Jehovah`s Witness/Holy Spirit
QUESTION: Jehovah's Witnesses claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit when interpreting the Bible. Yet, many - if not all - congregations make the same claim. How does one distinguish between the true claim and the false claim?
ANSWER: Hello Conan,
Thank you for writing and giving me the opportunity to answer you.
Before I do though, can you please give me some extra information as to what you mean by the word congregations. Are you referring to different congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses or are you referring to different denominations. eg Jehovah's Witnesses compared to say Church of England, or Catholics, or Baptists etc.
And can you please tell me what it is you understand by "guided by the Holy Spirit when interpreting the Bible" I understand that there is a possibility of that phrase having different meanings to different people.
I look forward to giving you an answer.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: For the first question, the latter(other denominations).
What I mean by "guided by the HS when interpreting the Bible" is that the HS is acting through them to interpret the Bible, and so their interpretation is the accurate one. When both the JW and the other denomination claims to have the HS on thier side, a tension is created. How is that tension resolved?
Thank you for that clarification question. That is a great question and, for me, a difficult one to try to answer without getting bogged down with a lot of history and detail. I will try to answer this as concisely as I can, but in doing so I may leave out some details.
Many people will refer to a text in the Book of Acts 2:17
to show that God will give his spirit to many peoiple and they use this to say that God spirit guides them now. It says “17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (KJV) This is a quote from one of the Hebrew prophets Joel who’s writings were done more that 800 years before the Book of Acts. You can read the prophetic words at Joel 2:28-32
We understand that these words had a fulfilment in the first century at 33 c.e. The event has become known as Pentecost. This is some 50 days after the death of Jesus and when the christian Congregation first come into being. Gods holy spirit was poured out on the fledgling group to help them get started in the great work that lay ahead of them. The individuals gathered there saw what looked like tongues of fire come upon each one of them and many started speaking in a different language so that they could talk to people of many different cultures that had come to Jerusalem about the message of Jesus
That sort of pouring out of the holy spirit has not happened again. So how does the holy spirit guide us? Usually when we think of a guide we may thing of someone leading us somewhere fro example a guide on an arranged journey ( a tourist guide) or we may think of a guide that leads a blind person. So we may think then the the holy spirit acts as such a guide, that is literally taking the lead in showing the way. That is not the way the holy spirit works.
A guide can also be a set of instructions. For example if we buy something for the home that needs to be assembled, usually we would get an instruction sheet (a guide) as to how to put it together. Recently I just acquired I printed street directory of the city where I live so that I can use it to guide me to a destination in my city that I am not used to going to.
That is more how the holy spirit is a guide. The Bible was written under the influence of Gods holy spirit, (“All Scripture is inspired of God..” 2 Timothy 3:16
NWT) so when we read the Bible we are receiving the guidance of the holy spirit. Like any written guide we must follow the instructions correctly.
AT times I have purchased items that were manufactured in an Asian country. The instructions on how to put it together and use the item were originally written in the language of origin which would have been correct and easily understood by the people of that language. However, at times when the instructions have been translated into English, there are mistakes and the instructions do not always make sense.
Now imagine if those imperfect English instructions are copied again and again and again by others. Some of those doing the copping may decide to try to fix the mistakes according to their understanding of what was written, some will leave it as it is and others might try to add words to the instructions to put in their own ideas as to what might have been said. That is the sort of thing that happened to the Bible.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament. It was hand copied many many times in the original languages and in the very early days much of it was translated into Latin and that copied many times, so today we do not have an original piece of the Bible that is known to exist only copies. When the first Bibles were rendered into English there had been some minor corruptions in the texts used by the scholars to do that work due to many reasons including genuine unintentional copying error and in some minor cases intentional additions to the text. These mistakes become strongly entrenched in church teaching.
There are no known Bibles that are 100% exact word for word renderings of the original writings. For several reasons 1) we do not have any original writings to look at, 2) minor copyist errors, 3) intentional additions 4) the very process of translating from one language to another. The gramma of the original languages is quite different form ours. - Even the gramma of the English language has changed over the last 1000 years. So to make grammatical sense in a target language, words must be added and or taken away so the the writings are understandable for us. Every translator uses some bias in their work.
