Rarely—if ever—do Jehovah’s Witnesses compare the Watchtower claims to what the Bible texts actually say. Rather, they trust the Watchtower organization implicitly and assume that when the Watchtower quotes or cites Bible texts that those passages fully support the points the Watchtower is making.
Often, that is not the case at all. The Watchtower frequently misrepresents the Bible through use of inaccurate quotations. In his book, Scripture Twisting, James Sire defines this error as follows: “A biblical text is referred to but is either not quoted in the way the text appears in any standard translation or is wrongly attributed.”
Here are some examples of how the Watchtower misleads through inaccurate quotation:
Example #1: “If we have love for Jehovah and for the organization of his people we shall not be suspicious, but shall, as the Bible says, ‘believe all things,’ all the things that The Watchtower brings out.” (Qualified To Be Ministers, 1955, p. 156)
- Here is the actual Bible quotation: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7, RSV)
- Examine the context: Paul was not telling his readers that the Watchtower Society is Jehovah’s organization and that if we love God we will believe everything that organization tells us.
Example #2: “As Jesus said, the end would occur in the same generation that saw the beginning of the ‘last days’ in 1914.-Matt. 24:34.” (The Watchtower, 5/1/68, p. 265)
- Here is the actual Bible quotation: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matt. 24:32-36, RSV)
- Jesus himself said that he didn’t know the day or the hour, but that doesn’t stop the Watchtower from claiming that he was telling his audience that “the end would occur in the same generation that saw the beginning of the ‘last days’ in 1914.”
Example #3: “Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?… That the great issue before humankind is the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty, which is why he has allowed wickedness so long. (Ezekiel 25:17) … That there is a “faithful and discreet slave” upon earth today ‘entrusted with all of Jesus’ earthly interests,’ which slave is associated with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Matthew 24:45-47)… (The Watchtower, 4/1/86, p. 31)
- Ezekiel 25:17 states, “I will execute on them great acts of vengeance with furious punishments, and they will have to know that I am Jehovah when I bring my vengeance on them.” (NWT)
- This verse says nothing about the issue before humankind being Jehovah’s sovereignty, nor does it explain why God has allowed wickedness to continue so long.
- Matthew 24:45-47: “”Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, `My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, 51 and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (RSV)
- This passage does not say that there is a “faithful and discreet slave” upon earth in our day which has been “entrusted with all of Jesus’ earthly interests,” and if it did mean that, there is nothing in the passage to identify that “slave” with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Example #4: “They have a modern Governing Body of older Christian men from various parts of the earth who give needed oversight to the worldwide activities of God’s people. these men, like the apostles and older men in Jerusalem in the first century, are anointed members of the faithful and discreet slave class designated by Jesus to care for all of his Kingdom interests here upon earth. History has proved that they can be trusted to follow the direction of the holy spirit and that they do not rely on human wisdom in teaching the flock of God the ways of genuine peace.—Matthew 24:45-47; 1 Peter 5:1-4.” (The Watchtower, 12/15/89, p. 6)
- Matthew 24:45-47 is quoted in full above.
- It says nothing about today there being a modern Governing Body of “anointed members of the faithful and discreet slave class” being “designated by Jesus to care for all of his Kingdom interests here upon earth.”
- 1 Peter 5:1-4 says: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. 2 Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, 3 not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.”
- Nothing in that passage supports the conclusion that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be trusted to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit or that they do not rely on human wisdom and teach the flock of God the ways of genuine peace.
Example #5: “If we are Jehovah’s Witnesses, we should remember that our life and the lives of others depend upon our obedience. (1 Timothy 4:15, 16) Each Witness needs to keep pace with Jehovah’s organization. (The Watchtower, 3/15/91, p. 15)
- 1 Timothy 4:15-16 reads: “Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
- It says nothing about anyone’s life depending on obeying and keeping pace with “Jehovah’s organization”.
Example #6: “Many Jews back then [in Jesus’ day] were enslaved to traditions and mistaken beliefs. (Matt. 5:31-37)” (The Watchtower – Study Edition, 12/2019, “Jehovah Provides for Your Liberty”, paragraph 10)
- While that statement is no doubt true, the passage cited doesn’t say that. In fact, it doesn’t refer to the Jews’ traditions and mistaken beliefs at all.
- Rather, in Matthew 5:31-37, Jesus is making “You have read that it was said… but I say to you” statements. What he cites as “You have heard it said” are not mistakes. They are Old Testament scriptures, and Jesus wasn’t repudiating them; he was expanding their teachings and explaining the spirit behind them.
Combatting This Error
The best way to show Jehovah’s Witnesses this error is to join with them in looking up scriptures that you know the Watchtower has misquoted (or referenced by citation as support for things they don’t really say) and asking two questions:
- Does this scripture, in context, really say what the Watchtower claims it says?
- If this scripture does say some of what the Watchtower says it does, does it say everything the Watchtower claims it is saying?
- Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible, James W. Sire (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1980), p. 155