The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses is a Christian denomination. The organization is known for a persistent house-to-house ministry, for its unconventional interpretation of the Bible, and for the Bible study aids published through its Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
New World Translation
Jehovah's Witnesses use the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in their ministry. The NWT, published by Watch Tower, is a formal-equivalent translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into twentieth-century English. It renders several passages in an overly literal manner called "Biblish" by some critics, a quirk shared by the English Standard Version.
But the NWT does offer an interesting solution to how to represent the original languages' distinction between singular and plural you. Early Modern English, spoken in the time of William Shakespeare, had a second-person singular pronoun (thou/thee) distinct from the plural (you), and the 1611 King James Version of the Bible took advantage of this. But the singular passed out of use centuries ago, causing problems when translating the Bible into modern English. Some editions of the NWT render plural you in small capitals to clarify this.
John wrote in John 1:1 what may be translated as "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (lit. facing) God, and the Word was divine." Here, Jehovah's Witnesses agree with trinitarians that "God" (Greek Theós) refers to Jehovah the Father and "the Word" (Greek ho Lógos) to Jesus, the son of Jehovah who "became flesh" (v. 14). But they disagree on how to interpret "and the Word was divine" (Greek kai Theós ēn ho Lógos). Here we have "A (subj) is the B (subj)", where A is "anarthrous", meaning it lacks an article. Trinitarians follow E. C. Colwell and treat A as a definite complement ("the B is the A"), following several cases where an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures had anarthrous Theós translating an obviously definite Hebrew ha Elohim (God) or YHWH (Jehovah), and render it "and the word was God." This leads to a composite, consubstantial godhead, either a binity of Jehovah and Jesus or a trinity of Jehovah, Jesus, and holy spirit. Non-trinitarians follow Daniel B. Wallace and treat A as a qualitative complement ("the B has the nature of A"), justify this interpretation with parallel constructions in Acts 28:6 and elsewhere, and exclude "uncreated" from the divine attribute ascribed to the Word: "and the Word was a god." This way characterizes Jehovah and Jesus as separate spirit creatures, leading to a very different Arian Christology where the closest thing to a "Trinity" is "God's immediate family". In fact, Witnesses believe that Jesus is another name for Michael, the head angel whose name means "who is like God".
Almighty vs. mighty
Some responses of Jehovah's Witnesses to trinitarian proof texts follow a pattern: both Jehovah and Jesus were called X, but only Jehovah was called something stronger than X. Both are called Mighty God (Hebrew El Gibbor), but only Jehovah is called Almighty God (El Shaddai). Both are called "first and last" in Revelation, but only Jehovah is called the A and Z (Alpha and Omega). This distinction between mighty and almighty smacks of spiritism.
Jehovah's Witnesses abstain from transfusions of whole blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. They cite several scriptures such as Genesis 9:4, in which God told Noah not to eat meat with the blood still in it. This prohibition is reiterated in the Mosaic law: "the soul of the flesh is in the blood." (bible:Leviticus 17:11) Other translations render it along these lines: "the life is in the blood".
A prohibition in the Hebrew Scriptures is considered to still apply in the Christian era if the Greek Scriptures reiterate it. JWs cite Acts 15:29, in which Paul and three others write a letter recommending that one keep abstaining from blood in the same way that one abstains from food sacrificed to idols. Yet as a Slashdot user points out, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8 that eating food sacrificed to idols is perfectly OK. (This chapter also makes a distinction between small-g gods and big-g God the Father.)
Even if one does take Acts 15:29 to mean that Jehovah still hates consuming blood, JWs will take certain blood fractions because after some point, it's allegedly "not blood anymore". It's clear that life is in the red and white blood cells because they are living tissue. Plasma, on the other hand, isn't quite living matter as much as water with some proteins mixed in. (The living status of platelets, which are spiky chips to form clots, is disputed.) According to Watch Tower publications, disagreements on doctrine should be satisfied by the principle that "scripture interprets scripture". For example, an article in The Watchtower cites Acts 15, which describes the application of Amos 9:11-12 to a first-century question about whether new Christians need to be circumcised. So where is this further biblical guidance as to when blood stops being blood?
