[From ws 06/19 p.2 –August 5 – August 11]

“Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition.” ​–  Col. 2:8

Before beginning our review of this week‘s article, let us consider the theme text in greater detail.

The letter was written by Paul in Rome to the Colossians.

In verse 4 and 8 of the second chapter Paul says the following:

I am saying this so that no one may delude you with persuasive arguments.”

Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ;”

What is Paul warning the Colossians about?

According to Strong’s Concordance:

  • Philosophy – From “philosophos”; ‘philosophy’, i.e., Jewish sophistry
  • Empty Deception – Deceit, deception, deceitfulness, delusion. From the word “apatao” meaning delusion.
  • Human tradition – An instruction, tradition from the word “paradidomi”, specially, the Jewish traditionary law
  • Elementary things or rudiments of the world – constituent, proposition of the world

It’s clear that Paul is warning against the Colossians being taken captive and deceived by well-crafted arguments that are based on Jewish or worldly philosophies, human and more specifically Jewish tradition and well-crafted arguments that are based on worldly elements and teachings that are not according to Christ.

Logically then, based on the theme text, one would expect that we will learn about how to avoid being captured by human philosophy, human traditions or any other enticing reasoning that is based on elements of this world.

What though is the focus of this week’s Watchtower article?

“In this article, we will discuss how Satan uses “empty deception” to try to influence our thinking. We will identify three of his “crafty acts,” or “schemes.”” (Par. 3)

Tempted to Commit Idolatry

Before we are told about the crafty acts, we are given a history lesson on how the Israelites had to adopt new ways of farming after they left Egypt. In Egypt they watered their crop by means of water drawn from the Nile River, now in their new territory they had to rely on seasonal rainfall and dew. How is the change in the way the Israelites farmed relevant to a discussion on Colossians 2:8?

The truth is, it is not relevant, but the Organisation wants to set the scene for what is about to follow.

Three tactics Satan used to take the Iasraelites Captive

  • Appealing to a normal desire – Satan deceived the Israelites to believe that they had to adopt pagan practices in order to receive the rain they needed.
  • Appealing to immoral desires – Israelites were attracted by the pagans’ sexually immoral rituals and allowed themselves to be lured into serving false gods.
  • Satan blurred the Israelites’ view of Jehovah. God’s people apparently stopped using Jehovah’s name and substituted it with the name Baal

These are the three tactics Satan used according to The Watchtower to capture the Israelites.

Which of these are related to Colossians 2:8?

Perhaps at best the first one may have some relevance to the theme text. The rest have to do with temptation, immorality and abandoning the worship of Jehovah. Paul was warning the Colossians about those who would infiltrate the congregation and teach the congregation things that were contrary to what they had come to understand about the Christ.

The writer of the article did not need to refer to the Israelites to make that point clear.

The real reason why the example of the Israelites is used becomes more apparent as we read paragraphs 10 thru 16

Satan’s Tactics Today

The three tactics which Satan used to deceive the Israelites are now extended to Jehovah’s Witnesses today.

Satan blurs people’s view of Jehovah: Satan blurred the way Christians viewed Jehovah after the apostles died by removing the use of the name Jehovah. This contributed to the Trinity doctrine.

In reality, the Trinity doctrine really had nothing to do with the use of the name Jehovah but was an odd historical outcome from the debate on the nature of God at the Council of Nicaea convened by the Constantine in 325 CE.

The Watchtower writer does not have nor mention any evidence to support the claim that the removal of the name Jehovah contributed to the Trinity doctrine but it is important that this is mentioned to support the notion that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a clear view of who Jehovah is. It also speaks to the narrative that Satan has blurred the view of the rest of Christendom. Coincidentally, this is an example of the human traditions that Paul was speaking about in Colossians.

The Trinity Doctrine was introduced by Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea. He was a deacon from Alexandria. His view was that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were one but at the same time distinct from each other. This was contrary to what the Christians understood to be true at the time. Interestingly many of the Bishops on the Council were not in support of this view; it certainly was not what the apostles had taught.

 Satan appeals to immoral desires: This is true, the Bible has many examples that show how Jehovah’s servants were tempted and fell into sin as a result of immoral desires. This point though once again has nothing to do with Colossians 2:8.

Satan appeals to natural desires: The educational system in many countries teaches students not only practical skills but also human philosophy. Students are encouraged to question the existence of God and to disregard the Bible.

This is also true to some extent, although not all courses or educational programs focus on philosophy. Although some form of philosophy is taught in many courses, this does not necessarily focus on questioning the existence of God or on the Bible.

Some of the skills taught at universities globally are not just technical skills or subject matters but also critical thinking skills which evidently don’t always get applied by the students.

For instance, I believed in JW.org being God’s only organisation on earth without question, despite having done 6 months of philosophy in my University Degree. My congregation had 4 brothers who had PHD’s in science or engineering who still believe everything the organisation says without question.

Many educated people still blindly follow politicians, cultural norms and other religions, despite having been in university.

The Organisation is afraid of any exposure by the individual members to a questioning mind.

The reason why this is mentioned is because of the following point:

“Some Christians who have pursued university education have had their minds molded by human thinking rather than by God’s thinking.”

What the statement means by “God’s thinking” is actually the “Governing Body’s thinking”.

This is a convenient way of again reinforcing its negative viewpoint of higher education on the mind of Witnesses.

While at times some Witnesses have stopped believing in God due to higher education, far more Witnesses have stop believing in God because they realize that what they have been taught by the Organisation are half-truths or outright lies.

Conclusion

This is another missed opportunity to expand on the context and application of the theme scripture.

The writer reverts back to the example of the Israelites to support his predetermined conclusion.  No mention is made of Jesus Christ’s teachings which is what the Christians are admonished to adhere to in Colossians.

The Organisation is itself plagued by human tradition and deceptive teachings.

Just to mention a few:

  • 1914 and 1919 – No Bible evidence to support this
  • The Anointed and the Governing Body – deliberate misapplication of Matthew 24
  • “Full-time Service” – JW tradition

The list seems endless and therefore we need to be vigilant that we do not fall prey to their falsehoods.