How to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness’ Publication “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” – Part One
Is This What God Purposed?
You are going to need a lot of patience whenever you witness to a Jehovah’s Witness. Whenever you ask one of them a question, he will give a lot of explanations–as if you do not know anything about the Bible–and this will take a long time.
It can be tiring to have to listen so much, but it is important to listen well, because Jehovah’s Witnesses will very often contradict themselves and you can point this out later to your advantage.
Also, when you ask a question for which they don’t know the answer, they will often begin a long explanation about another subject. When this happens, remember your question. When they get finished with this long explanation about something you are not talking about, go back to the original question and ask it again. Do not pick up on something you are not discussing and go “chasing rabbits.”
Remember that you are not only dealing with a Jehovah’s Witness but the Lord will be dealing with you, and He is able to teach you many things. You are going to need patience—to be long-suffering, kind, gentle, loving–and should spend a lot of time in prayer.
At first your two main goals are:
(1) to build a friendly working relationship; there are no short cuts, and this will take time.
(2) To cause them to think, by asking thought-provoking questions which they are not used to being asked. (This article is filled with such questions.)
It is very important that you do not fall into the trap that is presented at the top of page 7 in the Introduction of their book. The usual procedure used when you are studying with a Jehovah’s Witness is for them to read a paragraph or two (sometimes they will request you to read) and then ask you the questions at the bottom of the page. They expect you to repeat a portion of what they or you have just read. A simple example of what they are doing is: You have just read, “Jack is a big black dog.” Question: “What is Jack?” Of course, the answer is “A dog.”
Next question: “What is the dog’s name?” Answer, “Jack.” Question: “What color is the dog?” Answer, “Black.” Question: “What is his size?” Answer, “He is big.”
The questions in the Watchtower book are designed to get you to repeat what has been stated there–as if it is true. You are not to discuss anything to see if the material that is presented is accurate or not. You are just to accept it.
You do not want to study with them in this way. Often they are very insistent, but don’t give in to them. You can explain to them that you like to think about things before you answer so you will read the material before the study and come up with your own questions.
They will often say, “But this is the way we always do it.” You can give them a surprised look and say, “God has made all of the billions of people on this earth different and your organization wants to treat everyone the same way? Some people learn better by using one process and others learn better using another process! Is this the common practice of the Watchtower Society, to treat everyone alike and not as individuals?” Be polite, but stick to your guns. Since the Witnesses are anxious to conduct “book studies” they will usually go along with you.
What Is the Truth About God?
Pages 8 & 9 of this Watchtower book explain how children ask questions and declare that it is good for them to keep asking until they get an understandable answer.
At this point, you can explain that you have many questions and want to get a promise out of them that they will answer your questions in a way that you can understand. This is very important, because later on you will be asking many questions that they do not have an answer to or ones that they don’t want to answer early in your studies. Usually the questions that Christians and others ask are standardized, and the Witness will have an answer for them.
Jehovah’s Witnesses spend one hour every week learning how to answer these standard questions through mock conversations. But they are not prepared to answer thought provoking questions that are not on the list.
They will either get you some printed material from a Watchtower publication (which might discuss the issue you brought up but does not really give a good answer) or else they want to “shelve” the question, which they never come back to on their own. Thus, before they know where you are coming from, it is good to get from them a commitment to answer questions in the manner that this publication says is a good thing to do, as stated above.
At this point, it is best to just skip over what is written from the bottom of page 9 to the bottom of page 12.
From page 12 to the middle of page 15 the book discusses the importance of using the word “Jehovah” as the name for God. Jehovah’s Witnesses put a very strong emphasis on the use of the name Jehovah. In fact, they repeat it so many times and so lightly that it is almost sickening. There is a lot of information that you can show the Witness at this time.
Question: I am rather confused as to why the Watchtower Society puts such strong emphasis on the name “Jehovah” for the name of Israel’s God when in reality it is a false rendering! If you check in just about any dictionary or encyclopaedia, you will find that it is a false rendering and the correct pronunciation is “Yahweh.”
A few examples:
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. “Jehovah is a false reading of the Hebrew YAHWEH.”
New Catholic Encyclopedia. “Jehovah is a false form of the divine name YAHWEH.”
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. “‘Jehovah.’ Intended as a transliteration of Hebrew YAHWEH, the vowel points of Hebrew ADHONAY (my Lord) being erroneously substituted for those of YAHWEH; from the fact that in some Hebrew manuscripts the vowel points of ADHONAY (used as a euphemism [less direct style of writing] for YAHWEH) were written under the consonants YHWH or YAHWEH to indicate that ADHONAY was to be substituted in oral reading for YAHWEH. Jehovah is a Christian transliteration of
the Tetragrammaton long assumed by many Christians to be the authentic reproduction of the Hebrew sacred name for God but now recognized to be a late hybrid form never used by the Jews.”
