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I'm interested in understanding what the core/basic beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses are, but I'm struggling to figure out how to get a basic overview of their core beliefs without starting a continuous Bible Study with them (would be interested, just don't have time at this point in my life)

I've received a copy of "What Can The Bible Teach Us?" from a Witness I'm in regular contact with. In taking a tour from him of the local Kingdom Hall, I've learned that this is one of two books typically shared with people interested in learning more about Jehovah's Witnesses.

I'm struggling with the "Teach" book. I've found that the writing style of the book is aimed more at an audience of people who are possibly interested in becoming Witnesses. I find that the writing often seeks an emotional connection or response, rather than offering information in a simple way. I also find that some of the logic makes leaps that I struggle to follow, and which are often irrelevant to explaining the belief.

I have no problem with the non-informational writing style - it seems that it would work well in a Bible Study setting. But as a person who is simply trying to understand what the basic beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses are, from a source produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, without starting a Bible Study, this book is really hard to get clear information out of.

So, is there a piece of literature produced by the Witnesses that is written to be purely informational in explaining what their most important basic beliefs are? Or is all literature aimed at an audience of those who are investigating, or already joined with, the religion?

I know that a person could go to JW.org and find the basic beliefs scattered throughout articles. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for one pamphlet, one book, or one intentional series of small booklets. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints produces 3 small pamphlets covering core, basic beliefs plus 5 small pamphlets covering some big lifestyle-affecting beliefs (ex. Tithing or the word of wisdom). The missionaries pass out these pamphlets like crazy where I live. The answer doesn't need to be a series of pamphlets in that exact format, but those simple pamphlets are: 1. Short 2. Easy to read 3. Communicate the basics without me needing to invite LDS missionaries into my home

Every time I ask a Witness for literature that explains their beliefs, I get asked to start a Bible Study with them. I've been told multiple times that their beliefs can't be shared by printed literature. I guess I just want to find out if that's true or if I just happen to have stumbled across a few Witnesses who really, really want more Bible Studies.

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    Good start here jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs – Kris Jan 20 at 13:39
  • @Alamb what is your point of reference? How will you decide and based on what? What is ultimately your highest authority by which you make your decisions because this will have eternal ramifications either way so you want to know you’re on the right path? – Autodidact Jan 20 at 14:38
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    You should put that down as an answer @kris. I feel kinda stupid - I don't know how, in all of my searching, I missed that page. I would be interested in something a little longer than that, but that answers my question. – Alamb Jan 20 at 14:39
  • Sorry to hear some of us are so eager that they perhaps overdo it. Comparing it with a building: to know why a wall is at some specific location, you sometimes need to understand the foundation to fully comprehend the answer. Take for example the matter of blood transfusions. It's hard to really explain in a few lines, even with linked Scriptures. To understand why we can be at peace with our stance, you'll also have to understand what we believe about the ransom and the resurrection. Then you'll understand we do not believe that "blood saves lives", the way the argument for transfusions goes. – Mr. Donutz Jan 20 at 20:44
  • @Alamb on the page you see when you click on the link notice the topic page headings and click on frequently asked questions for more info . – Kris Jan 20 at 20:48
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I don’t know how I missed that link provided by Kris either! I searched online for two hours but got drawn into a bewildering array of articles, none of which specifically answered that question. Even when I keyed in “jehovah witness beliefs” I did not find that link. I had to go to their Bible Based Books web site to find it. Clearly, their web site could do with simplification – either that or I’m really stupid!

The official link given by Kris provides a brief overview of their basic beliefs from which you can look at more detailed information on a variety of topics (such as why they don’t believe the Trinity or why only 144,000 persons since the time of Jesus can ever go to heaven: https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/

However, it is not a comprehensive publication. The only book that is referred to as appropriate for people to learn about their beliefs is the ‘Bible Teach’ book. It is specifically designed to be used as a study book and the objective is to get interested people to agree to a regular home study session. The idea is to carefully guide people along a path that will gently encourage them to come along to the weekly meetings to further increase their appreciation and understanding of “the truth”. A 2015 article said this:

The length of the study course depends on you. The book What Does the Bible Really Teach? contains 19 lessons. You can cover any or all of the lessons at a pace that suits you. Source: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2015243?q=frequently+asked+questions&p=par

The 2005 ‘Bible Teach’ book is the latest in a long line of similar publications that are used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach interested persons in their beliefs. They all use the question and answer teaching method. The answers to the questions are to be found in the relevant paragraph. The subject matter and chapter headings follow a similar pattern covering identical topics:

1968 The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life

1969 Is the Bible Really the Word of God?

A 1995 Watchtower mentioned the Public Meetings as an appropriate place for people to learn about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are held in local Kingdom Halls:

17 Another long-time feature of the teaching program is the Public Meeting. As its name indicates, this meeting was established particularly to acquaint non-Witnesses with basic Bible teachings. Thus, the one giving the talk needs to present the information so that it is understandable to those hearing the message for the first time. This means explaining terms such as “other sheep,” “brothers,” and “remnant,” terms that non-Witnesses may not understand. Since people who attend the Public Meeting may have beliefs or life-styles that are quite contrary to the Scriptures—though acceptable in today’s society—the speaker should always be tactful and never make fun of such beliefs or life-styles. Source: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1995564?q=basic+beliefs&p=par

Whatever you do, make sure you compare their New World Translation with other Bibles, preferably accredited Study Bibles that provide extensive commentaries in order to better understand the differences between some of the key doctrinal issues that distinguish Jehovah’s Witnesses from Trinitarian Christians.

