For someone learning about the Bible for the first time, one of the key elements to the story of Jesus returning—the dead rising from their graves—is bound to leave an impression. My only frame of reference for this phenomenon comes from popular culture: zombies.

We are obsessed with dead people who reanimate, usually in mass. Movies, books, and television shows—we are hungry for stories about “the Zombie Apocalypse.” Is this another example of a Christian idea so thoroughly integrated into our collective imagination that we hardly remember where it came from? Obviously, we have embellished upon the theme for entertainment. The zombies are coming for us with their arms outstretched. They make strange guttural noises and eat human brains. I don’t think that comes from the Bible.

Some denominations seem to focus on Jesus coming back, but don’t worry too much beyond this event. Others, like the Jehovah Witnesses, have invested more energy into planning for the aftermath of Christ’s return. Hence, the subject of the dead coming back to life gains importance.

Even though representatives from my local Kingdom Hall have visited my house at least a dozen times, I was hesitant to go to theirs. I called earlier in the week to make sure it was okay for me to attend Sunday services. They aren’t listed in my newspaper’s Worship Directory. It goes along with their distrust of all things civic: they don’t vote, hold office, salute the flag, serve in the military, or volunteer their information to the newspaper authorities. It’s part of their commitment to avoid the world where evil lurks. Theirs is a safer parallel world that intersects with the dangerous world at countless doorsteps.

Turns out there’s one civic instrument they are powerless to avoid: the phone book.

On the phone, I talk to a woman named Sadu and she says I am welcome on Sunday. She speaks with a strong accent that I imagine comes from some place in India or maybe Africa. I picture her as exotic and statuesque, like one of the dark women from the Watchtower illustrations who dons a colorful headscarf and flowing robe. Sadu tells me to look for her when I visit.

What if these are real-life zombies? This thought flashes to mind as I’m standing at the entrance to the Kingdom Hall with people milling around. I’ve been thinking too much about corpses springing back to life. It’s as if their happy expressions and business casual attire carry the whiff of inauthenticity—like they’re trying too hard to seem alive. The atmosphere in the building can only be described as funereal: fake plants, floral carpet, mauve wainscoting. No windows; the only light emanates from florescent tubes. Décor best appreciated by the dead. I keep expecting someone to turn and have an eyeball dangling from a socket, an image that momentarily scares the bejesus out of me.

A man in a suit smiles broadly. He has big white teeth and sandy blond hair shellacked into place. If he is a zombie, he has cleaned up nicely. “I’m looking for Sadu,” I tell him.

He frowns and turns to a woman, “Have you seen Sadu?” She turns to second woman. The second asks a third. Sadu? Sadu? On down the line. A young woman approaches, “Sadu isn’t here today.” She is apologetic. “You can sit with me if you’d like.”

She is white and short and ordinary, but her eyeballs are intact. I accept her invitation.

39 thoughts on “Zombies

  1. Corinna,
    You finally got to a Kingdom Hall. That’s funny, your thinking they looked zombie-like! I had to laugh. Had you come to a Kingdom Hall in Tulsa, you would find a mixture of people from all over the world. For example in the one I attend, there are people from Germany, Holland, Scotland, the Philippines, Cameroon (Africa) and even some Americans! Languages spoken in the hall I attend are, of course, English, Dutch, Farsi, German, Pilipeno, French, Pigeon, Spanish, and Noreigian. It’s quite a loving mixture of people who get along so well together! All of our meetings are in English, but in and around Tulsa are meetings held in Spanish, Russian, Mhung, sign language, Vietnamese and I’ve probably missed one or two others. I haven’t noticed their “zombie-like” appearance. I’ll have to look a little closer.

  2. Corinna, I do not know a thing about Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I am not sure how my comments might relate. But as for resurrection, it is certainly key for Christians. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead and believers are promised the same. His resurrection is what sets Jesus and Christianity apart, making it entirely unique from other religions. His resurrection confirms Jesus’ divinity. And, as He is alive now, the Holy Spirit which is given to all believers (from the Father and the Son) confirms the same for us. The Holy Spirit is our “seal” for the promise of resurrection. (Let me know if you want references regarding this.)

    I think you are probably right about the fact of Jesus’ rising leading to a belief in resurrection that permeates our lives so that we hardly even realize where it came from. Love the reference to Zombies. A friend’s son just made a zombie movie. It will be out in May. I’ll let you know if it is any good. 🙂

  3. Zombies??? hmmm? I suppose my memories of JWs coming to our door when I was a kid would fit into that category…many moons ago….

    Shortly after Michelle and I became Christians, we were playing hooky from church one Sunday a.m. when a nice young couple came to our door. I had no clue who they were, and was I ever shocked when I realized they were JWs…..no zombies, they!! I invited them in for a chat when I realized they didn’t think Jesus is the Son of God….When we sat down together, I brought up every verse I could think of (which amounted to only 3-4) that indicated Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God. When they left, I felt defeated….but it drove Michelle and me into the Scriptures to find out for ourselves….one of the best things that ever happened to my very soft and untested Christian faith. It was an early lesson for us about the importance of knowing what and why you believe what you do…..

    • Walt,
      Many people are under the impression that “Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God”, or that we simply don’t believe in Jesus. Neither is true. We DEFINITELY believe in Jesus and that He is the Son of God. When Jesus asked his disciples (at Matt. 16:13-16) who men are saying the Son of man is, Peter spoke up and said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus commended Peter for his answer. What is true is that we don’t believe in the Trinity Doctrine that states that “the Son IS God”. (Athanasian Creed). In fact the Athanasian Creed, accepted by many Christian religions, states in part: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. …The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. …So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. …So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God. …And in this Trinity none is afore or after other; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal together, and coequal. …He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.” [Quoted from Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintock and Strong, Vol. II, pp. 560, 561).

      There is not even one verse in scripture that agrees with the definition of the “Trinity” or anything even CLOSE to that definition. In fact, there are dozens of verses that disprove what is stated above. For example, when the “creed” says: “none is greater or less than another”, Jesus said at John 14:28 “…the Father is greater than I am.” Who do we believe, the proclaimers of the Athanasian Creed, or Jesus? When the “Creed” says the Son is “eternal”, the Bible differs. There are at least three verses that show that the Son (Jesus) was created, in fact, the very first to be created. (Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14; Prov. 8:22-31. Also check out John 6:57.) So many things that Jesus said disagree with the “creed”. For examples, look at John 14:24; John 12:49; John 8:28; John 1:16, 28; 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Cor. 15:27,28) These are just a few examples, but there are dozens like these throughout the entire New Testament that show that Jesus, while unique, is not part of a Triune God, equal in everything. I know there are a few verses that seem to indicate that Jesus is God, but all can be explained by context and/or other Bible verses.

      If that “nice young couple” were really Jehovah’s Witnesses, they wouldn’t be arguing AGAINST Jesus being the “Son of God” because that is a foremost belief of our religion. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how the discussion proceeded, but I do know, if they were JWs there should have been instant agreement that Jesus Christ IS INDEED the Son of God. There is some confusion somewhere.

      • Hi Chuck: My memory of the nice young couple goes back to 1971 or 72. I do remember using the term “Son of God” but in my mind that signified deity. I also remember that it was that phrase that I was puzzling over as we spoke, and I remember saying, “so, you don’t believe that Jesus is……?” I don’t think that until then did I know that JW’s did not believe in the Trinity. This intigued me, and it was at that point that I invited them into our little apartment. There is indeed a mysterious relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that I sometimes wonder whether it is actually captured by the term “Trinity,” and especially since Father and Son are often set off from the Spirit–who is referred to in many different ways. I’m sure about one thing, that this relationship is far more complex–or simpler–than any nice neat theological package.

        I have ruminated over many of the passages you’ve listed. What do you suppose Jesus meant when, in answer to Philip’s plea, “show us the Father and that will be enough,” he said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father”?

        • Walt,
          Thanks for your reply and for asking the question concerning what Jesus meant by: “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. (John 14:9). If we were to accept these words of Jesus at face value and not consider other verses to help us understand what Jesus meant, all it would “prove” is that Jesus is the Father. It would not “prove” the triune God concept since the Holy Spirit isn’t even mentioned. Interestingly, Trinitarians DO NOT believe Jesus is the Father any more than JWs do, like the verse (at face value) is seeming to say, however, my understanding is that they DO believe Jesus is the “same God”.

          How do we know that Jesus was not saying He is the Father? Verse 28 of that same chapter has Jesus saying “the Father is greater than I.” That in itself shows us that Jesus is neither the Father, nor part of an equality of Persons in one God. How could he be the Father and yet the Father is greater than he? That certainly shows that Jesus did not think of himself as being his own Father, nor equal as part of a single triune God. If we consider carefully what Jesus said at John 5:19 and John 8:28; and what the Apostle Paul said at Col. 1:15 and Heb. 1:3, we can understand better what Jesus meant by that statement (John 14:9). Rather than to print these 4 verses out, please look them up and read them yourself, so as not to make this any longer than it is.

          Heb. 1:3, in part, says that Jesus is “the reflection of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His [God’s] very being…” Since Jesus perfectly “represented” his Father, seeing Jesus was the same as “seeing” God, which literallly speaking “…NO MAN MAY SEE ME AND YET LIVE” (Ex. 33:20). At John 1:18 we are told: “No man has seen God at any time. …” (You might want to look up John 5:37 as well).

          Since Jesus fully represents God in all respects, seeing Jesus is the next best and closest thing for any human to see God Himself. An example of how seeing Jesus is like seeing the Father is 3 John 11, which states: “He that does good originates with God. He that does bad has not seen God.” In what sense have these bad persons not seen God? In that they have not come to know His personality and traits. They are not familiar with God’s goodness, love and righteousness. The “good” person has not literally “seen” God either, but he has learned about God’s qualities and love and so, in that sense he has “seen” God. Is it possible that Jesus used the word “seen” the same way that John used this same word? The next words out of Jesus’ mouth seem to state this is how Jesus meant it. Notice carefully John 14:10: “Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? I am not the source of the words that I say to you, but the Father who is united with me is doing these things himself.” (The New Testament, by Goodspeed).

          So Jesus explains what he meant by saying they had seen the Father when they saw him. The things that Jesus did he did not do of his own originality, he merely did what his Father told him to do. So, seeing Jesus’ actions and hearing his teachings is like seeing and hearing the Father’s since they are the Father’s. Seeing Jesus did not mean that they had literally seen the Father, or they could not have lived, as noted earlier. Jesus was God’s representative and seeing him (seeing in the sense of learning and understanding Jesus’ qualities) was just like seeing God (as in learning about God’s qualities).

