By Jack Ryan
This is a commonly used jw phrase regarding the faithful and discreet slave
By The Librarian
Part of a series on:
The faithful and discreet slave is the term used by Jehovah's Witnesses to describe the religion's Governing Body in its role of directing doctrines and teachings. The group is described as a "class" of "anointed" Christians that operates under the direct control of Jesus Christ to exercise teaching authority in all matters pertaining to doctrine and articles of faith.
The concept is a central doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses' system of belief and is based on their interpretation of the Parable of the Faithful Servant in Matthew 24:45–47, Mark 13:34-37 and Luke 12:35-48.
The doctrine has undergone several major changes since it was formulated in 1881 by Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Bible Student movement. Russell initially applied it to the "church"—the "little flock" of 144,000 who would go to heaven—but five years later explained that it was an individual who would act as a sole channel or agent for Christ, dispensing "food", or new truths, for God's "household". Bible Students consequently regarded Russell as the "faithful and wise servant" of the parable. In 1927 the Watch Tower Society announced that the "servant" was not in fact an individual, but was made up of the entire body of faithful spirit-anointed Christians; by 2010 that group numbered about 11,000 Witnesses from around the world. In 2012 the society announced an "adjustment" of the doctrine, explaining that the slave was now understood to be synonymous with the Governing Body, a small group of anointed elders serving at the religion's world headquarters. The announcement also marked a change in belief about the timing of the slave class's appointment by Christ: it was said to have taken place in 1919 rather than in apostolic times, as previously believed.
The current teaching is that the governing body is synonymous with the Faithful & Discreet Slave Class. There was no governing body in Russell's day. A Board of Directors was selected after Russell's death to take the lead of the Society's affairs. The Watchtower considers this to be the first "governing body" and also the first "faithful slave".
Watch Tower Society publications teach that Jesus uses the faithful and discreet slave "to publish information on the fulfillment of Bible prophecies and to give timely direction on the application of Bible principles in daily life" as the only means of communicating God's messages to humans. It is referred to as God's "prophet" and "channel", and claims to provide "divine" direction and guidance. Jehovah's Witnesses are told their survival of Armageddon depends in part on their obedience to the slave class. Governing Body members are said to act in the role of the faithful and discreet slave class when arriving at decisions on doctrines, activities and oversight of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, including making appointments to positions of responsibility.
Origin and history
The parable on which Jehovah's Witnesses base their doctrine of the "faithful and discreet slave", as rendered in the King James Version, reads: "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods."
Watch Tower publications state that Christ, the "master" in the parable, returned in Kingdom power in 1914 and at that date identified those associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society as the only group still faithfully feeding his followers. (Earlier publications apply different dates to this event. The date of Christ's inspection has previously been identified as 1919, though publications have also suggested Russell's group passed God's test of fitness 40 years earlier, using The Watchtower as his principal method of spreading Bible truth from 1879. Publications had claimed the slave class began using the Watch Tower Society as its legal instrument in 1884.) Christ, in fulfillment of the parable, subsequently appointed anointed Christians associated with the Watch Tower Society "over all his belongings". The "belongings" are said to today include Jehovah's Witnesses' Brooklyn headquarters, branch offices, Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls worldwide as well as the "great crowd" of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Development of doctrine
In 1881, an article in Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence by the magazine's editor Charles Taze Russell identified the "faithful and wise servant" as "that 'little flock' of consecrated servants who are faithfully carrying out their consecration vows—the body of Christ ... the whole body individually and collectively, giving the meat in due season to the household of faith—the great company of believers."
In 1895, Russell's wife Maria claimed that Russell himself was the figure referred to in the parable at Matthew 24:45-47, though Russell initially declined to accept the personal application of the title, suggesting that it should apply to the Watch Tower rather than its editor. In 1897 Russell agreed that Christ would have made a "choice of one channel for dispensing the meat in due season [emphasis in the original]" and while he did not refer to that "one channel" as an individual, Russell did apply to it the personal pronoun "he" (for example: "if unfaithful he will be deposed entirely"), and noted "whoever the Lord will so use, as a truth-distributing agent, will be very humble and unassuming" and "he would not think of claiming authorship or ownership of the truth."
