The Origin of the Name
"'You are my witnesses,' is the utterance of Jehovah, 'even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none.'" (Isaiah 43:10, New World Translation)
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a publishing company, book distributor and headquarters for Jehovah's Witnesses, strongly believe that the passage quoted above specifically refers to their business organization and its members. This belief was developed in the 1930's when the publishing company's president J.F. Rutherford announced that members of the organization would now be known as "Jehovah's witnesses." As can be seen in their books, in times past the organization did not use to capitalize the "w" in the word "witness," but this has changed over the years.
At their Columbus, Ohio convention in 1931, the Watchtower publishing company announced, "we desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, 'Jehovah's witnesses'. - Isa. 43:10-12; 62:2; Rev. 12:17."
Why the Name "Jehovah's Witnesses" Can Not Apply to the Watchtower Organization
Bible scholars know that it is utterly impossible for this passage to refer to any modern day Christian organization or Christian people as a whole.
The passage used by the Watchtower Society, Isaiah 43:10-12, is actually a prophecy and was written thousands of years before there was ever a "Watchtower Society" and before there was ever a group of people calling themselves "Christians." The Watchtower organization claims that their "anointed class" (all those who are not of the "great crowd class") are ransomed by the blood of Christ; however, both historical Judaism and Christianity interpret the passages in question as referring to those who were ransomed of Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba.
Isaiah 43:3 in the New World Translation says, "For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel your Savior. I have given Egypt as a ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in place of you." This passage and its context has nothing to do with a modern day organization laying claim to the name "Jehovah's Witnesses."
The Watchtower organization prides itself as being 'the only ones who use the Name Jehovah', and being the only group who calls upon the true God. However, as Isaiah 43:22-24 shows, the actual people referred to in this passage have NOT called upon Jehovah and a as result of that and other neglect of duties have brought them into sin.
"But you have not been calling me, Jacob, because you, Israel, felt worn down over me. You had not brought me a sheep for a burntoffering, nor honored me with your sacrifices, I had not driven you to work for grain-offerings and worn you down for frankincense, you had not bought me sweet flag for money nor refreshed me with the fat of your sacrifices; you had only driven me to work over your sins and worn me down with your guilt." (Isaiah 43:22-24, Bible in Living English, translated by Steven T. Byington, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society).
Would the modern day organization claiming the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" ever admit that they have not been calling on Jehovah? Would they admit that Jehovah is angry with them because they have not made burnt offerings? Would the Watchtower publishing company ever admit that they are guilty of these sins that have brought Jehovah's anger against them?
Watchtower Society Guilty of Over "Spiritualizing" Scriptures for Their Own Benefit
The Watchtower organization claims these verses are referring to "spiritual Israel," and not to any physical body such as the Jews. On the other hand, the Scriptures indicate otherwise.
For centuries many Christian denominations have been teaching a doctrine commonly known as "replacement theology." The gist of this abominable doctrine is that the "Christian church" has "replaced" the nation of Israel and all the prophecies and hopes of the Jews have been "transferred" to the Christian religion. Some Bible translations in English and other languages show this bias of the various denominations in the sub-headers over the columns or sections of passages in the Scriptures. One King James Version in my library published by the American Bible Society has the sub-header "The church comforted" over the page containing passages from chapters 43 and 44 of the book of Isaiah. The Watchtower Society does similarly with their own translation.
The Watchtower Society has been teaching "replacement theology" in their printed publications since the mid to late 1920s and are guilty of over spiritualizing the Scriptures for their own benefit. This is in stark contrast with what the original founder of the Watchtower Society, C. T. Russell, taught.
Early on in the ministry of C.T. Russell, he taught that the Jewish people would return to their land in Israel and that the Bible holds out a grand hope for them. Russell devoted an entire chapter in his third volume of "Studies in the Scriptures" series, titled "Restoration of Israel" (Study 8). In this chapter Russell states that "the re-establishment of Israel in the land of Palestine is one of the events to be expected in this Day of the Lord, we are fully assured... the prophecy can not be interpreted in any symbolic sense. It is not a Canaan in heaven to which they are appointed, but a Canaan on earth.... As the time for their promised restoration of God's favor to Israel draws on, we see a preparation being made for it. Within the present century a sifting and separating process is manifest among them, dividing them into two classes, the Orthodox and the Non-orthodox Jews. The former still hold to the promises of God, and still hope that God's set time to favor Zion may soon come.... It will be the former class [Orthodox Jews], no doubt, that will be regathered and blessed when Messiah comes a second time... The time is fast approaching when God will speak peace to Israel and comfort them and fully turn away their blindness."
In spite of the Apostle Paul's statement in the Book of Romans, "Did God reject his people? Away with the thought! ... God did not reject his people" (Romans 11:1,2, Bible in Living English) In the Society's book, "Make Sure of All Things," (1953 edition) on page 210, the Watchtower publishing company states that "the return of the fleshly nation of Israel to God's favor is impossible... prophecies of restoration apply in the last days in a spiritual sense and refer tot he 'Israel of God'...spiritual Israelites." Subheadings beginning on page 215 from the same book contain statements such as "natural Jews alienated by God... irrevocable divorce decree... already rejected for centuries."
