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COMMENTS ON THE JW FILE
AND A RESPONSE TO MURRELL SELDEN
by Eric Pement
The file entitled "The History of Jehovah's Witness" [should be
"Witnesses"], does have a few problems with it, as was pointed out by
Murrell Selden. However, Mr. Selden does not always identify the
right problems, and some of Mr. Selden's own statements in rebuttal to
the JW file are not always accurate either.
Murrell begins by saying, "The file on Jehovah's Witnesses does not
report the beliefs of JW's!" I agree--the file does not report the
beliefs of JW's. On the one hand, I might reply that the file was not
intended to: it is entitled "The HISTORY of ...", not "The DOCTRINE of
.. " But on the other hand, I feel that if you carry only one file
on Jehovah's Witnesses, you ought to have a more well-rounded
discussion of JW doctrine. The file focuses on only a single belief,
their doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, and other Watchtower
distinctives are omitted. A few are hinted at in the fifth
sentence--denial of "the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Bodily
resurrection of Christ and the existence of hell." Although Charles
Russell and present-day Jehovah's Witnesses would agree on the first
three elements of this series, they might balk at the fourth, "the
existence of hell." Technically, Russell and his successors define
hell as "the grave," and they do not deny the existence of the grave.
They do, however, deny the existence of eternal, conscious torment of
REGARDING CHARLES T. RUSSELL:
I do not agree with Selden's assertion that the file "makes abusive
statements about three JW's." While Charles Russell is described as
being linguistically deficient, guilty of perjury, and divorced, these
statements, IF THEY ARE TRUE, should not be considered "abusive." The
simple reporting of history, and the honest reporting of sins, is not
abuse. The file contains no name-calling or angry words, such as
"dirty liar," "slob," "Satan-inspired," etc. The closest the file
comes to abuse is in quoting the statement of the Judge of the High
Court of Ontario, specifying his reason for granting a divorce to Mrs.
Maria Frances Russell.
In fairness to Mr. Selden and to the truth itself, I must point out a
couple of errors. First, Russell was never charged with perjury or
found guilty of perjury by any court. Inspection of the transcript of
a trial called Russell v. Ross (Ontario, 1913) reveals that Russell
said (under oath) that he knew the Greek alphabet, but when tested on
the spot, he was unable to identify various Greek letters.
Technically, this is evidence that he lied about his ability to read
the Greek alphabet, but the court never charged him with perjury. It
did, however, rule against him.
Second, Russell's wife was not given a decree of divorce, she was
given a decree of "separation." The judge was not Judge of the High
Court of Ontario (that was Russell v. Ross in 1913), it was Justice
Orlany, Superior Court of Pennsylvania, ruling in the case of Russell
v. Russell (1908). His actual words were, "His [Russell's] course of
conduct towards his wife evidenced such insistent egotism and
extravagant self praise that it would be manifest to the jury that his
conduct towards her was one of continual arrogant domination, that
would necessarily render the life of any Christian woman a burden and
make her condition intolerable." (Records of the Pennsylvania Superior
Court, Vol. 37, page 348 ).
REGARDING JUDGE RUTHERFORD:
It is true that Joseph F. Rutherford, along with seven other Directors
of the Watch Tower Society, was incarcerated in Atlanta for anti-war
sedition in 1918, and released in 1919. It is also true that the
conviction was overturned and this fact should have been noted.
I would like to correct Mr. Selden on one minor point. Rutherford was
not "exonerated of all charges in the U.S. Supreme Court". The U.S.
Supreme Court became involved in this case in March 1919, when Supreme
Court Justice Louis Brandeis directed that Rutherford and his
co-Directors, all incarcerated in Atlanta, be released on bail. The
Supreme Court declaring that they had a "right to bail" is not the
same as declaring them innocent.
One month later, April 1919, the Federal Second Court of Appeals in
New York held that the eight men had not received a "temperate and
impartial trial" in 1918, and "for this reason" it reversed the guilty
verdict rendered the previous year. This court was not the Supreme
Court, and their verdict was not an "exoneration of all charges," but
instead an admission of mistreatment by a previous court.
REGARDING NATHAN H. KNORR:
There is certainly no abusive language here about Knorr. It should
have been noted that Knorr died on June 7, 1977, and was succeeded two
weeks later by the current president of the Watchtower Society,
Frederick W. Franz.
REGARDING THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' POSITION ON THE RESURRECTION OF
Murrell Selden stated, "It is claimed that Jehovah's Witnesses do not
believe that Jesus assumed a fleshly body (Gk., soma) during the forty
days following his resurrection. That is not true! Jesus did assume
a fleshly body ... "
In this case, Mr. Selden did not read carefully. All the author of
that file did was to quote Watchtower source material. He actually
"claimed" very little, but let the Watchtower view speak for itself.
