The Bible or God? - A Message to Formerbrother

by David_Jay 22 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • David_Jay


    No, we aren't talking about the end product at all. Because regardless of how the traditions got shaped into their final form, they started before they were written down. We're not talking about the stories in the Bible, but whether or not the Bible can even be the basis for a religion in the first place.

    You might be still stuck in the Watchtower view, something I call the "wagon-without-wheels" scenario. Don't be alarmed or insulted. It happens to almost everyone who leaves the Witnesses (and while you are a JW you can't see it). I can continue to say the same things over and over again that I have already mentioned above repeatedly, but because you are reading them with definitions you learned from the JWs you aren't understanding. So this should help:

    Imagine you have invented the wagon, the very first wagon ever in human history. It has space to carry anything you wish and a handle to pull it anywhere you wish. How wonderful an invention, no?

    There's just one problem. The wheel has yet to be invented. And it won't be invented for several hundreds of years after you've died. So your wagon is not much of an invention after all, huh? It's just a box with a handle to drag it around.

    Now imagine that the wagon is Christianity. It's wonderful, no? Tells great stories about how we are all saved by this guy Jesus, etc., etc., etc. The handle of the wagon is the Bible. Still got it?

    Now the wheels are the actual historical events on the time line of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, his life and ministry, and death and (allegedly) his resurrection. This won't happen for several hundreds of years until after you've died.

    So how did the wagon get here? What about its handle? How did the Gospels get written if Jesus has yet to be born and won't be for hundreds and hundreds of years? This can't be right!

    It isn't right. The wheels come first. Then the box, and then, afterwards the handle. Got it?

    If you say that true religion is based on the Bible, then that means the handle came first. Then the box came afterwards. No wheels yet, however.

    But in reality, historically speaking, Jesus of Nazareth came first. He gathered disciples. They started a movement (a religion) and this religion later wrote a Bible. The Bible was not the starting point. It was not the basis for their religion. It was not the wheel. The wheels? Jesus of Nazareth.

    Now I am Jew. I'm not saying Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah or real or not real. None of that.

    But what I am saying is that if Formerbrother is looking for "the true religion," and thinks (like the Jehovah's Witnesses) that one finds the true religion by examining the Bible, this means you are saying that the Bible is the basis, the rule, the foundation, the start of religion. You are saying that it, the Bible, is the "handle" on things.

    Without this "handle," they claim, you cannot properly build the box of the wagon. Got it so far?

    But there would be no need for a box of the wagon or the handle if the wheel had not been invented first. The wheel has to come into history first. The idea of the box and the handle on the wagon are inspired and based on the coming of the wheel. Get it?

    So the basis for true religion cannot be the Bible. The Bible is the product, the end result of religion, do you follow?

    And on top of it all, if the Bible is the basis for measuring true religion, then the writers of the Bible books already had and practiced true religion. If they didn't, then one shouldn't follow what they say. If they did, then the true religion started first, based on something else, otherwise members of this "true religion" would never have come into existence and the Bible would never have either. Get it?

    I am not saying there is a "true religion." I am also not saying that Judaism and/or Christianity are "true religions." I am saying the formula that Jehovah's Witnesses tell you to follow, namely "true religion is based on the Bible" can't be true.

    It is essentially building a wagon and handle when the wheel doesn't exist.

  • Ruby456

    I'm one of those awkward people who thinks that the handle andwagon came first - transporting the ruddy thing came afterwards when people were forced to move !!! remember the ark of the convenant?

  • David_Jay

    Got it. And that's why you have to let go of that view.

    All the questions that people come up with when I tell them this scenario is actually what psychologists theorize as "cognitive dissonance." While some people here think that it is always a tense feeling or disturbance of some kind, actually the mere fight with the "wagon-without-wheels" scenario and all the attempts to push the conversation off course by trying to discuss the validity of the narrative, whether Jesus was real or not, etc., are just the cognitive dissonance trying to keep us from accepting that the Bible never was the foundation the Jehovah's Witnesses taught us it was.

