Watchtower Online Library—Let the reader use discernment


In the past, various people have expressed concern about changes to Watch Tower Society publications between different printings and in digital editions without explanation. Publications on the Watchtower Library CD-ROM—up until the 2013 edition—had generally not fallen victim to this trend. (Although the Reasoning book both online and on the CD-ROM in recent years is suspiciously missing the section about When someone says ‘I’m a Muslim’, even though BuddhistsHindus and Jews are apparently still fair game.)

However, although there had not been an explicitly stated re-print of Insight on the Scriptures (including the entry for Watch Tower Publications in the Publications Index in the online library) the version that appears on the Watchtower Online Library (2014 edition) contained significant alterations from the printed publication.*
*The entire work has been compared using an automated script.

Despite significant changes to the version of Insight on the 2014 edition, it was not until the 2015 edition of the Watchtower Online Library that indicated a revised printing, still without any quotations from the new New World Translation. The version of Insight contained in the 2014 Watchtower Library still purports to be the 1998 version, but also contains the alterations. The 2015 revision of the online version of Insight still retains the advertisement from the 1988 print version, including the availability of Bibles and other publications at “modest prices”.

A few changes in brief:

  • Articles Bernice, Caesarea, Herod: Bernice (daughter of Herod Agrippa) is no longer called an immoral incestuous woman who married her brother, but is now a woman who resided with her brother and helped early Christians.
  • Articles Ammonites and Moab: The nations in a supposed figurative sense are no longer called enemies of ‘spiritual Israel’, but are now enemies of ‘the king of the north’.
  • Articles Capernaum, Destruction, Gomorrah, Judgment Day, Repentance, Sodom: Flip-flopping of the view about whether people from Sodom may be resurrected.

Note the following additional examples in more detail:

Insight, volume 1, Chronology
Original Online Library Why it matters
Thus, this tablet establishes the seventh year of Cambyses II as beginning in the spring of 523 B.C.E. This is an astronomically confirmed date. Thus, this tablet points to the spring of 523 B.C.E. as the beginning of the seventh year of Cambyses II. The assertion is made less definite by replacing “establishes” with “points to”. Elsewhere, the same article asserts that astronomical diaries are unreliable. The change attempts to minimise the significance of their use of an astronomical diary for supporting their chronology.
Archaeological Dating. Dating methods based on artifacts found in excavations are discussed under the heading ARCHAEOLOGY. Archaeological Dating. Problems involved in setting dates based on artifacts found in excavations are discussed under the heading ARCHAEOLOGY. Rather than simply referring to dating methods, judgement is immediately imposed on the use of such methods.
Hence the count of the 70 years of desolation must have begun about October 1, 607 B.C.E., ending in 537 B.C.E. It was in the seventh month of this latter year that the first repatriated Jews arrived back in Judah, exactly 70 years from the start of the full desolation of the land. Hence the count of the 70 years of desolation must have begun about October 1, 607 B.C.E., ending in 537 B.C.E. By the seventh month of this latter year the first repatriated Jews arrived back in Judah, 70 years from the start of the full desolation of the land. As there is no evidence for the assertion that the Jews returned in 537 BCE, the claim of precision for the length of the period has been removed.

Of course, it still may be argued that these are fairly trivial changes. Other changes are much more significant:

Insight, volume 1, Faithful and Discreet Slave
Original Online Library Why it matters
Jesus Christ included a parable, or illustration, dealing with a “faithful and discreet slave” and an “evil slave.” Jesus Christ included a parable, or illustration, dealing with a “faithful and discreet slave.” The Watch Tower Society has decided that the ‘evil slave’ is merely hypothetical, but continues to ignore that the entire story is only a parable.
Commentators often view this as a general exhortation to any and all who have individual positions of responsibility in the Christian congregation. The requirement of faithfulness in discharging responsibility clearly applies to all such. (Compare Mt 25:14-30; Tit 1:7-9.) Yet, the impossibility of each and every one of these individuals being placed over “all” his master’s belongings at the same time, the time of the master’s arrival, is obvious. [Entire paragraph deleted. Instead the next paragraph becomes prefaced with:] “Slave” is in the singular. The view of other commentators is deemed irrelevant.
Similarly, the figure of the unfaithful “evil slave” could apply to a collective group in the same way that “the antichrist” is shown to be a class made up of individual antichrists.—1Jo 2:18; 2Jo 7 The antichrist” is shown to be a collective group made up of individual antichrists. (1Jo 2:18; 2Jo 7) Similarly, the “slave” is composite. It was to be appointed in the time of the end as a channel to give out spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Mt 24:3, 45; Lu 12:42) In the first century, Jesus set a pattern for how spiritual food would be dispensed in the Christian congregation. Just as he had distributed literal food to the crowds through the hands of a few disciples, spiritual food was to be provided through the hands of a few. (Mt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lu 9:16) Jesus trained the apostles for the role they would have after Pentecost 33 C.E. as a channel in dispensing spiritual food. They were later joined by other elders to serve as a governing body in order to settle issues and to direct the preaching and teaching of the Kingdom good news. (Ac 2:42; 8:14; 15:1, 2, 6-29; 22:17-19) After the death of the apostles, a great apostasy set in. But in the time of the end—in keeping with the pattern he set in the first century of feeding many through the hands of a few—Jesus selected a small group of spirit-anointed men to serve as “the faithful and discreet slave,” to prepare and dispense spiritual food during his presence.  The ‘evil slave’ of the parable is ignored. Instead, additional focus is put on the authority of the ‘faithful slave’, which the Watch Tower Society’s ‘governing body’ has restyled as only itself.
Those forming the Christian congregation are referred to by the apostle Paul as “members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19; 1Ti 3:15), and the same apostle shows that ‘faithful stewardship’ among such household members involved the dispensing of spiritual truths on which those becoming believers would ‘feed.’ (1Co 3:2, 5; 4:1, 2; compare Mt 4:4.) Whereas this was a prime responsibility of those appointed as ‘shepherds’ of the flock (1Pe 5:1-3), the apostle Peter shows that such stewardship of the divine truths was actually committed to all the ‘chosen ones,’ all the spirit-anointed ones, of the Christian congregation. (1Pe 1:1, 2; 4:10, 11) Thus the entire anointed Christian congregation was to serve in a united stewardship, dispensing such truths. At the same time the individual members making up such composite body, or the “domestics” making up the “house” of God (Mt 24:45; Heb 3:6; Eph 2:19), would also be recipients of the food dispensed. (Heb 5:11-14; compare 1Co 12:12, 19-27.) Expanded responsibility would result from faithfulness maintained until the master’s promised arrival.—Mt 24:46, 47; Lu 12:43, 44. The domestics are all those who belong to the Christian congregation, both the anointed and the “other sheep,” who are fed spiritual food. (Joh 10:16) This includes the individual members making up “the faithful and discreet slave,” since they too are recipients of the food dispensed. Those who make up the faithful slave will receive expanded responsibility if they are found faithful at the master’s promised arrival. When they receive their heavenly reward and become corulers with Christ, he will appoint them over “all his belongings.” Along with the rest of the 144,000, they will share Christ’s vast heavenly authority.—Mt 24:46, 47; Lu 12:43, 44. In the face of continued increases in the number of self-proclaimed ‘anointed’ members, status as ‘anointed’ has been further demoted. In the 15 August 2011 issue of The Watchtower, advice was given that claiming to be ‘anointed’ may be a sign of “mental or emotional imbalance”. Members of the ‘governing body’ are unequivocally cited as “anointed Christians”, but other members are only said to ‘claim’ to be ‘anointed’.
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