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Is It Proper to Worship Jesus?

Examining a Jehovahs Witness Doctrine


Edmond C. Gruss and Jay Hess


Consistent with their denial of the deity of Christ, the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Christ should be worshiped. Such worship is viewed as unscriptural and a form of idolatry. What most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know is that for more than 60 years Watch Tower founder C. T. Russell (d. 1916) and his successor J. F. Rutherford (d. 1942) taught the worship of Christ, a belief that would be expressed even after Rutherford’s death. In 1944, the Watch Tower Society’s charter was amended and Article II stated that one of the purposes of the Society was for “public Christian worship of Almighty God and Christ Jesus.” After changing this doctrine in 1954 by prohibiting the worship of Jesus, efforts were made to hide this portion of the charter whenever it was cited in Watch Tower publications.

In the Bible, worship and prayer are consistently linked; consequently Witnesses must also deny that Jesus can be addressed in prayer — contrary to what Russell taught. Clearly, in Scripture Jesus was — and should be — worshiped, and Jesus invited His followers to address Him in prayer — which they did. The testimony of Jay Hess records how a once-dedicated Witness apologist concluded Jesus should be worshiped, which resulted in his disfellowship by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After further investigation of the Scriptures, he concluded, “I have madeJesus my Lord and my God.”

The title of an article in the 8 April 2000 Awake! asks, “Is It Proper to Worship Jesus?” In keeping with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ denial of the deity of Christ, the expected answer is given: “Yes, reverent adoration should be expressed only to God. To render worship to anyone or anything else would be a form of idolatry, which is condemned in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Exodus 20:4, 5; Galatians 5: 19, 20.1 The article concludes, "Accordingly, true Christians do well to direct their worship only to Jehovah God, the Almighty” (emphasis added)..2

The book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (1995) warns the reader:


Unless we are careful, we may do something unacceptable to God. For example, the apostle John fell at the feet of an angel to worship him.But the angel warned: Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and your brothers who have the work of witnessing to Jesus. Worship God.(Revelation 19: 10) Do you therefore see the need to make sure that your worship is not contaminated by any kind of idolatry? 1 Corinthians 10:14. (emphasis added)3

In response to a reader’s question about the disciples’ worship of Jesus in Matthew 28:9, the 1 November 1964Watchtower states, “Trinitarians who believe that Jesus is God, or at least the second person of the triune God, do not like to have Jehovah’s witnesses say that it is unscriptural for worshipers of the living and true God to render worship to the Son of God, Jesus Christ (emphasis added).4 How might one respond to these statements?


It would come as a surprise to most Jehovah’s Witnesses that the statements and claims cited above have not always characterized the movement and its publications. In fact, the Watch Tower Society leadership encouraged the worship of Jesus Christ for much of its history. In his article, The Name of Jesus,”in the November 1879 Zion’s Watch Tower, Watch Tower founder C. T. Russell’s associate J. H. Paton wrote of Jesus, “His position is contrasted with that of men and angels, as he is Lord of both, having ‘all power in heaven and earth.’ Hence it is said, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’; [that must include Michael, the chief angel, hence Michael is not the Son of God]...” (brackets in original).5 Paton’s position on Michael would later be rejected by Pastor Russell, and the Witnesses still identify Jesus Christ as Michael the archangel.6

In “A Living Christ,” published in the March 1880 Zion’s Watch Tower, we read:

He still is Lord, and as such we worship Him.... To worship a false Christ would indeed be sin, but to worship Christ in any form cannot be wrong, for when He bringeth the first Begotten in to the world, He sayeth, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.... (Heb. 1:6, 10, 12.)” (emphases added).7

In the October 1880 Zion’s Watch Tower article, Why Did Christ Come in the Flesh?” J. H. Paton wrote, “He was the object of unreproved worship even when a babe....Even the angels delighted to do Him honor....‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’ Heb. 1:6. He never reproved any one for acts of worship offered to Himself....” (emphases added).8

Speaking on prayer to a group of his followers, Russell said the prayers of the mature Christian “are usually thank offerings and communion seasons — telling the Lord (the Father or the Son, either or both, for the Father, as well as the Son, loves us; John 16:27 and we have promise of communion with both; John 14:23 both are to be worshiped and loved equally, for ‘all men should honor the son even as they honor the Father;John 5:23....” (first emphasis added; second in original).9

In the 15 July 1898 Zion’s Watch Tower, under “Interesting Queries,”we read,


Question. The fact that our Lord received worship is claimed by some to be an evidence that while on earth he was God the Father disguised in a body of flesh and not really a man. Was he really worshiped, or is the translation faulty? Answer. Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so.