THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET POPE
“Hm?! The Governing Body and the Pope have joined forces?” No! No no no, let me squash that idea right there. Absolutely nothing of the sort. The “Faithful and Discreet Pope” is a conflation of two concepts, one from the Roman Catholics, the other from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which incidentally share a common theme.
Nevertheless, wouldn’t that be something, Pope Francis and the “Brooklyn boys” joining forces. The synergy. And, then, perhaps, David Miscavage and Thomas Monson could join in and make this a real conglomerate. [laughing]
But enough of that, let’s put on our thinking caps and roll out the profundity why don’t we.
It’s no secret that Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Roman Catholics are generally critical of each other. Watchtower’s second president, Joseph Rutherford, was a noteworthy “saucy fellow” when it came to anything having to do with the Pontiff. In fact, the Watchtower published a book, “Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand!” (successor to “The Finished Mystery”), which unleashed what can arguably be classified as Watchtower’s ultimate onslaught on the Roman Catholic Church, declaring it the symbolic harlot of the bible book of Revelation that commits spiritual fornication with the kings (“political system”) of this world.
Not to be outdone, the well-established Catholic church, through its superior political and social outreach, formulated mischief for the fledgling Witnesses, particularly during the World War frenzy in what the Witnesses have described as “clergy-inspired persecution.”
Basis of Authority
Every religious group has leadership of some sort. These ones at the forefront usually invoke some kind of scripture to warrant what authority they wield over the masses. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses take a scripture, in this case, Matthew 24:45-47, and build their entire authority upon it. This, of course, is no different from the approach taken by the Roman Catholic Church as regards their particular authority structure, namely, the papacy.
What’s the foundation of the Pope’s authority? Well, there’s a scripture in the bible, Matthew 16:18, where Jesus says to the Apostle Peter: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” That, right there, is the foundation upon which the papacy rests.
Now, before dissecting that statement, it is first-and-foremost important to remember that in Koiné Greek, the language used in the writing of the original bible manuscript, there was no punctuation as we know it in English. And, secondly – very important to our case – is the fact that the Greek word for “Peter” means “rock” (or “rock-mass”), and, yet, in the very same scripture (Matthew 16:18), the word used for “rock” – as in “on this ‘rock’ I will build my church” – is different from the one used for “Peter.”
So, effectively, depending on interpretation and punctuation, Jesus’ statement could be translated to: “You are the rock, and on this rock I will build my church.” So, in other words, Peter is the rock upon which/whom Jesus would build his church. This interpretation, of course, is favoured by the Roman Catholic Church, but has been the basis of much historic debate.
It would appear that the early Catholics decided to make something of this scripture. In their particular eisegesis, they expanded on this scripture and, evidently, “contrived” a way of transferring this alleged authority of Peter onto the person of the Pope. How so?
Peter, of course, eventually died. So the early Catholic leadership, it seems, took the above-mentioned scripture and formulated it in such a way as to effectively make Peter’s (alleged) role as the foundation of the church inheritable. The Popes were effectively bequeathed with Peter’s “spiritual estate” as it were; that is, of course, if we operate under the assumption that Peter could even cede such a thing. And thus the papacy began. The Popes were then seen as the (“rightful”) successors of Peter – by what criteria exactly, besides a 2/3 majority vote by a papal conclave of the College of Cardinals, I do not know – upon whom, remember, Jesus is said to have built his church. The Popes subsequently carry “Saint” Peter’s mantle, as it were, and hence the concomitant authority (and prestige) of the elected Pope, the so-called “Bishop of Rome.”
The Issue with the Papacy
Even if, for argument’s sake, we accept that Peter in fact was the said rock upon which/whom Jesus said he’d build his church, that particular element isn’t the real core issue here. The bone of my contention – which seems to be shared by other thinkers – relates to how exactly does that even validate the papacy itself? How does the papacy inherit its role from Peter? By what authority? In other words, how does Peter’s being the “rock” justify the existence of the papacy? What gives the Popes the (“legal”) right to inherit, or claim, this said authority of Peter?
This inheritance, it could be argued, amounts to an extraordinary claim, and such a claim, in all earnest, would need to be complimented by extraordinary evidence if it is to be lent any credence.
Perhaps a seasoned Catholic could apprise me. I should hope that the explanation proffered won’t require what former Governing Body member, Raymond Franz, once described as “mental gymnastics.” Not complicated, not convoluted.
The Faithful and Discreet Slave
The Governing Body, on the other hand, takes Jesus’ parable of the faithful and discreet slave and applies it to themselves – exclusively – thereby consolidating all earthly authority, particularly that over the Witnesses, onto themselves. They claim that the invisible Jesus appointed them as the sole channel of communication here on earth, thus only they have the (“legal”) right to this “franchise” called The Truth.
