Doc Bob

Aug 302009

The August 2009 edition of the “Awake!” magazine contains an article entitled “Should There Be a Clergy-Laity Distinction?” This article is rife with inaccuracies and generalizations. I will attempt to cover these in a series of posts.

Before considering the content of the Awake! article, it’s important to establish how Jehovah’s Witnesses view the Christian churches and their clergy. To say that the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses is critical of Christian churches and their clergy is a huge understatement. Consider this 1994 quote from a 1958 speech by the then-vice-president of the Watch Tower Society:

14 Exposure of the clergy by the Jeremiah class has been powerful. For example, at the 1958 Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York City, the vice president of the Watch Tower Society presented a statement that said in part: “Without any double talk or hesitation we declare this root cause of all the crime, delinquency, hatred, strife, prejudice, . . . and mad confusion to be wrong religion, false religion; behind which is man’s unseen enemy, Satan the Devil. The men most responsible for the world condition are the religious instructors and leaders; and the most reprehensible of these are the religious clergy of Christendom. . . . After all these years since World War I, Christendom stands in a relationship toward God like that of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Yes, Christendom faces a destruction more frightful and devastating than that which Jeremiah saw happen to Jerusalem.” – The Watchtower, March 1, 1994, p 11, “Jehovah’s Judgment Against False Teachers”

The writers of the Watchtower apply the term “reprehensible” to the clergy time and again. Here are a few examples. In the first two, the Watchtower called the clergy “the most reprehensible”,

20 As the most reprehensible ones among the people of Christendom, the clergy and religious leaders will drink the potion of death: “For from the prophets of Jerusalem [prefiguring Christendom] apostasy has gone forth to all the land.”—Jer. 23:15. – The Watchtower, Sept. 1, 1979, p. 28


Today, the most reprehensible group is identified as “the man of lawlessness,” made up of the self-exalted clergy of Christendom, who have taken the lead in opposing and persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Matthew 9:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. – The Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1988 p. 12

In 1990, the February 1 issue contained two articles devoted to the subjects of “God’s Judgement Against the ‘Man of Lawlessness'” and “Exposing the ‘Man of Lawlessness'”. In these, the Watchtower says that the clergy are more reprehensible because of their claiming to be Christian.

12 Christendom’s clergy are more reprehensible in shedding blood than other religious leaders. Why? Because in addition to taking God’s name upon themselves, they have taken Christ’s too. They thereby obligated themselves to follow the teachings of Jesus. (John 15:10-14) But they have not followed those teachings, thus bringing great reproach upon both God and Christ. The responsibility for bloodshed by the clergy has been both direct, in the Crusades, other religious wars, inquisitions, and persecutions, and indirect, in condoning wars in which members of the churches killed their fellowman in other lands. – The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1990,  p. 17, “God’s Judgment Against ‘the Man of Lawlessness’”

and, the second article:

13 Jesus said that the “good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) As part of this worldwide witness, God’s servants are under obligation to make known his judgment against false religion, especially the clergy of Christendom. These are more reprehensible in God’s sight because they claim to be Christian. They must be exposed so that those who want to serve God can be freed from their influence and can take the proper steps for survival. As Jesus said: “The truth will set you free.”—John 8:32. – The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1990, p. 23,  “Exposing ‘the Man of Lawlessness’”

So, putting this all together, the Watchtower tells us that the clergy are “self-exalted”, that they “have taken the lead in opposing and persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses”, that they bear responsibility for bloodshed directly for the “Crusades, other religious wars, inquisitions, and persecutions”, and indirectly  “in condoning wars in which members of the churches killed their fellowman in other lands.”, that they are “more reprehensible in God’s sight because they claim to be Christian.”

