A Faithful and Discreet Slave: Pretensions to Religious Authority Laid Bare

Second Edition

Watchtower

A Parabolic Text is Mangled to Lend Authority

to a Sustained Doomsday Cult Deception

by Mark Mountjoy

The concept of a faithful and discreet slave class of leaders ruling over a high control mass movement of Bible students is unique to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Where did this idea originate? What are the merits of it in light of the Bible? How many times has Watchtower leadership changed in the 137 years of the sect's existence from 1884 to the present?

Once upon a time, from 1884 to 1916, the Faithful and Discreet slave was one man only: Pastor Charles Taze Russell—however a typical confusion reigns because the present-day organizational leadership brazenly denies what was once firmly believed:-

"From this, it is clearly seen that the editor and publisher of Zion's Watch Tower disavowed any claim to being individually, in his person, that "faithful and wise servant." He never did claim to be such," ("God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached," 1973, p. 346).

Comment: This contradicts Watchtower December 1, 1919, p. 357, where the Watchtower states Russell did, in fact, claim to be the Faithful and Discreet Slave. “Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell's writings believe that he filled the office of ‘that faithful and wise servant,’ and that his great work was giving to the household of faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation,” (Watchtower, December 1, 1919, p. 357).1

Russell's successor, Rutherford, did not claim to be the Faithful and Discreet Slave. However, he eventually conceived of a two-class Anointed/ “Jonadab,” and “Great Crowd” distinction between followers of his new sect.  This is a two-tiered class system of only 144,000 Christians going to heaven and all the rest being resurrected to live forever on a paradise earth; this fallacious idea came to fruition between the years 1931-1932.2

Someone, a certain Leolaia, wrote,

“Rutherford invented the ‘Jonadab’ class because of an unexpected increase in new converts in the early 1930s (during the Great Depression). Prior to this, there had been a huge decrease due to the 1925 disappointment and Rutherford’s hard-handed attempts to remove Russell's doctrinal system and control the local congregations, and Rutherford explained this decrease via his ‘Remnant’ doctrine. An apparent reversal of this trend would otherwise indicate that his ‘Remnant’ explanation was incorrect, but by positing a new class, Rutherford was able to maintain his ‘Remnant’ teaching as well as accommodate the new converts into the organization. The new Jonadab teaching was in place by 1931-1932, and since new converts were not expected to partake of the Memorial emblems (which were partaken by more mature Bible Students, along the lines of the older Russellite "character development" emphasis), this later became a sine qua non of Jonadab status. What then happened in 1935 was that Rutherford identified this group with the ‘great multitude’ of Revelation who was earlier regarded as a secondary spiritual class of less mature Christians (the 144,000 being the elect Christians), thereby justifying a brand-new massive preaching work designed to bring together a ‘great multitude’ of Jonadabs.3

Thus, in the beginning, the Faithful Slave started rather clandestinely being Pastor Russell; it then led to one hundred and forty-four thousand International Bible Students; it switched to Jesus and the Anointed Class; it then changed to the Anointed without Jesus and, finally, dwindled to be the present-day eight-member Governing Body. As we trace the trajectory of this notion of a ‘Faithful and Discreet Slave’ it is evident that the story behind the logic of it is an ever-changing one and, basically, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society exploits Bible prophecies and parables to teach and enforce a deception (which at the time of this writing) that has lasted for almost one hundred and forty years.

The feat did not begin with Russell or his Watchtower magazine. It began, rather, when one William Miller and the followers of his Second Adventist Movement expected Christ's Second Coming to occur in 1843, but that failed, and Miller revised the date to a year later in 1844.4

Like the first one, the second event failed to happen, and the movement, as could be expected, collapsed into confusion and disarray. But out of the grief, trauma and chaos emerged a brand new religious figure in the person of Ellen G. Harmon (born November 26, 1827, in Gorham, Maine, U.S). Ms. White, a young woman at the time of the so-called Great Disappointment, stood up and announced that Miller had not been wrong: Jesus had returned, but invisibly.5

A Disjointed Theology

The International Bible Students Association began as Russell's own endeavor to galvanize believers into an identifiable religious organization; it hoped to purify its believers of every error Russell perceived to be wrong with the conventional Christianity of his day.  Now, theologically, it began to be built on troubled and unstable foundations (as Russell remained suspicious of both the Holy Trinity and the concept of hell throughout his life).  Rutherford, too, was in a hurry to differentiate the new group from other Christians in any possible way he saw conceivable.  So they dropped Christmas and holidays in 1927 after practicing it from the 1880s till then—even after it was ok with Jesus in 1919!

