Jehovah's Witnesses

Part of a series on
Jehovah's Witnesses
About Jehovah's Witnesses
Organizational Structure
Governing Body
Faithful and Discreet Slave
Legal Instruments
Government Interactions
Doctrines · Practices
Blood · Disfellowshipping
Related People
Formative Influences
William Miller · N.H. Barbour
Jonas Wendell
Presidents & Members
List of Jehovah's Witnesses
C.T. Russell · M.G. Henschel
J.F. Rutherford · F.W. Franz
D.A. Adams · N.H. Knorr
Ex-Members & Critics
R. Franz · E.C. Gruss
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses are an international Christian denomination[1] whose members believe that their faith is the restoration of first-century Christianity. In areas where they are active, they are commonly known for their door-to-door preaching and their objection to blood transfusions, and for not celebrating birthdays and most holidays. Their most widely-known publications are the religious magazines, The Watchtower and Awake!. Official membership of the organization, counted as those who preach each month, is estimated to be about 6.5 million.[2]

Jehovah's Witnesses reject traditional Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, eternal torment in hell and the immortality of the soul. The central theme of their preaching is God’s Kingdom (that is, God's rule over the Earth) with Jesus Christ as its king. The Witnesses believe this rule began with the Second Coming or presence of Christ. Originally, this was believed to have occurred invisibly in 1874, but this date was later revised to 1914.

Other Witness teachings include the recognition and use of a personal name for God, translated as Jehovah in English, as vital for acceptable worship. They believe that Jesus' death was necessary to atone for the sin brought into the world by the first man, Adam, thus opening the way for the hope of everlasting life for mankind. It is also taught that only 144,000 people will receive eternal life in heaven with Jesus Christ as co-rulers over the earth. Witnesses believe that in the war of Armageddon, which they believe to be imminent, the wicked will be destroyed. The survivors of this event, along with individuals deemed worthy of resurrection, will form a new society and have the possibility of living forever in an earthly paradise.




Jehovah's Witnesses originated with the religious movement known as Bible Students, which was founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. A schism erupted in 1917 at the beginning of the presidency of Russell's successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford. Those who remained supportive of the Watchtower Society adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931 under Rutherford's leadership. Those who did not support Rutherford formed various Bible Student groups which have retained Russell's teachings. Jehovah's Witnesses no longer use "Bible Students" as a name for their religion.

Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916)
Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916)

In the early 1870s, Russell organized a Bible study group of Second Adventists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[3] An interest in Bible prophecy was sparked, in part, by Jonas Wendell. In 1876, Russell met Nelson H. Barbour and subsequently adopted Barbour's eschatology. Barbour had predicted a visible return of Christ for 1873,[4] and when that failed to occur, he revised the prediction to 1874.[5] Soon after the second disappointment, Barbour's group decided Christ had returned invisibly to Earth in 1874.[6] They differed from most Second Adventists by teaching that all humankind descending from Adam would be given a chance to live in a paradise on Earth.[7] The year 1914 was seen as the final end, marking a forty-year period from 1874.[8]

In July 1879, Russell broke with Barbour over the concept of substitutionary atonement and he soon began publishing his own magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence (now known as The Watchtower).[9] After the break, Russell retained the bulk of Barbour's eschatological views. He also maintained the Adventist rejection of the traditional view of Hell and by 1882 had rejected the doctrine of the Trinity.[10] He became known as "Pastor Russell", and in 1881 formed the legal entity which developed into the non-profit organization: The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (currently headquartered in New York City).[11] In 1884, it was incorporated, with Russell as president. He authored the six-volume series, Studies in the Scriptures.[12] Early editions predicted that Armageddon would culminate in the year 1914.[13] In 1914, Russell founded the International Bible Students Association in the United Kingdom.

Following Russell's death on October 31, 1916, an editorial committee of five was set up to supervise the writing of the Watch Tower magazine, as set forth in Russell's Last Will and Testament.[14] On January 6, 1917, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (also known as "Judge Rutherford") was elected second President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. A power struggle soon developed between Rutherford and four of the seven-member Board of Directors of the Society.[15] Matters reached a climax on July 17, 1917 as the book The Finished Mystery was released to the Bethel headquarters staff.[16] Rutherford announced to the staff that he was also dismissing the four directors and replacing them with new members, claiming they had not been legally elected.[17] The four dismissed directors set up the Pastoral Bible Institute and began publishing their own religious journal. Dissension and schisms ensued in congregations worldwide as a result of these events, and of the consequences of new predictions made for the years 1918,[18] 1920[19] and 1925.[20][21]

The Watchtower Society's opposition to the draft during World War I resulted in legal action by the United States federal government. Rutherford and the new board of directors were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for violating the Espionage Act. They were released on bail, and in March 1919, the judgment against them was reversed, and the charges dropped.[22]

