Watchtower Study May 29, 2016 “Jehovah Guides His People in the Way of Life”
The first two paragraphs of this weeks study open with a comparison of railroads to God. Featuring the three words, “STOP, LOOK, LISTEN” it is explained that over 100 years ago, big stop signs were added to railroad crossings so that vehicles would not be struck by a train and lives would be saved. But, they say, “Jehovah does something better than these safety signs.” They write that he, “stands before his people…pointing them toward everlasting life, away from dangers. More than that, he acts like a loving shepherd to his flock, calling out to the sheep proper direction and warnings so that they can avoid dangerous paths.” There is a lot I would like to delve into here, but first we really must consider the scripture citation. Remember, God is doing something better than a safety sign…
Though Jehovah will give you bread in the form of distress and water in the form of oppression, your Grand Instructor will no longer hide himself, and you will see your Grand Instructor with your own eyes. And your own ears will hear a word behind you saying, “This is the way. Walk in it,” in case you should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.
-Isaiah 30: 20, 21
So, Jehovah is better than a safety sign at a railway crossing because he gives you distress and oppression and tells you what you should do after you’ve already done something else. The verse is saying God speaks to you from behind and after you’ve already gone the wrong way. How would this turn out at a railroad crossing do you think? What if after you’re on the track the gate came down and a man came out behind you and said, “Hey, there’s a train coming!” Would that be better than the way it currently works?
Jehovah Has Long Guided his People
This heading touches on some of the same information from last weeks study article. It talks about Noah again for instance. I invite you to please watch the video included with last weeks discussion. Again, I must stress that it is not my suggestion that nothing happened. It’s true that, personally, I sincerely doubt that God exists and that Noah was a real person. However, there very well may be a God and maybe something did happen upon which the flood story is based. So when you watch this video please remember that maybe something did happen, but perhaps it wasn’t on such a grand scale as we see in the bible.
Adam and Eve
One thing touched on here that was not discussed in last weeks study is the subject of Adam and Eve. I’d like to have a very candid discussion about the subject of Adam and Eve and I want to stress here, again, that I’m not saying there is no God. I know these are sensitive subjects, and it’s true that analyzing them and questioning them means challenging your belief system. However, please remember that the existence of God is not predicated on your belief system. Many different systems believe in God, and many people who don’t accept religion continue to believe in God.
So, let’s get the hardest thing to accept out-of-the-way: there is no evidence that Adam and Even ever existed. I know this is difficult to accept or think about, but it’s true. Watchtower has gone to great lengths to make you believe that this evidence does exist. So let’s first examine this evidence. The Reasoning book on pages 27 to 29 has this to say,
Is it unreasonable to believe that all of us descended from the same original parents?
“Science now corroborates what most great religions have long been preaching: Human beings of all races are . . . descended from the same first man.”—Heredity in Humans (Philadelphia and New York, 1972), Amram Scheinfeld, p. 238.
“The Bible story of Adam and Eve, father and mother of the whole human race, told centuries ago the same truth that science has shown today: that all the peoples of the earth are a single family and have a common origin.”—The Races of Mankind (New York, 1978), Ruth Benedict and Gene Weltfish, p. 3.
Acts 17:26: “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.”
Let’s consider the first citation referenced, “Heredity in Humans” by Amram Scheinfeld. Have you ever heard of the term ‘Intellectual Honesty’? If not, that’s perfectly alright; let’s define it,
Intellectual honesty is an applied method of problem solving, characterized by an unbiased, honest attitude, which can be demonstrated in a number of different ways:
- One’s personal beliefs do not interfere with the pursuit of truth;
- Relevant facts and information are not purposefully omitted even when such things may contradict one’s hypothesis;
- Facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another;
- References, or earlier work, are acknowledged where possible, and plagiarism is avoided.
Please note the second bullet from above, as it is most applicable to Watchtower publications. Frequently they omit parts of a citation so that it looks like the author is supporting their own views. This is exactly what they are doing with Amram Scheinfeld’s book.
