead to disfellowshipping. This shows that the members of the Governing Body are “lording over their fellow Christians.” And it shows that the members of the Governing Body have rejected the principle sola scriptura (“the Bible alone”) that the Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses followed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, more than 90% of the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses are based on the Bible, and the rest are based on the viewpoints and decisions of the members of the Governing Body.
Table 1.1 shows the eleven disfellowshipping offenses that are based on the Bible, and table 1.2 shows the 35 disfellowshipping offenses in the Shepherd book, and two others that are not based on the Bible. Please note it is not enough that action is mentioned in the Scriptures as being against the principles of God to list it as a disfellowshipping offense. Disfellowshipping offenses must be clearly stated or shown by the context.
Table 1.1 List of the eleven disfellowshipping offenses in the Christian Greek Scriptures
|pornos||A man or woman who practices immoral sexual intercourse. (1 Cor. 6:9)|
|eidōlolatrēs||One who takes part in idol worship. (1 Cor. 6:9)|
|kleptēs||A thief. (1 Cor. 6:10)|
|pleonektēs||An Exploiter (Wrongly written in the Shepherd book as “Greed),” (1 Cor. 6:10)|
|methysos||A drunkard (wine) (1 Cor. 6:10)|
|loidoros||A reviler, an abusive person. (1 Cor. 6:10)|
|harpax||A rapacious person, a robber. (1 Cor. 6:10)|
|anatrepō||Spreading false teachings (2 Tim. 2:18; 1 Tim 1:20)|
|hairesis||Making a sect (Titus 3:10)|
|planos||Joining another religious organisations (2 John 7, 10)|
|sfazō||Mansalughter — murder (1 John 3:12)|
Table 1.2 List of the thirty-seven disfellowshipping offenses that are not based on the Bible
|1||Strong circumstantial evidence of porneia|
|GROSS UNCLEANNESS/UNCLEANNESS WITH GREED|
|4||Momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts.|
|5||Immoral conversations over the telephone or the Internet.|
|6||Viewing abhorrent forms of pornography.|
|7||Misuse of tobacco.|
|8||Use of marijuana, betel nut.|
|9||Abuse of medical, illicit, or addictive drugs.|
|10||Extreme physical uncleanness.|
|11||Oral or anal copulation inside marriage.|
|12||Unnecessary association with disfellowshipped or disassociated individuals.|
|13||Dating, though not Scripturally free to remarry.|
|14||Brazen conduct in different situations.|
|17||Deliberate, malicious lying; bearing false witness.
|23||Bride price, high.
|24||Refusal to provide for the family.
|25||Fits of anger.
|27||Violence, domestic violence.
|28||Celebrating false religious holidays.
|29||Participation in interfaith activities.
|30||Causing divisions of any kind.
|31||Employment promoting false religion.
|33||Leave Jehovah’s Witnesses
|34||Accepting blood transfusion.
|35||Violating Christian neutrality.
|NOT IN THE SHEPHERD BOOK|
|37||Disagreement with the Governing Body in mundane issues.|
The members of the Governing Body have given themselves dictatorial power, and they claim that all they say, write, and do comes from Jehovah. The 37 disfellowshipping offenses that they have made up and invented do not come from Jehovah but from the decisions of the members of the Governing Body.
. See my article, “The Governing Body rejects the full inspiration of the Bible,” in the category “The Governing Body.”
. A fourth action qualifying as “disassociation” is listed in the Shepherd book (18.3.2): “Joining another religious organization and making known his intention to remain with it.” Because this is one of the eleven disfellowshipping offenses that are based on the Bible, this action is discussed together with these offenses.
. A discussion of the two disfellowshipping offenses that are not mentioned in the Shepherd book is found in the Appendix of the article, “Jehovah’s discipline — the true regime of disfellowshipping” in the category, “Disfellowshipping.”
WHAT KIND OF PERSONS DESERVE TO BE DISFELLOWSHIPPED?
A basic drawback for the members of the Governing Body is that they do not know Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and neither do they have any education in linguistics. Because of this, their interpretations in many instances violate the rules of these languages. The most serious error they have made in this respect is that they claim that the sheep in Matthew 25:31-46 represents those who will survive the great tribulation, and the goats represent all the other people on the earth who will be eternally annihilated in the great tribulation. Greek grammar requires that the goats are not all the inhabitants of the nations, apart from the Christians. But Greek grammar shows that the goats er some unidentified people from the nations of the world.
The treatment of the Greek words that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 to show what kind of people that deserve to be disfellowshipped, also indicate a lack of understanding on the part of the members of the Governing Body.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TO DO AND TO BE
As I have shown above, there are only 11 serious sins that can lead to disfellowshipping. When the Shepherd book lists 46 serious sins that can lead to disfellowshipping, and other sources list two more, 37 of these are additions to the Bible that are made by the members of the Governing Body. Not only is the number of sins that can lead to disfellowshipping too high, but the nature of the serious sins that can lead to disfellowshipping is greatly misunderstood.