While some of the clergy of both the past and the present may be responsible for some of the things the Watchtower accuses them of, the Watchtower attaches blame to all of the clergy based on the principle they explain here:

38 However, it is not to be forgotten that the “man of lawlessness” is not a single individual religious leader like the pope of Rome or the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Athens, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) or other religious patriarch. The foretold “lawless” one is a composite “man,” the whole religious clergy of the professed “Christian” church. Of course, what one prominent member of this clerical “man” does attaches blame to all the other members of the clergy class for their agreeing with what is done or not protesting against it or for acquiescing in it and remaining with the clergy organization. They all share a community responsibility and culpability for what a member of the clergy class does in a representative way as when speaking or acting for the whole group. It is what the clergy class as a whole does or joins in doing through the centuries of time that fulfills the prophecy concerning the “man of lawlessness.” – God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached!, pp. 380-381, par. 38, “Bringing the ‘Man of Lawlessness’ to Nothing”

So, according to the Watchtower, all the clergy share the responsibility for what any of the others did. Please take note of this principle of “community responsibility” that the Watchtower invokes against the clergy. It will come up again in a future post.

Sep 182008

When I was a Jehovah’s Witness, I viewed those who were assured of their salvation as being very presumptuous. Looking back now, that only makes sense because I did not have the testimony of the Holy Spirit. At that time, I did not think that the words of Romans 8:16 applied to me since I was not one of the 144,000anointed”.

Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,”

Of course, at that time, I was right that those words did not apply to me, but it was not because I was not one of the 144,000 anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that is another story. The point here is that assurance of salvation is one of the core differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have it, Christians do. Why is this important? Reading the following quote from “This We Believe” really brought it home for me. Hopefully it will for you too.

The Holy Spirit assures us that God is our Father and loves us. God has poured out his love into our hearts. (Rom. 5:5) Romans 8:15-16 says that when we cry “Abba, Father,” the Holy Spirit is witnessing to our spirit that we are God’s children. Few experiences can provide more power in our lives than to have the assurance of salvation.

Think of what it could do for us:

We would be joyous in our service for God, but not driven in our works, or mistaken in the notion that our works would save us.

We would be delivered from frantic preoccupation with taking our spiritual temperature minute by minute.

We would be free and spontaneous in our witness, exercising patience, and understanding as well as speaking with conviction and challenge.

We would not get overwrought with our friends about future security, for we would be assured of our present relationship with Christ – who loves us with an immeasurable love. – This We Believe, pp 201,202

(Originally published Oct 18, 2008 on

Nov 282006

Here’s another quote that really hit me:

As long as Jesus is one of many options, he is no option. As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer. As long as your situations brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won’t be taken half-heartedly.

But when you mourn, when you get to the point of sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on him, and when there is truly no other name that you can call, then cast all your cares on him, for he is waiting in the midst of the storm” – The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado, p. 58

Nov 262006

I’ve been reading Shane Claiborne’s book “The Irresistible Revolution” lately. In it, he quotes Soren Kierkegaard:

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christian are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is ever dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

If you haven’t read “The Irresistible Revolution”, I highly recommend it – well, with one reservervation. If you are comfortable in your Christian walk and want to remain that way, if you don’t want to be challenged – you may want to avoid it. It is a book that has, and will continue to, challenge and change my view of what it means to be a Christian.

Nov 232006

I’ve been reading and listening to some interesting views on what it means to be a Christian lately. Here’s one example

“A friend of mine says much of the evangelism and witnessing done by Christians today is a pyramid scheme. The purpose is to acquire the product, i.e. salvation, sell it to others and then train others to sell it too, so those others, will in turn acquire it and train others to sell it. The problem, my friend says, is that nobody ever uses the product. … It can be true with the Bible too. We can spend so much time selling and defending the Bible to others that we don’t use the product very much. And we can spend so much time articulating and defending our doctrinal position from the Bible that we forget why it was even important in the first place.” – Steve Brown, Key Life – Radio broadcast, 11/08/2006

I love Steve’s teaching and views. Check out KeyLife at

Jan 172006

Trust is a big issue for many former Jehovah’s Witnesses. After investing a lot of trust in the organization and having that trust violated, most of us are more careful about trusting anyone or anything. The poem below shows in whom we can trust and why.

Inspired by a prayer spontaneously
offered by the late Dr. S.M. Lockridge

He is unparalleled and unprecedented.
He is the centerpiece of civilization.
He is the superlative of all excellence.
He is the sum of human greatness.
He is the source of divine grace.