On page 238, it does indeed say,
science now corroborates what most great religions have long been preaching: Human beings of all races are equal “Children of God” descended from the same first man.
However, critical information is here being omitted. For example, the chapter in which this is stated begins on page 237 and is entitled, “The Evolution of Apes and Man.” As if this weren’t enough, later on the very same page Amram writes about, “…a great many ‘experimental models’ of ape men, part men, half men and near men who died out or were killed off as improved types of man came along.”
My personal favorite find, however, is a quote from page 239. In talking about culture and achievement in the Human Race, Amram writes,
For the answer we return to the very beginnings of our species—Homo Sapiens, about 100,000 years ago—and trace the story of racial differentiation as science now sees it. Starting with a single fruition couple (Adam and Eve, if you wish)…
As you can see this is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty. Amram wrote about human heredity as it relates to evolution. This last quote talks about the beginning of the human race 100,000 years ago! Watchtower doesn’t agree with this idea do they? No, they are blatantly misrepresenting this author’s work.
As far as the reference to Adam and Eve, you’ll notice that there was added the, “(…if you wish)” comment. Why would it be worded this way? Well the reason is because Evolution has nothing to say on the existence or non-existence of God. If you want to call the people from which modern human beings evolved, or the first of modern human beings, Adam and Eve, feel free. There’s no reason you can’t fit these facts into your belief in God – yet they are facts. Humans evolved over time, through a series of, “experimental models” until we reached what we are today over many, many thousands of years.
It’s also extremely important to note that the author specifically said, “trace the story…as science now sees it.” Why is this important? Well, because the scientific community is one of peer review, it’s one that is evidence led. If a scientist can disprove a currently held hypothesis using evidence then this scientist will gain a bit of prestige. It’s rewarded to disprove currently held views, as long as it can be disproven via evidence. So the author says, “…as science now sees it” because the way science sees it is subject to change if evidence is found, and evidence was found.
Remember that this book was published in 1972. Since then, evidence has been found that says modern Humans did not come from merely one parent couple. Eighteen years after Amram’s book was published, the Human Genome Project began in 1990. It was a 13 year-long project, ending in 2003, which led to incredible breakthroughs in learning about the history of the human family. What follows is a somewhat lengthy, but completely verified and factual quote, which is how science now sees it.
More important, evolutionary geneticists now know that the human population could never have been as small as only two individuals—much less the eight who rode out the flood on Noah’s Ark. Since sequencing human genomes became possible on a large scale, we can back-calculate from the observed genetic diversity in our species to find out roughly when different forms of human genes diverged from one another, and how many forms of a given gene existed at a given time. Because each human has two copies of each gene, this gives us a minimum estimate of how many humans existed at a given time. We’ve also been able to use genes to trace the path of ancient human populations as they spread from Africa throughout the world.
The genetic evidence tells us several things. First, the genes in all modern humans diverged from one another a long time ago—long before the 6,000 to 10,000 years estimated from scripture. We can, for example, trace the Y chromosomes of existing males back to a single man who lived between 120,000 and 340,000 years ago. This individual is often called “Y-Chromosome Adam.” But that’s a bit misleading, for although the Y chromosomes of modern humans descend from this one individual, the rest of our genome descends from a multitude of different ancestors who lived at various times ranging from 10,000 to about 4 million years ago. Our genome testifies to literally hundreds of “Adams and Eves” who lived at different times—a result of the fact that different parts of our DNA were inherited differently based on the vagaries of reproduction and the random division of genes when sperm and eggs are formed.
The observations that different parts of our genomes have different ages, some going back millions of years, and that they come from different ancestors, completely dispel the biblical date of human origins and the idea that all of our DNA was bequeathed by a Primal Couple.
But the evidence is even stronger, for we can also back-calculate from DNA sequences the size of human populations at different times in the past. And we know that when our ancestors left Africa between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago to colonize the world, the size of the migrating group dropped to a minimum of 2,250 individuals—and that’s an underestimate. The population that remained in Africa stayed larger: a minimum of about 10,000 people. The total number of ancestors of modern humans, then, was not two but over 12,000 individuals. This is a very strong scientific refutation of the Adam and Eve scenario.