          Further, we notice Jesus’ words at John 5:37: “Also, the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. You have neither heard his voice at any time NOR SEEN HIS FIGURE.” These people DID hear Jesus’ voice and see him, but they had not seen the Father or heard His voice. So what did the disciples “see” that these persons did not see? Nothing in the physical sense. They saw the Father by realizing Jesus imitated Him perfectly. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the exact representation of His very being.” (Heb. 1:3). As the “representation” of the Father, Jesus is certainly not saying he IS the Father. John 14:1 shows he is not Almighty God either.

          I really appreciate your asking me what JWs’ take is on John 14:9.


          • Hi Chuck: Thanks for your kind response. I’ll look up the verses and get back….and I will also try to “breathe” as Frank says (below). If you’ve followed many of my comments, you’ve probably figured out that I don’t always give the standardized evangelical response–I’ve grown wary of putting God in a box of my own mind. (I think Frank was earlier saying that I was “brave” because of my comment re “trinity”….we’ll see).

            For now, I’ll just say that I wasn’t meaning to imply that Jesus the Son is the Father–that would not actually be the plain sense of Jesus’ statement….bad communication on my part 😦

            I’ll get back ASAP.

            • Hi Walt,
              I’ll look for your reply. I wasn’t saying that you thought Jesus, the Son was the Father, but, I’ve heard that before. What some believe is that that verse “proves” Jesus is (not necessarily the Father but) God. But, of course, that’s not what the verse is saying. As to Frank’s reply, I kind of thought he was telling ME to “breathe” as my response was rather long-winded. I’m sure he’ll tell us what he meant. Take care.

              • just saw your note, so I thought I’d mention this (which you may have picked up before): I’ve come to the realization that “proof-texting” is a real disservice to God–it has resulted in any number of misapprehensions of what God is like and who Jesus is. As a new Christian, I was very much taken up (following our encounter with the nice couple) with finding all the “proofs” of Jesus’ deity. Many years into my Christian walk, I’ve realized how much I (and others) have focused on trees and missed the forest. I want to try to avoid that. I also want to write things that will help people understand God rather than further muck things up. I’ll be back.

                • Walt,
                  What do you mean by “proof-texting”? I assume that means to support one’s argument by verses from here and there, right? Please explain a bit more clearly what you mean by this term, and if this is correct, how would you explain Jesus’ own use of the same? Thanks.

                  • Chuck:
                    Well, this is me coming back ASAP… 😐
                    I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said, and I realize I could write some tome, but that won’t help us or the other readers, so I thought I do some “shorter” snippets.

                    The last thing I want to do is for you to get the idea I was implying that you were “proof-texting,” whatever that means as a negative put-down. Actually, we all engage in this, though I try not to, and not only when talking about the Scriptures. I simply mean what is referred to in the old saw that says, “you can prove anything by the Bible just by quoting a verse.” This would be the mindset that sees every verse as a sort of “independent thesis unto itself”–a mindset which has been unwittingly encouraged by the practice in some Bible versions (esp KJV) of printing each verse as a separate paragraph–and recently by Bible programs and phone apps which speedily present isolated individual texts. I see this proof-texing all the time, (an extreme example), when people are called to account for something and they say, “The Bible says, ‘Judge not,'” thinking they are “quoting” Jesus, but completely ignoring what the verse is talking about, i.e., they pull it out of context. I also see this a lot in doctrinal treatises which list lots of references after statements that one might look up (if you have many hours or are extremely anal).

                    I would not presume that I can justify myself by saying that Jesus did it. He did, certainly, quote isolated portions about which we sometimes puzzle over (e.g., “I said, ‘ye are gods'”). Likely, any trinitarian would think, “Well, Jesus can do that since he’s God,” ie, has perfect knowledge. I’ve learned that saying such is lazy thinking. Wherever one comes down regarding the deity of Christ, Jesus as a man obviously did understand and have more wisdom when using Scripture in his teaching or argumentation than any others. As for myself, I try to stick with good sense and read and quote passages from the Bible like we do other literature (albeit not always succeeding). The Bible IS indeed special and from God, and it behooves us to tread carefully with it. However, because God invented language and desires to communicate with us though that medium, I think the old school exercise of stating the “main idea of the passage” would stand us in good stead–and give us a degree of confidence–in helping us understand much of Scripture.

                    Hope that clears up that particular phrase….

                    • PS: Corinna, thanks for being patient with my ‘long-ness’: your blog has done more to help me think though what I understand/believe about a lot of things–and then communicating it in some understandable fashion–than much else I’ve been engaged in of late…. 🙂

                    • Walt,
                      Thanks for getting back to me, Walt. I understand what you meant by “proof-texting” and I agree 100% with you. I also appreciated your “PPS”). Many years ago in talking to a Methodist minister, he accused JWs of using verses (or parts of verses) from here and there to prove our point. As an example he quoted the last part of Matt. 27:5 that says: “…Judas went out and hanged himself.” And then he quoted the last part of Luke 10:37 which says (KJV): “…Go and do thou likewise.” He claimed that JWs do that sort of thing to “prove” our point. That is neither true nor rational. I don’t think anyone, JW or non-JW would resort to doing that, even when talking to someone who knew nothing about the Bible. Furthermore, it would be dishonest, which is the polite way of saying “a lie”. Never have I heard of, or seen any JW use the Scriptures in this manner. We should be aware of context and strive not to take words, or expressions out of context.