The Governing Body then tells everyone (“Jehovah’s Witnesses”) that in order to gain salvation they have to “take hold of the skirt of a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you people for we have heard [that] God is with you people’ ” This they apply to themselves. They tell folks that, well, the “Jew” in question is not a literal Jew but a spiritual Jew, namely, the “Israel of God” or “New Jerusalem” – basically the 144 000 anointed Christians, the foremost of these being the Governing Body themselves who were allegedly entrusted with feeding Christ’s followers with timely spiritual food here on earth… and so on and so forth, weaving a series of scriptures together.
So the basic idea, ultimately – stripped to its bare essentials – is: “We (the Governing Body) are your ticket to Christ; there is no other way. So obey us (if you know what’s good for you).”
Cooking the Scriptures
So when it comes to the bible, it seems all you need do is take a few scriptures, send them to the kitchen, season them, spice them up a bit, marinate them in your particular eisegesis… finally garnish them, and voila: “Divine Authority.”
And which genuine Christian would challenge “divine authority?” Exactly! So, if you can convince people that you’re God-ordained, it would seem that’s already half the battle won; all you need do now is strut your stuff on the pulpit to make it a homerun.
Predilections of Religion
Well now, sometimes we can only appreciate a situation by comparing it to something else; sometimes we can only see the “matrix” when we eliminate our own emotional investment in something and actually evaluate it critically.
A Catholic will readily see right through the Watchtower’s “Faithful-and-Discreet Slave” doctrine – it’s a fiction; 1914, 1919 etc., trying to make things that don’t fit fit. And why is a Catholic able to see right through this? Simply because they are not emotionally invested. In a similar vein, a Jehovah’s Witness will readily see the papacy for what it is – a contrivance. Why? Because the Witness is not psychologically or emotionally fettered to that arrangement.
To put it in a really uncouth, even facetious, way: it’s easier to see bullshit that is not our own. When it comes to our own cherished beliefs, however, we polish the “stuff” and we call it gold. In fact, we may even hold as contemptuous, sacrilegious even, the mere idea of interrogating our own beliefs. We invent scary names to prevent ourselves from asking the questions that need to be asked. Apostasy. Entheta. We denigrate those who no longer share our views by labeling them with our favourite epithets. Apostates. Suppressive Persons. Heretics.
If experience has taught me anything about the bible, it’s this: You can make the bible say what you need it to say. Scriptures are like puzzle pieces sometimes. You get scriptures that look like they fit, but they don’t quite; however, if you give them a little nudge, so to speak, just a little help, they’ll fit. Daarsy. The Governing Body has been doing this for years with their so-called “New Light,” changing what scriptures mean depending on what’s convenient at the time (the most recent of which includes the so-called “overlapping generation”), but always doing so with the currency of something divine. Jehovah has revealed to us.
For as long as that is the case with scriptures – this latent potential for skulduggery – there will always be variations of the “Faithful and Discreet Pope” seeking to “reign” over the masses. And, worse, yet, it seems there will always be willing believers. Always.
This business of tailoring scriptures to fit one’s narrative or doctrine, is really nothing new. I suppose only the brave – those souls that dare to wonder – will have any hope of escaping this particular quagmire.
 This view, of course, was not unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Various Protestant groups maintain the same position, vehemently denouncing the papacy itself as the identity of the harlot.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (1993) box on page 70.
 The Greek words πέτρος and πέτρα are used for “Peter” and “rock”, respectively. Apparently one is feminine while the other is masculine. Then there’s the whole Greek/Aramaic argument (see web link on footnote 6 for more information).
 In fact, the Emphatic Diaglott (1942) by Benjamin Wilson translates Matthew 16:18 as: “Moreover, I also say to thee, That thou art a Rock, and on this ROCK I will build my CHURCH…”
 What should be borne in mind is that Jesus entrusted the (three) “keys of the kingdom” to Peter (Matthew 16:19). So, if you will, Peter had a weighty assignment. According to bible scholars, these three symbolic keys would open up the kingdom of the heavens to three particular groups: 1) the Israelites, 2) the Samaritans, and, lastly, 3) the Gentiles (in that particular order).
 For a Catholic justification of the papacy, see the article “Origins of Peter as Pope” last found at: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/origins-of-peter-as-pope on January 10, 2016.
 Raymond Franz Crisis of Conscience Commentary Press (2004) page 331.
 Zachariah 8:23.
 Galatians 6:16.
 Revelation 21:2.
 Revelation 14:1-4.