    It's hard to grasp because Gentiles often ask, "Then why write the Bible?" They want a guide to tell them what to do. Sorry, but you want Mormonism if you want to follow a religion where a book "fell out of the sky," so to speak, and you base your religion on it as a revelation from God.

  • Ruby456

    sorry david_jay - but jewish people always had guides and these guides drew from religious tradition. okay they may not accept the bible - its a christian book after all in its entirety - but Jews do have their traditions - oral and written that they follow and this is what Jehovahs witnesses allude to when they say the Hebrew scriptures are the foundational scriptures. there is a lot of ambivalence and ambiguity about exactly what was followed and used as a guide but this represents an opening that new religions make their own.

    as to cognitive dissonance - psychologists tend to applaud those who can juggle complex and contradictory ideas - it is a necessary part of growing up when children realise that their parents aren't always correct nut respect them nonetheless.

  • Zana

    Interesting read, thanks! I know a JW who might be at a similar point in life like former brother. Same reasoning, he

    1. believes in God
    2. believes in Jesus
    3. believes in the Bible as God's word
    4. believes he must find/identify God's people so he can serve God together with some likeminded folks

    I have been thinking about where I can start to make him question this line of thought. If I were him, I would probably answer to you, David_Jay, somehing like this:

    Okay, the New Testament obviously could not be the source or foundation of early Christianity. But they didn't need it then. They had the apostles who talked about Jesus. When they died they still had people tell them what they heard from the apostles about Jesus, maybe passed down one or two generations. But at some point, this wasn't reliable anymore. It needed to be written down. Of course the Bible is only an end product. In itself it cannot be the foundation of Christianity. But I believe it to be the most accurate description about what happened 2000 years ago. So we have to take what we can get, because today we have no God speaking to us directly, no apostles still alive, no prophets, no miracles. The bible is the next best thing, that's why I am willing to base my believes on it.

  • David_Jay


    Good point, and let's work from there.

    While Ruby is still dealing with even our traditions being the beginning of things (and that wouldn't make sense, Ruby, because then you are saying our traditions started our traditions, and they didn't start themselves so we are back to square one), let's go with the statement you've made, Zana, about "the Bible is the next best thing."

    I have had that told to me before and was expecting that a lot sooner after I wrote this, so I am glad you brought it up now.

    If the Bible is what we are to base our religion on today (saying that Christianity is the real true religion--forget that I am a Jew for now), because as you say "we have to take what we can get, because today we have no God speaking to us directly, no apostles still alive, no prophets, no miracles," then you have created another problem.

    The Bible didn't assemble itself. Someone, somewhere, put it together. Someone decided what went in, what stayed out, and closed its canon.

    There are no instructions in the Scriptures that say what books belong in or out. There is no inspired list, no inspired criteria for determining this, no instruction that states that reading Scripture and following it are a requisite to salvation. Something from outside the Bible made the Bible "the Bible."

    Talking about the Christian Greek Scriptures or New Testament, its canon was not a popularity contest as if the books that went into it were those most widely read and accepted. That was not the case. The most popular Christian writings in the early Church were the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Didache, and the Catholic apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus was used for a millennia as an introductory catechism by the early Church.

    Except for Ecclesiasticus, the other books are often unheard of by most people, especially Jehovah's Witnesses. They might have heard of the Didache, but the Shepherd of Hermas? Mostly likely not.

    Do you know what was not heard of? 2 Peter, the Revelation to John, Hebrews, James, and the three epistles of John. How did unpopular, even unheard of writings get chosen over the more popular ones, and why? Who chose them? Who made the decision to chose them? Who had the authority?

    And there's your problem you've created. What's your answer?

