Does the Bible support a Jehovah’s Witnesses Governing Body?

The Watch Tower Society originally used the term “governing body” in a strict legal sense, and in fact, used the term quite sparingly.  As stated in the Watchtower, it was not until “the year 1944 the Watchtower magazine began to speak about the governing body of the Christian congregation (italics theirs).” (Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1971, p. 755)  Since the 1950s, the term would frequently be used to refer to the first century, making assertions such as, “The apostle Paul belonged to the governing body in the first century” (Watchtower, April 15, 1951, p. 235 par. 7) without citing any scriptural backup. On the other hand, the magazine described the modern day “Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, [as] the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1950, p. 10 par. 2)

Election of Leaders by Congregation Voting.  In the Early Church, brethren met in various cities—Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Thessonalica—and even in homes (Acts 11:22:13:1; 1Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15).  Each ecclesia (church group) was autonomous electing its  own leaders, its own “Elders—those not necessarily advanced in age, but mature in character.

Acts 14:23 “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

How did they “ordain” their leaders?  The Greek for “ordained” is “cheirotoneo from a comparative of NT:5495 and teino (to stretch); to be a hand-reacher or voter (by raising the hand).” (Strong’s #5500).  Early Christians had the responsibility of voting for their Elders by the stretching forth of their hands!

Twelve Apostles not Succeeded in Authority. The twelve Apostles were chosen directly by Jesus, but they had no replacements except, of course, Paul replaced Judas.  Just as Jesus selected the original twelve, he selected Paul as a replacement (Acts 9:15).   The other Apostles were well meaning, but premature in selecting the replacement Apostle themselves (Acts 1:26).  Inspired by God, they were the “twelve stars” crowning  the head of the Early Church (Revelation 12:1); also identified the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Acts 21:14).  It would be hard to imagine that Paul as the greatest of the Apostles, would not be numbered among this special group of twelve.  There was no “apostolic succession” of any kind for a body of leadership authority through the Christian Age.

The only time one ecclesia recommended a ruling to the brethren at large was when a Jerusalem counsel decided that the Gentile brethren should not be forced to circumcise.   And, of course, at that time, there were actual Apostles in the ecclesia of Jerusalem making that recommendation [decree] to “abstain from meat offered to idols…” (Acts 15:22-29).

The independence of the Early Church is attested to by the fact that there were factions among the Corinthian brethren, some following either Paul, Peter or Apollos.  Paul said in 1 Cor 3:6-7, “I planted, A-pol’los watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” NWT.  Paul humbly said that He and Apollos were not anything.  Paul did not rule over the brethren.  In 1 Thes 2:7 he said, ” we became gentle in the midst of YOU, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” NWT

Alas, as prophetically predicted, very soon the Christian Church evolved into dividing between “clergy” and “laity.”  (Acts 20:29; Matt 13:25; Rev 2:20; 1 Jn 2:18; 2 Thes 2:3)  On the one hand, some grasping for power took advantage of those ready to let go of their responsibility of electing their own leadership. Gradually a tower of authority built up with priests, bishops and finally a “pope.”  Again, the responsibility for decisions and authority to choose leader in the Ecclesia  rests with the congregation.

Qualifications for Leadership as Basis for Voting. While the Apostle Paul said the Ecclesia is to submit to and obey those which have “rule over you” (Hebrews 13:7, 17)—Paul also laid guidelines for selecting and voting for those who in the first place would be acceptable leader as an overseer!

When Paul gave Titus the responsibility for instructing new Ecclesias in Crete for organizing their leadership—he certainly was consistent with what he arranged earlier (Acts 14:23). “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain (elect) elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).

Each congregation was responsible for electing Elders who qualified. He then laid out the qualifications for evaluation by the Ecclesia members quite clearly:

  • Above reproach (Titus 1:6);
  • Husband of one wife with children not unruly;
  • Not self-willed, quick-tempered or addicted to wine;
  • No striker; not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7);
  • Hospitable, sensible, just, self-controlled (Titus 1:8);
  • Holding fast the faithful word; able to exhort in sound doctrine (1:9)

In his letter to Timothy, Apostle Paul similarly lines up the qualifications for voting for overseers:

  • Blameless, the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:1,2):
  • Vigilant, sober, of good beheaviore, givento hospitality:
  • Apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2);
  • Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre;
  • Patient, not a brawler, not covetous (1 Timothy 3:3);
  • Having his children in subjection with all gravity (1 Timothy 3:4);
  • Not a notive  (1 Timothy 3:7);
  • Of good report of them which are without (1 Timothy 3:7)

Individual Responsibility for Raising the Hand in Voting. Thus, the Ecclesia is given criteria for voting wisely and determining Jehovah’s will for the the selection of their teachers and instructors.  Congregations do NOT need to have an outside authoritative body of leaders to tell them what to do and what to think and what to change for “new light.”

