[This article was contributed by Apollos]
“However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1)
Quite evidently Christians need to avoid spiritism and demonism. It may sound like an almost puerile question, but why exactly is this? According to God’s Word quoted above they can promote their own “misleading inspired utterances and teachings”. This may not be the only reason to avoid spiritism, but it is certainly a primary one.
Gal 1:6-9 tells us that a different “good news” beyond that preached by the Apostle Paul could appear to come as if from an “angel out of heaven”, and that we should reject it.
“Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” (2 Cor 11:14)
It was some years ago that I read Jon Krakauer’s excellent and chilling true tale of Mormon fundamentalism – “Under the Banner of Heaven”. I had previously been unaware of the historical details of how Joseph Smith was supposed to have received the “Book of Mormon”, and I found it shocking that any LDS adherent could be aware of these details and remain a believer. If a message from an “angel” is provided in Egyptian hieroglyphics and needs to be deciphered using special crystals, you would think that any Bible student would quickly call to mind Galatians chapter 1 and that would be an end to the matter.
The Mormons with whom I have subsequently spoken with about this, seemed fully aware of it, were highly uncomfortable about it, and exhibited a strong preference for discussing something else.
More recently I have realized that it is all too easy to accuse others of brushing evidence under the carpet, and yet be guilty of the same ourselves. It seems obvious from the outside that the foundation of the LDS is based on “misleading inspired utterances”, but how willing are we to examine our own foundation?
2 Thessalonians 2:1,2 highlights one specific “inspired expression” that Christians should be alert to – the declaration that the parousia of Christ has already begun, when in fact it is still a future expectation.
C.T. Russell evidently decided that this warning did not apply to him, and declared that the parousia of Christ had begun at a time in the 19th century that is now known to have been premature, even by JW’s themselves.
Both this doctrine and the pivotal date of 1914 on which Witnesses now rest their faith is well known to have been partly supported by Egyptian pyramidology. And yet, as with the Mormons it is so long in the past that the issue is now either avoided entirely, or made light of. The problem is that the 1914 doctrine still exists, just as the Book of Mormon still exists, even if some of the surrounding beliefs have been modified. And so we might ask ourselves whether such avoidance of the topic is appropriate. The man who is credited as the founder of our modern day movement took an unusual interest in Egyptology to the point of basing doctrine on it, during a time when Western interest in spiritism was at an unusual height. Why then should we have less concern about our roots than a Mormon? Surely all the more so if that doctrine still exists in some form today.
This is not the only evidence of Egyptology in our roots. The image of the winged sun disk featured prominently on the first volume of “Studies in the Scriptures”. It represents the Egyptian deity Horus.
The memorial created by the society after Russell’s death was a marble pyramid, decorated with signs associated with occult societies.
Astrology also featured in the Watchtower 1st May 1903 pg 3184, again being used in support of 1914.
The believers will say that we’ve moved on, and the cleansing that the organization received prior to the claimed appointment of the slave in 1919 saw an end to the spiritistic elements. It would certainly be nice to think so, but what do the facts indicate?
In 1924 a book with the title “Angels and Women” was promoted through the society’s “Golden Age” magazine. This book was a revision of the 1878 book “Seola” by Mrs J.G. Smith.
According to the Golden Age magazine “Pastor Russell read [Seola] with keen interest, and requested some of his friends to read it”. It went on to say “We call attention to this book because we believe it will be of interest to Bible Students.” It also offered as its aim the avoidance of “the baneful effects of spiritism, now so prevalent in the world.”
Some claim that Mrs Smith received the text of Seola through automatic writing or channelling from a spirit. I don’t believe that this can be proved with the documentation available today.
What is of note however, is what the foreword of the promoted revised book has to say:
“The reviser of this book is of the opinion that the original manuscript was dictated to the woman who wrote it by one of the fallen angels who desired to return to divine favor”. (Angels and Women, pg 5)
In a following issue of the Golden Age a reader’s letter was published expressing concerns over this. The reader was “approached about going into a club” to get the book (this is because a discount was being offered to readers of the Golden Age if they would buy ten or more). She had heard that the book was “dictated to a woman” by “a fallen angel”, but that “Pastor Russell approved the book”. Understandably concerned, and probably a little confused, she wrote “as we are to shun anything akin to spiritism I should like to know positively whether the book has your approval before buying one”.
