My preliminary thoughts on the recent “faithful slave” interpretation change

Though i’m a little late on this NEWS and many have expressed their thoughts on this new development in Watchtower theology, I was compelled to offer my thoughts too.  While some offered commentary through hearsay accounts before the news became public, I was convicted to not do so.  But now the cat is out of the bag and I think its worth discussing.  While my thoughts are not necessarily unique or new, I find it helpful to discuss in repitition.  After all, many of the commentaries are from ex-JW’s, which might hinder their material from being read by faithful JW’s.  And since i’m not an ex-JW, this might open a door for a faithful JW to consider what i’m saying without compromising their conviction regarding so-called “apostate literature.”

But I don’t want to be hasty and presumptuous regarding this “new light” provided by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  After all, this is simply a NEWS REPORT and not a full doctrinal exposition.  So I don’t expect the Watchtower’s report to be exhaustive, answer all the questions, etc.  In fact, i’m happy they released this information, regardless of its brevity.  It provides an opportunity for JW’s and others to digest this new perspective before its put into print.  Therefore, my commentary will be written with this in mind.  In fact, I expect that some of my questions and concerns towards this “new light” will be answered once the Governing Body has the opportunity to elaborate, which I trust they will in time.

Still, some might find much of this presumptuous. But these are just honest questions and concerns.  I think we all need to apply wisdom and humility here as we consider these teachings by the Governing Body.  Nonetheless, “God’s channel” is making definitive and public claims however preliminary and brief they are.  Therefore, its our duty as Christians to “examine the Scriptures” in light of these ideas (Acts 17:11); whether rejecting or accepting them.

When Did Jesus Appoint “the Faithful and Discreet Slave” Over His Domestics?

 Consider the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 24. All the verses listed here were to be fulfilled during Christ’s presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”—Verse 3.

  • “The tribulation of those days.”—Verse 29.

  • “This generation.”—Verse 34.

  • “That day and hour.”—Verse 36.

  • The “day your Lord is coming.”—Verse 42.

  • “At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Verse 44.

Logically, then, “the faithful and discreet slave” must have appeared after Christ’s presence began in 1914.

I’m not sure how this is logical or Scriptural.  In looking at both accounts of the parable, Matthew 24 and Luke 12, it is clear that the Master is away or absent in some sense.  That is, according to the parable, an appointment is made to put the slave in charge while he is away.  Otherwise, if the Master is present, then why the appointment?

While the following is now considered “old light,” it can’t be said that my questions aren’t at least valid since the Watchtower itself considered them:

*** ka chap. 17 p. 341 pars. 21-22 The “Slave” Who Lived to See the “Sign” ***

Since Jesus spoke of this “slave” in his prophecy concerning the “sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things,” did that composite “faithful and discreet slave” first come into existence during his “presence” or parousia from 1914 onward?

22 No; for Jesus’ illustration portrays the lord of the “slave” as going away, as a “man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves.” (Mark 13:34)

At the very least, we see that the parable teaches Christ as “going away” after the initial appointment.  As far as I can tell, the only real difference is that the initial appointment simply shifted to a date 1900 years later.  What else am I missing?  We are now left with the meaning of “presence” and how it can be simultaneously said that Christ is “away” or “absent” while the slave is in charge.  Perhaps the Watchtower is also going to refine this aspect too, for they have previously stated quite clearly what Christ has been doing since 1914:

*** w55 2/15 p. 104 How Does Christ Come the Second Time? ***

Since [1914] Christ has been supervising a work of dividing the “sheep” from the “goats” even as he foretold, a work of educating the sheeplike ones so that they can seek Jehovah, righteousness and meekness and thus be hidden in the day of his anger.

At least the “old light” was more consistent in this regard, since Christ would be absent from 33 C.E. until his presence began in 1914.  But let’s give the Watchtower an opportunity to clarify this point when they get to it.

Moreover, Jesus indicated that this “slave” would appear during a time when a legitimate question would be: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” Jesus’ apostles had miraculous gifts of holy spirit, so there was scant reason to raise that question in the first century C.E. (1 Corinthians 14:12, 24, 25) Although they were anointed by holy spirit, the apostles and other first-century Christians were not “the faithful and discreet slave” prophesied by Jesus.

