The Memorial: Jehovah’s Witnesses

So today’s the Memorial (Wednesday, March 23, 2016). This will be my first Memorial as an erstwhile Witness, that is, since my affiliation with the organisation back in the latter part of 2003. I received an invite in my mailbox, from my previous congregation, Northcliff. Whoever put it there either has no idea that the “Great Apostate Clement” lives here, or, alternatively, the person knew – knew very well – but nevertheless had a touch of humour about it. Who knows…

The Memorial Invitation 2016

Memorial Invitation 2016. My personal copy in the mailbox.

So, will I be attending? No, I will not. And, besides, a bottle of vin rouge and matzah don’t cost much…

Memorial Liturgy

Anyone who has attended a Memorial held by Jehovah’s Witnesses will know the peculiarity of this liturgy. They commemorate this occasion in a similar manner as instituted by Jesus (Luke 22:19, 20). They pass the Memorial emblems from person to person. The “deviation,” however, manifests itself in that no one actually partakes of the bread and wine… usually. They just “reverentially” pass the emblems around. Why? This is owing to their unique understanding (“interpretation”) of the scriptures. Basically, they understand that there are two classes of Christians: 1) the anointed, and 2) everyone else (“the great crowd”).[1] The former partake, the latter don’t. The vast majority belong to the latter, so they attend merely as “respectful observers.”[2]

The Anointed

The anointed go by various names,[3] but basically they are a “limited edition” group of Christians. The full number is claimed to be 144 000.[4] So how does a Jehovah’s Witness know that he belongs to this select group? It is said that God selects these ones from among mankind, a “heavenly calling” so to speak. The premise of this calling is usually designated to a scripture in Romans 8:16 which says, “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” And that, right there, is the cornerstone for claiming to be of the anointed. If you read the scripture in context, however, a thinking person will wonder as to how exactly is this scripture the basis for claiming to be one of the alleged 144 000. This doctrine could only be achieved by conflating a number of scriptures.

For one thing, the number “144 000” is extracted from the bible book of Revelation, a book full of symbolism. The very first scripture of Revelation tells us that the substance of that book is a product of “signs.” And, yet, out of this vast ocean of symbolism the Governing Body sees fit to insist that the number 144 000 is literal? On what basis? A gut feeling? Could it be that the Governing Body are trying to conflate this figure with Jesus’ statement about the so-called “little flock”?[5]

One Flock, One Shepherd

As far as the “little flock” is concerned, the Governing Body wishes to make a distinction between it (the little flock) and what the bible book of John 10:16 refers to as “other sheep.” Both statements are alleged to have been spoken by Jesus. After describing himself as the “fine shepherd”[6] who surrenders his soul on behalf of his sheep, Jesus, in John 10:16, is quoted in the 1984 New World Translation as having said:

“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” [Italics mine]

Now, if you read this, it almost suggests that there are two flocks: the “little flock” and some other flock. Also, that this other category of sheep would then become “one flock [with] one shepherd.” This rendition finds alleged support in the 1985 Edition of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures.[7] The word-for-word translation of the Greek, as written therein, is allegedly:

“And other sheep I am having which not is out of the fold this; and those it is necessary me to lead, and of the voice of me they will hear, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”

However, consider how the Emphatic Diaglott[8] (1942) renders that verse, as based off of A New Emphatic Version, which itself is based  on the interlinear translation, and various readings of The Vatican Manuscript No. 1209:

“And Other Sheep I have, which are not of this FOLD; them also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there shall be one Flock, One Shepherd.

The Diaglott’s interlinear version reads:

“And other sheep I have, which not is of the fold this; also them me it behooves to lead; and the voice of me they will hear, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Now, we could debate ad infinitum about which of these interlinear translations is the correct version or which Greek rendition is the most accurate etc. But I don’t think the issue need be that complicated. As far as all the above renditions of John 10:16 are concerned, the important part of that statement is the latter clause: “…and there/they will be(come) one flock, one shepherd.”

We are agreed that the “one shepherd” in question is the “fine shepherd” Jesus. But the question is, who is, or who comprise, the “one flock”? It all depends on our understanding of the last clause. So in other words, did Jesus mean that he has other sheep whom he must collect, and that these collected ones will make up one flock, distinct from the “little flock,” and that he would then become their one shepherd? Or, did Jesus simply mean that, yes, he has other sheep not of this fold, but which he must collect, or assimilate, into what is currently the “little flock,” and together these two groups will become one [big] flock, with Jesus being their one collective shepherd? This latter view certainly lends support to the Diaglott’s version and, I feel, it is the most logical conclusion. Jesus is not a shepherd of two flocks, but of one flock. The little flock will become a big flock once Jesus has amassed all of his sheep together. The alternative view – about two flocks – requires something extra,  leap of some sort. It requires a lot of scriptural “tinkering” and modification.

As one medical aphorism goes: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”

One Mediator

Recall what we said about the fine shepherd? He surrenders his soul on behalf of his sheep. Jesus is the fine shepherd, and, evidently, he did just so; he surrendered his life in ransom sacrifice for his sheep. Now, who did Jesus die for? A select few? A 144 000? No, he died for the whole world; everyone (John 3:16). Okay, now file that while we address the following scripture citations.

The book of 1 Timothy 2:5 says:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus.”

It’s quite self-explanatory: there is one God, okay; there is one mediator, cool; this mediator is between God and men, super; this one mediator is himself a man, a’ight; and this “mediator man” is Jesus, fabulous.