Over the centuries though many people who studied the Bible could see the mistakes and contradictions in the teachings of the churches. However to speak against the church brought severe punishment.
It has only been in say the last 200 years years that great in roads have been made into comparing the texts that the first English Bibles were translated from with more of the older manuscripts that Bibles have been produced in English that more closely reflect the oldest known writings.
However there are many churches that because of tradition have stayed with the early English translations of the Bible as well as the traditional teachings that are in error that have been introduced form pagan ideologies.
So all churches can say, that they are guided by the holy spirit, because they all use the Bible. Many of then are using a guide that has more corruptions in it that other Bibles. The question is are they benefiting from that guide? Or are they letting that guide, truly guide them?
Understanding comes with getting things correct and then building on that correct knowledge to uncover more truths. It is the same with every field of knowledge. Think about how say the knowledge of flight was built upon in order to get the aeroplanes that we have today. When the Write Brothers had their first powered flight in about 1903 that was a marvellous step for mankind in knowledge. Now just imagine if no one ever took that knowledge and expanded on it. We would not have air travel today. The more mankind took what the knew, and added some more knowledge, flight become longer, faster, safer. But, it took study of aerodynamics and continual building on that knowledge to get where we are today.
That is the same with the Bible. Most religions are content to sit on the knowledge that that have had for hundreds of years and not work to build on that information. They have the guide book that is full of Gods holy spirit, but they are not content to keep digging. That is one of the very important Bible principles as recorded at Proverbs 2:1-6
“My son, if you will receive my sayings
up my own commandments with yourself, 2 so as to pay attention to wisdom
with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment
; 3 if, moreover, you call
out for understanding
itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, 4 if you keep seeking
for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, 5 in that case you will understand
the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God
. 6 For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.”
Sure most religions read the Bible but they are not digging for the treasure of knowledge in it. Beside reading the Bible one must do as said in that text we need to receive Gods sayings and pay attention to them. When we apply what the Bible says, that is important to “become doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22
) then God gives us the wisdom.
Now the only way to find out just who is allowing the Bible (the holy spirit ) guide them is to look at what they do with the Bible as the measuring stick to check them against. As we learn more truths are uncovered. We should be prepared to change our perspective of what we may know on line with added knowledge. We need to keep progressing and not stand still. Paul wrote these words to the Hebrew "For, indeed, although YOU ought to be teachers in view of the time, YOU again need someone to teach YOU from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and YOU have become such as need milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. . .(Hebrews 5:12-14
Taking in knowledge to a follower of the Christ is like taking in sold food, it enables one to grow to maturity just as when we are babies we have milk and as we grow we need sold foods. Milk (basic Bible knowledge) is not sufficient if we want to grow into a mature person. Just as a child will survive on milk and flourish for a short period, unless they get sold food, they stop developing, and, an adult will not survive on just milk. As adults we need to keep taking in a variety of solid foods. So as a follower of the Christ we need to continue taking in a variety of good, solid, scriptural instructions
In my other reply I mentioned some of the main difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and the majority of other churches. No doubt you noticed that those differences are quit significant. To know for a certainly which lines of understanding are guided from the Bible is to carefully examine each one of those ideas )and others) and do a comparison.
In the end, it is not up to us humans to resolve the tension. That is Gods responsibility. Our responsibility is look for ourselves and dig into the hidden treasures of God using the best of available tools at out disposal to see who is using the guide of the holy spirit as it should be used
Here are a couple of links that you may want to use. The first one is to the opening page of our website where you can spend many hours wondering around looking at what is there. The second link take you to a specific page on that site to some information in an online book called “What does the Bible really teach” That is an over view (not an in-depth look) at that subject. You can read the book on line or download it to your computer
I hope I have not been confusing and that my response is clear and understandable
If you want any clarifications or have more questions please ask