 It is reasonable to conclude, then, that Jesus appointed “the faithful and discreet slave” over “his domestics” during his presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”

This is somewhat confusing.  Why would there have not been a good reason to ask this question at any point in Christian history?  If we can ask that question now when we have light from “God’s channel,” then why not with Christ’s chosen apostles?  This point appears to be a mere assertion rather than one backed up by exegesis.  Furthermore, we see another “reasonable conclusion” that doesn’t seem too reasonable considering my questions above.

“Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”

 Jesus was referring, not to an individual, but to a composite “slave”—a group working together as one body. Jesus said that the slave (1) is appointed to a supervisory role “over [the master’s] domestics” and (2) gives the domestics spiritual “food at the proper time.”

While there is not room to belabor the point here, it must be emphasized that the idea of a slave “class” simply does not work exegetically.  Notice in Matthew’s account where Jesus refers to the same slave in two different respects:

“Blessed is that slave who his master finds so doing when he comes” (24:46)

“But if that evil slave says in his heart…the master of that slave will come on a day…and will cut him in pieces…” (24:48-51)

If Jesus is presenting a “slave class” in v. 46, then it is possible that this same slave class could come under judgment if they are not faithful.  Consequently, there would be no “faithful slave class” to be judged as righteous when the master returns.

The Lukan account provides even more difficulties since there are four types of slaves that will be judged (see Luke 12:43-48).  Does this mean that there are four slave classes out there when Jesus makes His final judgment?  If so, then who could they be?  If the “faithful slave class” can be identified now, then shouldn’t the other 3 slaves be able to as well?

From 1919 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have supervised our worldwide preaching work and have been directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. In recent years, that group has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

While I don’t think its necessary to discuss this in light of the Governing Body’s inception in the 1970’s, I do find this quote to be of some concern.  The reason being, why could it have not just as easily been stated, “Since 1879 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”  In other words, what really changed in 1919 besides the supposed appointment?

The evidence points to the following conclusion: “The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as “the faithful and discreet slave.”

It is not clear what “evidence” they are referring to, unless one already assumes that 1914 and 1919 are correct.  But even then, i’m still not sure why its the Governing Body that gets the appointment?  We are still left with gaps and unanswered questions.  However, if the conclusion is that those “directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food” are the “faithful slave,” then would it not comprise of more than just 8 men?  After all, its not like the Governing Body actually writes all the publications, though i’m sure they examine and approve them.  But where does Jesus make these distinctions in the parable?

Who Are the “Domestics”?

 Jesus said that “his domestics” would receive “food at the proper time.” All genuine followers of Jesus are fed by “the faithful and discreet slave.” Therefore, all of Christ’s disciples—both individual anointed Christians and members of the “other sheep”—are “his domestics.”—John 10:16.

To some extent, I actually appreciate this because it lends credibility to my own view on who the “faithful slave” is.  Notice that the “domestics” are all genuine followers of Christ, which would include the Governing Body.  That is, the Governing Body as individuals must be fed too.  Remember, according to the Watchtower, the “faithful slave” only exists when those appointed ones “work together as the Governing Body.”

So why does this lend credibility to my own view?  Because the “faithful slave” is any individual Christian who is found to be faithfully dispensing spiritual food and fairly treating his fellow slaves when Christ returns.  Therefore, all faithful slaves are helping each other and there is no basis for creating two classes of Christians as the Watchtower does.

After the speaker explained this aspect of Jesus’ prophecy, the audience erupted in sustained applause. Several in attendance later expressed their profound gratitude that Jesus considers them among “his domestics.”

This is amazing but I shouldn’t be surprised.  Why did these satisfied ones have to wait for this pronouncement from 8 men before concluding that Jesus considered them among “his domestics.”  Was the parable not clear enough to conclude this on their own?  Or did they need permission or an authoritative declaration before concluding?

When Does Jesus Appoint the Slave “Over All His Belongings”?

 Jesus said that the “master on arriving” (literally, “having come”) will appoint the slave “over all his belongings.” When does the Master, Jesus, arrive?

The expression translated “on arriving” is a form of the Greek word er′kho·mai. Verses 42 and 44 of chapter 24 translate a form of er′kho·mai as “coming.” In those verses, Jesus is referring to his coming as Judge during the great tribulation.—Matthew 24:30; 25:31, 32.

Jesus’ appointment of the “slave” over his “belongings,” then, must also be a future event. He will make that appointment during the great tribulation.

