The Bible or God? - A Message to Formerbrother
“I still can not find any other option that comes as close to ALL the Bible as JWs do.”-- from the profile of Formerbrother.
This is lengthy, but it should help you, Formerbrother. The problem is not in your search for this "option" but that you are searching according the criteria set out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses (and likely following the reasoning set out by their claims).
Before proceeding, understand clearly (as there will always be someone reading this that will skip this point that I make) that I am not writing to advance any particular religious view. Though raised and baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness in my late teen years, I am Jewish. I wasn’t aware of my Jewish heritage as a child because I was raised mostly by my aunt (no blood relation) who was a JW. And not learning about my place in Judaism or my connection to my country Israel until almost 10 years after my baptism, I progressed quite quickly to become a ministerial servant and regular pioneer until I learned my baptism as a Witness was not technically valid due to former ties.
I am back to being a Jew now, and as such I am not involved in proselytizing or any attempt to get you to give up Jesus, join my religion (Jews don’t engage in evangelizing), or even trying to get you to believe in God. I am not here to offer an apology to prove the Bible. (And as such I am not here to argue against those who are atheist and/or agnostic.)
So hopefully you can understand my objectivity in an attempt to tell you that your search for “an option” won’t get very far until you examine your very search itself.
Taking for Granted Your Views
Thus I am taking for granted some of your views (and you can correct me if I am wrong), but I gather that:
- You believe in God.
- You believe in the Bible as God’s Word.
- You believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.
- You believe in serving God according to God’s purpose.
Remember, as a Jew I would not necessarily share all your views and convictions, but let’s say for the sake of argument all the above are true. You want to find the “option” to being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to find the “right” or “true” religion, yes?
Now even though I am a Jew, I don’t believe that my religion is the “only true religion,” and in fact Jews don’t actually have a concept like that in the sense that Jehovah’s Witnesses do. And since Jews don’t proselytize, I have no desire or reason to point you in the direction of any faith in particular. Unless you are Hebrew, I am not going to recommend Judaism, and Jews aren't in the business of converting members for Christian groups. So none of that is not going to happen here. After I’ve said my peace, you will still have to find an answer to the question of what to join or where to go.
Yet as I have pointed out before, there is a problem with your search. And that is what we need to discuss. Until you get this problem cared for, you will never find what you are looking for.
Revelation: It’s Not Just the Last Book in the Bible
Again, for the sake of argument I am taking for granted your views, okay? There is that other thread you started (Are Gods true worshippers on Earth today? If they are not JWs then who are they?) where people can (and are) challenging what you are looking for. This is not the thread for that.
What you need to do first is examine the criteria for which you are basing your search. If there is a God, and Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, and the Sacred Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, you need to ask yourself: Are the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible) the starting point?
This is important because you are looking for an “option that comes as close to ALL the Bible as JWs do.” This means that you are looking for those people or religion or path that follows “ALL the Bible” and what it says. That means your ultimate source of revelation is Scripture.
Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses usually don’t use the term “revelation” like the rest of theologians in the world do (that is Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.). It’s more than the final book in the Christian Greek Scriptures however. The term actually means “the supernatural disclosure of divine or transcendent truth” which in this case comes from the God of Abraham, the God of the Scriptures, the one preached by Jesus Christ.
For Jehovah’s Witnesses that ultimate source of revelation is the Bible. All that one should do to serve God, the basis for one’s belief, the source of all truth is, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Bible. I assume this is what you still believe, am I correct?
But are you aware that for Christianity and Judaism the Bible is not, nor has ever been the source of divine revelation. While these two religions believe the Bible is “a” source of revelation from God, they do not believe it is the ultimate source.
Theophany and Epiphany
The religion of the Jews existed for millennia before the Hebrew Scriptures were written. Christianity likewise arose and spread before one letter of the Christian Greek Scriptures was written down.
By the time the Hebrew Scriptures became a source of religious training, the Babylonian exile had come to an end. The Hebrew Bible would not even be settled in the form currently accepted by Christianity and Jehovah’s Witnesses until the Masoretes of the 6th century CE. And by the time Christians first declared there was a “New Testament,” it was Easter of 367 CE. For both religions, Scripture was an afterthought, a product and not the basis of either movement.
Then how did they begin? Abraham did not find the Bible and decided to worship God after reading it. The apostle Paul never came across any of the written Gospel accounts before being baptized as a Christian (in fact, he evidently wrote most of his letters before any of the Gospels were written). Without Scripture the Jews were redeemed from slavery to Egypt and brought to the Promised Land. Without the Christian Scriptures both Paul and Timothy set out on spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom. The Bible, as we know it, did not exist.
So the Scriptures can’t be the basis for true religion, because the true religion of God started in both instances before there was Scripture. In fact, both Judaism and Christianity were up and functioning with large numbers of followers before they produced (I repeat, “produced”) the Scriptures. These religions are not based on the Bible. No, these religions invented the Bible.
