How do really religious people testify?
The founder: Charles T. Russell
The founder and first president of Jehovah's Witnesses was Charles T. Russell, son of a cloth merchant in Pennsylvania, USA. His parents were Presbyterians, that is, followers of a branch of the Evangelical Reformed Churches, and they raised their son in this spirit.
At the age of 14 he switched to the Congregationalists because he felt them to be more liberal. But he could not share their idea that the fate of people is predetermined and that unbelievers have to suffer in the eternal hellfire.
So he joined the Adventists. These focus on the return of Jesus. For Russell, too, the theme of the end times has always remained central.
In 1870 he founded his own Bible study group, which called themselves the "Serious Bible Students". In 1877 he sold his shares in his father's clothing store and devoted himself entirely to his religious activities.
He received a quarter of a million dollars for the sale of his shares - an immense sum and good start-up capital for his religious company. In 1879 he founded his first own magazine: "Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence", the forerunner of today's "The Watchtower".
Two years later he founded the Watchtower Company, which was legally registered as a stock corporation in 1884. This should take care of the production and distribution of the magazine.
So the beginning of the Jehovah's Witnesses does not mark the foundation of a religious community, but that of a company. In 1931 the "Serious Bible Students" renamed themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses". Based on Isaiah 43, verse 10 and 11: "You are my witnesses (...). I - I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Savior."
In order to keep the production and distribution costs of the magazine low, Russell founded the "Bethel Family", which still exists today. "Bethel" comes from Hebrew and means "house of God".
The Jehovah's Witnesses use the term to this day for their central production facilities in which the writings of the Watchtower Society are produced. The employees there receive free board and lodging for their full-time work, plus a small amount of pocket money.
Russell has also shaped the distribution of the magazine to this day. He called on his readers and followers to devote at least half of their time to the field service while distributing the Watchtower literature.
To this day, the field service has played a large part in the lives of the Witnesses. In 1907 Russell referred to himself in a Watchtower article as "God's mouthpiece", which passes the truth on to the "other servants".
God as sole commander
In the following years, two presidents in particular shaped the Watchtower Society. Firstly, Russell's successor, the lawyer Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942).
For him, Jehovah God was the sole commander, democratic structures were thus excluded. He saw the Watchtower Society as a "theocratic organization", derived from the Greek words "Theos" for God and "Krat (e) ía" for rule or government.
The hierarchy is pyramidal. At the head is Christ, who leads the "Governing Body" by means of the Holy Spirit. This is the top governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses in New York City. At the beginning of 2018 it consisted of eight men.
The Governing Body has the teaching authority to which all Jehovah's Witnesses must submit. In Russell's day, the congregations could still elect their chairpersons, the so-called elders - that was now over. From now on, all functionaries should be appointed from the respective branch office. This is still the case today.
An army of publishers
After Rutherford, Nathan H. Knorr worked on improving the production of the Watchtower products, increasing sales and opening up new sales markets. And he introduced employee training.
The Jehovah's Witnesses should no longer distribute literature as simple "peddlers", but as eloquent preachers. Therefore they developed the "Theocratic Sermon School", in which the Witnesses are rhetorically trained once a week. To this day, this is a central part of studying a witness.
Knorr also introduced the county, district and international congresses. Here the witnesses were not outsiders, but could experience themselves as part of a large crowd.
Our own translation of the Bible also contributed to this new feeling of togetherness: the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Witnesses still quote from it today. Despite the opposition of President Knorr, on January 1, 1976 the President's power was distributed to the members of the "Governing Body".
According to their own statements, there are almost 170,000 witnesses in Germany in 2018 and almost eight million worldwide.
The correct reading of the Bible
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that their new translation of the Bible was input by Jehovah God, that the translation sticks particularly closely to the original text and is at the same time written in an understandable language. Those who wrote this translation did not publish the Jehovah's Witnesses in honor of "the divine author".
They believe that not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. Magazines such as "The Watchtower" or "Awake!", Published by the Watchtower Society and interpreted by the "Governing Body", help with the correct reading.
All enemies of God will be destroyed
Jehovah's Witnesses attach great importance to the correct name of God being "Jehovah". There are no vowels in Hebrew and so the name of God in the Old Testament is: J-H-W-H.
The majority of researchers are of the opinion that "Yahweh" is the correct translation. But Jehovah's Witnesses believe in the translation of a monk from the 13th century who combined J-H-W-H with the accompanying vowel signs of the divine title Adonaj (Lord) and therefore translated Jehovah.
Jehovah's Witnesses see Jesus as a being created by God. For them he is not part of a trinity, as in the Christian faith, for example. They believe that in the war of God "Armageddon" all enemies of God will be destroyed. After that, a 1000-year empire of peace begins.
144,000 "true Jehovah's Witnesses" are to rule with Christ in heaven, the "other sheep" are allowed to live forever as subjects of the kingdom of God on the then heavenly earth.
All now living people who are not servants of God will be destroyed according to the idea of Jehovah's Witnesses in Armageddon - with no prospect of resurrection. This is why these people must be preached so that they will join Jehovah's Witnesses and be saved.
The Jehovah's Witnesses predicted Armageddon for 1914, 1925 and 1975 - the war that would usher in the end of the world. When he did not appear on the announced dates, explanations were requested from the "Governing Body". With a clever combination of biblical quotations, many witnesses could be appeased, but there were still more withdrawals.
God's word is law
The following applies to the witnesses: God's word is law. And God's Word is proclaimed by the "Governing Body" in the various Watchtower publications. Many rules therefore determine the life of a witness: Christmas, Easter, Advent, birthdays, name days, Mardi Gras, Mother's Day, New Year's Eve and much more are forbidden as "pagan celebrations".
Jehovah's Witnesses see marriage as given by God, unfaithfulness is sin, and divorce is only possible if the partner has been unfaithful. They reject homosexuality: "The position of the Bible is very clear: God only intended sexuality for the marriage between man and woman. (...) When the Bible condemns 'fornication', both homosexual and certain heterosexual acts are meant" , is in a "Watchtower" on the topic "How can I explain what the Bible says about homosexuality?"
The man is the head of the family, and the woman "is encouraged to love her husband and respect him as the head of the family," according to the Jehovah's Witnesses' information portal on marriage.
The baptized Jehovah's Witnesses are also prohibited from accepting blood transfusions. This is seen as a violation of the divine commandment. In "Awake" of May 22, 1994, the photos of 26 children are shown. 26 children who died because Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions based on their faith. "Awake" says that these children put God first in their lives.
There is only one government for Jehovah's Witnesses: the Kingdom of God. Officially, they give every member free choice to vote. But they believe that this is tantamount to supporting a secular government. And according to the belief of Jehovah's Witnesses, the world is under the influence of the devil. Therefore, intensive contact with world people, i.e. non-witnesses, is to be avoided. And also active participation in the worldly system.
In 2006, after a legal dispute lasting over ten years, the Jehovah's Witnesses were granted the status of a public corporation in almost all federal states - except in Baden-Württemberg, Bremen and North Rhine-Westphalia. This allows them to collect church taxes, employ church officials or set up foundations. In addition, they are released from the obligation to pay corporation tax, property tax and property tax.
The Jehovah's Witnesses had stated during the proceedings that they had no interest in church taxes and civil servant relationships. They are primarily concerned with the tax advantages and the recognition associated with the status. They have been recognized as a public corporation in all federal states since 2017.
Status: 07/22/2019, 1:40 p.m.
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