This is where we really need more clarification from the Governing Body.  If the “appointment” is still a future event, then what happened in 1919?  Obviously, from the article, the “faithful slave” came into existence.  But really, why 1919?

I trust that this quotation will clarify my concern:

*** w83 9/15 pp. 19-20 par. 19 “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” ***

To that end, their “master” appointed a collective “faithful steward” class, the body of anointed Christians on the earth since Pentecost 33 C.E. Since the “master” found the remaining ones of this body faithfully and discreetly giving out “food supplies” when he arrived for inspection in 1919, he appointed them “over all his belongings.” (Luke 12:42-44) The facts show that since 1919 this “steward” has faithfully cared for these “belongings.”

Notice, we have two appointments with the “old light” understanding: a 33 C.E. appointment and a 1919 appointment.  From what I can gather, the Governing Body is still holding to a first appointment.  The difference is, it is now said to occur in 1919 rather than 33 C.E.  Therefore, the second appointment is still a future event.

So what does this mean for 1919?  Is the basis still sound or are the details now being revised?  Unfortunately, we aren’t told.

What Are Jesus’ “Belongings”?

 Jesus said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus’ “belongings” thus include more than just his earthly interests. They include the Messianic Kingdom.—Philippians 2:9-11.

Consequently, Jesus will reward “the faithful and discreet slave” by resurrecting the individual members of that group to heavenly life and by giving them royal authority over all Christ’s belongings in heaven and on earth. This is the same reward promised to all faithful anointed Christians.—Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 20:6.

If the same reward is promised to all faithful anointed Christians, then what are they being rewarded for?  This is rather perplexing because we still have not been provided with a Scriptural basis for applying the FDS office exclusively to the Governing Body.  At best, we’ve been given only reasons for which the slave didn’t come in existence until 1919.

While there is much more I could say on this, I want to conclude with an argument.  In Luke 12:41, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, are you addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”  While some may think that Jesus didn’t answer Peter directly, I am confident that he did.  But notice, who was Jesus’ audience at the time?  Was it the “everyone else” (12:31) or the “us” (12:22)?

The point is, Jesus is applying the parable to his audience.  Therefore, it would be a nonsensical answer in light of Peter’s question if the various slaves (which is a problem of its own) weren’t going to appear for another 1900 years.  Exegetically, there is no reason whatsoever to think that the parable couldn’t be applied to Jesus’ audience: the “us” and/or the “everyone else.”

While I look forward to the Governing Body’s developed explanations that are yet to come, I think that JW’s and others should seriously consider what is said above and critically think through it.  And whether you’re a JW or not, I welcome your insights on this matter.

16 thoughts on “My preliminary thoughts on the recent “faithful slave” interpretation change

  1. Ivan Monroy says:

    Mike:

    On the issue of the ‘dual appointment,’ I think it goes like this:

    The FDS was appointed in 1919 as a “class.” (Appointment #1) But they have not yet been appointed over the Master’s belongings. (Appointment #2)

    It’s all very strange.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Ivan,

      I must admit that the Watchtower has really confused me on this one. The issue seems to involve much more than a small change in the identity of the FDS. One thing i’m trying to figure out is whether they made changes to the details of 1919?

      Also, I want to make sure that what I said in this post was accurate. Did I say something incorrect regarding the 2 appointments? I know I asked a fair share of questions with my admitted confusion! But I think we’re all a bit confused on this 🙂

  2. miken says:

    The FDS appointed in 1919 is just reinforcing the previous claim of divine appointment in 1919 of the then Bible Students as the sole channel of communication God and Christ is using. Read Don Cameron’s Captives of a Concept to prove the original 1919 claim to be untrue. As for a small group “directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food” some were of course involved in dispensing but Rutherford wrote the vast majority of what was considered spiritual food and he controlled other material appearing in the Golden Age and Consolation magazines.Rutherford dissolved the watchtower magazine editorial committee which he controlled in 1931 which originally had been set up as required in Russell’s will in 1916. At the first annual meeting of the WTBS after Rutherford’s death held on October 1st, 1942 a declaration was unanimously accepted which stated in part “…that instructions come to the Lord’s people on earth from the office of president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, filled by annointed men chosen of the Lord in his organization;” (see 1943 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses page 169.

  3. FredTorres says:

    Mike,

    You asked:

    “One thing i’m trying to figure out is whether they made changes to the details of 1919? ”

    In essence, there are no changes to the meaning that JW assign to that year. As Miken correctly points above, it probably reinforces it.

