Continuing with the theme of loyalty seen in the previous article and coming in the summer convention program, this lesson starts by quoting Micah 6:8. Take a moment and look at the more than 20 translations found here. The difference is obvious even to the casual reader. The 2013 edition of the NWT [ii] renders the Hebrew word checed as “cherish loyalty”, whereas every other translation renders it with a compound expression such as “love kindness” or “love mercy”.
The idea which is being conveyed in this verse is not primarily a state of being. We are not being told to be kind, or to be merciful, or—if the NWT translation is correct—to be loyal. Rather, we are being instructed to love the very quality in question. It is one thing to be kind and quite another to actually love the concept of kindness. A man who is not merciful by nature can still show mercy on occasion. A man who is not naturally kind, can still perform acts of kindness from time to time. However, such a man will not pursue these things. Only those who love something will pursue it. If we love kindness, if we love mercy, we will pursue them. We will endeavor to display them in all aspects of our life.
Therefore, by rendering this verse “cherish loyalty”, the 2013 NWT revision committee wishes us to pursue loyalty as something to be cherished or loved. Is this truly what Micah is telling us to do? Is the message that is here being conveyed one where loyalty is of greater importance than mercy or kindness? Have all the other translators missed the boat?
What is the justification for the 2013 NWT revision committee’s choice?
Actually, they provide none. They are not accustomed to being questioned, or more accurately, to justifying their decisions.
The Hebrew Interlinear provides “covenant loyalty” as the literal meaning of he-sed. In modern English, that phrase is difficult to define. What is the Hebrew mindset behind he-sed? Apparently, the 2013 NWT revision committee[ii] does know, because elsewhere they render he-sed as “loyal love”. (See Ge 24:12; 39:21; 1Sa 20:14; Ps 59:18; Isa 55:3) That helps us to understand its proper use in Micah 6:8. The Hebrew word indicates a love which is loyal to the loved one. “Loyal” is the modifier, the quality that defines this love. Translating Micah 6:8 as “cherish loyalty” turns the modifier into the object being modified. Micah isn’t talking about loyalty. He’s talking about love, but of a particular kind—love which is loyal. We are to love this type of love. Love which is loyal acts on behalf of the loved one. It is love in action. Kindness only exists when there is an action, an act of kindness. Likewise mercy. We display mercy thru some action that we take. If I love kindness, then I will go out of my way to act kindly toward others. If I love mercy, then I will demonstrate that love by being merciful toward others.
That the NWT translation of Micah 6:8 is questionable is demonstrated by their inconsistency in rendering this word as ‘loyalty’ in other places where it would be called for if theirs is really the correct rendering. For example, at Matthew 12:1-8, Jesus gave this powerful response to the Pharisees:
“At that season Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath. His disciples got hungry and started to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 At seeing this the Pharisees said to him: “Look! Your disciples are doing what it is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3 He said to them: “Have YOU not read what David did when he and the men with him got hungry? 4 How he entered into the house of God and they ate the loaves of presentation, something that it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests only? 5 Or, have YOU not read in the Law that on the sabbaths the priests in the temple treat the sabbath as not sacred and continue guiltless? 6 But I tell YOU that something greater than the temple is here. 7 However, if YOU had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice,’ YOU would not have condemned the guiltless ones. 8 For Lord of the sabbath is what the Son of man is.””
In saying “I want mercy, and not sacrifice”, Jesus was quoting from Hosea 6:6:
“For in loyal love (he-sed) I delight, not in sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God, rather than in whole burnt offerings.” (Ho 6:6)
Where Jesus uses the word “mercy” in quoting Hosea, what Hebrew word does that prophet use? It is the very same word, he-sed, used by Micah. In Greek, is it ‘eleos’ which is consistently defined as “mercy” according to Strong’s.