Each member is responsible for attempting to determine the LORD’s will and expressing it in voting by the raising of his/her hand.  So Bible Students base their leadership selection—as well as activity selections—by the voting of the Ecclesia.


According to the Bible, the election of elders was practiced in the Early Church.  The eventual elimination of this practice gradually led to Elders becoming the Lord’s of the Church, rather than its servants and opened the way for the development of the Antichrist system.

Paul and Barnabas went around to all the churches and conducted the election of Elders.

Acts 14: 23 – And in every Church, after prayer and fasting, they selected Elders by show of hands, and commended them to the Lord on whom their faith rested.  –  Weymouth

Rotherham and Young’s Literal translation say, “appointed to them by vote elders in every assembly.”

RVIC Revised Version Improved and Corrected says, “elected elders.”

In 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of a brother who was elected by the churches to travel with him:

2 Cor 8:19 – … he is the one who was chosen by the vote of the Churches to travel with us… – Weymouth

In another example, we recall that the Apostles asked the Jerusalem Church to select seven deacons.

Acts 6:3  Therefore, brethren, pick out from among yourselves seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and we will appoint them to undertake this duty.   Weymouth

Who would have challenged the Apostles had they exerted their influence to appoint deacons themselves.  Yet instead they humbly asked the Ecclesia to make this selection.


Romans 14:4  Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand. – NWT

2 Tim 2:7 – 7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – NKJV

Gal 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.   NKJV

Gal 5:13 – For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  NKJV

2Co 3:17 –  …where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.   NWT

John 8:31, 32 – And so Jesus went on to say to the Jews that had believed him: “If YOU remain in my word, YOU are really my disciples, and YOU will know the truth, and the truth will set YOU free.  NWT


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245 comments to Does the Bible support a Jehovah’s Witnesses Governing Body?

  • Jacqueline

    Fred Franz gives proof that there was no governing body among the first Christians.

    Many are not aware that it is Raymond Franz that pushed for a governing body according to what he felt was operating in the first century. But was fought off by the other members of the board.
    So why are the witnesses adopting an idea by a so called “apostate”? He later changed his mind about there being a governing body but it had formed already and it is what carried out the witch hunt during the 1980’s. Enjoy this talk by Freddie Franz at the graduation of a Gilead class.

  • Daz

    Hi everyone, I have a question but please bare in mind that I have been studying & researching independently for a while now since I ceased going to the Jw meetings:
    Could it not be that the Governing Body has now become the evil slave? To me this makes alot of sense regarding their actions & misleading the flock (Matthew 24:45-51 & Acts 17:11) & it’s the Bible students that ARE the faithful & discreet slave?

    Warm & loving regards,
    A faithful slave would not change or alter what his master has commanded.

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Daz – The Bible Students don’t spend much time on this question, however I have heard two main points of view on the Evil Slave:
      1) The Evil Slave is potentially a danger that the Faithful Slave would need to be careful not to become. (However, I personally don’t think that Jesus would give a warning for something that would never be)
      2) The Evil Slave was J.F. Rutherford. (and perhaps by extension those who supported and continued his efforts). To me, J.F. Rutherford fits historically.
      * He “beat the men and maid servants” – Cast brethren out of Bethel. Began a massive disfellowship effort new to the Watchtower fellowship.
      * He “drank with the drunkards” – Many witnesses have testified that Rutherford was literally a drunk. However figuratively he can said to have been drunk (like Babylon the Mother of Harlots) by reverting back to false doctrines (i.e. denying the Ransom for ALL and Jehovah’s plans for natural Israel) and by creating strict rules for Watchtower members (i.e. meeting strict hours requirements for door to door) which cannot be proven in scripture.