-Faith vs Fact by Jerry Coyne p. 126 – 127
“…as science now sees it” what does the evidence say? Based on the other things that Amram wrote in the book cited by Watchtower, it would be intellectual honest to conclude the author would now accept todays evidence over what was available in 1972. Even without this evidence however, Amram’s book is all about how evolution is true and how it relates to human heredity. What do you think? How would you feel if you wrote a book and someone took one paragraph out of it and used it to convince a multitude that you were saying something contrary to what your actual message was? Clearly, Amram accepted the evidence available in the 1970’s, which even back then stated that mankind evolved from a number of ‘experimental models’ over a very long period of time.
But, we’re not yet done with Adam and Eve because the Reasoning book cites another book. I want to be thorough and provide you with all the evidence, so lets take a look at it as well.
The second citation is to a pamphlet entitled, “The Races of Mankind” by Ruth Benedict and Gene Weltfish. It was published in 1978, so we already see a problem which is that it was published before the Human Genome Project. Hence much of what it has to say about the history of our development is subject to comparison with modern evidence. Yet, even in its full context, this quote convey’s a completely different message.
It should be noted what the actual purpose of this publication was, which was not to speak necessarily on the development of the human race. Rather it was to speak on the equality of the human race. Throughout it recognizes the differences of our cultures but with the common denominator that we are all part of one family and we are all equal. So mentioning our common origin makes sense, and to that end it states on page 3,
The Bible story of Adam and Eve, father and mother of the whole human race, told centuries ago the same truth that science has shown today: that all the peoples of the earth are a single family and have a common origin.
Please note the phrasing here. It does not say we have the same original family, it says we have a common origin. Having something in common is not at all like having it the same. And note what it says on page 12,
As far back in time as the scientist can go he finds proof that animals and men moved about in the world.
How far back in time could a scientist go in 1978? Well, in 1972 Amram wrote that they were tracing the development of mankind back 100,000 years. It’s very clear that this publication is not about human origin, but rather human race and how we are all equal. So not much is said in it with regard to our origin. However this line tells us much, because Ruth and Gene were clearly very educated people and they knew what science, as it then saw it, taught about where we came from – and it wasn’t a literal Adam and Eve.
Further down on page 12 reference is made to Cro-magnon man, a species of homo sapien that lived 40 to 10,000 years ago in Europe. Clearly, neither Ruth nor Gene had a couple in mind who lived 6 thousand years ago in a garden. Is this not yet another example of misusing a published work? It’s been twisted to make it look like it’s saying something it is absolutely not saying at all.
For further reading on Adam and Eve, see the article posted here: Adam and Eve Were Set Up
New Nation, New Guidelines
Next is a bit of a discussion about Moses and the Exodus. Since the purpose of these study discussions is to show that Watchtower may not be all that it claims to be, we will not be delving into whether or not there was an Exodus. I will note that there is no evidence for one to have happened, at least not on the scale and in the way that is described in the bible. Much like the flood of Noah, maybe something did happen, but not as it’s recorded. I encourage you to research this subject to discern what the evidence says, but that is not a topic that relates to whether or not Watchtower is true in the way that disproving their citations above was.
Use of Idols
Something that does relate to whether Watchtower is true, is pointing out something that can only be said to be hypocritical. In paragraph 6 it says,
For more than two centuries, Jacob’s descendants lived under Egyptian rule in a land saturated with worship of the dead, use of idols, and other God-dishonoring beliefs and practices.
Use of idols is here referred to as a, “God-dishonoring” practice. It does not say, “idol worship”, no, it just says, “use of idols.” Why is that important? Well, note how Watchtower describes what an idol is in the Insight book under the heading for, “Idol.”
