An Extreme Example
Jehovah's Witnesses give
the impression of knowing their Bible. They flip back and
forth to their favorite "proof" texts with the
greatest of ease, "proving" their points and
defeating your arguments -- or at least stirring up
enough dust to cloud the issue. But, in reality, most JWs
don't know the Bible.
What they do know is those few dozen
"proof" texts, taken out of context by their
organization and re-assembled to form arguments far
afield from what the Bible actually says.
The Witnesses are taught to
believe they "study the Bible" more than other
religions, but their study material actually consists of
Watchtower Society publications. Bible verses are quoted,
but out of context.
Not only is the context
omitted, but the verses are actually placed in a
different context, namely the context of the Watchtower
To grasp how this can
change the meaning, think of the entire biblical passage
as a cooked turkey breast. Someone cutting into that
turkey breast and eating it will know what it tastes
like. However, someone who is given just a thin slice
smothered with mustard between layers of rye bread will
know only what the sandwich tastes like -- not the taste
of the turkey itself.
Similarly, the original
flavor or meaning of a Bible verse can be completely lost
or changed when sandwiched between introductory words and
concluding application in the pages of a Watchtower book.
Feeding on steady diet of
such "scripture sandwiches," Jehovah's
Witnesses never really come to know the Bible. But they
do learn the Watchtower Society's teachings, along with
the proof texts the Society uses to make those teachings
appear to be "Bible-based."
When discussing matters
among themselves, JWs will reference and turn to
Watchtower publications to prove a point or to determine
what they should believe. Turning to a Bible verse is
never sufficient, because they know their beliefs really
depend upon the Society's interpretation of the verse.
In fact, JWs routinely
search their publications for the Society's latest interpretation, if they have been
in the organization long enough to see "the light
get brighter" on various matters.
When the Society revises
failed prophecies or reverses doctrinal positions, it
often uses the very same verses to support the new
teaching. The old interpretation is simply discarded and
a new interpretation supplied as the official meaning of
the verse in question.
Yet, through a process that
George Orwell called double-think in his futuristic novel Nineteen
JWs actually believe that their teachings come directly
from the Bible, and the Bible alone, while at the same
time knowing in their hearts that everything depends on
the current interpretation coming from Brooklyn
such as when some internal upheaval in the organization
frightens the leadership into using strong language to
keep the members in line—a statement is published that
betrays their real attitude:
God has also provided his visible organization, his
'faithful and discreet slave,' made up of spirit-anointed
ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and
apply properly the Bible in their lives. Unless we are in
touch with this channel of communication that God is
using, we will not progress along the road to life, no
matter how much Bible reading we do." —The Watchtower December 1, 1981,
When speaking with
outsiders, the Witnesses are trained to quote and cite
only the Scriptures—not the Watchtower publications
that form the real basis for their beliefs.