Articles in this series:
- [Intro] Important CHANGES in March 15th, 2015 Watchtower Explained
- [1 of 6] “This Is the Way You Approved” …The Prodigal Son
- [2 of 6] “This is the Way You Approved” …Elijah/Elisha
- [3 of 6] The New and “Approved” Type of Watchtower Explanation (below)
- [4 of 6] “Will You Keep on the Watch?”The Ten Virgins (avail. soon)
- [5 of 6] “Learn From the Illustration of the Talents” (avail. soon)
- [6 of 6] The March 15, 2015 Watchtower and the Contexts of Jesus’ Stories in Matthew 25 (pdf)
This article is part of a series of “commentary” articles we are presenting about the March 15, 2015 study issue of The Watchtower. Unless otherwise noted, the specific article referenced on this page is: “This Is the Way You Approved” (pps. 7-11). The original article in its original formatting is available on jw.org. Commentary provided by this site (ad1914.com) is provided in blue text which is indented and usually italicized.
- Black text is from the original Watchtower article.
- Blue text (usually italicized) is our added commentary. Other quotations from prior Watch Tower publications (not the specific article under discussion) or from the Bible, are often presented in black text, although indented.
- Emphasis may be added to both the original article and the commentary by formatting with bold, italic or underlining.
SUMMARY OF THE NEW DOCTRINAL CHANGE
The March 15, 2015 Watchtower states that we should now see a clear change to a “way of teaching” which has often been used in the past. That “way of teaching” is referred to as the “type and antitype” method. Although it has not been abandoned entirely, the article indicates that it should only be used when there is a clear Biblical statement that the illustration or narrative is, in fact, a prophecy.
THIS IS THE WAY YOU APPROVED
THE ARTICLE TITLE
The title’s reference to “this is the way you approved” is taken from a portion of Luke 10:21, the same theme Scripture cited along with the title of the article. This Bible verse, by the way, was not mentioned in the original “2014 Annual Meeting” discourse that the Watchtower article is based on.
Historically, The Watch Tower publications have consistently claimed right from the very start in 1879 that Biblical parables in the Greek Scriptures (“New Testament”) and Biblical narratives from the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”) should be treated as prophecies. If it was an event or circumstance from someone’s life (like Naboth or Naaman or Jehonadab), or if it was an obvious general moral lesson (like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son), it also had to be explained as a prophetic drama where various characters and details were prophetic of some future events. Those events usually related to the history of the Watch Tower Society in the last 100 years. As an older Watchtower had stated it:
“Such parables were also prophecies which find their fulfillment in happenings of our day that have a connection with the spiritual things of God. In the prophetic Psalms it is written: …’I will incline mine ear to a parable [from God]’… This shows that such parable is a prophecy which foretells coming things that have a likeness to or are comparable with the things related in the parable.” (Watchtower, November 1, 1943)
THE ORIGINAL MATERIAL FOR THE MARCH 15, 2015 ARTICLE (2014 ANNUAL MEETING)
The Watchtower article is a revision of a talk given by David Splane, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, at their October 4, 2014 “Annual Meeting.” A video is available at tv.jw.org, and this particular segment of the program begins at about the 2 hour and 8 minute mark in that video. The Annual Meeting speech was introduced as the first of four “historic discourses” on Scriptural subjects. (An unofficial transcript of the discourse is on this site, here.) The other topics were: “The Talents” “The 10 Virgins” and “Gog and Magog.” The original talk did not reference the specific idea that “this is the way you have approved.” It was merely introduced with the words: “To begin, Brother David Splane of the Governing Body will speak to us on the theme: ‘Types and Antitypes.'”
WHY CHOOSE THIS PARTICULAR SCRIPTURE THEME
Luke 10:21 is treated as a Scriptural basis for changing the Watchtower’s long-standing teaching method. Because the practice had been common in literally hundreds of prior Watch Tower teachings going back to the very beginning in the late 1870’s. It would hardly have occurred to most Jehovah’s Witnesses that this method of teaching used for the last 4 or 5 generations of Witnesses might not be “way that you [Jehovah] approved.” Yet, it was the clearly the way that Russell approved, the way that Rutherford approved, the way that Nathan Knorr and Frederick Franz approved. It was the way that the Watch Tower Society and the Governing Body had always approved, too. At least until very recently.
Luke 10:21 does appear to support such a change because the verse appears to support “simplicity and clarity” due to the reference to revealing “these things” to “children” as opposed to the “wise and intellectual ones.” The Watch Tower’s hundreds of teachings based on the idea of “types and antitypes” did, indeed, produce unclear and unnecessarily complex, ever-changing explanations. (See prior articles on this site about the Prodigal Son and Elijah/Elisha, for example.) Jesus, on the other hand, was famous for using powerfully simple illustrations that attracted disciples who were “unlettered and ordinary,” with a childlike humility, and who therefore had no problem asking Jesus himself for the explanations. It’s also true that those who were known for religious or secular education in those days, were considered to be haughty and self-important. These were the wise and intellectual persons, such as the scribes and Pharisees. Unlike the disciples, they must have thought it was beneath them to ask Jesus what these illustrations meant.
So from a logical perspective, the article appears to be on the right track. Luke 10:21 seems appropriate enough. And, of course, most anyone would agree with the basic premise that teachings should be simpler and clearer, and we would also agree that the Watchtower’s “type-antitype” method, which has been in use throughout the entire history of the Watchtower, has not been the way Jehovah approved. But…
JUST ONE PROBLEM WITH USING THAT SCRIPTURE, THOUGH . . .
Upon closer inspection, although the premise is generally true, Luke 10 is not applicable here. We won’t get into all the reasons for this, but some of them are mentioned under the discussion of Paragraph 1, below. Basically, while points in favor of simplicity and clarity could have been easily made with other scriptures, Luke 10:21 is not the appropriate verse to make this point.
Luke 10:21 is not talking about a method of teaching. In fact, “the things” that were hidden from wise and intellectual ones and revealed to young children were things related specifically to what the disciples became aware of through activities when Jesus wasn’t even with them. Jesus sent them off on their own (“by twos”) to preach in cities and villages. When they reported back to Jesus at a later time, they explained what had been revealed to them in those villages and cities.
The strained (and dishonest) method that the Watchtower article utilizes to tie “the things” revealed to a simpler “method of teaching” indicates clearly that the Watchtower writers were very well aware that Luke 10:21 was not a good fit here. So, it must have been used only because the idea of Jehovah’s “approval” was a very important and necessary theme.
LOOKING FOR APPROVAL
We’ll see why the idea of continued “approval” is as important as the change in doctrine itself.