How, pray, can I simplify that even more? It’s irrefutably clear. Jesus is the mediator between God and men. Okay, fine, one might query as to who these “men” purport to be. Is it all men, or is it some men? To satisfy that inquiry we might visit the surrounding scriptures. Apropos, verse three and four say:

“This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” [Italics mine]

Who are “all sorts of men”? Well, if, as it is claimed, this God is not partial,[9] then “all sorts of men” must mean just that: all sorts of men. Verse six gives us a taste of who the “all” might be:

“[Jesus] gave a corresponding ransom for all…”

There we go, Jesus is the mediator between God and all sorts of men – mankind. He’s the mediator between God and mankind, mankind, of course, who have a willingness to profit from this free provision. It is for them that Jesus died, it is for them that Jesus serves as mediator. To interpret this scripture otherwise would be to over-reach, it would be tantamount to throwing a spanner into the mix.

In a 1979 Watchtower article, the Governing Body insisted, however, that “in th[e] strict biblical sense Jesus is the ‘mediator’ only for the anointed Christians.”[10] [Italics mine] Their premise for this is apparently because the apostle Paul used the word “mediator” previously, and in those previous occasions, it was always in relation to the “new covenant” (which covenant the Governing Body insists is only for the anointed). In so arguing, what happens, effectively, is that the Governing Body end up using their own understanding to prove their understanding.

Consolidation of Power

It was a previously and long-held belief of the Watchtower that the Faithful and Discreet Slave was the global community of anointed Christians, who were entrusted with managing all of Christs belongings here on earth. The Governing Body was said merely to represent this global community. In recent times, however, that idea has been modified to state that the Faithful and Discreet Slave is comprised only of the Governing Body members.

If you look at it holistically, the power hub of this organisation is the Governing Body. In order to wield that authority, you would have to satisfy the following: 1) be a baptised Jehovah’s Witness, 2) be male, 3) be in fulltime service, 4) be anointed, and, thus, 5) be part of the Faithful and Discreet Slave. Then, by the grace of a few grey hairs and sheer luck, you stand the chance of being invited to join this coterie of men.

But, then, I suppose, many people started joining the Faithful and Discreet Slave club, and, I suppose, wanted to have their say, as allegedly so empowered by Christ. So then the Governing Body evidently decided they simply can’t have this, so they reformulated the definition of what/who the Faithful and Discreet Slave is, namely, only them. But they packaged this new definition as some wonderful teaching, and cluttered it with other new finds – “new light.” And, unfortunately, the average JW is too exhausted by life to see what’s really going on. But if you take the time to look at it from a bird’s eye-view, you can see what’s happening: the Governing Body are consolidating their power. They are hoarding it. Only they must have a voice worth listening to. No one else. And even better if it can be said that this “voice” is authorised by Christ.  This logic is really no different from the Pope’s claim to fame. “Christ entrusted us with this.” And who would want to argue with Christ?

Truly, never underestimate what men in power will do to stay in power. I shudder to think of the collateral damage that has ensured the survival of this organisation.

The Bible

If there is a God, and this God authorised, or permitted, that the bible should be written in a way that generally confuses the average person – the very same “average person” whose alleged divine salvation depends on said bible – then this God, in my estimation, is not faultless; or perhaps, for the sake of modesty, should I say, “not without blame.”

Also, if he permitted the bible to be written in such a way that the average person could only understand it through some fallible human agency, then, personally, I hold this God vicariously liable for the confusion that mankind is met with by virtue of all these “false prophets” who claim to know, but who have succeeded in doing nothing except mislead the masses. If the average person cannot understand the bible, then the bible is poorly written and, consequently, it does its audience – its target market – a great disservice. And if, by virtue of this confusion, it results in my wholesale dismissal of religion and the putting of a red flag on this concept of God. And if this God – if he really exists – then sees fit to annihilate me for lacking faith in him, then… perhaps that’s all I ever really needed to know about this God.

I’ve said this before: you can make the bible say what you need it to say. I’ve seen this happen several times. For one, the Governing Body coined the euphemistic term “new light” to enable them to traverse these murky waters. Whenever they need the bible to say what they need it to say, they call it “new light” (from God), even if the proposition being promulgated is preposterous. “Overlapping generation.” My foot.


I find the two class (“two flock”) distinction – not to mention the whole mediator argument – untenable. Specious even. I believe that a book from God should be straight-forward, it shouldn’t require complex formulas to convey a simple and vital message.[11] I submit that, if you read the bible straight-forward, it is unlikely that an honest person will arrive at some of the conclusions championed by the Governing Body. Is it, perhaps, because the Governing Body possess some kind of special insight? I think not.


[1] Revelation 7:9.

[2] What Does the Bible Really Teach? (2005) page 208.

[3] “Little flock”, “Spiritual Israel”, “Israel of God”, “New Jerusalem”, “the 144 000”, “Oompa-loompas”. Okay, okay, just kidding about the last one.

[4] Revelation 7:4; 14:1, 3.

[5] Luke 12:32.

[6] John 10:14.

[7] Published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. The Greek text therein is the product of authors B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881). The English text beneath the aforementioned Greek is an interlinear word-for-word translation into English (1969) – the authors thereof are not mentioned. The English text on the right margins is from the 1984 edition of the New World Translation.

[8] Benjamin Wilson The Emphatic Diaglott (1942).

[9] Acts 10: 34, 35 “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”

[10] Question from Readers The Watchtower April 1, 1979 page 31. See also Benefiting from “One Mediator Between God and Men” The Watchtower November 15, 1979 page 21-27; Raymond Franz Crisis of Conscience 4ed pages 283-398.

[11] 2 Timothy 3: 16, 17.