The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. “Jehovah is an erroneous pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, or four-lettered name of God made up of the Hebrew letters YHWH. The word ‘Jehovah’ therefore is a misreading for which there is no warrant and which makes no sense in Hebrew.”
In the 1984 Watchtower brochure The DIVINE NAME That Will Endure Forever, on page 17, it states that the word “Jehovah” first appeared in A.D. 1278 and was put forth by Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk.
Furthermore, with the restoration of pure Hebrew in the 1930’s it is clearly known that the accurate pronunciation for God’s name is “Yahweh” and could not be “Jehovah.”
When discussing the name “Jehovah” with a Jehovah’s Witness he or she will use two contradictory types of reasoning. The Witness may tell you that the Christians have taken God’s name out of the Bible and it is the Jehovah’s Witnesses who have put it back. But then if you show them that the word “Jehovah” is a false rendering for God’s name he or she will say, “Well the name ‘Jehovah’ is the name that most people are familiar with, so it is best to use the name that people are familiar with.
Most people are not familiar with the name ‘Yahweh.’” So in one breath the Witness will say that God’s name has been deliberately taken out of the Bible and thus is an unknown name. But in the next breath they will defensively say, “The word ‘Jehovah’ is very common–which most people know–so we use the word people are familiar with.” If God’s name has really been taken out of the Bible and is not in common use, then how come so many people are familiar with the name “Jehovah”?
There is another contradiction when it comes to using God’s name. When the many changes in doctrines, teachings, and practices down through the history of the Watchtower Society are pointed out to Witnesses, they will be quick to say, “At least when the Society realizes its mistakes it is willing to admit them and change.” (The Watchtower Society never admits to any mistakes. It will just come out with a new teaching or say “it is up to your conscience,” but it never confesses that the old teaching was wrong and apologizes for the mistake. The Society claims to be “theocratic=run by God.” If this is true, then how can it make mistakes? Also, if the Society admitted to making mistakes and was truly sorry for them, it would need to make restitution. However, it has never done this.)
There is something else that is very strange along this line.
In the August 8, 1998 Awake magazine, in the Spanish edition on page 15, there is a question, “What is the most accurate pronunciation for God’s name?” The answer is given on page 27, and that is “Yahweh.” (This never came out in the English edition, even though the Society states that all their publications worldwide teach the same thing.)
Since it is well known that the most accurate pronunciation for God’s name is “Yahweh,” then why does the Watchtower Society not correct this mistake and teach people what God’s real name is if that is so important to use it all the time?
How can it say it is glorifying God by using an “erroneous, made-up, false name” for God? (The Witness might try to tell you that “Yahweh” is the Hebrew pronunciation for God’s name and that “Jehovah” is the English rendering. This is not true. If they do say something like this, ask them to show you some scholar who will confirm such a statement.)
You might want to show them that God has more than just one name. (All these quotes are taken from the NWT Bible.) Psalm 68:4 states, “As Jah, which is his
name.” (Jah is the first part of Yahweh.) Isaiah 57:15, “And whose name is holy.” Isaiah 63:16, “Our Repurchaser [Redeemer] of long ago is your name.”
Question #1: Wouldn’t it be better to teach people the proper name for God, “Yahweh,” than to continue to use the erroneous pronunciation “Jehovah” even though it is more familiar? What good is it to pass on a false name simply because it has come down through years of tradition? Shouldn’t we be more interested in accuracy than in tradition?
Note: Jesus referred to the Father about 350 times. In doing so, He used the name “Yahweh” very sparingly. In the NWT (the Watchtower New World Translation) there are only twenty places recorded where Jesus used the name “Jehovah.” Most of these were quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures (This is how the Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to the Old Testament.).
By contrast, Jesus used the word “God” over 180 times and “Father” roughly 175 times. Never did Jesus address the Father as “Yahweh,” nor did He ever tell His followers to address the Father as “Yahweh.” By His example in Matthew 6:9 He taught that we should address God as “Father.”
Question #2: If it is so important to continually use God’s name in Hebrew, then why did Jesus only address Him as “Father”? And why did He teach His disciples to address Him as “Father”?
At the top of page 16, paragraph 19, it asks the question: “How can you draw close to God?”
One of the biggest problems a Jehovah’s Witness (or anyone else) has in coming to know Christ as his or her own personal Savior is the fact that he or she does not have a Biblical concept of sin.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will pray and say, “Forgive us of our faults and mistakes.” This is quite different from saying, “Lord, I am proud, self-centered, self-righteous, tell lies, have anger, jealousy, wrath in my heart. I think impure thoughts and do those things that are unpleasing to you. Please forgive me and wash my heart in the blood of Christ.” Here is a good opportunity to help them realize what sin does in our relationship to God.