Obligation to preach
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible teaches that the Great Commission to join the Christian ministry is for everyone. All believers are obligated to preach the message of God's kingdom to the public. (Ezekiel 33:7-9, Matthew 10:5-15, Matthew 24:14, 28:16-20, and others) So the first rule of Bible club is that you do talk about Bible club.
Believers who preach through the organization are called "publishers". The preface to their catechism Reasoning from the Scriptures gives examples of openings for publishers to use in various situations in the field ministry. One such opening is that things are getting worse in the world. They play up recent headlines, possibly tie it into the signs in Matthew 24, and offer a way out. No, nice-dressed people at the door, the world has not been getting more violent during Satan's stay here. One graph shows a marked decline in war casualties per 100,000 people since about 25 years after Christ allegedly took power in heaven in 1914, Another noticeable downward trend in violent crime rates began in 1993. This and other declining metrics of misery contradict the JW party line. Violence is not rising; it's declining, especially in schools. Despite systematic distortions by journalists and by psychological perception of synchronicity, the past couple decades have been the most peaceful in the history of humankind.
Mormon missionaries have their own house-to-house ministry, except wackier.
Whether made of one or two pieces of wood, the weapon used to execute Jesus makes a lousy symbol for Christianity. But the fish is no better because it originally represented the lady parts of the Great Mother Goddess.
Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate Christmas or other holidays of "Christendom", the denomination's term for denominations that believe in a Trinity. Even secular political holidays, such as Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Thanksgiving, have unappealing origins, and Witnesses don't celebrate those either. Jehovah's Witnesses celebrate only one holiday: the annual memorial of Christ's death, their version of Good Friday, which occurs on the eve of Passover. They have been known to forget the exact date of worldly holidays. The world calls this forgetting "extra stupid".
Relationship with Caesar
- Main article: Wikipedia:Jehovah's Witnesses and governments
Jesus preached in favor of separation of church and state, that the Kingdom of God "is no part of this world." (John 18:36) So Jehovah's Witnesses mostly stay out of politics. They don't run for public office, participate in campaigns, or lobby for specific legislation. Most of the church's activism comes through the judicial branch, where Watch Tower sues in secular courts to enforce constitutional guarantees of civil liberties. Many of the cases brought by Watch Tower have set important precedents regarding free speech and worship. But unlike the Christian right of the United States, they don't seek antidisestablishmentarianism, just Arianism.
They are known for diligently paying taxes due to "Caesar", the personification of secular government. (Mark 12:17) But this leaves plenty of opportunity to structure their affairs to reduce the amount due.
I've been told that some Witnesses do not vote "because they do not feel that man will ever be able to accomplish what God has promised to accomplish by means of his Kingdom, namely, freedom from death, sorrow, sickness, crime, hungar [sic], etc."  In fact, at one time, Jehovah's Witnesses could be disfellowshipped (shunned, excommunicated) for voting.
But voting has since become a conscience issue. Though man isn't perfect and cannot direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23), and our best alone is like a dirty tampon (Isaiah 64:6), the ransom sacrifice of Jesus combined with our best done to show good faith is good enough for Jehovah. Therefore, one should vote for the candidate whose platform and record are most in line with the principles of the Kingdom. For example, one might vote against kleptocrats to ensure that when we pay back to Caesar what is Caesar's (Matthew 22:21), Caesar demands only what is rightfully his. Voting isn't being "part of the world" (John 17:16) as much as doing our best to ease the transition to God's Kingdom.
Watch Tower publications discourage learning self-discipline through martial arts. See for example Awake! 1995-09-22 and 1984-12-22 and The Watchtower 1983-07-15. But if Jacob didn't know Jew-jitsu, how would he have survived the angel's krav maga to earn the nickname Israel?--Genesis 32:22-32.
