The Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses

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The Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses




We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God's Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. (The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, Watchtower Society, 1968, p. 13)

In this study I will try not to offend, but the truth often hurts. With few exceptions, the times that Jesus spoke harshly were when He was rebuking the governing body of Jehovah's people. If any Witness perceives this as an attack rather than as informational, forgive me. I don't want to create any strawman arguments, so I would appreciate it if you will show me where any of the facts I use are wrong, and I will either correct them, or post your suggested correction as a link from where you believe the mistake is. Otherwise, I ask you to prayerfully consider following the Watchtower Society's own advice.

Did Jehovah Give the Governing Body His Authority?

The Witnesses defend the governing body by showing how it brings unity to their congregation. Every cult makes this same claim, as do some mainstream Christian denominations. Doesn't all the division in Christianity prove that the congregation needs a governing body? The answer is, No. While the Apostles did set up pastors in the local church, Jesus Christ is our shepherd; Jesus is our teacher; we give our uncompromising obedience to Jesus. Jesus taught that we cannot serve two masters.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
- Matthew 6:24

While the context for this verse is in reference to money, the statement is also true when choosing between serving a governing body of men or Jesus.

It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines. - Matthew 15:9 NWT

The only real division in Christianity comes when Christians replace doctrines plainly taught in the Bible with doctrines taught by men. In fact, there is far more unity amongst Bible believing Christians than members of the Watchtower Society believe. The differences among us are superficial because we get our doctrine from the Bible. And because the Word of God is our final authority, these differences do not cause division among individuals; rather, we are learning and growing into the likeness of Christ through the course of our lives.

Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringer forth out of his treasure things new and old. - Matthew 13:52

Though the Witnesses are repulsed by the Roman Catholic Church, there is one similarity between the Witnesses' governing body and the Vatican: both believe that the apostolic authority has been passed to themselves. We can see an example of how Elijah transferred his authority when passed his mantle to Elisha.

So [Elijah] departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shah, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. - 1 Kings 19:19 [Thus Elisha replaced Elijah's ministry as prophet]

We also see examples of Jesus giving authority to the apostles.

Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. - Luke 9:1


And I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. - Matthew 16:19

But there is no verse stating that Peter, Paul or any other apostle actually passed down his leadership or authority to any other individual or governing body. What we do read is Paul's warning:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. - Acts 20:29-30

We read about how God sent Moses and Aaron with signs and wonders that they should believe.

And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. - Exodus 4:2-5

We read about how God sent Jesus with signs and wonders that we should believe.

If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. - John 15:24

At the end of the age, the Witnesses' governing body can show nothing to prove that God has given them His authority. And yet, the Witnesses have unquestioningly placed their eternal destiny in the governing body's hand.

Jehovah's Governing Body in History

The Witnesses believe that Jehovah has always had a governing body over His people. I won't argue this point. At least we know that there was a governing body over Jehovah's congregation in Jesus' time since He identified them,

Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
- Matthew 23:2-3

Though Jesus said that the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat, thus acknowledging that they were Jehovah's governing body, He also warned of this governing body,

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. - Matthew 15:14

The Old Testament also shows that Jehovah was often angry with His governing body because they caused His congregation to sin.

And he [the king of Israel] did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. - 1 Kings 15:26

There are many verses like this one, where kings governing Jehovah's congregation caused them to sin. The Scriptures go on,

I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. - Jeremiah 23:14

There are many verses like this one, where the prophet's words to Jehovah's congregation caused them to sin. The Scriptures go on,

For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. - Malachi 2:7-8

There are many passages like this one, where priests governing Jehovah's congregation caused them to sin. Throughout history, Jehovah has been angry with His governing body. So why do members of the Watchtower Society believe that their governing body could not cause the congregation to sin?

Going back to what Jesus said about the Pharisees being blind leaders of the blind, there are several points to consider:

Though they were the governing body over Jehovah's congregation, this will not protect them from God's wrath on the Judgment Day.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, [John the Baptist] said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? - Matthew 3:7

The governing body did not know that they were blind.

