[First appearing on April 28 of this year, I’ve republished (with updates) this post because this is the week we actually study this particular Watchtower article. – MV]
It appears that the sole purpose of this, the third study article in the July 15, 2013 The Watchtower is to establish the premise for the new understanding put forward in the final article in this issue. If you have already read the magazine’s study articles, you will know that we are now taught that the eight members of the Governing Body make up the faithful steward in its entirety. How do we know that Jesus was referring to such a small number of men when speaking of a faithful slave whom he appoints to feed the domestics? The reasoning, as laid out in this third study article, is that he set the precedent for this arrangement by the way he performed a particular miracle, the feeding of thousands using only a few fishes and loaves of bread. His disciples did the feeding.
The article will now make the point that Jesus performed this miracle so that he could show how the feeding of his sheep would take place two thousand years in the future.
This is the fallacy of circular reasoning combined with the weak analogy fallacy. The article’s conclusion needs scriptural support, but there is nothing declared in Scripture to support the idea of a central committee feeding millions of followers. So the writer has found a miracle which, among its many components, has the element of a few feeding many. Presto, bingo! We have proof.
Having found his analogy, the writer would have us believe that Jesus performed this miracle to teach us that some 2,000 years in the future this is how his disciples would be taught. The reason Jesus himself gives for performing this miracle is to care for the physical needs of his listeners. It is an example of his superlative loving kindness, not a object lesson on how the sheep are to be taught. He did refer back to this on one other occasion to teach an object lesson, but the lesson had to do with the power of faith, not how to feed the flock. (Mat. 16:8,9)
Nevertheless, the fact is that the eight men of the Governing Body feed the millions of Witnesses worldwide, therefore, this miracle must support this reality. And since there is such a miracle, then the modern-day feeding must be supported in Scripture. You see? Circular logic.
Fair enough. But does even our analogy, such as it is, work in actuality? Let’s run the numbers. He gave the food to his disciples to distribute. Who were the disciples? The apostles, right? The trouble is, the math doesn’t work if we leave it as that. Factoring in women and children—since only men were counted in those days—we are conservatively talking about some 15,000 individuals. That many people would cover a number of acres of land. It would take many hours for only 12 men to carry that much food if each one was responsible for feeding well over 1,000 persons. Just imagine walking the length of a football field enough times to provide food for an assembly hall full of people and you have some idea of the task before them.
Jesus had more than 12 disciples. At one point, he sent 70 out preaching. Women were also counted as part of the group of his disciples. (Luke 10:1; 23:27) The fact they divided the crowd into groups of 50 and 100, indicates the likelihood that one disciple was assigned to each group. We are probably talking about a couple of hundred disciples. However, that doesn’t fit with the point the article is trying to make, so the illustrations in the magazine only depict two disciples.
This is all academic in any case. The real question is: Was Jesus performing this miracle to teach us something about the way the faithful and discreet slave would be structured? Seems like a leap in logic, particularly so since he makes no connection between the miracle and the parable in question.
The reason he performed miracles, as we’ve been told on numerous occasions, was to establish himself as the Son of God and give a foregleam of what his eventual Kingship would accomplish.
It seems we are once again reaching for some imagined prophetic parallel to try to bolster an interpretation of Scripture not otherwise evident in the inspired record, supporting it with a very weak analogy and a good deal of circular reasoning.
Paragraphs 5 through 7 speak of the choosing of the 12 apostles who were given “an office of oversight” and told to ‘feed Jesus’ little sheep’. Jesus did this just days before departing for good, just as the parable of the faithful and discreet slave depicts. (Mt. 24:45-47) However, we will be told in the next article that the apostles never constituted that faithful slave. In paragraphs 8 and 9 we show how just as a few fed many with the fishes and loaves, so the few apostles fed many following Pentecost.
“Let the Reader Use Discernment”
This is where we have to be careful and use our powers of discernment. For the analogy to work in support of our new understanding, the apostles and their replacements (the few) will have to continue feeding the many throughout the first century. Only if that is the case will this prophetic type serve as support for our modern-day antitype of the Governing Body feeding the worldwide congregation.
So what really happened in the first century? The few, the 12 apostles, trained thousands of newly converted men and women and eventually sent them on their way back to their homes. Did the apostles continue to feed them after that? No. How could they? Who fed the Ethiopian eunuch, for instance? Not the apostles, but one man, Philip. And who directed Philip to the eunuch? Not the apostles, but an angel of the Lord. (Acts 8:26-40)
How was new food and new understanding dispensed to the faithful in those days? Jehovah, through his son Jesus, used male and female prophets to instruct the congregations. (Acts 2:17; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9)
The way this works—the way it has always worked—is that a few with the knowledge train many others. Eventually, the many go forth with their newfound knowledge and train many more, who go forth and train still more. And so it goes. Not just with the Good News, but in any intellectual endeavor, this is how information is disseminated.
Now in paragraph 10 we are told that “Christ used this small group of qualified men to settle doctrinal issues and to oversee and direct the preaching and teaching of the Kingdom good news.”
This is the pivotal paragraph. It is the paragraph where we establish the crux of the argument that a few (the Governing Body) feeds the many, the worldwide brotherhood. We state categorically that:
- There was a first century governing body.
- It was comprised of a small group of qualified men.
- It settled doctrinal issues for the congregation.
- It oversaw and directed the preaching work.
- It oversaw and directed the teaching work.
For proof of the foregoing, we offer up three Scriptural references: Acts 15:6-29; 16:4,5; 21:17-19.