An idol is an image, a representation of anything, or a symbol that is an object of passionate devotion, whether material or imagined. Generally speaking, idolatry is the veneration, love, worship, or adoration of an idol. It is usually practiced toward a real or supposed higher power, whether such power is believed to have animate existence (as a human, an animal, or an organization) or is inanimate (as a force or lifeless object of nature). Idolatry generally involves some form, ceremony, or ritual.
Now, let’s define the word ‘venerate.’
to feel or show deep respect for (someone or something that is considered great, holy, etc.)
Now let’s put it all together. According to paragraph 6, even the use of an idol, which is a representation of anything is a God-dishonoring practice. What’s more, Idolatry is defined as, “veneration…of an idol” (representation of anything), and to venerate means to show deep respect for someone or something that is considered, “great.”
Now, many readers will know where we are headed because this was covered in a previous article, but when it comes to helping Witnesses I will cover the same material as many times as it takes. So I ask, how is this not veneration, and how is this not what an idol is?
Witnesses are wearing lapel pins, tie clips, cufflinks, ties, and various accessories representing jw.org. How are these not all idols? How is this not veneration?
Guidance for a New Spiritual Nation
The article now picks up with first century Christians. There is one serious contention to make with regard to the message of this heading.
The Preaching work
In the discussion of last weeks study article for the 22nd, it was explained that the commission Jesus gave could never have applied to anyone living today (please review the subtitle, “This Good News of the Kingdom” under the heading, “Cooperate in Preaching” found here: “You Can Share in Strengthening Our Christian Unity—How?” Watchtower Study for May 22, 2016).
In summary, the word translated as, “testimony” in Matthew 24:14 has special connotation of one being a literal witness – as in they personally saw whatever it is to which they are testifying. It has the same connotation as being a witness in the court of law does today with that respect, you had to have seen that to which you are testifying. In the bible you will not find an example of a person who is not alleged to be an eye-witness of Jesus bearing witness about him. This was exactly what the, “good news” was, it was the news about Jesus as the Messiah. Just to hammer in this point further from last week, lets look at Mark 13:10 which is the parallel account to Matthew 24:14.
Also, in all the nations, the good news has to be preached first.
This is how the Revised New World Translation renders the verse, but other versions render the word for, “good news” as, “gospel.” The reason for this is because there is no possible other meaning for this word other than it being the story of the Messiah. Here is what Strong’s says about the word,
2098 – euaggelion
euaggelion: good news
Original Word: εὐαγγέλιον, ου, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter
Phonetic Spelling: (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on)
Short Definition: the good news, the gospel
Definition: the good news of the coming of the Messiah, the gospel; the gen. after it expresses sometimes the giver (God), sometimes the subject (the Messiah, etc.), sometimes the human transmitter (an apostle).
It is clearly shown, that the commission Jesus is alleged to have given here is that those who personally saw him and could attest that he was the Messiah were to go and preach the good news about the coming of the Messiah. People who haven’t personally seen something with their own two eyes cannot testify to its truth.
A commenter in last weeks study discussion stated that Witnesses, “bear witness to the truth that has been revealed to them in the bible.” Of course, if it is your feeling that you should do this it is your right to do so. But, to be clear on the subject, the words translated as, “testimony” and, “good news” mean that an eye-witness of the alleged coming of the Messiah gave their testimony about those events – hence, nobody alive today is under that commission because nobody alive today personally witnessed the alleged actions of Jesus Christ.
Why is this important? It’s important because there are so many Jehovah’s Witnesses being made to feel poorly by sermons saying they should be pioneering, or going to the school for Christian couples. It’s important because at every assembly or convention people who do these things are put on stage and displayed as an example to which everyone in attendance should aspire. Not everyone can do these things, and many are left discouraged and feeling unworthy. And for what? For a commission that evidence says cannot possible apply to them in the least.
Directions for Modern Times and Beyond
Especially since the appointment of “the faithful and discreet slave,” Jesus has provided his people with spiritual food at the proper time (Matt. 24:45-47)
If you are a Jehovah’s Witness, you are no doubt aware that the doctrine teaches that the “faithful and discreet slave” is the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you’ve been struggling with this idea since it was published in a July issue of the Watchtower, you may appreciate this final area of discussion for this post.