There are two major reasons for this:
REASON #1: OVERCOMING A POTENTIALLY MASSIVE EMBARRASSMENT
The change in doctrine presented here reveals that most of the teachings of the Governing Body have been wrong. These may not have been the most important teachings, but when one goes through the Bible, page-by-page and lists all the doctrinal teachings that the Watch Tower has gleaned from the Bible’s content, it turns out that a large proportion of the teachings have been about “types and antitypes.” Just look at the list from the Watch Tower’s own publication about a few of them:
Another list of such “type-antitype” doctrines was referred to in the following Watchtower article in 1981:
*** w81 3/1 p. 27 Do You Appreciate the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”? ***
The “faithful and discreet slave” has abundant credentials. Following is a partial list of Scriptural and prophetic designations applying to or being represented in the remnant of Jesus Christ’s anointed followers since the notable year 1919:
(1) Noah’s wife, Gen. 7:7; (2) angels sent to Lot, Gen. 19:15; (3) Rebekah, Gen. 24:64; (4) Joseph and Benjamin, Gen. 45:14; (5) gleanings left behind, Lev. 19:9; (6) two spies to Rahab, Josh. 2:4; (7) Barak, Judg. 4:14; (8) Jephthah, Judg. 11:34; (9) Naomi and Ruth, Ruth 2:2; (10) David’s Israelite warriors, 2 Sam. 18:1; (11) Jehu, 2 Ki. 10:11, 15; (12) Mordecai and Esther, Esther 4:13; (13) Job, Job 42:10, 13; (14) King’s daughter, Ps. 45:13; (15) men of loving-kindness, Ps. 50:5; (16) intimate group, Ps. 89:7; (17) Shear-jashub, Isa. 7:3; (18) light of the nations, Isa. 60:3; (19) big trees of righteousness, Isa. 61:3; (20) ministers of our God, Isa. 61:6; (21) cluster preserved, Isa. 65:8; (22) servants called by another name, Isa. 65:15; (23) men trembling at God’s word, Isa. 66:5; (24) new nation born, Isa. 66:8; (25) Jeremiah, Jer. 1:10; (26) Jehovah’s people in the new covenant, Jer. 31:33; (27) enduring watchman, Ezek. 3:16-27; (28) man in linen, Ezek. 9:2; (29) cleansed people, Ezek. 36:29-32; (30) dwellers in center of earth, Ezek. 38:12; (31) the host of heaven, Dan. 8:10; (32) sanctuary restored (cleansed), Dan. 8:14; (33) they that are wise, Dan. 11:33; (34) the happy one who is keeping in expectation, Dan. 12:12; (35) all flesh receiving the spirit, Joel 2:28; (36) Jonah, Jon. 3:1-3; (37) apple of Jehovah’s eye, Zech. 2:8; (38) liberated remnant, Zech. 2:7; (39) a Jew, Zech. 8:23; (40) sons of Levi, Mal. 3:3; (41) wheat, Matt. 13:25; (42) sons of the kingdom, Matt. 13:38; (43) workers for the vineyard, Matt. 20:1; (44) those invited to marriage feast, Matt. 22:3-14; (45) chosen ones, Matt. 24:22; (46) eagles, Matt. 24:28; (47) faithful and discreet slave, Matt. 24:45; (48) discreet virgins, Matt. 25:2; (49) brothers of the king, Matt. 25:40; (50) little flock of sheep, Luke 12:32; (51) beggar Lazarus, Luke 16:20; (52) sheep in “this fold,” John 10:1-16; (53) branches of the vine, John 15:4; (54) royal palace of David, Acts 15:16; (55) heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17; (56) the remnant, Rom. 11:5; (57) branches in the olive tree, Rom. 11:24; (58) holy ones or saints, 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 16:6; (59) temple, 1 Cor. 6:19; (60) new creation, 2 Cor. 5:17; (61) ambassadors for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20; (62) congregation of God, Gal. 1:13; (63) part of Abraham’s seed, Gal. 3:29; (64) Israel of God, Gal. 6:16; (65) body of Christ, Eph. 1:22, 23; (66) soldiers of Christ Jesus, 2 Tim. 2:3; (67) house under Christ, Heb. 3:6; (68) holy priesthood, 1 Pet. 2:5; (69) holy nation, 1 Pet. 2:9; (70) association of brothers, 1 Pet. 2:17; (71) seven congregations, Rev. 1:20; (72) twenty-four persons of advanced age, Rev. 4:4; (73) spiritual Israel, Rev. 7:4; (74) locusts, Rev. 9:3; (75) two witnesses, Rev. 11:3; (76) two olive trees, Rev. 11:4; (77) seed of the woman, Rev. 12:17; (78) New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:2; (79) the bride of Christ, Rev. 22:17; 19:7; (80) Jehovah’s witnesses, Isa. 43:10.
Amazing! Watch Tower publications claimed there were 42 “types” for the great crowd and 80 “types” for the “faithful and discreet slave.” That’s 124 places in the Bible — 124 “minor” teachings — that all add up to do little more than help create the clergy-laity distinction among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Thinking about the amount of ink that has been poured into so many of these “type and antitype” teachings, it should be easy for anyone to see that being wrong about so many Scriptures actually brings reproach on the Governing Body for having been so “unfaithful and indiscreet” with respect to Bible teaching for so many years. The March 15, 2015 article invalidates hundreds of “little” doctrines, many of which were taught for more than one hundred years. This calls into question the Governing Body’s claim of providing spiritual food at the proper time. It calls into question any claim of being “faithful and discreet” with respect to their handling of God’s word, or claiming to be “teachers.”
Think about the following verses, for example:
(2 Timothy 2:15) Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.
(2 Corinthians 4:2) …not walking with cunning or adulterating the word of God; but by making the truth manifest, ….
(James 3:1) Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.
(Matthew 15:6-9) 6. . .So you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. . . .9 It is in vain that they keep worshipping me, for they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”
(1 Corinthians 4:6) “. . .that through us you may learn the rule: ‘Do not go beyond the things that are written,’ so that you may not be puffed up with pride. . .”
REASON #2: THE “FAITHFUL SLAVE” DOCTRINE IS JUST ANOTHER OBSOLETE TYPE-ANTITYPE
The very doctrine of the “faithful and discreet” slave is based on this same method of teaching which is now no longer considered “the way [Jehovah] approved.” Logically then, this means that we have no reason to think of the parable of the “faithful and discreet slave” as a prophecy about a group of men who would come into existence only in the year 1919. Therefore, there is no reason to expect that the Governing Body is specially “appointed” or “approved.” Under the principles of the March 15th article, the Governing Body can no longer be “the faithful and discreet slave” based on Matthew 24:45. Therefore, the parable about “the faithful and the evil slave” is really just a moral lesson about continued patience where Christians are warned not to misbehave, and not to set themselves up above their fellow slaves just because of a delay in Jesus’ return. In other words, in the area of setting themselves up over their fellow slaves, the Governing Body has done exactly what Jesus was explaining they should not do.
Again note the following related scriptures (from the NWT) which help explain the practical meaning of Jesus’ illustration, rather than the obsolete “type-antitype” method:
(Luke 12:42, 43) And the Lord said: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so!
(Luke 16:10) The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.
(Galatians 6:10) So, then, as long as we have the opportunity, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.
(1 Peter 4:10) To the extent that each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness that is expressed in various ways.
(1 Timothy 5:8) Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.
(1 Corinthians 4:2) In this regard, what is expected of stewards is that they be found faithful.
What the illustration should have meant all these years to Witnesses is fairly obvious, then. All Christians are required to do good for one another, continually and faithfully, no matter how long Christ’s return seems delayed.
But the “Governing Body” isn’t about to give up this particular “type-antitype” teaching. So, one of the reasons the article provides this scriptural theme about Jehovah’s approval is so that Witnesses are diverted from noticing that this is only a “selective obsolescence.” Before the reader even thinks about the details of the new teaching, the Watchtower and the Governing Body are first aligned with “Jehovah’s approval.”
Instead, the Governing Body is intent on highlighting that they are the ones who continue to make improvements and refinements, and that this new change is the real way that Jehovah approved. And if the Governing Body are now conforming to a teaching method that Jehovah approves, then they are, therefore, teachers with a stamp of approval from Jehovah.
Also, the Governing Body is not admitting that they are finally conforming, in general, to the basic ideas that Biblical scholars and “Christendom’s” commentaries have explained for centuries. Most religions have long rejected the “type-antitype” explanations. In fact, David Splane’s speech at the 2014 Annual Meeting excused the practice by focusing on how many others religions, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant, have done the same thing through the centuries.
EVEN IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN SUBLIMINALS…
The phrase “this is the way you [Jehovah] approved” will likely remind Jehovah’s Witnesses of the account of Jesus’ baptism, or Paul’s words found in 2 Cor 10:18: “For it is not the one who recommends himself who is approved, but the one whom Jehovah recommends.” But most Witnesses will also connect these ideas with Jehovah’s “approval” of the Governing Body.
*** w98 2/15 p. 21 par. 14 Glorious Freedom Soon for the Children of God ***
Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, all of us receive spiritual food through Jehovah’s approved “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47)
In fact, the original discourse during the “2014 Annual Meeting” reminded the audience that this updated teaching was related to everyone keeping up with the “celestial chariot,” and Splane added that this specifically included, “the Governing Body.” After a bit of laughter about the idea of the Governing Body also having trouble keeping up with the chariot, he said:
[Referring to the Governing Body:] “We’re not driving the chariot, Jehovah is…and let us thank Jehovah for continuing to deal with us. And for continuing to provide spiritual food.”
WHY NOT PRINT AN APOLOGY, INSTEAD?
Clearly, the Watchtower could have printed an apology. Perhaps the title and scripture text would have been:
“A Way of Teaching that Jehovah Never Approved.”
“You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.”—Matthew 15:6.
- “Recent examples” of changes to Watch Tower teachings are invoked show that Jehovah approves all of them. This is, of course, meant to prepare the reader to approve of the changes to various teachings, and respond positively.
- “Our way” (meaning: the Watch Tower Society’s way) of explaining Bible accounts has changed “gradually,” which is exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses have been taught to expect of the Watch Tower Society through the repetition of the phrase: “The light keeps getting brighter and brighter.” This has been the solution to dozens of problems with teachings in the past so that no one ever labels them “false” doctrines. Doctrines don’t change from “false” to “true.” Past doctrines are rarely even called “mistaken.” Instead all the focus is on “further clarifications” or “brighter light.”
