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Russel wrote...

"It seems clear that His Divinity was retained in humanity because He repeatedly spoke of Himself as having come down from heaven, and because He, though passing through trial and sorrow as a man, was yet possessed of the authority and exercised the prerogatives of a God. He was the object of unreproved worship even when a babe, by the wise men who came to see the new-born King. Matt. 2:2-11. Even the angels delighted to do Him honor. "When He bringeth the first-begotten into the world, He saith, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." Heb. 1:6. He never reproved any one for acts of worship offered to Himself, but when Cornelius offered such service to Peter--the leading apostle-- "he took him up, saying, stand up; I myself also am a man." .... Had Christ not been more than a man the same reason would have prevented from receiving worship...." Zion's Watch Tower 1880 Oct pp.2-3 "It is undoubtedly proper enough for us to address petitions to our Redeemer and Advocate, who loved us and gave himself for us....Although we are nowhere instructed to make petitions to him, it evidently could not be improper so to do; for such a course is nowhere prohibited, and the disciples worshiped him." Zion's Watch Tower 1892 May 15 p.157 "Question. The fact that our Lord received worship is claimed by some to be an evidence that while on earth he was God the Father disguised in a body of flesh and not really a man. Was he really worshiped, or is the translation faulty? Answer. Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of his having been the only begotten of the Father and his agent in the creation of all things, including man." Zion's Watch Tower 1898 Jul 15 p.216 "In one respect many of Christendom could learn numerous important lessons from these wise Gentiles....They worshiped him in three senses of the word: (1) They fell before him, prostrated themselves, thus physically expressing their reverence. (2) They worshiped him in their hearts and with the tongue gave expression to their rejoicing and confidence. (3) They opened their treasure-box and presented to him three gifts appropriate to royalty: the myrrh representing submission, frankincense representing praise, gold representing obedience." Zion's Watch Tower 1906 Jan 1 p.15

Rutherford continued this teaching.

"Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus because Christ Jesus is the express image of his Father, Jehovah, and because he is the Executive Officer of Jehovah always carrying out Jehovah's purpose (Heb.:3-6)." Watchtower 1939 Nov 15 p.339 "During the Millennium, "the princes will lead the people in their worship of Jehovah and of Christ." Vindication Volume 3 (J. F. Rutherford, 1932) p.295 "The people of all nations who obtain salvation must come to the house of the Lord to worship there; that is to say, they must believe on and worship Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus Christ, his chief instrument (Philippians 2:10, 11)." Salvation (J. F. Rutherford, 1939) p.151

Even Knorr taught the above doctrine about Christ writing

"Now, at Christ's coming to reign as king in Jehovah's capital organization Zion, to bring in a righteous new world, Jehovah makes him infinitely higher than the godly angels or messengers and accordingly commands them to worship him. Since Jehovah God now reigns as King by means of his capital organization Zion, then whosoever would worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah's Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus, his Co-regent on the throne of The Theocracy." Watchtower 1945 Oct 15 p.313

After 1954 change in the above belief began, however, it was not until 1999 that the worship of Jesus was completely removed and the certificate of incorpration 2003 amended to reflect the new belief:

2003 Amended Certificate of Incorporation

Do the JW's concede that perhaps their hierarchy are not in fact led by God given that it would be highly problematic for an all-knowing God to give them false information about Christian worship. Is is not unblibical for Jehovah to intentionally lead his people astray?

How do Jehovah's Witnesses reconcile that, for more than 70 years beginning with their church founder and at least 2 of his successors, they had been unwittingly worshipping a false god under the guise of divine guidance?

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    Btw for JWs Jesus is not nor ever was a false god so your closing paragraph is simply inflammatory rhetoric.
    – Kris
    Jan 29, 2023 at 14:25
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    I don't know how or why this question could be improved, but the purpose of this website is not for casting aspersions on the beliefs of any Christian sects. Saying "When did Jehovahs witnesses realize they're believing in a false god" is a pretty good example of a loaded question fallacy, not a good premise for a debate and not a good way to phrase a question here.
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 2, 2023 at 23:14

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Charles Taze Russell, 'Judge' Rutherford, and Nathan Knorr did indeed promote the belief that Jesus Christ should receive some form of worship, even though they also taught that this Jesus was a creature - created by Jehovah God as Michael, the Archangel. Two distinct deities receiving worship is, indeed, idolatry. That was the one and only direct, solo creation of Jehovah, they say (and continue to say to this day). It was Michael who was used by Jehovah to then create all the other angels, and this universe, this world, and all life on it.