An emphasis on house-to-house preaching began in 1922.[23] The period from 1925-1933 saw many significant changes in doctrine. Attendance at their yearly Memorial dropped from a high of 90,434 in 1925[24] down to 17,380 in 1928[25], due to the previous power struggle, the failed prophesies for the year 1925,[26] and the evolving doctrinal changes which alienated those who sided with Russell's views.[27] By 1933, 1914 was seen as the beginning of Christ's presence, his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days" instead of being considered the terminal date in their chronology.[28]The editorial committee was disbanded with Rutherford having the final say regarding what went into Watchtower publications.[29]The offices and election of elders and deacons were also discontinued during this era with all "servants" in local congregations being appointed by headquarters.[30]

Hitler's Nazi Germany persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses and many were imprisoned in concentration camps. Their identifying badge was a purple triangle.[31] They "had the option to avoid persecution and personal harm by submitting to state authority and serving in the armed forces. Since such submission would violate their religious beliefs, the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses refused to abandon their faith even in the face of persecution, torture in concentration camps, or death."[32]During this time period, Witnesses also experienced mob violence in America and were temporarily banned in Canada and Australia because they were perceived as being against the war effort.[33]

Under Rutherford, membership grew from about 21,000 in 1917 to about 115,000 at the time of his death in 1942.

Nathan Homer Knorr succeeded Rutherford as president of the Watch Tower Society. Known as an efficient administrator, Knorr founded the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead to train missionaries, as well as the Theocratic Ministry School to train preaching and teaching at the congregational level. Significant Supreme Court victories involving the rights of free speech and religion for Jehovah's Witnesses have had a great impact on legal interpretation of these rights for others.[34]In 1943, the United States Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette that school children of Jehovah's Witnesses could not be compelled to salute the flag.

Knorr's vice-president Frederick William Franz became the leading theologian, and is believed to have been the principal translator of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.[35] Also produced were a Greek-English New Testament interlinear (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) and a Bible dictionary (Aid to Bible Understanding).[36] The offices of elder and ministerial servant (deacon) were restored to Witness congregations in 1972, with appointments being made from headquarters.[37] Membership rose from 115,000 to over 2 million under Knorr's leadership.

New York headquarters of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society
New York headquarters of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society

During the 1960s[38] and early 1970s, various references were made in Witnesses' literature and at assemblies, implying that Christ's thousand-year millennial reign might begin by 1975.[39] The chronology pointing to 1975 was noted in the secular media at the time.[40] From 1975 to 1980, there was a drop in membership following the failure of this prediction.[41] In 1980, the Watchtower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding the year 1975.[42]

In 1976, the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses was reorganized, and the power of the presidency passed on to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Subsequent presidents of the Watch Tower Society after Knorr's death in 1977 have been Frederick William Franz, Milton George Henschel and Don A. Adams. However, since 1976, doctrinal and organizational decisions have been made by the Governing Body and they supervise the writing of Watchtower publications.[43] Witnesses no longer teach that the generation of people alive in 1914 will survive until Armageddon,[44] but they continue to emphasize its nearness.[45]



Average Publishers, 1945–2005
Average Publishers, 1945–2005

Jehovah's Witnesses have an active presence in most countries, though they do not form a large part of the population of any country. Brazil, Mexico, and the United States are the only countries where the number of active Witness publishers exceeds half a million. As of August 2006, Jehovah's Witnesses have an average of 6.5 million members actively involved in preaching.[46] Since the mid-1990s, the number of peak publishers has increased from 4.5 million to 6.7 million.[47] However, there has been a rapid decline in growth rates, from over 8% per annum in the mid 1980's, to 5% per annum in the mid 1990's, to under 2% per annum since 1999.[48] The official published membership statistics only include those who have reported preaching activity. "Inactive" members who have either not been involved in preaching, or have not submitted reports, are not included in the reported figures but may be reflected in the attendance at the Witnesses' annual Memorial, with over 16.6 million attending in 2006.[49]


Organizational structure

See also: Legal instruments of Jehovah's Witnesses

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. sets the Jehovah's Witnesses religious doctrine and policies and is also their legal representative and agent. Founded in 1909 when the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses moved to Brooklyn, the New York incorporation is a non-profit incorporation that publishes most of the literature distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses, including The Watchtower magazine in 158 languages. 'Watchtower' has never been the name of this religion.

Jehovah's Witnesses are currently led by a small Governing Body located at the Watchtower headquarters. The number of men who make up the Governing Body has ranged from ten to seventeen and currently stands at ten. The Governing Body, through the departments of its various legal organizations, directs the operation of the 112 branches throughout the world.[50] Members volunteer to operate these facilities. Each branch assigns circuit overseers who travel among various congregations, spending a week with each. Within each local congregation, elders assigned by the branch organize the congregation's public ministry, and schedule various speakers for congregational teaching. They also decide on qualified members of the congregation for the positions of elder or ministerial servant, requiring the approval of higher leadership.

