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Jehovah's Witnesses

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

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» Watch tower/Watchtower
» JW Publications
» God's Only Organization?
» Tight Control
» Doctrinal Beliefs
» New World Translation

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At a Glance
Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves to be the only true Christians. However, their organization - the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society - denies and/or contradicts several of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

Individuals who, while claiming to be Christians, reject one of more central (key) doctrines of the Christian faith are considered heretics. Groups which reject such doctrines while claiming to represent Christianity, are considered cults of Christianity.

Thus, while Jehovah's Witnesses profess to be Christians, they are outside orthodox Christianity and are considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity.

Sociologically, this religious movement has a number of cult-like characteristics and problems as well, including the high level of control exerted over its members' lives, its unbiblical approach to the practice of shunning, and its teachings regarding blood transfusions (which have resulted in many needless deaths).

The Jehovah's Witnesses religious movement was founded by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916).

As a teenager he rejected his Presbyterian roots, joined a more liberal Congregational Church, then left this group as well. He denied the deity of Christ and the biblical teachings on hell and eternal punishment. Russell had no formal Bible training, but borrowed and built upon various teachings that were popular at the time. For example, Adventism influenced his denial of hell, and a splinter Adventist group led by N.H. Barbour aroused his interest in end time prophecies. From Barbour he borrowed the belief that Christ returned invisibly to the world in 1874, and that 1914 was the year the world would be destroyed and the Millennium would begin.

In 1870 Russell started a Bible study group known as The Bible Students. In the 1880s he founded a non-profit corporation now known as the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

The name Jehovah's Witnesses was adopted in 1931. It is based on Isaiah 43:10, which reads, "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." (American Standard Version).

Watch Tower / Watchtower
Is it Watch Tower or Watchtower?

Watch Tower Society is short for {Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania} and Watchtower Society is short for {Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.}. Notice that although the magazine name and New York corporation spell Watchtower as one word, the Pennsylvania corporation spells it as two. The Pennsylvania organization, first called Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society, is the primary legal agency of Jehovah's Witnesses today. Therefore the three-word form Watch Tower Society is what is seen almost exclusively in our publications, unless the New York corporation is explicitly meant.


The organization's primary publications are two semi-monthly magazines: (1) Awake!, which targets mostly "unbelievers" and focuses on nonbiblical subjects such as current events and news stories; and (2) The Watchtower, which is the Society's "chief means of instructing members in doctrine and practice" (Jehovah's Witness Literature, p. 155).

Once or twice a year the Witnesses publish books that either promote basic doctrines, serve as instructional guides to living, or examine various books of the Bible. These materials are also used to arouse the interest of non-members.

In 1961 the Jehovah's Witnesses released their own translation of the Bible, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (which has previously been published in a multivolume set from 1950 to 1960).

Members are encouraged to study the Watch Tower Bible in conjunction with the other Watch Tower publications and discouraged from studying the Bible by itself.
Source: Charts of Cults, Sects, & Religious Movements by H. Wayne House, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, page 149.

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About This Page:

• Subject: Jehovah's Witnesses : The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
• First posted: Oct. 2, 1996
• Last Updated: Jul. 8, 2004
• Editor: Anton Hein
• Copyright: Apologetics Index

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