    A Heretic and a Poor Welsh Girl

    The Christian Bible as we know it today and the fact that it is available to just about anybody, everywhere has to do with what two historic people did, two people who lived almost 2000 years apart. One was a bishop who became a heretic, and the other was a poor welsh girl who did something that changed the world Charles T. Russell grew up in.

    The bishop-gone-apostate was Marcion of Sinope. Around 130 CE, Marcion adopted the Gnostic view that holy religious writings were a more trustworthy form of revelation than theophanies or epiphany. The other two relied on tradition to carry them down, but writings, taught the Gnostics, could carry the "gnosis" or knowledge of divine revelations in a permanent form. Therefore they were far superior to the witness of any church or group or nation. Marcion took this and applied it to the Christianity he practiced, devising a "rule" (in Greek "kanon") of holy writings by which to base the true gnosis of Christianity. This canon consisted of an edited version of Luke's gospel and some of Paul's epistles. Marcion rejected all the Jewish texts however, and taught that the Hebrew God was a lesser deity than Jesus. Drawing away an impressive amount of followers, the Church excommunicated Marcion who, reportedly, was "surprised" that they would do that to him.

    Marcionism raised the issue of whether there was any form of revelation in written texts. So the Church began to study the issue. Bishops began a process in which they studied what writings were often read during liturgy of the Eucharist along with texts from the Hebrew Scriptures (there is a rotating calendar of Tanakh readings used even today by Jews that Christians adopted immediately for their own meetings, adding readings from their own books in the process). From the time of Marcion onward the Church worked on setting its own "rule" or canon.

    The canon was decided and eventually closed by the 300s after the Council of Nicea. Taking into account the study by the bishops and using two opposing ones to finish the work, namely Eusebius of Caesarea and Athanasius of Alexandria (the two were definitely not fans of one another), Athanasius in his Easter letter of 367 CE drew upon Eusebius' canon tables and essentially set the canon as it is accepted today. By this time the Church had already accepted the Hebrew canon that Marcion rejected (albeit the one found in the Alexandrian Septuagint), ending the the issue raised by Marcion in a strike against his belief that writings were greater forms of revelation and that "proof-texts" could be used from within to prove Gnostic points of doctrine.

    This is the first problem raised by the counter-argument, in that an outside authority chose the books that went within. This authority is obviously greater than the Bible as to be able to say what is and what isn't Scripture, thus making the Bible subject to the authority of this other authority, namely the Church.

    But one more person changed forever the way the Bible became what it is, and she directly affected the creation of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (actually all Bible societies everywhere).

    A Bible for Pennies

    Today just about everyone has a Bible, and if you are one of Jehovah's Witnesses you are taught that except for where and when the Catholic Church wielded its "fiendish" control, the Bible was widely available everywhere and to everyone.

    But that has never been the case until fairly modern times. Not even discussing that current levels of global literacy were not high enough to make the Bible understandable to large numbers until reading became more common knowledge in the era between the two world wars, if it were not for this poor girl's desire for a Bible, not even Charles Taze Russell would have likely had as easy access to one as he did.

    The girl was Mary Jones, and she was born on the 16th of December, 1784. Having a strong faith as a child and learning to read quite early, at just 8 years of age she had the desire to own and read the Bible for herself. This was quite a task since Bibles were scarce as it was much too expensive to publish them so that the average person could own one, not to mention that one in Mary's language was a rarity (almost unheard of). Mass production of the Scriptures had not come to pass yet in history.

    Mary spent six years saving her pennies to buy a Welsh Bible from a minister named Thomas Charles who lived 26 miles away from Mary. One day, in 1800, Mary made the long journey, barefoot, carrying her bag of pennies to buy a Bible from Rev. Charles, only to be dismayed upon her arrival to learn that none were available for her. Crumbling to tears, the Rev. Charles was moved to give her one promised to another (likely having to wait a day or two for shipment), and it was this event that is said to have inspired him to propose in 1802 the invention a new type of organization: the world's first Bible society.

