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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Claim of Inspiration

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not claim to be inspired prophets. They have made mistakes. Like the apostles of Jesus Christ, they have at times had some wrong expectations.—Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6.

Additional Reading:

The Scriptures provide time elements related to Christ’s presence, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have studied these with keen interest. (Luke 21:24; Dan. 4:10-17) Jesus also described a many-featured sign that would tie in with the fulfillment of time prophecies to identify the generation that would live to see the end of Satan’s wicked system of things. (Luke 21:7-36) Jehovah’s Witnesses have pointed to evidence in fulfillment of this sign. It is true that the Witnesses have made mistakes in their understanding of what would occur at the end of certain time periods, but they have not made the mistake of losing faith or ceasing to be watchful as to fulfillment of Jehovah’s purposes. They have continued to keep to the fore in their thinking the counsel given by Jesus: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”—Matt. 24:42.

No Claim of Inspiration

Additional Reading:

Not to be overlooked is the larger context of the role of the Watch Tower publications. Whereas Watchtower writers undoubtedly pray for God’s blessing on their work and sincerely believe that God answers these prayers, they make no pretensions of being inspired, infallible or perfect. Consider the following extracts from Watch Tower publications, which prove that this is the case. (This is just a small selection of examples. Many more could be cited, but care has been taken to include at least one example for every decade since The Watchtower began to be published.)

The ex-JWs and other Watchtower faultfinders, might not want you to read these Watchtower statements. Because these antagonists will only use whatever suits their purpose and ignore the rest, they will try anything to make the Watchtower Society look bad.

1870s: We do not object to changing our opinions on any subject, or discarding former applications of prophecy, or any other scripture, when we see a good reason for the change,—in fact, it is important that we should be willing to unlearn errors and mere traditions, as to learn truth.... It is our duty to "prove all things."—by the unerring Word,—"and hold fast to that which is good."

1880s: “We have not the gift of prophecy.”

1890s: Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible, or on a par with the holy Scriptures. The most we claim or have ever claimed for our teachings is that they are what we believe to be harmonious interpretations of the divine Word, in harmony with the spirit of the truth. And we still urge, as in the past, that each reader study the subjects we present in the light of the Scriptures, proving all things by the Scriptures, accepting what they see to be thus approved, and rejecting all else. It is to this end, to enable the student to trace the subject in the divinely inspired Record, that we so freely intersperse both quotations and citations of the Scriptures upon which to build.

1900s: It is not our intention to enter upon the role of prophet to any degree, but merely to give below what seems to us rather likely to be the trend of events—giving also the reasons for our expectations.

Someone may ask, Do you, then, claim infallibility and that every sentence appearing in "The Watch Tower" publications is stated with absolute correctness? Assuredly we make no such claim and have never made such a claim. What motive can our opponents have in so charging against us? Are they not seeking to set up a falsehood to give themselves excuse for making attacks and to endeavor to pervert the judgments of others?

1910s: However, we should not denounce those who in a proper spirit express their dissent in respect to the date mentioned [1914] and what may there be expected . . . We must admit that there are possibilities of our having made a mistake in respect to the chronology, even though we do not see where any mistake has been made in calculating the seven times of the Gentiles as expiring about October 1, 1914.

1920s: Many students have made the grievous mistake of thinking that God has inspired men to interpret prophecy. The holy prophets of the Old Testament were inspired by Jehovah to write as his power moved upon them. The writers of the New Testament were clothed with certain power and authority to write as the Lord directed them. However, since the days of the apostles no man on earth has been inspired to write prophecy, nor has any man been inspired to interpret prophecy.

1930s: We are not a prophet; we merely believe that we have come to the place where the Gentile times have ended.

1940s: This pouring out of God's spirit upon the flesh of all his faithful anointed witnesses does not mean those now serving as Jehovah's Witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this magazine The Watchtower are inspired and infallible and without mistakes. It does not mean that the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is inspired and infallible, although enemies falsely charge us with believing so.... But we confess with the Scriptures that the day of such inspiration passed long before 1870, as the apostle Paul showed it would. . . . Inspired speaking and writing passed away with the last of the twelve apostles, by whom the gifts of the spirit were imparted to others. Yet God is still able to teach and lead us. While confessing no inspiration for today for anyone on earth, we do have the privilege of praying God for more of his holy spirit and for his guidance of us by the bestowal of his spirit through Jesus Christ.

1950s: The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic. It invites careful and critical examination of its contents in the light of the Scriptures.

1960s: The book [Life Everlasting in Freedom of Sons of God] merely presents the chronology. You can accept it or reject it.

Our chronology, however, ... is reasonably accurate (but admittedly not infallible).

1970s: In this regard, however, it must be observed that this “faithful and discreet slave” was never inspired, never perfect. Those writings by certain members of the “slave” class that came to form the Christian part of God’s Word were inspired and infallible, but that is not true of other writings since. Things published were not perfect in the days of Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society; nor were they perfect in the days of J. F. Rutherford, the succeeding president. The increasing light on God’s Word as well as the facts of history have repeatedly required that adjustments of one kind or another be made down to the very present time.

