In this series, we’ve looked at 20 different ways in which the Watchtower misreads the Bible.
Since these have been presented one-by-one on a weekly basis, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture or to forget where we’re been.
For this reason, I’ve decided to make this last post of the series a compendium of all that we’ve covered as well as a linked index to the various posts so you can easily go back and review.
Here is a list of the 20 interpretive errors, thumbnail explanations of each of them, along with links to the various posts where I discussed them.
Misreading #1: Inaccurate Quotation: 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.
Misreading #2: Twisted Translation: The biblical text is retranslated, not in accordance with sound Greek scholarship, to fit the preconceived teachings of a cult.
- The Watchtower’s Twisted Translation Regarding Jesus
- The Watchtower’s Twisted Translation Regarding “Jehovah”
Misreading #3: Biblical Hook: A text of Scripture is quoted primarily as a device to grab the attention of the readers or listeners and then followed by a teaching which is so nonbiblical that it would appear far more dubious to most people had it not been preceded by a reference to Scripture.
Misreading #4: Ignoring the Immediate Context: A text of Scripture is quoted but removed from the surrounding verses which form the immediate framework for its meaning.
Misreading #5: Collapsing Contexts: Two or more verses which have little or nothing to do with each other are put together as if one were a commentary on the other.
Misreading #6: Overspecification: A more detailed or specific conclusion than is legitimate is drawn from a Bible text.
- The Watchtower Reads into Texts Regarding “The Faithful and Discreet Slave”
- The Watchtower Reads into Texts Regarding the Resurrection
Misreading #7: Word Play: A word or phrase from a biblical translation is examined and interpreted as if the revelation had been given in that language.
Misreading #8: The Figurative Fallacy: Either (1) mistaking literal language for figurative language or (2) mistaking figurative language for literal language.
- The Watchtower Once Taught That There Are Four Degrees of Salvation–Two Heavenly and Two Earthly
- The Watchtower’s Fanciful Interpretation of the Rich Man and Lazarus
Misreading #9: Speculative Readings of Predictive Prophecy: A predictive prophecy is too readily explained by the occurrence of specific events, despite the fact that equally committed biblical scholars consider the interpretation highly dubious.
Misreading #10: Saying But Not Citing: A writer says that the Bible says such and such but does not cite the specific text (which often indicates that there may be no such text at all.)
Misreading #11: Selective Citing: To substantiate a given argument, only a limited number of texts is quoted; the total teaching of Scripture on that subject would lead to a conclusion different from that of the writer. Example: the Jehovah’s Witnesses critique the traditional Christian notion of the Trinity without considering the full set of texts which scholars use to substantiate the concept.
Misreading #12: Inadequate Evidence: A hasty generalization is drawn from too little evidence. Example: the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that blood transfusion is nonbiblical, but the biblical data which they cite fails either to speak directly to the issue or to adequately substantiate their teaching.
Misreading #13: Confused Definition : A biblical term is misunderstood in such a way that an essential biblical doctrine is distorted or rejected.
Misreading #14: Ignoring Alternative Explanations: A specific interpretation is given to a biblical text or set of texts which could well be, and often have been, interpreted in quite a different fashion, but these alternatives are not considered.
Misreading #15: The Obvious Fallacy: Words like absolutely, undoubtedly, certainly, all reasonable people hold that and so forth are substituted for logical reasons.
Misreading #16: Virtue by Association: Either (1) a cult writer associates his or her teaching with those of figures accepted as authoritative by traditional Christians; (2) cult writings are likened to the Bible; or (3) cult literature imitates the form of the Bible.
Misreading #17: Esoteric Interpretation: Under the assumption that the Bible contains a hidden, esoteric meaning which is open only to those who are initiated into its secrets, the interpreter declares the significance of biblical passages without given much if any explanation for his or her interpretation.
Misreading #18: Supplementing Biblical Authority: New revelation from postbiblical prophets either replaces or is added to the Bible as authority.
Misreading #19: Rejecting Biblical Authority: Either the Bible as a whole or texts from the Bible are examined and rejected because they do not square with other authorities—such as reason and other revelation—do not appear to agree with them.
- The Watchtower Rejects Biblical Authority Regarding Hell
- The Watchtower Rejects Biblical Authority Regarding God’s Foreknowledge
Misreading #20: World-View Confusion: Scriptural statements, stories, commands or symbols which have a particular meaning or set of meanings when taken within the intellectual and broadly cultural framework of the Bible itself are lifted out of that context, placed within the frame of reference of another system and thus given a meaning that markedly differs from their intended meaning.
As I draw this series to a close, I want to add just a word about how to use the series.
When you talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will encounter many of these interpretive errors—both in the points they make and in the Watchtower literature they ask you to read.
I hope you will be able to use these points to identify and understand the errors the Watchtower is making as well as to avoid making similar errors yourself.
Most importantly, I hope you will find the “Combatting This Error” section of the post helpful in your efforts to get through to Jehovah’s Witnesses the principles of sound Bible interpretation as well as the light of the real gospel.