They were both based on the ultimate form of revelation: contact with God. The Jews had Abraham and the patriarchs who met God and experienced direct communication with God. Generations later, their offspring would as a nation be gathered to witness God on Mt. Sinai, an event known as “the Great Theophany.” These “theophanies” or manifestations of God are what the Jewish faith is based on.
Christianity is based on the Epiphany in Jesus Christ. An “epiphany” is when God manifests through someone or something else. In this instance God came to people in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is what is illustrated in Thomas’ exclamation when, upon witnessing the risen Christ and getting to examine the marks on his body made by the nails used in his death, he said to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) All arguments about the Trinity aside, Thomas was exclaiming that he was experiencing an epiphany. God stood before Thomas and was (and had been for some time) speaking to him in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth though Thomas did not realize until then that God was present in Jesus.--Compare John 14:8-10.
These theophanies and the epiphany in Jesus are what these religions are based upon. Are they enough?
Did Jesus Establish a Book or a Church?
Now as a Jew I am way out in the water, so to speak, to say what I am about to here. But as a Jew even I know the answer to this one. Jesus never stated: “Assemble the Jewish writings and compose new ones and make them into one book. And have people study it and learn what is within. This is the source of truth for all who would believe. They that study the book and follow what is written in it shall have everlasting life, but those who do not or misrepresent its words shall not find life. Go, and distribute among the nations this book of truth to all.”
Nope. Christian truth is not based on a book. Even the Christian Greek Scriptures have Jesus saying: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) The way, the truth, the life, all these are found and based upon a Person, not a book. The ultimate form of revelation for Christianity is and has always been Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not write anything down, nor did he command his followers to take the Jewish Scriptures and add new ones to make a book that would be the ultimate source of salvific truth. Nope, didn't happen.
The Church: The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth
But Jesus did establish a congregation (or “church,” which is the older and more common English term). Jesus said to Peter: “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) And again the Christian Scriptures teach: “God's household, which is the church of the living God, [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth.”--1 Timothy 3:15.
Did you note that “the pillar and foundation of the truth” is not the Scriptures but the congregation or Church the Jesus founded? It is a living, breathing group of people that possess the truth, that possess Jesus in and among them. With Jesus as the only way, only truth, and only life the Church can possess, the Church made up the foundation for all that people needed to be Christians.
The Church only gradually assembled the works of Paul and the Gospels and other writings into a collection. They recognized them not as the source or foundation of their religion but a further facet of divine revelation in written form (that they used mainly liturgically to proclaim the message of God in public worship). Together with the teaching of the Church inherited from the apostles and traditionally passed down through the ages, and with the authority the Church had from Jesus, the Church canonized the Scriptures into the book you accept as inspired of God. The Church had to get its authority from somewhere to do this, and obviously it had more authority than the Scriptures in order to assemble them and close the canon after doing so.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Rest of Christianity
Therefore if you search the way Jehovah’s Witnesses do, you will search for a religion or option that follows the Bible as its basis. But Christianity has Jesus Christ as its basis. Not everything Jesus taught his Church is found in Scripture, which even Scripture declares. (John 20:30, 21:25) Since there is no command in Scripture to even assemble and canonize the Scriptures (or even the criteria needed to do so), obviously the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” has more “truth” than the Bible (otherwise how could it do these things).
Jehovah’s Witnesses say: “Our religion is based on the Bible.”
Christianity says: “Our religion is based on Jesus Christ.”
Which is better? Is the ultimate source of truth the Bible? Or is it Jesus? Does the Bible say itself is “the way, the truth, and the life” or does it say this of Jesus? Does the Bible claim to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth” or does it say this of the Church?
So if you do like Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will only be using the Bible as your criteria for your search. Jesus is not the founder of a publishing company or a book. He founded a Church which itself is founded upon Jesus Christ.
Should you be looking for an "option" that is based upon the Bible or something greater?
The Jewish Source
As mentioned before, Judaism is based on the theophanies given to our forebears and the Great Theophany at Sinai. And the Bible does not contain our doctrines and theology (though it is reflected in what is written in the Hebrew Scriptures). Instead one finds our doctrines and theology in the Mishnah. Scripture contains the stories of our faith, the Mishnah the doctrine of our faith, but neither is the source of our faith. That source, that basis is God.
Which is a greater form of revelation? The Bible or God? Which came first? The religion that produced the Hebrew Scriptures or did the Hebrew Scriptures just pop into existence by itself? The Bible did not write itself. Those who wrote it had to have “the true religion” if, as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, the Bible is the basis for all true religion.
If the writers of Scripture did not have the true religion before they wrote the Scriptures, then the Scriptures cannot be the basis for true religion. If the writers had the true religion before they wrote the Scriptures, then the Scriptures are not the basis for true religion.