Elders are prominent in congregational matters, particularly in religious instruction and spiritual counseling; ministerial servants generally assist elders in a limited administrative capacity. Elders are unpaid, but Circuit and District overseers receive a small financial living allowance. All baptized Witnesses are considered to be ordained ministers, and are expected to be able to provide religious instruction to others. Males are encouraged to qualify to become elders. Within local congregations, the role of women is minimal in terms of responsibility, but they carry out a large proportion of the preaching work.

In 2000, the religion restructured its administrative divisions into three non-profit corporations:

  1. The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses - coordinates all service (i.e., proselytic) activities, including door-to-door proselytism, circuit and district conventions, etc.
  2. The Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses - coordinates the activities of those involved in full-time service, including pioneers, missionaries, and circuit and district overseers.
  3. Kingdom Support Services, Inc. - controls construction of new Kingdom Halls and other facilities, and holds the titles to Society-owned vehicles. [2]


The publishing arm of Jehovah's Witnesses, known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania engages in extensive publication work. In addition to their two magazines -'The Watchtower' and 'Awake!'- they also publish many brochures, tracts and books including the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Protestant canon. This Bible is distinct in its extensive use of the name Jehovah, an English version of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, also replacing the Greek word for "Lord" over 200 times in the New Testament. The translators have opted to remain anonymous but others have identified them as being prominent leaders of the movement.[51]


Beliefs and practices

The following highlights some of the current beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses. As such, it reflects the point of view of Jehovah's Witnesses.



The entire Biblical canon, excluding the Apocrypha, is considered the inspired word of God. A literal interpretation of the Bible is followed, though it is acknowledged that biblical writers and characters also employed symbolism, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism.[52] Only the Bible should be used for determining issues of doctrine. Interpretation of scripture and codification of doctrines is the responsibility of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.[53]

The Tetragrammaton
The Tetragrammaton

God is the creator and supreme being, sovereign of the universe. Using God's name, Jehovah (a derivative of the Tetragrammaton[54]), is a requirement for true worship.[55] Jesus is God's first creation, used by God to create everything else.[56] Jesus is literally the only begotten Son of God, and received his life from God. He is the means through whom to approach God in prayer, and is also the means of salvation for all worthy mankind.[57] His role as mediator of the "new covenant" is limited to those going to heaven,[58] whose number totals 144,000. The vast majority of Jehovahs' Witnesses will live on a renewed paradise on Earth.[59] They believe that Jesus did not die on a cross but on a "torture stake".[60] The holy spirit is not a person but is God's active force.[61] Mary was not perpetually a virgin, but bore more children after Jesus.[62] The soul is the person itself, not an immaterial entity that dwells inside the body.[63] Death is a state of non-existence with no consciousness.[64] Hades or Sheol is the designated common grave of all mankind. They do not believe in any Hell of fiery torment.[65]

The "last days" began in 1914 and Armageddon is imminent.[66] All other religions are false and they will shortly come under attack by governments worldwide.[67] After false religion is destroyed, governments also face destruction.[68] Any who are not deemed faithful by God will be destroyed with no hope of resurrection.[69] The fate of some, such as small children or the mentally ill, remains indeterminate.[70] After Armageddon, an unknown number of people who had died (prior to Armageddon) will be resurrected, with the prospect of living forever in paradise.[71]

Their view of sexual behavior reflects conservative Christian views. Homosexuality and premarital sex are considered sins.[72] Abortion is considered murder.[73] Modesty is heavily encouraged in dress and grooming. Gambling is strictly forbidden.[74] Practices that connote nationalism or false religion are avoided. Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are typically observed; however, common celebrations and religious or national holidays such as Birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are regarded as unchristian and are not celebrated.[75] The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is strongly encouraged to solicit his wife's thoughts and feelings. Marriages are required to be monogamous.[76] Vigorous efforts are made to spread their beliefs by all members throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the Watchtower publications. Literature is published in many languages through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications, with a small number being available in as many as 410 languages. The preaching work is regarded as a form of humanitarian effort by giving people hope for the future.

Aid work after large natural disasters is considered an important part of their work. Large sums of donated money are used in the affected areas to rebuild communities and provide aid. The focus of relief efforts is primarily on helping fellow members, while providing assistance to others in need near the area in which they are working. Examples of relief work include that provided to Hutu and Tutsi victims during the Rwandan genocide, as well as to Congo refugees.[77] Witnesses have also had an active share in the relief work of hurricane Katrina in the United States of America.[78] However, on-going aid work as provided by some other religious groups, such as soup kitchens, clothing donations, or building homes for the homeless is not practiced.

The most important annual event is the commemoration of Jesus' death (referred to as "the Memorial") held after sundown on the date corresponding to Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar. Onlookers do not partake of the emblems representing Christ's flesh and blood unless they feel they have the heavenly hope. Typically, in most congregations no one partakes since almost all Witnesses believe their hope is to live on a paradise earth. Weekly meetings are also held, featuring a variety of discourses. Elders and ministerial servants deliver the majority of these, with some student discourses being given by women and men. Certain segments also feature audience participation.

Jehovah's Witnesses are politically neutral.[79] They feel that their allegiance belongs to God's Kingdom, which is viewed as an actual government. Thus they refrain from saluting the flag of any country or singing nationalistic songs.[80] They believe that such an act would be tantamount to worshipping an idol. Members are expected to obey all laws, including the paying of taxes, of the country in which they reside, so long as these do not violate what they view as God's law.[81] The political neutrality of Jehovah's Witnesses is also expressed by their refusal to participate in military service, even when such is of a compulsory nature, and by their detachment from secular politics. Before 1996, Jehovah's Witnesses also refused alternatives to military service.[82][83][84] Jehovah's Witnesses are discouraged, but not prohibited under all circumstances, from voting in elections.[85] They do not stand for any political office.[86]



Under the Watchtower organization’s blood doctrine, allogeneic and pre-operative autologous blood transfusions are rejected. Blood transfusions are acceptable if the blood is autologous and the process is party to a “current therapy”.[87][88] This is based on an understanding of the biblical admonition to "keep abstaining from blood" based on Acts 15:28, 29 (NWT). This religious position allows Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept the entire volume of a given unit of donor blood so long as it is sufficiently fractionated beforehand.[89] In current medical practice, whole blood transfusions are very rare, and individual blood components are used instead.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been known to highlight the potential dangers of blood transfusions. Witness representatives have stated that plasma volume expanders are often sufficient to take care of various medical emergency situations.[90] However, Witnesses explain that their objections to blood transfusions are for religious reasons.[91]

Though premature deaths have occurred due to this religious position, there are no published statistics on these total deaths.[92] However, a 2002 medical journal stated: "In the CEMD the very high risk of mortality in women who refuse blood transfusion was highlighted. The death rate in this group was 1 per 1,000 maternities compared with an expected incidence of less than 1 per 100, 000 maternities."[93]

A growing number of hospitals are offering bloodless techniques in medicine and surgery.[94] A number of medical professionals have credited Jehovah's Witnesses and their related organizations for their contribution to the dissemination of information regarding bloodless surgery techniques.[95][96][97] Experts in the medical surgical profession have collaborated with Jehovah's Witnesses to produce information regarding the benefits of bloodless techniques and therapies.[98]

There is not uniform acceptance of the current blood doctrine within the Jehovah's Witness community. Though accepted by a majority, there is evidence a significant population of Jehovah's Witnesses does not endorse it. The doctrine has drawn criticism from members of the medical community and Jehovah's Witnesses alike. (See main article Jehovah's Witnesses and blood)


Congregational discipline

Congregational discipline is administered by congregation elders through a 'judicial committee'. When an accusation is made concerning a baptized member, and there is sufficient evidence, a tribunal or judicial committee (usually of three elders) is formed to administer counsel and discipline. Marking is employed when a member persists in conduct that is ill-considered from a doctrinal standpoint, but not in a manner for which disfellowshipping would apply. If a member does not respond to repeated counseling from the elders, a talk may be given regarding the conduct (without naming the individual), 'marking' the member in the minds of those who know of the conduct. Though such a person would not be shunned, social interaction outside of formal worship settings would generally be discouraged.[99] Reproof involves sins which are more serious than those for which one would be "marked". Reproof is given before all who have knowledge of the transgression.[100]

The most severe discipline administered is disfellowshipping. The standard for determining whether one should be disfellowshipped is the judicial committee's estimation of the accused's repentance. Members of the judicial committee ask detailed questions and review actions of the member being considered, in consultation with guidelines as set forth by the Governing Body.[101] Baptized members who reject essential doctrine can be disfellowshipped for apostasy.[102] Once the decision to disfellowship has been made, a person has seven days to appeal. If no legitimate appeal is made, the disfellowshipping will be announced to the congregation by letting them know that the person "is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses". After one is disfellowshipped, all baptized members cut off all association with that person.[103] Exceptions are made in business and family household situations. If the disfellowshipped person is living in the same home with other baptized family members, religious matters are not discussed. Disfellowshipped family members outside the home are shunned.[104] Disfellowshipped members are still permitted to attend Kingdom Hall meetings, but are not allowed to take an active part in meetings or the ministry.[105]

Members can officially leave the religion by writing a letter requesting to be "disassociated". Alternately, elders may also determine a member has disassociated themself by their actions. Both result in shunning.[106] If a disassociated individual announces that they wish to reassociate, they are shunned by congregation members and may not participate in meetings until the elders announce them as an approved associate.

A disfellowshipped individual may return to the congregation if they are deemed sincerely repentant by the congregation elders. The congregation elders that made up the original judicial committee will allow a period of time for the individual to demonstrate their repentance. During this period, congregation members ignore the individual, and the individual is not permitted to comment at congregation meetings. Once a decision is made to reinstate, a brief announcement is made to the congregation that the disfellowshipped member is once again an approved associate of the congregation and one of Jehovah's Witnesses.