    The idea spread, and suddenly everywhere, everyone who was religious developed their own Bible societies (including one we are all familiar with). The era of mass production of low-cost Bibles than anyone could afford was here. But if it were not for Mary, this may not have ever happened, and most people would still not have access to Bibles as readily as they do today.

    Not So Easy Now, Is It?

    And that's my question to the counter-argument you propose. If the Bible is the basis for true religion as the Jehovah's Witnesses claim, then where did the Church get its authority to canonize it? Who were they to tell Marcion of Sinope that he was wrong? And if they didn't have the canonized Bible to base their religion on yet, why would we accept the canon the Church authorized? They didn't have true religion, especially if you believe the JWs. Since most of the popular books of the New Testament didn't get in the canon, how and why do we have the books we have today? Something with authority over the Bible made this decision, and that would mean this authority has the right to define Scripture. Do you listen to that authority?

    Second, if the Bible is the basis for true religion, why did it take until after Mary Jones made her barefoot trek over 26 miles before people started mass producing them? Why would God keep mass production of Bibles away from the world until the 1800s if it was vital to true religion and salvation? You are talking almost 2000 years since Jesus walked the earth, and you are telling me that the only sure way to know the truth about him was only readily available for the past 200 years? That's crazy.

  • Zana

    Something from outside the Bible made the Bible "the Bible."

    A JW would probably answer: This Something was God, plain and simple. He probably not only inspired the writers, he also inspired those responsible for choosing the chapters that went in and the ones that were kept out. If you believe in the former it's not such a stretch to believe in the latter, too.

    And if that is not enough to satisfy you, I would say: "It still is the next best thing" we today can get as a written basis for our beliefs. Better trust this book which was completed within 300 years after Jesus death, than anything newer (for example the mormon book) or anything less reliable (for example catholic traditions subject to change).

    And Mary Jones? So what? God must have had his reasons. I could also ask why did God not let Europeans discover America 1000 years earlier? All this time the Native Americans had to live and die without knowing about Jesus. Seems kind of fruitless to ask these kinds of questions.

    Look, I think many rank and file JWs are quite pragmatic. Maybe their leadership is not perfect, maybe their doctrine and it's origins are not perfect. Many would claim they don't have to be. They believe in God, they want to know what is his purpose for us, and how they can serve him. And they don't want to do that alone, but together with fellow believers. Using the bible and what it tells us about about early Christianity seems like a good start. Certainly better and more verifiable than what most - if not all - other Christian groups can offer.

  • David_Jay


    Two things:

    1. You proved my point.

    2. I'm Jewish. I don't have a problem with what people believe.

    My argument is that there is an authority outside the Scriptures, and that if you believe that the Scriptures are inspired, then you must believe those who canonized were equally inspired. You stated:

    He probably not only inspired the writers, he also inspired those responsible for choosing the chapters that went in and the ones that were kept out. If you believe in the former it's not such a stretch to believe in the latter, too.

    And that was my argument from the beginning.

    The canon was closed is 367 by Athanasius in his Easter letter, of all things. It was canonized by Easter-celebrating Trinitarians, the Trinity being formerly adopted by the Church in 325, just a few years earlier at the Council of Nicea. If God inspired the Church to canonize the Bible, obviously the Church was doing God's will (but JWs claim it was under Satan by this time). Unlike the Governing Body, the Catholic Church claims it canonized the Scriptures by inspiration of God, whereas the Governing Body has said just recently that they are not inspired, and never have been.

    So the Jehovah's Witness who holds to this argument has just created a paradox here, and you agree by claiming that the Church that canonized the Scripture was inspired, the same that claims the Trinity is true and had just formerly defined it. The Council of Nicea also included the discussions on the canon, which, as noted came to a close with Athanasius fulfilling his assignment.