His name is the only one able to save, and His blood is the only power able to cleanse.
His ear is open to the sinner’s call.
His hand is quick to lift the fallen soul.
He’s the eternal lover of us all – every one,
And you can trust Him.

He supplies mercy for the struggling soul.
He sustains the tempted and the tried.
He sympathizes with the wounded and the broken.
He strengthens the weak and the weary.

He guards and He guides the wanderer.
He heals the sick and cleanses the leper.
He delivers the captive and defends the helpless,
and He binds up the broken-hearted
He’s for you…and you can trust Him.

Jesus is the key to all knowledge.
He’s the wellspring of wisdom.
He’s the doorway of deliverance and He’s the pathway of peace.
He’s the roadway of righteousness.
He’s the highway of holiness.
He’s the gateway to glory,
And yes – you can trust Him.

Jesus IS enough…He’s the all sufficient KING…
He’s the King of the Jews.
He’s the King of Israel.
He’s the King of Righteousness and He’s the King of the Ages.
He’s the King of Heaven.
He’s the King of Glory.
He’s the King of kings and
He’s the Lord of lords.
And “yes” again, you can trust Him.

And rejoice in this, my friend…He is a Sovereign King.
There is no gauge to measure His limitless love.
There is no barrier to block His blessings outpoured.
He is enduringly strong and He is entirely supreme.
He is eternally steadfast.
He is immortally faithful.
He is imperially merciful.
He is Jesus – God’s Son – and you can trust Him.

I wish I could more accurately describe Him to you; but
He’s indescribable.
He’s incomprehensible.
He’s invincible.
He’s irresistible.

You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.
The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found they couldn’t stop Him.
Pilate couldn’t fault Him.
Herod couldn’t kill Him.
Death couldn’t conquer Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him!

My friends…

He’s the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.
He’s the God of the future and the God of the past.
And we rise to speak His Name again and again… Jesus…Jesus
He is Jesus…He is for us…and WE CAN TRUST HIM!

Sep 032005

As with so many articles here, all this started with a post to the Jehovah’s Witness Forum on AOL. A Jehovah’s Witness there wrote:

The Society has never lied to us (the learners, the readers). A mistake is different, very different than a deliberate lie. The scripture says that imposters will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled. This is not the case with the WT Society. Mistakes have been discerned, they have been corrected in the proper light.

That is a wonderful sentiment, one that I held for many years. But on closer examination, it does not hold up. In the 8/15/1993 Watchtower, page 9, in the article ” Why You Need to Attend Christian Meetings”, the Watchtower made the following statement:

Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently shown from the Scriptures that the year 1914 marked the beginning of this world’s time of the end and that “the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men” has drawn near.

An examination of older Watchtower publications shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses (or Bible Students as they were previously known) did have NOT “consistently shown from the Scriptures that the year 1914 marked the beginning of this world’s time of the end…” Rather, the Watchtower pointed to another date for the beginning of the “time of the end.” In the Finished Mystery book, on page 239, the Watchtower Society says:

This is without question a fulfillment of the prophecy testifying to the “time of the end.” These physical facts can not be disputed and are sufficient to convince any reasonable mind that we have been in the “time of the end” since 1799.

Also, from the March 1, 1922 Watch Tower:

The indisputable facts, therefore, show that the “time of the end” began in 1799; that the Lord’s second presence began in 1874.

The book Creation, published by the WTS in 1927 has a very detailed explanation as to why they felt 1799 was the beginning of the time of the end. Here are a few quotes. Creation, page 293:

Napoleon began this Egyptian campaign in 1798, finished it, and then returned t.o France on October 1, 1799. The campaign is briefly, yet graphically, described in the prophecy, verses 40-44; and its being completed in 1799 marks, according to the prophet’s own words, the beginning of “the time of the end”.

Creation, page 294

Twelve hundred and sixty years from 539 A. D. brings us to 1799, which is another proof that 1799 definitely marks the beginning of “the time of the end “.

