Jehovah's Witnesses

From Academic Kids

Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) are members of a worldwide Christian religion. Some of the core or notable beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses include:

  • The use of the Hebrew name of God, commonly transliterated from the Tetragrammaton to Jehovah in English.
  • A neutral stand in political affairs and military conflicts.
  • Visible proselytizing, including personal visits to neighbours, and free home study courses using their literature and the Bible.
  • A "little flock" of "144,000 anointed" will be resurrected to Heaven where they will rule with Jesus as kings and priests over the earth. (Revelation 14:1; 5:9, 10)
  • There is now living a "Great Crowd" of faithful humans that will survive the coming battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16) and have the prospect of living forever on a paradise earth. They are not part of the "new covenant" and so do not partake of the emblems (bread and wine) at the annual celebration of the Memorial of Christ's death, also known as the Lord's Evening Meal and the Lord's Supper.
  • The human soul ceases to exist at death. There will be a physical resurrection of both "the righteous and the unrighteous" to life on earth (Acts 24:15).

Jehovah's Witnesses identify themselves as Christians, but do not accept many of the doctrines held by the majority of Christian denominations, such as the Trinity, and eternal punishment in hell. Consequently, most other Christian denominations do not recognize the Jehovah's Witnesses as fellow Christians.



Jehovah's Witnesses believe that some time after the death of the last apostle, the Church generally departed in a "Great Apostasy" from the original faith in major points. They believe as stated in their literature: "It was the 1900-year-old 'faithful and discreet slave,' [parable--Matthew 24:45] the old Christian congregation, that was entrusted with this precious Kingdom service. . . obedient in its centuries-old commission to be witnesses in the earth, . .the matured 'slave' as represented by a remnant now stood ready for new assignments of service." (Watchtower 15 July 1960 p.436) They believe this occurred in 1919. Jehovah's Witnesses feel that true understanding of the scriptures began to be reassembled when Charles Taze Russell and his friends started a Bible study in the 1870's in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Born a Presbyterian, Russell had gained an appreciation for the importance of Bible study from his earlier involvement with the Millerites and related groups. They formed the Watch Tower Society in 1881, and in 1884 it was incorporated with Russell as president.

In 1914 they founded the International Bible Students Association in Great Britain. Russell died in 1916.

The period following Russell's death has seen some significant doctrinal changes in the organization. Some adherents of Russell's teachings chose to disassociate themselves from the WTB&TS, believing that, after the death of Russell, the purpose of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society completely changed.

In 1931, when Joseph Franklin Rutherford was president of the WTB&TS, those who maintained their association with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society adopted the name "Jehovah's Witnesses." This is based on Isaiah 43:10 which reads, "'You are my witnesses,' is the utterance of Jehovah..." (New World Translation) ("Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD..." - King James Version). Their name is one of the more obvious aspects differentiating them from other Christian denominations.


Main article: Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses

The group's members are noted for their diverse but close-knit brotherhood, and their markedly different teachings and practice. As of August 2004, Jehovah's Witnesses have a practicing membership worldwide of more than 6.5 million individuals. According to data reported in the Annual Worldwide Statistics at the Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses (

"While other religious groups count their membership by occasional or annual attendance, this figure reflects only those who are actively involved in the public Bible educational work."

This statistic is based on the service report completed by each publisher every month indicating the amount of time they have personally spent in the ministry and other relevant information. (Publishers are both baptized and non-baptized persons who engage in the preaching work.) These reports are compiled and forwarded to the appropriate Branch Office. To be classed as an active member, and counted in the yearly collated figures, members must serve at least one hour a month in the preaching work, or 15 minutes a month for elderly members, or those that are otherwise physically restricted.

Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate the Memorial of Christ's death, (also known as the Lord's Evening Meal or Lord's Supper), annually. Worldwide attendance at the 2004 celebration of the Memorial was 16,760,607. This is obviously in excess of the more than 6.5 million individuals regularly associated with the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses around the world, but includes many visitors and interested persons. Of this only 8,565 persons participated in eating and drinking the memorial emblems of the unleavened bread and of the wine. These are the only anointed ones, or "remnant," Witnesses believe are going to heaven out of a literal 144,000. See the 2004 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide ( which shows the "memorial partakers" at the bottom of the spreadsheet.


See Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses for details.

