From time to time while reading an article you will come across a quoted source by another author or expert. Usually to save some space and only provide you with the relevant part of the quote that has a bearing on what is being discussed you will see an ellipses ( … ) to indicate that some of the quote was left out. All pretty standard stuff. The danger though is when someone wants to use what another person has said and will dileberatly distort the wording, by omitting certain words or phrasing, to make it seem like they where supporting your original point.
For example, imagine a movie critic who wrote about a recent film she viewed: “See this movie if you want to waste 2 hours on a completly pointless and confusing plot. If your into terrible acting I highly recommend it.” The movie studio wants to drum up support for this movie and definitely could use the support of a well know movie critic, so on their advertisments of this movie they quote this critic as saying, “See this movie…I highly recommend it.” Did the reviewer say these words? Technically. However it is a gross misquoting of her opinion.
The potential danger of abuse in this way is ratcheted up when one has unquestioned trust in what they are reading. Thus, a magaize like The Watchtower, whose readers treat as “food at the proper time” coming from God’s one and only organization on Earth, never would question any quotations used therein. In fact they would be thrilled to see a ‘wordly’ source confirming their view.
In subject after subject we have seen this scenario play out. I want to cover just a few that caused me the most distress. Those being – Earthquakes, the Cross, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the use of the name Jehovah in the Bible.
Jehovah’s Witnesses spend a good deal of their publication space in convincing the public and themselves that we are now living in the ‘last days’ as predicted by the Bible. An important sign of the times is the reference Jesus made when he mentioned earthquakes. (For arguments sake, just forget the fact that Jesus was speaking about the run-up to the ‘Jewish last days’ and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple) JWs will say that there has been a definite increase in the number of earthquakes since 1914, the year they say the last days began. To ‘prove’ this point you will see a quotation such as this one from the Watchtower of 1983:
“In the Italian journal Il Piccolo, of October 8, 1978, Geo Malagoli observed: “Our generation lives in a dangerous period of high seismic activity, as statistics show. In fact, during a period of 1,059 years (from 856 to 1914) reliable sources list only 24 major earthquakes causing 1,973,000 deaths. However, [in] recent disasters, we find that 1,600,000 persons have died in only 63 years, as a result of 43 earthquakes which occurred from 1915 to 1978. This dramatic increase further goes to emphasize another accepted fact-our generation is an unfortunate one in many ways.”” Watchtower 1983 May 15 p.6 Earthquakes-A Sign of the End?
What they fail to mention is that Italian magazine that they got this quote from, in turn, got its source from the Awake magazine. Here is the original source in 1977:
“Interestingly, for a period of 1,059 years (856 to 1914 C.E.), reliable sources list only 24 major earthquakes, with 1,972,952 fatalities. But compare that with the accompanying partial list citing 43 instances of earthquakes, in which 1,579,209 persons died during just the 62 years from 1915 to 1976 C.E.” Awake! 1977 Feb 22 p.11
So that were clear, this is what happened: The Awake magazine, published by JWs, said that earthquakes were on the rise. Then an Italian magazine uses the Awake info in their magazine the next year. Then the Watchtower uses that quote from the Italian publication to ‘prove’ their point. Conveniently not telling their readers that the original source came from them.
If that wasn’t bad enough, that same year the WT completly misquotes a scientist to further prove their point:
“Professor Keiiti Aki of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology speaks of “the apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years,” though stating that the period from 1500 through 1700 was as active.” Watchtower 1983 May 15 p.6
This is what they left out from the Professor’s quote:
“The apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years is, in all probability, due to improved recording of earthquakes and the increased vulnerability of human society to earthquake damage. The main reason is the well established plate tectonics which indicates a very steady fault motion over the past many millions of years.”
So the increase of earthquakes is due to better abilities to detect them, and that earthquakes in general have been pretty consistent for millions of years. These WT ‘facts’ are then used by JWs when they come knocking on people’s doors.
Every JW has seen this picture at one point, it used to be in the reference section at the back of the NWT Bible:
This picture is usually followed by a quote about how the Greek word for cross should be translated as stake or pole, for example:
“The Greek word rendered “cross” in many modern Bible versions (“torture stake” in NW) is stau·ros´. In classical Greek, this word meant merely an upright stake, or pale. Later it also came to be used for an execution stake having a crosspiece. The Imperial Bible-Dictionary acknowledges this, saying: “The Greek word for cross, [stau·ros´], properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling [fencing in] a piece of ground. . . . Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole.”-Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376.” Reasoning from the Scripturesp.89
Did you notice the elipses in the middle of the quote? It couldn’t have any bearing on this could it? Here is the full quote with the missing parts in bold:
“The Greek word for cross, (stauros), properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling (fencing in) a piece of ground. But a modification was introduced as the dominion and usages of Rome extended themselves through Greek-speaking countries. Even amongst the Romans, the crux (from which the word cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time that it began to be used as an instrument of punishment, a traverse piece of wood was commonly added: not however always then.
… There can be no doubt, however, that the later sort was the more common, and that about the period of the Gospel Age, crucifixion was usually accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood.