A Jewish Tradition
What exactly did Jesus mean when he used this phrase? It was actually a reference to a well-known tradition of his day, one going back even all the way to the days of the Judges. The book, “Daily Life in the Time of Jesus” by Henri Daniel-Rops (a book referenced by Watchtower in the Reasoning book under the discussion of Christmas) is a book all about the culture in Israel at that time. It makes reference to the tradition of the “faithful slave” and explains what it was and how this person was appointed.
Keys had been known for a very long while, as far back as the time of the Judges; but these early keys must have been very simple affairs, adapted only for raising a latch, like those which are still used in monasteries as a passe-partout. The modern key was invented in the Hellenistic cities by men who moved bolts by means of nails fixed in a turning stem: the Romans improved the system, and made their keys of metal. The Jewish keys were of considerable size, and they were carried with some ostentation, hung on the bosom, as they were until very recently in Turkey: a key was a mark of standing. And when Jesus said to Simon called Peter, “I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” everyone there must have known that He made him thereby the leader and the guide of the disciples; for a great landowner would confide the keys to his steward as a particular mark and outward sign of his confidence.
-Daily Life in the Time of Jesus page 224
It is important to note that this book is not a religious book, it is not about whether or not the bible is true or which religion is true – it is only about the culture of the day. As you can see, the “faithful slave,” the house manager, or steward was a tradition going back a very, very long time. It was one that the Jewish people all knew about. In fact, reference is made in the bible to this tradition in more places than just the one Watchtower frequently shows you.
2 Kings 18:17, 18,
Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they went up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway of the fuller’s field. When they called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, came out to them. (NASB)
Compare Luke 12:41, 42,
Then Peter said: “Lord, are you telling this illustration just to us or also to everyone?” And the Lord said: “Who really is the faithful steward (footnote: or “house manager”) 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? (Revised NWT)
‘In that day I will call my servant E·liʹa·kim the son of Hil·kiʹah, and I will clothe him with your robe and firmly bind your sash around him, and I will give your authority into his hand. And he will be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder. He will open and no one will shut; and he will shut and no one will open. (Revised NWT)
Compare Matthew 16:17-19,
In response Jesus said to him: “Happy you are, Simon son of Joʹnah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father in the heavens did. Also, I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my congregation, and the gates of the Grave will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will already be bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loosen on earth will already be loosened in the heavens.” (Revised NWT)
It is a mystery how Watchtower would arrive at the conclusion that their Governing Body is what Jesus had in mind when he allegedly said anything about the “faithful slave,” when history and the bible tell us exactly what this slave was and how they were appointed. Who do you think is more likely to be right about who the slave is? The cultural facts combined with the bible or Watchtower’s word based on nothing at all?
In conclusion, I want to stress that nothing here is meant to take away your belief in God. Nor is it meant to tell you that any other religion is right. I am not a religious person, and I personally do not believe in God. My only goal is to help you come to the realization that Watchtower is not all that it seems. They twist and misuse the words of published authors, they tell you that different scriptures mean things that it doesn’t take much research to demonstrate they simply cannot mean.
Does the commission recorded in Matthew 24:14 and 28:19, 20 apply to you? No, it absolutely does not and there is no possible way it could. That is not to say that you can’t tell as many as you like about your beliefs and talk about the bible. However, to tell people it’s their job and that they will be bloodguilty if they don’t do it often enough is despicable and false.
Is the Governing Body the “faithful slave” referred to in Matthew? No, they are not. It’s easily shown that this was a cultural tradition dating back to the time of the judges, and it can even be shown (as it has been here), from the bible, that this tradition was marked by giving a person the keys to the house for them to wear as a badge of office. The bible harmoniously makes this clear from Old Testament to new, and, last I checked, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that however the bible harmonizes is how you discern truth correct?
Please, always check up on their citations. Do the research they are counting on you taking for granted they have done. It will benefit you immensely.