Notice also Hosea’s use of Hebrew poetic parallelism. “Sacrifice” is linked to “whole burnt offerings” and “loyal love” to “the knowledge of God”. God is love. (1 John 4:8) He defines that quality. Therefore, the knowledge of God is the knowledge of love in all its facets. If he-sed refers to loyalty, then “loyal love” would have been linked to “loyalty” and not to “the knowledge of God”.
Indeed, were he-sed to mean ‘loyalty’, then Jesus would be saying, ‘I want loyalty and not sacrifice‘. What sense would that make? The Pharisees considered themselves the most loyal of all Israelites by their strict obedience to the letter of the Law. Rule makers and rule keepers put great stock in loyalty because at the end of things, that is often all they can boast about. Showing love, exercising mercy, acting out of kindness—these are the hard things. These are the things which those promoting loyalty often fail to exhibit.
Of course, loyalty has its place, as does sacrifice. But the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, in a Christian context they go hand-in-hand. Jesus said:
“If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.”
Clearly, anyone that “continually follows” Jesus is being loyal to him, but disowning oneself, accepting a torture stake and losing one’s soul involves sacrifice. Therefore, Jesus would never present loyalty and sacrifice as alternatives, as if we could have one without the other.
Loyalty to God and Christ requires us to make sacrifices, yet Jesus, in quoting Hosea, said “I want loyal love, or I want kindness, or I want mercy, and not the sacrificial loyalty.’ Following the reasoning back to Micah 6:8, it would be utterly meaningless and illogical for Jesus to quote this, had the Hebrew word simply meant “loyalty”.
This is not the only place that the revised NWT has been questionably altered. For example, the exact same substitution is seen in Psalms 86:2 (paragraph 4). Again ‘faithfulness’ and ‘godliness’ are switched for loyalty. The meaning of the original Hebrew word chasid is found here. (For more information on bias in the NWT, see here.)
Instead of encouraging godliness, kindness and mercy to the brotherhood, the NWT places an emphasis on ‘loyalty’ that is absent in the original inspired writings (Micah 6:8; Eph 4:24). What is the motivation for this shift in meaning? Why the inconsistency in translating the inspired writings?
Given that the Governing Body requires the absolute loyalty of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is not difficult to see why they would prefer a reading that emphasizes the need for allegiance to what they view as God’s only earthly Organization.
A Fresh Look at Loyalty
Paragraph 5 of this study reminds the reader: “Although we can properly have several loyalties in our heart, the correct order of their importance should be determined by our application of Bible principles.”
With that in mind let us apply Bible principles to carefully weigh the material presented in order to determine the proper object and order of our loyalties.
Who Deserves Our Loyalty?
The object of our loyalty is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian and should be our primary concern as we examine this Watchtower. As Paul stated at Gal 1:10:
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Paul (then still Saul of Tarsus) had been a member of a powerful religious body and was on track to a good career in what would be today termed ‘the clergy’. (Gal 1:14) Despite this, Saul humbly admitted that he had been seeking the approval of men. To correct this, he made enormous changes in his life to become a servant of Christ. What can we learn from Saul’s example?
Think about the scenario that he faced. There were many religions in the world at that time; many religious organizations, if you will. But there was only one true religion; one true religious organization that had been set up by Jehovah God. That was the Jewish religious system of things. This was what Saul of Tarsus believed when he came to the stark realization that the nation of Israel – Jehovah’s Organization if you will – was no longer in an approved state. If he wanted to be loyal to God, he would have to abandon his loyalty to the religious organization he had always believed was God’s appointed channel of communication with humankind. He would have to begin worshiping his heavenly Father in a radically different fashion. (Heb 8:8-13) Would he now begin to look for a new organization? Where would he now go?
He turned not to a “where” but to a “who”. (John 6:68) He turned to the Lord Jesus and learned all he could about him and then when he was ready, he began to preach…and people were drawn to the message. A community akin to a family, not an organization, developed naturally as a result.
