Editor’s Note: For the second time in two years, we have received at the parish where we work a letter requesting to be removed from the parish rolls because a person has joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first person wanted out because the Catholic Church is allegedly the “mother of harlots” referred to in the Book of Revelation (17:5).
We pointed out to her that the phrase “mother of harlots” refers not to the Church but to “the great city [Rome] that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth” (17:18). This is further confirmed in verse 9, where it says that “the seven heads [of the beast] represent the seven hills upon which the woman sits.” That is a reference to the seven hills upon which the city of Rome sits. However, Vatican City sits on the other side of the Tiber River and not on any of the seven hills.
The second letter requesting removal enclosed some leaflets about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here is our slightly edited reply to that person:
We cannot take your name off the books at our parish, anymore than the town where you were born can remove your name from the birth records of that town. Your reception of First Communion and Confirmation here is part of the historical record of this parish, and that cannot be changed. You may not want to be Catholic any longer, but that does not change the fact that you were a fully initiated Catholic.
It is unfortunate that you want to leave the Church to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses because you are leaving the only Church founded by God Himself 2,000 years ago to get involved with a group that was started by an ordinary man less than 150 years ago. Doing so is like leaving a restaurant after eating the appetizer and skipping the main meal. The Catholic Church offers you a full-course spiritual dinner, complete with seven sacraments, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses offer only a spiritual snack. I admire your willingness to devote your life to the JWs, but you could do much more for your salvation in the Catholic Church.
Along with your letter, you enclosed some leaflets (“Jehovah’s Witnesses: What Do They Believe?” and “What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?”), but they are filled with errors. Let me explain. For example, the leaflets say that Jesus isn’t God and that He isn’t equal to the Father because “Jesus Himself acknowledged: ‘The Father is greater than I am’ (John 14:28; 8:28).” But in John 14:10, Jesus said that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” And in John 10:30, Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” In your quote, Jesus is speaking from His humanity; in my quotes, He is speaking from His divinity. There is no problem with that since He is both God and man at the same time.
In a further effort to disguise the divinity of Jesus, the Jehovah’s had to change the words of the Bible. Every translation of John 1:1, except the JW version, says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word, of course, is Jesus, and John said that He is God. But in the JW translation, the last clause reads, “and the Word was a god.” By inserting the word “a” and lowercasing God, the JWs can pretend that Jesus isn’t God. But to do that, they have to ignore the statement of the Apostle Thomas, who addressed Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), and they have to ignore the dozens of amazing miracles Jesus performed to prove that He was God, including His bodily Resurrection from the dead.
But the JWs say that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and they challenge any statement to that effect as “unscriptural.” However, Scripture is very clear that Jesus was seen alive after His death on the cross by the aforementioned Thomas, by Mary Magdalene (cf. John 20:18), by the other apostles (cf. John 20:19-23, John 21:1-14, Matt. 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-20), by two disciples on the road to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-32), and by a crowd of 500 (cf. 1 Cor. 15:6). In fact, St. Paul said that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17).
Your new colleagues have also changed the words of Jesus at the Last Supper because they don’t believe in the Holy Eucharist. Instead of “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26), the words Jesus actually used, the JW version has Him saying, “This means my body.” They’re very good at distorting Scripture — changing words and ignoring verses that contradict their beliefs — and then having the nerve to accuse Catholics of being “unscriptural”!
One of the leaflets says that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are no part of Christendom. In fact, Christendom was founded nearly 300 years after Jesus’ death, and its beliefs have greatly deviated from what Jesus taught. For example, we do not accept Christendom’s belief in the Trinity, which teaches that Jesus is God Himself. Nowhere do the Scriptures contain this blasphemous teaching.” Oh, really? In Matt. 28:19-20, Jesus tells His followers to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Notice that Jesus says in the “name” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He didn’t say “names” because there is only one God with three divine Persons, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is also highlighted at the time of Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan River. “After Jesus was baptized,” says Matt. 4:16-17, “he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’.”
The JWs are right in saying that they are no part of Christendom (one has to believe that Jesus is God to be a part of Christendom), but they are wrong in saying that Christendom was not founded until nearly 300 years after Jesus’ death. Jesus founded His Church on Peter (cf. Matt. 16:18-19) around AD 30 and sent the Holy Spirit to guide and protect His Church on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-4) of the same year.
When we read of the heroic exploits of the apostles and the martyrs in the early Church, we are reading about the earliest practitioners of Christendom, who were persecuted and murdered by the Romans for three centuries. Peter and Paul were executed in Rome around AD 65 for spreading the teachings of Jesus.
You need to produce the evidence that the beliefs of Christendom (i.e., the Catholic Church) “greatly deviated” from what Jesus taught. You won’t be able to do so since the Catholic Church today, and only the Catholic Church, is teaching exactly what Jesus taught 2,000 years ago. Want proof of this? Take a look at the Church’s statements of belief from the Apostles’ Creed in the first century, to the Nicene Creed in the fourth century, to the Creed of Pope Paul VI in the 20th century, to the Catechism of the Catholic Church today.
You won’t find any deviation from what Jesus taught. Nor could there be any deviation since Jesus promised that His Church would always teach the truth (cf. John 14:16-17) and that He would be with His Church until the end of the world (cf. Matt. 28:20).
“When will God’s kingdom come?” asks one of the leaflets. It answers: “On the basis of Bible prophecies now being fulfilled, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that it will come in our day.” The JWs have become more careful in their predictions because they were wrong so many times in the past. Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the JWs in the 1870s, predicted that the Second Coming would take place in 1914. His successor, Joseph Rutherford, predicted that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets would land in southern California in 1925, and he built a mansion in San Diego to wait for them. Alas, they didn’t come.
His successor, Nathan Homer Knorr, believed that Armageddon would occur in 1975 and, when that didn’t happen, Knorr’s replacement, Frederick Franz, explained that Armageddon was expected to occur 6,000 years after the creation of Eve, but since no one knew how long after Adam the Lord had created Eve, he could not be any more specific than that.
When Milton Henschel took over the JWs in 1993, he had to make a change in one of its doctrines. It seems that Charles Russell had predicted that Armageddon would occur before the generation alive in 1914 had passed from this world. That generation was pretty much gone by 1995, so the Witnesses quietly dropped that prediction and now say only that the end will be “in our day.”
It’s hard to believe that anyone would join a group that has been so wrong so many times on so many things. A group that believes Jesus isn’t God and that belief in the Trinity is “blasphemous.” You should not join the JWs, but should come back to the Catholic Church, the oldest and surest way to Heaven. I would be happy to discuss this with you.