From 1879 to 1929 the WTS taught that the superior authorities were the secular governments
From 1929 to 1962 the WTS taught that the superior authorities were Jehovah and Jesus
From 1962 to the present the WTS has taught that the superior authorities are the secular governments.
How did they handle that 360 degree change?
I remember when this came in the WT, my jw family spent the whole day together discussing this and that it disturbed them that so many people died between 1929 and 1962, thinking that Jehovah and Jesus were the superior authorities.
By saying that today it is "relative" subjection.
The WTS always has a work or dance around for such changes. The WTS says while they were wrong between 1929 to 1962, it protected the WTS and its members from giving into nationalism.
re 1928 change
ut in Pastor Niemoeller’s confession reported above he mentioned the Bibelforscher or Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany and the Christian course of action they took even under stress of dictatorship and World War II. Up till 1928 they, too, had held to the ecclesiastical interpretation of Romans 13:1-7 concerning the “higher powers”. But that year this scripture was taken under re-examination, especially in view of the fact that the “times of the Gentiles” had ended A.D. 1914 and God’s kingdom by Christ had then been established in the heavens to bring in a new world with eternal blessings for obedient men of good will. The conclusions arrived at were published in the June 1 and 15, 1929, issues of The Watchtower in the article, in two parts, entitled “The Higher Powers”. Holding to these conclusions ever since has cost many of Jehovah’s witnesses their personal liberty and even their lives. But persecution, imprisonment, exile, and violent death were also the price which Jesus’ faithful apostles paid for paying back to God God’s things and to Caesar only Caesar’s things and for rendering proper subjection to the true “higher powers”. But such sufferings are not to be compared with the everlasting reward they have received. So, because of the pertinence of the subject, now that totalitarian ideas and practices and the idolatry of the political state and its emblems are spreading, we here take up a discussion of the crucial text, Romans 13:1-7.
But rather than being instructions by the apostle to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, Romans 13:1-7 has since 1929 been taken by Jehovah’s witnesses to be instructions on rendering to God what belongs to God. Why? Because the expression “the higher powers” is now understood to mean primarily the Most High God and his reigning Son Jesus Christ. Surely there are no powers or authorities higher than these. As rendered by the recently issued New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures Romans 13:1 reads: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.”
It cannot be said of the other political powers and authorities of this world that they were types of Christ as God’s Chief Servant and that therefore God gave such political powers their authority. Certainly Caesar’s government in killing the Son of God and thereafter persecuting his faithful followers was not a type of Christ’s government authorized by God.
The political powers of this world are, therefore, not the “superior authorities” to whom Christian souls are to be subject in every demand they make. Every law and statute that is in harmony with righteousness the true Christians will obey in an exemplary fashion. But any law and demand made in conflict with the superior laws and commandments of God they will not obey, for that would mean to render to “Caesar” what belongs to God.
How does the WTS dig themselves out of this hole? By putting "relative" in front of subjection, and not saying directly, the "superior authorities" were never Jehovah and Jesus, but were the secular authorites, but only in relative way. So just a so-called "clarification."
By God’s permission during his time allowance for it we have had the so-called Higher Powers or “superior authorities” in political control of the earth till today. These have been established by God’s permission according to his arrangement of man’s affairs.
When God displaces the present Higher Powers with his own kingdom over mankind, God will directly appoint and put in office the Ruling Authorities of his righteous new world.
Then, right afterward, Paul passes on to his discussion of the “superior authorities,” and thus has his sights focused on, not what is inside the congregation, but what is outside it. So the “superior authorities” have their setting logically in the world outside the congregation.* Certainly we cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are authorities outside the Christian congregation.
Here on earth there are many limited areas of subjection that Christians must observe according to God’s written Word. Even Jesus as a boy in Nazareth “continued subject” to his earthly caretakers, Joseph and Mary. (Luke 2:51, 52; Gal. 4:1-5) So the subjection of children to Christian parents is commanded, in 1 Timothy 3:4; Ephesians 6:1-4; younger Christians are to be in subjection to older ones (1 Pet. 5:5); slaves or servants to owners or masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5-8); wives to husbands (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5;1 Pet. 3:1, 5; Eph. 5:22-24); women to the brothers in the congregation (1 Cor. 14:33, 34); and congregation members to brothers who faithfully minister to them. (1 Cor. 16:16) All these are cases of relative subjection, having limitations; for, above all, we must do as James 4:7 tells Christians: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”
15. Accordingly, what kind of subjection is that which must be rendered to “superior authorities,” and why?
15 In the same way the subjection that Christians must render to the “superior authorities” of this old world is merely relative, for it does not leave God and conscience out of consideration. For instance, the apostle Paul says that one reason why every soul ought to be subject is that “there is no authority except by God.”
when Christians subject themselves to Gentile “superior authorities” with their different systems of government and law, they conform themselves to those laws that show the work of conscience according to what God originally wrote in man’s heart. Since the Christians’ subjection to worldly “superior authorities” is only relative, it does not obligate them to obey any worldly laws that go contrary to the laws of the Supreme Lawgiver, Jehovah God.
Since the Christians’ subjection to worldly “superior authorities” is only relative, it does not obligate them to obey any worldly laws that go contrary to the laws of the Supreme Lawgiver, Jehovah God. Even during the Gentile Times the prophet Daniel refused to obey the Medo-Persian law that forbade him to pray regularly each day to Jehovah. The miraculous deliverance of Daniel from the lions’ den proved that he had done right in not subjecting himself to King Darius to the point of breaking God’s law.—Dan. 6:1-23.