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First Century Governing Body?
The Watchtower claims that a formal governing body was established in the first century, which is used as the basis for how the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society operate today.
- "While all anointed Christians collectively form God's household, there is abundant evidence that Christ chose a small number of men out of the slave class to serve as a visible governing body. The early history of the congregation shows that the 12 apostles, including Matthias, were the foundation of the first-century governing body." - Watchtower 1990 Mar 15 p.11
The term "governing body" is 'loaded language' as it never appears in the Scriptures and so has unique application within the pages of the Watchtower. How does the Watchtower justify a Governing Body when the term that does not exist in the Bible? This is by reference to the issue of circumcision as discussed in Acts chapter 15. This is the sole example of a convening of brothers to establish doctrine.
On this occasion it can not be said that the decision was made by an established Governing Body. Acts 15:2 says:
- "they arranged for PaulandBarnabasandsome others of them to go up to theapostlesandolder men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute."
Rather than showing the existence of a small number of 12 leaders being referred to as a Governing Body, Acts describes a gathering of the apostles and older men in Jerusalem along with Paul and Barnabas, who were travelling missionaries, and others. This large group combined to decide on an important issue affecting the local congregations.
The history of the Apostle Paul shows that there was no centralized Governing Body directing the early Christians. After Paul's conversion, he did not convene with a governing body or go to Jerusalem to receive an assignment. Rather, he immediately embarked on his missionary work under direction of Holy Spirit. Paul did not make his first trip to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion, and even then he did not meet with a group of leaders, but just with Peter and James.
- Galatians 1:17-19 "Neither did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles previous to me, but I went off into Arabia, and I came back again to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to visit Ce´phas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I saw no one else of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord."
He then did not go back to Jerusalem for another fourteen years (Gal 2:1-3), possibly for the occasion described in Acts 15. Schaff's History of the Christian Church shows that after the issue of circumcision was resolved "?we have no trace of Councils before the middle of the second century?"