Jehovah's Witnesses generally exhibit a high degree of commitment to their religion, attending meetings three times a week (totaling approximately five hours) in their local Kingdom Halls and in private homes. Larger gatherings (called assemblies or conventions) are held usually three times a year in assembly halls that are owned or maintained by the Watchtower Society or in rented public facilities, such as sports stadiums or auditoriums. The offices of the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses are located in Brooklyn, New York. There are over 100 Branch Offices ( in various countries and lands around the world.

Beliefs and doctrines

See the related article Doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses for additional details.

The teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from most Christian denominations in several ways. For example, they reject the doctrine of the Trinity, asserting that it is a belief system derived from various ancient pagan sources, defined by notions borrowed heavily from Neoplatonism, and lightly from Stoicism. They believe that the earth will, following Armageddon, be restored to a global paradise, (Psalms 104:5) and that God will permanently destroy the wicked - ending their lives and consciousness - rather than eternally punishing them in hell (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Beliefs About Christ

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is the perfect reflection of Jehovah's very being (Hebrews 1:3); God's only begotten Son. They believe He was born of the virgin Mary as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; to bring the means of salvation to the whole world, for the first time ever, not just to the Israelites. After his ministry on Earth, his death on the stake, subsequent resurrection, and exaltation to the "right hand of God" (Acts 2:33-36), He was given authority over all things (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28). They believe Jesus is 'a god', even a 'Mighty God', and the Prince of Peace (a title applied to him from Isaiah 9:6). They hold that Jesus did not rise from the dead in his physical body, but was raised "not a human creature, but a spirit." They believe that the Greek term theos, applied to Jesus at John 1:1 is correctly interpreted to mean: "divine," or of a "divine nature" that exactly mirrors the Fathers' (Hebrews 1:3). Jehovah's Witnesses reject the Trinity doctrine as well as the notion that Jesus is Jehovah (Oneness). As a result, many mistakenly conclude that Jehovah's Witnesses deny the divine nature of the Christ Jesus. Rather, the Jehovah's Witnesses affirm the divine nature of Jesus while at the same time redefining "divine nature" and claim to use it free of Trinitarian persuasion. Witnesses teach that He is "the firstborn of all creation" (Proverbs 8:22; Colossians 1:15; Revelations 3:14) in a literal sense as opposed to the orthodox notion of His being "Eternally Begotten." They also believe that he is Michael the Archangel (literally "The Preeminent Angel") in his pre-human form spoken of at Jude 9.

God's Name

They identify God using the most commonly accepted English rendering of the Tetragrammaton: "Jehovah". The English form "Jehovah" is a romanised transliteration of the Hebrew name for God. Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide identify God by whatever form of the Tetragrammaton is common in their language.

They believe that the use of God's personal name is required in order to build a personal relationship with him, and to be saved. (Acts 2:21).

In the Old Testament

The Hebrew divine name of God, rendered "YHWH", is found in the Old Testament 6,828 times. Nearly all orthodox English language Bibles either remove the proper name entirely (replacing it with the ambiguous title: "God" or "LORD" in all capitals), or they render the name (as either "Jehovah" or "Yahweh") only a handful of times. The New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses (NWT) differs significantly here from almost all other Bibles. The NWT consistently renders all 6,828 instances of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (divine name) as a proper name: "Jehovah." On top of this they introduce 145 more instances where they believe the name should be there, but is not technically extant. They cite the works of C.D. Ginsburg as justification for the additional 145. Such consistent use of the name is done out of what they believe to be a deep respect for the "Author of our salvation."

In the New Testament

They believe that the divine name was removed from New Testament (NT) manuscripts over the first couple of centuries, post Christ, due to Jewish superstition. With this belief in mind, they introduce 237 instances of the divine name into the New Testament despite a complete lack of extant manuscript evidence. They point to several, though admittedly speculative, reasons for justification:

  • Passages where the apostles directly quote Old Testament Scriptures that contain the divine name.
  • New Testament scriptures that suggest the name would be there if 1st century manuscripts were discovered, most notably Jesus' words as recorded by the apostles John (John 17:6): "I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world..", and Luke (Acts 2:21): "And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved." (NWT)
  • The "J Texts", which are primarily other translations or translation aids to the Bible, were looked at as a sort of guide to see where other translations introduced the divine name, and why.

These reasons, among others, culminate into the consistent use of "Jehovah" throughought the Old Testament and New Testament of the New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses. On the other side of that coin, the perpetuation of Jewish superstition to render the proper name as an ambiguous title culminates into the quasi-consistent use of "God" (or "LORD") throughout the Old and New Testaments of other Bible translations. "Quasi-consistent" in that many of these orthodox translations do render the name, in some form, in a handful of Old Testament passages, thus not entirely consistent in either usage.