They dropped Birthdays in 1951. Then they went completely over the line when they forbade the worship of Jesus Christ in 1954. They banned blood transfusions in 1954 and made it a disfellowshipping offense in 1961. They reset the 1975 date for the end of the world in 1966.6 Then they began a serious leadership crackdown around May of 1980; it was partly thanks to the fallout that had been long brewing from the 1975 “no-call; no-show” of the expected end of the world, which, as usual, never materialized.7

Meanwhile, the ‘Faithful and Discreet Slave’ now centers on eight men, and the organization’s eighth president, since 2014, is Robert Ciranko.8  This is where the group’s development now rests.

With the advent of the internet, the organization has taken repeated hits and with an unchecked and expanding awareness of the organization’s past skeletons, the leaders began to try to offset the damage by popularizing the online JW.org presence and instituting a cart witnessing program.9

Meanwhile, sharp declines in membership also saw sales of kingdom halls (which, remember, were built off the unpaid labor, largesse, and free blood, sweat, and tears of Witnesses) began to be sold to businesses, churches, and other institutions, and this sell-off is becoming more and more common worldwide.

In 2020 zoom meetings became normative due to the 2020 worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which also saw an end to the door-to-door work Joseph Rutherford had instituted in 1923.10

Tampering With the Scriptures

The organization took it upon itself to replace the Greek κύριος with the Tetragrammaton JEHOVAH some 237 times. The Watchtower’s purpose here is to dictate to Witnesses that Jesus and God are discrete entities and get them far away from the notion that Jesus is one of the three identities belonging to the One God (as Christians have Scripturally, historically, and hermeneutically understood the situation for the better part of twenty centuries).  To be clear, this interference is spiritually deadly because it dictates that God the Father is Jehovah and Jesus is NOT precisely where New Testament authors freely borrow Old Testament quotes about JEHOVAH and brazenly apply them to JESUS.

Examples of this are not lacking:-

God’s Spirit is Christ’s Spirit (Romans 8:9)

Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory (Isaiah 6:1-3, John 12:38-41)

Jehovah's creative deeds applied to Jesus (Psalms 102:25-27, Hebrews 1:10-12)

Prayers addressed to Christ (2 Corinthians 12:8-9; John 14:14; Acts 7:59-60*, Revelation 22:20)
Call upon the name of Jesus to be saved (Romans 10:9-13*,1 Corinthians 1:2, Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21,36*)

Thomas’ Confession that Jesus is God (John 20:28)

Jesus is worshipped (Hebrews 1:6*, Matthew 2:11*, Matthew 14:33*, Matthew 28:9*)
Jesus is called God (Hebrews 1:8*, 2 Peter 1:1*, Titus 2:13*,

John 1:1*, John 1:18*, Isaiah 9:6, John 20:28, Revelation 1:8*, Revelation 21:6-7)

All fullness of deity is in Jesus (Colossians 2:9)

Jesus is Alpha/Omega, Beginning/End, First/Last (Rev 1:4-8*, Revelation 1:17-18, Revelation 22:12-16, Isaiah 44:6)

All things were created by Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16, Romans 11:36, Isaiah44:24, Isaiah 45:12, 66:2)

Passages Implying Jesus’ Deity

Glory with God before the world existed (John 17:5, Isaiah 42:8)

All must honor the Son just as we honor the Father (John 5:23)

We Must Honor Jesus as holy (1 Peter 3:14-15, Isaiah 8:12-13)

Every knee bows to Jesus (Philippians 2:10-11, Isaiah 45:23-24)

John the Baptist prepared the Way for the Lord (Mark 1:1-3, Isaiah 40:3)11

From the above, the Watchtower, at its own discretion, withholds the dignity and honor that properly belongs to Jesus Christ as the Scriptures plainly include him in the identity of the one God.  Instead, he is made out to be an angel—Michael the Archangel of which the Scriptures teach there are seven arch-angels—Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Selaphiel, Raguel, and Barachiel.12

But no Scripture would support the idea that creation was made by or for any angel, nor could any passage square with the idea that God employs any angel to the Herculean task of holding the universe together (Colossians 1:17 cf. Hebrews 1:3).

Gaslighting Claims

Jehovah’s Witnesses can come across as the nicest people whenever they are trying to establish study contacts, but woe-be-gone the person who tries to pin them down to claims their organization espoused, pushed, or advocated in years gone by. In response to any intrusions into anything they may deem unsavory or embarrassing they can resort to a practice they call ‘Theocratic Warfare.’  Theocratic Warfare is a gaslighting technique they are not reluctant to use to save face for any humiliating facts about them or claims they made that did not quite work out.13

They will brazenly deny Pastor Russell’s bizarre doctrines if they know anything about them at all. What about C.T. Russell’s involvement in Pyramid Prophecy theories?  JWs may respond, ‘Pyramid prophecies? What Pyramid Prophecies!?’