Therefore if you are using the Bible as the basis for this “option,” you are starting from a very flawed premise. If you begin with a flaw, you will end with a flaw.
Basing your religion on a person, JC that is, who does not exist anymore, leaves a lot of room for emotional misdirection does it not?
Fascinating post, David Jay! It was worth reading through it, very interesting and full of new thoughts for me!
As a Jew I am not recommending Christianity. But the fact is that Christians did not base the Christian religion on the New Testament. They based it on their experiences with Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul--none of the books or epistles ascribed to these writers came before Christianity was established. Christianity came first. It is a religion based on a person, and the New Testament is a product of that religion.
I am not saying Jesus is the Messiah. I am not saying I believe in Christianity. I am not even saying that your statement is wrong. I am only saying that for the Scriptures to be a guide for the "one true religion" as Jehovah's Witnesses claim, this means these Bible writers had to have "true religion" first, otherwise they wouldn't have written anything. If they didn't start off with something that convinced then they had found the truth then they wouldn't have written the Scriptures. And since this implies they believed their religion was the Truth (which is why they wrote what they did), then it means the source of their "truth" can't be the Bible since they wrote the Bible. They wrote that they found the truth in Jesus, a person.
All this demonstrates that the criteria Formerbrother is using to find his "option" is a paradox. And that's what I am demonstrating, not whether it is wise to base a religion on Jesus or not.
And thanks for your comments, Muddy Waters.
Why didn't you send him a private message rather than outing him in a public post like this?
find a niche to nest in even if it is temporary. when we think of the period in which Jesus lived then it makes sense that Jesus disciples said what they did. They had found someone who bore the marks of a convincing niche in those troubled times. Such desires are more or less universal. edit: Nowadays (and in fact more so at the time of Jesus) it needn't be a person - it could be a literal place, an object etc - think of temples, churches, places of natural beauty that may convey a sense of sacredness etc
I am only saying that for the Scriptures to be a guide for the "one true religion" as Jehovah's Witnesses claim, this means these Bible writers had to have "true religion" first, otherwise they wouldn't have written anything. If they didn't start off with something that convinced then they had found the truth then they wouldn't have written the Scriptures.
well they had their oral traditions but I guess in writing them down they needed to select what was the most enduring for the period and for generations to come.
I am not sure what you meant by "outing" Formerbrother. I didn't reveal any secret information about him (I don't know any), and this subject is running concurrently with another thread he started on the subject.
Instead of hijacking that thread, since I was going off subject, protocol is that you start on a new thread.
This thread is discussing the basis for his question. I am trying to show that he is still holding on to Jehovah's Witness reasoning, and thus won't find what he has publicly requested on this forum. He has asked publicly for assistance in his finding it.
"Outing" is when you have a secret about someone and you reveal it publicly.
You bring up some good arguments which link to some of what I've written, but they also suggest you might be missing the point --and this happens a lot when I introduce this subject to both Jehovah's Witnesses and ex-JWs.
The point is not WHY were the Scriptures composed, or WHAT they were composed of, or why Jesus was followed by people in that era. The point is that the Bible was not the starting point.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the Bible is the basis for religion (the ultimate revelation from God), and as such what one believes and practices must be based on the Bible. On the other hand Jews believe that the Great Theophany is the ultimate revelation, and Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation from God greater than the Bible.
Because of still clinging to this belief, Formerbrother is on a goose chase. He wants to fully break away from the Watchtower, but in order to do that he wants to find the group or option that "follows the Bible" better than the Witnesses. By looking for who "follows the Bible" best, Formerbrother is following the criteria for religion set by the Jehovah's Witnesses. But this criteria upon which he searches is flawed.
This criteria set by the Watchtower is incorrect because neither Judaism nor Christianity is BASED on the Scriptures. Both started centuries prior to inventing the Scriptures. Judaism is based on what we call the Great Theophany, and Christianity is based on the Epiphany in Jesus of Nazareth (which is why Christians teach that their central doctrine is the Trinity or Incarnation).
Regardless of why they wrote things down, what they wrote, or why Christians followed Jesus, the point is the basis for these two religions is NOT the Bible. We Jews don't base our religion on the Bible, for instance. It's the other way around: the Bible is based on our religion.
The focus is that if one thinks that the Bible is the ultimate authority, then they will never find what the first century Christians did or what my ancestors encountered at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
Even some ex-JWs hold on to this belief, some for years after leaving, and it is usually a shock when they realize that the religions that wrote Scripture are the starting points, not the book these already established, functioning religions produced.
but what shaped the experience of Jesus and what shaped the great Theophany? oral cultural tradtions and then written cultural traditions. experiences don't just happen in a void. Unless you are giving pre-eminence to experience even before humans could speak? edit: in this latter situation it would be nature supplying the experiences - is this what you mean?