If would be hard to find in the Bible a more concise rejection of the concept that Christianity has to be organized under a human authority structure than these words of Paul concerning this awakening:
“I did not go at once into conference with flesh and blood. 17 Neither did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles previous to me, but I went off into Arabia, and I came back again to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to visit Ceʹphas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 But I saw no one else of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.” (Ga 1:16-19)
The central theme of this Watchtower is a parallel drawn between the Old Covenant period with its visible organization and human leaders, and the earthly JW Organization today. The Watchtower relies on this concocted parallel—admittedly an unscriptural typical/antitypical correspondence—to enforce loyalty to human tradition and the men in power behind the scenes (Mark 7:13). Whereas “all scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching”, Christians under the New Covenant do well to remember that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”. (2Ti 3:16; Ga 3:24 KJV) The Mosaic Law was not a pattern to be replicated in the Christian congregation. In fact, the attempt to revive the structure of the Old Covenant was one of the first and most devastating apostasies in the early Christian congregation (Ga 5:1).
Throughout this article readers are reminded that they should be loyal to (“not raise their hand against”) ‘the anointed one of Jehovah’—a not-so-subtle reference to the Governing Body. Other Watchtower writings have gone so far as to compare the position of the Governing Body to that of Moses and Aaron, describing those who would find fault with their actions as modern-day murmuring, complaining and rebellious Israelites. (Ex 16:2; Nu 16). Casting themselves in the role of Moses and Aaron borders on blasphemy as the Bible clearly teaches that only our Lord Jesus would fill this role in Christian times—a truly scriptural antitype. (He 3:1-6; 7:23-25)
Jehovah requires us to listen to his prophets. However, he gives them accreditation so that we can have confidence that we are obeying his people, not imposters. Jehovah’s prophets of old had three distinctive characteristics that made their identification as his ‘chosen channel’ indisputable. In both the nation of Israel and in the first century the ‘anointed of Jehovah’ (1) performed miracles, (2) uttered unfailingly true predictions and (3) were inspired to write the unchanging and completely consistent Word of God. When compared against this standard, the track record of the self-declared ‘faithful and discreet slave’ leaves little doubt that their claim to being ‘God’s only channel on earth’ misses the mark. (1Co 13:8-10; De 18:22; Nu 23:19)
Today, we follow only one anointed leader, Jesus Christ. In fact, the very meaning of the word ‘Christ’, according to the HELPS Word-studies, is:
5547 Xristós (from 5548 /xríō, “anoint with olive oil”) – properly, “the Anointed One,” the Christ (Hebrew, “Messiah”).
Where in these verses is there room for any human intercessor?
“And yet you do not want to come to me so that you may have life.” (John 5:40)
“Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Ac 4:12)
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus,” (1Ti 2:5)
Yet the Governing Body would have us accept that loyalty to another mediator is fundamental to our salvation:
“The other sheep should never forget that their salvation depends on their active support of Christ’s anointed “brothers” still on earth.” (w12 3/15 p. 20 par. 2 Rejoicing in Our Hope)
Loyalty to God or to Human Tradition?
Paragraphs 6, 7 and 14 deal with the application of the Christian judicial system. It is true that the congregation must be protected from the corrupting influence of sin. Nevertheless, we must carefully consider the testimony of the Scriptures to ensure that we are treating wrongdoers in accord with the pattern set out by Jesus and the Christian writers of the New Testament. Otherwise, those presuming to protect the congregation might become the very source of corruption they seek to eliminate.
Playing the Loyalty Card to Enforce Compliance
Before discussing the treatment of those who have been disfellowshipped (shunned or excommunicated) as set out in paragraphs 6 and 7, let us review the application of Jesus words in Matthew 18 in the context of the paragraph 14.[i]
From the outset we should note the conspicuous absence from this article of any reference to Jesus’ direction concerning judicial matters found in Matthew 18:15-17. This omission is made more serious by the fact that Matthew 18 is the only place our Lord discussed such matters, and thus should form the very core of our policies surrounding wrongdoing. The article also draws on Old Testament parallels (the concocted antitypes addressed previously) to support the judicial system found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. The scriptural precedent for our judicial system has been extensively discussed before on Beroean Pickets, but let us apply these points as rebuttals to the points raised in paragraph 14.
