Why is the Watchtower petrified by Higher Criticism?

by Doug Mason 40 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Knowsnothing

    As you know, Daniel is written in two different languages, which poses interesting questions.

    No, I didn't know, and you're opening up a whole new field of investigation for me. Thanks.

  • OldGenerationDude

    Actually, Finkelstein, "critical" study of both the Scriptures and religion in general is the favored approach of the majority of Christian religions today. The methodology of critical study is not new. It is based on the allegorical approach to Biblical interpretation that was the main focus and thrust of first-century religious exegesis.

    The word "critical" therefore doesn't have the meaning you are using, such as scoffing or doubting. It's a school of thought with an approach to examination of evidence at its most basic levels and within the context of the subject's form. In academia it falls under "critical theory."

    The literalist approach most of us are familiar with is very recent, contemporary with Western society, connected with the periods of American religious revival that swept the states after the Civil War. Only a minority of Christians adopt such a stance, and then it is mostly limited to the most radical of Fundamentalist groups, like the Jehovah's Witnesses. It generally requires an almost complete ignorance with first-century Christian theology and the writing of the Church Fathers.

    Examples of the application of critical thinking can be found in such publications as the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. It has also been the basis of all the exegetical material found in Roman Catholic Bibles, such as the New Jerusalem Bible and the latest New American Bible Revised Edition. The first-century allegorical foundations of Christian critical studies are themselves founded upon the Semitic school of thought and approach to understanding the Tanakh.

    There are several possibilities as to why the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses constantly avoids the use of critical theory. While clearly lack of higher education among its members and adherents plays a great part, since it is the basis for even primary-level catechesis taught to Roman Catholic children in First Communion prep programs in the United States, university-level education is not necessarily a formidable hurdle or requisite to what is so readily available from merely reading the footnotes of most non-NWT Bibles.

    While this is just a personal educated guess, it is more likely due to the need for different classes to exist among the JWs, and to promote this view and nurture it. Unlike other faiths that can be championed by a sole voice, even that from a mere child, who can rise, oppose, correct, and even condemn the church's authorities (such as Jeremiah and John the Baptist in Judaism, and Martin Luther, Joan of Arc and Bernadette Soubirous in later Christian periods) and still rise to "saintly" or hero status, the Governing Body both teaches and promotes the belief that not only does God speak solely through them, that it is impossible for God to speak through anyone else--as if limiting God's abilities (I can probably do without the "as if," huh?). Only the highest class of them all, those in the Governing Body, are the center of all gnosis of God. Any others not in this unique class are lower forms of humans, unable to be used by God as a mouth piece due to the restrictions invented by the GB class, making God incapable of using anyone except those who the Governing Body approves of.

    Critical theory is not the sole property of the educated, but it is often the sword of the stout-hearted. It also requires an open-minded approach, the understanding that a person, any person, can come to incorrect conclusions and even mislead many as a result. Instead of considering certain scenarios as impossible as does the Watchtower and other radically literal approaches, it basis its views on the question: Why not? In other words, who said such and such or this and that is not possible? Prove it.

    Sure, you act like Jeremiah and Joan of Arc, you get tossed down a pit, stoned, or burned at the stake as a heretic. When has society not murdered the good? It is not an exclusive feature of religionists either. The atheistic states are famous for using this type of approach too.

    Critical thinking only invites "doubt" when it requires a person to admit that they are incapable of fully grasping God. When God does not fit into the definition an individual has invented for themselves about what God is, can be, or even not be, the methodology and the one using it becomes demonized. People are the result of their convictions. Prove any one’s convictions incorrect, the person feels they have lost their identity, religious or not.

    In other words, I don't think it's only fear on behalf of the Watchtower. I think it's likely pride more than anything else. Pride mixed with wanting to hate those who use this approach in their study of the Scriptures. When people want to hate somebody or some group, dismissal is the easy path. It avoids having to be petrified, for no one faces or fears what they do not believe exists or may even be a possibility.

  • Knowsnothing

    From the link Doug gave:

    The principles of higher criticism are based on reason rather than revelation and are also speculative by nature.



    If you are simply left with a maybe, a what if, no matter how iron-clad the argument looks, you simply can't be 100%.

    Then again, that seems like a preferable option to the leap of faith required to believe the Bible as inspired by God.

  • Finkelstein

    Actually, Finkelstein, "critical" study of both the Scriptures and religion in general is the favored approach of the majority of Christian religions today.

    Really ? Certainly not in the JW religion, they openly frown on it.

    When your set agenda is to cultivate believers, you usually have to formulate and structure your self supporting information.

    Religion is mostly about luring people into accepting and confirming already established dogma, therefore controlled interpretation is stringently

    structured into most religions. Under this process the religion grows in strength and offers vacuous amount of power to those that created the dogma.

    If the narrow path leads one to power why widen the path to endanger that intent by higher criticism ?

  • OldGenerationDude

    Knowsnothing is correct, along the lines of critical theory as used in theology.

    As defined by the Watcthtower and other radical literalists, a person must accept that truth in the Bible is limited to historicity and the inspiration by God requires that the humans used to compose the books did so practically per vadum. That requires one to abandon the use of logic, and thus the mind.