Although the Bible Students were trinitarian to begin with, due to claiming that the one who became Jesus had a starting point in time, they could not hold on to trinitarianism, but had to let go of that. It took a long time. It had to be done very gradually so as not to lose their rapidly growing membership. They had suffered huge losses when Rutherford took over from the deceased Russell. Once they'd got over that by calling the departed ones the "wicked servant" class of Matthew 24:48-51, and claiming themselves to be "the faithful and wise servant" (vss.45-47), they had established a base upon which to build. Then they began to change various doctrines, e.g. only 144,000 people from earth would get to heaven; the great crowd, who Russell had said would be a separate group in heaven, were actually never going to heaven - their hope would be to live on a paradise earth. Then they said that as only those with the heavenly hope had indwelling 'holy spirit', the majority were not in the New Covenant. Those with the heavenly hope were, and so must be obediently supported and followed. Only those few could take bread and wine when remembering Christ's death. That was in place by the mid 1930s.

I detail this to show how long it took for such doctrinal changes to become unquestioningly accepted. Because their leaders had gradually led them into accepting that Christ should not be worshipped (by the early 1950s) and then by coming out with their own version of the New Testament, very few noticed what was really going on - taking the wind out of the sails of those who accused them of idolatrous polytheism. For the duration of the decades where they said Jesus was created, but where they also claimed to worship Christ, they could be accused of idolatry (and were), for their Jesus was created by Almighty God. By saying Jesus was 'a god', they had a Big God and a little god. Two gods. Idolatry if both were worshipped.

That's why it took so long for the official Charter to get changed to accord with what they had been teaching about not worshipping Christ. The ground had been prepared over a long time, the change to doctrine introduced and accepted, then the final stage was changing the Charter (which hardly any Witness would ever have seen, let alone spot a massive change to.)

But the Witnesses simply believe that Jehovah is very patient with them, gradually leading them into a purer state. They quote Proverbs 4:18, that the path of the righteous is like the first ray of dawn, the way getting brighter and brighter until it is fully day. Every time they introduce either a new teaching, or a change to an old one, they use that Proverb, and because the leaders have indwelling 'holy spirit' while 99% of the rest do not, their every word is accepted unquestioningly.

This is obviously not an explanation written by a Jehovah's Witness, but it is based on nearly 60 years direct experience of them. After all, my parents first became Jehovah's Witnesses in the mid 1930s, as some of the first of the new 'Jonadab' class, who could not take bread and wine at the memorial. I've fallen heir to a lot of very old literature whereby changes can be traced. Sometimes Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe quotes I use from that literature; they are so scandalized by seeing what used to be taught, they claim I've got corrupted sources (on-line) but I work from authentic publications their own Society printed. And I expect I will be viewed by them as part of "that wicked servant" class. That still remains a strong tool for keeping members from checking things out for themselves.

Thus all Witnesses today will laugh at any claim they used to be idolatrous. "Oh, we were just tainted with Babylon the Great back then but Jehovah gradually made his light shine brighter so that we left worship of Christ completely. He hasn't got any worship from us since the 1950s. What are you digging the past up for?" You ask how they can reconcile that matter. "There's nothing to reconcile", they suppose.

EDIT: official JW sources re. worship of Christ in the Trinitarian sense: Zion's Watch Tower 1892, May 15 p.157 (from "His Divinity was retained in humanity... [to] receiving worship.")

Vindication book 1931, Vol. 3 p. 295 (God's people will worship Jehovah and Jesus during the Millennium.)

Watchtower 1939 Nov. 15 p. 339 (sentence beginning "Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus...")

Re. the Holy Spirit, prior to demoting him to an 'it', as in 'holy spirit': The Divine Plan of the Ages, Series I of Studies in the Scriptures, 1889, pp. 89 & 280 as mere random examples of how, throughout the book, distinction is made between "your being born a new spirit creature, a spirit being, in the first resurrection" and "the condition of those born of the Spirit" (as in John chapter 3), and of "the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost".

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 30, 2023 at 14:19
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    I challenge the statement that Bible Students were ever trinitarian
    – Kris
    Jan 31, 2023 at 23:28
  • See this answer to a related question christianity.stackexchange.com/a/77704/23657
    – Kris
    Feb 1, 2023 at 1:01
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    pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2010/01/…
    – Kris
    Feb 1, 2023 at 22:42
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    @User 14 That would be an excellent question to post because the answer is not simple. There are many leaders of various religious groups who started out Trinitarian but then began to change beliefs so that their claimed trinitarianism was no longer such. The LDS group, for instance, but some still insist that they remain orthodoxly Trinitarian.
    – Anne
    Feb 2, 2023 at 17:06

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