The response, evidently from Rutherford, reiterated that the book has been revised under the supervision of Pastor Russell. He then went on to deal with the concern by writing:
“As to its being a violation of the Vow to read this book, such an idea is not worthy of consideration. It would be no more wrong to read it than to read ‘What Say the Scriptures about Spiritism’ or ‘Talking with the Dead’; for both these books quote much as to what the evil spirits do.” (Golden Age Dec 3, 1924, pg 150-151)
The justification given for reading the book was that “it helps one to better understand the devil’s organization.”
Regardless of how the book was actually inspired or transmitted, this exchange is most revealing, for it indicates that the idea of reading something dictated from the spirit realm, even if from a demon, was not necessarily something to be avoided according to Rutherford.
Well perhaps that could be rationalized as a lapse in judgement if it ended there. After all Rutherford is basically saying that we are just getting insight into their world, not that we would actually get guidance from those sources.
This really brings us to the heart of this article. In Meleti’s recent article “Orphans” he has highlighted that the period of Rutherford’s presidency, especially during the 1930’s was a pivotal period for the organization. It was during this time that Rutherford built up to, and implemented, the doctrine that the majority of Christians “could not aspire to be God’s sons, but only friends”. From where did this idea come? It is not found in the Christian Greek scriptures. Therefore we must already acknowledge that it is “another sort of good news” in contrast with that taught by the apostle Paul (Gal 1:6).
There are really only three possibilities:
1) It was a new revelation from God.
2) It was “a misleading inspired utterance” based upon “teachings of demons”.
3) It was a human invention.
In other articles we have extensively investigated and discussed the scriptural basis for these beliefs. Not only is such a basis lacking, but it is clear that certain scriptures must be misapplied in order to support the doctrine.
“However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond the good news we declared to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)
Since we are here clearly told not to accept “something beyond the good news” that Paul declared, and elsewhere not to “go beyond the things written” (1 Cor 4:6), it seems difficult to imagine that Jehovah would make a private revelation that is in conflict with passages in His Word. Therefore unless there is something I am missing, we can rule out option #1.
Option #3 is a viable choice, and no doubt those of us who have ruled out #1 would prefer to believe that this is the case.
Nevertheless in view of the foregoing information it behooves us to at least examine whether #2 is possible.
First let us consider the correct channel of enlightenment according to our Lord:
“But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” (John 14:26)
“However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.” (John 16:13,14)
Very clearly Jesus said that the holy spirit would be the guiding force in teaching Christians. This evidently began at Pentecost 33 C.E. There would appear to be no scripture indicating that this arrangement would change before the end of the Christian era.
Rutherford however, thought differently. In the Watchtower of September 1st 1930 he released an article entitled “Holy Spirit”. John 14:26 (quoted above) was used as the theme scripture. The article starts off well enough, describing the role of the holy spirit in pre-Christian times and then how it would act as advocate and comforter for Jesus’ followers once he was no longer with them in person. But from paragraph 24 the article takes a sharp turn. From here Rutherford claims that once Jesus had come to his temple and gathered his chosen ones (an event that supposedly had already occurred according to Rutherford) then “the advocacy of the holy spirit would there cease”. He continued:
“It would seem there would be no necessity for the ‘servant’ to have an advocate such as the holy spirit because the ‘servant’ is in direct communication with Jehovah and as Jehovah’s instrument, and Christ Jesus acts for the entire body.” (Watchtower Sept 1st 1930 pg 263)
Next he moves on to the role of angels.
“When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne.” (Matt 25:31)
Since Rutherford interpreted this scripture as already having been fulfilled (a doctrine that would mislead the organization for decades), he used it to support his view of the role of angels at the time.
