How Speculation Becomes Fact – Part 2

– posted by meleti
There is an interesting story-like account of the life of Abel in the January 1, 2013 Watchtower.  Many fine points are made.  However, marring the article is yet another example of a growing tendency to turn conjecture into fact.  Consider please the following statements:

(w13 01/01 p. 13 par. 1, 2)
“Yet, when their first child was born, they named him Cain, or “Something Produced,” and Eve proclaimed: “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.” Her words suggest that she may have had in mind the promise Jehovah made in the garden, foretelling that a certain woman would produce a “seed” that would one day destroy the wicked one who had led Adam and Eve astray. (Genesis 3:15; 4:1) Did Eve imagine that she was the woman in the prophecy and that Cain was the promised “seed”?
If so, she was sadly mistaken. What is more, if she and Adam fed Cain such ideas as he grew up, they surely did his imperfect human pride no good. In time, Eve bore a second son, but we find no such high-flown statements about him. They named him Abel, which may mean “Exhalation,” or “Vanity.” (Genesis 4:2) Did the choice of that name reflect lower expectations, as if they put less hope in Abel than in Cain? We can only guess.

This is all conjecture, of course.  It is full of conditionals and we end the whole thing with “we can only guess”.
Yet in the very next paragraph we are turning this guesswork into an object lesson for parents today.

(w13 01/01 p. 13 par. 3)
“In any case, parents today may learn much from those first parents.  By your words and actions, will you feed your children’s pride, ambition, and selfish tendencies?”

How can parents learn anything from the parenting example of Adam and Eve when there are no details in the Bible to go from?  All we have is the conjecture of men.
Perhaps we are guessing correctly. Or perhaps Eve, after having gone through the ordeal of childbirth for the first time ever, recognized that it was only through Jehovah’s mercy that she was able to do it.  Perhaps her statement was a simple acknowledgement of fact.  To label this a “high-flown statement” is to pass judgement on the first woman without evidence.  As for Abel’s name, there are any number of imagined scenarios that could account for the name.
The fact is we admit that all this is guesswork, yet in the next breath, we are using this ‘guesswork’ as an scriptural example to guide Christian parents on rearing their own children.  Having been presented this way in the magazine, it is likely only a matter of time before it appears in public talks as a Bible example of what not to do in child rearing.  Speculation will again have become fact.

Archived Comments

We have moved to the Disqus commenting system. To post a new comment, go to the bottom of this page.

  • Comment by apollos0falexandria on 2012-11-04 09:45:04

    I've seen those ideas about Eve, Cain and Abel expressed by some other Bible commentators before. In this case the article clearly states that this is just some possible food for thought. In my opinion the problem doesn't lie so much in putting the idea out there in print, as the pre-conditioning that already allows for this speculation to become fact.
    What I mean is this - the same thing could be printed in a regular Bible commentary, and the general reader would say to himself "well that's an interesting possibility". It may have the intended and positive effect of getting him to think more deeply about the issues involved, and trying to connect the dots with other Bible passages. All well and good.
    However, in our case the process goes more like this: 1) The slave has published something. 2) The slave is God's channel. 3) It wouldn't be published if it weren't true. 4) It must be true.
    Now the reader probably isn't actively thinking through these steps, but sure as eggs is eggs you will find many in the organization who will suddenly start repeating this as fact in the future.
    Let's analyze why that is a bit further. There are three options that the reader can take:
    1) This is speculation without basis and therefore I will not accept it.
    2) This is speculation and I will treat it just as it was intended - a possibility
    3) This must have sufficient basis to be published. Therefore I will treat it as fact.
    The problem with option 1 is that we are actually rejecting something from the faithful slave (not acceptable)
    The problem with option 2 is that we unconsciously try to avoid uncertainty. We have been conditioned to view the truth as a complete framework. Everything is explained. Uncertainty is for the lost sheep of Christendom - not for us.
    Therefore the safe option - for which there is no penalty - is option 3.
    Think about the recent rhetoric. "We cannot harbour ideas contrary to those found in ... our publications". The publishers have set themselves up as something far greater than a Bible commentary or study aid. Yes, the information about Cain and Abel is just "an idea". But remember our "ideas" have to conform to those published.
    I have to assume that we have reached this point unwittingly, but at the same time those that publish the material need to be aware of the power that they now wield. In this particular example I can't conceive of any serious fallout from people accepting it as something more than speculation, but in other cases that may not be so.

    • Reply by hezekiah1 on 2012-11-07 18:08:38

      Thanks for your comments Apollos and junachin. I have to agree for the same reasons. Too often i have seen the very same things take place. A speculative statement is made based on little factual evidence. All too often it is followed up by a well meaning comment, or in a talk. Soon it jumps to a fact. I have seen it happen with publishers and C.O.'s alike. Youre options each publisher has is spot on, and all too often we choose the safe option and condemn any who would question it. All any of us wants is the truth, and I think that is anything we can produce evidence of. Isnt that what true faith is based on?

  • Comment by junachin on 2012-11-05 22:25:58

    I agree, it won't be long before the well-intentioned will be referring to this as fact.
    The brothers can hardly be blamed for wanting to use a biblical example as an object lesson. But I would think it's obvious that you can't use a conjectural argument as an object lesson.
    To make matters worse, it's not even a remotely convincing bit of conjecture. That Eve, in choosing the name Cain ('something produced'), was making a reference to the first prophecy is already highly suspect. What could be more generic than 'something produced'? Had she named him 'seed' or 'head-bruiser', I would concede the point. But, 'something produced'? Also, you'll notice that we don't even know what Abel meant; it MAY mean this or that. Yet we wonder what effect that may have had on Abel's self esteem.
    Why is it that I can't read one magazine these days without finding some hopelessly flawed argument?

  • Comment by Shahida on 2012-11-15 08:52:24

    I totally agree with all your comments,..but one has to be very alert to notice the clever arguments and use of can imagine how it is in countries such as mine where English is a second or third language.
    Im glad that I'm in a position where I can see through the arguments and do my own sifting out faulty or manipulative reasoning.

Recent content

Hello everyone. This is the second to last video in this series on shunning. Thank you for your patience as it has taken a while to get to this point. For those of you who haven’t seen the previous videos on shunning as…

Hello, everyone. I have something truly bizarre to share with you this time. It comes from a rather innocuous place, the July 2024 letter from the Governing Body to all the elders in North America and, I assume, around…

Statement by Brother Joss Goodall To My Brother and Sisters, I am writing to you to bring to your attention some very serious concerns that have been troubling me since August of last year when I listened to a morning worship video by Kenneth…

Jesus said that “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him.” (John 4:23 BSB) Are you one of the people that God is seeking to worship Him? Maybe you’re thinking, “I…

In this video we will continue our analysis of the gaslighting methods used by the Governing Body to induce a hypnotic grip on the hearts and minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This time we’ll be covering a talk delivered by Gage Fleegle on called…

[This contributed letter does not necessarily reflect all the views of our community. We post it here as a service to those who seek to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:20-24)] AN OPEN LETTER TO THE GOVERNING BODY OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES…