In the first part (text, video) we saw how the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has made the book Commentary on the Letter of James disappear in the digitized world. In the many comments on the video, there was also a comment that I would like to address now.
„This can not be the reason“
One of the comments was: that Edward Dunlap was the author of the book who was expelled for ‘apostasy’ and the book disappeared because of that, that can’t be the reason.
Therefore, I checked all the years since 1970 to see if there were any other books that were not included in the online library. Of course, at some point the books are no longer reprinted. Some time ago there was even a letter (i.e. instruction) from the Governing Body to the elders to destroy stocks of older literature.
But the other books since 1970 are all in the online library. So, part of the ‘spiritual heritage’ so to speak. Now everyone can draw his own conclusions from this.
The 1988 Revelation book was not available online for a while. In the meantime, it has entered the library as a 2006 edition. Other books are also now available online in new editions – that is, generally changed from the printed book. Some may remember the confusion in meetings when some used the printed books, others used the printed corrections, and then later used the constantly updated edition in the JW Library. I once made the joke as Watchtower study leader that I hoped no update of the article was available during Watchtower study …
And finally, there are the books that were regularly replaced. The books for Bible studies, for example. But also the Organized Books (or previously booklets and book appendices) – with sometimes significant changes in the text.
But a completely different question had occurred to me….
Does the organization still use the Bible book of James at all?
This question came to me as I reflected on the last few years. Could I remember that James was quoted from at all? If you are or were a Jehovah’s Witness, can you remember being quoted from James?
I didn’t want to rely on a vague memory or a feeling. Well, the analyst in me came through. And now you have to go through with it. But don’t worry, I’m just presenting the results.
How many times was James quoted?
So I analyzed the literature index in the German index from 1945-1985 and 1986-2022. The English index still goes back to 1930, but that makes no difference here. First, let’s see if the numbers are correct. James has 5 chapters and 108 verses. How often do you think it is quoted per year? And I apologize for the German titles in the graphics. (The original article I had written in my native language German).
In fact, this number of 108 version is even exceeded in 1979. In that year, the commentary on the Letter of James was published, which deals with all the verses. So this fits.
In 1997 there are still 102 quotations. In three study articles of the Watchtower w97 15.11. the complete Letter of James is treated. A few pages instead of a whole book. Oh well. Let’s have a look at the conclusion.
Wie beginnt Absatz 22?
Clearly, the letter of James contains something beneficial for all of us.w97 11/15. p 24 par. 22
Then actually also diligently from this book should be quoted, right? But that is not the case in most of the last 80 years. How does the Governing Body summarize the consideration of the Book of James?
True, the letter of James was originally sent to anointed early Christians. Yet, all of us should let its counsel help us cling to our faith. James’ words can bolster faith that moves us to decisive action in God’s service. And this divinely inspired letter builds an enduring faith that makes us patient, prayerful Witnesses of Jehovah today, during “the presence of the Lord” Jesus Christ.w97 11/15. p 24 par. 23
The paragraph begins with “It is true …”, but at the end I wondered: Is any of what the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses had written in this paragraph true? Remember, this was read to every Witness in Watchtower studies worldwide at that time!
- No, it is not true that the letter of James was written to one group of Christians in the first century, but today it also applies to the vast majority of witnesses, the so-called ‘other sheep’. For the doctrine of heavenly and earthly hope, ‘anointed remnant’ and ‘other sheep’ comes not from the Bible but from the pen of J.F. Rutherford. (See, for example, the video Identifying True Worship, Part 8: Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Teaching on the ‘Other Sheep’).
- And wasn’t it exactly this point why two years after the publication of the Commentary on the Letter of James in the Watchtower 1981 ‘Questions from Readers’ a retraction was published (w81 4/15 p. 31), with the content that this teaching still applies? There, the term ‘anointed Christians’ was subsequently introduced into the text of the book in order to adapt the book to the teaching. That was surely also a reason, beside the community withdrawal of its author, why the James book fell into disfavor.
- There will soon also be a video on the term ‘anointed Christians’. You probably already suspect that there is something wrong with it too.
- Of course, the ‘reference’ to “decisive action in the service of God” must not be missing. So the usual subtle pressure to perform that was constantly exerted. Where in James does it say anything about “acting decisively in service to God”, which every witness will associate with the preaching ministry? What does James really say? James 1:27 according to the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “The form of worship [Fn. religion] that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” And this is a text that is often used, as we shall see in a moment.