Creation, page 295

From shortly after 1799, the date of the beginning of  “the time of the end”, we should expect to find an increase of knowledge, particularly with reference to the Bible.

Going back just a few years to 1921, in the book The Harp of God says on page 236:

“The time of the end” embraces a period from 1799 A.D., as above indicated, to the time of the complete overthrow of Satan’s empire and the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah. The time of the Lord’s second presence dates from 1874, as above stated. The latter period is within the first named, of course, and in the latter part of the period known as “the time of the end.”

Another example is from the 1/15/93 Watchtower, page 5 in the article “Caught Away to Meet the Lord’-How?”:

The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honesthearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914. Events since that year testify to Jesus’ invisible presence.

The WT actually taught for many years that Jesus returned (invisibly, of course) in 1874 and that he took power in heaven in 1878. So, are these just “mistakes” that were corrected in due time, or were both statements from the 1993 Watchtower deliberate attempts to misead the readers of the Watchtower as to what the Watchtower taught in the past?

Aug 132005

I’ve been thinking, reading, meditating and praying about the subject of God’s omnipresence and His presence in us a lot lately. This was started by an ongoing online discussion between some Jehovah’s Witnesses and some ex-Witnesses. A person who is studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote the following on a forum during a discussion of Jesus’ presence.

You know, my Mom died a few years ago. At every family gathering, we always comment how she is there with us. Is she there in a literal way? Of course not. But we speak about her, and talk about how the way she raised us, and taught us is still guiding our life today.

Isn’t this the same sense in how Jesus is with you? If you would have thought about the scripture you listed as cross references, this may have become clear. Let’s look at one of them – Matthew 28:19,20.

“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU. And, look! I am with YOU all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”

When Jesus told them to go and teach, didn’t he ask them to teach what he himself taught them? His teachings are passed on. His commandments we still follow! THAT is how Jesus is with us until the very end of the age. That is how he is present within all of us. It’s not a literal omnipresence.

Even though he is new to Jehovah’s Witnesses, this fellow’s view is quite consistent with Jehovah’s Witness teaching. There are several of their teachings that lead to their conclusion that Jesus is not literally present with all believers. They teach there is no Trinity, that Jesus is a created being (Michael the archangel) and that the Holy Spirit is not a person or being, but an impersonal force. They also teach that since the Father and the Son have spirit bodies, they are not omnipresent, but are confined to being in one place at any given point in time. This line of reasoning can be seen in the following quote from a 1981 issue of The Watchtower:

Actually, by teaching that God is omnipresent Christendom has confused matters and made it more difficult for God to be real to his worshipers. How could God be present everywhere at the same time? God is a spirit Person, which means that he does not have a material body, but a spiritual one. A spirit has a body? Yes, for we read, “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” (1 Cor. 15:44; John 4:24) God being an individual, a Person with a spirit body, has a place where he resides, and so he could not be at any other place at the same time. Thus we read at 1 Kings 8:43 that the heavens are God’s “established place of dwelling.” Also, we are told at Hebrews 9:24 that “Christ entered . . . into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” – The Watchtower, 2/15/1981 p. 6 “How Real Is God to You?”

Since they have come to the conclusion that Jesus cannot be omnipresent, how do they deal with Matthew 28:20? As with so many other verses of Scripture, they take it figuratively rather than literally. In 2002, The Watchtower made the following comment regarding Matthew 28:18-20:

2 Jesus not only assigned his disciples the life-saving work of making more disciples but also promised to be with them. The history of early Christianity, as recorded in the Bible book of Acts, shows beyond a doubt that Christ used the authority given him to lead the newly formed congregation. He sent the promised “helper” “the holy spirit” to strengthen his followers and to guide their efforts. (John 16:7; Acts 2:4, 33; 13:2-4; 16:6-10) The resurrected Jesus employed angels at his command to support his disciples. (Acts 5:19; 8:26; 10:3-8, 22; 12:7-11; 27:23, 24; 1 Peter 3:22) Moreover, our Leader provided direction to the congregation by arranging for qualified men to serve as a governing body. Acts 1:20, 24-26; 6:1-6; 8:5, 14-17. – The Watchtower, 3/15/2002 p. 13 para. 2 “Christ Leads His Congregation”