                      We do, however, use verses from various parts of the Bible to show agreement with, or to explain another verse. I see nothing wrong with that practice. For example, trinitarians often use John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one.”) to help “prove” the trinity doctrine. That is a cursory interpretation that is NOT backed up in the context of “proving” the trinity doctrine. (besides, only two are mentioned–not three). The careful Bible student would look elsewhere, and preferably in John’s writings, since John was the one who (we believe by the power of holy spirit) wrote down what Jesus said, to understand Jesus’ words. If we turn over a few pages in John, to chapter 17 and look carefully at verses 20-23, we note the sense in which Jesus was “one” with the Father. Jesus prays to his Father (which in itself makes us wonder why he is praying to ANYBODY, if he is God, or even equal to God”, that his disciples may be one “just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they [his disciples] also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.” And then in verse 22 Jesus continues his prayer saying: “Also, I have given them the glory that you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one.” That pretty well explains what Jesus meant when he said “I and the Father are one”. Do you see a problem with that method of arriving to conclusions as to what a verse of scripture might mean, rather than always taking things at face value?

                      Walt, I would really like to correspond with you, but I don’t think it would be fitting to use Corinna’s blog to do so. I would prefer we correspond directly. I can tell by reading your posts that you are not a person who likes controversy, nor am I. I believe that whenever two or more people are discussing scripture, Peter’s words at 1 Peter 3:15 should be a guideline: “But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a MILD TEMPER, AND DEEP RESPECT.” My personal email is: chuckmcm@cox.net I think we both might benefit from an exchange.

                  • a PPS: You may think I reject everything JWs say/believe out of hand, but I’ve learned over a long, pain zigzag journey (how I’ve been thinking of my life lately) that almost any thesis/idea/theory has an element of truth behind it, and while I would describe myself–rather loosely–as a ‘trinitarian’–I have loads of questions about how that has been formulated in church tradition and how it may have contributed to wrong thinking by putting God into a box that we dare not investigate out of fear.

                    • Using this manner of biblical interpretation has occasionally become problematic for the JW’s. The scripture at:
                      ◄ 2 Corinthians 13:1 ►
                      New International Version (©2011)
                      This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. ” is used as a basis to disfellowship or publicly reprove people. When it comes to child molesters or sexually abusing children it is almost impossible to have the required two or three witnesses. As a result, for many years, the legally required police report was not given to police and the vile men concerned went unpunished either by the JW elders or the law. For many years the secrecy maintained was similar to that of the Priests in the Catholic church and many children of Jehovah’s Witnesses were considered as possible liars and they and their parents got reproved for bringing the matter to the elder’s attention. The headquarter’s organization is working tirelessly to find ways to work around this biblical injunction in matters of inciest or sexual child abuse.

                  • Hi Chuck:
                    I don’t really shy away from controversy…..while it is my natural bent to shy away, truth is stronger than fear.

                    What you may have picked up is my reticence to get into a fight here on Corinna’s blog. My observation is that some of those disagreements have turned into extensive argumentation about arcane points and of little interest to many of those visiting her page. I know she reads them all, but I doubt many others do. I will not engage you in a fight over the deity of Christ. Here’s why:

                    I’ve been rethinking some of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, how to be a disciple (or, apprentice) of Jesus. About five-six years ago, I was challenged by Dallas Willard, a philosophy prof at USC (and a Christian). He said that those of us who claim to be Christians, who follow Jesus, should be taking time to purposely get to know him by focusing on the Gospel accounts, reading and engaging them, not just to learn his “teaching points” but to observe him, discover what’s important to him, what he was seeking to do besides heading for the cross. The reason he was stressing engaging the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) was because, in fact, many Christians do not spend much time reading them and, as a result, are ignorant or confused about what he really said, what he was seeking to do, etc. His advice resonated with me because, as a young Christian eons ago, I was explicitly encouraged to focus instead on the “church epistles” (letters of Paul, etc.), since they were more “relevant” to Christians today and important for understanding justification by faith. After investing some purposeful time in reading the Gospels (several times), some of my presuppositions and tradition-bound baggage began to fall away. I’ve been amazed and delighted at some of what I’ve begun to see–my sight was shifting from some of the trees to the larger forest….

                    More anon….dinner calls….


                    • I think I understand what you are saying here, Walt, and I really like it if I got it right. That by reading the gospels as something that paints a portrait of Jesus with a broader perspective than simply choosing bullet points to prove or disprove something you get a feeling for the man and the nature of his divinity. How wonderful that is. If I got it wrong, I apologize. I just found myself reading and thinking, yes, yes, yes.

                    • Hi Walt,
                      I agree totally with Dallas Willard’s idea of focusing on Jesus and the road he took leading up to his death, and immitating him as closely as possible. That is of utmost importance. Jesus said in prayer to his Father at John 17:3 (NWT) “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you the only true God, and the one whom you sent forth Jesus Christ.” So, our everlasting lives are very much dependent on our gaining knowledge of BOTH the “only true God” and his Son, Jesus Christ. Once we learn about God, his qualities, his purposes, his love, his Kingdom, and learn the same about Jesus, then we need to pattern our lives after both Jehovah and Jesus. Everything else is secondary. If all who profess to be Christians did that, there would be no war, no corrupt politics, no cheating others out of their life savings, as many in “big business” have done, and, in fact, no real need for locks on doors. Well, these points might sound a bit utopian, but it would certainly be a good start.