“If the holy spirit as a helper were directing the work, then there would be no good reason for employing the angels … the Scriptures seem clearly to teach that the Lord directs his angels what to do and they act under the supervision of the Lord in directing the remnant on earth concerning the course of action to take.” (Watchtower Sept 1st 1930 pg 263)
Rutherford therefore believed that the bridge between God, his Son and himself was no longer the holy spirit as helper, but rather direction from angelic messengers. We must ask why he would think this unless he personally felt that he was being communicated to in such a way. To publish this in 1930 would have meant that he felt that such communication had been in operation for over a decade. The passage of scripture cited in support of the claim that “the Scriptures seem clearly to teach” this is Rev 8:1-7. Bearing in mind that Rutherford believed that the seven angels blowing the trumpets were being fulfilled through his own declarations and resolutions at conventions, it would seem that he was convinced that he was receiving this information directly from spirit creatures.
The 1931 book “Vindication” bears this out:
“These invisible ones the Lord uses to put in the hand of his ‘faithful servant’ class, that is, the man clothed with linen, the fiery message of his Word, or judgements written, and which is to be used as directed. The resolutions adopted by conventions of God’s anointed people, booklets, magazines, and books published by them, contain the message of God’s truth and are from the Lord Jehovah and provided by him through Christ Jesus and his under-officers.” (Vindication, 1931, pg 120; also published in Watchtower May 1st, 1938 pg 143)
That in itself is surely cause for concern, unless of course you also believe that God really did have the angels communicate new truths directly to Rutherford..
He certainly didn’t lose his conviction that the angels were communicating with him.
“Zechariah talked with the angel of the Lord which shows that the remnant are instructed by the angels of the Lord” (Preparation, 1933, pg 64)
“God uses angels to teach His people now on the earth.” (Golden Age, Nov 8th 1933, pg 69)
It is of note that Rutherford claims that those in the organization “were able to see afar off” from 1918 onwards as a result of this communication, while others outside of the organization were in darkness.
We won’t dwell on all of Rutherford’s failed predictions from that period of time right now. But it seems apparent that if angels truly were communicating Jehovah’s Word directly to Rutherford and the remnant then something must have gotten lost in translation. The main point is that he himself was convinced that this is what was going on.
During the same time period Rutherford was aware of the dangers associated with communication from angels.
“At once this suggests that the wicked angels have had direct communication with and influence over the rulers of the earth” (The Final War, 1932, pg 24)
If Rutherford believed that he was also being communicated to by angels, would not all his failed predictions between 1918 and this time have given him pause for thought as to what side those angels were batting for?
Later, as we will see, the publications appealed to the works of a man named Johannes Greber – a Roman Catholic priest who became convinced that spiritism in and of itself was not wrong. It was simply a matter of which spirits you communicated with. In his view the Bible only warns against communication with the wrong spirits. His 1932 book “Communication with the Spirit World Its Laws and Purpose” contains chilling information from a Christian perspective. Greber narrates his own experiences transitioning from anti-spiritist to a full acceptance of communication with the “good spirits”. What is particularly of note is that much of what is passed down to Greber sounds very “Christian” in its nature. Knowing that “Satan himself keeps disguising himself as an angel of light”, this is hardly surprising. Hence the warnings by the Apostle Paul – “even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you …” (Gal 1:8)
Clearly if wicked spirits are to pass on a message to one who considers himself or herself a Christian, it would be counterproductive to try to sell one that is completely at odds with God’s Word of truth. How much better to appeal to God’s Word itself, just as Satan did when tempting Jesus in the wilderness, but twist the meaning to pervert the message? (Matt 4:6)
In part Greber’s communication with the spirits builds up to the teaching that when Jesus said he would send “the spirit of the truth” (that we know to be the holy spirit), he actually meant “the spirits of truth” and was referring to spirit creatures that would communicate God’s message. Thus the holy spirit becomes replaced with actual spirit creatures. Does that sound familiar?
The reason that our publications later appealed to Greber’s writings was that the same spirit communication also put Greber straight on the matter of the divinity of Christ Jesus. Hence when Greber produced his own Bible translation in 1937 he rendered John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”. When the New World Translation was released the same wording was used. It is noteworthy that this was the same time period when the society dropped the idea that worship should be rendered to Jehovah God and His Son Christ Jesus, and an alternative translation of proskuneo was employed whenever it was used in reference to Jesus by replacing “worship” with “obeisance”.