In their modern publication, Reasoning from the Scriptures (1989 edition), the Watchtower Society teaches that Jews can in no way be termed as God's "chosen people." The Watchtower organization rejects the Apostle Paul's teaching that "all Jews shall be saved" (Romans 11:26) in favor of over spiritualizing the text of Paul's writing to point to their own organization as the "spiritual Israel" which has "replaced" the Jewish people.
Watchtower Society's New Leadership Shows Its True Colors
There was a drastic change in the doctrines promulgated by the Watchtower Society after the death of C.T. Russell. J.F. Rutherford, the second president of the Watchtower Society, wrote in "Book Two" of his book Vindication (1932):
"Among the powerful men who control the commerce of the sea are many Jews, so called, yet who are against God and against Christ and against the Kingdom of God.... doubtless from Tyre the Jews learned how to cheat their fellow man.... Those money changers conspired.... the selfish bankers."
In 1933, according to statements founds within their own printed publications, the Watchtower Society assisted in the mass hysteria against the Jews during the Holocaust era in Germany. The Watchtower publishing company blamed Jews for the 'downfall' and 'moral decay' of "many nations".
The Watchtower Society's 1933 "Declaration of Facts" says, "It has been the commercial Jews of the British-American empire that have built up and carried on Big Business as a means of exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations."
Concerning the "Declaration of Facts," the 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses says, "Many in attendance were disappointed in the "declaration," since in many points it failed to be as strong as the brothers had hoped. Brother Mutze from Dresden, who had worked closely with Brother Balzereit up until that time, accused him later of having weakened the original text. It was not the first time that Brother Balzereit had watered down the clear and unmistakable language of the Society's publications so as to avoid difficulties with governmental agencies. A large number of brothers refused to adopt it just for this reason. In fact, a former pilgrim brother by the name of Kipper refused to offer it for adoption and another brother substituted. It could not be rightfully said that the declaration was unanimously adopted, even though Brother Balzereit later notified Brother Rutherford that it had been...the declaration had been weakened and many of the brothers could not wholeheartedly agree to its adoption." (page 111)
The Watchtower publishing company, in their July 8, 1998 Awake! magazine (page 14), in defense of their stand, stated that "This statement clearly did not refer to the Jewish people in general, and it is regrettable if it has been misunderstood and has given cause for any offense." Clearly this is a re-writing of history and a blatant denial of the facts that took place in Germany and witnessed by all in attendance.
In the 1930s the Watchtower publishing company wished to assure Hitler that they "stand squarely" with Nazi principles and that they believed God would bring such principles into full realization on earth. In one of the most anti-Semitic statements that could have ever been written by the Society, the "Declaration of Facts" says, "Instead of being against the principles advocated by the government of Germany, we stand squarely for such principles, and point out that Jehovah God through Christ Jesus will bring about the full realization of these principles..."
The Declaration tract which was distributed throughout Germany continues by admitting that the publications promote Nazi Germany's "high ideals": "A careful examination of our books and literature will disclose the fact that the very high ideals held and promulgated by the present national government are set forth in and endorsed and strongly emphasized in our publications, and show that Jehovah God will see to it that these high ideals in due time will be attained by all persons who love righteousness and who obey the Most High. Instead, therefore, of our literature and our work's being a menace to the principles of the present government we are the strongest supporters of such high ideals."
These "high ideals" of Nazi Germany, in which the Watchtower Society agreed to, involved the murder of more than 6 million Jews and countless others. Are such ideals a promulgated by any group of people who follow Jehovah God or are they promoted by a charismatic, anti-Semitic leader of a sect which attempts to usurp the role of the real Israelites for themselves?
The Watchtower Society is not Connected to the Passages in Isaiah 43
The ancient Israelites are God's servants and His witnesses and the designation of "Jehovah's witness" can only properly be applied to the natural Jews as indicated in the Scriptures. To "spiritualize" these passages is nothing more than an attempt to usurp history and change it for the benefit of an organization to show that it has some sort of ancient historical roots, even though the religious sect known as "Jehovah's Witnesses" was formed in modern times, in 1931.
Ironically the Watchtower Society, in 1964, stated, "While historians of all nations have been and are more or less guilty of writing biased history, either consciously or unconsciously, those in the employ of totalitarian governments have been especially notorious in prostituting their art by deliberately tampering with the facts of history...the facts in human history are at times distorted...With the fall of the German Empire and the establishment of the Weimar Republic after World War 1 came the need of rewriting that history. When Hitler and his Nazis came into power, German history as they found it did not suit them and so they rewrote it...All that is stated may be true and yet may present a distorted picture because of what is stressed and what is omitted...True as this is of secular histories and encyclopedias, it is even more true of religious historical works." (Awake!, June 22, 1964, p. 193)
Today the Watchtower Society is not related in any way whatsoever to the Jewish people other than their hatred and anti-Semitic teachings concerning Israel and the Jews, as clearly shown from their publications.
Concerning antisemitic sentiments of Christians, in a talk given to a mass meeting of Jews in 1910, the first president of the Watchtower Society said, "It is sad indeed to be obliged to admit that these tribulations will probably come to you from professed Christians. How ashamed I feel of those who thus dishonor the name and the teachings of my Master, I cannot find words to express! They are deluded."