Different Rewards

Jehovah's Witnesses hold that believers are classified into two groups. The one class is called "the anointed", or "little flock." These are limited in number to 144,000 based on certain passages of scripture in the book of Revelation, and those of the anointed class remaining alive today are called "the remnant." The anointed are considered the "joint heirs" with Christ, and will co-rule with him from heaven, and are the only believers with a hope of entering heaven. Although Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, they hold that some scriptures in the Bible are directed only to the anointed class and therefore do not apply to the majority of Jehovah's Witnesses in a direct way. One example of this is the passage John 3:3. Jehovah's Witnesses hold that only the "anointed" are "born again" in accordance to Jesus' words to Nicodemus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

The other class according to Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs was identified in 1935, and was then called the "Jonadab class." Today they are referred to as the "other sheep," or "Great Crowd," based on the passage at John 10:16 where Jesus speaks of having "other sheep. . . that are not of this fold." This identification for the "other sheep" differs radically from the current mainstream view of this passage, namely that Jesus would bring his Jewish believers (little flock) and Gentile believers (other sheep) together into one fold.

This "other sheep" class of Jehovah's Witnesses make up more than 99% of their believers today. Though they are not "born again" as reigning "kings and priests" in God's Heavenly Kingdom, they anticipate being subjects of God's kingdom, enjoying everlasting life on a peaceful, paradisaic earth (Psalms 37:9-11, 29). This doctrine of two classes of believers is unique to Jehovah's Witnesses.

The "anointed" Witnesses are generally older, as they believe that the "ingathering" of this heavenly class ceased for the most part in the early 1930's, when the ingathering of believers expressing an earthly hope rose sharply, signaling an end to the ingathering of the anointed class. Rarely will one find a younger "anointed" one, but the idea that individual "anointed" ones can be rejected and replaced is not unheard of. "Anointed" believers are generally given no more consideration than other elderly believers. They can be disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for the same sins as the "other sheep," and hold no special office within the congregational arrangement. Having the 'anointed' status is, by Scriptural definition, a personal discovery during one's conversion, and an innate knowledge to be positively held by the individual alone. While falsely claiming to have this inner knowledge is a sin, it is in reality not the place of any other person to make this assessment for them, Witness or otherwise; the individual's publicly known in-depth understanding of Bible truth (including the role of the 'anointed class') and their own 'testimony' is what the congregation must accept. Historically, only "anointed" members have been chosen to serve on their Governing Body.


Jehovah's Witnesses believe that God is the creator of all things. They do not accept theories of universal common descent that suggest that as the first living organism(s) reproduced it (they) changed into different kinds of living things, ultimately producing all forms of plant and animal life that have ever existed on this earth. Rather, they believe that living things were created 'each according to their kind,' referencing the Bible book of Genesis.

They also do not agree with the concept of abiogenesis, often incorrectly attributed to the theories of evolution, that state that the first living organism developed from lifeless matter by wholly naturalistic means.


Jehovah's Witnesses also do not salute the flag of any country for two reasons. First, to do so would be a compromise of their belief of being politically neutral. Secondly, they believe that such an act would be tantamount to worshiping an idol. Correspondingly, they do not use any images or icons in their worship, including the symbol of the cross. Jehovah's Witnesses are discouraged from voting in elections, but not prohibited from voting. (Watchtower 1 Nov 1999. p.28) They do not run for any political office, following the example Jesus set in fleeing from those who sought to make him king. (John 6:15)

Regarding other denominations and religions

Witnesses believe that there is only one true religion - that taught by Jesus Christ in the Bible, namely true Christianity (Ephesians 4:4-6). They consider that their faith is the only true restoration of that first-century Christianity. They believe that the existence of absolute truth precludes the possibility that different religions, confessing a multitude of conflicting doctrines, are equally acceptable. Hence, they do not participate in interfaith initiatives or the ecumenical movement.

While considering the teachings of other religious organizations to be in error, Jehovah's Witnesses recognize that there are sincere people in all religious traditions and respect the right of each person to choose his religion. Young persons who are Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to respect their parents, even if one or both does not share their convictions.


Jehovah's Witnesses make vigorous efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the written word. The Bible is their prime source of teaching.

