PARADISE & PARADOSIS
The Watchtower and Remembrance
Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you, and your elders, and they will
tell you. DEUTERONOMY 32:7
FACED with dwindling memberships, local chapters of the Royal Canadian
Legion wonder aloud not only how they can keep their doors open much longer,
but also how, with the dying off of our World War II veterans, the memory
of their sacrifice will be kept alive at all. With a parallel fear, Steven
Spielberg, the world's most successful commercial film producer, is spending
much of his personal resources on a massive project which involves recording
on video tape the recollections of Holocaust survivors -- before that generation
too has died off. Is it really true that we could forget WW2 and the Holocaust
in a mere 2 generations? The success of neo-Nazi propagandists suggests
the fears of Spielberg and our veterans are not without foundation. As
the wise man said many centuries ago about our historical apathy:
There is no remembrance of earlier things; and also of the later things
which will occur, there will be for them no remembrance among those who
will come later still ... For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise
man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten.
ECCLESIASTES 1:11; 2:16
This is not a paean or hymn to progress, but a lamentation. The biblical
writers see the best solution to defective or selective memory as the memory
of the community. Israel was not only to remember her wars and her war
dead, she was also to remember ALL the deeds of her God. Protecting the
nation against memory lapse or distortion was collective memory.
Credibility and historical continuity
Even before the nation of Israel had an Old Testament, its past was kept
alive by oral transmission. And that generation to generation transmission
was not just the trust of the priesthood:
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,
which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not
conceal them from their children, but tell to the generations to come the
praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has
done. For He ... appointed a law in Israel, which He commissioned our fathers,
that they should teach them to their children; that the generation to come
might know, even the children yet to be born, that they might arise and
tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God,
and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments. PSALM 78:1-7
Even without the written record completed much later (our Old Testament),
community memory of Israel would keep intact the record of God's dealings.
was the larger application of the 5th commandment, "Honour your father
mother ...", in that the most important of family heirlooms was the
faith of its
fathers. While the method of oral transmission was not infallible, the
sheer quantity of family-transmitted traditions would weigh against distortion.
One might even add that the possibility of distortion, especially at the
early stage, would be much greater if we had to rely on a written record,
for such records would be very expensive to reproduce in ancient times,
and therefore the exclusive possession of the few. For example, the fact
that over a million witnesses saw the events of the exodus and the entrance
into Canaan gave a sureness to the historical memory that even an early
manuscript of the Torah couldn't offer. Israel, particularly after the
exile, seemed to learn the value of its tradition. Malachi, the last of
the prophets, warned them to keep alive the law of Moses, and the last
Old Testament word to Israel is of Elijah's coming to "restore the
hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children
to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse" (Mal.4:4-6).
God had no blessing for a nation that forgot the tradition of its fathers.
The hesitation of many Protestants to place any second authority beside
finds its extreme application in the position of the cults toward tradition
paradosis). Ask the average Jehovah's Witness what the Bible says about
tradition and likely the first text he will cite is Ma tthew15:6, "you
have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition".
But not all the New Testament references to paradosis are negative. Paul,
for example, urged the Thessalonians to "stand firm, and hold fast
the traditions [Gk paradoseis] you were taught, whether by word or by our
epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15). Thus both written and oral transmission
of the apostolic teachings would protect them against heretical innovations.
Later in the same letter, Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to withdraw
themselves from every brother not walking "after the tradition [Gk
paradosin] he received from us" (3:6). Paul also commended the Corinthians
for holding "firmly to the traditions [Gk paradoseis], just as I delivered
them to you" (1 Cor.11:2). Again Paul is talking about the oral instruction
he gave them during 18 months ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:1-17). Near
the end of that same letter he reminds them,
"I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to
you, which also you received , in which also you stand, by which also you
are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you" (15:1,2).
Even Paul didn't have the authority to change the gospel he had received
(v.3). Indeed, he pronounced a double anathema (curse) on those who attempted
to alter the gospel he had preached to the Galatians (Gal.1:6-9). An apostle
couldn't change the gospel -- even an angel couldn't change it! And the
protection of Paul's churches was the faithful transmission oral at first,
later also written of the traditions of the apostles.
The Watchtower rejection of tradition even its own!