The rank and file Witness of today, to be fair, will probably not know anything about Watchtower history going that far back, and yet they are not shy about anything in conventional Christian history that they need to use for apologetic purposes.14

This double standard extends to their knowledge about doctrinal flip-flops about blood policies, prophecy dates (e.g., “stay alive to 75”),15 and the Watchtower’s nearly ten-year membership with the United Nations, or the Australian Royal Commission investigation into child abuse within the ranks of Kingdom Halls and families of Jehovah’s Witnesses.16 This would even include Watchtower ownership of stocks and bonds related to military-industrial wares, including sin industry products which the organization makes millions by its questionable conflict-of-interest investments.17 18

At the doors, once upon a time, the Witnesses would falsely brag that, unlike Christian churches, their organization and their organization alone had no “worldly interests” or “worldly ties” or connections to this “wicked system of things” when, in fact, that was NEVER true!

Questioning Motives and Theocratic Warfare

There was a time when Christians were not so doctrinally astute and could barely hold their own on their own doorstep in front of the onslaught of the over-eager Jehovah’s Witness. There was a time when Jehovah’s Witnesses were bold and aggressive and loudly invited discussions, confrontations, and debates. Witnesses used to pursue engagement to knock down what they saw as false religious concepts (their favorite being the Trinity and hell and soul doctrines).19

This is no longer the case!

If Witnesses even suspect that someone knows too much about them, they quickly go into a mode of defensiveness where they need to discern; 'what is your real aim in discussions with them?' If they suspect they are being interrogated, they suddenly want to end all engagement to find fertile ground where they can sow their doctrinal seeds on a blank and unsuspecting slate.

Above all, they do not want to turn their critical faculties inward to examine what they believe; they only want to preach and proselytize to score points and bring new publishers to work as unpaid laborers for the organization they believe is God's own mouthpiece.20

In Retreat and Crystallizing
Toward Further Anti-Socialism

The trend away from society began a long time ago when holidays and birthdays were banned. Even the disavowal of ordinary Christian doctrines—the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus, open communion, identifying meeting houses as “churches,” refusal to salute the flag or support their respective nations in any defense capacities whatsoever, and their denial of a heavenly hope in favor of a so-called Paradise earth—helped psychologically wall Jehovah's Witness off into an existential “bubble” upon which disfellowship, shunning or death itself were the only escape.

Banned in Russia and elsewhere deprived of live fellowship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Watchtower savant is in a crisis of existence as never before.21 With time on their hands as never before, the Jehovah’s Witness, like it or not, has an opportunity to think and reflect. And, whereas before, the Witness could consume him or herself in endless Theocratic business, now, thanks to God, there may be an interlude to pause and critique things from different angles and considerations.

Now, more than ever, people involved with this unusual movement need to think about what it really is, without any rose-colored glasses or infatuations about its supposed relationship with God. They need to look and ask, perhaps for the first time: What is the naked truth about Jehovah’s Witness ideas? What is the real truth about the organization's history? And what is really going on on a business level with the revenues going to Bethel and the sale of Brooklyn properties for millions and freely built kingdom halls for hundreds of thousands of dollars?22

The Apostate Movement and Ex-JW
Activism Take Off into the Stratosphere

We are not going to pretend that Watchtower Research Revolution essays are why Witnesses are becoming woke. This process started a very long time ago when William Schnell wrote his bombshell book, Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave.23

Others followed; each person has their own unique story. The advent of the internet and thus of knowledge and the privacy that this medium of communication and information affords is another reason why people who would normally be too afraid of being exposed to social dangers can now safely explore and research without the concern of being outed and destroyed before they are prepared to take their own steps.