    That would imply the Trinity is true, the Catholic/Orthodox Church is true, and since it has the authority to define what goes into the Bible, it likely has the authority to define what it means. As you said: "If you believe in the former it's not such a stretch to believe in the latter, too."

    Finally, I'm Jewish. Jews don't believe in Original Sin or that people aren't saved "without knowing about Jesus," as you state about the Native Americans.

    And I think the Bible is a great start for anyone wanting to know what the original Christians and the Jews believe. If you have been following me on other threads, you should know by now that I don't necessarily subscribe to what I am writing about. I try to stay very objective.

    My point is that there is a failure in the logic. If you being with a false premise, you cannot arrive at a correct understanding. If you add when you are supposed to subtract, your answer won't be right. And if you claim that the Bible is the ultimate authority as the Jehovah's Witnesses do, you have created a paradox for, as you said yourself about what produced the Bible canon that, "This Something was God, plain and simple." The Jewish and Catholic/Orthodox position is that an act of God, like a theophany or epiphany trumps what is written in Scripture. You ended up proving my point.

    By the way, two more points to add: You stated in your argument that God isn't "speaking to us directly, no apostles still alive, no prophets, no miracles," yet then you said that "God" was the "Something" that was "responsible for choosing" what went into the Bible. Then what do you call that? It's some form of communication, wouldn't you say. Therefore your first argument that God isn't "speaking to us directly" doesn't hold in such a case if God is still working directly with people to do things like set the canon in 367 CE. Remember, the New Testament says that God can speak without a voice coming directly from the heavens or without a prophet.--See Acts 1:24-26.

    And to add a little more, the Old Testament canon that JWs and Protestants accept was not set until the 700s, when the Masoretes settled on the contents on the Tanakh. The Catholic Church held to a longer canon, the one with the apocrypha that appears in the Alexandrian Septuagint. So here with the Hebrew Scripture canon that JWs accept, God was working with non-Christians, Jews who didn't accept Jesus some 400 years after Athanasius? Was God inspiring them too?

    And second, you stated: "Catholic traditions [are] subject to change." That is incorrect. Tradition is that dogma within a religion that does not change, not that which changes. In Catholicism you cannot change Apostolic Tradition. Not even a pope can do that. It is not a custom, which can change, but a doctrinal teaching that has been handed down in writing or orally. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:15, NWT) I am not sure where you got such a view you have on Catholic Tradition.

  • David_Jay

    I would love to stay and chat some more but I am off on holiday for the Holidays until some time after Chanukah.

    Thanks for reading all my chatter. I have been off work with a broken ankle, but it is good now and I will be back to my regular schedule after the Holidays. I will check in some time in January 2017, but probably can't be as involved as I was for the past few days.

    But till then, Happy Holidays folks, whatever you believe.

    Keep the HAN Solo in CHANukah.

    Remember the following spellings are all acceptable for this upcoming Jewish holiday: Chanukah, Hanukkah, Festivus.

    Also "Chanukah--the ORIGINAL reason for the season! Let me hear you CHALLAH!"

    Oh, and as for Brother D____ who said that if I light a menorah I am doing something as pagan as any Christmas tradition because the Law has been removed by Christ (I have a suspicion that he visits this site so I hope he reads this): First off, its called a "chanukiah," not a "menorah." A menorah has seven branches and a chanukiah has eight with an additional space for a ninth lighter flame called the "shamash." It's not pagan but a Jewish invention. And Chanukah is not commanded in the Law because it celebrates an event in Jewish history that occurred after our return from Babylon! Put that in your "Watchtower" and "read" it! (Not the actual words in that last sentence.)


  • Ruby456

    enjoy your holiday david_Jay

    you said

    While Ruby is still dealing with even our traditions being the beginning of things (and that wouldn't make sense, Ruby, because then you are saying our traditions started our traditions, and they didn't start themselves so we are back to square one), david_jay

    re the above -tradition leading to tradition I did ask this on p.1

    • 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? ruby

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