Paul mentions ten serious sins in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, and because three of these can be subsumed under other sins, there are seven serious sins that are mentioned in these chapters that can lead to disfellowshipping. Below I list 1 Corinthians 6:9 in four different versions of the revised NWT in the following order, English, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish:
9 Or do you not know that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled. Those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who submit to homosexual acts, men who practice homosexuality.
9 Vet dere ikke at de som gjør urett ikke skal arve Guds rike? Ikke bli villedet. De som praktiserer seksuell umoral, [those who are practicing sexual immorality] de som tilber avguder, de som er utro mot ektefellen sin, menn som praktiserer homoseksuelle handlinger [men who are practicing homosexual actions] eller lar seg bruke til dette.
9 Er I ikke klar over at uretfærdige mennesker ikke vil komme til at arve Guds rige? Lad jer ikke vildlede. De der lever et seksuelt umoralsk liv [those who are living a sexually immoral life], tilbeder afguder eller begår ægteskabsbrud, mænd der lader sig bruge til homoseksuelle handlinger, mænd der lever som homoseksuelle [men who are living as homosexuals].
9 Vet ni inte att orättfärdiga människor inte ska ärva Guds rike? Bli inte vilseledda. De som lever ett sexuellt omoraliskt liv [those who are living a sexually immoral life], de som tillber avgudar, de som är otrogna mot sin äktenskapspartner, män som utövar homosexualitet [men who are practicing homosexuality]. eller underkastar sig sådant.
The Greek word that is rendered as “who are sexually immoral” is pornos, and this word is a noun and not a verb. Eight of the other ten words are nouns as well, and one is a substantivized adjective (= functions as a noun). Verbs describe actions, and nouns describe characteristics and occupations. The fact that Paul uses nouns is important because it shows that Christians must not be disfellowshipped because of actions of one or more serious sins, i.e., they will not be disfellowshipped for what they do but for what they are.
This difference is an intrinsic part of each of the nine nouns and the substantivized adjective. And what does that mean? We can illustrate this difference in the following way: The Greek noun alieus(“fisherman”) is, for example, derived from the verb alieuō (“to fish”). A fisherman is not a person who has been fishing one, two, or three times. But a fisherman is a person whose occupation is fishing.
And in a similar way, a pornos is not a person who has been committing porneia (“immoral sexual intercourse”) one, two, or three times. But a pornos is a person whose personality is permeated by porneia (“immoral sexual intercourse”), a person who is practicing sexual intercourse with persons to whom he is not married. By using the words, “who are sexually immoral,” NWT13 shows that sexual immorality is a part of the life of the man. And the Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish revised NWTs show this even clearer by the words, “those who are living a sexually immoral life,” and “those who are practicing sexual immorality.”
However, all four translations may be somewhat misleading. The substantive porneia refers to different sexual actions in Classical Greek. But in the Christian Greek Scriptures porneia only refers to sexual intercourse with a person to whom he or she is not married. The members of the Governing Body have claimed that porneia refers to many different actions. But there is no passage in the Christian Greek Scriptures that point to any other action than immoral sexual intercourse.
The substantive pornos that is used by Paul, refers to those who are practicing porneia. Therefore, I would have translated the clause as “those who are practicing immoral sexual intercourse.” But the important point is that pornos and the other words show what the persons are and not what the persons do. The situation with the man who Paul wrote should be disfellowshipped confirms that the nine nouns and the one substantivized adjective refer to personalities and not to actions.
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he probably was in Ephesus in Asia minor. There was a long distance between Ephesus and Corinth. The traveler who informed Paul of the man “living with his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1 NWT13), came to Ephesus after a long journey. Paul wrote his letter, and a traveler had to make the same journey back to Corinth. Literally the text says “has his father’s wife.” The verb “has” is present infinitive, which signifies continued action, indicating that the man had continued to live with his father’s wife for a long time. So, the man was not disfellowshipped because of his actions but because he was a pornos, one who was practicing immoral intercourse. This is shown by the fact that when the congregation in Corinth got Paul’s letter, the man was still living with his faither’s wife.
Paul refers to the man with the noun poneros (“wicked”) in the sentence: “Remove the wicked (poneros) person from among yourselves.” (1 Corinthians 5:13). The word poneros is a strong word because it is used with reference to the Devil, and a person does not become “wicked” after he has committed a serious sin one or two or several times. Thus, the word poneros support the view that only persons who are permeated by serious sin should be disfellowshipped.
There is one similarity between do and be, and that is actions. In order to be a wicked person, you have to do wicked actions. To be a pornos, a person has to do so many actions of porneia “sexual immoral intercourse” that this becomes a part of his personality. That is why the Norwegian NWT has the rendering (translated into English), “Those who are practicing sexual immorality,” and the Danish and Swedish NWT has the rendering, “those who are living a sexually immoral life.”