- That this is immediately followed by the reference to “today, during the “presence of the Lord” Jesus Christ” is also a recurring pattern. It establishes and increases the ‘sense of urgency’, because there is not much time left for “decisive action in the service of God”. Except that the Bible book of James does not say that “today” – some 25 years ago – Jesus is invisibly present. Another central doctrine that the Governing Body holds to ironcladly, even though it does not stand up to the facts (see Identifying True Worship, Part 5: 1914 – A Review of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Doctrine and the book The Times of the Gentiles Reconsidered).
- And why does that make one a “prayerful Jehovah’s Witness”? Where is that supposed to be in James?
- I also noticed the word “patient”. Not only because the motto of the 2023 Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses is “Practice Patience.” The congress begins with: PRESIDENT’S LECTURE: Exercise patience – why? (James 5:7, 8; Colossians 1:9-11; 3:12) And indeed James is quoted. But what do we read there? James 5:7 ” Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord!” (Elberfelder). Until the coming of the Lord! But according to the teachings of the Governing Body, the Lord has already been present since 1914! So this hint of James has been settled, hasn’t it? But the Watchtower is already a quarter of a century old.
- And did you notice that in the summary last two paragraphs, not even one statement is backed up with a reference to a biblical text?
But actually I wanted to focus on the use of the Bible book of James and just take a quick look at the Watchtower article … .
The 59 references in 1990 lead mostly to the two volumes of Insights on the Scriptures. In 1962, there were few articles in the Watchtower and Awake in which James was considered. James, however, seemed to be quite fond of quoting during this period. Likewise in the years before 1979, the publication of the vanished book.
About 10 references in 20 years only! Most of them in the book Come closer to Jehovah and the Organized book (od). Not until 2021 in Happy – Forever. An interactive Bible course James is used again. Before that, not at all for many years. My impression is that in the last quarter century James no longer played a role for the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And that I could not remember the use of it, so it was true.
Which verses are quoted frequently, and which are not quoted at all?
In a book like the Commentary on the Epistle of James, every verse was looked at. Even the 3 articles in the Watchtower 1997 15.11. somehow manage to refer to almost all verses. But how else were the individual verses from James used in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
At first glance, a few verses stand out. There are a few verses that are used much more frequently than others. There is some methodology behind this that we will see when we look at these verses in a moment. A verse that appears in this chart with only 2 uses has never otherwise been used in 80 years except in the Commentary on the Letter of James and the one Watchtower in 1997!
So let’s first take a look at some of the most cited texts. Please do not cheat yet. Try to remember, if you are or were a Jehovah’s Witness, which texts come to your mind.
The most quoted verses
As you can see, a whole 3 verses are used very frequently, and then it decreases steeply.
The form of worship [Fn. religion] that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.James 1:27 NWT 2013
This text is used quite often because of the last part: Keep separate from the evil world, no close association with worldly people. But what do you think James meant when he spoke of “looking after orphans and widows in their distress”? Probably this:
What if certain older ones cannot attend Christian meetings? James 1:27 shows that it is our duty “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.” One meaning of the Greek verb translated “to look after” is “to visit.” (Acts 15:36) And how the elderly appreciate our visits!w04 5/15. p. 19 par. 17
Were there not collections of donations in the first century to support the impoverished brothers and sisters? Wasn’t that the second main task given to Paul? And what does the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses not carry out today, forbidding elders to do so officially as a congregation? Now, if anyone thinks of the relief efforts during disasters, they should take a close look at where these things come from. And to whom the reimbursements from insurance companies are supposed to flow later …
Adulteresses, [Fn. Or “You unfaithful ones.”] do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of GodJakobus 4:4 NWÜ
“Not to be a friend of the world.” This is quoted as often as James 1:27. And in the sense of: Have no friends in the world. Otherwise you are an enemy of God. Is ‘world’ in this text about people at all? Or something else? “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (1. John 2:15 NIV)
By the way: It is also not surprising that in German the feminine of the Greek is gladly left here, and not the masculine of the Latin translation. But that is another topic.
Is there anyone sick among you? Let him call the elders of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, applying oil to him in the name of Jehovah.James 5:14 NWT
This text must not be missing in any judicial committee. And that is why it is quoted so often. For example, in the online Bible course of 2021:
Jehovah wants us to call the elders of the congregation to us when we have committed a serious sin. (Read James 5:14, 15.)Happy – forever. An interactive Bible course p. 237 (German)
Does James then speak in 5:14 of the person having committed a sin? So a ‘serious sin’ as it says in the text but not in the Bible. The context is James 5:13-15 and ends like this, “Also, if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15 NWT) We should always read the context and read carefully what is written.
So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.James 1:5 NWT
People like to quote that in relation to all kinds of things. But in context, it’s about a particular situation. This was still well explained in the book of James: “The wisdom Christians ask for is the wisdom to live in such a way as to please God in every area of their lives, especially under trials.”
