The disdain which the WTBTS / GBoJW has for higher education is well known among JW's and JW dissenters. The specious rationale for such disdain is also well known. However, it is a fact that there is no scriptural authority for....
- a) prohibiting education at any level for another person
- b) taking it upon oneself to decide the limits of another individual's education
In that the WTBTS has made its position increasingly clear in recent years, looking at their published literature to gain independent and impartial advice for a youngster who may be considering university as an option may be ill advised. Yet is is readily possible to examine the Bible itself for examples of individuals whose education went beyond the norm and which education did not in any way detract from or compromise their relationship with God nor attenuate their spirituality. Further, it is readily possible to examine non-WT literature to discern what authors may have gained from the Bible in terms of how they see its portrayal of advanced education - far removed from the nihilism of the WTBTS I should add here right at the outset. The Bible characters considered here in this context are Luke, Moses, and Daniel and his three friends Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael.
The Insight volume published by the WTBTS states "That Luke was well educated is apparent from his writings. Also, his background as a doctor is noticeable in his use of medical terms.—Lu 4:38; Ac 28:8.
Luke joined Paul in sending greetings to Christians at Colossae when Paul wrote to them from Rome (c. 60-61 C.E.), and the apostle identified him as “the beloved physician.” (Col 4:14) In writing to Philemon from Rome (c. 60-61 C.E.), Paul included greetings from Luke (Lucas, KJ), referring to him as one of his “fellow workers.” (Phm 24) That Luke stuck close to Paul and was with him shortly before the apostle’s martyrdom is evident from Paul’s remark, “Luke alone is with me.”—2Ti 4:11.
From the above, we can see that the WTS acknowledges that Luke was well educated and was a doctor. There is no mention however, of his education being the equivalent in its day, of a university education! He was highly respected. His education served to encourage others as "followers of the way" and did not lead to him falling victim to any of the pitfalls which the WTBTS opine may befall graduates.
The Insight volume also considers Moses. It relates that "As a member of Pharaoh’s household, he was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” becoming “powerful in his words and deeds,” undoubtedly powerful in both mental and physical capabilities.—Ex 2:1-10; Ac 7:20-22."
Again, no acknowledgement that Moses' education would have been the equivalent of a university education at that time. After all, the Egyptians were such formidable civil engineers and would have needed an advanced education system to train their engineers. Indeed, so complex was their output that their architecture is studiously examined with awe by graduates today. Yet despite Moses having been "instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians", none of his peers accused him of having wasted time which could have better been spent in what the accuser might have seen as service to God. He too, did not fall victim to any of the pitfalls so alarmingly portrayed by the WTBTS / GBoJW.
ABEDNEGO (AZARIAH)In Babylon he, along with Daniel, Hananiah, and Mishael, passed, with high honors, a three-year training course and a regal examination personally conducted by Nebuchadnezzar, after having first demonstrated religious integrity in matters of food and drink. (Da 1:4, 5, 8-20) Later, at Daniel’s request, the king made Azariah and his two companions administrators over the jurisdictional district of Babylon.—Da 2:49.
MESHACH (MISHAEL)Mishael, Azariah, Hananiah, and Daniel were then put through a three-year training course by the Babylonian royalty, at the end of which they proved superior even to the king’s counselors. (2Ki 24:1, 6, 8, 12-16; Da 1:1-7, 17-20) During this time these four remained firm in their devotion to God, even refusing to pollute themselves with the king’s delicacies.—Da 1:8-16.
SHADRACH (HANANIAH)By the end of three years’ study, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were found to be ten times better than the wise men of Babylon. Certainly they had Jehovah’s blessing, which in turn, no doubt, was partly due to their steadfast refusal to pollute themselves with the Babylonian delicacies. (Da 1:3-20) Their next-recorded appointment was to the administration of the jurisdictional district of Babylon. (Da 2:49)
- undertook three years study
- passed with high honours
- proved superior to their contemporaries (WT says ten times better!)
- remained faithful to God
- and enjoyed good employment prospects!