Question #1: What is it in man that separates him from God?
(Ephesians 2:12 states that by nature we are separated from God. Try to get the Witness to name specific sins that separate us from God. Then you might add other sins, particularly inward sins, and ask what effect they have on our relationship to God.)
Question #2: I have a very serious problem here and would like to know, from the teachings of the Watchtower Society, how this problem is solved?
Jesus taught that by birth and choice we are children of the Devil and he is our father. John 8:44 states, “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father.” (I have never known any parents who had to teach their children how to sin!)
Since Satan is our father by nature, then he has authority over us. Acts 26:18 declares: “Turn them…from the authority of Satan.” We know that
Satan is very powerful and he is not going to let us get out from under his control without a struggle. But we read in Matthew 6:9 that some are able to call God “Father.” Since by nature we are children of the Devil, then it seems quite obvious that there is some transaction necessary to get us out from under the dominion of Satan to the place where we can call God “Father.”
The Bible speaks in places of people being “born from above,” “born of God,” and “born again.” Would you please explain to me the complete process as a Jehovah’s Witness, how you got out from under the dominion of Satan and can now call God “Father”? (Jehovah’s Witnesses are never sure that they are in the family of God and will not fall back under Satan’s dominion once again. They will say they are trying their best and hope they are on the path that might lead to everlasting life, but they can never be sure. They constantly quote Matthew 10:22, “But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”)
This question is at the very crux of the gospel. You are not being argumentative, since you are asking for an answer. I have personally used this question very effectively a number of times. Once I met a Jehovah’s Witness mother with a 16- year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son who were on a street corner passing out Watchtower literature. I stopped and talked to them and then asked them the above question. This is what the mother said to me: “We go from door to door and meet those ‘born-againers.’ I do not know what it means to be born again. Would you please tell me?”
So for twenty minutes, very quietly and slowly, I told these three Witnesses what it means to be born again. It was then time for them to leave. I was just visiting in that city, but I am sure if I was residing there I could have made arrangements to meet again with them.
On page 16, paragraph 19, John 17:3 is quoted. It is rendered rather differently in the NWT than in most Bibles. From it there are a number of thought-provoking questions you can ask. (You might not get a good answer, but you have been able to point out a difference in translation which might stick with them.)
Question #1: I note that John 17:3 is translated rather differently in this book. Most translations read, “This is everlasting life.” This has a very clear ring of certainty to it. It indicates that eternal life is something that can be possessed with absolute assurance in this life. The rendering as written here in this book, “This means everlasting life,” seems t0 indicate that it is a process rather than a definite act!
Does the Watchtower Society teach that it is possible be 100% certain that you have everlasting life right now through faith in Jesus Christ, or is it a process that takes time and can only be obtained in the next life? (Listen carefully to what they say. It is not possible for a Jehovah’s Witness to obtain everlasting life in the present world. It is something they might “merit” on the new earth. If they are honest with you, they will have to tell you it is a “process.”)
If they tell you it is not possible to be certain now, ask them to explain a few verses to you. Take them to John 10:28: “And I [Jesus] give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This verse states that “everlasting life” is something that is given by Jesus Christ. A person can never work for a gift, for then it is no longer a gift. Ask them to explain this verse to you. (You can point out things, but ask questions to make them think it through. Also, don’t let them go to some other verse but urge them to explain this verse.)
Next take them to John 5:24: “Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.” Here Jesus is saying that a person can have everlasting life in this present world! What does it mean when it says, “He does not come into judgment”? What is this death that this person has passed out of, and what life has this person entered into? (This verse gives the answer to the questionabove as to how we can get out from under Satan’s dominion and into the family of God. Don’t let them go to another verse to get you off the track. Keep them to this verse. Remember, you are not out to win an argument at this stage but to plant thought-provoking seeds of doubt that take time to mature.)
Question #2: I note that there is another difference in the way this verse (John 17:3) is rendered. In the NWT Bible it reads, “Their taking in knowledge…” Most translations say, “That they may know.” To me there is a big difference between “Taking in knowledge” and “Knowing.” You can read about a person and obtain a lot of facts, but you really can’t “know” a person until you actually meet them and come into a close association with them. The only possible way you can “Draw close to God” is to know Him in a personal and intimate way. Do you as a Jehovah’s Witness just know a lot of facts about God, or have you been born by His Spirit and have a personal, intimate relation with Yahweh?