    Critical theory champions the school of theology that teaches differently, that truth is not limited to how historical a record is, or even to writings that aren't parable in nature.--Yes, the parables of Jesus aren't true stories. But they are still inspired because they teach morals or truths that these religious groups who composed the Bible believe come through divine revelation. This goes for much of the Bible which rarely employes dry reports of events and instead places events into a narrative form that can teach and instruct.

    Also, while a person can come to have faith in God after reading the Bible, one must never forget that that the critical method teaches that the religions came first and that the faith these groups already had were later put to writing, and then even later edited into the forms that were eventually, following a long process, became viewed and declared "inspired" by the authority these groups already believed that had without Scripture. As I've stated many times before, the Bible is a reflection of the religions that wrote it, not the basis on which they are governed or founded.

    One does not put faith in a reflection (the Bible) when you have the real deal (the religion) standing right there.

  • compound complex
    compound complex


    Welcome and many thanks ...


  • OldGenerationDude

    I hear the Watchtower in the words of people who claim that this set of convictions or that other are "lures," like bait leading to traps.

    Neither religion nor atheism are causes in themselves for the many crimes against humanity. Religion is the excuse for the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition. Atheism is the excuse for the terrors of Marxism and other like murderous governments. The real cause of the crimes against humanity is humanity itself.

    Humans don't like to take the blame. We will blame others or some doctrine we adopted, and like the Jehovah's Witnesses, we will demonize others who don't share our current set of convictions. But rarely do we find the person critical of themselves.

    If anyone who has left the Watchtower believes they can now be a trusted voice when declaring the right way to walk and what type of other groups are wrong, then that person hasn't learned much. If we could make the mistake of belonging to the Watchtower, the last thing we should be doing is acting like the Governing Body does, teaching that religion is a snare--and what else uses a lure if not a snare?

    I can only say that I know that the Watcthower does wrong and can be proven wrong. But if anything I have learned to be cautious about it is my personal convictions I now hold. If anything, I have proven myself wrong of being a judge of religion outside the Watcthower--yep, as former JWs we have no tract record to prove we can still call religions traps or in any position to make claims that that are luring people in such a manner.

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Dear Knowsnothing,

    Each of the first four OT books (Gen-Num) is a skilful collation of writings produced by identifiable groups. The collation was produced some time after the Babylonian Captivity ended. At times, the collator (possibly Ezra? speculation) intertwined the separate narratives into a single account. A clear example of this is in the Flood story, which knits together two distinct and separate threads.

    http://www.jwstudies.com/Two_Flood_Stories.pdf (displays the two flood sources: J and P -- the same two sources for the two Creation stories).

    I strongly suggest you read books such as "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Friedman. If you want to see it more clearly, Friedman has a companion book: "The Bible with Sources Revealed".

    Writing came into vogue as a means of communication several centuries after the Moses event. Even then it was adopted by only a small group of the elite; so what Scriptures you read are their views.

    Broadly speaking, chapters 2 to 7 of Daniel are in Aramaic, the rest is in Hebrew. There are also differences between the MT (Hebrew) and the LXX (Greek). Further, the version and application of Dan 9 used by the WTS is based on the text by Theodotian. See my note at:


    A book that applies literary criticism to a comparison of the MT and the LXX of Daniel is: "Aramaic Daniel and Greek Daniel: A Literary Comparison", by T. J. Meadowcroft.

    Today it is widely accepted that Daniel was compiled during the 2nd century BCE, some 400 years after the neo-Babylonian period.

    I did not include Deuteronomy in the above list since that is not a compilation of writings by those priest/scribes I mentioned. The origins of Deuteronomy lie with the scroll "discovered" by priests at the time of Josiah and it was further worked on during the neo-Babylonian period. The priests created it to enforce their religious practices, not a record of something that had really happened in the past. (They always wrote history with their eyes firmly fixed on the present. History was written to shape the present). It is likely that Baruch (Jeremiah's scribe) played a big role in producing Deuteronomy. At the same time, they wrote their history, for obvious purposes, extending Deuteronomy through Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings. The Chronicler wrote Chronicles some centuries after the neo-Babylonian period.

    Bible study is far more exciting and challenging that any spoon feeding from the WTS.


  • Bubblegum Apotheosis
    Bubblegum Apotheosis

    Letter dated "March 2012" on education demonstrate's how terrified the Watchtower is of "higher education". I read this letter with my family and we all were appalled by their fear of a college education!

    Dumb children with no thinking skills are able to blindly follow orders without considering the long-term consequences of "no education, a low paying job, when you get pregnant, use Medicaid! Use the Emergency Room to pay for your medical problems.

    Don't mind the fact we are treating our Circuit and District Overseers like college educated graduates. JWs should be scratching their heads, asking why the Circuit Overseer's car insurance, health insurance, prescriptions, housing, food and paid trips to Internation Conventions take place! The Circuit, District, Zone are treated like Middle Management in a corperation!

  • barry

    Gday doug,

    I have seen your posts on here for some time now. Your name rings a bell and I dont know if i am right but are you an Adventist or former Adventist with Good News Unlimited? I am also a former Adventist. Barry

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