Was There REALLY a First Century "Governing Body"??

by Lady Liberty 12 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Lady Liberty
    Lady Liberty

    Thank you JWFACTS~

    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?"

  • JeffT

    A "governing body" such as the one that runs the WTBS was a logistical impossibility in the first century. It took months to get a message from one place to another. Fifteen hundred years before the printing press the only written information available would have been hand copied Jewish scriptures and various letters. It is quite clear that each church was a separate entity.

    Of course they also practiced a much simpler brand of Christianity. One become saved by accepting Christ, and following baptism a Christian was guided by Holy Spirit and his/her own conscience. The endless rehashing of doctrine was not necessary.

  • sir82
    The term "governing body" is 'loaded language' as it never appears in the Scriptures

    I've heard a CO state that the term really is in the Bible. He referred to the scripture at Hebrews 13:17 which reads something like "be obedient to those taking the lead among you" in the NWT. He said "those taking the lead among you" is more literally "the governors of you" in the original Greek.

    I don't buy it either, but a JW apologist would.

  • PSacramento

    The first "governing body" started with the Vatican, so, take THAT for what it is worth.

    When Bishops started having more say in matters was in the middle to late second century, but it was still nothing like a central authority.

  • isaacaustin

    If there was I would expect to see clear and multiple references to it. Acts 15 looks for to me like a get together of the entire cong, including the emembers, elders and apostles. Does not resemble a GB meeting.

  • Leolaia

    The same epistle to the Galatians states that the Antioch controversy came to head when certain "men from James" came to Antioch and under whose influence Peter began to reject the table fellowship that Paul extended to the Gentiles. These were emisaries from one of the "pillars" of the Jerusalem church and this caused a (temporary?) rift between Peter and Paul. Paul mentioned this incident because a similar incident was then transpiring in Galatia. Paul was so angry at them that he suggested that maybe those insisting on circumcision let the knife slip and mutilate themselves. Torah-observant Jewish Christians, on the other hand, did not much like Paul; he was viewed by many as an apostate and there is a strong hatred of him in later works like the second-century Ascents of James and the third-century Epistula Petri, and even the first-century gospel of Matthew anticipates their criticisms. Reading Galatians together with Acts, the Jerusalem meeting with Paul, Peter, and James on the subject of circumcision does not appear to have been the unified "governing body" that one may discern at first glance. The requirements that James gave are those for Gentile Godfearers, and there is no clear sign that James regarded such Christians who do not accept the whole Torah as equal in status (as opposed to the Godfearers already accepted as such in Judaism), which is how Paul viewed them. Statements in the Didache (a late first century or early second century catechism manual for Gentiles) suggest that indeed more was expected, and Paul in 1 Corinthians shows a conspicuous silence on the supposed requirement on abstaining from food sacrificed to idols (even arguing that in principle such food could be eaten).

  • moggy lover
    moggy lover

    There is no evidence for such a system of governance in the early Christian community, and certainly not before the emergence of a definitive all encompassing centralized authority that would be invested in the Catholic tradition of the fifth century.

    Indeed, ecclesiology, the subject of Church rulership, is only defined in embryonic terms in the NT. Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit permitted various forms of congregational [that is, independently constructed congregations with local elders] authority to evolve within the believing community. As churches became established farther away from the original centre of gravity in Jerusalem, these manifested themselves as independent communities whose local body of elders did not interfere in the affairs of other congregations. If such fissures as threatened the existence of the community occured, then the arrangement of Apostles allowed for the settling of disputes.

    It appears that the Apostles were the only constituted authority who were permitted to enter various congregations and settle disputes between various localized units. Otherwise the various congregations or churches got along amicably with each other. In fact they depended on each other for survival against an increasingly hostile civil administration.

    That these various churches had a measure of autonomy can be seen in the way that Paul and Barnabas were anointed by the local church at Antioch to embark on the First Missionary tour [Acts 13:2] without any pressing need to gain the approval of any so-called GB at Jerusalem. Indeed the repetitive concern shown in this narrative is the leading of the Holy Spirit, whose Presence apparently transcended any human authority.

    Also, Paul had sufficient confidence in Titus to permit him to make appointments of elders in his own church, and those churches which were entrusted to him, without the need to have any interference from a remote GB. [Titus 1:5]

    The existence of a GB suggests a preoccupation with doctrinal probity and the need to establish what was and what wasn't orthodox. Actually, history shows that the common thread that ran through the first century community of believers was a love for Christ and the worshipping of Him, sometimes in a primitive liturgy, sometimes in pious devotion. Orthodoxy, and the need to define it arose only when various disputes, usually Christalogical, arose from among the believers. Such a requirement would be recognized as necessary only in the mid fourth century.

    Whatever the meaning of "Hegemenois" used at Heb 13:17, it is clear that the application is to a localized area and pertains to the immediate geography of the readers. Hence whereas, the writer urges the readers of Hebrews to "be obedient to those who were leaders" among them, he also urged them to convey to those same leaders his best regards. [See verse 24, at the end of the letter] This would be impossible if he had in mind a supra-national body claiming to have exclusive rights to submission on the part of the rank and file.

    Thus, the Watchtower structure as it exists today finds no warrant in the genesis of Christianity, but is a development of a much later, hierarchical protocol that developed in the emergence of the Roman Catholic Church. An organization that the Watchtower presumes to despise.

  • glenster

    "Was There REALLY a First Century 'Governing Body'??"

    That the phrase "Governing Body" could be used for "early Christian leaders"
    is only part of the proposition of the JWs leaders. They add that they're the
    sole example of it--that the set of rules that make them distinctive restore
    what the early Christian leaders intended.

    The JWs leaders aren't holding a sincere difference of belief about that but
    just creating an affectation for literature sales. Authors have complained that
    their research books were misused to seem supportive of the JWs leaders' stances
    when they weren't, etc.

    There is a similarity between propaganda posters for Chairman Mao and covers
    of the Watchtower:

  • carla

    marking for later

  • xtreemlyconfused17

    now if there wont be a 'governing body'.....or lets say 'a set of arangement', what would the elders teach? (i know the main theme is Jehovah's Kingdom). What would they be saying every week?.........atleast when theres a 'governing body' with a 'switch' we can always go see the different tube lights switched on n off now and then! :) lol

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