Stop the presses! The Organization has just admitted that the Other Sheep doctrine is unscriptural.
Okay, to be fair, they don’t know they’ve admitted this yet, but they have.
To understand what they’ve done, we have to understand the basis for the doctrine. It began as a “revealed truth” published in two 1934 Watchtower articles titled “His Kindness” printed in the August 1 and 15 issues. The foundation of the teaching is that the Other Sheep of John 10:16 represent an antitypical fulfillment of the six cities of refuge established under the law of Moses. (For a consideration in detail of those articles, see Going Beyond What Is Written.) Since those articles were published, there has been no further clarification. In other words, no additional proof—scriptural or otherwise—has been put forward to support the doctrine of the Other Sheep as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The other sheep are the antitype to the Israelite cities of refuge.
There are two ways you can do this for yourself. The first is by entering “other sheep” (with quotes) into the WT Library search engine and scan the 2,233 hits you get in the Watchtower listing going back to 1950. (As far as it goes.) It takes time, but I did it and it was illuminating in a backhanded way, because you will find no scriptural explanation as to why the Governing Body believes the “other sheep” of John 10:16 refers to a non-anointed class of Christian who are not God’s children.
Next, you can go to the Watchtower Index 1930-1985 and look under the “Discussion” topic which is always where articles explaining a doctrine are referenced. (There is no Discussion topic for “Other Sheep” in the 1986 to 2016 index.) You will find only two articles discussing the doctrine, but neither provides any scriptural proof whatsoever. An even greater curiosity is that the key 1934 and 1935 articles that gave birth to the doctrine are not referenced here, even though they fall within the scope of this index.
Therefore, the sole basis for this doctrinal teaching continues to be the belief that the Other Sheep are part of an antitypical fulfillment corresponding to the ancient type presented by the Israelite cities of refuge. That doctrinal basis has never been denied by the Governing Body—until now.
It could be argued that they denied that belief in the March 15, 2015 “Questions from Readers”, but that article contained a loophole:
“Where the Scriptures teach that an individual, an event, or an object is typical of something else, we accept it as such. Otherwise, we ought to be reluctant to assign an antitypical application to a certain person or account if there is no specific Scriptural basis for doing so.”
The boldfaced portion indicates they left some wiggle room for themselves which was missing from the 2014 annual meeting talk delivered by Governing Body member David Splane. Being reluctant to do something isn’t the same thing as being prohibited from doing it. I might be reluctant to slap a person, but if I needed to do so to revive them, I would not let my reluctance stand in my way.
However, and probably unwittingly, that loophole has now been closed. From a Box in the November Watchtower (Study Edition), we learn this:
“Because the Scriptures are silent regarding any antitypical significance of the cities of refuge, this article and the next one emphasize instead the lessons Christians can learn from this arrangement.”
Oh dear. I’m sure the writer and the reviewers of this article had no idea they were cutting the legs out from under this central doctrine of JW.org. But there you have it. Hard evidence that there is no basis for the Other Sheep teaching. “The Scriptures are silent regarding any antitypical significance to the cities of refuge.”
- In 1934, the other sheep were revealed as a distinct class of Christian with an earthly hope based on an antitypical application of the cities of refuge in Israel.
- No other scriptural explanation has ever been published to replace this understanding.
- We now know that the cities of refuge have no antitypical significance in Scripture.
Conclusion: The JW doctrine of the Other Sheep is dead! This doctrine teaches that the vast majority of Christians—all but 144,000—are God’s friends, but not His children. They are not spirit anointed; they do not have Jesus as their mediator; they are not born again; they are not in the New Covenant; and they must not partake of the memorial emblems.
Well, no longer.
We can now accept what we should have believed all along: The other sheep refers to non-Jewish Christians—gentiles like myself—who were first brought into the flock when Peter baptized Cornelius. That is clearly the message when we compare John 10:16 with Ephesians 2:11-22.