This article then went on to explain how Jesus is also present with Jehovah’s Witnesses through His leadership as expressed through their elders. So rather than Jesus presence being literal, The Watchtower teaches that Jesus is present with Jehovah’s Witness by proxy. They are teaching that Jesus is “present” with JWs through the leadership exercised by angels, the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and through their local elders. On one level, I am glad the prospective Witness wrote his views on Matthew 28:20. It spurred me to reflect on my own relationship with Christ. On another level, I found it profoundly sad and disturbing. For me, it highlighted the extreme contrast between my relationship with Christ years ago and what it is today. Years ago, I would have agreed with that view of Christ’s presence with those whom I viewed at the time as the only true Christians. I was a Jehovah’s Witness for over two decades.

In recent years, however, I have realized that this view of the nature of Christ’s presence takes all the power out of Jesus’ statement at Matt 28:20. Look at the context in which Jesus told his disciples that He would be with them. In verse 18, Jesus said that all power in heaven and on earth had been given Him. In verse 19 and the first part of verse 20, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission. Then, Jesus tells them He will be with them until the end of the age.

Here is some more of my reply post:

I think it is significant that Jesus placed the Great Commission between His telling the disciples of His power and of His continued presence with them. It is the power and the presence of Jesus that gave Christ’s disciples the ability to fulfill the Great Commission in their day and does the same for Christians today. Jesus telling them, and by extension us, of His power and presence builds us up for the work that He gave them and us to do. While the memory of Christ and His teachings is obviously important, it is His literal power and presence in the lives of Christians that really empowers them.

Today there are Neo-Nazis who still remember and follow the teachings of Adolph Hitler, there are Muslims that remember and follow the teachings of Mohammed and there are Buddhists who remember and follow the teachings of Buddha. Since these followers continue in the memory and teachings of their now dead leaders, those leaders are with them in the same sense that you feel both Christ and your mother are with you. Is Jesus no more with you than Hitler is with the Neo-Nazi, or Mohammed is with the Muslim or Buddha is with the Buddhist? Is the presence of Christ in your life no more than the memory of the teachings of a person who is now dead?

Because they are no longer alive, the presence of Hitler, Mohammed or Buddha in the lives of their followers, as well as your mother’s presence in your life is strictly passive. They have no power to actively participate in the lives of their followers, nor do their followers have any power to participate in their lives, because they have no life in which to participate. On the other hand, due to His resurrection, Christ is alive. He can and does participate in the lives of Christians.

In a verse that I always took to apply only to the written word of God, we see just how powerful and present the risen Christ, the incarnate Word of God, is in the life of the Christian.

(Heb 4:12) For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

We know that this verse is talking about Christ as the Word, rather than the written word from the following verse.

(Heb 4:13) And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. ( “Him to whom we must give an account” in other translations. )

Jesus Christ is a not just a dead, passive presence, but a living, vibrant, active, powerful presence in the life of the believer. I don’t mean any of this to minimize, marginalize or trivialize the virtual presence of this man’s in his life by his memories of her and her teachings; rather it is meant to magnify and glorify the power and presence of the risen Christ in the life of Christians. Here are some more Scriptures that talk about the presence of God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, in the believer. I think they point to much more than a virtual presence.

Matthew 18:20 (New American Standard Bible) 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”


John 14:17 (New American Standard Bible) 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.


Romans 8:9 (New American Standard Bible) 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.


1 Corinthians 3:16 (New American Standard Bible) 16 Do you not know that you are a temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?


1 Corinthians 6:19 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (20 shows that 19 was meant individually, not collectively) 2 Corinthians 6:16 (New American Standard Bible) 16 Or what agreement has the temple with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

Galatians 2:20 (New American Standard Bible) 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Colossians 1:27 (New American Standard Bible) 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Aug 102005

For years the Watchtower taught that the great crowd served God in the figurative “courtyard of the Gentiles” of the temple of God. Then, suddenly, in 1998 that teaching was changed. Here are some quotes from Watchtower publications that show the old teaching and the change.