  • New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is a modern-language translation of the Bible published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc (a legal organisation body for Jehovah's Witnesses). This is the Bible translation primarily used by Jehovah's Witnesses. The English edition of this translation is available in many editions, including print, Braille, audio, and electronic online media. The translation has also been re-translated into many other languages, although most of these rely on translations from the English edition rather than the original texts, in part due to the difficulty of acquiring skilled interpreters between the original languages and many of the more obscure modern languages. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society also publishes other translations and references many others in their publications. The New World Translation has been heavily criticized. The claims are that it is biased in its translation to support the Jehovah's Witnesses theology. The usual Jehovah's Witness response is that the majority of the translations most commonly criticized, like John 1:1, are shared by many other Bible translations and supported as accurate by many respected scholars of Biblical languages.

Their teachings are presented through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications. Their publications make extensive use of references and quotations from the Bible. They are perhaps best known for their use of a particular pair of journals:

  • Awake!, published in 85 languages, is a general-interest semimonthly magazine covering many topics from a religious perspective. It has an average circulation of 22.8 million copies per issue.
  • The Watchtower, Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom, published in 150 languages, focuses mainly on doctrine. With an average circulation of 26.4 million copies semimonthly, The Watchtower is the most widely distributed religious magazine in the world, and is available in various editions and media formats.

Both The Watchtower and Awake! are published simultaneously in dozens of languages. In addition to the formats mentioned above, both magazines are available in various audio and electronic formats and some of the articles from these magazines are available online. After the end of each year the issues are collected and re-released in a printed annual edition, commonly referred to as a bound volume. In addition to this, the Watchtower Library computer program contains several decades worth of articles for both magazines and is updated on an annual basis. (Until 2003, this was only done biennially.)

New books, brochures, and other items are released from time to time, major releases being announced at their annual conventions. Additionally, a number of audio cassettes, videocassettes, and DVDs have been produced featuring various aspects of the group's beliefs, practices, organziation, and history. Some of these also provide dramas based on various Biblical accounts. Recent years have seen a proliferation of material available on their website.

Jehovah's Witnesses and governments

Main article: Jehovah's Witnesses and governments.

Jehovah's Witnesses claim to take seriously the Biblical injunction to "Render . . . to all their dues." (Romans 13:7) Thus, paying taxes and in other ways obeying the laws of their respective countries are strongly encouraged, and they have often been commended for doing so. However, primarily because of their stance on political neutrality (or political noninvolvement) Jehovah's Witnesses have had conflict and at times outright persecution from some governments and their legal systems. This has been true even in several democratic countries with a rule of law and standards of human rights, including Canada, France, Greece and the United States. The justifications brought forth by governmental authorities were that certain practices of the Witnesses were contrary to the rules of society or national law. Among the cited reasons (not all apply in the case of each country; see main article):

  • some manifestations of the Witnesses' insistence on "remaining politically neutral", in practice:
    • refusal to salute the national flag;
    • refusal to participate in the military;
    • refusal to participate in political processes, even democratic ones;
  • the refusal of blood transfusions for any reason, including for minor children.

In some undemocratic regimes, the refusal to salute the flag and to participate in military operation is often viewed as treason. The issue of the flag salute and Jehovah's Witnesses was first raised in Nazi Germany in the years prior to World War II. The Nazi regime sent German and Austrian Jehovah's Witnesses who refused allegiance to the Nazi state and military service to concentration camps. See Jehovah's Witnesses and the Holocaust.

Today, most countries that practice mandatory military service routinely place Jehovah's witnesses in jail for their refusal to accept military duties, along with other conscientious objectors. In Singapore, for example, Jehovah's witnesses face a three-year jail term (military service is two years) and in Taiwan, a jail term is imposed before a further 33 month period serving alternative practices such as fire-fighting or nursing.

According to the book Judging Jehovah's Witnesses, Jehovah's Witnesses have helped to widen the definition of civil liberties in most western societies, hence broadening the rights of millions of people, due to their firm stand and determination. According to the preface to the book State and Salvation: One of the results of the Witnesses' legal battles was the long process of discussion and debate that led to the Charter of Rights, which is now part of the fundamental law of Canada. Thus Jehovah's Witnesses claim to have contributed more in the area of civil rights than any other religion.