- “Our understanding” refers (again) to the understanding presented in the Watch Tower publications, the understanding promoted by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The idea of “increasing light” is repeated again using the word “refinement.” This is just another way to excuse the Watch Tower’s prior rejected teachings without ever hinting they were “false.” In fact, it implies that prior “false” teachings were in some sense “true.”
- This idea has been indicated in past publications by implying that a now-changed doctrine was important at the time. In fact one of these past “false” doctrines was justified by calling it “incomplete, even inaccurate” yet the wrong (inaccurate) doctrine was referred to again just a few sentences later referred to like this: “That was an important lesson, one that fortified them during the years of world turmoil that followed.” (“Proclaimers” p. 146)
- The idea of “refinement” reminds us of gold, for example, which is valuable, not to be “despised” even if unrefined. But it becomes more valuable when refined. This idea has also been used to promote the idea that even incorrect teachings somehow still had some value in our history. This idea was also found repeated in the conclusion of David Splane’s original discourse, when he pointed out that we were once “thrilled” with these doctrines. Yes, we were “thrilled” with doctrines which are now shown to be untrue, yet we should not “despise the day of small things.” (Taken from Zechariah 4:10, almost always used with this idea of appreciating the Watchtower’s small beginnings, including the mistakes of the past.)
WHOA! TAKE IT EASY! NOT TOO MUCH TRUTH ALL AT ONCE, PLEASE!
Highlighting that these are “gradual” refinements also accomplishes two other goals.
- First, it keeps Witnesses from feeling overwhelmed with trying to keep up with too many changes at once. (Splane addressed that same issue with his “celestial chariot” reference.) The average Witness accepts the idea of gradual refinement as the application of the “proper time” portion of the phrase “food at the proper time.”
- Second, it keeps Witnesses from making too many assumptions on their own about what this might mean with respect to further, future changes. It would be dangerous to have too many Witnesses speculating about the effect of this particular change on additional parables and narratives that haven’t been discussed yet. (Especially the very teaching that supposedly gives authority to a modern-day Governing Body or “faithful and discreet slave.”)
[Paragraph] 1. What moved Jesus to become “overjoyed in the holy spirit”? (See opening image.)
CAN you imagine what it was like to see Jesus Christ become “overjoyed in the holy spirit”? Perhaps you picture his features lit up by a broad smile, his eyes twinkling with pleasure. What was it that moved him so? He had recently sent out 70 of his disciples to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom. He was keenly interested in how they would handle their assignment. There were many powerful enemies of the good news, such as the clever and highly educated scribes and Pharisees. They influenced many to look down on Jesus as a mere carpenter and on his disciples as “uneducated and ordinary men.” (Acts 4:13; Mark 6:3) Nonetheless, the disciples returned from their mission aglow with excitement. They had preached despite opposition, even from demons! What accounted for their joy and courage?—Read Luke 10:1-23.
SIMPLE AND CLEAR . . . AND WRONG
This first paragraph provides a good example of how a teaching method can be simple and clear, but still be wrong. The problem isn’t about wrong statements or factual mistakes, but the fact that key details are left out. This makes it easier for the reader to accept a wrong answer to the question by the time the reader gets to paragraph 3. It’s unusual for the Watchtower to ask a question in paragraph 1 that isn’t answered in the same paragraph. But paragraph 3 provides the only direct answer to the question: What moved Jesus to become “overjoyed in the holy spirit”? Note:
No wonder Jesus was so pleased! It made him happy to see the way Jehovah revealed deep spiritual truths to humble people of all sorts, regardless of their education or intellectual gifts. He was delighted that his Father approved of this way of teaching. Has Jehovah changed, and how does he show that he still approves of this kind of teaching?
The idea that Jehovah approves of simple and clear teaching methods makes perfect sense. But it was not a “method of teaching” that made Jesus rejoice in this particular case. The context of Luke 10 makes it clear that Jesus’ rejoicing, and “the things” revealed to the disciples are more closely related to power over Satan and his demons. It wasn’t about something they were taught, but about the fact that they were all now the very first subjects of a Kingdom that was already going into effect right in front of their eyes. These disciples were getting to know the Father though the power of his Kingdom. As Jesus said:
17 Then the 70 returned with joy, saying: “Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.” 18 At that he said to them: “I see Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven. 19 Look! I have given you the authority to trample underfoot serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing at all will harm you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are made subject to you, but rejoice because your names have been written in the heavens.” 21 In that very hour he became overjoyed in the holy spirit and said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children. Yes, O Father, because this is the way you approved. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” 23 With that he turned to the disciples and told them privately: “Happy are the eyes that see the things you are seeing. 24 For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see the things you are observing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.”
The Watchtower is therefore giving a wrong answer, a false answer, to the question about what moved Jesus to be overjoyed in the holy spirit?” The context of Luke 10 does not refer to a method of teaching when he spoke of “these things” which had been carefully hidden from wise and intellectual ones. Nor is a method of teaching the “way that you [Jehovah] approved.”
Note that the accompanying picture and the Watchtower’s wording might also lead a reader to believe that the scribes and Pharisees are key players in the context of Luke 10:1-24. They aren’t. They aren’t even mentioned once in this narrative about the 70 evangelizers, although it is true that they would be considered among the most wise and educated in that day.
But notice how cleverly the words of Jesus are changed in meaning: Jesus said: “I have given you authority…over all the power of the enemy….because the spirits are made subject to you…” Yet the Watchtower, not wanting to mention Satan, refers to this by explaining: “There were many powerful enemies of the good news, such as the clever and highly educated scribes and Pharisees.” The Bible referred only to Satan and the spirits, and the Watchtower referred only to “scribes and Pharisees.”
[Paragraph] 2. (a) How were Jesus’ disciples like children? (b) What enabled Christ’s followers to grasp vital spiritual truths?
2 Note what Jesus said to Jehovah: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children. Yes, O Father, because this is the way you approved.” (Matt. 11:25,26) Of course, Jesus did not mean that his disciples were children in a literal sense. Rather, he knew that they seemed to be children compared to the intellectual and highly educated ones in the land, who were wise in their own eyes. More important, Jesus taught his followers to be like children, remaining humble and teachable. (Matt. 18:1-4) How did they benefit from being humble? By means of holy spirit, Jehovah helped them to grasp vital spiritual truths while the wise and intellectual ones, who scorned them, remained blinded by Satan and by their own pride.
(1 Corinthians 1:19-2:20) …but to us who are being saved, it is God’s power. 19 For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” …24 … Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. … 30 But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and , sanctification and release by ransom…” (1 Cor 2:4-12) ”…and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,…12 Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit that is from God, so that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. …(1 Cor 4:20) For the Kingdom of God is a matter not of speech but of power.
Jesus was overjoyed with them in their success, especially as it proved the Kingdom was real, indicated through power and authority over the demons. As already stated, the revelation of “these things” to child-like disciples of Jesus, as opposed to revealing them to the wise and intellectual ones is really about the shift of power and authority in the world. Those who would be favored as subjects of the new king, and those who would be granted authority in this new kingdom were not the persons the world would have expected.
A KING AND HIS EMISSARIES
In fact, the whole scene starting in Luke 10:1 reminds us of how men such as a king, a general or king’s appointee were sometimes given authority to send out a delegation of dignitaries or emissaries in advance of their own arrival. (Note the opening verse of the chapter: “to every city and place where he himself [Jesus] was to go.“) ‘
This kingdom was now in the making, and was being announced around the year 33 CE as “near.” And these disciples, as subjects of the King, were now living in a special historical time — a time that kings and prophets wished they could have seen and heard according to Luke 10:24. Paul made the same point in 1 Cor 2:8-10:
8 It is this wisdom that none of the rulers of this system of things came to know…9 But just as it is written: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 10 For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.
The idea that “these things” were revealed through a simple way of teaching misses the point. What was revealed to the disciples that caused Jesus such joy was what they had seen on their own after Jesus sent them out.
SATAN CAST OUT IN 1914?
