Beautiful Circularity

by Euphemism 15 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Euphemism

    Just ran across this beautiful example of circular reasoning from the Watchtower.

    w85 12/1 31


    From Readers


    Was the apostle Paul part of the Christian governing body?

    It is reasonable to conclude that Paul was a part of the Christian governing body in the first century.

    The Bible provides only limited detail about the composition of the early governing body, most of the information being in Acts chapter 15. That account indicates that in 49 C.E. the group of men forming the governing body consisted of "the apostles and older men in Jerusalem." Who were these?—Acts 15:2, 4, 6.

    James, the half brother of Jesus, presided at that meeting to discuss the question of whether Gentile converts to Christianity had to keep the Mosaic Law, including circumcision. The apostle Peter shared in that discussion. The account speaks of Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas as "leading men among the brothers," but it does not specifically say that they were part of the governing body. (Acts 15:7, 13, 22) The point is that the Bible does not give a complete list of names of those making up the governing body. Some have felt that Paul might not have been included since he was a traveling missionary and since he brought the question from the congregation in Antioch of Syria.

    It is true that Paul was not one of "the twelve" who had walked with Jesus, for Matthias had been selected to replace Judas Iscariot. But neither was the disciple James, though he clearly was part of the governing body. (Acts 6:2; 1:15-26) Furthermore, Jesus appeared to Paul and designated him as ‘a chosen vessel to bear His name to the nations.’ Paul thus became "an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God." He called himself "an apostle to the nations."—Acts 9:3-6, 15; Galatians 1:1; Romans 11:13; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7, 8.

    As further indication that Paul became part of the body of "apostles and older men" who directed the congregations, consider what he did under God’s power. Paul wrote 14 books of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Peter equates the writings of "our beloved brother Paul" with "the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15, 16) Paul took a significant lead in spreading Christianity, and he offered an abundance of direction to congregations. His inspired writings show that Paul sometimes settled issues himself. That is as might be expected back then with one of the governing body who was far away from the central body and faced with slow means of communication. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 7:10, 17) But at other times he brought matters before the entire body, as the account in Acts 15 illustrates.

    To Titus, "Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ," wrote: "I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders." (Titus 1:1, 5) So while traveling, Paul certainly spoke for the central governing body.—Acts 16:4, 5.

    So, even though his assignment from the Lord involved extensive travels and consequent absences from some meetings of the central governing body, the evidence of how he was used by God and Christ indicates that Paul was part of that body.


    By this time also the apostle James had been killed.—Acts 12:2.

    As anyone can see by reading the Bible themselves, the plainest understanding is that the "Governing Body" of Acts 15 was actually an ad-hoc group, and that Paul normally acted independently.

    To get around this, the WT first assumes that the GB had a set membership, and that it had exclusive doctrinal authority. Then, it deduces that since Paul participated in dicussions and made doctrinal pronouncements, he must have been a member! And thus they circularly conclude that Paul didn't act independently after all.

    Nothing new here, I know... but I just thought that was a particularly blatant example.

  • stillajwexelder

    yes - true - thanks for that blatant example

  • onacruse

    And of course this is all based on the assumption (actually, false premise) that there was a governing body to begin with. Ray has an informative discussion of this in ISOCF, pp. 42-48. Among other things, Ray focuses on this WT article (excerpt, bold added):

    *** w90 3/15 p. 11 ‘The Faithful Slave’ and Its Governing Body ***


    While all anointed Christians collectively form God’s household, there is abundant evidence that Christ chose a small number of men out of the slave class to serve as a visible governing body. The early history of the congregation shows that the 12 apostles, including Matthias, were the foundation of the first-century governing body.

    Ray proceeds to show that there is in fact no Biblical evidence whatsoever that there was anything like a centralized authority in 1st-century Christianity. He also points out that John, among others, never refers to any such "governing body." E.g. look how the Revelation describes Jesus' communication with the 7 congregations---it was done directly, not via some BOE circular from Jerusalem.

    There is no evidence in any of the writings of the "Church Fathers" that even hints at some "GB." Also, A History of the Early Christian Church says (p.39):

    No question in church history has been more darkened by controvery than that of the origin and development of church officers, and none is more difficult, owing to the scantiness of the evidence that has survived.

    The whole "Governing Body" concept is an insupportable speculation.


  • caspian

    Good example.

    you know the years I just took such statements as facts, I never questioned Jeeeez!

    By the way

    still ajwexelder every time I see your name i read it as exwelder


  • NeonMadman

    A good example of the sort of twisted reasoning that is necessary when a group seeks to impose its own ideas upon the scriptures, rather than simply reading the Bible for what it says.

  • mizpah

    It is important to some religious organizations that they trace their origins back to the early church. The Catholic church has its "apostolic succession." The Watchtower version is the succession of a "Governing Body." It seems to be one and the same teaching with a different name!

    But where in the Bible is either taught?

  • Frank75

    It is beautifully circular in an ugly way.

    The bible screams heresy back at any who claim that the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem formed a governing body. In fact the one and only account of a convened meeting (Acts 15) resulted out of duress suffered by Paul, and others, at the hand of Judaisers and superfine apostles who came from Jerusalem (in the first place). Paul makes it clear he had never once met with anyone prior in Jerusalem, other than a personal visit with Peter (see Gal. 1:16-18 "I never once went into conference with flesh and blood" 17, "neither ...up to Jerusalem" NWT) Galatians chapter 2 makes reference to a 14 year absence from Jerusalem, where he is shown to be the one teaching and correcting misconceptions. In this case it was by direct revelation and not by 2/3 majority of a central body that did not exist.

    Any and every Witness lurker needs to ask him/herself what would have happened to Paul in his outspokeness, if his trip to Jerusalem to discuss doctrine or policy was made to the current administration of the WT?

    It can and has been argued more successfully that in fact the only word that even comes close to "Governing Body" in the scriptures, is the word Sanhedrin. (Ray Franz ISOCF) The same word appears in only one other instance outside of the reference to the Jewish high court, and that is Paul's statement at 1 Cor 4:3 referring to the trivial judgement by "Human Tribunals". Hardly the flattering reference used by the WT, unless you consider the very court that condemned Christ to death as something to be emulated.

    I have often wondered, over the years of my involvement in the WT, what would have been the outcome if the 12 spies had decided what to do about their report to the people based on the majority vote. Although I was not acutely aware of the process, the concept was not unfamiliar given the direction to bodies of elders to submit to the general consensus and to "lift up loyal hands" (1 Tim 2:8). Of course loyal to the Organisation not to God and his word.

    Frank (not Ernest)

  • Euphemism

    Welcome to the board, Frank! I take it from your sig that you're a Bible Student?

    I've never heard that scripture in Timothy applied that way. I wouldn't be surprised, however.

  • cyberguy

    Thanks for bringing this up! I don't recall reading this when it first came out, but more recent Watchtowers seem to indicate Paul was a follower rather than part of the GB. However, as usual, Watchtower frequently contradicts or reverses itself! So what else is new?

  • days of future passed
    days of future passed

    I was cleaning up around my house and came across the December 1, 1985 Watchtower in all of it's two color orange and black glory. As I looked thru it, I saw my underlined answers. Haha the lines were all wavy which means I probably did it in the car on the way to the meeting.

    Are You Right With God? is the main article but I just flipped thru until I came to this part. Paul being a part of the GB. Don't you just hate the how it makes assumptions? Just a week or so ago, I was looking thru the Photo Drama of Creation someone had posted on here. In it near the end, was a "picture" of a first century congregation of International Bible Students Association - I kid you not! If their founder could make up such an eye rolling assumption, why not his "children"?

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