Opposition to Jehovah's Witnesses

Throughout their history, their beliefs, doctrines and practices have met controversy and opposition among societies and other religions, including orthodox Christian groups. Many religious groups consider the interpretation and doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses to be false teachings (see also Heresy). The term "cult" is also used to describe them, although in the United States the word is problematic and generally carries strong negative connotations, conveying disdain and prejudice. Consequently, the Witnesses are sometimes mentioned on lists of "cults" made by self-proclaimed "experts." The reasons given vary. Some typical ones are that their (JW's) religious beliefs are fundamentally different from those normally held by the majority of Christians, or because of issues with their organizational structure, or because of their positions on blood transfusions. Others claim the Witnesses' status as a cult is derived from recruitment and indoctrination techniques, including alleged "brainwashing"¹. These critics make the controverial claim that Jehovah's Witnesses strips its believers of free will. The irony is that this is in fact in direct contradiction of Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs, as they believe that Free Will is one of the greatest gifts humans have received from Jehovah God. They teach that each human must make the voluntary choice to serve God or not.

Jehovah's Witnesses have often been the subject of religious and political controversy. Political and religious animosity against them has at times led to mob action and government oppression, including the targeting of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Holocaust and widespread criticism from those of other faiths.[1] (, [2] (

Depending on geographic location, Jehovah's Witnesses have been accused of misleading youth, engaging in satanic worship or supporting zionism, communism, fascism, capitalism, democracy or pacifism. Because of their neutral political stand, Jehovah's Witnesses have often been accused of being disloyal to the state in both totalitarian and "free" nations. They have been sent to prisons, concentration camps, and even been executed. At times non-Witness family members and acquaintances have presented stiff, even violent opposition to their faith.(Watchtower 4/15/1982; 12/1/1980; 9/1/1979)[3] (

Although uncommon, hate crimes have occurred against Jehovah's Witnesses because of their beliefs and practices. On the other hand, many people are cordial to the Witnesses. [4] (

Mob violence in the USA

For example, in the United States in the late 1930s and into 1940, mob violence against Jehovah's Witnesses became widespread and rampant. On June 16, 1940, the United States attorney general, Francis Biddle, made a radio broadcast over a coast-to-coast network in an effort to quiet the mob action. Here is an excerpt from that statement:

" . . . Jehovah's witnesses have been repeatedly set upon and beaten. They had committed no crime; but the mob adjudged they had, and meted out mob punishment. The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation of these outrages. The people must be alert and watchful, and above all cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government's task infinitely more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods."

Strong resentment and anger were sometimes directed at the group (then called Bible students) in the 1910s and 1920s. At the time, this was largely due to the Watch Tower Society's outspoken manner, members carrying placards outside many churches, and in the streets proclaiming the imminent destruction of church members, along with both church and government institutions if they did not flee from "false religion" was not an uncommon sight. Typical examples of the Watchtower's attitude are found in the Watch Tower Society's book publication The Finished Mystery (SS-7), 1917 edition: "Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity.'" (Page 485 ( "The people who are the strength of Christendom shall be cut off in the brief but terribly eventful period beginning in 1918 A.D. A third part are 'burned with fire in the midst of the city.' Fire symbolizes destruction. . . .After 1918 the people supporting churchianity will cease to be its supporters, be destroyed as adherents, by the spiritual pestilence of errors abroad, and by the famine of the Word of God among them." (Pages 398, 399) The Bible Students believed religion was a "racket and a snare" and refused to be identified as a 'religion' for some time.

The language used by the Witnesses and their organization was widely considered inflammatory and was deemed illegal propaganda in many societies for inciting intolerance and potential violence, hatred or sedition (although they refuse to bear arms or partake in political struggles). The Finished Mystery Watchtower’s book pg 128: "It seems conclusive that the hour of Nominal Zion's travail is fixed for the Passover of 1918. (See Rev. 3:14.) That will be 7 years prior to 1925. At that time there is every reason to believe the fallen angels will invade the minds of many of the Nominal Church people, driving them to exceedingly unwise conduct and leading to their destruction at the hands of the enraged masses, who will later be dragged to the same fate." The churches of Christendom and their members were mindful of the propaganda directed at them, and the Watch Tower Society's members were less than welcomed by many in society for their previous outspoken highly vocal warnings of destruction and death directed towards governments, unbelievers, churches and church members, again, at the hand of God.