The importance of the spirit’s power over Satan and his demons and the rulers of this world is the real focus of the passage. Yet, Satan is just barely referred to in this Watchtower article as if that was just an unimportant side point. Much more attention is given to how these disciples stood up to Pharisees and scribes — who aren’t even mentioned in the context of the disciples’ mission! Yet, Jesus’ response was a specific joy over the fact that his disciples were proving that Satan was already falling from heaven. (Luke 10:18)
This is, of course, a point of confusion to Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been taught that this event did not occur until 1914. Witnesses are also taught that Jesus did not receive his authority and power until 1914. Yet in this passage, Jesus makes specific reference to the handing over of power from the Father to Jesus (v. 22). This passage in Luke anticipates that such power was already being transferred, and was about to be transferred completely.
The Bible is clear that the kingship and authority and power of Jesus, and the real casting down of Satan happened through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Other articles on this site already cover that point. Note that the following verses are tied to the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Mt 28:18,– Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.
John 10:31,33 — Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out…. 33 This he was really saying to indicate what sort of death he was about to die.
1 Corinthians 2:6 — the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing. . .
The Scriptures may indeed indicate that the full destruction of Satan is still future, but there is no Scriptural reason to believe that he was not already cast down back around 33 CE, at Jesus’ death and resurrection. Therefore, there is no reason to pin this event to 1914.
[Paragraph] 3. What will we discuss in this article?
3 No wonder Jesus was so pleased! It made him happy to see the way Jehovah revealed deep spiritual truths to humble people of all sorts, regardless of their education or intellectual gifts. He was delighted that his Father approved of this way of teaching. Has Jehovah changed, and how does he show that he still approves of this kind of teaching? As we examine the answer, we may find that it brings us keen delight, just as it did Jesus.
*** w11 9/1 p. 9 The World’s Secret Ruler Exposed ***
With those words, Jesus was rejoicing at his future victory over the ruler of the world, to take place once Jesus was back in heaven as Michael the archangel. (Revelation 12:7-9) A thorough study of Bible prophecies indicates that this victory took place in heaven in or shortly after 1914.
The first sentence actually agrees with our own general commentary about Luke 10:18. In the context of Luke 10, Jesus was indeed rejoicing with the disciples about a victory over Satan. But that Watchtower from 2011 directly contradicts this current March 15, 2015 article’s claim that Jesus was rejoicing over a “method of teaching.”
DON’T HOLD US TO A TIMELINE
A careful look at the 2011 example above also reveals another problem in clarity, where the last quoted sentence as the Watchtower tries to be less dogmatic about 1914. By saying “in or shortly after 1914” it ends up allowing for Satan to be cast out in 1915, or 1919, or maybe 1935, or 1975. Perhaps this phrase already indicates that its writer had doubts about 1914 as the start of Christ’s presence, too. (Perhaps, the “1914” doctrine itself is already fallen like lightning from the realm of Watch Tower dogma!)
This is the same thing that recently happened with the Watch Tower’s once-absolute teaching that the “first resurrection” occurred in 1918. This was another event that had been timed to “shortly after 1914.” Note:
*** w82 4/1 p. 22 par. 8 The Kingdom and the Resurrection Hope ***
The apostle Paul writes: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ [starting from the first century and up to Christ’s coming to the spiritual temple in 1918] will rise first.” (bracketed portion in the original)
But then in a 2007 article, quoted below, this sure thing became nothing more than “an interesting possibility” that couldn’t be directly confirmed in the Bible. Note:
*** w07 1/1 p. 28 par. 12 “The First Resurrection”—Now Under Way! ***
At this point, it may be helpful to consider what might be viewed as a Bible parallel. Jesus Christ was anointed as the future King of God’s Kingdom in the fall of 29 C.E. Three and a half years later, in the spring of 33 C.E., he was resurrected as a mighty spirit person. Could it, then, be reasoned that since Jesus was enthroned in the fall of 1914, the resurrection of his faithful anointed followers began three and a half years later, in the spring of 1918? That is an interesting possibility. Although this cannot be directly confirmed in the Bible, it is not out of harmony with other scriptures that indicate that the first resurrection got under way soon after Christ’s presence began.
It’s that second part about how “this cannot be directly confirmed in the Bible” that readers who study the March 15, 2015 issue will see repeated several times. And, this need for “direct confirmation in the Bible” may ultimately turn a lot more doctrines into nothing more than “an interesting possibility.”
People want sureness in their lives. It’s a good part of any religion’s appeal. Many people find it unsettling to read ideas that are left open to interpretation. The human mind tends to want “black and white” answers. When a trusted authority says they don’t know, this can be troubling, but it can also be a good thing, because we would then naturally attempt to think for ourselves in our desire for solid answers.
We bring up this idea because a loss of dogma on several prophetic issues is slowly becoming the “new normal” for the Watch Tower. It’s easy to imagine what could happen when Jehovah’s Witnesses will now begin to read these older Watch Tower publications with less dogmatism in their mind. How might this affect their reading of Scripture itself? For example, note how just thinking about the scriptures related to this subject of “the first resurrection” might easily put a Witness on a path to reject the entire idea of a supposed “presence” since 1914:
- What happens to the theory of the “invisible presence” when a Witness reads what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20? “For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.”
- What if a Witness were to think too long about the phrase from Matthew 28:20 “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” This verse hurts 1914 from both sides. If this conclusion began in 1914, then Jesus is no longer “present” with us, because he was only going to be present until the conclusion. But if Jesus, around 33 CE, said he is already with them all the days until then, he was clearly present from 33 to 1914.
- This one is more subtle, but look at how Paul indicates that all of them will begin ruling at the same time. There is therefore no need of a resurrection that starts back around 1914 and continues past 2014. Paul says in 1 Cor 4:8? “Have you begun ruling as kings without us? I really wish that you had begun ruling as kings, so that we also might rule with you as kings.”
- And this will surely inform their less dogmatic reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:15? “…we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death. . . .” In current Watch Tower teaching, almost all of them precede one another.
- What about what Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:18? “. . .These men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are subverting the faith of some.”
This is the “danger” of the less dogmatic mindset supported by the March 15th issue. Over time, it is exactly the mindset that will expose these weak links in Watch Tower doctrines.
TEACHING AN OLD DOGMA NEW TRICKS
We spoke about the change in dogmatism as it might apply to a Witness reading the Bible under this new “guidance.” It’s going to hit those who go back and read older Watch Tower publications even harder. In a single step, Witnesses are told not to trust hundreds of these old type-antitype teachings, and realize they are no longer capable of reading older material without concerns on almost every page. (In some articles and books, the type-antitype doctrines are pervasive.) A Watchtower reader must now refer back to older material and continually run it the material through a mental “lower-the-dogmatism” filter. That’s what is now required after reading the March 15, 2015 Watchtower, because it tells Witnesses that what they are reading from the past might be changing — even if it has not specifically been updated yet. They are told it has been a “gradual” process that they might have noticed.
Let’s look at just a couple more examples of the Watch Tower’s past use of varying degrees of dogma. The following two examples refer to Luke 10:18 again. Imagine reading with a re-adjusted “dogmatism filter:”
*** w08 3/15 p. 32 Highlights From the Book of Luke ***
Although we cannot be dogmatic, by referring to a future event in the past tense, Jesus was evidently emphasizing that it would certainly happen.
Here, the dogmatism filter was already explicitly turned down a notch with the words “we cannot be dogmatic.” In the past, that didn’t matter, because Witnesses were to believe it anyway unless explicitly told otherwise. But when alerted to the dogmatism level, Witnesses are now more likely to take notice. Therefore, the new reading of the words quoted above actually appears to question out loud whether or not the verb tense of Luke 10:18 means that Satan already was being cast down (as it says). This begs the question, then, about whether Satan was really cast down in 1914, or was it around 33 CE.
Compare another Watchtower comment on the same Luke 10:18 question, but this time it’s part of a much more dogmatic explanation:
*** w66 7/15 p. 447 Questions From Readers ***
A careful examination of Revelation chapter 12 indicates that the ouster of the Devil and his wicked angels from heaven was to follow the birth of God’s kingdom. (Rev. 12:5, 10) As has often been proved Scripturally in the columns of The Watchtower, the heavenly kingdom with Christ as King was established in 1914 C.E.
So what happens when JWs either suspect or even notice that this so-called “birth of God’s kingdom” has never actually been proven Scripturally to have been established in 1914? The dogmatism filter is admittedly turned all the way up, so how could the new guidelines from the March 15th Watchtower change anything? In at least two ways:
1. Even the most dogmatic doctrines are called into question because these now changed “type-antitype” doctrines were once taught dogmatically. Some are now explicitly rejected, and the indication is that they are now rejected in general, unless the Bible gives us a specific reason to treat them as types and antitypes. This will happen especially as a Witness browses the Watchtower Library CD, which reaches back to 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I think we can safely assume that the Watch Tower Society is already considering a more limited Watchtower Library that matches the “WOL” (Watchtower Online Library). A move to add some of the pictures, in the 2014 CD for example, might provide a pretext to remove some older material to make room for the more up-to-date information.