Critical views

One of the most outspoken critics of Jehovah's Witnesses is Raymond Franz, a former third-generation Jehovah's Witness. Franz, who served nine years on the Governing Body, uses Galatians 1:16–20 to support his claim that Paul of Tarsus did not view the apostles in Jerusalem as a governing body. He further contends that the council of Jerusalem was an isolated event, and that the creation of a central authority in Christianity was a 4th century development.[107] As well, he argues a sense of guilt is imposed on those not complying with organization arrangements for field service. Further, he contends that engaging in this formal activity became an extra-scriptural requirement placed upon those wanting to qualify for eldership. He claims in addition that an individual's spirituality is judged by the elders on this basis. Further, he is critical of the application of the phrase "house to house" (gr. "kat' oikon") found at Acts 5:42, stating it does not require the idea of consecutive door-to-door visitation. He compares 27 Bible translations, for Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20 showing phrases such as "at home", "at your houses" and "in your homes" are used more often than "house to house".[108] He also maintains that fear of being shunned and/or family break-up/loss causes people to nominally remain members rather than formally disassociate themselves. Also, Franz asserts that the judicial process itself, due to its private and nearly autonomous nature, directly contradicts the precedent found in the Bible and the organization's own teachings, and can be used in an arbitrary manner.[109]

Criticism regarding the procedures on reporting child abuse has also occurred. The current procedure that is followed when allegations of abuse are reported is based on a strict application of the principle at Deuteronomy 19:15: "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good" (New World Translation). If an allegation of child abuse is made, and the alleged perpetrator denies it, the local congregational elders will investigate to see if there can be any others who can substantiate the claim. If there are none, the elders do not disfellowship the accused individual, since the accusation may have no merit. However, according to the Jehovah's Witness office of Public information: "Even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. In addition to making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, we expect the elders to comply. Additionally, the victim may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so."[110] For over a decade now, Watchtower has had in place a general policy of making known child molesters ineligible for special congregational responsibilities (e.g. serving as elders or ministerial servants (deacons)), even if the crime was committed years before, or even prior to the person's becoming a Witness. The general policy is not premised as punishment to the offender, but seen rather, by the church, as a means of protecting the congregation's members.



A number of doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from that of mainstream Christianity. Possibly the most controversial doctrinal differences relate to the nature of God and of Jesus, particularly the Jehovah's Witnesses' rejection of the Trinity doctrine. Other differences involve their beliefs concerning death and judgment. Many of these doctrines are considered heresy by mainstream Christian denominations, and as a result many label Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult.

In turn, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the foretold apostasy, or "falling away," of Second Thessalonians, II, 3 adequately explains all false doctrines derived by deviation from the standard for spiritual truth set forth by Jesus at John XVII, 17.

Some scholars have consistently upheld the the quality of the translation[111] whereas others have criticized the New World Translation, the translation of the Bible published by Jehovah's Witnesses, stating that the group has changed the Bible to suit their doctrine, and that the translation contains a number of errors and inaccuracies.[112]

A large number of books have been published that are critical of the Watchtower Tract & Bible Society.[113] Critics state that the Watchtower Society has made a number of unfulfilled predictions and doctrinal changes over the years, while claiming that it is the "one and only channel"[114] used by God to continually dispense truth, and that "it alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or force".[115]

Critics have also challenged the Witnesses' policies on blood transfusions, stating that their requirements are inconsistent and contradictory.[116]

Critics have also argued that various Witness policies and practices, including the treatment of members who dissociate or are disfellowshipped, freedom to access external information about the group from former members, and the regulation of members' lives, impact negatively on the ability of members to exercise freedom of mind.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society's former affiliation with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations has been controversial. Also controversial has been the view of Jehovah's Witnesses towards other religions.

Some countries such as Uzbekistan, Cuba, Belarus and the city of Moscow have opposed the building of facilities (such as Kingdom Halls) and the holding of large conventions in their territory. Though such opposition is at times specifically directed at the religious group, at other times more mundane concerns are involved, such as traffic congestion and noise. In some legal cases, (such as Congrégation des témoins de Jéhovah de St-Jérôme-Lafontaine v. Lafontaine (Village)), disputes that have been about appropriate land use have been claimed by the Witnesses to have come out of religious bias.