Many criticize the organization's practice of disfellowshipping members, a practice claimed to be based on scriptural precedents. Disfellowshipping occurs when a member unrepentantly or repetitiously violates the moral standards Jehovah's Witnesses accept as Biblically binding on all. Choosing to no longer be one of Jehovah's Witnesses by submitting a written letter (termed "disassociation") would result in the same. When a member is disfellowshipped, their believing friends and family do not speak to them, except in cases of neccessity. (Example: living in the same house.) Members of the congregation who otherwise repetitiously engage in conversation with disfellowshipped individuals risk being disfellowshipped themselves.

Since members are strongly discouraged from forming strong personal relationships outside of the organization, the practice can make it very difficult to leave. Many also criticize the Witnesses' policies of not participating in political activities, or in some activities commonplace outside of their faith community, and thus allege that the Witnesses willfully do not integrate into their community, and prevent their children from doing so.


Many also view door-to-door evangelizing as an invasion of privacy, especially in societies where religious beliefs are considered a private matter not discussed with strangers, and thus proselytizing is considered unusual and rude. They may also view it as an annoyance akin to door-to-door peddling; some people pretend to not be at home when the Witnesses stop by. Some people have concerns about proselytizing among minors (see below). Jehovah's Witnesses base their practice of evangelism on scriptures, such as Matthew 28:18-20; they cite Acts 20:20 as scriptural support for the manner in which this activity is carried out, and receive additional encouragement in this activity from their literature and local congregations.

The installation of Kingdom Halls (the Witnesses' meeting places) is sometimes met by local opposition. As an example, in 1995 the inhabitants of the village of Remomeix (resp. Deyvillers) in the Vosges dpartement of France opposed the installation of Kingdom Halls. [5] ([6] ( Reasons given were the fear of aggressive prozelytizing of minors, and the large size of the installations. In both cases, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses attending the Hall would have well exceeded the total population of the village.


Hostility from traditional, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians has been common, perhaps because of this group's rejection of many of the doctrines of mainstream Christian groups. For example, they teach that Jesus Christ is God's first creation rather than God Himself, and that the Holy Spirit is not a person but God's active force. Traditional Christians believe this contradicts the translation of John 1:1 given in the King James Bible and other popular English translations, as well as contradicting the historical teaching of Christianity; Jehovah's Witnesses translate this verse differently and teach that Christianity has been fundamentally wrong for most of its history. (See also New World Translation and Great Apostasy for more on these controversies.) Many have been critical of their opinion that our current time period is "the last days."

Jehovah's Witnesses and the question of blood

Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept whole blood transfusions [7] ( This is based on their understanding of the Bible admonition to "keep abstaining from blood" (Acts 15:28, 29). Jehovah's Witnesses refrain from accepting any blood transfusion or blood products.

Although Jehovah's Witnesses do not take whole blood in any form including transfusions, they may according to the conscience of the particular individual accept certain blood fractions and derivatives. The Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, provides a detailed list ( of these specific distinctions.

The refusal of blood transfusions is a significant issue among medical professional and others concerning Jehovah's Witnesses, especially when it involves members' under-age children. In some countries, laws may impose limitations on physicians on the ability to withhold or withdraw blood transfusions or blood therapy from minors, particularly in life-threatening situations; parents who have prevented children under their care from receiving blood therapy in life-threatening situations may face prosecution. Courts have ordered transfusions in some children, often the very young; whereas in other cases they have respected the declared choice of an under-age minor who is able to defend his or her own beliefs to the court in a manner that reflects a mature understanding and without undue influence from the parents.

See also Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses: Medicine and Health for additional information on this subject.

Jehovah's Witnesses and eschatology

Since their formation in the 1880s, leaders of the organization have sought to identify dates for end-time events such as the enthronement of Jesus as King in Heaven, the return of Jesus Christ, the return of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and for the "end of this system of things," culminating in Armageddon.

In the group's early period, during the late 1800s, Jehovah's Witnesses (then called Bible Students) believed that the return of Jesus Christ would be a visible, dramatic and world shattering event, a position also commonly held among many other Christian groups. They believed that the "time of the end" (also called the "last days") had started in 1799, and that the culmination of Armageddon would occur in 1914, and for nearly fifty years believed and taught that the date for Christ's enthronement as heavenly King had occurred in 1874. Many years later in 1930, the Witnesses' organization moved the dates forward, and believed the beginning of the biblical "last days" and the enthronement of Jesus Christ as King, had now occurred in 1914, not 1799 and 1874, and that his return in 1914 was invisible to all but those with "eyes of understanding." The Bible passage urging believers to watch for Jesus' return, which would come "in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11, KJV) is understood by Jehovah's Witnesses to be visible only with the "eyes of understanding."

