Volume 3, Issue 2, 2012
George D. Chryssides
Sources Of Authority Among Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Watch Tower Society And The Bible
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not base their teachings on any new special revelation, but acknowledge the Bible as the infallible record of past direct revelations, obtained by those with special spiritual gifts, which have now died out. Since defining the canon of scripture can only be done by those possessing such gifts, its formation is attributed to the early Christian period. The author discusses the Society’s understanding of the relationship between the Hebrew-Aramaic scriptures and the Greek-Christian Scriptures (its preferred terms for the Old and New Testaments) and the need for a precise translation, which they believe its New World Translation provides. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses hold that the Bible cannot be studied reliably outside the Watch Tower organization, the question arises as to whether the Bible or the Society itself is the primordial source of authority. The Society teaches the importance of practices such as baptism, the annual Memorial, and house-to-house evangelism, which cannot be conducted outside the organization; hence belonging to the Society is equally a prerequisite for salvation as accepting biblical inerrancy. There is therefore a tension between whether it is the Bible or the Society’s Governing Body which is the fundamental authority in religious matters.