The Selden/Watchtower problem hinges on the word "assumed." As
Bible-based Christians, we maintain that the body of Jesus was
RESURRECTED (i.e., raised back to life). The Bible teaches that "the
body without spirit is dead" (James 2:26, New World Trans., 1984). I
agree. Conversely, the body WITH spirit is alive. We are saying that
the Bible's statements about the resurrection of Jesus simply mean
that the body of Jesus was reanimated. In other words, Jesus' BODY
came back to life (only with supernatural power and glory, such that
it can never decay or die again).
That's the whole point of the empty tomb. The corpse, the cadaver, is
gone because Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb!
The Watchtower Society teaches that at his resurrection, Jesus' body
was destroyed (dissolved/disintegrated/etc.) not raised intact. Any
appearances of Jesus in the New Testament are when Jesus ASSUMED
(i.e., took on) a body, but the body in which Jesus appeared bore no
real connection with the body which was slain. For the average JW,
the reason Jesus assumed a body was to accommodate the weak faith and
unbelief of the disciples.
As evangelicals, we believe that IF God the Father had dissolved the
fleshly body of Jesus, and transformed him into a spirit being, Jesus
COULD have assumed fleshly bodies, just as angels do. This is
possible. But instead, the Bible teaches that God the Father raised
the fleshly body back alive -- the same body, only this time imbued
with immortality. That's the point of John 2:19-21. "Break down this
temple, and in three days I will raise it up. ... But he was talking
about the temple of his body." (NW, 1984) We agree with this
scripture. However, if the Watchtower leaders are right, Jesus said
it wrong. He should have said, "Break down this temple, and in three
days I will dissolve it even more."
Take some time to read Acts 2:24-32, 13:30-37, and 26:8. The emphasis
is on the fact that Jesus did not remain dead, his corpse did not
decay, "nor did his flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31, NW). If the
Watchtower is correct, then his flesh saw annihilation,
disintegration, and TOTAL corruption. We Christians say his flesh was
given immortality (i.e., deathlessness), and was raised to eternal
What about going through walls (John 20:26)? Why couldn't they
recognize Jesus normally (Luke 24:15-31, John 20:14)? Are those
characteristics of a fleshly body, asks the Watchtower Society?
Listen carefully now.
(a) The Bible affirms that the nature of the resurrection body is
immortal (not mortal), incorruptible, existing in glory, in power, and
spiritual. The resurrection body of Christ and the resurrection body
which God's faithful people will receive on the Last Day is a
"spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44). It is with a BODY, not as a SPIRIT.
There is the glory of God and the power of the Spirit of God infused
in the resurrection body, and this is one reason why the resurrected
Jesus could do supernatural things which mortal, unpowerful
(b) Moreover, even mortal bodies which are subject to pain and death
are capable of doing a lot more than you would think. The mortal body
of Jesus could walk on water (Matt. 14:25), and could walk straight
"through the midst" of an angry crowd without being seen (Luke 4:30,
John 10:31). I also believe that a miraculous acceleration of a boat
is involved in John 6:21 ("immediately" in the KJV, New International,
and the Kingdom Interlinear). Of course, all these miracles are done
through the power of God's Holy Spirit, working with mortal humans.
If the Spirit of God could enable a mortal Jesus to enter a room with
the doors shut (and to do other miracles), there is no reason to say
that the Lord Jesus, with a glorified, immortal, tangible body could
not also be transported into a closed room.
(c) The objection about not recognizing Jesus is answered by simply
reading the text. Luke 24:16 says "their eyes were kept [or held]
from recognizing him." It doesn't say Jesus' face was altered, or the
body he "assumed" looked different. It simply says their eyes were
KEPT from recognizing him.
The passage in John 20:11-16 also does not attribute Mary's inability
to recognize Jesus to any changes in his face. Since nothing
indicates a physical alteration in Jesus' features, we may assume that
the reason indicated in Luke 24:16 (the power of God) was behind
Mary's temporary lack of perception in this instance, also.
One last point for the resurrection of the body of Jesus.
If we look at John 20:24, we find Thomas' statement, "Unless I see in
his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of
the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not
believe." When Jesus showed himself to Thomas, alive instead of dead,
he told him, "Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your
hand and stick it into my side, and stop being unbelieving but become
believing" (John 20:27, NW).
If Russell's teaching is correct, then Jesus' body really dissolved,
and those holes in his hands and side which he exhibited to Thomas
were not ACTUALLY created by the nails and spear. However, Jesus was
leading Thomas to THINK they were. In essence, Jesus is deceiving
Thomas about the origin of those wounds. This conclusion is
inescapable if the Watchtower is right.
However, if Jesus was not deceiving Thomas about the origin of the
wounds, then those wounds in his body were created by the spear and
nails. As biblically-based Christians, we acknowledge that the body
of Jesus was transformed as it was raised back to life, and infused
with spiritual power and glory, and that his resurrected body had
genuine continuity with the body which suffered death on the cross.
Thank you for considering these statements, and I pray that they have
helped to clear up a few questions about the file on Jehovah's
--- written by Eric Pement on 1/17/1986
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