And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words and said unto him, Are we blind also? - John 9:40

Not only were they themselves not entering into Jehovah's kingdom, they were preventing others from entering in.

Woe unto you, lawyers! [The lawyers were the authorities on Mosaic Law] for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. - Luke 11:52

The governing body made the Word of God unintelligible to the congregation.

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. - Mark 7:13

There are also several points to consider about those who are being led by the blind.

They are being hindered from entering Jehovah's kingdom.

Jesus said, ''both shall fall into the ditch''. When I asked a Witness why they do not partake of the emblems during the memorial service (this is what Witnesses call the Lord's Table or communion), he explained that the congregation are not partakers of the New Testament. I was shocked. The governing body has talked their followers out of the New Covenant. Those who are not under the New Covenant, are on the outside; there is no third covenant.

for this means [is] ( the third person singular of “to be”) my 'blood of the covenant,' which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins. - Matthew 26:28

Are your sins forgiven? Not if you refuse this covenant.

and Jesus the mediator of new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, which speaks in a better way than Abel's blood. See that YOU do not beg off [refuse] from him who is speaking. For if they did not escape who begged off [refused] from him who was giving divine warning upon earth, much more shall we not if we turn away from him who speaks from the heavens. - Hebrews 12:24-25 NWT


Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. - John 6:54


Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and market a lie.
- Revelation 22:14-15

Those led are ignorant of their own blindness.

How can this happen? Let's use the Witness who knocks at your door as an example. He thinks that he believes the Bible, but does he? No. In truth, he believes the governing body. What is the difference? While going door to door, the Witnesses are often shown Biblical truths. In every case, they will reject them in favor of the teachings of their governing body. When the governing body is blind to a biblical truth, they are blind also.

God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.
- John 4:24 NWT

The governing body will not give the Witnesses tools to understand the Scripture for themselves. Every Witness knows they have no book on hermeneutics (rules to help avoid making mistakes in personal Bible study ). When shown a scripture verse that puts them into a tight spot, they will pull out a book or booklet published by the Watchtower Society that tells them what, according to the governing body, the verse really means. For example, if you show them John 20:26-29, which reads,

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. - John 20:28-29

Their study guides teach:

That Jesus did not bodily resurrect; ''Even though Jesus was already resurrected as a mighty spirit, Jehovah was still his God''.

Jesus told Thomas to touch His hands and His side, and then commanded him to believe. What did He want Thomas to believe if it was not that the physical body, the one that had been pierced, was resurrected? The teaching that Jesus did not bodily resurrect implies that Jesus deceived Thomas. Implications that Jesus was deceitful are blasphemous.

That Thomas did not really mean to say, My Lord and my God. What he meant was, ''Jesus was like 'a god'.''

The Greek manuscript literally reads: The lord of me and The God of me (ὁ Κύριός μου καὶ ὁ Θεός μου).

That ''Thomas may simply have made an emotional exclamation of astonishment.''

The Jews never said the G-d word in vain. Thomas, like Peter, may have blurted out many exclamations, but to teach that he said G-d, shows that the governing body lacks understanding of the Jewish culture. This aside, Jesus commended Thomas for his ''exclamation'', which He would not have done if it had been irreverent or theologically incorrect.

That Jesus did not agree with Thomas's exclamation because ''Jesus never claimed to be God but taught that Jehovah alone is 'the only true God'.''

Jesus said many things like 'I and the Father are One'. The governing body is blind to all passages where Jesus showed Himself to be God. Jesus commends Thomas for his words, Why do the Witnesses believe the exact opposite of what this passage teaches? Because they do not believe what the Bible teaches, they believe what the governing body says the Bible teaches, two very different things.

Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. - Luke 11:35

In another example from their publication, Should You Believe in the Trinity?, the Witnesses teach that, ''the Bible says that Jesus did die and was unconscious in the tomb'' (pg.18). I pose the question to any Witness who believes this is taught in the Bible; where does the Bible say that Jesus was unconscious in the tomb? Yet, because this is what their governing body put in a booklet, they unquestioningly believe that this what the Bible teaches. There are countless examples like this, where the Witnesses believe what the governing body teaches, while thinking that they are believing the Bible. John and Peter both warn,

No lie is of the truth. - 1 John 2:21b


As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction. - 2 Peter 3:16

In The New World Translation of the Bible , a companion to this study, you can see many errors that the governing body has made in their Bible. Does Jehovah expect you to believe His Word as He faithfully passed it down to us today, or as the Witnesses' governing body has since edited it?

Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. - Mark 13:31


Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. - Proverbs 30:5-6

Most Witnesses are completely ignorant of the differences between their New World Translation and the Greek manuscripts. Though they are very zealous about going door to door, what will it profit them if they're teaching a different gospel?

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. - Galatians 1:8


For I bear [Israel] record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
- Romans 10:2-3

The Hundred and Forty Four Thousand

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. - Revelation 14:1

Of course, the Witnesses' governing body claim to be of these select 144,000. So let us look at this claim more closely.

What does the Bible say about the 144,000?

Almost everything else that the Witnesses believe about the 144,000 is extra-biblical. However, there is a lot of similarity between their extra-biblical beliefs and those of other groups who also believe that they are the 144,000. So what makes the governing body's claim different? Not much.

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. - Luke 14:11

If the governing body was really going to have the best seats in the Jehovah's kingdom, they would be servants in reality and not just in name.

And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. - Luke 22:25-27

I am not the judge, but in my observation, I see more similarity between the Witnesses' governing body and the Vatican then I do between the Witnesses' governing body and a real servant.

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: - Matthew 20:27

The similarities include pride, the demand for absolute unquestioning obedience, and the belief that they alone are Jehovah's governing body. Those who have not been blinded by them can see both the Vatican's and the Witnesses' errors, but they themselves remain completely unteachable.

The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD [Jehovah]  alone shall be exalted in that day. - Isaiah 2:11

The governing body of the Watchtower Society hasn't supplied any proof that they are really Jehovah's governing body. When Jesus told His disciples about the end of the age, He said,

Look out that nobody misleads YOU; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. - Matthew 24:4b-5 NWT

The Greek word translated Christ means anointed. Many will come in Jesus' name, claiming a special anointing, and will deceive many. Does the Witnesses' governing body claim to have a special anointing?

So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come? These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet?...This 'prophet'' was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are know as Jehovah's Christian witnesses....Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a 'prophet' of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?" —The Watchtower, April 1, 1972, p. 197

If the governing body claim a special anointing, these are the people Jesus warned us about. If they do not claim to be specially anointed, why do their Witnesses blindly following them?

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gave a similar command,

He said: Look out that YOU are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, 'I am he,' and, 'The due time has approached.' Do not go after them.
- Luke 21:8b NWT

The governing body has claimed that the end is near. (Two dates that they've set in the past were the years 1914 and 1975.) Jesus gave his disciples a clear command, ''Do not go after them''.

Separation from the Ungodly, or Heresy in the Congregation?

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. - 3 John 1:9

There seems to be one universal rule for the Witnesses: they must be as different as possible from other Bible believing Christians. A few examples include:

I understand why they have separated themselves from the state controlled church, but why have they separated themselves from the Bible believing church? Does the governing body know the difference?

Cross or stake?
Above His Head or Above His Hands?

Also, they posted above his head the charge against him, in writing: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." Then two robbers were impaled with him, one on his right and one on his left. So the passersby began speaking abusively of him, wagging their heads and saying: "O you would-be thrower-down of the temple and builder of it in three days, save yourself! If you are a son of God, come down off the torture stake!" - Matthew 27:37-40 NWT

Was it a cross or stake? Was the accusation against him above His head or His hands?

