A Turn-the-Page problem for Jehovah Witnesses

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania is the main legal entity of the Jehovah Witnesses organization. One of its subsidiaries is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. It is this organization that is the publisher (2013) of the Bible in the gif at the bottom of the page. This is their Bible; it’s their translation … and it has problems. We’ll be examining one of those problems. And it only requires the turning of one page to see the problem.

When examining this problem it is helpful to know that the Watchtower organization does not believe that the Holy Spirit is a person (link), but it’s not necessary to know this to raise the objection. All that one really needs to know is the difference between an “it” and a “he.”

Here is the relevant material from the book of John as translated by the Watchtower organization:

John 14:16-17:
“And I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you.” (My emphasis).

If you have a 2013 Watchtower bible, the latest edition, and you’ve looked this up, turn just one page to the following passage:

John 16:13:
“However, when that one comes, the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come.” (My emphasis).

The spirit of truth is described as an “it” in John 14, but one page later — one page — the spirit of truth is described as a “he.”

The question is simply this: Which is the correct view?

If the holy spirit is an “it,” as Jehovah Witnesses believe and teach, then there isn’t a problem with John 14:16-17, but then that does create a problem with the John 16:13 passage. And of course the scenario can be flipped. If a particular Jehovah Witness believes John 16:13 is correct, i.e., the Holy Spirit is a person, then they have a problem with John 14:16-17, as well as conflicting with official Watchtower teaching that the spirit of truth is the holy spirit (link).

I have presented this problem to a number of Jehovah Witness over the few years, and they tend to get … uncomfortable. And that’s completely understandable. The organization they belong to is publishing material that directly conflicts with their official doctrine.

What’s a Jehovah Witness to do?

He must either accept the Watchtower doctrinal position and implicitly reject John 16:13, and in doing so reject a portion of the Watchtower publication (their bible). Or the Jehovah Witness must reject the accepted doctrinal position of the organization as well as the John 14:16-17 translation and accept the personification of the Holy Spirit in this passage (In this passage the Holy Spirit guides, speaks, hears, and declares things to come. Hardly the properties of an “it.”) which, by the way, has quite a bit of evidence from other passages in the New Testament, even from the Watchtower translation (more in another post).

So why is the Watchtower organization publishing a bible that challenges their official doctrine on the holy spirit? Maybe we should ask a different question: Is the Watchtower organization teaching doctrine based on a “translation” mistake? And an even different question can be asked: Is the Watchtower organization translating passages with a doctrinal bias? I hope to come back to these questions in a latter post (we’ll examine the Greek, too).

The Watchtower organization has put their followers in quite the pickle. So the next time they come knocking on your door, you can share with them this particular problem with them from their own bible; It only takes the turn of a single page.