The motive behind this genre of research is to beseech woke Witnesses not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Almost all recent Christian movements are either Restorationist or apocalyptic in their outlook: What makes them kinder versions of Christianity is most likely their low or no-control attitudes and organizational disposition—yet they all expect or suspect the end of the world could come any day now.24

This expectation, in and of itself may be Biblical, but this timing and the belief that that should or could happen now is definitely out of the question. The road to this doctrinal error started when Judeans around 63 B.C. first conceived and professed that the Roman Republic was the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy.25 

From then on and till today remains a large fly in the ointment of Bible prophecy that makes what was said and what was expected in the New Testament and the last days of the Second Jewish Commonwealth look like pure hot air, alarmism, blatant lying on the part of John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, the Apostles and, of course, Paul. Still, up to four billion people died because of this lie—if the Rabbis are to be believed—and yet too many theologians, laymen, ordinary Christians, and even cult followers will, without blinking an eye, say that a mistake was made and then proceed to build a case that those things surely will take place “very soon” (continuing the general misunderstanding that bled into the Second Adventist causes in the late 19th century and got all of us where we are now).26

We are saying, This is what happened; here is where misinformation caused believers to veer off Bible prophecy's specific Semitic civilizational contextual path and divinely decreed termination. A proper understanding of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy has to happen within the parameters of the social world where it was announced it would be fulfilled; that social world was not the Roman Empire, but, in fact, the social world of the Apostles, the Second Jewish Commonwealth. It passed away, as expected, between the years A.D.66 and A.D136. In the aftermath of a stunning series of events directed against Jewish authorities, it took eighteen long centuries for a very different kind of Jewish State to emerge (and one which is not the subject of any Bible prophecy at all).

At the end of the day, we may not be able to convince most Christians or ex-Witness activists that this is what the case is, but at least we can be a small voice in this direction.

Endnotes

1https://carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses/russell-never-claimed-to-be-the-faithful-and-discreet-slave/

2 Ref. Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave. This process coincided with Rutherford's renaming his faction of the International Bible Students Association “Jehovah's Witnesses” at the Columbus, Ohio convention on July 24-30, 1931.

3 https://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/119927/need-help-jonadab-class?page=2

4 For more information about the William Miller Second Advent movement, click here.

5 For more on Madame Ellen G. White, click this link.

6 In 1966, the 1975 date began to be promulgated and can be seen here.

7 An online unencrypted copy of Raymond V. Franz’s Crisis of Conscience can be accessed here.

8 Interestingly (and oddly), neither Ciranko (of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York) or Harold L. Corkern (of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania) are considered to be part of the anointed Governing Body elite of the organization.
9 https://www.jw.org/en/library/jw-meeting-workbook/november-2018-mwb/meeting-schedule-nov19-25/worldwide-benefits-cart-witnessing-questions/

10 In 1919, Rutherford instituted the door-to-door evangelism work, which has come to a standstill because of the recent worldwide health crisis.

11 Jesus is included in God's identity in plain passages in the Old and New Testaments. Source: https://www.guardingthegospel.com/bible-verses-showing-jesus-is-god-for-jehovahs-witnesses/. See also: The Divine Messiah Through Jewish Eyes and Do Christians Worship in Three Gods?

12 One can find the names of the seven archangels in the 20th chapter of the extra-canonical book of Enoch.

13 To be clear, NOT EVEN ONE prophecy of the Watchtower has ever come true and, although their doctrinal policies change from time to time, the one thing that stays steady is their renunciation of the core tenets of Christianity—the Trinity, the immortal soul, heavenly hope, conscious punishment in hell and celebration of birthdays, holidays and military or government services—everything else changes and oscillates around rules and regulations, prophecy interpretations and social suspicions towards so-called apostates and worldly people.

14 As far back as 1939, the Witnesses march in front of Christian churches with signs and placards proclaiming, “Religion is a snare and a racket!” Yet, they become thin-skinned and offended if anyone even politely approaches them with fair questions about their beliefs and practices and will threaten to call law enforcement to end such engagements.

15 The ‘Stay alive to 75’ is a 1967 sermon of Charles Senutko, Jr., which is forever preserved on tape for all to hear an extended talk on what that year meant to the Witness world and why it was the leadership (not the members) who fomented interest and fervor about that date.

16 The United Nations membership and the ARC were two debacles that overtook Witnesses by surprise and are, even to this day, not easily understood or explained away.

17 On Watchtower Bible and Tract Society war technology investments: https://www.reddit.com/r/JehovahsWitnesses/comments/89kfze/the_

watchtowers_investments_in_warfare_technology/.

18 On Watchtower profiting off of sin industry stocks see: https://www.watchtowerlies.com/the_watchtower_is_earning_money_from_the_

tobacco_industry.html.

19 The rejection of basic Christian doctrines, norms, and traditions serves as the ‘hook’ with which the Watchtower snares unsuspecting people and brings them into the organization where they are brainwashed with indoctrination designed to inoculate them against belief in the Bible, the Word of God.

20 Now, strangely, where once they wanted all the world to understand that they were God's sole mouthpiece, today the Watchtower organization is NOW keen to point out this it is neither infallible nor inspired:-

“The Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible. Therefore, it can err in doctrinal matters or organizational direction.”