Some brothers and sisters may even be unaware that such a shift took place, or that this view of Jesus ever existed. The relative worship of Jesus Christ was something that Russell believed in, and continued right up to the release of the New World Translation. Here are some quotations from our publications leading up to that time:
“the princes will lead the people in their worship of Jehovah and of Christ.” (Vindication, 1932, pg.295)
“Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus because Christ Jesus is the express image of his Father” (Watchtower Nov 15th 1939 p.339)
“The people of all nations who obtain salvation … must believe on and worship Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus Christ, his chief instrument” (Phil 2:10, 11).” (Salvation, 1939, pg151)
“Whosoever would worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus, his Co-regent on the throne of The Theocracy.” (Watchtower Oct 15th 1945 pg 313)
Suddenly, as the NWT was released, the idea of worshipping Jesus Chris was declared as idolatry. I don’t want to divert this article into discussing the rights and wrongs of both positions. I am merely highlighting the influences of the period and the effect that it had.
The appeal to Greber’s translation featured in the 1965 publication “Make Sure of All Things”. With reference to John 1:1 it says on pg 489: “Modern translations and Greek grammar make the meaning clear”. It then quotes the AT, “the Word was divine”, followed by Johannes Greber’s version – “a god”, and the New World Translation with the same.
This could be excused as a lack of knowledge as to what Greber was all about, except that a decade earlier the Watchtower had already acknowledged that Greber was a spiritist.
“It comes as no surprise that one Johannes Greber, a former Catholic clergyman, has become a spiritualist and has published the book entitled “Communication with the Spirit World, Its laws and Its Purpose.” (Watchtower 1st Oct 1955, pg 603)
Okay, so perhaps they didn’t know it was the same Greber. Not so I’m afraid.
“Says Johannes Greber in the introduction of his translation of The New Testament, copyrighted in 1937: ‘I myself was a Catholic priest, and until I was forty-eight years old had never as much as believed in the possibility of communicating with the world of God’s spirits. The day came, however, when I involuntarily took my first step toward such communication, and experienced things that shook me to the depths of my soul.’… In the Foreword of his aforementioned book ex-priest Greber says: ‘The most significant spiritualistic book is the Bible.’ Under this impression Greber endeavors to make his New Testament translation read very spiritualistic.
“Spiritualism claims that there are good spirits and bad spirits and that it does not want to have anything to do with the bad spirits but tries to communicate only with the good spirits… Very plainly the spirits in which ex-priest Greber believes helped him in his translation.” (Watchtower 15th Feb, 1956. Emphasis mine)
How then was it that in 1962 Greber’s translation could be used as support for the NWT rendering of John 1:1?
“But most controversial of all is the following reading of John 1:1, 2: ‘The Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This Word was in the beginning with God.’ This reading is found in The New Testament in An Improved Version, published in London, England, in 1808. Similar is the reading by a former Roman Catholic priest: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.’” Ftn: “The New Testament—A New Translation and Explanation Based on the Oldest Manuscripts, by Johannes Greber (a translation from German into English), edition of 1937, the front cover of this bound translation being stamped with a golden cross.” (Watchtower 15th Sept 1962, pg 554)
[Why they would want to draw attention to the cross when using this translation as support is a bit of a mystery]
As if this wasn’t enough Greber’s translation is quoted as an authority again in 1975:
“Without wresting the Greek grammar, a translator can render Matthew 27:52, 53 in a way that suggests that a similar exposing of corpses resulted from the earthquake occurring at Jesus’ death. Thus the translation by Johannes Greber (1937) renders these verses: ‘Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.‘” (Watchtower 15th Oct 1975, pg 640; also repeated in WT 15th April 1976, pg 231)
Then finally in 1983, a full 28 years after first acknowledging that Greber’s translation was a spiritistic work, the following statement was made in a Questions from Readers article, which asked why Greber’s work was no longer being used.
