Was Rutherford Inspired?
Warren E. Berkley
Joseph Franklin Rutherford was president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society from 1917 until 1942.(1) During and subsequent to his tenure, millions of his writings were distributed by "Jehovah's Witnesses." If "Pastor" Russell's writings formulated and initiated Watchtower doctrine (and they did), Rutherford's essays became the sustenance of the "Jehovah's Witness" movement. Our present inquiry is this: Was J. F. Rutherford inspired by God to impart the doctrines he published? "Jehovah's Witnesses" hold Watchtower officials in high esteem. They view Russell and Rutherford in the same category as Abraham, Moses, the apostles of Christ, and even the Lord (Let God Be True, p. 222)! On a back page advertisement in Rutherford's book Religion, he is exalted as "an acknowledged authority on questions concerning the Bible . . . ." Too, the Watchtower organization demands that its adherents can understand the Scriptures only as interpreted by Watchtower leaders (Let God Be True, pp. 223, 225).(2) We are persuaded, therefore, that the question at hand is essential to an examination of Watchtower claims.
Rutherford's Prophetic Blunder
Rutherford's most famous book, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, is a clear manifestation of his unreliability as a prophet. He predicted that 1925 would be the end of the present order of things and the beginning of a new era in which millions then living would never die (p. 88).(3) But, obviously, it did not happen! Fortunately for Rutherford, the Mosaic law was not in effect at the time of his blunder! Had the law been operative he would have died! God said, `But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, `How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:20-22). This single point cannot be taken lightly! We urge our "Jehovah's Witness" friends to devote earnest thought to this fact. Anyone who honestly considers this argument will naturally suspect -the present appeals of Watchtower ministers. But there's more!
On The Deity of Christ
It is the great proposition of the Bible, and the grandest truth known to the human mind, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God; He was, and is, in His own person no less than God (John 1:1-18; 3:16; 5:18; 8:23; 20:30-31; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3; Rom. 1:1-4, etc.). But Rutherford, the "acknowledged authority on questions concerning the Bible," expressed a hearty distrust in the divine nature of God's Son. The following quotations from his writings leave no doubt:
"The sinless life that is accepted in the place of the man Adam, who committed sin, must be a perfect human life. It could be nothing more, and certainly nothing less, in order to meet the requirements of God's law" (Riches, p. 17, emphasis added, web).
"Some have earnestly believed that Jesus was God himself. But such a conclusion is not warranted by the Scriptures" (The Harp of God, p. 19; also, see page 101).
This is not without significance! The man who played a major role in the formation .of the Watchtower doctrines currently propagated by `7ehovah''s Witnesses" denied the deity of Jesus Christ! One cannot be a Christian while denying the divine nature of Christ (Acts 8:37; 1 John 4:15). Are we, in the light of these facts, to regard J. F. Rutherford as an inspired man, or an "acknowledged authority" on Bible subjects?(4)
Sufficiency of New Testament Truth
Christ promised the Holy Spirit to His apostles (Rutherford excluded), to guide them (not Watchtower officials), into all the truth (see John 16:13; Luke 24:4649; 1 Cor. 2:1-16; 2 Pet. 1:16-21; Gal. 1:6-12). This promise was fulfilled and the New Testament was completed about 1,700 years before the birth of J. F. Rutherford! (See also Heb. 1:1,2; 2:3,4; 2 Pet. 1:2,3; Jas. 1:25; Jude 3.) The complete and sufficient nature of the New Testament revelation of truth, as attested to by the passages just cited, negates the possibility of Rutherford being inspired-as well as 'any and all Watchtower officials! We do not need the Watchtower, the Pope, or any other source of latter day, extrabiblical revelations. The New Testament is sufficient!
Obviously, we have only touched the surface of a vast maze of error. What we have said amounts to this: Current "Jehovah's Witness" doctrine reflects the seeds of, error planted and nurtured by J. F. Rutherford-clearly, an uninspired man. The whole religious system of "Jehovah's Witnesses" hangs on the validity of Watchtower creedmakers-a host of fallible humans. We earnestly plead with our friends who are under Watchtower bondage to seek freedom in the truth, for "the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
1. Rutherford is sometimes called "Judge" due to his legal background.
2. Detailed documentation available from the following sources: Jehovah's Witnesses, Vol. 1 by Maurice Barnett (Printing Service, Cullman, Ala.), pages 8-12; Jehovah's Witnesses by Anthony A. Hoekema (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich.), pages 25-44: "The Jehovah's Witnesses" by Gene Frost in Truth Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 1, pages 19-21; and "They Shall Know That A Prophet Was Among Them," in Watchtower, April 1, 1972.
3. A careful reading of Rutherford's publication will reveal that this "prophetic blunder" was one among many.
4. "Jehovah's Witnesses" do refer to Christ as the "Son of God," but they place a construction (misconstruction) on the title that eliminates the meaning assigned to it in the New Testament. This infidelity is reflected in their mistranslation of John 1:1 in their own New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. (See their lengthy footnote at John 1:1.)
Truth Magazine XIX: 26, pp. 412-413