This teaching was evidently introduced at the district conventions in 1972 as can be seen from the following quote from a review of those conventions that appeared in The Watchtower of October 1, 1972.

The speaker next showed that these spirit-begotten sons of God, as “spiritual Israelites,” were not the only ones who are found serving at Jehovah’s temple today. People of all kinds are being invited to come and serve at this temple, even as the Bible foretold would occur. (Isa. 2:2, 3; Rev. 7:9, 15) Those who respond have the privilege of worshiping Jehovah in the nonpriestly courtyard, comparable to the “courtyard of the Gentiles” of the temple built by King Herod. – The Watchtower, 10/1/1972. p. 607 “The Big Issue – Are We for or Against Divine Rulership?”

This same teaching was repeated later in 1972 and periodically for 25 more years.

This beautiful vision presents the international “great crowd” as serving Jehovah in his temple, that is, in the earthly courtyards reserved for those who are not spiritual Israelites, as it were in the “courtyard of the Gentiles.” – The Watchtower, 12/1/1972, p. 722 “The Gathering of All Nations to One Temple to Worship”

This beautiful vision presents the international “great crowd” as serving Jehovah in his temple, that is, in the earthly courtyards reserved for those who are not spiritual Israelites, as it were in the “courtyard of the Gentiles.” – The Watchtower, 5/15/1979, p. 16 “Persistence in Prayer Has Its Reward”

Those making up this “great crowd” are not described in terms that identify them as underpriests. So they must be understood to be standing in what was represented by the courtyard of the Gentiles, a special feature of the temple as rebuilt by Herod. – Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, p. 1081 “Temple”

A “great crowd of Jehovah’s other worshipers is “rendering [God] sacred service” in what was represented by the courtyard of the Gentiles at the temple rebuilt by Herod. – The Watchtower, 1/15/1993, p. 25 “Guard Against Idolatry of Every Sort”

As foretold, the great crowd “are worshiping [God] day and night in his temple.” (Revelation 7:15, footnote) Since they are not spiritual, priestly Israelites, John likely saw them standing in the temple in the outer courtyard of the Gentiles. – The Watchtower, 7/1/1996, p. 20 “The Triumph of True Worship Draws Near”

Then, in the 2/1/1998 issue of The Watchtower, the following change appeared.

The great crowd worships with anointed Christians in the earthly courtyard of Jehovah’s great spiritual temple. (Revelation 7:14, 15; 11:2) There is no reason to conclude that they are in a separate Court of the Gentiles.The Watchtower, 2/1/1998, p. 21 “The Other Sheep and the New Covenant”

“There is no reason to conclude that they are in a separate Court of the Gentiles.” ? Basically, they are saying “There is no reason to believe what we taught for 25 years.” On that point, I agree wholeheartedly with the Watchtower. As a friend of mine once put it, “Every time the governing body changes direction, 6 millions JWs get whiplash.”

Mar 272005

The Rest of the Story

Living just south of Kennebunk Maine as I do, I often heard the story of how a mob, irrate over Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal to salute the flag, attacked and burned the Kingdom Hall there on June 9, 1940. As is the case with so many things, there is more to the story.

I always pretty much took the story at face value and had never thought of investigating the details behind the incident until I came across an item related to in on E-Bay.

The Kennebunk incident took place just days after the United States Supreme Court overturned lower court decisions and found against the Gobitis family whose children were expelled from their school in Pennsylvania for refusing to salute the flag. Here is some background on the Minersville School District v. Gobitis case and the only mentions of the Kennebunk incident in Watchtower publications.