    You also asked:
    “Did I say something incorrect regarding the 2 appointments ?”

    No, although we may not yet understand all of the implications. However, It appears you do understand that the “appointment” to provide spiritual food to the domestics occured in 1919. The appointment over the “belongings” (the 2nd appointment) occurs when Jesus comes during the great tribulation ( a future event from the JW perspective). Thus, after that event, the slave will exercise its appointed authority to rule alongside Jesus, as stated in Rev 20:4….”And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years.”, also see Matthew 5:5.

    It is also evident that 33 AD is a signficant year to JW’s, for according to their understanding, All authority is given to Jesus Christ in Heaven and Earth. Jesus exercises this authority over the Church through the paraclete, the holy spirit, who guided the first century Christians and those in the Jerusalem Council. However, the full outworking of God’s will was to occurr during the parousia (Matthew 24). This would not exclude verses 44,45.

    As I’ve explained, from the JW perspective, the parousia is a two fold event. 1, The initial arrival and subsequent presence as Messianic King in Heaven.
    and
    2) the erkhomai, Jesus’ actual coming to Earth to execute God’s judgements.

    Thus, since Jesus is ruling in Heaven, he assigns a slave to feed his other servants. Thus, when he comes to earth during the “erkhomai”, he finds them doing faithfully fullfilling the first assignment.
    —–

    From my vantage point, there is closer harmony between this new understanding and our eschatology
    The upcoming WT articles will no doubt offer much more information. But as previously stated, it may not come all at once.
    Also, as you correctly point out in your article, regardless of our theology and paradigm shifts, humility and patience are allways in order in these matters. We all keep in mind that there will always be “gaps” and questions until we get to the New World. It doesn’t mean honest questions shouldn’t be asked, or doubts not addressed, but the JWs understand that progressive spiritual understanding is a Biblical notion, and are willing to allow time for some of these things to settle.

    1. Ivan Monroy says:

      Hello, Fred:

      In Matthew 24 the Master appoints the slave to take care of the household because he is going away. But my question is, since Jesus is now present, in your view, why then is the slave still in charge?

      1. FredTorres says:

        Hello Mr. Monroy

        I am not sure what you’re asking. The direct answer to your question would be that it is Jesus’ prerogitive to decide who is in charge of what and when. But I don’t believe that’s what you mean.

        You might consider the notion that Jesus’ disciples are said to be ambassadors in substitution of Christ. Since Christ rules from Heaven as the Messianic King since the beginning of the parouisia it follows that he has embassadors on earth to care for the interests of the kingdom.

        I hope I am answering you correctly. It might be a good idea to wait for more detailed information to be printed as it might answer your questions.

        Regards

        Fred
        .

  4. Nene says:

    Thanks for your well written article..
    Now that the July 15 2013 Wt has been released,I look forward to your analysis of the ‘new light ‘
    I’d however appreciate your thoughts on the year 1919….just how does the Wt arrive at this date …..,scripturaly…

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Nene,

      Thank you for stopping by and offering your thoughts. Unfortunately, the new WT didn’t offer what I had hoped for, which was addressing all the concerns that myself and others have brought up. But there are certainly some things I’d like to highlight.

      I agree that 1919 needs to be addressed. They come to this date by various means, but the “inspection” is based on Malachi 3. However, the entire thing is Scripturally bankrupt and indefensible.

      Unfortunately, my time is very limited due to being newly married, moving, etc. But there are things that need to be said and there are not enough people saying it. JW’s need to know about these issues as I really don’t think they’re actually thinking through this “new light,” and instead, are just accepting it from the GB without question.

      If a JW were to come to my door today, you can be sure that I would be bringing all this up, as should others who are familiar with these issues.

      1. Nene says:

        Congratulations !
        I truly hope that you will get the time ,after settling, to write more on this interesting topic.
        Thank you and all the best in your new life.

      2. John says:

        May have missed the obvious: follow the tense of the verse: present or future; various translations seem to indicate present tense.
        In the original Aramaic, there is something to indicate tense – i think: perfect or imperfect; perfect in having completion and imperfect in that it needs to be completed; which is it? If the text only applies to the future, I would expect imperfect tense. If so, I would expect translators to have used future tense grammer?