Are you one of Jehovah's Witnesses? Have you ever felt like Rapunzel trapped in the Watch Tower? Have you discovered the truth about the truth but fear you'd need a Jehovah's Witness Protection Program and wonder where you'll find spiritual food? First, be glad that the organization is less of a cult than Scientology. But like Scientologists and Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses shun people who have come to disagree with church doctrine. If other members of your family have been baptized into the organization, expect them to shun you in a misapplication of scripture. It might take a while to rebuild your in-person social networks.
Consider these resources on the web:
- JW.org: This is the only official web site of Jehovah's Witnesses. The sites linked below are not.
- 4Jehovah lists JW doctrines thought to deviate from the Bible and describes a way for people no longer affiliated with the Watch Tower Society to feel fulfilled in spirit
- Jehovah's Witness FAQ lists pesky Bible verses that appear to contradict the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, objection to the Watchtower Study Edition method of teaching individual scattered verses rather than an entire chapter at a time, parts of the New World Translation that don't match the Greek, etc.
- The Jehovah's Witnesses Are Right about some things, but...
- Jehovah's Witnesses on Uncyclopedia: a humorous pastiche of JW doctrine and practices
- Hollywood Jehovah's Witnesses and Knocking On Heathens' Door on TV Tropes: description of the portrayal of Witnesses in fiction
- Summary of How to Use "What Does the Bible Really Teach?": If you're not a baptized Witness yet, a Witness is probably running you through the Watch Tower Society publication What Does the Bible Really Teach? at your home or over the telephone. This book gives questions to ask the Witness after each chapter.
- List of 70 "stumper" questions that Witnesses love to answer
- Terminology of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses: In each case, the Witnesses deviate less from the Bible than Latter-Day Saints. Just thank Jehovah that the LDS didn't knock on your door first.
- An alternative view of Christmas trees and Bullfrog 10
- Mark Strauss. "Why the English Standard Version (ESV) should not become the Standard English Version". Better Bibles Blog, 2008-11-21. Accessed 2014-06-07.
- C. Coville. "5 Ways You Didn't Realize the English Language Is Defective". Cracked, 2014-02-12. Accessed 2014-02-12.
- "True Christians Respect God's Word". The Watchtower, 2012-01-15, p. 5.
- Matthew Diffee. "The first rule of Bible Club". The New Yorker via Condé Nast Collection, June 18, 2012, item 8932467. Accessed 2013-01-23.
- J. Wisniewski. ". Cracked, 2013-12-23. Accessed 2014-04-31.
- Mark M., M. Asher Cantrell. "5 Complaints About Modern Life (That Are Statistically B.S.)". Cracked, 2011-01-31. Accessed 2015-05-03.
- AuntieMeme. "18 Undeniable Facts That Prove the World Is Getting Better". Cracked, 2014-09-26. Accessed 2014-09-27.
- Cornelius Heyer, Ivan Farkas. "5 Incredibly Positive Trends No One's Talking About". Cracked, 2015-07-27. Accessed 2015-07-27.
- "15 Frightening Trends That The Media Completely Fabricated". Cracked, 2016-06-27. Accessed 2016-06-27.
- Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack. "The World Is Not Falling Apart". Slate, 2014-12-22. Accessed 2015-11-28.
- AuntieMeme. "19 Statistics That Prove Life On Earth Is Better Than Ever". Cracked, 2015-08-22. Accessed 2015-08-22.
- Robert Evans, Darryl Reid. "5 Hardcore Realities of My Time as a Mormon Missionary". Cracked, 2014-05-11. Accessed 2014-05-11.
- Cezary Jan Strusiewicz. "6 Famous Symbols That Don't Mean What You Think". Cracked, 2012-07-02. Accessed 2012-07-05.
- Todd Van Luling. "11 Mindblowing Facts That Will Completely Change Your Perspective On The World". The Huffington Post, 2013-10-09. Accessed 2013-10-10.
- "Eve-ntually". Not Always Working, 2012-12. Accessed 2013-01-07.
- forum post by jenalove
- Robert Evans et al. "5 Ways Growing Up Inside Scientology Was a Nightmare". Cracked, 2014-01-21. Accessed 2014-01-22.