Well well well! What on earth is all the fuss about on the part of the WTS / GBoJW today? There are no leadership entities in evidence in the Bible which showed the antipathy towards higher\advanced education which the WTBTS shows today. If anything, everyone then valued and esteemed such an education! Notably here too, no acknowledgement by the WTBTS / GBoJW of Daniel's three friends having undertaken an education equivalent to that of university level. In this example too, the education they gained did not represent a hazard.
Ch 5 - pg57
"Daniel tells us that the elite students like himself and his friends were trained for three years in a broad curriculum, involving the languages and literature of the Babylonians. No expense was spared by the government and, since Babylonian culture put a high premium on physical image, the students were given the bery best of food - in fact the same food that was served to the emperor himself. Students being students, such food was a great perk of being selected for the course. It is certain that these four captives from a city brought to its knees by an impoverishing siege had never seen anything like this quality of food before: it was beyond the dreams of those used to war rations.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. (Daniel 1:8.)"
"Libraries and education institutions in particular were closely attached to temples in major cities of the empire. According to the archaeologists, Babylon had temples galore at the time - over a thousand of them. In contemporary, secular England most colleges in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge still have a Latin grace said at meals by a scholar or fellow of the college. It would surely be almost incredible if the University of Babylon, permeated as it was with idolatry, did not have pagan rituals at meal times. There would have been constant offerings and toasts to the gods."
"We should take careful note, however, that Daniel did not protest against the education in the University of Babylon as such. He clearly devoted himself to it, and we can well imagine that he enjoyed his university course. He and his friends put such energy into the learning of the languages, literature, philosophy, science, economic, history, and so on, that they were star pupils and ended up with the top distinctions, far ahead of the rest. Daniel did not protest as an observer outside the system: he protested as a participant.
It is important to bear this in mind, not least when we hear the term 'apocalyptic literature' being used in connection with the book of Daniel. This description tends to conjure up the idea of some wild and irrational prophet of doom, warning people to flee society, barricade themselves like monks or hermits against the world and await the imminent, all-engulfing cataclysm that marks the end of history. Well, if that is what 'apocalyptic' means, it clearly does not apply to Daniel or his friends. We do not deny that Daniel has much to say about the future in his book, some of it bleak in its implications. But, far from leading him to run away from society and responsibility, the revelation he had of the future led him to live a very full professional life at the highest levels of administration in the empire. Daniel's understanding of God did not lead to his developing a ghetto mentality but to taking a full and prominent part in the life of Babylon."
So Professor Lennox does not have a problem in seeing the education of Daniel and his friends as being the equivalent of higher education and in describing their then educational institution of learning as the University of Babylon. It has been argued by the GBoJW that modern day higher education represents a hazard to the individual. Yet such hazards did not befall any of the Bible characters aforementioned, and the times in which Daniel and his three friends lived were especially hazardous.
As the literature of the WTBTS is so often saying, there are "scriptural principles" which can guide us where the Bible does not directly address an issue - such as that of pursuing "higher education". One such principle is Jeremiah 10:23. This scripture is mentioned a lot in WTS literature. It says that "It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." In that this is so, with copious human history to evidence the truth of the scripture, then why should anyone decide how another human being should "direct his step" - GBoJW or otherwise? Why should an individual exempt himself from the counsel of 1 Thess 4:11 - "...make it YOUR aim to live quietly and to mind YOUR own business" and additionally, ignore the counsel of 1 Peter 4:15 - "...let none of YOU suffer as a .... busybody in other people’s matters." So scriptural principle seems to be offering the guidance that whether or not to pursue a higher education is one's "own business" and directing others in the matter is the characteristic of a "busybody". Therefore, in that these few scriptures are being ignored by the GBoJW in the context of educational options, what else might they be ignoring in scripture which has value and merit for those who (presume to) lead? Why don't they simply advise reflecting on the experiences of Luke, Moses, Daniel and his three friends, and let the individual come to his own decision? An individual is absolutely free to make his or her own decision as to the level of education to be pursued. After all, the scripture tells us: "Now Jehovah is the Spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17)