… But the commonest form, it is understood, was that in which the upright piece of wood was crossed by another near the top, but not pricisely at it, the upright pole running above the other, thus “a cross” and so making four, not merely two right angles. It was on a cross of this form, according to the general voice of tradition, that our Lord suffered.
… It may be added that crucifixion was abolished around the time of Constantine, in consequence of the sacred associations which the cross had now gathered around it.” The imperial Dictionary p.376
The WT quote kinda distorts things doesn’t it?
This one hurt me the most. My reputation while I was still in the organization was one that relished in debating Trinitarians. It was my favorite topic. My favorite publication of all time was the now out of print ‘Should you Believe in the Trinity?‘ brochure. So upon discovering that the topic I was most skilled at debating on was built on misquotes and downright lies I was devastated. Now, it doesnt matter for this discussion whether or not you subcribe to this doctrine. What does matter is the WT tactic of distorting information to push its agenda.
Before diving into misquotes in their literature, let me point out that the average JW does not have a good understanding of what the Trinity is. The WT likes to use a theological straw man when attacking the concept (A straw man argument is where you concoct a made up opponent or position, then attact that instead of the real issue). So when talking about the Trinity the WT will use phrases like ‘three God’s in one’ or other wordings to mock it. This completely mischaracterizes the belief of ‘three PERSONS in ONE God’. A huge difference that a JW will not notice. They will completely bypass how the Trinity doctrine works in equality and relationship, as well as ignoring the different ways different denominations explain it. Instead they will morph varying Trinitarian theology into one inaccurate straw man and then spend their energy on mocking people that believe this sketch of a belief that they have drawn.
The biggest blow for me was how they completely lie about the history of the development of the Trinity doctrine. You can do a lot of things, but don’t fuck with my love of history! Here are some of the worst lies and misquote from the above mentioned ‘Trinity‘ brochure. This handy chart shows the WT quotes side by side with the original:
After leaving the organization I discovered that my beloved ‘Trinity’ brochure is one of the most discredited publications that JWs have ever produced. Maybe that is why it is now out of print.
‘Jehovah’ in the New World Translation
JWs, like most evangelicals Christians, make a big deal about the Bible’s integrity as evidenced by quotes like these:
“Bible copyists, of course, made mistakes. But none of those mistakes corrupted the Bible. … So, has the Bible been corrupted? Emphatically, no!” Watchtower 2017 no.6 p.14
“No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines.” Reasoning from the Scriptures p.64
That’s all fine and good. A lot of Christians would agree with those words. The problem is that at the same time JWs have produced a translation of the Bible where they claim that a massive corruption of the text has taken place. They claim that sometime in the 2nd century the name Jehovah was taken out of the New Testament, though also claiming that no known manuscript exists that shows the divine name in the Greek scriptures to prove that it was ever there to begin with.
“When apostate Christians made copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures, they evidently took Jehovah’s personal name out of the text and substituted Ky′ri·os, the Greek word for “Lord.”” Watchtower 2010 Jul 1 pp.6-7
“no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books of Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full.” The Divine Name that will Endure Forever p.23
So despite NO EVIDENCE except their own assertions, they have ADDED the name Jehovah 237 times in the New Testament. The references in the back of the NWT gives the impression that the majority of those are when it is a quote from the Old Testament, but when you break down the numbers it tells a different story. Of the 237 times they added the name Jehovah, only 76 times was it because it was a quote from the Hebrew scriptures. 78 times was because it was merely referencing a Hebrew passage, not a quotation. 83 times it was added with no support at all from the Old Testament.
They will also claim that by adding the divine name they are merely restoring it to its proper place, and not changing the meaning of the text. Lets take a look at just one example to expose that claim.
Romans 10:13 in the NWT says: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved”. If you have been paying attention so far you will know that ‘Jehovah’ here was inserted instead for the Greek word ‘kyrios’ which is translated as Lord. Just prior to this in verse 9 says that “Jesus is Lord (kyrios)”. Therefore verse 13 is clearly talking about Jesus and says that he is the requirement for salvation. But by inserting the name Jehovah here JWs greatly distort the scriptures and can then make the claim that only they will gain Salvation as they alone use the name Jehovah:
“We stand now at the brink of the greatest tribulation of all, when Jehovah’s storm wind will sweep wickedness from the face of this earth, clearing the way for a paradise of eternal peace. Will you be one who “calls on the name of Jehovah” in faithfulness? If so, rejoice! You have God’s own promise that you will be saved.-Romans 10:13.” Watchtower 1997 Dec 15 p.21
Side point about the Trinity here: Romams 10:13 is a reference to Joel 2:32 which says pretty much the same thing, except that it does use the divine name there (Jehovah/Yahweh). What is interesting is that Paul in Romans chapter 10 applies this verse to Jesus as shown by the context.
In closing, whatever you religous beliefs are, these things are to important to leave to other people to decide for you. Do your own homework. Check and recheck your facts, always being mindful that all humans and organizations have biases. As Psalms 146:3 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, who cannot bring Salvation.”