Consequently the other disciples would say to him: "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe." John 20:25 NWT

Was he crucified with one or two nails through his hands?

Cross beam - "Stauros in the NT… was a pole sunk into the ground with a cross-bar fastened to it giving it a 'T' shape. Often the word 'cross' referred only to the cross-bar." - The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, 1976, pp. 1037-103"

While it cannot be proved conclusively that Jesus was crucified on a cross versus a stake circumstantial evidence supports the cross, nor is there any evidence except quotes taken out of context that proves otherwise.

The Witnesses could list many other examples of how they distance themselves from Christianity. The Bible admonishes us to separate ourselves from evil,

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
- Ephesians 5:11


Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. - 2 Thessalonians 3:6

However, separating from Bible believing Christians who exercise godly behavior is condemned as heresy; in fact, the Greek word, transliterated into English as heresy, means disunion.

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. - 3 John 1:9


Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
- Romans 16:16-18


There is a children's story about an emperor who was deceived into believing that he was wearing the most beautiful clothing in the kingdom when, in reality, he was naked. He marched through the city to show off his new garments. Everyone praised his magnificent apparel, until a little boy shouted out in surprise, ''The king has no clothes on!'' This is where the story becomes real; because of his pride, the emperor would not acknowledge that he was naked. He continued marching in the parade, naked to the end.

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. - Revelation 3:18

When I first gave my life to Jesus Christ, I found a church that seemed excited about the things of God. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a cult. While I was a member, we played down our faults to the point that we were blind to them; after all, nobody is perfect. When a brother showed me and I believed a plain teaching of the Bible over an obviously faulty interpretation, I ran into a conflict with the elders. Still, it was only after leaving the cult that God opened my eyes to all the many compromises I had made.

There is an old movie, A Nun's Story, staring Audrey Hepburn. Based on a true story, the heroin became a nun so that she could serve God with her whole life. Toward the end of her story, she concluded that, as a nun, her obedience to the reverend mother hindered her obedience to what she believed God wanted her to do. Her prayer to God was, ''I cannot obey anymore; from now on it is only between me and you.'' Without anger, she renounced her vows and left the convent.

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
- Luke 6:22

Written by Jeff Barnes

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What does a Christian need to understand before submitting to a pastor or church elders?

An elder's (or governing body's) interpretation of a parable, which places them as a spiritual leader is not enough. Paul counseled Timothy (and this is passed down to the church) on how to pick those who will be in authority. According to 1st Timothy 3:2-7 a bishop or overseer must be:

  • blameless
  • the husband of one wife
  • vigilant
  • sober
  • of good behavior
  • given to hospitality
  • apt to teach
  • not given to wine
  • no striker
  • not greedy of filthy lucre
  • patient
  • not a brawler
  • not covetous
  • one that ruleth well his own house
  • having his children in subjection with all gravity (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
  • not a novice (lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil)
  • have a good report of them which are without (lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil)

If you do not know a church elder well enough to personally affirm these qualifications, and yet you submit all your beliefs to him, you do so at your own risk. In fact, the common people could understand Jesus when the religious leaders could not. Test your religious leaders by seeing if their teachings line up with plain teachings of Jesus. In order to do this, you must study the Scriptures for yourself.

I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: - Revelation 2:2


And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. - Acts 17:10-11

The Bible does not condemn the Berians for checking out Paul's doctrine with the Bible, it commends them. Pastors should be humble, teachable and have no self-importance.

[John the Baptist said:] He must increase, but I must decrease. - John 3:30


So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
- Luke 17:10


Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. - Luke 18:10-14

An elder who is filled with the Holy Spirit will not glorify himself; rather, he will glorify Jesus. Look at the Watchtower literature, does any of it really glorify Jesus?

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. - John 16:13-14

May God bless those leaders in His church who glorify Jesus.