P.S. Try this official web site link: https://www.jw.org/en/search/?q=faq

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  • I have had good search results using google. Type in for example: Jehovah’s witnesses beliefs jw.org that brings up a bunch of hits from official jw.org website. Try it with any subject followed by jw.org usually it is an effective way to access accurate information on that topic from our official website and library. – Kris Jan 20 at 21:15
  • Use Google to find the official Jehovah's Witness documents on a given subject? How come I can't find that stuff easily on their official web site? Very strange. But thanks for the tip - it will save me hours of research! – Lesley Jan 21 at 8:16
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I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses myself. It is true that we do offer personal Bible studies, but I think there is some confusion on what we are trying to achieve. We are (or should be at least) aware that we cannot make someone a Witness; this is a personal decision that has to be made freely. After all, the foremost command Jesus referred to is to "love Jehovah your God with your whole heart (...)" (Matthew 22:37). No one can make you want something.

That said, we base our beliefs on what the Bible says, and that means that the best way to understand our beliefs is to dig into what the Bible says for yourself, with the idea that "Scripture explains Scripture". I would admit that, despite considering myself intellectually well off, I found a personal study as you've been offered the most helpful, as I got the chance to ask the difficult questions; and get a better grasp on topics that I never understood when I went to church. Being able to discuss things also helped me to deal with things that I felt may not be quite right. Most of all, having this personal Bible study helped me to apply what I learned; that is what makes all the difference.

By making themselves individually available to do this, Jehovah's Witnesses try to follow Jesus' command in Matthew 28:19, to "make disciples of people of all the nations, (...) teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you". They also do it for free, because Jesus said "You received free, give free" (Matthew 10:8). Indeed, I could have been a Witness for many years without donating a penny, and no one would know, or think of asking some financial contribution from me. So more is involved than a simple transfer of knowledge, and I hope you understand that this is the motivation behind the offers for Bible studies that you get. Additionally, this video What Happens At A Bible Study? explains what to expect, and what it is not.

Of course, there are various reasons why people would not want to study the Bible with us personally, like you have mentioned in the question yourself, and I'm glad the brothers do acknowledge that. So if a personal study is not something you're prepared for right now, you can find what you are looking for (as this question asks for) at the Bible Teachings section on jw.org . Or for a brief introduction to our beliefs see What do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe These articles are like digital pamphlets that provide summarised answers on quite a number of questions, based on the Bible and referring to it. If you have further questions, feel free to tell a Witness that you simply have a question for them. I'd expect they'll be happy to answer it. Don't be surprised if they suggest to come back at a later time, though, because this gives them the chance to prepare a suitable answer based on the Bible, without rambling or making it too complex to understand. After that, you're still free to accept or decline a study.

To conclude, I would just like to give you a compliment on your efforts to find proper answers to your questions in this respect, because many people seem to give up or settle for the easiest answer they can find. Two relevant Scriptures come to mind:

"The naive [or: inexperienced] person believes every word, but the shrewd [means: "practical" or "clever"] one ponders each step." ~Proverbs 14:15

"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." ~Acts 17:11

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  • A useful reference would be how Jehovah's Witness beliefs differ from other groups who base their teachings entirely on the Bible. – DJClayworth Jan 20 at 17:14
  • @DJClayworth Depends: if it's purely for academic purposes, then yes, it would be useful. Otherwise, the Scriptures say there's only 1 body, 1 spirit, 1 faith, 1 baptism... (Ephesians 4:4,5). In such case, it's like learning to distinguish fake money from real, legally accepted tender. Wouldn't it be sensible to only learn what the characteristics of real money are? Then, you'd also be able to recognise fake money, without ever learning everything about it. I've been critical when I studied, and have yet to find an organisation moving on anywhere near as close to Bible teachings as JWs are. – Mr. Donutz Jan 20 at 19:57
  • For people who already know the Bible, a list of things that Jehovah's Witnesses believe is useful so it can be compared against what the Bible says. – DJClayworth Jan 20 at 20:02
  • JWs make many references to the Bible, that is one of the things that struck me. Also, if you look into the New World Translation, you'll find a good number of cross-references, especially the 2nd latest edition was absolutely packed with them. Otherwise, I found a concordance useful for in-depth study. Quite often, differences center around a few difficult to explain verses that are open to interpretation, despite many verses existing that are clear. For example, the holy spirit is also called "God's finger" (compare Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20, which are parallel accounts). – Mr. Donutz Jan 20 at 20:32
  • @DJClayworth In addition to the previous, on the "Faith in Action" (Part 1) DVD, it is stated that Jehovah's Witnesses, who were at the time just Bible Students, were actually seeking to discuss the findings of their Bible studies with existing denominations, arguing that there were already plenty of them, so they did not seek to start their own. It was only when they found that there were no denominations really willing to seriously discuss the findings, that they decided to seperate themselves from existing 'branches'. – Mr. Donutz Jan 20 at 20:37

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