See also



  1. The World Almanac and Book of Facts See: Religion-Major Christian Denominations
  2. 2007 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, pg. 31: "Peak of Publishers in Kingdom Service — 6,741,444. Average Publishers Preaching Each Month — 6,491,775. Worldwide Memorial Attendance — 16,675,113." A Publisher is defined as an active member who submits a monthly report of time spent preaching.
  3. Zion's Watch Tower, February 1881. Reprints, p. 187. "Second Adventists" is an older name for the Advent Christian Church.
  4. Barbour, N.H. (1871). Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873: or the Midnight Cry. Retrieved on 20 February, 2006.
  5. Barbour, N.H. (1874). The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning. Retrieved on 20 February, 2006. See Section under "Our Faith."
  6. Russell explains how he accepted the idea of an invisible return of Christ in 1874 from N.H. Barbour in Watchtower (July 15 1906). "Harvest Gatherings and Siftings". Watchtower: 3822.
  7. The Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World.
  8. The Three Worlds, p. 189.
  9. Online copies of the The Watch Tower from 1879–1916 can be viewed by issue at: or by article at: These are taken from the 7 volume Watch Tower Reprints published by the Watch Tower Society in 1920 which reprinted all the issues from 1879–1919.
  10. July, 1882 Zion's Watch Tower, Reprints, p. 369. But see "God is Love" in the first issue of Zion's Watch Tower (July, 1879).
  11. Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was formed on February 16, 1881, with W. H. Conley as president and C. T. Russell as secretary and treasurer. (1993) Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 576.
  12. Originally entitled Millennial Dawn. The titles of the six volumes are: 1) The Divine Plan of the Ages, 2)The Time is At Hand, 3)Thy Kingdom Come, 4)The Day of Vengeance (later retitled The Battle of Armageddon), 5)The At-one-ment Between God and Man, 6)The New Creation
  13. Russell, C.T, The Time is At Hand, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1907 p. 101. The predictions for 1914 were revised in later editions.
  14. Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 64–65.;C.T. Russell's Last Will and Testament. from the December 1, 1916 Watch Tower. This editorial committee was requested to not write, or be connected with, any other publications.
  15. New by-laws were passed at the time of Rutherford's election that strengthened the President's authority. M.J. Penton. Apocalypse Delayed, p. 51. Rutherford, as chief legal counsel for the Watch Tower Society, had written the new by-laws. (See Harvest Siftings II, written by J.F. Rutherford.) Initially, the Board of Directors for the Watch Tower Society accepted this change, but four of the board members withdrew their support. Rutherford published his account of the dispute in Harvest Siftings. and Harvest Siftings II. The four directors replied to Rutherford's first booklet in Light After Darkness. The June 20, 1917 meeting of the full board of directors tabled, for one month, a proposal to return control of the Society to the board (see Rutherford's Harvest Siftings under subheading "Seeds Begin to Bring Forth"), but Rutherford prevented the board from meeting again.
  16. The Finished Mystery. Watchtower., published 1917, was called the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures.
  17. A.H. MacMillan. Faith on the March, 80. Retrieved on December 31, 2006.. The ousted directors disagreed: "...if the directors were not legally elected, neither were the Society's three officers: Rutherford, Pierson, and Van Amburgh. In order to have been chosen officers in January 1917, they would have had to have been legally elected directors. Yet, they had not been, and hence, by Rutherford's own logic, did not hold office legally."—Apocalypse Delayed, M. James Penton, p. 52
  18. "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.'"— (1917) The Finished Mystery. Watchtower, 485. (later editions read differently)
  19. "And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy." (1917) The Finished Mystery. Watchtower, 258.. (This date was changed in later editions.)
  20. (1920) Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Watchtower, 88.. This book was distributed as part of a major lecture program worldwide. See News Clippings from the "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" Campaign (1919-1925)
  21. (1924) The Way to Paradise. Watchtower, 220–235.
  22. M.J. Penton. Apocalypse Delayed, 55–56.
  23. (1993) Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 259–260.
  24. Your Will Be Done on Earth. Watchtower, 337.
  25. 1958 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. Watchtower, 284.
  26. M. James Penton. Apocalypse Delayed—The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, 61. Attendance at the annual Memorial (statistics were published each year in the Watch Tower) shows the growth in the period before 1925. 1919: 17,961, 1922: 32,661, 1923: 42,000, 1924: 62,696, 1925: 90,434. 1926 marked the first decrease: 89,278.
  27. See, for example, (1946) When Pastor Russell Died. Dawn Bible Students Association, 6-16.
  28. (1921) The Harp of God, 231–236. affirms that “the Lord’s second presence dates from 1874.” (March 1 1922) "Watchtower": 71. and (1930) Prophecy, 65–66. reiterated this position. The eschatological changes during this period are documented in Thomas Daniels. Historical Idealism and Jehovah's Witnesses, 3–37. Retrieved on February 1, 2006. These are the current teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding 1914, 1918 and 1919. They no longer consider the dates 1799, 1874 and 1878 to have any eschatological significance