In 1909, in an unsigned article, the Watch Tower mentioned that the "application to us of Matthew 24:45" had come "some fourteen years ago", or about 1895. The article went on to say "the Society's literature was the channel through which the Lord sent them practically all that they know about the Bible and the Divine purposes." [emphasis added]
The prevailing view among Bible Students that Russell was "the faithful and wise servant" of Jesus' parable, was reiterated in the Watch Tower a few weeks after Russell's death in 1916:
Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell's writings believe that he filled the office of "that faithful and wise servant," and that his great work was giving to the Household of Faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation.
The Watch Tower Society's official history of Jehovah's Witnesses states that Russell "did not personally promote the idea, but he did acknowledge the apparent reasonableness of the arguments of those who favored it."
In 1917, the publisher's preface to the book, The Finished Mystery, issued as a posthumous publication of Russell's writings, identified him as the "faithful and wise servant" appointed by Christ; as late as 1923, the Watch Tower repeated the same belief about his role, declaring: "We believe that all who are now rejoicing in present truth will concede that Brother Russell faithfully filled the office of special servant of the Lord; and that he was made ruler over all the Lord's goods ... Brother Russell occupied the office of that 'faithful and wise servant'."
In 1927, Watch Tower Society president Joseph Rutherford reverted to Russell's original viewpoint, announcing that the "servant" was not an individual, but was made up of the entire body of faithful spirit-anointed Christians.
A 1950 issue of The Watchtower appeared to assign to the "mother organization"—in reference to the Watch Tower Society—the task of feeding Christians "meat in due season"; in 1951 the magazine defined the "faithful and discreet slave" as a class of people whose teachings were imparted through a theocratic organization.
1981 - Who Is The Faithful Steward, The Discreet One? - Talk by Frederick W. Franz then President of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
From 2000 the Governing Body was increasingly described as the representative and "spokesman" for God's "faithful and discreet slave class".
Watch Tower Society publications had taught that the "faithful and discreet slave" class had had a continuous uninterrupted existence since being appointed by Christ at the time of Pentecost AD 33, when the first 120 people upon whom holy spirit was poured out began "feeding" Jews with spiritual food. As new disciples came in, they filled the role of "domestics" and joined in feeding others. The Apostles and other early Christian disciples who wrote the books of the New Testament were also part of the "slave" class providing spiritual food to Christians.
The Watchtower claimed members of the "slave" class were a close-knit body of Christians rather than isolated, independent individuals, and that one generation of the "slave" class fed the succeeding generation to maintain the unbroken line for more than 1900 years, providing the same spiritual food to Christians worldwide. Watch Tower publications did not identify the groups filling the role of the "slave" class between the close of the Apostolic Age and the early 20th century, suggesting it disappeared from "clear view", but they implied they might have included the Lollards and the Waldensians (the latter movement described by The Watchtower as "faithful witnesses of Jehovah ... who sought to revive true worship of Christianity").
A series of talks at the 128th annual meeting of the Watch Tower Society in New Jersey on 6 October 2012 made further changes to the doctrine about the identity of the "slave". The society's report on the meeting said that "the faithful and discreet slave was appointed over Jesus' domestics in 1919. That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ's presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as 'the faithful and discreet slave.'" The report said the slave "logically" must have appeared after Christ's presence began in 1914.
The doctrinal change also redefined the "domestics" of the parable—previously identified as individual "anointed" Witnesses—as all Jehovah's Witnesses.