1980s: It is not claimed that the explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say: “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8) At the same time, however, we firmly believe that the explanations set forth herein harmonize with the Bible in its entirety, showing how remarkably divine prophecy has been fulfilled in the world events of our catastrophic times.

1990s: Those who make up the one true Christian organization today do not have angelic revelations or divine inspiration. But they do have the inspired Holy Scriptures, which contain revelations of God’s thinking and will. As an organization and individually, they must accept the Bible as divine truth, study it carefully, and let it work in them.

2000s: Although the slave class is defined as “faithful and discreet,” Jesus did not say that it would be infallible. This group of faithful anointed brothers still consists of imperfect Christians. Even with the best of intentions, they can be mistaken, as such men sometimes were in the first century.

It’s therefore quite clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses make no claim to divine inspiration for their publications. Thus, the critics' assertion that “the Watch Tower claims to be an inspired prophet” is manifestly false.

Does official court testimony claim that The Watchtower is God's Word?

Additional Reading:

Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus’ second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions ‘in the name of Jehovah.’ Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah.’ The Watchtower, the official journal of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has said: “We have not the gift of prophecy.” (January 1883, page 425) “Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible.” (December 15, 1896, page 306) The Watchtower has also said that the fact that some have Jehovah’s spirit “does not mean those now serving as Jehovah’s witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this magazine The Watchtower are inspired and infallible and without mistakes.” (May 15, 1947, page 157) “The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic.” (August 15, 1950, page 263) “The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers. (2 Tim. 3:16) And so, at times, it has been necessary, as understanding became clearer, to correct views. (Prov. 4:18)”—February 15, 1981, page 19. - March 22, 1993 Awake, published by the WTB&TS


Why have there been changes over the years in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

The Bible shows that Jehovah enables his servants to understand his purpose in a progressive manner. (Prov. 4:18; John 16:12) Thus, the prophets who were divinely inspired to write portions of the Bible did not understand the meaning of everything that they wrote. (Dan. 12:8, 9; 1 Pet. 1:10-12) The apostles of Jesus Christ realized that there was much they did not understand in their time. (Acts 1:6, 7; 1 Cor. 13:9-12) The Bible shows that there would be a great increase in knowledge of the truth during “the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4) Increased knowledge often requires adjustments in one’s thinking. Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing humbly to make such adjustments. - Reasoning from the Scriptures, WTB&TS - 1985


Nathan the prophet encouraged King David to go ahead with what was in his heart regarding the building of a house for Jehovah’s worship. But later Jehovah told Nathan to inform David that he was not the one who would build it. Jehovah did not reject Nathan for what he had said earlier but continued to use him because he humbly corrected the matter when Jehovah made it plain to him.—1 Chron. 17:1-15

And it came about that as soon as David had begun dwelling in his own house, David proceeded to say to Nathan the prophet: “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of Jehovah is under tent cloths.” 2 Upon that Nathan said to David: “Everything that is in your heart do, for the [true] God is with you.”3 And it came about on that night that the word of God came to Nathan, saying: 4 “Go, and you must say to David my servant, ‘This is what Jehovah has said: “It will not be you that will build me the house in which to dwell. 5 For I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought Israel up until this day, but I continued from tent to tent and from one tabernacle [to another]. 6 During all the time that I walked about in all Israel, did I speak a single word with one of the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, ‘Why have YOU men not built me a house of cedars?’”’7 “And now this is what you will say to my servant David, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies has said: “I myself took you from the pasture ground from following the flock to become a leader over my people Israel. 8 And I shall prove to be with you wherever you do walk, and I shall cut off all your enemies from before you, and I shall certainly make for you a name like the name of the great ones that are upon the earth. 9 And I shall certainly appoint a place for my people Israel and plant them, and they will indeed reside where they are and no more will they be disturbed; and the sons of unrighteousness will not wear them out again, just as they did at the first, 10 even since the days that I put judges in command over my people Israel. And I shall certainly humble all your enemies. And I tell you, ‘Also a house Jehovah will build for you.’11 “‘“And it must occur that when your days have come to the full [for you] to go [to be] with your forefathers, I shall certainly raise up your seed after you that will come to be one of your sons, and I shall indeed firmly establish his kingship. 12 He is the one that will build me a house, and I shall certainly establish his throne firmly to time indefinite. 13 I myself shall become his father, and he himself will become my son; and my loving-kindness I shall not remove from him the way I removed it from the one that happened to be prior to you. 14 And I will cause him to stand in my house and in my kingship to time indefinite, and his throne will itself become one lasting to time indefinite.”’”15 According to all these words and according to all this vision was the way that Nathan spoke to David.


Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe?

Jesus said: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:18, 19; see also 1 Peter 4:3, 4.) The Bible shows that the whole world lies under Satan’s control; he is the principal instigator of the persecution.—1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:17. Jesus also told his disciples: “You will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name.” (Mark 13:13) The word “name” here means what Jesus officially is, the Messianic King. Persecution comes because Jehovah’s Witnesses put his commands ahead of those of any earthly ruler.