I asked a Jehovah’s Witnesses once if she was a Christian, and she said yes. I replied I was a Christian also, and then asked if I was a Jehovah’s Witness, and she said no. I agreed, then pointed out that there must be significant differences in what I believe and what they believe. I then questioned how she could be both a Christian and a Jehovah’s Witness, but I could not. That question gave her pause. 

Of course, you can decide for yourself, so here is some information that solidified my opinion that Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) are not Christians. 

This following began in 1872 when Charles Taze Russell founded Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. His followers grew, but then in 1913 his wife filed for divorce for the reasons of “…his conceit, egotism, domination, and improper conduct in relation to other women.” 1 That resulted in many followers walking away from this new edition of Christianity. A few years later Russell passed away, and Judge Rutherford took the helm. Rutherford made many discreet alterations to some of the prophecies of the Watch Tower Society. Most significantly were the statements that Christ would return before 1914. Rutherford passed away in 1942, and Nathan Knorr became the chief officer. Under Knorr, the Watch Tower Society continued to grow along with the frequent and anonymous publications they would hand out. 

Bruce Metzger, one of the most respected Bible scholars of the 20th century, wrote concerning the JW’s, “It is manifestly impossible to attempt to refute in one brief article even a fraction of the distortions of Biblical interpretation perpetrated in the voluminous writings of this sect. It is proposed, rather, to give consideration to one of the fundamental errors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, namely, that which concerns the person of Jesus Christ.” 1

So who is Jesus and why is it important we believe in who He says He is?

The salvation of everyone depends on their belief in Jesus as God’s son. Jesus made that clear in John 8. “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24. So who do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is? Not God.

For example, In 1959, the Watchtower magazine wrote, “Do not erroneously conclude that Christians are to worship Christ; that is not what he taught.” 2 In 1964 the same publication wrote, “It is unscriptural for worshipers of the living and true God to render worship to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.” 2

The Watchtower Society teaches its followers that salvation is based on works, not Christ. They emphasize total obedience to the Watchtower Society, and distributing Watchtower pamphlets and literature is an essential part of their salvation process. 3

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was an angel before he came to earth; in fact, he was the archangel Michael and was the first being created in the universe. 

They consider themselves Christians but not Protestants. They don’t believe in the Trinity. They believe Jesus was a created being and not part of the Trinity.

JW’s believe that Jesus began ruling in heaven as King in 1914 (when World War I began) and that a small number of people, 144,000 will actually be saved. 

JW’s believe they will be saved (if they are one of the 144,000) by works. Salvation by works is the major them of every other major religion in the world today, and Christianity is the single exception. Ephesians 2:8-9

The JW’s believe in the inspired word of God, but they have their own translation of the Bible, which was published in 1961. They call their translation the New World Translation (NWT), and it has been widely criticized for changing the meaning of words to fit their beliefs and tenets. The most popular and widely respected translations are:

  1. New International Version (NIV) 
  2. King James Version (KJV) 
  3. New Living Translation (NLT) 
  4. English Standard Version (ESV) 
  5. New King James Version (NKJV) 
  6. Christian Standard Bible (CSB) 

Their New World Translation is not listed as only the JW’s use this translation, which has been translated to support their views. One example of this is John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. JW’s believe that because there is no definite article (the) in the Greek reference to Christ that it should be translated that Christ is “a God” not “the God the Father”. This reasoning is incorrect for multiple reasons. There are many references to Christ as God the Father in the New Testament. Take a look at John 8:58; John 10:30; John 20:28; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:15-16; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8 are just a few examples. Ron Rhodes explained linguists have pointed out that it is not necessary to translate Greek nouns that have no definite article with an indefinite article because there is NO indefinite article in Greek. 4

JW’s do not celebrate Christmas or Easter because they believe his death, not His birth, should be celebrated. They also think these holidays are rooted in ancient pagan customs, and our celebrations of these holiday’s offended God. 

JW’s do not go to war and quote Matthew 26:52 to support that belief. 

Finally, JW’s do not participate in politics. They don’t belong to any political party and do not vote in any local, state, or nationwide elections. 

Today, many people use “Christian” to describe their basic cultural behaviors, religious observances, or family traditions. Christianity is something they do, not necessarily believe. For example, if they were raised in a religious home, have some generic belief in God, go to church at least on the major holidays, try to treat others as they would want to be treated, and their good deeds outweigh their bad, they are a Christian. Being kind to others, believing in God, and attending church are good things, but that does not make a Christian any more than going to a garage makes a mechanic. 

A standard definition of a Christian is “…a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His resurrection on the third day.” 5 Simply put, a Christian is someone who believes in the work of the cross and whose heart and behavior reflect Christ. Acts 11:22-26 Early followers were first called Christians in Antioch because of their Christ-like behavior, and that behavior came about because of their accurate view of who Christ was.

Does that mean Christians don’t lie, lose their temper, are cruel, self-serving, and have a laundry list of shortcomings, bad habits, or addictions? Romans 7:15-20 Of course not. Christians are forgiven, not perfect. Should Christians be forgiving and gracious toward others? Should Christians be loving and pray for those who are unkind or cruel to them? Should Christians care for those in need, the poor, abused, sick, widowed, elderly? 1John 4:9 Of course, but being a follower of Christ goes beyond the outward expressions we can see but includes the condition of the heart, which only God can see. 

Ultimately God looks at our hearts. Our deeds may have an outward appearance of charity and compassion, but the motives behind such behavior are what God looks at. Isaiah 64:6. Believing in Christ, the Person, and work of Jesus is what will save us. John 8:24 Charity and putting others before ourselves is a natural outcome for Christians, but God can peek behind the scenes and see what is going on backstage. Charity and putting others before ourselves is a natural outcome for Christians. But God can peek behind the scenes and see what is going on backstage and what goes on backstage is determined by someone’s worldview.

John Stonestreet wrote, “Is the world we live in a creation, an accident, or an illusion? Do we live in God’s world, or was God an invention we brought into our world? Is the world we live in the one described by Jesus, Richard Dawkins, or Oprah? Are we nothing more than biological by-products of time plus chance plus matter? Is the world nothing more than a fabrication of our minds? 6

John went on to explain those different religions, different views of how the world works, matters. It matters because depending on what we believe will determine how we act. For example, some may say they believe in God, believe in Jesus, but does it matter to them? Does it alter their behavior? Was Jesus just a wise man? Was He a God, was He one of many or is He the God of the universe worthy of worship?

What we think is real, what we think is accurate matters significantly. Is it possible to say you believe in God and Jesus and get other fundamental details wrong that are essential to an accurate worldview?

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Peter 2:1


Are Jehovah Witnesses Christian? by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sources:
  1. Metzger, Bruce. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal. Bible Researcher. April 1953. http://www.bible-researcher.com/metzger.jw.html[][]
  2. Rhodes, Ron. “The New World Translation is Inaccurate and Misleading,” The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say To a Jehovah’s Witness, Harvest House Publishers, 2001, pg 26[][]
  3. Rhodes, Ron. “Salvation is by Grace Through Faith, Not by Works,” The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say To a Jehovah’s Witness, Harvest House Publishers, 2001, pg 75[]
  4. Rhodes, Ron. “The New World Translation is Inaccurate and Misleading,” The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say To a Jehovah’s Witness, Harvest House Publishers, 2001, pg 29[]
  5. “What is a Christian?” GotQuestions.org. https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-a-Christian.html[]
  6. Stonestreet, John, Kunkle, Brett. “Keeping the Moment and the Story Straight” A Practical Guide to Culture, David C Cook, 2017, p. 51[]
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