Watchtower (Study edition) - July 15, 2013
David H Splane: The Slave Is Not 1900 Years Old - Matt 24v45
The Watchtower, March 15, 2002 pp. 13-14 paragraph 4 Watchtower August 1, 2001 p. 14 paragraph 8, "A mature Christian ... does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and 'the faithful and discreet slave.'" "Jehovah, the God of Progressive Revelation", Watchtower, June 15, 1964, page 365, "The abundance of spiritual food and the amazing details of Jehovah's purposes that have been revealed to Jehovah's anointed witnesses are clear evidence that they are the ones mentioned by Jesus when he foretold a 'faithful and discreet slave' class that would be used to dispense God's progressive revelations in these last days ... How thankful we should be for the provision God has made of this slave class, the modern spiritual remnant, as they faithfully dispense the revealed truths of Jehovah! ... Jehovah's faithful witnesses have been progressively brought to an understanding of Jehovah's purposes, which are clearer now than ever before in history." Penton, M. James (1997). Apocalypse Delayed. University of Toronto Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3. Penton, M. James (1997). Apocalypse Delayed. University of Toronto Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3. The Watchtower, February 15, 1927, page 55, paragraph 38. Watch Tower, 1927, as referenced by Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watchtower Society, 1993, page 626. Report of Annual Meeting, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, October 6, 2012. Hoekema, Anthony A. (1963), The Four Major Cults, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, pp. 246–247, ISBN 0-8028-3117-6 Organized to Do Jehovah's Will, Watch Tower Society, 2005, p. 16. The Watchtower April 1, 1972, p. 197. The Watchtower August 1, 2002, p. 13 paragraph 17. "Do You Discern the Evidence of God's Guidance?", The Watchtower, April 15, 2011, pages 3-5. "Do You Discern the Evidence of God’s Guidance?", The Watchtower, April 15, 2011, "Jesus Christ is the assigned Leader of the congregation. He has delegated some authority to a faithful slave class, made up of faithful spirit-anointed Christians. That slave class, in turn, appoints overseers in the Christian congregation." "Do You Take the Lead in Showing Honor?", The Watchtower, October 15, 2008, page 23, "It is Scriptural for “the faithful and discreet slave” through its Governing Body to appoint men to positions of responsibility, and some men are appointed to exercise authority over other appointed men." Overseers and Ministerial Servants Theocratically Appointed", The Watchtower, January 15, 2001, page 15, "The Governing Body appoints qualified brothers at the branches to represent it in making appointments of elders and ministerial servants. Care is taken that those acting representatively on behalf of the Governing Body clearly understand and follow the Scriptural guidelines for making such appointments. Hence, it is under the direction of the Governing Body that qualified men are appointed to serve in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide." Organized To Do God's Will, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 2005, page 16. Hoekema, Anthony A. (1963), The Four Major Cults, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, pp. 300–301, ISBN 0-8028-3117-6 Beckford, James A. (1975), The Trumpet of Prophecy: A Sociological Study of Jehovah's Witnesses, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, p. 109, ISBN 0-631-16310-7 One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”, The Watchtower, September 15, 1983, page 19, paragraph 19. Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1959, page 22, "... in many ways the evidence was beginning to accumulate that, of all the early voices heard, Jehovah had chosen the publication we now call The Watchtower to be used as a channel through which to bring to the world of mankind a revelation of the divine will and, through the words revealed in its columns, to begin a division of the world's population into those who would do the divine will and those who would not. For this reason 1879 was a turning point in the work. This little group, headed by C.T. Russell, had now been tested and had been found fit to undertake the great preliminary campaign leading up to the climax expected in 1914." "Willingly Expand Your Ministry", The Watchtower, June 1, 1963, page 338. Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, October/November 1881. Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1993, page 142. Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, Watch Tower Reprints, page 3811, As Retrieved 2009-09-23, page 215. Penton, M. James (1997). Apocalypse Delayed. University of Toronto Press. pp. 33–37. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3. The Battle of Armageddon (Part IV, "Studies in the Scriptures") by C. T. Russell, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1897, page 613. Watch Tower, October 1, 1909, Watch Tower Reprints, page 4482, As Retrieved 2009-09-23, page 292 "Testing and Sifting From Within", Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watchtower Society, 1993, page 626, "According to Brother Russell, his wife, who later left him, was the first one to apply Matthew 24:45-47 to him. See the Watch Tower issues of July 15, 1906, page 215; March 1, 1896, page 47; and June 15, 1896, pages 139-40." Watch Tower, December 1, 1916, Watch Tower Reprints, page 5998, As Retrieved 2009-09-23, page 357 "Testing and Sifting From Within", Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, page 626, "Many ... clung to the view that a single individual, Charles Taze Russell, was the "faithful and wise servant" ... Particularly following his death, The Watch Tower itself set forth this view for a number of years. In view of the prominent role that Brother Russell had played, it appeared to the Bible Students of that time that this was the case. He did not personally promote the idea, but he did acknowledge the apparent reasonableness of the arguments of those who favored it." Publisher's Preface, Studies in the Scriptures, Series VII: The Finished Mystery, Peoples Pulpit Association, Brooklyn, NY, 1917. Watch Tower, March 1, 1923, pages 68 and 71, as cited by Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, page 63. Watch Tower, 1927, as referenced by Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watchtower Society, 1993, page 626. The Watchtower, September 15, 1950 p. 326|"The Father is the great Provider of spiritual food, and he delegates to his organization the duty of preparing and serving this life-sustaining 'meat in due season'. The table is the Lord’s, he sits at the head, and the children seated at the table are waited on and served and helped by the mother organization." "Release Under Way to the Ends of the Earth", The Watchtower December 15, 1951, page 749, paragraph 4|"Christ Jesus approved of his remnant as a 'faithful and discreet slave' and set this "slave" class over all his earthly belongings. Then by the theocratic organization Jehovah led them from one truth to another, opening the eyes of their hearts and the ears of their understanding to see and hear these truths." The Watchtower, May 15, 2008, page 29 "Seek God's guidance in all things", The Watchtower, April 15, 2008, page 11. "How Are Christians Spiritually Fed?", The Watchtower, January 15, 1975. "Do You Appreciate the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”?", The Watchtower, March 1, 1981, page 24. Theocratic Aid to Kingdom Publishers, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1945, page 307. Franz, Raymond (2007). In Search of Christian Freedom. Commentary Press. pp. 128, 129. ISBN 0-914675-17-6. Penton, M. James (1997). Apocalypse Delayed. University of Toronto Press. pp. 179–183. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3. Insight In The Scriptures volume 1, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1988, p. 805-806. See also:
I have posted this issue before, but it was during the time of the hot topic of the persecution in Russia and maybe got overshadowed by it. A poster brought it up again in one of the threads so I thought I will try again to post it as a topic. My goal is not to sow doubts, nor to promote some false ideas, but rather to get to the bottom of this as I feel it is a valid question. The summary of the problem can be seen in the quotes below:
Referring to people leaving their religion to join Jehovah's Witnesses:
"No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family". Awake 7/09 page 29
Regarding those disfellowshipped from Jehovah's Witnesses:
"Really, what your beloved family member needs to see is your resolute stance to put Jehovah above anything else - including the family bond.....Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through email" p.16, paragraph 19, Study WT Jan / 2013
In the above situation we are assuming that the reason for disfellowshipping was because of changing one's religion and/or apostasy (not because of immorality etc.)
Have any past Presidents of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society ever had armed bodyguards .. and does the GB now have them?By James Thomas Rook Jr.
Have any past Presidents of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
ever had armed bodyguards .. and does the GB now have them?
By JW Insider
Usually when we refer to the "faithful and discreet slave" parable, we refer to the parable of 'the faithful and the unfaithful slave' found in Matthew 24:45-51. But the parable of the "faithful and discreet slave" is also found in Luke, where the expression is changed a bit to "the faithful steward, the discreet one . . . that slave."
(Luke 12:42-48) 42 And the Lord said: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? 43 Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so! 44 I tell you truthfully, he will appoint him over all his belongings. 45 But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting him and at an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones. 47 Then that slave who understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he asked will be beaten with many strokes. 48 But the one who did not understand and yet did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few. Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him, and the one who was put in charge of much will have more than usual demanded of him.
"That slave" is given an assignment to feed the master's "body of attendants." If he obeys, he gets a promotion, and if he disobeys he is punished. This is the exact same idea as in Matthew 24, except that there are only about 15 words referring what happens if this slave obeys and 150 words in the section about what happens if the slave disobeys. That's about 10 times as much space given to the idea of disobedience versus obedience. In Matthew it's only about 3 times as much space given to the idea of disobedience.