      • Daz

        Thankyou for your reply Peter, yes that makes alot of sense that it could be Rutherford himself but as you also pointed out & it be the ones acting as an extention of what he started & they continue it today with respect to Rutherford’s teachings, rules & regulations (Governing Body).
        I have felt for a while & it’s my opinion that they (the Governing Body) act like a go between regarding us “the flock” & Jesus “the shepard”, yet Jesus clearly stated that there was no other way to the father but through him (John 14:6), he alone is our only mediator, there is no mention in the scriptures that an organization would act on our behalf regarding Jesus & Jehovah. Due to this fact & also finding out that at Jw baptizms you have to pledge your allegiance & get baptized into the organization, this contadicts an early Watchtower article,.I am sarting to feel gald that they prevented me from getting baptized & wonder now if Jehovah played a hand in it, he knew how troubled my hear was & how I was judged there by certain elders, he also knew how much I wanted to serve & dedicate my life to him & Christ Jesus but was being held back in respect to the organization, the elders were preventing me moving forward. Maybe I asked too many questions & stood up for what I saw as right in the scriptures I could see it conflicting with certain Watchtower doctrine or views. All I know is I feel so much more spiritual now & I have got that zeal back again! I sure hope that the Dawn Bible students I contacted will find a place for me in their group near by.
        Thankyou again Peter.

        Warm & loving regards,

        • Peter K. (admin)

          Daz – I agree with you. Per Romans 6, we should be baptized into Christ, not an earthly organization. Notice Paul’s attidue.

          1 Thess 2:7 (NASV)
          “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”

          Does the Apostle Paul sound like one who was not patient with the brethren? Would he be a bully and punish any who did not agree with him?

          Notice how the Apostle Peter admonished elders.

          “I Peter 5:2-3 NKJV
          Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”

          If you are from England, I have a couple of contacts for you there. Simply email us at and I will email you directly with info.

  • Jacqueline

    Governingbody member Guy Pierce Deceased. I post this link because his granddaughter is expressing herself. She is an ex-witness. Just reporting not judging or endorsing

  • Keepha

    Jacqueline and Peter both of you are so loving and kind. The well spoken heart is nourishment to the soul. I must admit there is great love amongst the Bible Students. I was wondering why Physicists say that former JW’s have the most cases of mental anguish and social disorders?

    • Jacqueline

      Hi Keepha, First let me say witnesses don’t have to be mentally ill to be a witness. I am answering a question and not suggesting that Jehovah Witnesses are mentally ill. One of the best discussions I have seen on this is here. This is more about them becoming ill. Mine is that more mentally ill persons are targeted by our methods, not that the religion causes you to become ill but it was there already and they play on it.
      Let me attempt to answer the mental problems from what I observed also. The methods and techniques that the witnesses use to bring in one member is unique. It is an indoctrination where many hours are spent one on one with the person, isolated off. In the door to door there are many lonely, persons that have had a death or some life event happen. They will tell you door to door but maybe not in an open session. Under these circumstances they welcome the hope of paradise on earth. Many don’t really feel that they are doing enough to attain to heaven. A great number of the people that need and appreciate this attention have some mental disturbance but this religion appeals to them. There is love bombing at first until baptism, then once baptized control. They are encouraged not to miss any meetings to have this mind control take over. The words used are carefully chosen if you check out the society’s scripted talks and books. One of the favorites is “so you will logically conclude”. Indicating if you don’t draw a certain conclusion as outlined by them you are not logical. Persons that are blind and persons that have some mental disorders can be led into a certain way of thinking.
      So long story short, these are the people they train you to go after in a one on one and tell them by study 3 that family and friends will try to stop them from studying and you create a us against them mentality and the persons feel special. Now not all witnesses have mental problems but the ratio it has been said is off. The small number of witnesses should not have that many persons on medication. That is how I see it.
      PS: I think I need to add that the number of hours and attention is a factor. There has been some concerns with the society going out after the deaf community because of this. The attention will cause them to come to the religion not really understanding that they come under their control. I am going to go look up the links that talk abou this and post them. the detail of helping even the blind is sort of a targeting, which might not be completely fair, but the organization is good at what they do. I admit that.
      Here is yet another view: It is complex.

      The function of religion in human society is complex. The part played by religion in psychiatric disorders is even more obscure. Previous literature and theories are divided into two groups: one school believes that intense religiosity is a symptom-complex indicative of psychiatric disorder, while the opposing view is that religious belief in some way acts as a defence mechanism protecting the individual and his psyche. The present study of 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses admitted to the Mental Health Service facilities of Western Australia suggests that members of this section of the community are more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital than the general population. Furthermore, followers of the sect are three times more likely to be diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and nearly four times more likely from paranoid schizophrenia than the rest of the population at risk. These findings suggest that being a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith may be a risk factor predisposing to a schizophrenic illness. Further studies would be interesting in investigating whether pre-psychotic people are more likely to join the sect than normal people and what part (if any) membership has in bringing about such a breakdown.