“This translation was used occasionally in support of renderings of Matthew 27:52, 53 and John 1:1, as given in the New World Translation and other authoritative Bible versions. But as indicated in a foreword to the 1980 edition of The New Testament by Johannes Greber, this translator relied on ‘God’s Spirit World’ to clarify for him how he should translate difficult passages. It is stated: ‘His wife, a medium of God’s Spiritworld was often instrumental in conveying the correct answers from God’s Messengers to Pastor Greber.’ The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) The scholarship that forms the basis for the rendering of the above-cited texts in the New World Translation is sound and for this reason does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority. Nothing is lost, therefore, by ceasing to use his New Testament.” (Watchtower 1st April 1983, pg 31)
Hmm. This information was first known and published in 1955, and yet somehow there had been no issue in using it as an authority until 1983. To says that the NWT “does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority”, is interesting because it implies that some people might have such an impression. Looking at the foregoing history, it would hardly be surprising for a person to make such a connection.
It would be good to say that there the story ends. That the idea of truths being passed by spirits, rather than God’s holy spirit, would be forever done away with.
Even if that were true, we would still have to consider the legacy that we are left with. Pretty much every teaching that has been examined on this site and found to be Scripturally wanting, has stemmed from this era in which the leaders of the organization claimed to be receiving their direction from spirits.
Furthermore consider this very recent quotation from 2007:
“Can we say more precisely when the first resurrection begins? An interesting clue is found at Revelation 7:9-15, where the apostle John describes his vision of ‘a great crowd, which no man was able to number.’ The identity of that great crowd is revealed to John by one of the 24 elders, and these elders represent the 144,000 joint heirs with Christ in their heavenly glory. (Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 4:4) John himself had a heavenly hope; but since he was still a man on earth when the elder spoke to him, in the vision John must represent anointed ones on earth who have not yet received their heavenly reward.
What, then, can we deduce from the fact that one of the 24 elders identifies the great crowd to John? It seems that resurrected ones of the 24-elders group may be involved in the communicating of divine truths today. Why is that important? Because the correct identity of the great crowd was revealed to God’s anointed servants on earth in 1935. If one of the 24 elders was used to convey that important truth, he would have had to be resurrected to heaven by 1935 at the latest. That would indicate that the first resurrection began sometime between 1914 and 1935.” (Watchtower 1st January 2007, pg 27-28)
This is an echo of something published back in the “Finished Mystery” in 1917:
“though Pastor Russell has passed beyond the veil, he is still managing every aspect of the harvest work” (pg 144).
This goes beyond the idea of spirit communication with good or bad angels. What is being expressed here is communication received from humans who have died. The idea that the first resurrection had already occurred in that time period is based upon nothing that holds any water in scripture. It fits the same category as Rutherford’s belief that the arrival of Jesus with his angels in Matt 25:31 had already occurred. It is part of a huge framework of error, all connected to the unshakable belief in a 1914 parousia. And like the warnings against a premature belief in the parousia (Matt 24:23-27; 2 Thes 2:1,2), Paul also warned against a premature belief in the resurrection. That was the deviation “from the truth” that Hymanaeus and Philetus “spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:17,18).
These warnings were not without reason. We can see that both of these beliefs have directly led to conclusions that spirit communication in the present time period is not necessarily objectionable. That being the case we must seriously consider Paul’s words highlighted at the outset.
“However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to YOU as good news something beyond what we declared to YOU as good news, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)
If we find that our doctrines differ from what we clearly find in God’s Word, even if those teachings have now been established for decades, we would do well to “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God” (1 John 4:1). The reason? “… because many false prophets have gone forth into the world”. Sadly the organization has had a long track record of making unfulfilled prophecies, and despite the attempted defense against the “false prophets” accusation, making prophecies that do not come true is the scriptural definition of a false prophet (Deut 18:21,22).
If those things truly were conveyed by spirits we can surely only draw one conclusion. They were not God’s faithful angels.
On a recent jw.org video about memorabilia from our “rich spiritual heritage”, a Governing Body member concluded with the quote “we cannot know where we are going unless we know where we have come from”. I concur.
 Communication with the Spirit World Its Laws and Purpose, Johannes Greber, pg 341