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, not hypocritical.James 3:17 NWT
This text contains so many valuable thoughts that it may well be used frequently. One example:
14“Ready to obey.” The Greek word rendered “ready to obey” is not found elsewhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures. According to one scholar, this word “is often used of military discipline.” It conveys the idea of “easy to be persuaded” and “submissive.” One who is governed by the wisdom from above readily submits to what the Scriptures say. He is not known as one who makes up his mind and then refuses to be influenced by any facts that contradict him. Rather, he is quick to change when he is presented with clear Scriptural evidence that he has taken a wrong stand or has drawn erroneous conclusions. Is that how you are known by others?Draw Close to Jehovah p. 224 par. 14
A word that occurs only once in the Bible – then the interpretation is often difficult. But it’s actually a nice quote for those Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t want to engage in a conversation based on the Bible.
Therefore, openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. A righteous man’s supplication has a powerful effect.James 5:16 NWT
Often cited for the idea of praying for each other. But also like this:
So, then, when is it appropriate for Christians to confess sins to one another? In the case of serious sin (not every little failing), an individual should confess to responsible overseers of the congregation. Even if a sin is not grievous but the sinner’s conscience troubles him excessively, there is great value in confessing and seeking spiritual help.w91 3/15 p. 6-7
Would you say that this thought comes from James 5:16 in the sense of exegesis? Or was something eisegetically interpreted into it?
Verses that are almost never quoted
Of course, Bible texts that are never or almost never quoted are also interesting. Are they perhaps not so important? Perhaps only greetings to Christians in the 1st century? But they could also be interesting texts, which the organization prefers not to see mentioned.
The least quoted verses are these:
- James 3:12 Is only found once in the James book and Watchtower 1960. Context is James 3:8 ‘tongue’.
- James 2:11 example of v10, only in James book and w97 summary.
- James 2:6 “YOU, though, have dishonored the poor [man]. The rich oppress YOU, and they drag YOU before law courts, do they not?” Only in the book of James and w97 and g62. Reminds one already that the various bodies of the organization are increasingly suing publishers, so-called apostates and others for statements or copyright violations.
- James 1:16 “Do not be misled, my beloved brothers.” Only in the book Commentary James is the beautiful statement found.
- James 4:9,10 “Give way to misery and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves in the eyes of Jehovah, and he will exalt you.” Probably doesn’t fit the narrative that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the happiest people in the world.(With the best life ever …)
- James 5:4, 5 “Look! The wages due the workers who harvested YOUR fields but which are held up by YOU, keep crying out, and the calls for help on the part of the reapers have entered into the ears of Jehovah of armies. YOU have lived in luxury upon the earth and have gone in for sensual pleasure. [Fn. Lit., “you behaved voluptuously.”]” How many Jehovah’s Witnesses live in very humble circumstances because they gave up ‘higher education’ from training so close to the end, were in full-time service or Bethel for a long time, and then were turned out a few years ago at an advanced age? What would James have said if, on the other hand, he looked at pictures of the new world headquarters in Warwick, for example, or saw on the videos the Governing Body with gold rings, expensive watches, etc.?
There are then also a few very rarely used texts that would have really led to discussions.
They blaspheme the fine name by which YOU were called, do they not?James 2:7 NWT
That could well have led to confusion. For which name is meant here? Jehovah? 1 Peter 4:14 “If YOU are being reproached for the name of Christ, YOU are happy, because the [spirit] of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon YOU.“ (Also NWT!). Which also fits with baptism in the name of Christ.
Nevertheless, a certain one will say: “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.”James 2:18 NWT
Amazing that this verse was only used here (German versions): w97 15. 11. 15; cj 80-3; w74 1. 4. 212-13 Faith without works is dead; g62 22. 1. 3 Perhaps it is because of the second part: “I shall show you my faith by my works.” This would almost be a challenge to check the activities of a Jehovah’s Witness. But maybe only one of the texts on the subject of works was chosen over and over again.
For, if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in splendid clothing enters into a gathering of YOU, but a poor [man] in filthy clothing also enters, …James 2:2 NWT
A man with gold rings on his fingers …. Well, one or the other gold ring or expensive watch has been seen on JW Broadcasting ….
Other hardly quoted texts
My brothers, if anyone among YOU is misled from the truth and another turns him back, know that he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.James 5:19,20 NWT
Verse 19 was quoted only here (German versions): w97 15. 11. 24 cj 214-16 w72 1. 11. 658 or 159 w61 1. 8. 464 w51 1. 7. 203
What if a member of the congregation is “misled from the truth,” deviating from right teaching and conduct? We may be able to turn him back from his error through Bible counsel, prayer, and other help.w97 11/15 p.24 par. 21 English version
This seems to contradict the current policy of exclusion and avoidance. So the text is ignored.
Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?James 2:21 NWT
Probably this text was practically not used because Abraham is called ‘our father’ (‘our ancestor’ NLT) there. In the Insights book (it-1 p. 1253), therefore, Galatians 3:29 is used to justify that James is not addressing Jews here, but all. Otherwise the text is simply not quoted.
My brothers, YOU are not holding the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, our glory, with acts of favoritism, are YOU?James 2:1 NWT
Let’s compare this with a representative other translation:
My brothers, as you hold out your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not show favoritism.James 2:1 Berean Standard Bible
All translations I have checked (German, English, interlinear) speak of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Except for the old King James Version. The emphasis on faith – not in Jehovah – but in Jesus, who is also referred to as our Lord of Glory, has not fit into the Governing Body’s program for decades. So this text is also ignored. Otherwise, one could get confused even with these rarely quoted texts:
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.James 1:7 NIV
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”James 4:15 NIV
In both texts, by the way, the ‘Lord’ in the original text is naturally replaced by ‘Jehovah’ in the New World translation.
YOU too exercise patience; make YOUR hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.James 5:8 NWT
This text was dormant for almost 25 years until it was rediscovered for the 2023 convention. Already in the Watchtower 1999 it was emphasized that patience is necessary while ‘waiting for Jehovah’. Well actually the text is about the presence of the Lord. Whereby even in the NWT here Lord is not replaced by Jehovah. But doesn’t the text speak of having patience before the presence of the Lord? And does not the Governing Body teach that this invisible presence began in 1914? Then James must have meant the second coming (or presence), which we do not find in the Bible.
Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.James 4:17 NWT
Not quoted for over 25 years. At that time, however, you could read:
The deeper our Scriptural knowledge is, the better is the foundation for our faith. At the same time, our accountability to God becomes greater. …w96 9/15 p. 17 par. 5,6
After commenting on the significance of this scripture, the elder said: “Though you are not baptized, you are accountable and must take full responsibility for your decision.”
Well, isn’t that true of all Jehovah’s Witnesses? The Governing Body knows that many teachings are not biblical and contradict historical facts. And many Jehovah’s Witnesses know this by now, too. What conclusion do we draw for ourselves from James 4:17?
Listen, my beloved brothers. God chose the ones who are poor respecting the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he promised to those who love him, did he not?James 2:5 NWT
This text was only touched upon in the 1997 Watchtower’s James reflection, explained in the 1979 James book, and mentioned a whole 5 times before that. But it also shows that there is only one hope for all Christians. Interestingly, this is also formulated on p. 65 of the James book. Presumably, the book is therefore also no longer available because it makes no distinction between ‘anointed’ and ‘other sheep’.
We could analyze more verses here, but I think this is enough for now to draw some conclusions.
What did our analysis reveal?
- Of the Watchtower Society books published since 1970, all can be found in the Online Library. With the exception of the Organized Book, which has been replaced by the Organization Book. And just the Commentary on the Letter of James.
- The Bible book James is used relatively little. Frequently only in 1979, when the Commentary on the Letter of James appeared. And in 1997, when in the Watchtower w97 15.11 the complete letter of James was treated in only three articles. In 1990 there are still some references in the two volumes of the Insights book.
- For about 25 years, James is practically no longer quoted. About 10 references only. Most in the book Draw Close to Jehovah and the Organized book (od). Not until 2021 in Enjoy Life Forever!—An Interactive Bible Course, James will be used again somewhat.
- There are a handful of verses which are quoted much more frequently than any other. They are readily used as triggers to inculcate certain doctrines and guidelines. However, looking at the context of the verse, their application in the literature of the organization is often questionable.
- There are very many texts which are only used in the Commentary on the Letter of James or w97 15.11. or at most a few more times. And that in over 75 years! Quite a number of them contain thoughts which do not really fit to teachings of the Governing Body. Or is it perhaps the other way around?
- That the Commentary on the Letter of James is no longer available probably has another reason. Since its author Edward Dunlop was disfellowshipped for dissenting views on some doctrines as an ‘apostate’ around 1980 is one. Printed books, however, have always continued to be sold by the organization in the field service because of the cost, even when the content was outdated. But another reason seems to be that the Commentary on the Letter of James adheres to the Bible book of James and not to the teachings of the organization. For example, on many verses it adheres to the Bible and not the teaching of ‘anointed ones’ and ‘other sheep’ with a different hope. On this and other points, the book is just too uncomfortable and might make some preachers think twice.
- If for this reason already very many verses are practically not used in the literature of the organization, then one hardly wants to do this with a book like the Commentary on the Letter of James.