                      My intent was not to argue over the “divinity” of Jesus Christ, but to explain why we don’t believe in the traditional idea of the Trinity doctrine, and at the same time consider your viewpoint. In that way we both learn from one another (Prov. 27:17). I wouldn’t feel comfortable having an exchange with some people who have written on this blog, but I already feel comfortable with you, after reading your comments on various topics. There are so many ideas about both God and Christ, so to be a true Christian, I believe we need to consider what the Bible really teaches about each of them, and what it does NOT teach about them–what’s being passed along as “truth”. I have learned long ago that it doesn’t accomplish a thing to argue over this or any other biblical subject, but I do see advantage in discussing subjects and learning the viewpoints of others. I just didn’t feel it would be right to have an exchange on Corinna’s blog, thinking too that we might get burdoned down and way off track with so many opinions of others who might enter into the exchange. You know how that can happen on an open blog. I am always open for a good respectful discussion/exchange.


                    • Thanks Frank and Chuck. Frank, I think you got it right. And yes, Chuck, I really do appreciate good discussion I try to keep in mind Corinna (especially) and the other readers. We’re ALL on a journey of some sort. I’m hoping that what I have to say will be helpful to those here and honor God at the same time.

                      Chuck, one of the things that happened with me as I concentrated on reading not much else than the Gospels for a long while was that I was getting to KNOW Jesus and my Father in a way that I would not characterize in quite the way it is translated in NWT (‘taking in knowledge’). I do read Greek (albeit not in the way I’d like) plus some other languages, and have done Bible translation, at least enough to have great respect for those who have done it as well, I know the struggles, the imperfect transferability between language and culture, and I know something of the politics of Bible translation, so I’ll not try to pick apart NWT on John 17:3. Knowing God has to do with building a real relationship with the Father and the Son as an adopted son (male or female) because this is what he desired and he will be with us eternally in the new creation (Revelation 21:3). I know my wife: while true that I have knowledge of her, my relationship over the past 43 years has enabled me to know her in ways which cannot be described by any list of adjectives–and especially to trust her. It is the same with the Father.

                      Here are some of the things I began to learn–and am still learning–as I kept reading, watching, listening, and asking myself, “What’s his agenda?” Jesus was very focused on showing what God’s perspective on things is, contra what the people had been hearing from the religious leaders of the day. This is really evident in, for example, the ‘Sermon on the Mount’: he was speaking to people whose teachers were not generally “poor in spirit.” He spoke much of his Father’s intentions and sought to help them understand what God is really like by what he said and how he lived and related to people, especially to the ones no self-respecting Jew would have given the time of day to (e.g., “tax collectors” and “sinners”). One way he taught about God was to refer to him as his “Father.” The significance of this word goes right past us because “Father” is simply one of the names that people use to refer to God–but in Jesus case, this was a revolutionary way to speak of God. Jesus used the term “Abba,” an intimate Aramaic term similar to ‘papa’. The leaders were incensed that Jesus used this term and he even taught his followers to do so. The Jews were fearful of offending God by mispronouncing the covenant name “YHWH”–Hebrew didn’t write vowels–(which we may hear as Yahweh or Jehovah). The Jews defaulted to saying “Lord” (“Adonai”) instead. They missed the whole point….God planned (predestined) to adopt us as his sons (‘adoption as son’ or ‘sonship’) is one word in the Greek language and he was “passionate” about it. (The vanilla-flavored ‘good pleasure’ of most translations in Ephesians 1:5 doesn’t begin to convey the excitement of God as he anticipated spending eternity with his children in relationship.)

                      Jesus’ concern included telling about the Kingdom of God, how important it is to live for the Father’s will, what it means to trust him (lack of trust was about the only thing he rebuked his followers for) as the Father who knows, cares for, and provides good things for his children. He castigated the leaders for teaching traditions that directly bypassed God’s real intent and for working hard to produce converts and yet making them into “children of hell.” While he did give indications about himself, much of it was rather oblique. He came to show us who God is, not prove himself God, and he did so by modeling servanthood. Those who are his disciples–ie, who are living out what they are learning from him–will not cling to their own agendas, their own lives, their own comfort (as the hypocritical and irrelevant religious leaders were doing) but be a light reflecting God.

                      Chuck, I think that you and I would agree that there was something very different about the man Jesus. After that “nice young couple” left our apartment, Michelle and I engaged in not a little proof-texting ourselves to prove Jesus is this or that. I think what we succeeded in doing was to put Jesus into a box that suited our own thinking. Time to think outside the box.

                    • Walt,
                      I read over your post of April 29 and if I am understanding it correctly, I can agree with almost all of it. Since you commented (but didn’t “pick apart”) on John 17:3, I might add that years ago I wondered why the NWT said “their taking in knowledge of you…” instead of the standard “that they might know thee…”, so I did a little digging to find the answer. I will share my findings, not to argue over words, but to explain that “taking in knowledge of you…” is thought by some authorities to be at the least equal, and at best, superior to the standard.