That the Watchtower and other cults should reject the universal tradition
of the church, which, in creeds still recited by Christians Orthodox, Roman
Catholic and Protestant, has survived 1900 years intact, is best explained
by Witnesses' failure to comprehend the balanced biblical view of paradosis.
When Christ criticized the Scribes and Pharisees for holding fast to traditions,
he was speaking of the "precepts of men" (Matt.15:9). These human
doctrines were preferred to the Mosaic and prophetic traditions. In other
words, Christ lambasted his religious leaders for their 'new light', which
had shoved out of sight the commandments divinely revealed (Mark 7:8,9).
The older tradition had been "nicely set aside" to accommodate
human teaching. Jeremiah made a similar protest to religious innovators
in his day, who preferred the carnal delights of Baalism to the "ancient
paths" (Jer. 6:16; 7:9). What JW's and others rejecting "tradition"
in toto don't seem to understand is that the traditions of the Scribes
were not old teachings, but recent innovations, going back likely no more
than 400 years, to the time of the last Old Testament books. Christ by
no means rejected ALL tradition, but rather "YOUR tradition",
the innovations of the sectarian Scribes and Pharisees to whom He was talking
(Matt. 15:1,6). As Alfred Plummer says in his commentary on Matthew, "These
Scribes professed to be jealous defenders of God's law; but what they really
cared about was their own traditions about the Law ..."1.
There is no record, for instance, that Christ or the apostles condemned
the festival of Purim, a festival introduced in the time of Esther, despite
its Persian connections. Nor did they condemn Hanukkah, the festival commemorating
Maccabean victory over their Hasmonean oppressors. Both these festivals
were religious innovations, not commanded by God. But the Jews still keep
them today. Official Watchtower reference books acknowledge much of this.
For example, Insight on the Scriptures tells us that part of the "valid
tradition" of the apostles was Paul's counsel to the Thessalonians
referred to above:
The teachings and example set by the apostles constituted valid tradition.
Thus, Paul, who had personally toiled with with his hands so as not to
be a financial burden on his brothers (Ac 18:3; 20:34; 1 Cor 9:15; 1 Th
2:9), could urge the Thessalonian Christians "to withdraw from every
brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition [paradosin]"
they had received. One who would not work was plainly not following the
fine example or tradition of the apostles. - 2 Th 3:6-11.2
This is fine and scriptural. But no upper-echelon Watchtower leader works
with his hands, in the 'tradition of the apostles'! There is no evidence
that C.T. Russell or J.F. Rutherford did either. All of them are and were
supported totally by the Watchtower
Society. This is one Watchtower tradition that has remained consistent,
while others have dropped by the wayside. Among such discarded teachings
we might list most of the contents of 7 volumes of Studies in the Scriptures,
for 40 years publically promoted
as indispensable to the correct understanding of the Bible. The Watchtower
no longer prints these books, nor indeed ANY of the books it used as preaching
tools during the first 8 decades of its existence. Surely this disavowal
even of its founders' works
is a unique characteristic of the Watchtower. The doctrine of "progressive
truth"3 has been used both to excuse the Watchtower's
multitude of false predictions and altered doctrines, and to explain how
it is that no one other than Jehovah's Witnesses has ever
held to their peculiar interpretations of the Bible. Point out that even
JW's don't believe what the Watchtower once proclaimed as "present
truth"4 and your JW will likely reply "the
light gets brighter and brighter", admitting neither accountability
connection with the Watchtower's early leaders. Even the Watchtower's present
'good news' You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (the title of their
best-selling book since 1975, the last prophetic 'adjustment') - is admitted
to be a preaching innovation
adopted since 1935 5.
'A perverse and crooked generation ... a foolish and unwise people'
So Moses described the generation that stood on the brink of the promised
land (Deut. 32). And of what did their perversity consist? They had forgotten
the "The Rock ... God of faithfulness " (v.4), who had led his
people from days long before the exodus. If they were disloyal, corrupt
children (v.5), it was entirely their own fault. For if they had desired
to know this most precious truth that God is the Eternal I AM, as reliable
as rock in his consistency and faithfulness all they had to do was Remember
the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father,
and he will inform you, your elders and they will tell you ... (v.7)
This, perversely, is exactly what Watchtower leaders have consistently
refused to do. Respecting no light but their own, they do not even honour
the teachings of their own spiritual 'fathers'. Therefore their 'good news'
'another gospel' even by their own admission than the one preached by Christendom
for all these centuries, and a different message even than the one spread
all over the earth by the Watchtower's missionaries before 1935 stands
1. An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew, p.212
2. Insight on the Scriptures (Vol.2 p.1119)
3. Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, p.121
4. Ibid, pp.120-148, esp. pp.133, 146-147
5. Ibid , pp. 83-84, 170, 261And it is not just the fallibility of historical
memory that we must fear and fight.