2. The second reason that even a teaching as dogmatic as “1914” can change is even more directly related to the instructions in the March 15th Watchtower. It’s this: The date “1914” itself is derived from, you guessed it, a “type-antitype” teaching. It’s even more convoluted than that, of course. But the “type-antitype” basis cannot be denied.
- Nebuchadnezzar is a Gentile “type.” The non-Gentile “kingdom of God as represented by the kings who sit on God’s throne in Jerusalem” is the antitype.
- The wicked, violent, pagan, false-idol worshipping King Nebuchadnezzar represents God’s Kingdom.
- Nebuchadnezzar’s removal from his Gentile throne is a type of the removal of the non-Gentile kings from Jerusalem’s throne.
- Nebuchadnezzar’s rise back to the throne after a period of insanity due to his lack of humility pictures Jesus coming to the throne of the Kingdom of God in 1914.
- The period of time that a Gentile was interrupted from his throne for 7 years is a “type” of that period of time when Gentiles would not be interrupted for 2,520 years.
MAKING DEEP TRUTHS ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
[Paragraph] 4. In what ways has the simplified edition of The Watchtower proved to be a loving gift?
4 In recent years, the spiritual instruction provided by Jehovah’s organization has reflected an increased emphasis on simplicity and clarity. Consider three examples. First, there is the simplified edition of The Watchtower. * This edition has proved to be, in effect, a loving gift to those who struggle with language or find reading a challenge. Family heads are finding that their children are now more involved in the study of this journal, the main channel of our spiritual feeding program. Many have written touching expressions of heartfelt appreciation. A sister wrote that she had held back from commenting at the Watchtower Study. “I was a wallflower,” she said. Not anymore! After making use of the simplified edition, she wrote: “I now comment more than once, and the fear is gone! I thank Jehovah and you.”
DEEP TRUTHS FOR DUMMIES….AND OTHER OXY-MORONS
The first thing to notice here is the use of the phrase “deep truths.” The subject of the first paragraph is the Simplified Edition of the Watchtower, which doesn’t sound like it lends itself immediately to the general idea of “deep truths.” The idea is sometimes based on 1 Corinthians 2:10 which says: ”For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” In general Watchtower-speak, “deep truths” are what responsible men at Watch Tower headquarters learn and then impart to Witnesses through the Watch Tower publications and various assembly discourses.
In times past, we often heard talks given by F. W. Franz, for example, that highlighted complex types and antitypes, and these complex (but now mostly obsolete) teachings, were often spoken of as “new truths,” “deep truths” and even “the deep things of God.” It was one of the conceits about these presumptuous forms of “type-antitype” explanations, that they were once considered “deep truths” in the past. Perhaps some Witnesses are concerned that, now, without these “types and antitypes,” the Watchtower will start to look more like a “Sophia and Caleb” comic book. The “thrill” of the old Congregation Book Study is gone. (Splane’s talk referred to how “thrilling” we found these Congregation Book Studies with all the old type and antitype material.)
Throughout the history of the Watch Tower publications, the expression “deep truths” has sometimes been associated with Bible truth in general. But it is usually associated with something more than the general doctrines (such as: soul, Trinity, Jesus’ death, resurrection, ransom, and the forgiveness of sins). It often tends to be associated with the special relationship these “anointed” supposedly now have in both the visible and the heavenly part of Jehovah’s organization. The context will usually bring attention to the special relationship of the anointed class through whom all Jehovah’s Witnesses receive spiritual food at the proper time. Therefore, it is supposedly a “deep truth” that the Watch Tower publications are the only source of “deep truths.” The following is a general example from 2010:
*** w10 7/15 p. 23 par. 10 “The Spirit Searches Into . . . the Deep Things of God” ***
10 When the time comes to clarify a spiritual matter in our day, holy spirit helps responsible representatives of “the faithful and discreet slave” at world headquarters to discern deep truths that were not previously understood. (Matt. 24:45; 1 Cor. 2:13) The Governing Body as a whole considers adjusted explanations. (Acts 15:6) What they learn, they publish for the benefit of all. (Matt. 10:27) As time goes on, further clarifications may be needed, and these too are honestly explained.—See the box “How the Spirit Revealed the Meaning of the Spiritual Temple.”
The point about the “Spiritual Temple” is explained in the same article, and includes the line:
“Toward the year 1971, however, responsible members of the slave class began to discern that the temple spoken of by Paul in Ephesians could not be Jehovah’s great spiritual temple.”
Oddly, this refers to a time when brothers who were working on the book “Aid to Bible Understanding” began to realize that focusing doctrines on the date 1914 will often contradict related scriptures. The scriptures often refer to fulfillments that began in the first century C.E. when Watch Tower doctrines place them in and around 1914. Most of the people involved in this doctrinal change were disfellowshipped or dismissed from Bethel’s Writing Department as they soon discovered that 1914 is totally unworkable, along with all doctrines that depend on it.
A large proportion of the references to “deep truths” going all the way back to Russell’s time, and also echoed in doctrines repeated 100 years later, refer at least indirectly to a certain “mystery” doctrine that is almost forgotten these days, but still not explicitly rejected even to this day in the Watch Tower publications. But that’s another story. We’ll explain this in another article in the future.
With reference again to the paragraph 4 of this Watchtower there is something else going on here. It’s related to the idea that the Watchtower is the primary channel of “deep truths” in spite of any changes or simplifications. Whether or not the existence of a simplified Watchtower provides an improvement we will leave to another time. We will say that presenting badly formulated logic more simply can sometimes end up being even more misleading. It may give an appearance of greater certainty to conclusions that were arrived at through bad assumptions. This potential problem will prove to be all the more true of those who struggle with language or with young children, the very persons this simplified version tries to address. Care still needs to be taken that the concepts are both true and simple, not misleading and simple.
CAUTION: OPEN WITH PRAYER!
Also, it may be useful to note that the experience found in paragraph 4, finds a way to tie Jehovah’s approval to those behind The Watchtower as “the main channel of our spiritual feeding program.” A sister writes “I thank Jehovah and you,” where the word “you” is implied to be the Governing Body. The above experience is a more subtle version of the following experience printed in an earlier Watchtower:
*** w64 9/15 p. 574 Experiencing Jehovah’s Love ***
The brother went down to get the mail before breakfast, and when we had breakfast he said, “Brother Riemer, I got a new Watchtower this morning, and do you know the first thing that Ma and I do when we get that Tower? We kneel down before we take the wrapper off and ask Jehovah to make us worthy to see what the message is that Jehovah has for us. Now, before we take the wrapper off, will you kneel down and pray with us?” How different that elective elder was from this humble couple who appreciated Jehovah’s organization!
This doesn’t sound all that odd to most Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, imagine what the average Witness would think if they watched a Catholic receiving a monthly newsletter from the Vatican and kneeling down in front of it to pray each month, before they took the wrapper off. And just to bring this idea “full circle,” if we think about it, this Witness couple were very often kneeling down to pray that they could be worthy to open up a magazine explaining various “types and antitypes,” that have since been recognized as having no direct Scriptural support.
[Paragraph] 5. What are some benefits of the revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures?
5 Second, there is the revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, released in English at the annual meeting on October 5, 2013. * Many Scriptures now use fewer words, yet their meaning is intact or even clearer. For example, Job 10:1 went from 27 words to 19; Proverbs 8:6 went from 20 words to 13. Both verses are clearer in the new edition. In fact, one faithful anointed brother with a record of decades of loyal service commented: “I just read the book of Job in the new edition, and I feel as if I understand it for the first time!” Many have made similar comments.
It’s a good idea to try to word a Bible translation as simply as possible so long as this remains a truly accurate translation of the original. However, we know that certain words and phrases were specifically chosen in the NWT because they support a doctrinal theory, even if it means utilizing words that do not represent the most likely or the most accurate translation. Examples, highlighted on this site, include “presence” for “parousia” even when it refers to the arrival of a royal dignitary or king. This was done, of course, to support the 1914 doctrine about an “invisible presence.” The 1984 New World Translation had an appendix about the word “Parousia” that included this:
*** Rbi8 p. 1577 5B Christ’s Presence (Parousia) ***
“Also, Bauer, p. 630, states that pa·rou·siʹa ‘became the official term for a visit of a person of high rank, esp[ecially] of kings and emperors visiting a province.'”