    • Jacqueline

      BTW: Keepha may I have the link or article where physicists say that “FORMER Jehovah witnesses” have the most cases of mental anguish and social disorders. I to date have never seen this. (But looking) Everything I find says that the persons are Jehovah witnesses not former.Thank you
      Another link:

      • Anonymous

        I disagree with this,the Jw’s aren’t unique to mental illness. I say this because I know that anyone who is blindly devoted to a religion start to shut their minds down and practical reason goes out the door. I’ve seen this same “mentally ill” pattern with Catholics, Mormons, 7th day adventist and believe it or not(though few)with some Bible students….especially the ones who are absolutely fascinated with the pyramids and with C.T.Russell! People with this ‘illness’ can’t be reasoned with logically.

  • Keepha

    to my Fellow JW brethren{do]not to cower, “Be strong! Do not fear! Your God will come to avenge you! With divine judgment He will come to rescue you.” Isa 35.4

  • Keepha

    Rotherham and Young’s Literal translation say, “appointed to them by vote elders in every assembly.” I wonder why this is not being followed in the congregations?

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Keepha – As I think you know, the early Watchtower had the practice of the congregations electing their own elders annually with no governing authority except for Jesus. Rutherford changed this free association into an organization that controlled its members lives.

  • doug

    does the Bible support leaders among all the churches we have all over the world?

    • Jacqueline

      The Bible is there for all of mankind. There are so Church leaders that are sincere and doing what they are discerning from the bible. The world would not have all the bibles without the Bible societies and Christian religions taking it to far flung countries. They get their knowledge, courage,faith and support from what they read in the bible. Now is the age where God is taking out the Ones to help with the bringing of all me to righteousness in the Millenium and I am sure Church leaders will be on board with this during that 1,000 yrs.

  • doug

    they are there to lead the people,yet we are all sinners
    we all make mistakes,why not look at the Catholic church,

    • Jacqueline

      Doug it is normally best to clean your own house before another. The watchtower society would have a difficult time throwing darts at the Vatican. Their peodophilia is upheld by them and they will go to court against the victim. They can take a lesson from the Vatican in this regard and see what they are doing to rid their religion of the scrourge of Pedophiles.

  • keepha

    Our own articles bear witness»”It is important, then, that you “keep testing whether you are in the faith,” as Paul declared. Keep checking to see whether the things you believe are in keeping with God’s Word. But the question is, Are you willing to put your religion through such a test? There is nothing to fear, because if you have the right religion you can only be reassured by the examination. And if what you believe is not in keeping with the Bible, then you should welcome the truth, because it leads to light and life.” Watchtower 1958 May 1 p.261 Is Your Religion the Right One?

    • Jacqueline

      Yet, the watchtower society’s governingbody does not allow questions without penalty. They say even if you can prove them wrong by scripture, you must teach the same thing for the sake of unison until they change it. Even if the Bible says the opposite. Any man or woman that will bow before men to that degree to do or teach wrong reminds us of Hitler’s SS men.

    • Jacqueline

      Keepha in my personal story I have the watchtower quotes that tell you no one should lose family for changing their religion. Also that Mary did just that and Jesus by their standards would be an apostate as he didn’t just leave he instituted something brand new.
      So I embrace being among so great a witnesses and My Lord and Savior.
      Also the Walsh trial, that you asked about with Covington. My mother worshiped this lawyer for the society as he won many cases in court to advance so many equal rights issues that not only helped JW but other persons, get religious freedom. The watchtower society is one of the foremost litigators of any religion.
      That is why I always deal with them from a legal standpoint. I advised them that a judicial committee is a legal terms and since their elders are told to always consult their legal dept on cases and the flock book which is written by the legal dept, I advise them to send all correspondence to my lawyer and in writing. In fact I will not go in a room with them when I was there without a lawyer. Normally they would just drop the request to talk to me. Most witnesses that want to leave aren’t aware that they should send a “Cease and Desist’ letter to the KH if elders continue to drop by unannounced or call you or other family phone numbers. It will stop the harassment immediately as the society now loses almost every case even in small claims courts. They have cut down on their high brow litigation a bit because of this.

  • Keepha

    Please add to your New Topic page>

    Did you know that our organization has hidden the true meaning of Rev 2:2 right before our very eyes, its has not rendered the Greek reflexive pronoun accurately.

    NWT reads (Revelation 2:2) ‘I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars.