The above-mentioned anti-Semitic groups illustrate vividly that WILL to
believe -- or disbelieve -- can make objectivity impossible . It was WHEN
the Jewish religious establishment confronted Jesus Christ with the above
questions, Christ knew any answer was impossible. No matter what He would
say, their minds were made up. They would not believe. So Jesus Christ
did not answer his critics directly. Instead He asked them a question:
"The baptism of John -- where was it from? From heaven or from men?"
Not willing to deny John's Divine authority, the chief priests and elders,
trapped between the Stone of Stumbling and the Rock of Revelation, did
But a few days later, on the last night of His earthly life, Christ did
identify the source of His authority -- not before the sealed ears and
hardened hearts of His adversaries, but solely for those to whom, He had
said, the mysteries of the kingdom were revealed:
From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass,so that when it
does occur, you may believe that I am [He] ... And now I have told you
before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe JOHN13:19,14:29
TEST #1: DOES THE WATCHTOWER DEMONSTRATE GOD'S OMNISCIENCE?
Recall those things Jesus had told the Apostles over the months before
the last trip to Jerusalem, those things that they, like Christ's unbelieving
enemies, found impossible to conceive -- that the Messiah must die and
rise again. Nevertheless, Christ rested His divine authority on the CERTAINTY
that all things must come to pass just as the Hebrew scriptures had foretold,
and as He Himself was now foretelling:
... ALL THINGS which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets
and the Psalms MUST BE FULFILLED ... Thus it is written, that the Christ
should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.
LUKE 24:44,46 (NASB, emphasis added)
How to recognize a 'Divinely ordained preacher'
Pastor Russell (above) and his early followers, the International Bible
Students, didn't have to labour for weeks in 'home Bible studies' to prove
to people God was using The Watchtower. They knew enough about the Bible
to boast that God had fixed an easier way to recognize whom He was using:
'When the things predicted in the entire seven volumes of the Studies in
the Scriptures come to pass, then shall the tares [weeds,Matt.13:24ff.,
KJV], too late, realize that a GREAT AND DIVINELY ORDAINED PREACHER "hath
been among them"'. [FinishedMystery 'Posthumous work of Pastor Russell'
p.532] 'Truly there lived among us in these last days a prophet of the
Lord ... his works remain an ENDURING WITNESS to his wisdom and faithfulness'
[Watchtower June 1, 1917, p.6091]
Thus even Jesus Christ was not exempt from the standard set for God's
spokesmen in the Old Testament -- the prophet should demonstrate the omniscience
of God -- Jehovah the true God would demonstrate that He was DIFFERENT
from the pagan deities in this very attribute -- Jehovah knows all things;
He demonstrates this by
giving his spokesmen the ability to foretell the future INFALLIBLY. (Deut.18:20-22;
1 Sam.3:9,20; 9:6; Isa.44:24-28)
IF demonstration of God's absolute knowledge of the future was the special
sign of the prophet, would the Apostles display any less ability? Before
Christ departed this earth he assured the Apostles, his future witnesses,
that they would NOT lack His ability to
foretell the future:
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But
when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into ALL THE TRUTH;
He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will
speak; and HE WILL DISCLOSE TO YOU WHAT IS TO COME. JOHN 16:12,13 (NASB,
TEST #2: DOES THE WATCHTOWER
Thus the Apostles, like the Prophets, would foretell the future infallibly,
because the Spirit which would anoint them for their witnessing was infallible.
Not all the Apostles are recorded as having foretold the future, but those
who had the chief responsibility in witnessing certainly did (Peter in
2 Peter chaps.2 and 3; Paul in 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy chaps.3 and 4;
John in all of Revelation). Because they were the only group chosen to
witness for Christ, the Apostles, like the Prophets and like Christ Himself,
had to demonstrate the omniscience of God.
