The May 1, 2014 public edition of the Watchtower asks this question as the title of its third article. A secondary question in the table of contents asks, “If they do, why don’t they call themselves Jesus’ witnesses?” The second question is never really answered in the article, and oddly, it is not to be found in the printed version, only the on-line one.
The article is presented in the form of a dialogue between a publisher named Anthony and his return visit, Tim. Unfortunately, Tim is not terribly well prepared so as to test the inspired expression. (1 John 4:1) If he were, the conversation might have gone a little differently. It might’ve gone like this:
Tim: The other day, I was speaking with a coworker. I told him about the pamphlets you gave me and how interesting they are. But he said that I shouldn’t read them because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Jesus. Is that true?
Anthony: Well, I’m glad you asked me. It’s good that you’re going straight to the source. After all what better way is there to find out what a person believes then to ask him yourself?
Tim: One would think so.
Anthony: The truth is that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus very much. In fact, we believe that only by exercising faith in Jesus can we attain to salvation. Notice what John 3:16 says: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”
Tim: If that’s the case, then why don’t you call yourself Jesus’ Witnesses?
Anthony: The fact is we imitate Jesus who made it his goal to make known the name of God. For instance at John 17:26 we read, “I have made your name known to them and will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.”
Tim: Are you saying that the Jews didn’t know God’s name?
Anthony: It seems that in those days people had stopped using the name of Jehovah out of superstition. It was considered blasphemous to use the name of Jehovah.
Tim: If that’s the case, why didn’t the Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy because he used God’s name? They wouldn’t have missed out on an opportunity like that, would they have?
Anthony: I don’t really know about that. But it’s very clear that Jesus made his name known to them.
Tim: But if they already knew God’s name, he didn’t need to tell them what it was. You’re saying they did know his name but were afraid to use it, so surely they would have complain about Jesus breaking their tradition with regard to God’s name, right? But there’s nothing in the New Testament where they accuse him of that. So why do you believe that was the case.
Anthony: Well, it must be something like that, because the publications have taught us that and those brothers do a lot of research. Anyways, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that Jesus helped them to understand what God’s name represented. For example in Acts 2:21 we read, “Everyone who calls the name of Jehovah will be saved.”
Tim: That’s odd, in my Bible it says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” In the New Testament, when it uses Lord, isn’t it referring to Jesus?
Anthony: Yes for the most part, but in this case, it refers to Jehovah. You see, the writer is referring to a quote from the book of Joel.
Tim: Are you sure about that? In Joel’s time, they didn’t know about Jesus, so they would use Jehovah. Maybe the writer of Acts is just showing his readers that there is a new truth. Isn’t that what you Jehovah’s Witnesses call it. New truth or new light? ‘The light gets brighter’, and all that? Maybe this is just the light getting brighter in the New Testament.
Anthony: No, it’s not the light getting brighter. The writer said “Jehovah”, not Lord.
Tim: But how do you know that for sure?
Anthony: Will we’re pretty sure he did, but God’s name was removed from the Christian Greek Scriptures by superstitious copyists in the second and third centuries.
Tim: How do you know this?
Anthony: It has been explained to us in the Watchtower. Besides, does it make sense that Jesus wouldn’t use God’s name.
Tim: I don’t use my father’s name. Does that make sense?
Anthony: You’re just being difficult.
Tim: I’m just trying to reason this out. You told me that God’s name appears almost 7,000 times in the Old Testament, right? So if God could preserve his name in the Old Testament, why not in the New. Surely he’s capable of that.
Anthony: He left it to us to restore it, which we’ve done in almost 300 places in the New World Translation.
Tim: Based on what?
Anthony: The ancient manuscripts. You can see the references in the old NWT. They’re called J references.
Tim: I already looked those up. Those J references you talk about are to other translations. Not to original manuscripts.
Anthony: Are you sure. I don’t think so.
Tim: Look it up for yourself.
Anthony: I will.
Tim: I just don’t get it Anthony. I did a count and found seven different places in the book of Revelation where Christians as called witnesses of Jesus. I couldn’t find even one where Christians are called witnesses of Jehovah.
Anthony: That’s because we take our name from Isaiah 43:10.
Tim: Were there Christians in the time of Isaiah?
Anthony: No, course not. But the Israelites were Jehovah’s people and so are we.
Tim: Yes, but after Jesus came, didn’t things change? After all, doesn’t the name Christian refer to a follower of Christ? So if you follow him, aren’t you bearing witness about him?
Anthony: Of course we bear witness about him, but he bore witness about God’s name and so we do the same.
Tim: Is that what Jesus told you to do, preach the name of Jehovah? Did he command you to make known God’s name?
Anthony: Sure, he is Almighty God after all. Shouldn’t we emphasize him more than anyone else.
Tim: Can you show me that in Scripture? Where Jesus tells his followers to bear witness about God’s name?
Anthony: I’ll have to do some research and get back to you.
Tim: I mean no offense, but you’ve shown me in your visits that you know the Bible very well. Given that the name you’ve adopted is “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, I would think that the scriptures were Jesus is telling his followers to bear witness to the name of God would be at your fingertips.
Anthony: Like I said, I’ll have to do some research.
Tim: Could it be that what Jesus told his disciples to do was to make his name known? Could that be what Jehovah wanted. After all, Jesus said that “it is my Father that glorifies me”. Maybe we should be doing the same thing. (John 8:54)
Anthony: Oh, but we do. It’s just that we give more glory to God, as Jesus did.
Tim: But isn’t the way to give glory to God by promoting the name of Jesus? Isn’t that what the Christians in the first century did?
Anthony: No, they made known the name of Jehovah, just like Jesus did.
Tim: So how do you account for what it says in Acts 19:17?
Anthony: Let me look that up: “…This became known to all, both the Jews and the Greeks that dwelt in Eph′e·sus; and a fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus went on being magnified.” I see your point, but really, being called Jehovah’s Witnesses doesn’t mean we don’t magnify the name of Jesus. We do.
Tim: Okay, but you still haven’t answered the question of why we are not called Jesus’ Witnesses. Revelation 1:9 says that John was imprisoned for “bearing witness to Jesus”; and Revelation 17:6 talks about Christians being killed for being witnesses of Jesus; and Revelation 19:10 says that “bearing witness to Jesus inspires prophesying”. Most important of all, Jesus himself commanded us to be witnesses of him “to the most distant part of the earth.” Since you have this command, and since there is nothing like these verses telling you to bear witness to Jehovah, why don’t you call yourselves Jesus’ Witnesses?
Anthony: Jesus wasn’t telling us to call ourselves by that name. He was telling us to do the work of bearing witness. We chose the name Jehovah’s Witnesses because all other religions in Christendom have hidden and rejected God’s name.
Tim: So you are not called Jehovah’s Witnesses because God told you to, but because you wanted to stand out as different from the rest.
Anthony: Not exactly. We believe that God directed the faithful and discreet slave to take that name.
Tim: So God told you to call yourself by that name.
Anthony: He revealed that the name Jehovah’s Witnesses would be appropriate for true Christians to carry in the time of the end.
Tim: And this Slave fellow who leads you told you this?
Anthony: The faithful and discreet slave is a group of men we call the Governing Body. They are God’s appointed channel to direct us and reveal Bible truth to us. There are eight men making up the slave.
Tim: So it was these eight men who named you Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Anthony: No, we took on the name in 1931 when Judge Rutherford headed up the organization.
Tim: So was this Judge Rutherford the faithful slave back then?
Anthony: Effectively, yes. But now it’s a committee of men.
Tim: So one guy, speaking for God, gave you the name Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Anthony: Yes, but he was led by holy spirit, and the growth we’ve had since then proves that it was the right choice.
Tim: So you measure your success by growth. Is that in the Bible?
Anthony: No, we measure our success by the evidence of God’s spirit on the organization and if you were to come to the meetings, you would see the evidence in the love that is demonstrated by the brotherhood.
Tim: I may just do that. Anyway, thanks for coming around. I enjoy the magazines.
Anthony: My pleasure. See you in a couple of weeks.