                      First, I might mention that the footnote in the NWT “Reference Bible” says: “Or, ‘their knowing you.’ Gr., hi’na gi’no’sko’si se.” My research tells me that the Greek word here translated “take in knowledge” or “know,” is a form of the verb gi-no’sko. The rendering in the NWT is designed to bring out as fully as possible the meaning of that word. The basic meaning of gi-no’sko is to “know,” but the Greek word has various shades of meaning. Note the following: The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W.E. Vine states: “GINOSKO signifies to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand, or to understand completely.” Rendering gi-no’sko “take in knowledge” is not “changing the Bible” as a number of critics of the NWT have alleged.

                      Renouned lexicographer James Hope Moulton said this of the various shades of meaning this word can have: “The present simplex, yivwokeiv, is durative. ‘to be taking in knowledge.” (A Grammar of New Testament Greek.)

                      “A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament” says this: “gi-no’sko as it appears at John 17:3 as ‘implying a continuous process.'”

                      M.R. Vincent in “Word Studies in the New Testament” says: “Eternal life consists in knowledge, or rather the pursuit of knowledge, since the present tense marks a continuance, a progressive perception.” And, A.T. Robertson’s “Word Pictures in the New Testament” suggests translating the word “should keep on knowing,” which is closer to the way the NWT renders it than most other translations “know”.

                      To sum it up. Jesus’ words at John 17:3 imply a continuous effort to get to know the true God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and this is well brought out in the rendering of the NWT. We acquire this knowledge by dilligently studying God’s Word and by conforming our lives to its standards. When we acquaint ourselves with God’s personality and with that of Jesus Christ, and then strive to imitate them, this leads to everlasting life!

                      Walt, are you familiar with Dr. Jason BeDuhn’s book “Truth in Translation–Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament” Dr. BeDuhn is NOT associated in any way with JWs., but he does appreciate the NWT. Dr. BeDuhn is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Humanities, Arts, and Religion at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. His BA is from the Univ. of Illinois, his Master of theology is from Harvard Divinity School, and his Ph.D. is from Indiana University. He’s the Winner of the American Academy of Religion “Best First Book” award for his “Manichaean Body”. In 2003 he published “Accuracy and Bias …” In this book he compared verses that are generally thought of as “Trinitarian Verses”, but he does so from a neutral position–not taking sides either way, and never letting us know what his personal religious beliefs are–but he goes into this study strictly on the basis of Accuracy and Bias. He compares 9 English translations including the KJV and the NWT. When all is said and done, he says this (from page 163): While it is difficult to quantify this sort of analysis, it can be said that the NW emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared. Holding a close second to the NW in its accuracy, judging by the passages we ha ve looked at, is the NAB. Both of these are translations produced by single denominations of Christianity. Despite their distinctive doctrinal commitments, the translators managed to produce works relatively more accurate and less biased than the translations produced by multi-denominational teams, as well as those produced by single individuals.” He then goes on to explain why he rates these two translations at the top. On page 165 he states: “Most of the differences [in the NWT] are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation of the original expressions of the New Testament writers.”

                      John 17:3 may be one of those verses with different, but perhaps more accurate wording. I have found a number of different wording verses from the “norm” (if there is a norm), in the NWT, and have done research on them only to find that the NWT got it right, (according to authorities).

                      You might enjoy and benefit from this book. You can normally get a used one less expensive on Amazon. University Press of America is the publisher. I hope you find this information of interest, Walt. Yes, sometimes we have to think outside of the box.


                    • Hi Chuck: I’m familiar with the sources you’ve cited, except BeDuhn. They are all excellent scholars, but they are all dated. Much great scholarship and linguistic work has been done, especially since the 1970s. All the major Christian study bibles (NIV, ESV, New Living, etc) translate and have notes indicated the work ginosko has in such contexts more to do with relationship rather than knowing intellectually.

      • Hi Frank: Thanks for this. Many denominations have skeletons that they do not want exposed to the light of day, and have made it even worse by covering it up. The Catholics or JWs are not the only ones. They justify themselves in many ways. We were part of an evangelical Christian mission for 17 years. While serving in Africa, there was a “dorm dad” who did things like shower with young girls and touch them and probably other things. There was a general mindset instilled in the children (not only by this pervert) that kept them from coming forward and even denying that it happened years later. When one of the girls finally opened up to her parents and the dad started going to the leadership about it, they wouldn’t believe him. It took about 20 years for them to acknowledge what had happened–some of them never did–and meanwhile several young people’s (now in their 30s) lives were really screwed. There is an institutional mindset at work in such cases that allows leaders to become very insular (almost an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality) and self protective–and often with a conviction that they are doing this to protect “God’s work.” (The mind is good at this sort of acrobatics which somehow shifts the blame to God in order to protect the self). There are good, godly people in the mission that we were part of. They are not all “infected.” I saw this mindset at work from an insider’s viewpoint when I was part of a similar leadership structure in a church we belonged to for many years. Such cases are not isolated to any particular ‘church’.

  4. Walt,
    I know of nothing that negates the study of John 17:3 by Robertson, Vine, Moulton, and others, or rejecting “taking in knowledge”, but I’ll check around and see if I can find the study Bibles you refer to and check it out. You said that “ginosko has more to do with relationship rather than knowing intellectually”. I don’t disagree, but I think the point is that we keep on developing our relationship with God and Christ by continuing to “take in knowledge” of each of them. It’s a continuing effort. That’s how it works with human relationships as well. The more we continue to learn and know of a person, the greater our relationship becomes with him. Can you agree with that?