“But if you were to cover up the wrongdoing, you would be disloyal to God.” (Lev 5:1)
Admittedly, there were sins that had to be reported to Jewish elders. The Governing Body wants the same arrangement to exist in the Christian congregation. They are forced to fall back on the Jewish system because there are simply no references to this type of confessional in the Christian scriptures. As was written in the aforementioned article “the sins that had to be reported were capital offenses … there was no provision for repentance.. [or] forgiveness. If guilty, the accused was to be executed.”
Why does the Governing Body fail to follow the precedent of open, public trials held before ‘the assembly’ who helped to ensure a fair trial (as was the case in both Israelite and Christian times) but instead opt for judicial committees held as star-chamber hearings with no records and no onlookers permitted? (Ma 18:17; 1Co 5:4; 2Co 2:5-8; Ga 2:11,14; De 16:18; 21:18-20; 22:15; 25:7; 2Sa 19:8; 1Ki 22:10; Je 38:7) What loyalty does the Governing Body display to God when they seek to reimpose the heavy yoke of slavery of the Old Covenant on Christians today? (Ga 5:1) Teachings such as this betray a failure to recognize the true significance of the Ransom and the wonderful new truth for Christians: ‘love is the law’s fulfillment’ (Ma 23:4; Ro 13:8-10).
“So like Nathan, be kind yet firm. Urge your friend or relative to seek the help of the elders.”
As addressed above, there is simply no Christian precedent for the confession of sins to religious leaders. Nathan urged David to repent to God, not to go before the priests. Jesus made no distinction on the type or severity of the sin involved when he said ‘go and reveal his fault between you and him alone’. (Ma 18:15) If unrepentant, the wrongdoer was to be reproved by the ekklésia, the entire assembled congregation, not just a selected panel of elders. (Ma 18:17; 1Co 5:4; 2Co 2:5-8; Ga 2:11,14)
“In doing this, you are being loyal to Jehovah and kind to your friend or relative, for Christian elders will try to readjust such an individual with mildness.”
How nice if this were always true, but long experience shows it is often not the case. If Matthew 18 were followed faithfully, many would have been restored to God’s good graces in step 1 or 2 and would never have come before the elders. This would have saved embarrassment, preserved confidentiality (since the elders have no God-given right to know all the sins of the flock), and avoided the many tragic circumstances that have resulted from misjudgments and the harsh application of rules.
We need courage to be loyal to Jehovah. Many of us have courageously stood firm against pressure from family members, workmates, or secular authorities in order to prove ourselves loyal to God.
Paragraph 17 opens with these words, and then follows with the experience of a Japanese witness named Taro who was essentially disfellowshipped by his entire family when he became a Jehovah’s Witness. For those of us who have awakened to the reality of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this paragraph is laced with irony, for the principle stated in its opening sentence holds true for us. If we are to remain loyal to Jehovah, we must courageously stand firm against pressure from Witness relations and family, Witness friends, and congregation members who would put loyalty to JW.org above loyalty toward God and his anointed king, Jesus Christ.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Robert for his timely analysis of Micah 6:8, much of which as been sewn into this article.
[i] To see how the organization has flip flopped on its treatment of disfellowshipped ones, compare what is found at w74 8/1 pp. 460-466 Divine Mercy Points the Way Back for Erring Ones and w74 8/1 pp. 466-473 Maintaining a Balanced Viewpoint Toward Disfellowshiped Ones with the current attitude.
[ii] This article originally referred to the NWT translation and the NWT translation committee. As Thomas points out in the comments below, both the 1961 and the 1984 editions of the NWT contain the more accurate rendering.