(Listen carefully to what they have to say at this point. They won’t want to tell you they don’t have a direct relationship with God, but they can’t say they really do. If they do say they have a direct relationship, ask them to explain in complete detail how this happened. Sometimes a Witness might tell you he or she has a relationship with God but it is not a direct relationship. The Society teaches that only the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society has a direct relationship with God, because they are supposed to be of the “anointed” class and “have God spirit.” But since the Witnesses have a relationship with the Governing Body as a Witness, then they feel they have an indirect relationship with Yahweh.)
Question #3: Since the Watchtower Society teaches that this “taking in knowledge”is a “process,” how long does this process ordinarily take? (They will usually give you a very indefinite answer and say that it is up to the individual. You can ask them how long it took them to acquire this “accurate knowledge.”)
Question #4: Does this “taking in knowledge” end when you are baptized into the Watchtower Society, so that now you are certain that you have everlasting life? Or is baptism more or less the start of the journey and you have to continue to take in knowledge, so that maybe sometime in the future you might obtain everlasting life? (I am almost certain that the Witness will tell you it is a “process.” It will be difficult for them to give you a straightforward answer at this juncture, but listen well to what they have to say.)
Question #5: The Bible does not seem to indicate that coming into a personal relationship with God is a long process. For example, in Luke 23:39-43 it took the thief on the tree next to Jesus just a very short time to take in enough knowledge to get into paradise. (By the way, do not argue about the fact that the comma in verse 43 is placed after “today” instead of before “today” like in most Bibles, but use this passage of Scripture as a way of witnessing and giving the gospel.) This thief had admitted his own personal sins and that he was dying as a just punishment for them. He believed that Jesus Christ was perfect and was dying for his sins. He believed that this dying man, Jesus, was going to rise from the dead and set up a kingdom. He prayed to Jesus. He confessed his sins and asked for forgiveness. Then he received a promise that he would be in paradise. Don’t you agree that the process of “taking in knowledge” was very short? (Jehovah’s Witnesses are not certain that they will make it onto the new earth. They might fall way.) (Note: We know that “paradise” means heaven, but you can get in a good point from the Society’s belief that the “paradise” mentioned in Luke is earthly, while in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 it is heavenly. The new earth of the Watchtower Society is 1000 years long. But the first six or seven hundred years on this earth are not “paradise” because the Witnesses have to clean up all the debris of Armageddon and build paradise by sheer manual labor. So this thief had the amazing promise that he would not have to do any of the “dirty work” but would be resurrected when all the work had been done! That is really a good deal!)
Question #6: On the day of Pentecost 3,000 people were saved after hearing just one sermon from Peter. In Acts 8:26-40 the Ethiopian eunuch was saved and baptized after a very short discussion with Philip. In Acts 10 Cornelius and many of his family and friends took in enough accurate knowledge after the one sermon by Peter to be baptized. In Acts 16:25-34 the Philippian jailor took in enough accurate knowledge to be baptized in not less than 6 hours, from midnight until dawn. Paul’s explanation didn’t take very long; to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul’s answer was rather short, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” What is it that this jailor believed about Jesus? Not just that He was a good man whose example we should try to follow, but that He shed His blood upon the tree for the sins of all mankind. Since the Bible gives a number of incidents where people were baptized in just a very short time after hearing the message about Jesus, then why does the Watchtower Society teach that this “taking in knowledge” is a long process?
What is written on page 17, paragraph 22, is a very subtle way in which the Society tries to get prospective Witnesses to expect opposition and to make them think that this opposition is from the Devil, who doesn’t want them to get into “the truth.” It is true that when a person expresses to family members or friends that he or she is studying with a Jehovah’s Witness, in many cases it will end up in an attack on the Watchtower Society. But trying to point out that it is a false cult and should be shunned will not work. These “well-meaning” people are not against the person reading the Bible but against them studying with a Jehovah’s Witness. The Watchtower Society is here preparing the inquirer, and this kind of attack will only drive the person further into the Society rather than stopping the studies. For this reason it is best not to attack a person studying with a Witnesses but use a positive approach. If someone says he is studying with a Witness you can say, “Would you please do me a favor? I have lots of questions that I am seeking answers for. If I ask you the questions, will you try and get an answer from the Witnesses for me?”
In this way you can plant seeds of doubt in the inquirer; and in most cases the questions you ask, the Witness can’t answer. After a while, the Witness will be the one who stops the so-called “Bible studies.”
Page 17, paragraph 23, lines 5-6, state: “And children, as we know, ask lot of questions. God wants you to find the answers.” Use what is written here to reinforce the fact that you will have lots of questions and are looking forward to their “clear-cut” answers. (At first Witnesses will make all kind of promises to get you into a “Bible study”? but they are not prepared to answer thought-provoking questions that are off the beaten path. You can often use what is written in the Watchtower literature to your advantage!)