That might explain why the verses in Matthew are referenced so much more often in Watch Tower publications and speech. The Watchtower has, of course, minimized the idea of any potential disobedience:
*** w13 7/15 p. 24 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” ***
Was Jesus foretelling that there would be an evil slave class in the last days? No. Granted, some individuals have manifested a spirit similar to that of the evil slave described by Jesus. We would call them apostates, whether they were of the anointed or of the “great crowd.” (Rev. 7:9) But such ones do not make up an evil slave class. Jesus did not say that he would appoint an evil slave. His words here are actually a warning directed to the faithful and discreet slave.
Notice that Jesus introduces the warning with the words “if ever.” One scholar says that in the Greek text, this passage “for all practical purposes is a hypothetical condition.”
This is an adjustment to the doctrine held just up until the change in 2013. Prior to the quote above (originally presented at the Annual Meeting in 2012) the idea about the evil slave was just the opposite: that the "evil slave" came directly from the ranks of the "faithful slave."
*** w04 3/1 p. 13 pars. 2-4 ‘The Faithful Slave’ Passes the Test! ***
The expression “that evil slave” draws our attention to Jesus’ preceding words about the faithful and discreet slave. Yes, the “evil slave” came from the ranks of the faithful slave. How?
3 Before 1914, many members of the faithful slave class had high hopes of meeting with the Bridegroom in heaven that year, but their hopes were not fulfilled. As a result of this and other developments, many were disappointed and a few became embittered. Some of these turned to ‘beating’ their former brothers verbally and consorting with “confirmed drunkards,” religious groups of Christendom.—Isaiah 28:1-3; 32:6.
4 These former Christians came to be identified as the “evil slave,” and Jesus punished them with “the greatest severity.” How? He rejected them, and they lost out on their heavenly hope. They were not, however, immediately destroyed. They first had to endure a period of weeping and gnashing of teeth in “the darkness outside” the Christian congregation. (Matthew 8:12) Since those early days, a few other anointed individuals have shown a similar bad spirit, identifying themselves with the “evil slave.” Some of the “other sheep” have imitated their unfaithfulness. (John 10:16)
Now, of course, the "faithful slave" is made to be the equivalent of the Governing Body since 1919. (The Governing Body has only existed in its current form since the early to mid-1970's.) For this reason, evidently, it would no longer be appropriate to consider or expect that the evil slave might come from the ranks of the Governing Body. Continuing this teaching would likely create a measure of suspicion and questioning of the Governing Body themselves.
I really didn't know whether to laugh, cry or throw my hands up in despair when we discussed this at last night's meeting. The answers that were given during these paragraphs and the response of the study conductor really showed to me how, as a general rule, we are such a non-thinking and illogical group of people.
5 As we saw in Chapter 2 of this book, the Bible Students spent decades pointing out that the year 1914 would be significant in fulfilling Bible prophecy. However, at that time they believed that Christ’s presence had begun in 1874, that he had begun to rule in heaven in 1878, and that the Kingdom would not be fully set up until October 1914. The harvest would extend from 1874 to 1914 and would culminate in the gathering of the anointed to heaven. Do mistaken ideas such as these cast doubt on whether Jesus was guiding those faithful ones by means of holy spirit?
6 Not at all! Think again of our opening illustration. Would the premature ideas and eager questions of the tourists cast doubt on the reliability of their guide? Hardly! Similarly, although God’s people sometimes try to work out details of Jehovah’s purpose before it is time for the holy spirit to guide them to such truths, it is clear that Jesus is leading them. Thus, faithful ones prove willing to be corrected and humbly adjust their views.
It is also upsetting that the governing body, in instances like this, always speak in the third person. How much more humble would it be for them to say ;
"Similarly, although we, the faithful and discreet slave sometimes try to work out details of Jehovah’s purpose before it is time for the holy spirit to guide us to such truths..."
Any comments ?
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