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  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.