Where are the Jehovah’s Witnesses in History?

I’ve recently engaged with some local Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were in the street with their stand of magazines and articles, and so I took this as my invitation to engage.

It was very friendly of course, but I did ask a question that I think cannot be answered by them, namely:

“Where are the Witnesses in 1800 years from the death of the last Apostle, to Rutherford and Russel making their discoveries that led to the modern day JW movement?”

I have never had an answer from them about this over the years. But one of them promised she would email me her response after she did some research. She thought it was a very good question.

Indeed it is. I did get a reply from her, and the reply seemed, well, ropey to say the least. She appealed to Matthew 13:24-30 and 13:36-43.

This parable is about the Wheat and the Weeds that grow together. In the reply to my question, the JW movement insist that the Church underwent a Great Apostasy after the Apostolic Era, and that the Church simply….. vanished. Not only is that shocking, but so is the reason: The Church ceased to exist during the so-called Great Apostasy because Jesus foretold that it would, and the only text offered is the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

The parable is a straight forward story of the righteous and the unrighteous being allowed to live and grow together, until the Son of Man sends the angels to gather them all in and then separate the wheat from the weeds. The former enter into glory and the latter are parabolically destroyed.

Apparently, this parable is the answer as to why there are no “true believers” until the late nineteenth century with Russel and Rutherford – they must have been very humble men!

I remain utterly unconvinced at this very strained interpretation of a parable.

To suggest and insist this is demonstrating a “Great Apostasy” for multiple centuries after Christ is raised from the dead is as forced as a giraffe trying to get into a Polar Bear Only Club.

Not only is the exegesis away with the fairies by any agreed exegetical method, but the hermeneutical conclusions are more strained than my afternoon cup of tea! To be fair to the JW soldiers, they are not the first to engage in dubious interpretive methods. Augustine himself offered an extreme allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Nevertheless, parables need due care and attention. They are not a turkey shoot where they can mean what you want.

I suspect that the JW movement is influenced by Dispensational Eschatological thinking from late 19th century America. This means that their framework for interpretation will be largely shaped by what has long been discredited as the Dispensational school of thought. This particular and modern approach to the End Times attaches significance and urgency to things in Scripture in such a way as to do violence to the text, and make a nonsense of the Church’s hermeneutical tradition.

But it is also self serving. The JW movement must, by necessity insist that the Church proper (i.e. Trinitarian Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) is not the True Church, because that would undermine their claim. So they had to come up with Scriptural insinuations at best and Scriptural surgical proceedures at worst, whereby words and meanings are changed to suit the eschatological grid of their worldview.

To delegitimise the global, historical Church, they had to undermine and counter the claim that it is they who are not legitimate. To think that Jesus would not be able to form, keep and sustain His Church is a scandalous, even blasphemous thing to suggest. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, just a couple of chapters after the parable in question,

“I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.”

To ascribe failure to Jesus Christ through the illigitimate use of a parable Jesus told, and especially one where he gives a rare interpretation of the meaning himself, is beyond incredulity. To think that modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses are the end result in the End Times of the end of all things is simply a bad joke.

Jesus has never, and will never give up the Church whom he has purchsed with His blood. And this fact alone is enough to topple the hermeneutically fragile edifice that is the ancient Arian heresy known in our day as The Jehovah’s Witnesses.

No. God has had His people, His witnesses in every age since the first chapter of the Bible. In Acts 1:8 Jesus told the disciples that they, and subsequently we, will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the very ends of the earth. To suggest that the Son of God was defeated by the alleged Great Apostasy is also beyond incredulity. And even if they are right about this (which they are not), but even then, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 does not even begin to answer their particular historical invention.

So I ask once again: Where are the Jehovah’s Witnesses in history?

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