In this series, we are examining four specific Watchtower claims which all sincere Jehovah’s Witnesses believe.
Watchtower Claim #2: Only the Watchtower can properly interpret the Bible
Because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Watchtower is God’s sole channel of communication, it follows that you and I cannot properly interpret the Bible without them to explain it to us. They cite the situation of the Ethiopian in Acts 8, who needed Philip to explain to him what he was reading. Of course, this ignores the fact that the reason he needed help understanding an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah was because the New Testament hadn’t been written yet!
“Consider, too,” the Watchtower says, “the fact that Jehovah’s organization alone, in all the earth, is directed by God’s holy spirit or active force. (Zech. 4:6) Only this organization functions for Jehovah’s purpose and to his praise. To it alone God’s Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book… How very much true Christians appreciate associating with the only organization on earth that understands the ‘deep things of God’!”
Not only do Witnesses believe that outsiders can’t understand the Bible without the Watchtower organization to explain it to them; they also believe that they themselves cannot properly interpret the Bible without the organization’s overseers (they don’t call them “leaders”) to explain it to them. In the Jehovah’s Witness mindset, everything is organizational. Therefore, individuals cannot properly interpret the Bible: “Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.”
These are by no means isolated statements. This has been the teaching of the Watchtower organization for more than 100 years. Promoting its six volume “Studies in the Scriptures” at the beginning of the 20th century, the Watchtower organization made this claim:
If the six volumes of SCRIPTURE STUDIES are practically the Bible topically arranged, with Bible proof-texts given, we might not improperly name the volumes—the Bible in an arranged form. That is to say, they are not merely comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself…
Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the SCRIPTURE STUDIES aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the SCRIPTURE STUDIES with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.
Even though the official Watchtower teaching is that the Bible is infallible and inspired by God and that Watchtower publications are not, in practice Jehovah’s Witnesses often believe Watchtower literature over the plain words of the Bible. Why? Because they believe that they can’t understand Bible truth without the Watchtower to explain it to them.
This aspect of the Jehovah’s Witness mindset explains why, when you are trying to get through to Jehovah’s Witnesses, questions work far better than statements. They don’t think you have any Bible understanding worth sharing with them. As representatives of “Jehovah’s organization,” they expect to be the teachers and you to be their student.
It also explains why they insist on using Watchtower literature. To counter this, try to get them to lead you through a study of Galatians or Romans verse by verse in its original context:
- Point out that in Acts 8, Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian using the book of Isaiah the man was reading, not outside literature published by an organization.
- Say something like this: “Then please show me the truth out of the Bible itself, read in context, the way Philip did with the Ethiopian.”
- Ask them if Watchtower literature is infallible and inspired like the Bible itself. They will answer no. Then say, “Then I prefer to study God’s Word itself.”
- Don’t let them hopscotch the Bible citing isolated and often unrelated proof texts. Insist on studying all the Bible book’s points in the order in which the inspired apostle wrote them.
If the Witnesses are willing to set aside their Watchtower literature and study the Bible alone, you have a much better chance of getting through to them with the truths of God’s Word. Because of their organizational mindset, however, they are unlikely to be willing to forego the use of Watchtower publications. In that event, say something like, “I don’t understand. If you have the truth, why is it that I am willing to go by God’s infallible Word alone and you are not?” Even if they don’t show it, this thought should trouble them because you will have effectively set up a tension between the infallibility of Scripture and the Witnesses’ reliance on the Watchtower organization.
Have you been able to get Witnesses to use only the Bible and not Watchtower literature? How you been able to get Witnesses to go through a Bible book with you in context rather than skipping around from one Watchtower proof text to another?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
 The Watchtower Society teaches that the Holy Spirit is not God nor even a person, but rather an impersonal force. For this reason, they usually refer to the Holy Spirit as “holy spirit.”
 The Watchtower, “Praise Jehovah with His People”, 7/1/73, p. 402
 The Watchtower, “Finding Freedom with Jehovah’s Visible Organization”, 10/1/67, p. 587
 The Watch Tower, 9/15/1910, pp. 298-299