  5. 1988JW says:

    It is my feeling as one of JW that the 1919 “inspection” is going to be a tough cookie to crack. If any of the RnF take the time to invesitgate (and I am not discussing using any 3rd party source) the WT publications, the WT will have a difficult situation on their hand.

    For example, if Christ indeed completed his inspection (of all Christianity) in 1919 (mind you it started in 1914 as a result of the “New Light” which means it lasted over 5 years) and he found that the Bible Students were fulfilling his will and received his approval, this would mean that Christ approved what ever food was being distributed during that time, INCLUDING the so called “End of Times” of 1925 according to the book “The Finsihed Mystery”.

    This would be incredibly difficult to accept knowing that Christ having “eyes of fire” (which means he see’s all) that he would accept such falicy. The list of discrepencies can go on and on. The WT can say that being that we are imperfect such error are expected. However, the questions has to be asked, if that is the case, then how can the GB/FDS say with certainty that they are the choosen channel to feed the many?

    Stay tuned for more…..

    1. miken says:

      The newly reinforced 1919 claim makes Don Cameron’s book Captives of a Concept a very important reference for open minded JW’s to examine. Cameron shows using Watchtower publications and history that the 1919 claim of divine appointment to be false. The Millions Now Living Will Never Die lectures began in 1918 prophecying the begining of Christ’s millennial reign on earth in 1925. The Finished Mystery book published in 1917 contained false prophecies yet the book was claimed to come from Christ. History clearly shows that Rutherford acted and was accepted by WTBS adherents as the Faithful Steward or Slave in succession to Russell not a small group of men as is now claimed. For Camaron,s book see http://captivesofaconcept.com/

      1. theapologeticfront says:

        Miken,

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Unfortunately, the WT doesn’t care to address these arguments an only hopes that JW’s won’t be exposed to them; hence their ignoring.

        I’ve been meaning to get this book for several years now but can never seem to get it into my growing pile of books I need to read.

  6. 1988JW says:

    The WT on several occasions has had to retract some of its false prophecies. In the 1995 Awake magazine of June 22nd, an article entitled “Can you trust in God’s Promise?” give an apologetic explination

    Correction of Viewpoint Needed?
    Prior to the latter part of the year 1914, many Christians expected Christ to return at that time and to take them away to heaven. Thus, in a discourse given on September 30, 1914, A. H. Macmillan, a Bible Student, stated: “This is probably the last public address I shall ever deliver because we shall be going home [to heaven] soon.” Clearly, Macmillan was mistaken, but that was not the only unfulfilled expectation he or his fellow Bible Students had.

    Bible Students, known since 1931 as Jehovah’s Witnesses, also expected that the year 1925 would see the fulfillment of marvelous Bible prophecies. They surmised that at that time the earthly resurrection would begin, bringing back faithful men of old, such as Abraham, David, and Daniel. More recently, many Witnesses conjectured that events associated with the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Reign might start to take place in 1975. Their anticipation was based on the understanding that the seventh millennium of human history would begin then.

    These erroneous views did not mean that God’s promises were wrong, that he had made a mistake. By no means! The mistakes or misconceptions, as in the case of first-century Christians, were due to a failure to heed Jesus’ caution, ‘You do not know the time.’ The wrong conclusions were due, not to malice or to unfaithfulness to Christ, but to a fervent desire to realize the fulfillment of God’s promises in their own time.

    Consequently, A. H. Macmillan explained later: “I learned that we should admit our mistakes and continue searching God’s Word for more enlightenment. No matter what adjustments we would have to make from time to time in our views, that would not change the gracious provision of the ransom and God’s promise of eternal life.”

    Indeed, God’s promises can be trusted! It is humans who are prone to error. Therefore, true Christians will maintain a waiting attitude in obedience to Jesus’ command. They will keep awake and ready for Christ’s inevitable coming as God’s Executioner. They will not allow false predictions to dull their senses and cause them to ignore the true warning of the world’s end.

    What, then, about the belief that this world will end? Is there really evidence that it will occur shortly, within your lifetime?

    So in the WT view, they are blaming the “fervent desire to realize the fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life” as the reason for erroneous predictions. But the questions remains, if in 1919 the inspection concluded, how could Christ, without prejudice, select the Bible Students as the only channel he would use to represent him? They were not delievring the message as Christ had instructed but instead made themselves to be like the false prophets he condemed while here on earth.

    This is a topic that will create a lot of rumbles throughtout the RnF.

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