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Faithful and Wise Servant?
Examining the Watch Tower’s 1919 Appointment


Edmond C. Gruss




The Jehovah’s Witnesses most important claim is that after Christ Jesus began his supposed invisible reign in 1914, he examined the religious organizations on earth and selected the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society as his “faithful and wise servant” (Matt. 24:45–47) in 1919. Jesus chose the Watch Tower to be his sole channel and only organization in which a person can serve Jehovah God and gain eternal life. The basis for their claimed selection was that the Watch Tower Society provided “the right sort of [spiritual] food, at the proper time.” If the Society’s current doctrinal “truth” is used as the standard, however, then this claim is suspect since much of what the Society taught before, during, and even after 1919 was later rejected by the Society as erroneous, including certain interpretations of Scripture, particular prophecies, creature worship, idolatry, and certain specific practices that were said to be pagan in origin. The Society even identified some teachings as deceptions of the Devil. This record of doctrinal changes does not support the claim that “God’s holy spirit” directed this organization. Even former Watch Tower leadership member Raymond Franz concluded, “It would be an insult to Christ Jesus to say that he selected this organization on the basis of what it was teaching uniquely and distinctly, as of 1919.”


Charles T. Russell founded and served as first president of what is now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Prior to 1896 Russell taught that “the faithful and wise servant” of Matthew 24:45–47 comprised the members of the 144,000 (“little flock,” “the whole body of Christ”) who were still alive.1 In 1896, however, he published “new light” (new revelation) in a Watch Tower magazine article titled “‘That Servant’” in which he identified the “faithful and wise servant” as an individual.2 This teaching was repeated in later issues of the Watch Tower, and readers often identified Russell as that individual. This belief continued even after his death in 1916.3


The Society currently teaches that Christ’s invisible presence and reign began in 1914. Christ Jesus inspected the various religious organizations on earth, and in 1919, after cleansing those persons affiliated with the Watch Tower Society from religious and worldly defilement, he appointed them to be the “faithful and discrete slave” and his “sole visible channel, through whom alone spiritual instruction was to come” (see fig. 1).4 The basis for Christ’s selection is explained in the publication titled God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached:


The serving of food, the right sort of food, at the proper time was the issue. It had to be according to this that a decision must be rendered by the returned master.…Not only was the regularity in serving the spiritual food a problem, but the quality of the food itself was to be considered. In this respect the body of hated, persecuted Christians, who always sought to be faithful slaves of Jesus Christ, met the test [see fig. 2].…


On inspecting the remnant of his anointed disciples in the year 1919 C.E.., the reigning King Jesus Christ did find the appointed “slave” faithful and discreet in the feeding of his “domestics.” Accordingly, he appointed this ”slave“ class over all his belongings [see fig. 3].5 (emphases added)




Some of the things taught by the Society in 1919, however, did not qualify as “the right sort of food, at the proper time” even by Society standards. The following are examples of doctrines current in 1919 that were later changed by the Society. They were often claimed to be divine insights on the Bible. Some of the doctrines that the Society eventually rejected had been taught for many years. Others were more recent and had replaced previous interpretations viewed as incorrect. Some doctrines were changed during Russell’s successor Joseph F. Rutherford’s presidency. Others continued to be taught after Rutherford’s death. The following examples are just a small sample of the many contradictions.6 (Emphasis in all of the following quotes has been added.)


Interpretations of Prophecy and End-Time Predictions


History proves that none of Russell’s predictions for 1914 and shortly thereafter were realized. Any suggestion that Russell was correct is ludicrous. He predicted, for example, that 1914 would see the battle of Armageddon and the destruction of every institution — “both civil and ecclesiastical” — on the face of the earth,7 but, of course, this did not happen.


Later, other dates were set and other predictions were made. The year 1918, for instance, was to be the time “when God [would destroy] the churches wholesale and the church members by [the] millions.”8 After this failed to occur, the Society taught its membership that the prophecy was that Babylon (non-Watch Tower religions) would merely “fall” that year.9


In 1919, moreover, the Society still taught in its publications that “the time of the end” began in 1799, that the second coming (invisible presence) of Christ occurred in 1874,10 and that “Abraham should enter upon the actual possession of his promised inheritance in the year 1925 a.d.”11 In 1920, the organization launched a major campaign declaring, “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” which identified the year 1925 as the end.12 These dates all proved to be wrong and were later abandoned by the Society. They are now viewed as not possessing any prophetic significance.


The Great Pyramid


The Society also taught that God had designed the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, whose symbolic teachings were “in exact harmony with the Bible.…‘The Bible in Stone.’”13 In late 1928, however, the Society taught that the pyramid was ”Satan’s Bible, and not God’s stone witness“— and years later it was identified as “a monument of demonism.”14


Prayer for Military Victory


During World War I, the Society called on the entire membership to join other Americans in a national day of prayer (30 May 1918) for an Allied victory over Germany.15 Today, such an act would mark a Jehovah’s Witness as an “apostate.” It is also worth noting that prior to this Pastor Russell had “refused to heed the plea of U.S. President Wilson for all clergymen and preachers to join in nation-wide prayer for peace.”16


The Purchase of Liberty Bonds


In 1918, Society president Rutherford prepared a statement for the Brooklyn Eagle that said in part, “The International Bible Students’ Association [the Watch Tower Society] is not against the Liberty Loan. Many of its members have bought and hold Liberty Bonds.…Some members of the Brooklyn Tabernacle congregation had previously purchased Liberty Bonds” as have some “Tabernacle workers who are paying 25 per