The sentence that followed it in that Appendix 5B attempted to remove the potential impact of learning that there might be special definition that had previously been ignored. But the simpler 2013 New World Translation removed this appendix altogether.
As to the reduction in words, two verses are mentioned.
(Job 10:1) “My soul certainly feels a loathing toward my life.” has changed to “I loathe my life.” That’s from 9 words down to 4 and the meaning appears to be intact.
(Proverbs 8:6) “Listen, for it is about the foremost things that I speak, and the opening of my lips is about uprightness.” This has changed to, “Listen, for what I say is important, My lips speak what is right.”
Of course, in the previous NWT, the Hebrew verb tenses had also been artificially stuffed with extra words. For example, Joshua 1:5 “Just as I proved to be with Moses I shall prove to be with you.” This has changed to “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”
This type of verb-tense translation might have been done so that Exodus 3:14 could make Jehovah’s name mean “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” That must have sounded much more impressive than “I am what I am.” But, the attempt to be consistent ended up requiring a variation of that phrase “prove(d) to be” which appeared nearly 500 times in the rest of the old NWT, and was found in almost every book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Since the 2013 revision, however, it now only shows up in only 6 of those places. Those six places simply appear to have been accidentally missed by the editors.
In at least one respect the new translation became worse. That’s partially because words in the translation that had no equivalent in the original language were often put in square brackets. In the revised version, there are no more brackets.
All in all, the 2013 Revised NWT, appears to be a much improved, yet still deeply flawed, translation. For the most part the examples given do appear to make a much better translation. The updated example given from Proverbs 8:6 is now: ““Listen, for what I say is important, My lips speak what is right.” This is now much closer to the “Holman Christian Standard Bible” which says: “Listen, for I speak of noble things, and what my lips say is right.” It may also be compared with the “New Living Translation” which says: “Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. Everything I say is right.” Yet, these comparisons just make us wonder just why Jehovah’s Witnesses were still saying up until 2013 that the previous, pretentious version was the best version in the world.
[Paragraph] 6. How do you feel about the refined understanding of Matthew 24:45-47?
6 Third, consider some of our recent refinements in understanding. For example, our clarified understanding of “the faithful and discreet slave,” published in the July 15, 2013, Watchtower, thrilled us. (Matt. 24:45-47) It was explained that the faithful slave is the Governing Body, while the “domestics” are all those who are fed spiritually, whether of the anointed or of the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) What a delight it is to learn such truths and to teach them to new ones! In what other ways has Jehovah shown that he approves of teaching in a simple, clear way?
We already discussed why it’s so important to address this issue first. It could be very dangerous to allow the reader to wonder about this particular parable. It is the most famous “type-antitype” doctrine that Jehovah’s Witnesses accept. (The second most famous is the idea that Nebuchadnezzar kingship was a “type” of God’s Kingdom.)
The paragraph is introduced with a curious, unconventional question. The answer isn’t found in the paragraph, because the question is about how the reader feels about the information in the paragraph. Perhaps an unthinking believer might find the words “What a delight it is” and then answer that he or she must therefore be delighted. To each his own. For those who need a historical reminder explaining the changes to the “faithful slave” doctrine, it can be found at jwfacts.com at this link. We’ll add our own version of it elsewhere on the sight.
For now we can use the Watch Tower’s “Our Kingdom Ministry” review question from a few years ago to see the specific change to the definition. The quote is taken directly from the Watchtower Library CD, although we have underlined and bolded the correct answers required at the time the question was written.
*** km 2/03 p. 6 Theocratic Ministry School Review ***
13. Multiple Choice: The faithful and discreet slave mentioned by Jesus at Matthew 24:45-47 is (a) the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses; (b) all anointed Christians as a group on earth at any given time; (c) Jesus Christ himself. This slave supplies spiritual food at the proper time to the “domestics,” who represent (a) anointed ones as individuals; (b) the other sheep; (c) all readers of Christian publications. The Master appointed the slave over all his belongings in the year (a) 1914; (b) 33 C.E.; (c) 1919.
The new answer (since 2013) to that first question is now (a) rather than (b) – the “faithful slave” is now the “Governing Body.” The second question is now answered with both (a) and (b) – both the “anointed” and the “other sheep.” And the final answer is now (c) – 1919 instead of (b) – 33 C.E.
Recall that this is the conclusion of the section about “deep truths” and it ends with this point about the special position of the Governing Body. Note that it’s worded more simply here than it was in the July 15, 2013 Watchtower. The interesting change here is that it was first written in a kind of legalese, that did not necessarily equate the faithful and discreet slave exactly with the Governing Body, but said only the following:
*** w13 7/15 p. 22 par. 10 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” ***
In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, however, that the word “slave” in Jesus’ illustration is singular, indicating that this is a composite slave. The decisions of the Governing Body are thus made collectively.
The passive, loose association between the slave and the Governing Body provided a measure of deniability as if they, the Governing Body, needed a “trial balloon” to see how well this would go over before they would finally say something more like: “We, the Governing Body, have not only been closely identified with ‘faithful slave’ in recent decades. More clearly, we are, in fact, the same: the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ is the Governing Body.” The trial balloon went smoothly enough, so it is now stated directly.
In fact, it will be seen that there is another important subtext of this discussion. It will re-appear repeatedly in this issue. That idea is that JW’s should be pleased and delighted that the Governing Body is at the head of this “refinement” — this positive change. Accepting that the Governing Body has Jehovah’s approval for their position is thought to be important enough to repeat in one way or another in every article in this series. That point will be repeated explicitly, which we’ll see when we get to paragraph 6.
Speaking of the Simplified Edition of the Watchtower, the following is a quote from the very first issue of that edition, July 15, 2011, p.24. It stated the following:
***w11 7/15 p.24 [Simplified Edition] ***”We need to obey the faithful and discreet slave to have Jehovah’s approval.”***
This slightly shifts the meaning of the following ideas, which have been repeated about a hundred times in the past, prior to the change in definition of the “slave” class. The following quotes are some examples from the time after the change in definition.
*** w13 7/15 p. 25 par. 20 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” ***
Let us be determined to show our appreciation by giving our loyal support to the anointed brothers who make up that faithful and discreet slave.
*** w13 11/15 p. 20 par. 17 Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes—What They Mean for Us Today ***
At that time, the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.
w14 8/15 p. 21 par. 2 Hear Jehovah’s Voice Wherever You Are ***
The guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.”’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.—Heb. 5:9.
Whether the above three quotes are seen as either disturbing or comforting to readers is always a function of how much the reader really knows about the Governing Body’s track record.
At any rate, this brings us to the next heading in the Watchtower article which is the point where the article discusses the real subject matter: the change in the teaching method regarding types and antitypes.
A SIMPLER, CLEARER APPROACH TO BIBLE NARRATIVES
[Paragraphs] 7, 8. What are some examples of inspired prophetic pictures in the Bible?
7 If you have been serving Jehovah for decades, you may have noticed a gradual shift in the way our literature explains many of the narratives recorded in the Bible. How so? In times past, it was more common for our literature to take what might be called a type-antitype approach to Scriptural accounts. The Bible narrative was considered the type, and any prophetic fulfillment of the story was the antitype. Is there a Scriptural basis for prophetic pictures? Yes. For instance, Jesus spoke of “the sign of Jonah the prophet.” (Read Matthew 12:39,40.) Jesus explained that Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the fish—which would have been Jonah’s grave had Jehovah not preserved him alive—was prophetic of Jesus’ own time in the grave.
8 The Bible contains other inspired prophetic pictures. The apostle Paul discussed a number of them. For example, Abraham’s relationship with Hagar and Sarah provided a prophetic picture of Jehovah’s relationship with the nation of Israel and the heavenly part of God’s organization. (Gal 4:22-26) Similarly, the tabernacle and the temple, Atonement Day, the high priest, and other facets of the Mosaic Law contained “a shadow of the good things to come.” (Heb. 9:23-25; 10:1) It is fascinating and faith-strengthening to study such prophetic pictures. Can we conclude, though, that every character, event, and object described in the Bible foreshadows someone or something?
