Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise an international religious organization that preaches a Nontrinitarian faith (rejecting the concept of the trinity of God).
It has many similarities with unorthodox movements in Christianity. Until 1931, the coterie of faith was called “Bible Students”. It was founded in 1870 by Charles Taze Russell in the United States.
There are about 8.6 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. The creed is most common in the United States, but it is banned in 37 countries because it is recognized as extremist. Some researchers believe Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to religious organizations of Protestant origin of the Adventist movement, and others consider them a sect.
Despite the ambiguous attitude to their doctrine, the number of their followers is increasing every year. The Lord’s Supper, which attracts about twenty million visitors, is the main ceremony of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Religious scholars believe that the dogma of the sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not something new, but rather a synthesis of many movements (for example, Arianism, Heresy of the Photinians, Nontrinitarians, Monarchical Dynamists and others).
Denial of the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the central beliefs of the doctrine. God is understood as one person in the universe– Jehovah, whose name does not refer to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They consider other names of God to be titles. Followers believe that the name “Jehovah” existed in Christianity from the first century and their mission is to restore the practice of its use.
Unlike forms of Christianity where the concepts of God (as an entity) and the personality or hypostasis of a deity are distinguished, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a single diety who embodies all the supernatural properties of God. The Holy Spirit for them is the working power of Jehovah, not a separate concept or part of the Trinity. Jehovah’s Witnesses criticize the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the texts of the Bible and drawing analogies with pagan religions.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus Christ is not God and is not equated with God the Father. He is not omnipotent, but only the fulfiller of the will of Jehovah, who gave him the resurrection. Also, supporters of the doctrine believe that Christ is:
The reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the idea of the immortality of the soul lies in the fact that it refers to a person, any other living being or his life. After death, an individual can be resurrected or receive the great gift of eternal life. Human nature is considered imperfect because of the fall of Adam, so people will be able to achieve perfection only during the thousand years after Armageddon—the Day of Judgment.
The spirit of man is an immaterial impersonal force that allows humans to live. When the spirit dies, the person disappears. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the existence of the spirits of the dead but accept that demons can impersonate the dead.
Since Jehovah’s Witnesses do not recognize the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of hell and fiery Gehenna lacks the idea of eternal torment. Hell is the common grave of mankind, and Gehenna is the lake of fire in the book of Revelation. This is understood to be the destruction of unrepentant sinners by God (no resurrection is available to them).
Apocalyptic ideas play an equally important role in teaching. According to them, the second coming of Christ was in 1914, after which He began to rule in heaven and is present (Greek: παρουσία “parusia”) in an invisible way. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the invisible presence of Christ will be replaced by the apparent coming in glory (Greek: ἐρχόμενον “ehrhomenon”) of Christ. In the meantime, people live in a time which is called “the last days”.
The dates of the second coming of Christ have been shifted several times over the past centuries, and as a result, the leadership of the organization has refrained from reestablishing them. Jehovah’s Witnesses preach the idea of the existence of a special class of people—”the anointed” or “small flock”, who go to heaven after death and are resurrected in spiritual bodies. Their number does not exceed 144 thousand people. They consider an unlimited number of other people to be “other sheep” who will live on Earth after Armageddon. The inhabitants of the earthly paradise will also be joined by many of the previously deceased, as they will be resurrected after the apocalypse.
Armageddon is the holy war between Christ and Satan, which will lead to the death of all godless humanity. Jehovah’s Witnesses living on Earth will not participate in the destruction of evil people in Armageddon but will observe the actions of God.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only Jehovah can be worshipped. In addition to the doctrine of the Trinity, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the veneration of icons and the cross as attributes that contradict the Bible. The cross is rejected as an unbiblical symbol, and from January 31, 1936, the followers of the organization began to oppose its use as one of the signs of Christianity. As proof, there are quotes from the book Wealth by the president of the Society D. Rutherford, which suggests that Jesus was crucified on a pillar, not on a cross. He, in turn, relied on the translation of the Greek word “stavros” as a “pillar of torment” (“Translation of the new world”).
Jehovah’s Witnesses deny Christmas and Easter but practice the Supper of Commemoration of the Death of Jesus Christ, similar to the popular Christian Clean Thursday. During the ceremony, those who consider themselves part of the 144,000 re-baptized by heavenly baptism and who have undergone anointing, taste unleavened bread (matzah) and dry red wine.
Any member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization can choose a companion and participate in preaching activities, becoming a herald. The preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses consists of visiting residential buildings and apartments in a pre-selected area. Some followers, if they wish, go to remote areas.
Services are held twice a week in Kingdom Halls, houses built by volunteers from among the followers. Meetings include a half-hour public talk. Members study the Bible from The Watchtower magazine, discuss and comment on it.
The ministries use Bible texts, magazines The Watchtower, Awake!, and other publications. Members of the organization have published a huge amount of literature about their activities, and in the fifties and sixties of the 20th century, they even released their translation of the Holy Scriptures in English—”The New World Translation”, which was republished and translated into many languages.
To become a Jehovah’s Witness, the candidate takes a Bible study course directed by a special manual with one of the members of the organization. The training course is designed for a period from 6 months to a year.
To join the organization, the candidate must:
The decision about the possibility of preaching and being baptized is made by the elders at the interview. Jehovah’s Witnesses also practice baptism in outdoor pools, but they deny infant baptism.
A baptized Jehovah’s Witness is excluded from the organization in the following cases:
After the exclusion of a person from the organization, other members are not entitled to communicate with him/her, and relatives and friends can keep only household contacts. A former member is allowed to attend meetings and congresses, and return to the organization, subject to personal desire and the elimination of the reason for exclusion.
Jehovah’s Witnesses strictly follow the established norms in the organization regarding the relationship between a man and a woman, recreation and medicine. For example, flirting and courtship are allowed only if the couple intends to marry. Spending a lot of time with a person of the opposite sex without the desire to create a family is considered undesirable. Before marriage, a close relationship between a man and a woman is prohibited. The organization calls for starting a family only with its own members.
There are no specific events where Jehovah’s Witnesses rest and have fun since they deny almost all holidays. It seems likely that Jehovah’s Witnesses spend their everyday lives preaching and communicating with each other.
The group completely rejects transfusions and any other types of blood or its constituent components intake. Each member of the organization is obliged to fill in and store a written refusal of blood transfusion, issued on a special form. It is also considered unacceptable to eat food containing blood.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are characterized by a detached attitude to society, demonization of basic social institutions and a passive attitude to politics. As a result of an isolated lifestyle, many participants, even being disappointed in the faith, continue to be in the organization, as they are afraid of losing contact with loved ones and friends.