This from my book: Good News For Jehovah's Witnesses
1. How confident are you that Jehovah's Witnesses interpret the Bible properly?
2. Are Jehovah's Witnesses able to recognize interpretive abuse?
Before we discuss any doctrinal issues, I would like to distinguish between what I believe is proper versus improper interpretive practice.... so you know what I can accept as biblical and what I can't accept.
Basic Guidelines for Validating Doctrinal Claims`)
i. There must be at least one scriptural reference that can be cited for support of any doctrinal claim or position.
ii. Scriptural references must not be tampered with added to, deleted from, or have words substituted or meanings altered.
iii. Scriptural references are considered arbitrarily linked unless it is shown that subject or content is clearly related.
iv. Interpretations of biblical passages must take into consideration, context, including textual, situational cultural and historical contexts.
3. What do you think of these guidelines?
4. Do you think applying these guidelines might reduce doctrinal error?
5. How do Jehovah's Witnesses interpret Matthew 13:44?
Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hidden in a field; the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Mt.13:44
- Imagine you are approached one day by two young elders who see this passage as support for the Mormon religion. They explain that Joseph Smith discovered a treasure in gold plates while walking in a field in Up State NY in the year 1827. He immediately buried/hid these plates, but later after fully dedicating himself to God's kingdom, he returned to unearth them. They add that these plates were then translated into what we know today as The Book of Mormon. Then you are asked to compare Mt. 13:44 with Eze. 37:16 regarding the stick/book of Joseph.
6. Would you say this interpretation is Bible-based?
7. Can you identify any problems with the interpretive methodology employed in this interpretation?
8. How would you attempt to set them straight on this passage?
Here is what I would do:
a. First I would introduce the four basic guidelines I showed you. I would use these four guidelines to demonstrate that their explanation of Matthew 13:44 is not based on proper interpretive practice; that they are in fact guilty of interpretive abuse not only for ignoring context and arbitrarily linking an unrelated passage, but also for tampering with (impregnating) the text by superimposing their own church history, names, dates and places onto the Bible. (eisegesis vs exegesis)
b. Secondly, I would apply the sound biblical interpretative practice of letting the Bible interpret itself. I would explain that this parable is 1 of 4 field parables spoken to the multitudes from a boat. Unlike Jesus' vineyard parables that apply specifically to Israel, these field parables pertain to the church and actually foresee the development of the church through history until the harvest. Then I would show them from the parallel passage in the fourth chapter of Mark, that all field parables are related (see Mk. 4:13) as to interpretation. The interpretive keys to the field parables are all provided in Matthew 13 by Jesus Himself, as follows.
The field = the world [verse 38]
The man in field = Son of Man [verses 24, 37 ]
The treasure = Good Seed/ Children of the Kingdom/Church [verse 38]
The Son of Man gives everything he has to purchase field/world to acquire his hidden treasure (hidden even from the prophets - verse 17) the church.
9. Do you agree that these elders have gone beyond what is written when they teach that Matthew 13:44 is about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon? [Yes]
10. Do you think that my pointing out their interpretive abuse might help the elders to see that their teachings here are extra-biblical and and entirely erroneous?
11. Do you think that sound exegesis might correct them and serve to change their minds about this parable?
My take is this: Because their primary faith is in their church leadership and not in the Bible - neither pointing out their interpretive abuse, nor providing sound exegesis is likely to convince these elders that their teachings on this passage are unwarranted or wrong. Besides, if they changed their thinking, they would inevitably be labeled apostates, disfellowshiped and shunned by friends and family and ultimately, in their thinking, God Himself.
12. Do you agree with me that the elder's teaching on this passage is not biblical; that it is derived by interpretive abuse and merely represents the speculations of men?
13. Looking at how your religion interprets scripture now: can you explain several verses in Revelation to me? Revelation 8:1-2; 6-7
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets .....6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
14. Do you believe that the first trumpet sounded already? [?]
15. Do you know when and where the first trumpet blast originated?
“Revelation Its Grand Climax at Hand” p. 172 reads:
“When the sounding of the seven trumpets got under way in 1922, the Bible Student convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, (Rev. 8:7) featured a talk by the president of the Watchtower Society, J. F Rutherford, based on the scripture, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.””
16. How do Witnesses know that the first of the seven trumpets got underway in 1922? Is 1922 a biblical date?
17. How do Witnesses know that the first of the seven trumpets got underway at Cedar Point, Ohio? Is Cedar Point Ohio mentioned or alluded to in the Bible?
18. How do Witnesses know which talk inaugurated the first trumpet?
19. Is this what the Bible teaches or is the WTS explanation of Revelation 8 beyond what is written?
20. Do you see why I can't accept this interpretation?
LET ME ASK YOU: Is it possible that your entire religion is founded on similar, if not identical interpretive abuse?
TRUMPET SOUNDING SUMMARY
1922 Cedar Point, Ohio: A challenge to Christendom's leaders
politics, and big business to
justify their failure to bring peace, prosperity, and happiness.
Messiah's Kingdom is the panacea.
2. 1923 Los Angeles, California: The public talk, "All Nations Now Marching to Armageddon, but Millions Now Living Will Never Die," called on peace-loving "sheep" to abandon the death-dealing sea of humanity.
3. 1924 Columbus, Ohio: Ecclesiastics indicted for self-exaltation and refusal to preach Messiah's Kingdom. True Christians must preach God's vengeance and comfort mourning humanity.
4. 1925 Indianapolis, Indiana: A message of hope contrasting the spiritual darkness in Christendom with the bright Kingdom promise of peace, prosperity, health, life, liberty, and eternal happiness.
5. 1926 London, England: A locust-like plaguing of Christendom and its clergy, exposing their rejection of God's Kingdom, and hailing the birth of that heavenly government.
6. 1927 Toronto, Canada: An invitation, carried as by armies of cavalry, calling on people to forsake `organized Christianity' and give heart allegiance to Jehovah God and to his King and Kingdom.
7. 1928 Detroit, Michigan: A declaration against Satan and for Jehovah, making plain that God's anointed King, enthroned in 1914, will destroy Satan's evil organization and emancipate mankind.”