Other dates proclaimed to be time of God's judgement on humankind and the culmination of Armageddon, were 1915, 1918, 1920 and 1925. The return of Old Testament men including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was an event anticipated by many Jehovah's Witnesses in the year 1925 based on writings in their Journal, The Watchtower, the book Millions Now Living Will Never Die, and various other Watch Tower Society publications. When these events did not occur, there was a period of discouragement and some left the organization at that time, but the majority saw it only as a temporary disappointment. In 1929 the second president of the Watch Tower Society, Joseph F. Rutherford, also called "Judge Rutherford", built a luxury villa in California called Beth Sarim for the claimed purpose of housing the prophets and godly men of old, who were expected to be physically resurrected after Armageddon to help with Christ's Millennial reign over the earth, even though they had failed to materialize as predicted in 1925. A local paper published a humorous interview ( with Rutherford about the villa in March 1930. Rutherford used the villa himself for many years until his death in 1942, and in 1948 the luxury villa was sold.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, many Witnesses, stimulated by suggestive articles in their literature ( and further encouraged by overzealous speakers at their assemblies prior to 1975, believed and hoped that Armageddon and Christ's thousand-year millennial reign would begin by 1975. While Witnesses were reminded by the Watch Tower Society in the Watchtower magazine of 15 August 1968, p. 501 that they had "not dedicated their lives to serve Jehovah only until 1975," many concluded to serve God with a date in mind. Although the view of Armageddon and Christ's millennium beginning in 1975 was never fully, or explicitly supported by the Watch Tower Society, many in the organisations' writing department, as well as several leading Witnesses, Elders, and presiding overseers in the organisation, heavily suggested that Christ's millennial reign over earth would begin by 1975. Because of considerable speculation created by members of Watchtower Society and Witnesses in general, in 1974 just prior to the failure of the 1975 date suggested as the beginning of Christ reign on earth and Armageddon, the Watchtower magazine 15 October 1974 p. 635 quoted a prepared assembly talk, "Why we have not been told the Day or Hour" of when God will bring the end (Armageddon). This attempt to draw the Witnesses away from the "day or hour" had little impact on members already convinced.

While Witnesses have always been encouraged to increase the preaching work, and avoid secular life goals or careers that interfere with their spirituality, this emphasis was especially strong prior to 1975. Some Witnesses gave up jobs, college, scholarships (, and some imprudently sold their houses in the hopeful expectation that God's Kingdom would literally be established on earth in 1975 after the biblical Armageddon, encouraged by the Watch Tower Society: "Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end." (Kingdom ministry magazine May 1974 ( Some irresponsibly ran up debt hoping not to have to pay it back, and some unwisely spent their life savings believing that the 1975 date was a certain and unchangeable fact due to the many encouraging Watch Tower articles ( In spite of the Watch Tower Societys previous admonition that Witnesses should let 'nothing cause them to tire and give out (Watchtower, 15 August 1968, p. 501), there were many who left the organisation (or became inactive) due to the disappointment of Armageddon not coming in 1975, although the majority remained. The large numbers leaving or inactive are seen as baptisms continued at over 100,000 per year (around 200,000 in 1976) but the organisation still continued to lose more members than it gained after 1975 for several years until 1979 when numbers started to recover and increase again.

In 1980, The Watch Tower Society claimed responsibility of the 1975 incident, they stated: "With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting-in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man's existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated."Watchtower magazine, 15 March 1980 p.17

Jehovah's Witnesses have preached that these are the biblical "last days" leading to Armageddon since the year 1914. They taught for many decades that the "generation alive in 1914 would not pass away before Armageddon came and the new system under Christ's rule started." This literal interpretation of the term "generation" in Matthew 24:34 was abandoned by the group in 1994, eighty years after 1914. The Witnesses' viewpoint of the "end of the world" differs significantly from that of other apocalyptic religions. While the Witnesses do believe that the present system of things is at its end, they do not believe that the earth itself will be destroyed or that all of humankind will be wiped out. Rather, they believe that only wicked mankind (including political, false religious organizations, and those who support them) will be destroyed. For further discussion of this, see "Beliefs and Doctrines" above.