    • This is such an excellent reply and description of how Jehovah’s Witnesses work with Jesus and scriptural verses about his work indulging themselves in the belief that once that’s accomplished they now “know” him setting aside the heart for the intellect. Of course, this will be denied and scriptural statements abound about the “deceptive heart” and giving less credence to the deceptive mind. This is almost entirely a religion of the intellect. Simply reading the four gospels to get an overview of the life of Jesus and his work as if one were reading a novel provides an opportunity for many feeling tones to be engendered: Jesus ministry of inclusive compassion often makes ones heart leap at the manifestations of his work, feel the joy of the cleansed leper, the resurrections of daughters and sons, the depth of sadness as Jesus body is taken down from the cross and the picture of the pieta comes to view. Mary, his mother, cradling the body, the “Aha” experience of the Emmaus road. There are feeling tones all along the reading allowing for great feelings of joy, love, and sadness so that one may weep occasionally or feel moments of ecstasy at other times. This knowing of Jesus in this way creates a heart to heart feeling with the man and his divinity. So MUCH MORE than simply saying something like, “Let’s read Matt. 24:14 and John 1:1 …etc..etc…etc… They will never know this Jesus because the Jesus they see is the Jesus template created by Watchtower interpretations of biblical passages. They have no sense about what it feels like to “touch the hem of the garment”.

    • Chuck:
      I just saw this post….must’ve missed the email notification somehow.
      I would agree, but I am puzzled because of the way you keep stressing the phrase “take in knowledge” as though there were something sacrosanct about the wording–but the phrase itself seems rather nebulous and non-relational. Knowledge has to do with both cognitive elements and experiential ones, objective and subjective. My experience of knowing my dad or mom or wife, etc., includes some things that I might articulate intellectually, but it also involves experience of the relationship itself, including the development of trust.

      An illustration: As we grow, we generally understand God through the filter of our relationship with our parents, especially our fathers. This is not only intuitively correct, but has been the subject of research as well. My dad was not deeply involved in my life (my perception). He seemed to care more for my older brother than for me. He died when I was 13. I grew up with the impression that I was not really very important to him, that I really existed to him, that I didn’t much matter at all.

      After Michelle and I became Christians, we went to a Bible school and learned a lot about God. One of the truths that I learned was that he has adopted me as his son–he is my Father. As I look back now, I realize how little this meant to me at the time because the level of intimacy with the Father that I should have eagerly grasped was filtered through a non-intimate relationship with my own dad. Only many years later (over 30) when I became desperate to know what God really thought of me did I begin to understand–and be overwhelmed by–the fact that, as a son, my Father delights in me, that he in fact loves me like he does Jesus (see John 17:23, part of Jesus’ prayer: “…and have loved them even as you have loved me.”). IN the past few years, I have grown exponentially in both head and heart knowledge of my Abba, that he longs to be with me and has taken the steps necessary (ie, the cross of Christ) to bring that about. He has given me his Spirit (‘the Spirit of adoption/sonship’) who cries out Abba and brings me to cry out the same. Unlike most of us earthly parents, he is the Father who never pulls away. Such knowledge is all too wonderful and some would think beyond belief (or beyond reality).

      Our God is much more than what is included in the sacred covenantal name Jehovah/Yahweh. That we his children can address him as “Abba” adds an exclamation point to John Newton’s song title, “Amazing Grace”!!


      • QUICK PS: I’ve nothing against the scholars you mentioned. What I am saying is that semantic analysis of biblical Greek has grown by leaps and bounds just since the 1960s, and I was privileged to be a front-row witness to much of that, because we were trained and worked as linguistic analysts and Bible translators during our time in West Africa in the 1970s and 80s. Not sure if you’re aware of a mission organization called “Summer Institute of Linguistics” or “Wycliff Bible Translators” (same organization). We were part of a similar group that worked alongside Wycliff all over the world. The necessity of transferring the Biblical languages into the language and culture of small ethnic groups around the world has brought about a literal revolution in our understanding of biblical Hebrew and especially biblical Greek, and has driven an effort to develop biblical scholarship on a massive scale such that those esteemed gentlemen never imagined.

  5. Frank,
    How can you judge what others (JWs or non-JWs) think and feel about Jesus? It’s incredible to me that you can throw all JWs into that big basket (as I mentioned in an earlier post) and decide that we don’t know and love Jesus outside of an intellectual knowledge of him that we get from reading Watchtower publications. How can you POSSIBLY know what’s in my heart, or in the heart of your JW mother-in-law, or in the heart of your neighbor, whatever religion he has (or doesn’t have)? Frank, please read over your post to me, and just listen to yourself. AM I THE ONLY READER WHO QUESTIONS THIS?

    • I don’t know what is in anyone’s heart except by way of self-expression, in this case, in writing. I know from what I read for example in Walt’s words, in Ginger’s words and several others who write of their experience with the life of Jesus that they are looking at it through eyes that are different from yours and that’s all I’m pointing out. I’m working with my perception. Right or wrong it is MY perception and I’m entitled to it as you are to yours. The reason I can pretty much “throw all JWs into that big basket” is because you are all reading the same things going to the same meetings, associating with people of the same mind, going door to door preaching the same message and getting baptized answering the same two questions, etc..etc…so why shouldn’t I be able to “IN GENERAL” throw all JW’s into the same basket. And, heaven forbid if they step out of that basket to question what is taught or to side with folks like Walt and Ginger!! The words you write here would pretty much be the same words that another JW from Africa, Germany or Togoland would write in almost the same words because those words are all coming from the same place; the Watchtower magazine which, by the way, has one section for the public and another for the JW’s to study in the Kingdom Hall, and other Watchtower literature.