On November 6, 1935, Lillian and William Gobitis, children of Walter Gobitis, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, refused to salute the flag and were expelled from the public school at Minersville, Pennsylvania. Their case, pressed in the federal courts, attracted nationwide attention, becoming the test case for the entire country. It was fought up to the Supreme Court at Washington. Seventy-year-old lawyer J. F. Rutherford, president of the Watch Tower Society, personally appeared before the United States Supreme Court and argued the case on behalf of Jehovah’s witnesses. – The Watchtower, 7/15/1955, p 428, “Part 14: Fight Carried into the Law Courts”

Despite “Judge” Rutherford’s best efforts, on June 3, 1940, the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, found in favor of the Minersville School District. The Court later reversed itself on Flag Day, June 14, 1943, in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Quoting from former Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, in his book “The Court and the Constitution” (1987), the Watchtower writes:

Professor Cox continues his account: “Persecution of the Witnesses increased. In some quarters, notably Texas, Witnesses were attacked by mobs for their refusal to salute the flag, and they were sometimes held as ‘Nazi agents.'” In Maine, one Kingdom Hall was burned. In one town in Illinois, the whole population “turned out to attack some sixty Witnesses.” – Awake! 6/8/1988, p. 23, “The Principal Victims of Religious Persecution”

Lillian Gobitis mentioned the Kennebunk incident in her story that was published in the Awake! magazine in 1993.

This decision unleashed an almost unimaginable wave of terror. Across the country, it was open season on Jehovah’s Witnesses. People thought they were doing their patriotic duty by attacking us. Within days the Kingdom Hall at Kennebunk, Maine, was torched. – Awake!, 7/22/1993, p 15, “The Courage to Put God First”

So far, it seems like a simple case of an angry mob torching a Kingdom Hall. But there is a bit more to it. This brings us to the item on E-Bay. From time to time I check there for Watchtower related items. One day I saw a photograph up for bid that pictured two men holding Watchtower magazines. The information on it indicated that the two men were Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been arrested for assault with intent to kill after allegedly firing shotguns into the mob that was gathered outside the Kennebunk Kingdom Hall on the night of June 9, 1940, the night that the Hall was torched. I successfully bid on the picture, which is shown below.

Carrol S. Madsen and Joseph Leathers in the Sanford, Maine jail after being arrested for assault with intent to kill.

Glued to the back of the picture is the original Associated Press release about these two men.

The Associated Press press release attached to the back of the photograph above.

The next year, the American Civil Liberties Union published “The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses”. In this work, the ACLU quotes from Mrs. Gertrude Bobb’s affidavit in which she describes the events leading up to the incident.

The Kennebunk Case

The shocking events at Kennebunk, Maine in the early summer of 1940 were preceded by a long campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses, who maintained in the town a Kingdom Hall.

The culmination of the attack on the night of June 9 resulted in charges not against the assailants but against Jehovah’s Witnesses, who fired some shots from inside the Hall. Nobody was killed or wounded. One member of Jehovah’s Witnesses was convicted of assault with intent to kill and his conviction appealed to the Supreme Court. One man still remains to be tried. Four others were acquitted. Persons charged with burning Kingdom Hall were arrested and tried but all acquitted.

The following is from an affidavit of Mrs. Gertrude A. Bobb, a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose husband was largely responsible for the conduct of Witness work. Mrs. Bobb’s affidavit recounts events after Jehovah’s Witnesses were forced out of a rented hall because of mob violence:

“One day during the last week of September, 1939, at approximately 5 p.m. I went with Edwin Bobb, my husband, and Richard Trask to the home of a deputy sheriff of York ‘County, to tell him of the plans of the French Catholics to break up our meeting, and to ask for police protection. I waited outside in the car while my husband and Richard Trask went inside. In a few minutes they came out and I saw the sheriff swinging his arms and heard him shouting ‘Don’t come here for protection and don’t go to any other deputy sheriffs because they are Legionnaires, too. You’ll get no protection from them.

“We held the meeting without police protection. Kingdom Hall was packed with hoodlums. While I was sitting there a rock crashed in and missed my head by about a foot.

“The following Sunday night we held another meeting and Bible study in the same hall. Albout 8:30, rocks and all kinds of fruit and garbage were thrown through the windows, breaking every window in the front. There were others in the alley crashing windows in the back. We were forced to leave the building. After we left, the hoodlums crashed the doors down and broke all the furniture. The mob downstairs was estimated at about 2,000, among whom there were a handful of Salvation Army men and women in uniform. . . .