    I have used two other translations to make the point clear of how the verse should read:

    NAU Revelation 2:2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;

    NJB Revelation 2:2 I know your activities, your hard work and your perseverance. I know you cannot stand wicked people, and how you put to the test those who were self-styled apostles, and found them false.

    So the phrase we want to focus on is who call themselves apostles, In Greek “heautous is a Greek reflexive, plural pronoun.The reflexive pronoun reflects the action back to the subject, and therefore, the English translation will use such words as myself, yourself, themselves.So linguistically I propose the Watchtower society is hiding something from us here and that’s why I think it is noteworthy to check other up-to-date Bible translations and if possible purchase a lexicon and look at the meaning of some these words.

    Now here is the doctrinal error.. Who does it say we should put to the test? according to the NJB translation those who were(are) self-styled apostles. Who has claimed to be the brothers of Messiah? is not the Governing Body the ones who make special claims of having been appointed and then sent by Jesus who are the focus of what we read, in part, in Revelation 2:2. It seems likely, therefore, the Society has deliberately omitted any discussion of ‘putting them to the test’ when it comes to its own claims to appointment and authority. Instead look in the Watchtower 2012 CD ROM, I only see 5 hits of the phrase “put those to the test.” So in 64 years no Watchtower article has ever stated that the Governing Body should be put to the test by its rank and file members. Instead they turn this around on us rank and file members as the ones who are put to the test by them( field service hours, meeting attendance, contributions, regional building commute work etc.) but instead why are we not listening to the very words of our Master and Messiah Jesus. Jesus said to put those to the test who are calling themselves as self-styled apostles if anything, this testing “require” that those ‘testing’ the Watchtower Society reject them, immediately, unless they repent (compare Revelation 2:21-23) and stop teaching things which are not true, even requiring belief in such things for “approved association, and even if we secretly reject any teaching from the Watchtower we are still condemned. Once again, there is no application of “put those put to the test” from Revelation 2:2 to anyone in the congregations of the Watchtower, though such ‘testing’ is expressly approved by Jesus for any who make special claims of having been sent by him. As we examined Revelation 2:2, we see the Watchtower Society does not want any of its members ‘putting the Society to the test,’ though it is made up of the very ones who make the kinds of claims as self-styled apostles which we are told to “test.”

    As witnesses have we put to the test doctrinal changes and prophetic speculation end times, such as:1829,1844,1874,1914,1925,1975 which never came?

    • Jacqueline

      The twelve apostles selected by Jesus(Paul also) were to be the only foundations of the Christian Church. They only could pass on the gifts by the laying of hands.
      The first Church and only it was given the supernatural power of discerning the Spirits. As in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1) and Elymas (Acts 13:8) Paul was full of Holy Spirit and was able to discern he was a son of the devil: Only the early Church could do this.
      The Bishops claimed they were the apostolic successors of the 12 and had the right to make scripture application only. This was before 325 (Nicea).
      So These are who are mentioned here and you are CORRECT, it is not regular publishers so to speak that are to be discerned but in the playing field of the JWitness;
      IT WOULD BE THE GOVERNING BODY THAT IS TO BE DISCERNED. We however do not have the power to discern in the way the apostles could nor did they (BISHOPS) after those gifts died out.After the first Church and John’s penning of the last books, this gift died out.
      So we know the Bishops the so called apostles were false for there is not authoritative body after the death of the TWELVE. If Peter laid his hands on you and gave you gifts you could not lay your hand on another so there is not succession. This is about Bishops, later Popes and the Governing body not regular cong. Publishers.
      THe way this played out is the Catholic System came about with it’s Bishops and Popes claiming to be the apostolic succession from St. Peter.

      The GOVERNINGBODY OF JEHOVAH WITNESSES, makes the same claims as the Catholic Church and the Bishops after the death of the twelve.
      So yes as the catholics have made a grievious mistake so has the governingbody.
      I don’t think it is unchristian for me to say this as this is a fact of the Bible. And according to Rev. 2:2 if we put them to the test of the completed Bible they are in error of saying they are apostolic successors of the Apostles and that there was a governingbody during the life of the apostles. This body of Bishops were false so called apostles. Act 20:28 commends the overseers for looking out for the flock. 1Cor. 11:19 showed there was factions even then but the elders and the congregation were to recognize only those genuine among them. Only the apostles had special foundations from Christ, not the Bishops, Pope and JW Governingbody.
      Those men are in NEW York City and can’t be touched like the Pope. The congregations don’t get the privilege to examine them. So we don’t have to accept their self appointed authority. That is my take and I know others will give their thoughts on this scripture.

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