DEMONSTRATE THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD?
Not all the prophets of the Old Testament are recorded as having worked
miracles, but those who were given great tasks in witnessing for the true
God, like Moses and Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel, had either the ability
to foretell the future or the ability to perform miracles -- or both! Moses,
at whose word even Pharaoh finally trembled, had such a great witnessing
work that God gave him unprecedented powers -- powers over nature, and
infallible vision of the future. Even the benighted magicians of Egypt
had to acknowledge This is the finger of God (Exod.8:19). Because of Moses'
wonder-working power the man Moses was greatly esteemed in the land of
Egypt (Exod.11:3). The greatness of Moses' task might explain the greatness
of his gifts. After all it was through Moses' ministry that Jehovah was
to demonstrate His power and proclaim His name in all the earth (Exod.9:16).
The law that God gave to Moses had to stand forever, and therefore extraordinary
authority had to be manifest both at its origin and in its substance. Therefore
in Moses must be seen Divine power as well as Divine omniscience.
It is therefore no surprise that in view of the even greater work of
same Divine attributes were demonstrated by Him. Not only believers witnessed
His wonders. The Apostles asked What kind of a man is this, that even the
winds and the sea obey Him? But even those unwilling to follow Him had
to acknowledge the extraordinary nature of His powers (John 3:2; 11:47).
Thus Christ could say at the end of His mission:
If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would
not have sin, but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father
as well. JOHN 15:24 (NASB)
Yet Christ foretold that His Apostles would do even greater works (John14:12).
That makes perfect sense in that the work that the Apostles were to do
was greater in scope than that of Jesus, Who was sent to Israel only. The
Apostles were to witness to all nations, and so would need extraordinary
credentials if their witness was to be believed:
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression
and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we
neglect so great a
salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed
to us by those who heard, GOD ALSO BEARING WITNESS with them, both by signs
and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according
to His own will. HEBREWS 2:2-4 (NASB)
The Apostles had the only gospel that could save mankind, and God made
sure they obtained a good hearing! Just as the message of Moses and the
prophets had the ear of Israel and even the world, so did the gospel of
the Apostles. God joined in bearing witness (Heb.2:4, NWT) -- by demonstrating
the omniscient and omnipotent Being Who was the source of the message.
HAS GOD 'JOINED IN BEARING WITNESS'
WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES?
1a selective memory
1b seniors & WW2, Spielberg - within 2 generations Eccl 1:11;
2:16 No remembrance of earlier things, and later; no lasting
remembrance of the wise man all forgotten
1c remembrance not only war, but deeds of Yah
2a credibility & historical continuity
2b Psalm 78.1-8; 105.5 law taught father to son, generations
may know, not like unfaithful generation (honour father)
2c Mal 4:4,6 Remember law, restore hearts fathers, children
2d why no collective memory
2e New gospel - boast about Proclaimers p 170, 160-63,
3a WT isolation from tradition
3b not ALL tradition bad -- Esther 9.28 honours tradition NOT given
by commandment - that Jews still keep faithfully; 2
3c Deut 32.7 perverse & crooked generation , foolish and unwise
people acted corruptly toward Y, repaid the Lord's faithfulness to his
promises by forgetting the faith of their fathers; commanded to 'Remember
days of old ...
3d 2 Pet 3.1,2 - after warning of destructive heresies, gives antidote
-- 'remember words ...'oral This method of dealing with heretics, 'new'
gospels NOT to perish with the apostles2 Tim
3e 2 Tim 2.2,7,8 - pass on to faithful men - note 'many witnesses' -
the apostolic message, like the salvation experience, would be assured
an accurate transmission by
MANY transmitters message never the preserve of the 'anointed' elect ALL
had knowledge (1 Jn 2) unlike the 'secret tradition' of the Gnostics, who
claimed the gift of
interpreting Scrip was exclusive to them
* * *
APOLOGIA: Home Mission To New Religions Inc.
For an examination of the basis of The Watchtower's authority, see the
tracts Whose Light is Shining on the Watchtower? and Not Infallible, Not
Inspired -- but 'Divinely guided'!