Main articles

See also

External links

Official websites of Jehovah's Witnesses

Additional positive websites

Resources Critical of the Group

  • ( A large archived site that follows and documents the development of Jehovah's Witness beliefs from a critical perspective. Many original Watch Tower Society source documents and references.
  • Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood ( A large archived site that that promotes changes to the Watch Tower Society's blood doctrine. Many original Watch Tower Society source documents and references.
  • Free minds ( - Detailed discussions about Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrines, history, and claims from an antagonistic perspective, includes Watch Tower's prophetic interpretations (
  • Jehovah' ( A very large archived message board community discussing Jehovah's Witnesses and their Watch Tower organisation.
  • Silent lambs ( - For those Jehovah's Witnesses who claim they were victims of sexual molestation within their religious organisation. Criticism of the Watch Tower organisation, and its controversial policies of how it deals with child molestation within the church organisation.
  • The Watch Tower's United Nations Controversy ( - Discusses surreptitious involvement of the Watch Tower Society with the United Nations, believed by JWs to be the "Beast of Revelation", and "Satan's organisation." (
  • Watchtower News ( A site that lists the most current news items involving Jehovah's Witnesses or the Watch Tower organisation
  • Watchtower Observer (
  • JW Files-Research on Jehovah's Witnesses ( A large researched site headed by subject grouping, with many original scans from the Watch Tower Society's literature, and discussing many important doctrinal and ethical issues from an antagonistic perspective.
  • The counter-cult Rick A. Ross Institute (
  • DannyHaszard - Watchtower critic (

Books Critical of the Group

Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz, a former Governing Body member of the Watchtower organisation for nine years (the highest level of Jehovah's Witnesses). This book gives an insight into the authority structure of the religion. The book allows the reader a view of the decision-making sessions of a religion's inner council, and the powerful, sometimes dramatic, impact their decisions have on people's lives. It looks in detail at the history of the organisation, how its doctrines and practices have arisen, and how they have changed/reversed over time. It also looks deeply into the Watchtower's history of Armageddon prophecies, uproots highly controversial information with full scanned proofs, and their often negative affects on the lives of Jehovah's Witnesses. An extensive fully documented research into the Watch Tower organisation from someone with high level, first hand comprehensive experience. Paperback ISBN 0914675230. Hardback ISBN 0914675249. Publisher: Commentary Press; 4th edition (1 June 2002)

In Search of Christian Freedom by Raymond Franz. A follow up to the book Crisis of Conscience exploring all the doctrinal and ethical issues in a Christian's life, especially Christian Freedom, based on the Bible in light of the Watch Tower's doctrines. A very exhaustive management of all aspects of the Watchtower's teachings. Discusses teachings of organizational loyalty, door-to-door activity, disfellowshipping, blood, indoctrination, manipulation, prophecy, great crowd, and many others. ISBN 0914675168 Publisher: Commentary Press (October 1991, internally updated in 2002)

The Sign of the Last Days - When? by Carl O. Jonsson. A documented case against the Watchtower organisation's interpretation of the 'sign of the Last Days' as beginning in 1914. Is Christ's return identified by unprecendented war, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, crime and other calamities? Evidence that this claim is based on a misunderstanding of Christ's own words; accompanied by historical facts demonstrating how surprisingly little the 20th century has differed in these areas from past centuries. Fully documented with world disaster statistics, and biblical references. ISBN 0914675095 Publisher: Commentary Press (1 September 1987)

Where is the "Great Crowd" Serving God? by Jon Mitchell, a booklet by the former secretary to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. He covers the biblical doctrines about the heavenly reward for Christians, and he discusses Scripturally using the original Greek text, explicating there is no biblical difference between the "Great Crowd" and the 144,000's location in heaven. He covers the Watchtower's doctrines, the Greek word Naos, and examines them in light of the Bible's teachings. ISBN 9993518972 Publisher: Commentary Press ( (1 December 1992)ar:شهود يهوه ast:Testigos de Xehov ca:Testimonis de Jehov da:Jehovas Vidner de:Zeugen Jehovas el:Μάρτυρες του Ιεχωβά es:Testigos de Jehov fi:Jehovan todistajat fr:Tmoins de Jhovah hu:Jehova tani ia:Testes de Jehovah is:Vottar Jehva it:Testimoni di Geova ja:エホバの証人 kw:Dustunyoryon Yehovah nl:Jehovah's Getuigen no:Jehovas vitner pl:Świadkowie Jehowy pt:Testemunhas de Jeov ru:Cвидетели Иегов sv:Jehovas vittnen vi:Nhn Chứng Gi-h-va zh:耶和華見證人


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