  29. A People For His Name by Timothy White, pp. 186-188. The Watchtower, June 15, 1938, p. 185
  30. Proclaimers, p. 214. June 15, 1938 Watchtower
  31. See article on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved on 22 February, 2005.
  32. Encyclopedia
  33. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1978). Visions of Glory, 185, 281.
  34. *Writing Their Faith into the Law of the Land: Jehovah's Witnesses, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the Meaning of the Free Exercise Clause, 1939-1945
  35. Since 1942, Witness publications are produced under a policy of anonymity. Former Governing Body member Raymond Franz claims the translators of the New World Translation were Fred Franz, Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder and George Gangas. (2004) Crisis of Conscience, 4th, Commentary Press, 56. 0-914675-23-0.
  36. In 1988, this was replaced by the 2-volume set Insight on the Scriptures.
  37. (1993) Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 106.
  38. The year 1975 was first mentioned in 1966. See (October 8 1966) "How Much Longer Will It Be?". 'Awake!': 17–20. Retrieved on March 6, 2006.
  39. A comprehensive list of quotes from Watch Tower 1975 articles, unaltered with date references, publication, and page numbers etc.Quotes about 1975. See also 1975: 'THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR GOD TO ACT'. Page 14 of the October 8, 1968 Awake! demonstrates the disclaimer that was made at the time: "Does this mean that the above evidence positively points to 1975 as the complete end of this system of things? Since the Bible does not specifically state this, no man can say...If the 1970's should see intervention by Jehovah God to bring an end to a corrupt world drifting toward ultimate disintegration, that should surely not surprise us.".
  40. (July 18 1969) "Witnessing the End". Time. Retrieved on September 12, 2006.
  41. Raymond Franz. “1975—The Appropriate Time for God to Act”, Crisis of Conscience, 237–253. Retrieved on July 27, 2006.This drop in membership has been variously analyzed. Richard Singelenberg (“The ‘1975′-prophecy and its impact among Dutch Jehovah’s Witnesses”) in Sociological Analysis 50(1)1989, pp 23–40 notes a 9 per cent drop in total publishers (door-to-door preachers) and a 38 per cent drop in pioneers (full-time preachers) in the Netherlands. The January 30, 1982 Los Angeles Times ("Defectors Feel 'Witness' Wrath: Critics say Baptism Rise Gives False Picture of Growth" by John Dart, p. B4) cited statistics showing a net increase of publishers worldwide from 1971–1981 of 737,241, while baptisms totaled 1.71 million for the same period.
  42. The Watchtower, 15 March, 1980, p.17 "With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, ... considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. ... 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. ... persons having to do with the publication of the information ... contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date."
  43. 1977 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 258
  44. "A Time To Keep Awake", The Watchtower (November 1, 1995), p. 19 par. 12, and p. 20 par. 15.
  45. "'The Great Day of Jehovah is near,' said God's prophet. (Zephaniah 1:14) That day is fast approaching, so we need to live with it in mind." — (2006) Live With Jehovah's Day in Mind. Watchtower, 4.
  46. To be counted, an individual must be approved as a minister and report at least 15 minutes in the ministry. In 2006, these reports indicated a total of over 1.3 billion hours.
  47. Yearbooks of Jehovah's Witnesses, 1996-2007.
  49. If Witnesses counted members like other churches, the number of "active" members would then be over 15 million. (see study by Rodney Stark on Jehovah's Witness growth at and article comparing Mormon and other churches growth, including the Witnesses, at
  50. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (2005). Membership and Publishing Statistics. Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses. Retrieved on 4 December, 2005.
  51. (2004) Crisis of Conscience, 4th, Commentary Press, 56. 0-914675-23-0. Harrison. Visions of Glory, 231.
  52. (2005) A Book for All People. Watchtower.
  53. (March 15 2002) "Christ Leads His Congregation". Watchtower: 13–16.
  54. The rendering of the Tetragrammaton is different for different languages: "Geova" in Italian, for example.
  55. (April 15 1996) "Why True Worship Receives God's Blessing". Watchtower: 17..
  56. (January 15 1992) "What Do the Scriptures Say About "the Divinity of Christ"?": 20–23.
  57. “"His Vital Place in God's Purpose" and "Chief Agent of life"”, Insight on the Scriptures Vol. e2. Watchtower, 60–61.
  58. "Consequently, 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 is not using 'mediator' in the broad sense common in many languages. It is not saying that Jesus is a mediator between God and all mankind. Rather, it refers to Christ as legal Mediator (or, "attorney") of the new covenant, this being the restricted way in which the Bible uses the term.
  59. (2005) What Does the Bible Really Teach?. Watchtower, 33–36..
  60. What Does the Bible Really Teach?. Watchtower, 204.
  61. (1988) Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2, 1019.
  62. (December 15 2003) "Jesus' Family—Who Were They?". Watchtower: 3.
  63. "The...Scriptures show 'soul' to be a person, an animal, or the life that a person or an animal enjoys." (1988) Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2, 1004.
  64. (July 15 2001) "Is There LIFE After Death?". Watchtower. Retrieved on January 26, 2006.
  65. (April 15 1993) "Hell—Eternal Torture or Common Grave?". The Watchtower: 6.
  66. (October 1 1980) ""In the Last Days" Since When?". Watchtower: 19.