See their statement in its context here. It should be noted that the GB is using semantics and making a bid to sound humble but not saying anything new about their authority and inspiration (which they have, from time to time, admitted could be wrong).

21 Some have likened the crisis facing the Watchtower to a sinking ship: Plummeting numbers; the mass exodus of woke Witnesses, and dramatic increase in PIMOs along with a proliferation of ex-Witness activist groups all over the world are direct evidence of a seismic shift in an organization which is no longer able to shield its membership from damning information about the Society's past and present.

22 The drain of funds toward legal fees and lawsuits related to molestation and child abuse incidents in the organization has only increased the imperative to sell kingdom halls as fast as possible. Unfortunately, the authority and provenance to sell local kingdom halls are not in the hands of local Witnesses but solely in the power of the Brooklyn leadership of the sect.

23 Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave, by William J. Schnell was published in the halcyon days of the Watchtower when its membership was booming all over the world; when there were no recent embarrassing prophecy gaffes to distract the public’s attention and when no inkling of vulnerability faced the sect, and a reversal of its fortunes on any level seemed imaginable. How strange, then, that from that time to this, the organization’s own claims—about 1914 and 1975, about total abstinence from blood, but now allowance of blood fractions, about a single generation and overlapping generations, its discontinuance of its Should You Believe in the Trinity book and the unforeseeable collapse of the door to door work forebode a dangerous phase in the organization’s existence.

We do not predict an end to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (any group can change and adapt), but we do believe more and more Witnesses will continue to think, question, and afford themselves a greater and greater degree of Christian freedom and will be far less willing to be imposed upon (either mentally, socially or educationally) by the Governing Body to any degree comparable to the past.

24 The “any-day-now” beliefs of Jehovah’s Witness may have been unique by the dates they chose, but they were ultimately not unique in the sense that rival Christian groups also had parallel apocalyptic expectations that went haywire and awry, as did the Watchtower’s. Oneness Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Charismatics, and other fundamentalist groups were just as convinced that the Second Coming would happen in the 1980s as they became sure that those expectations would mature in the 1990s and, ultimately, in the year 2000 and beyond. Common assumptions and presumptions bedevil these views, even if they seem apparently different.

25 For the record, the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy, if counted within the constraints of Jewish salvation history (which is the Bible's concern), then that kingdom would be without any controversy be the Hasmonean State kingdom which arose out of the successful Maccabean Rebellion that also saw the Second Temple cleansed and the foundation of the twenty-five century-old celebration of Hanukka.

With the Hasmonean Kingdom as fourth behind Babylon, Medeo-Persia, and Greece, the Herodian usurpation of that administration easily represents the feet of iron and clay. It dovetails, seamlessly, into the New Testament proclamation of the change of ages and the dawn of the promised kingdom of God, which kingdom came in the midst of the commotion which characterized the eve of the Destruction of Jerusalem, Masada, the Kitos Wars, and the unsuccessful Bar Kokhba rebellion of A.D.132-136. These events (not anything ahead of us on our calendar) are exactly what the earliest Christians had to suffer and live through before they could see the Christian church and the kingdom of God established in any kind of peace or permanency.

And so it is the Church itself, and not some future utopian Paradise earth, that is the realm of the saved and redeemed. It is those who are purchased by the blood of Jesus who are destined to enter into the new heaven and earth that exist as a stable reality since the disappearance of the Second Jewish Commonwealth in antiquity.

26 Unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the earliest Christians believed the Jewish State (not the literal planet earth) would disappear in a disastrous war described in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39—the war of Gog and Magog. By the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John posits that event at the end of the symbolic millennium, but the reality of the end of the ancient Jewish State came in a catastrophic war in the seventh decade after Jerusalem was destroyed (A.D.132-136).

It is there (in the Holy Land itself) that, according to the Rabbis in Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-58a, that Emperor Hadrian slaughtered four billion people in his successful effort to bring the Bar Kokhba Rebellion to a standstill. Now the Bible nowhere gives an exact number, but it does say that the number of Gog and Magog would be “as the sand of the sea,” so the Rabbinic exaggeration (if that is what it is) is understandable.

At any rate, no war of this magnitude is proclaimed by the Bible as being slated for the future when Bible prophecy, by the mouth of Jesus (Matthew 10:23 cf. Matthew 16:27-28) and the Apostles (1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and 1 Peter 4:7; James 5:1-9 and Revelation 1:1, 3 and 7) proclaimed again and again that those things were dawning on the civilization of the Jewish people at that time, not in our days (Luke 21:22 cf. Matthew 24:34).