THE PREVIOUS CORRECT VIEW OF WHO SHALL BE DISFELLOWSHIPPED HAVE BEEN ABANDONED
Sixty years ago, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed that they understood that only those who were permeated by wicked actions should be disfellowshipped. The Watchtower of July 1, 1963, page 411, says:
Therefore, the ones who are hardened in wrongdoing are the ones who are disfellowshiped. It is where serious violations of Jehovah’s righteous requirements have become a practice that this measure is taken. First John 3:4 states: “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness.” So dedicated Christians who become practicers of lawlessness in the Christian congregation today are disfellowshiped.
Forty years ago, the Governing Body also showed that they understood the difference between being permeated by a wicked action and doing a wicked action one or a few times. The Watchtower of May 1, 1983, page 8, says regarding the word “drunkards” in 1 Corinthians 6:10:
First, it should be noted that there is a difference between being unwittingly overtaken by drinking too much on one occasion and being a drunkard—making it a practice to become intoxicated.
Disfellowshipping a person from the Christian congregation should not occur often because only wicked persons should be disfellowshipped — and very few Christians would become “wicked” or “hardened in wrongdoing.”
However, not only have the members of the present Governing Body rejected the view that only persons who “are practicing serious sins” and who “are hardened in wrongdoing” deserve to be disfellowshipped. But they have consciously gone in the very opposite direction. The book for elders “Shepherd The Flock Of God”, published in 2019, chapter 16, point 7, says:
Even if this is the individual’s first time before a judicial committee, he must give evidence of genuine repentance if he is to remain in the congregation.
The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God”, published in 2010, chapter 7, point 7, expresses the same idea with slightly different words. I became an elder in 1963. From 1965 to 1975, I was a traveling representative of the Watchtower Society, and from 1975 to 2010, I was presiding overseer and coordinator in a big congregation in Oslo. During all these years, the elders in my congregation and elders in other congregations that I knew would never have considered the possibility of disfellowshipping a person who had made one serious sin for the first time. If someone had expressed such an idea, we elders would strongly have objected to it. The first time I saw this possibility was in the Shepherd book from 2010.
So, from 2010 on, the members of the Governing Body have set their disfellowshipping standard much too low. The result has been an explosion of disfellowshipping — around 900,000 Witnesses worldwide have been disfellowshipped from the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses since the year 2010.
|The Watchtower of 1963 shows correctly that only persons who are practicing a serious sin and who are hardened in wrongdoing should be disfellowshipped. The members of the present Governing Body have rejected this biblical viewpoint, and they have gone so far in the opposite direction that they have instructed judicial committees to consider whether a Christian who has committed one single serious sin should be disfellowshipped.|
. See my article “Sexual immorality (porneia)” in the category, “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”
THE TREATMENT OF SINNERS BY THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE
In the next article in this series, I will discuss the procedures of the judicial committee in detail. But here I will make a few comments on the consequences of what is discussed above:
- Only a Christian who is permeated with one of the 11 disfellowshipping offenses should be treated by a judicial committee.
- Whether the judicial committee believes that the sinner regrets the practicing of his or her wrong actions, or whether he or she has “works that befit repentance” is irrelevant. These are not requirements in the Christian Greek Scriptures for not being disfellowshipped, even though the Governing Body claims that.
- The only question the judicial committee should ask is whether the person has stopped practicing his serious sins and has asked Jehovah to forgive him. If a person for some time has been living with his father’s wife, he is a pornos. But if he ceased this union one day before the meeting with the judicial committee, he is no longer a pornos and should not be disfellowshipped. If he again starts to live with his father’s wife after meeting with the judicial committee, he deserves to be disfellowshipped.
- How long a person has been practicing a serious sin is irrelevant. The only question for the judicial committee is whether the person has stopped practicing this sin at the meeting with the judicial committee and whether he has asked Jehovah to forgive him. In that case, the person should not be disfellowshipped.
- If we accept the meaning of the Greek words Paul used, only one who at the moment is a pornos (“is practicing immoral sexual intercourse”), is an eidololatrēs (“is worshipping idols”), is a methysos (“being a drunkard”) — or who is practicing one of the other eight serious sins — should be disfellowshipped.
- The advantage of the correct understanding of Paul’s words is that the task of the members of the judicial committee is not subjective but objective. The elders should not try to read the mind of the sinner and make subjective decisions as to the heart condition of him or her, as is the most important task they are given by the Governing Body — only Jehovah can read the hearts. The elders should not play God.
|The only question the members of the committee should ask is this: Is the Witness practicing the sin at the moment, indicating that he is permeated by this sin? Or has he stopped practicing this sin and asked Jehovah to forgive him?|