  67. (1988) Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!. Watchtower, 257–259.
  68. (June 1 1996) "Flight to Safety Before the "Great Tribulation"". Watchtower: 14–19.
  69. (September 1 1989) "Remaining Organized for Survival Into the Millennium". Watchtower: 19.
  70. (August 15 1998) "Strengthening Our Confidence in God's Righteousness". Watchtower: 20.
  71. (July 1 1998) ""Death Is to Be Brought to Nothing"". Watchtower: 19–24.
  72. (July 22 2004) "Young People Ask... What's Wrong With Premarital Sex?". Awake!: 12.
  73. (1995) “Why Living a Godly Life Brings Happiness”, Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life. Watchtower, 118.
  74. (1995) Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Watchtower, 120.
  75. (October 15 1998) "Questions From Readers". Watchtower: 30.
  76. (July 8 2004) "The Bible's Viewpoint What Does It Mean to Be the Head of the House?". Awake!: 26.
  77. "Christianity in Action: Amid Turmoil". Watchtower. Retrieved on December 4, 2005.
  78. (June 2006) "Awake!": 14–19.
  79. (October 15 2001) "Can You Make the World a Better Place?". Watchtower. Retrieved on January 26, 2006.
  80. (September 15 2002) ""Salvation Belongs to Jehovah"". Watchtower: 21.
  81. (May 1 1996) "God and Caesar". Watchtower: 9.
  82. (May 1997) "Should Christians Be Pacifists?". Awake!: 22–23.
  83. (November 1 1990) ""Salvation Belongs to Jehovah"". Watchtower: 23.
  84. Watch Tower Information Service (2000). The Watchtower Society Receives New Light on Alternative Military Service. Retrieved on 4 August, 2006.
  85. (November 1 1999) "Watchtower": 28.
  86. (2002) “18 "They Are No Part of the World"”, Worship the Only True God. Watchtower, 159.
  87. The Watchtower, June 15, 2000 pp. 29-30
  88. The Watchtower, October 15, 2000 pp. 30-31
  89. Durable Power of Attorney form, published by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, January 2001 p. 1, “I accept all fractions derived from any primary component of blood."
  90. "Student: 'Well, suppose somebody was just coming to the hospital. They’ve got a few seconds to live. The only possible way out is a blood transfusion. Well, what’s your answer to that?' Witness: 'That situation doesn’t exist. Wherever there are cases where a person . . . let’s say comes in off the highway here . . . and there is extreme loss of blood. Every emergency room, in every hospital, has a plasma volume expander which can . . .keep the volume up in the system...'Witness: “The need there is to keep the volume up in the system. It’s not the blood so much that’s needed then, but the volume that must be replaced. These expanders will do it. They are used in emergency situations; they are recommended by Civil Defense organizations when blood is not available. Obviously it works—it has worked on thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses.” (February 22 1976) "Awake!": 15.
  91. Jehovah's Witnesses and Medical Care:"Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood for religious rather than medical reasons"; accessed July 19, 2006
  92. Awake, May 22, 1994 p. 2, “In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue."
  93. Khadra et al (2002). "BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth".
  94. University of Pennsylvania article
  95. [
  96. [1] Article from Jehovah's Witnesses official website]
  97. MSNBC article on Jehovah's Witnesses and bloodless surgery
  98. Jabour, Nicolas, Transfusion-Free Medicine and Surgery, pp. 15-22
  99. (April 15 1985) "Question From Readers". Watchtower: 31.
  100. (December 1 1976) "Giving Reproof "Before All Onlookers"". Watchtower.
  101. (November 15 1979) "Questions from Readers". Watchtower.
  102. Letter to Circuit and District Overseers, From the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society 1980. (Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, M. J. Penton, p. 349) Scan available at page 1 page 2 accessed March 18, 2006.
  103. (April 15 1988) "Watchtower".
  104. (September 15 1981) "Disfellowshiping—How to View It". Watchtower: 26.
  105. Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses. ReligionFacts.
  106. "Those who formally say they do not want to be part of the organization any more are also avoided." — "Beliefs—Frequently Asked Questions" from Official Website: accessed August 2, 2006
  107. Raymond Franz. In Search Of Christian Freedom, 44–68.
  108. Raymond Franz. In Search Of Christian Freedom, 202–218.
  109. Raymond Franz (2002). In Search Of Christian Freedom, 374–390.
  111. {see Awake!, 1987, Mar. 22, p.14; The Watchtower, 1991, Mar. 1, p. 26; The Watchtower, 1998, Feb. 1, p.32,
  112. Robert M. Bowman Jr, Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses, (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Book House, 1992); Samuel Hass: "While this work indicates a great deal of effort and thought as well as considerable scholarship, it is to be regretted that religious bias was allowed to colour many passages." (Journal of Biblical Literature, December 1955, p. 283).
  113. e.g., Watters, Randall (2004) Thus Saith Jehovah's Witnesses, Common Sense Publications; Gruss, Edmond (2001) Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?, Xulon Press; Reed, David A. (1990) Index of Watchtower Errors, 1879 to 1989, Baker Books
  114. Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1919; see also Watchtower, May 15, 1933, pp. 154–155; Jul. 15, 1960, pp. 438–439; Our Kingdom Ministry, Sep. 2002, p. 8
  115. Watchtower, Jul. 1, 1973, p. 402
  116. Franz, Raymond. "In Search of Christian Freedom" - Chapter Nine. Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1991. ISBN 0-914675-16-8. p.732.

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