So we are just about to get to the meat of the discussion. And the point of these two paragraphs is generally correct: There were a few “true” examples of “types and antitypes” in the Bible. The examples of Jonah and Abraham/Hagar/Sarah may have been intended more as “analogies” rather than as “prophetic patterns” in the way that the Watchtower has used “types and antitypes.” Also, the foreshadowed meanings of many of the Jewish sacrificial processes are in a somewhat different category. Paragraph 8 ends with the question that correctly indicates that even if these cases really are “types and antitypes” that this would still not be a basis to consider every other narrative in the same way.
[Paragraph] 9. How was the Bible account about Naboth explained in the past?
9 In the past, such an approach was often taken. Consider, for example, the account about Naboth, whose unjust trial and execution were arranged by wicked Queen Jezebel so that her husband, Ahab, could seize Naboth’s vineyard. (1 Ki. 21:1-16) Back in 1932, that account was explained as a prophetic drama. Ahab and Jezebel were said to picture Satan and his organization; Naboth pictured Jesus; Naboth’s death, then, was prophetic of Jesus’ execution. Decades later, though, in the book “Let Your Name Be Sanctified,” published in 1961, Naboth was said to picture the anointed, and Jezebel was Christendom. Hence, Naboth’s persecution at Jezebel’s hands pictured the persecution of the anointed during the last days. For many years, God’s people found this approach to Bible accounts faith strengthening. Why, then, have things changed?
This explanation about how Naboth was once explained as a “prophetic type” of Jesus, but later as a “type” of the anointed is true. Yet this was really just a small part of a very convoluted, and ever-changing explanation of the entire set of Bible narratives regarding the lives of Elijah, Elisha and almost all the other persons and entities mentioned in their recorded experiences. The narrative about Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel was just a small part of a much larger set of now obsolete explanations.
Making the point that these incorrect and unnecessary explanations were “faith strengthening” stretches the point. Although it’s difficult to see how an incorrect explanation can actually strengthen our faith in Jehovah, it is easy to see how these incorrect explanations may have strengthened our faith in an earthly organization. Witnesses have been impressed over the years that such deep, complex and convoluted explanations could be made to fit the experiences of the leaders of the Watch Tower organization, initially in the years from 1878 to 1914, and later applied primarily to “prophetic patterns” that matched the experiences of the Watch Tower’s events and activities of its leaders especially during the years 1918, 1919, the 1920’s, 1931, 1935, and 1941 to pick the most common examples.
When the article says “Naboth was said to picture the anointed” (1961) it really referred to the experience of the Watch Tower organization under Rutherford during the years from the end of World War I up through 1941. The “prophecy” referred to time when a Jezebel-type clergy of Christendom had used the Ahab-type political powers to “stone to death” the good reputation of the Naboth-type “anointed remnant” so that the Elijah-type Rutherford fulfilled this prophetic drama between 1918 and 1941. Note some of the actual, quoted excerpts from chapter 17 of the 1961 book mentioned above in paragraph 8:
As an instance, at the London (England) international convention of May 25-31,1926, in the public address on the subject. . . Speaker Rutherford said:. . .In this same public address Rutherford exposed. . . But Rutherford said:. . . and he set forth Bible prophecies that predicted its destruction. . . .September 8, 1926. . . September 17, 1934. . . . in the year 1927. . .Many battles in law courts resulted. . . .in 1930, when, on July 30 and August 11, Volumes I and II of the book entitled “Light” were released to the headquarters family of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn, New York. . . In September, 1930, the book Light was released for general distribution. . . In 1931, . . .the Elijah class, the anointed remnant, the “faithful and discreet slave” class, . . .Afterward . . .the book entitled “Vindication” was released. . . . On October 7, 1934. . .For example, President Rutherford received a cablegram on April 26, 1933. . .That day Rutherford suggested . . .Then came the convention at Washington, D.C., May 31 to June 3, 1935. . . . In this address President Rutherford discussed . . .The address that Rutherford now gave. . . Years previous, on August 25, 1923, at the Los Angeles (California) convention President Rutherford had discussed . . . Also in 1931 . . . But from 1935 onward. . . .On January 31, 1936, there was released at Brooklyn headquarters the new book entitled “Riches,” . . . Then on February 23, 1936, President Rutherford broadcast the speech . . .The Watchtower as of May 1, 1937, page 130, announced . . .The Watchtower as of February 15, 1938. . .”
Clearly, this is intended to be a listing of highlights of Rutherford’s career as the president of the Watchtower Society from 1919 to about 1941. In fact the next chapter of the same book makes that point even clearer. (See this site’s previous article on Elijah and Elisha.) The incorrect doctrines had strengthened faith, not in God, but in the leadership of the Watch Tower Society and publications from their Brooklyn headquarters. Is it really such a good thing that they strengthened faith in such a way, through incorrect doctrine?
Although the original Bible narratives were considered to contain actual events that happened to various people in their real lives, they were also considered to have been recorded as prophecies about the Watch Tower Society. In other words, the Bible writer’s may have had one thing in mind, but Jehovah was supposedly inspiring them to write it in such a way that they were prophesying about the activities and trials of the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Gradually, the Society shifted from referring so much to the fulfillment of prophecy in the “Watch Tower Society” through its various presidents, and referred to just the “anointed” or “Jehovah’s Witnesses” or “Jehovah’s people.”
Many of these ideas probably seemed silly to many Witnesses, even at the time, but they couldn’t say it. Now, of course, by formally admitting these ideas had no Scriptural support, the Watchtower opens itself up to the idea that they really were “silly,” or at least presumptuous and indiscreet.
[Paragraph] 10. (a) How has discretion led to greater caution when explaining certain Bible accounts? (b) Our literature focuses more on what today?
10 As we might expect, over the years Jehovah has helped “the faithful and discreet slave” to become steadily more discreet. Discretion has led to greater caution when it comes to calling a Bible account a prophetic drama unless there is a clear Scriptural basis for doing so. Additionally, it has been found that some of the older explanations about types and antitypes are unduly difficult for many to grasp. The details of such teachings—who pictures whom and why—can be hard to keep straight, to remember, and to apply. Of even greater concern, though, is that the moral and practical lessons of the Bible accounts under examination may be obscured or lost in all the scrutiny of possible antitypical fulfillments. Thus, we find that our literature today focuses more on the simple, practical lessons about faith, endurance, godly devotion, and other vital qualities that we learn about from Bible accounts. *
Really? “More discreet”? This is more diversionary sleight of hand by the writers. We would not necessarily expect a “faithful and discreet slave” to be chosen, let’s say, in1919, specifically for their quality of discretion, and then be found to need improvement in their discretion. At least, we shouldn’t expect them to take nearly 100 years before noticing that they had shown a lack of discretion all that time.
The paragraph frankly admits some of the problems of keeping these false doctrines around for so long. But there is a special irony in the fact that it says: “Of even greater concern, though, is that the moral and practical lessons of the Bible accounts under examination may be obscured or lost in all the scrutiny of possible antitypical fulfillments”. If this is true, then where is the concern over having lost the moral and practical lesson in Jesus’ parable of the “faithful and discreet slave”?
Another point to notice is the difference between the following two statements. One is from the Watchtower paragraph just quoted, and the other is from the original discourse by David Splane. Note how the more recent Watchtower statement has been weakened. The original statement could not have accommodated the doctrine of the “faithful and discreet slave.” It seems likely that this difference had been noticed. That would explain the weakened statement in the March 15, 2015 Watchtower:
“Discretion has led to greater caution when it comes to calling a Bible account a prophetic drama unless there is a clear Scriptural basis for doing so.”
The summary quote from the original talk by David Splane in October 2014 didn’t just ask for “greater caution” when there is no basis, it called for silence when there is no basis:
“And we feel that we must follow the light, wherever it leads us. Our love should be for the truth and not for a particular doctrine or teaching. Well how would you sum this talk in a few words. . . . The wrong answer is, ‘We don’t believe in types and antitypes any more.’ We do! We certainly do where the Scriptures identify them as such, we embrace them. But where the Bible is silent, we must be silent.”
[Paragraph] 11. (a) How do we now understand the account about Naboth, and why does that man’s example speak to us all? (b) Why have our publications in recent years seldom mentioned types and antitypes? (See “Questions From Readers” in this issue.)
11 How, then, do we now understand the account about Naboth? In much clearer, simpler terms. That righteous man died, not because he was a prophetic type of Jesus or of the anointed, but because he was an integrity keeper. He held to Jehovah’s Law in the face of horrific abuse of power. (Num. 36:7; 1 Ki. 21:3) His example thus speaks to us because any one of us may face persecution for similar reasons. (Read 2 Timothy 3:12.) People of all backgrounds can readily understand, remember, and apply such a faith-strengthening lesson.