“The night after Memorial Day, a mob attacked Kingdom Hall, crashing in the front, breaking the windows and even the walls. I jumped into the car and drove to the nearest telephone to call the state police. In the meantime the hoodlums had returned and two got out of a car with their arms full of beer bottles. As they stepped into the yard to throw them, a shot was fired from the building. The two men dropped the bottles and fled.

“The next day Pat McCab, a state policeman, told my husband that our lives were in danger. He said he was telling this to us because he was afraid the whole thing was getting beyond the point where the state police could control it. My husband told him we would stick it out and protect Kingdom Hall even if we were to be shot.

“On Friday night, a large car’ swung out from the road heading right for our front doors. When they were several feet from the doors, we switched the lights on. They quickly swerved out into the road again and drove around in circles in front of the hall. I went out to take their license number. At first they warned me to go back into the house but when I wouldn’t leave, they tried to run me over.

“The next night, June 7th, our service meeting had just been completed when a hail of rocks hit the building in the rear. But when we got back there, no one was in sight. We called for an officer in Kennebunk but we couldn’t get one. We heard that a mob was threatening to tar and feather us. So we wired the Governor and the Attorney-General of Maine, appealing to them for protection. The Governor was out of town and we received no answer from him or from the Attorney- General. We made preparations to protect our lives as well as Kingdom Hall.

“On Saturday about eight cars of hoodlums began circling the hall. A weird light was thrown across our back yard and the field alongside of the hall. We later discovered it came from the home of the brother of the man who got shot, Mr. MacDonald. These cars would come up almost to the front porch but they only stayed there a moment and then swerved out into the road again. This sort of thing kept up until 2:30 in the morning when a car pulled up in front of the Kingdom Hall and three men got out and started for the Hall. As soon as the rocks started to fly, I said ‘Lights !’ Then I heard gun-fire but I couldn’t tell how many guns were fired.

“A little later the state police came and reported that two men were hurt and in the hospital. They took our names and addresses and the guns, and left. About 4:30 we decided that the mob would be after us, so we started to get our car which was about a mile away. The state police picked us up, telling us we were under arrest. They also picked up two others who were just leaving the hall to go to a friend’s house.

“Later the police said that the women had been taken into custody for their protection but that the men were under arrest, one charged with assault and attempt to murder and the other with being an accessory. Mv husband and I were put in the same cell. A little later the father of one of the boys that was hurt came up to our cell and said, pointing at Eddie, ‘I’ve got you where I want you, you fat bastard. You got my boy and I’ll get you the minute you get out.” He turned to me and said “I’ll get you too. I’ll drag you through Biddeford and make you salute something.’

“The police later told us that the mob was very vicious and that our lives were not worth a nickel out in the streets. I later learned that six of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been arrested and charged with assault and attempt to murder.”- The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, American Civil Liberties Union – January 1941, pp 16-19 – from

Gertrude Bobb’s account confirms the substance of the Associated Press release. On a personal note, I knew the Richard Trask that Mrs. Bobb mentions, first when he was in the Rochester N.H. congregation and later when he moved to the Kittery Maine congregation. I don’t remember ever talking with him about the Kennebunk incident.

After quoting Gertrude Bobb’s affidavit, the ACLU document went on to relate another interesting event in the history of JWs in Maine:

In another Maine village, North Windham, a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been convicted of murder resulting from an unprovoked assault by a garage man to whom he had tried to play phonograph records. The garage man threatened and struck the Witness with a tire iron and in a scuffle the Witness, Arthur F. Cox, pulled a gun and shot the garage man. He alleged self-defense. The case is on appeal to the Supreme Court. – The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, American Civil Liberties Union – January 1941, pp 16-19 – from

Another old-timer that I knew was supposedly with Cox when this happened. I’ve heard a couple versions of what happened to Cox after this. If anyone has any more information on Arthur Cox and this incident, please let me know.