      As for your heart, I perceive you as a good man. A person who believes with all their heart their religious views of “the Truth”. I’m sure you work hard with other JW elders to manage a pleasant congregation of diversified folks. I just don’t happen to believe that you have the only “truth” and although I may not be as glib as you are in quoting Scripture I can say enough to help people think twice before they swallow it hook line and sinker.

  6. Frank,
    Thanks for expressing how you feel. You said “The words you write here would pretty much be the same words that another JW from Africa, Germany or Togoland would write in almost the same words because those words are all coming from the same place; the Watchtower magazine”. Could you please inform me of which article of the Watchtower magazine “The words you [I] write here” (in the above previous post that prompted you to make that statement). are taken from? Perhaps, while you’re at it, you might also let me know which article I’m now using in answering you. Frank, do you not see how ridiculous that sounds? Are you saying that I can’t get into a religious discussion, or exchange, without copying the words of some issue of the Watchtower?

    It is likely that when discussing scripture my answers would be much like a JW from Africa, Germany or Togoland, but would that be WRONG if it is the truth? If I may, JWs are evidence that there doesn’t have to be divisions and differences in belief as the sectarian condition of “Christianity” has shown for centuries. You, in fact, have just acknowledged the FACT that JWs are united in belief and worship of Jehovah—something NOT found in Christendom’s 35,000 or so different sects and groups. You have acknowledged that a united belief and worship is possible! The Apostle Paul said to the early Christians (that certainly should apply today as well) at 1 Cor. 1:10 [I’ll use the NIV]: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” You criticized JWs for being of the “same mind” when Paul encouraged all Christians to do just that! I would say that it’s a “GOOD THING” be able to accomplish what 35,000 different religions, all claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, can not do! Thanks for verifying that, Frank. Oh, and by the way, could you give me the issue number of the Watchtower I took this from too?

    Yes, there are two different issues of the Watchtower. On the first of each month there is the public issue, and on the 15th of each month we get the “study copy” However, it is not a secret. If anyone wants the “study copy” they can pull it off our website: http://www.jw.org No secrets. We have found out over the years that the public in general were not reading the study information, finding it too difficult to understand, while they might read the secondary articles, but if anyone wants the “study copy” it is available to them, either by our website or by asking any JW for them.


    • Over time it isn’t necessary to understand what you are saying as coming from any one issue of The Watchtower magazine. Your words become a composite of Witness teaching. No, it doesn’t sound ridiculous to me at all. Thanks for acknowledging that you are all in one basket. Your argument relative to JW unity versus the divisions in Christendom is an old argument in a variety of JW publications. Are you old enough to remember the booklet that was greatly disseminated in the mid 1950’s, “Christendom or Christianity Which One Is The Light of the World?” Since the days of Judge Joseph Rutherford the JW’s have consistently seen themselves as better than any other form of Christianity. At the same time many of their teachings have changed over the years under the caveat of the scripture that says, “The light grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”, without apology for past mistaken interpretations some of which had deep ramifications for individual lives.. I seriously doubt that if Russell or Rutherford or Knorr were suddenly resurrected they would recognize the organization they were once a part of. .I still think of you as a man of good heart. You must have been a great school teacher.

  7. Frank,
    It may be an old argument, as you say, but our unity is still there, in harmony with 1 Cor. 1:10. I ask again, is that wrong? According to the scriptures, NO! As for the booklet “Christendom or Christianity, Which One is the Light of the World?” Yes, I remember it. In fact that was the first booklet I read put out by JWs. I recall that during the campaign to get one of these booklets into the hands of every clergyman, one of them came back to our Kingdom Hall addresses to “Jehovah’s Nitwits”. I got quite a laugh over that. It still tickles me when I think about it. I’ve been associated with JWs for 57 years, coming from a Presbyterian (mainly) background. Out of curiosity, Frank, did you read that booklet? I’ve been meaning to read it again, since it’s been 57 years since I first read it. I’m putting it on my “to-do” list right now.

    Yes, some of our beliefs have been refined, but not our major beliefs, (no immortality of the soul, no hell-fire, no trinity doctrine, Jehovah’s name) as well as dozens of other teachings that are identical to those of Russell’s time. Certain teachings have arisen that Russell would not have been familiar with, but I have no doubt, because of the student of the Bible which he was, he would agree with these newer additions. Yes, Russell would probably be surprised at how “the light has gotten brighter” but, in my opinion, not Rutherford or Knorr. Several things have been refined since their time, but little of any major consequence. We have some additional refinements coming up in the July 15th Watchtower, which make perfect sense to me. If you’re interested in what these are, you can get the entire July 15th WT on line at http://www.jw.org.

    I’ve decided NOT to banter, and certainly not argue with you Frank. You have opinions that are not going to change (as I do also), so let’s agree to disagree. I may correct some points where you are not correct from time-to-time, (there have been several, and there will probably be more), or I may just let it go, but I am going to try to butt out of exchanging words with you. Best wishes to you, Frank.


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