This now conforms with the general view of almost every religious group in Judaism or “Christendom.” Jehovah’s Witnesses were fairly unique in the pervasiveness of this obsolete practice.
[Paragraph] 12. (a) What conclusion should we not draw regarding narratives recorded in the Bible? (b) Why are we able to have clear explanations of even deep things? (See footnote.)
12 Should we conclude that Bible narratives have only a practical application and no other meaning? No. Today our publications are more likely to teach that one thing reminds us of or serves to illustrate another. They are less likely to present many Bible accounts in a rigid framework of prophetic types and antitypes. For example, we can rightly say that Naboth’s integrity in the face of persecution and death reminds us of the integrity of Christ and his anointed. However, we can also be reminded of the faithful stand of many of the Lord’s “other sheep.” Such a clear and simple comparison has the hallmark of divine teaching. *
Nothing blatantly wrong here. But obviously the Watchtower writers realize they are going to need exceptions to this new rule. We, the readers, won’t necessarily know exactly which narratives will be treated one way and which will be treated another way. We will continue to rely on “our publications.” The publications will only be “less likely” to present many Bible accounts in a rigid framework of types and antitypes.”
A SIMPLER APPROACH TO JESUS’ ILLUSTRATIONS
[Paragraph] 13. What examples show that we now explain some of Jesus’ illustrations in a simpler, clearer way?
13 Jesus Christ was the greatest Teacher ever to walk this earth. One of his favorite teaching methods involved the use of illustrations. (Matt. 13:34) Illustrations paint vivid word pictures that stimulate the mind and reach the heart. Has our literature also come to explain Jesus’ illustrations in a simpler, clearer way over the years? The answer is unmistakably yes! Were we not thrilled to gain a clarified understanding of Jesus’ illustrations regarding the leaven, the mustard seed, and the dragnet in The Watchtower of July 15, 2008? We now see clearly that these illustrations apply to God’s Kingdom and its phenomenal success in gathering true followers of Christ out of this wicked world.
For many Witnesses, this may come across as some kind of a joke. Compare the following from: Man’s Salvation Out Of World Distress, 1975, p. 208:
*** sl chap. 12 p. 208 par. 8 Christendom and Judaism Now Facing Desolation ***
In the parable, the “man” that sowed the mustard grain pictures the “wicked one,” Satan the Devil.
That book was released at the summer convention. I got my copy in August, and read it in September. Also in early September, we received the October 1, 1975 Watchtower, which said:
*** w75 10/1 p. 600 pars. 21-22 The Exposing of the False Kingdom Refuge ***
“. . . Jesus as the Sower of the parable plant the symbolic mustard grain. . .Jesus Christ, with his prophetic foresight, could foreknow the outcome for the symbolic mustard grain that he planted in the first century.”
The same issue that “corrected” the sower from Satan to Jesus, also discussed the parable of the leaven a few pages later:
“. . . that the Bible unvaryingly uses leaven to symbolize something bad, unrighteousness, error, sin … So the parable must illustrate something unfavorable about matters having to do with the ‘kingdom of the heavens.’”
The July 15, 2008 Watchtower (p. 20) mentioned in paragraph 13, above, changed the leaven to mean a little something more positive:
“Like leaven, the Kingdom-preaching work … has expanded to the point that the Kingdom is now being preached ‘to the most distant part of the earth;’”
Note that although each explanation is considered to be the opposite of the previous explanation, neither is really more simple or clear than the other one. Satan-as-Sower is just as simple and clear as Jesus-as-Sower. In other words, it’s just the latest explanation. According to Splane’s original discourse, it was also “thrilling” to learn to wrong explanations. Splane actually made the point that being “thrilled” about a doctrine didn’t make it right, and he even gave the example of a brother who was thrilled with the “Satanic” explanations the Watchtower once promoted about the “Great Pyramid of Geza.” That idea, of course, didn’t make it into this Watchtower article, although the idea of being “thrilled” found its way in.
[Paragraph] 14. (a) How have we explained the parable of the neighborly Samaritan? (b) How do we understand Jesus’ parable now?
14 What, though, about the more detailed stories, or parables, that Jesus related? Some, of course, are symbolic and prophetic; others emphasize practical lessons. But which is which? Through the years, the answer has gradually become clearer. For instance, consider the way we have explained Jesus’ parable of the neighborly Samaritan. (Luke 10:30-37) In 1924, The Watch Tower said that the Samaritan pictured Jesus; the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which ran downhill, pictured mankind’s downward course since the rebellion in Eden; the thieves on the road pictured giant corporations and profiteers; and the priest and the Levite typified ecclesiastical systems. Today, our literature uses that illustration to remind all Christians that we must be impartial in rendering aid to those in need, especially in a spiritual sense. Does it not make us happy to see that Jehovah makes his teachings clear to us?
This one about the Good Samaritan may have been chosen because it is a bit simpler than the explanation the Watchtower promoted about the Prodigal Son for example. (See the article on this site concerning that parable.) The Good Samaritan was probably chosen here because it is one of the few “type-antitype” parables, that was not tied specifically to the 19th and 20th century chronology of the Watch Tower Society.
But there is something well worth noting here. Per the Watchtower article, the Good Samaritan parable is now seen as a moral lesson about Christian conduct in general. This makes perfect sense. But notice that it was introduced in the Bible with the question: (Luke 10:29) . . .“Who really is my neighbor?”
Sound familiar? “Who really is . . . ?” is the same type of construction introducing another parable that starts out “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” It’s the implied construction of many parables: Who really is the wise farmer? The one who plants on rocks, gravel, or fine soil? Who really is the sower of the mustard seed?
Surely the writer noticed this (while searching the remaining context of Luke 10 that also begins this article).
[Paragraph] 15. What will we consider in the following article?
15 In our next article, we will examine another of Jesus’ parables—that of the ten virgins. (Matt. 25:1-13) How did Jesus intend his followers in the last days to understand that powerful word picture? As a detailed prophetic allegory, with a symbolic meaning applied to every person, object, and event? Or, rather, did he mean for his followers to use it as a practical lesson to guide them during the last days? Let us see.
It was probably inevitable that the Watchtower finally had to give up on the “type-antitype” method, at least where it was obvious that the Bible didn’t provide any evidence for such a method. It’s not just that it comes across as a kind of presumptuousness to make a claim that is not substantiated with any Scriptures. That’s not the real problem. Witnesses will likely continue to accept presumptuous, unsubstantiated doctrines for years to come.
The real problem is that the Watch Tower doctrines have painted themselves into a chronological corner. That’s been true for years, but there has always been a way to extend it in a fairly rational fashion. A generation from 1914 could have been 30 or 40 years. It could have been 70 years, or even 80 years. But it’s difficult to see how it could be 100 or maybe 120 years. The new two-overlapping-sets-of-contemporaries method has not caught on very well yet. But 2014 was the year the Watch Tower was forced to openly admit, through a forced smile, that this has already gone on for 100 years. Most of the old prophetic explanations had been tied to 1918 and 1919.
Some subtle remarks in both Splane’s original speech and the Watchtower article shows that the subtext is really all about the “anointed” and the “other sheep.” The special place of the “anointed” has now been thoroughly transferred to the Governing Body alone. Witnesses can no longer be looking at the numbers of “anointed” for any speculation about “the end.” Those numbers haven’t been obeying the expected rules anyway. The “anointed” can’t matter that much any more, so these explanations about the parables and narratives can’t matter either — because they always highlighted the experiences of the “anointed” — even if it always was intended as a kind of shorthand for the Watch Tower Society’s leadership who claimed to represent them.
However, by taking the step to formally admit that these doctrines were always unsupported, as the Watchtower has finally done, a new problem will become more exposed over time. It’s the loss of control over exactly when this principle should be applied. Ultimately, the question will turn to why Jehovah’ Witnesses should believe anything claimed by the the Watch Tower publications that clearly falls into the category of “unsubstantiated.”
By attempting to define this as a better, “approved,” more “discreet” method, it is being promoted as coming from a general and fundamental style of Biblical exegesis. This goes far beyond a reason to change the traditional Watchtower explanation of just three or four specific parables. Ultimately, it effects every prophetic explanation that is unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The doctrines of “1914” and the “faithful and discreet slave” are deeply engraved into the Watch Tower’s unique doctrinal canon. These will be surely be the last to fall, but the change described in the March 15, 2015 Watchtower inadvertently takes aim at those very doctrines.