Acts 15:6-29 relates the case involving the circumcision issue. This is the only time in the Bible that the apostles and older men of Jerusalem are consulted over a doctrinal issue. Does this single incident prove the existence of a first century governing body that performed all the aforementioned duties? Hardly. In fact, the reason Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem was because the dispute in question originated from there. Why were certain men from Judea promoting circumcision of the gentiles? Is this evidence of the direction and oversight of a first century governing body? Obviously, the only way to stop this false teaching was to go to the source. This isn’t to say that the congregations didn’t respect the older men and apostles in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, it is a big, unsupported leap of logic to conclude that this implies a first century equivalent to our modern Governing Body.
Next, Acts 16:4,5 is provided as proof of their directing the work. What is relayed there is the fact that Paul, having received a letter from the apostles and older men of Jerusalem, was carrying it to the gentile Christians in his travels. Of course, he would do this. This was the letter that ended the dispute over circumcision. So we are still dealing with the one issue. There’s nothing in the Greek Scriptures indicating this was common practice.
Finally, Acts 21:17-19 speaks of Paul giving a report to the apostles and older men. Why wouldn’t he do this. Since the work originated there, they would want to know how things were progressing. It is likely he reported on the activities of other congregations each time he visited a congregation in a new city. How would making a report constitute proof of all we claim?
What does the Bible record really teach about that meeting with the supposed governing body? Here is the account. Do we see evidence of Paul addressing a small body of qualified men as depicted by the illustration on page 19?
(Acts 15:6) …And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair.
(Acts 15:12, 13) …At that the entire multitude became silent, and they began to listen to Barnabas and Paul relate the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations.
(Acts 15:22) …Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was called Barsabbas and Silas, leading men among the brothers;
“The entire multitude”? The “older men together with the whole congregation”? Where is the scripture that supports the artist’s conception on page 19?
What about the claim they oversaw and directed the preaching and teaching work?
We’ve already seen that Jehovah used prophets and prophetesses in the congregations. There were other gifts as well, gifts of teaching, of speaking in tongues and of translating. (1 Cor. 12:27-30) The evidence is that the angels were directing and overseeing the work directly.
(Acts 16:6-10) Moreover, they went through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the [district of] Asia. 7 Further, when getting down to Mysia they made efforts to go into Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus did not permit them. 8 So they passed Mysia by and came down to Troas. 9 And during the night a vision appeared to Paul: a certain Macedonian man was standing and entreating him and saying: “Step over into Macedonia and help us.” 10?Now as soon as he had seen the vision, we sought to go forth into Mac·e·do?ni·a, drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them.
If there indeed were such a body overseeing and directing the work, why were they not in the loop when Paul was commissioned to preach the good news to the nations.
(Galatians 1:15-19) …But when God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called [me] through his undeserved kindness, thought good 16 to reveal his Son in connection with me, that I might declare the good news about him to the nations, I did not go at once into conference with flesh and blood. 17 Neither did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles previous to me, but I went off into Arabia, and I came back again to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 But I saw no one else of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.
If there was, as we declare, a body of older men and apostles in Jerusalem overseeing and directing the preaching and teaching, then it would have been improper for Paul to have deliberately avoided going “into conference with flesh and blood”.
A hundred years from now, a survivor of Armageddon could look at any of our modern publications and have no doubt about the existence of a Governing Body directing the preaching and teaching work. Why then is there no such evidence in the Greek Scriptures supporting our contention that a first century counterpart to this modern body existed?
It is beginning to look like we have created a fiction in an effort to shore up the authority of our Governing Body.
But there is more. Paragraphs 16 to 18 sum everything up, laying the foundation for what is to come in the final article.
- Russell and the pre-1914 Bible Students were not “the appointed channel through which Christ would feed his sheep”, because they were still in the growing season.
- The harvest season began in 1914.
- From 1914 to 1919 Jesus inspected and cleansed the temple.
- In 1919, the angels began to gather the wheat.
- Jesus appointed “a channel to give out spiritual “food at the proper time” during the time of the end—after 1919.
- He would do this using the pattern of feeding the many through the few.
Take these six points. Now think how you would prove them to someone you might meet out in service. What scriptures would you use to prove any of this? Is it not true that all these “doctrinal truths” are really just unfounded assertions which we accept because we are trained to accept anything from the Governing Body as if it were the very word of God?
Let us not be that way. As were the ancient Beroeans, so are we.
Four prophecies are intertwined in this interpretation.
- The seven times of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness.
- Malachi’s messenger of the covenant.
- The parable of the wheat and weeds.
- The parable of the faithful steward.
For number 1 to work in support of 1914, we have to accept eleven distinct and unproven assumptions. For number 2 to work, we have to assume that it has a secondary application and that said application took five years to achieve fulfillment—from 1914 to 1919. We also have to assume that number 2’s fulfillment is linked with that of number 1, even though there is no evidence of this connection in the Bible. For number 3 to work, we have to assume it is linked to numbers 1 and 2. For number 4 to work, we have to assume it is linked to numbers 1, 2, and 3.
What is of interest is that neither Jesus nor any Bible writer makes any connection whatsoever between these four prophecies. Yet not only do we link them all together, but we also tie them to the prophetically unsupported year of 1919.
An honest examination of the facts will force us to admit that the entire interpretation is based on nothing but assumptions. There is no historical evidence that Jesus spent five years from 1914 to 1919 inspecting his spiritual temple. There is no historical evidence that the wheat began to be harvested in 1919. There is no more evidence that he didn’t choose Russell prior to 1914 as his appointed channel of communication than there is that he did choose Rutherford in that capacity after 1919.
As those who worship “in spirit and truth”, are we being loyal to our master by accepting human speculation as Bible truth?