The faithful and discreet slave, as mentioned in Matthew 24:45, is a character in one of Jesus Christ’s parables. Jehovah’s Witnesses consider the parable to be prophetic and that the character of the faithful and discreet slave to be symbolic. This character is central to the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why? Because it’s this “slave” that creates, changes and guards the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Curiously, their understanding of this “faithful and discreet slave” has changed many times throughout the years. This article provides a brief breakdown of those revisions to the faithful & discreet slave.
Revisions to the Faithful and Discreet Slave
- November 1881: The slave is a class of individuals and refers to all anointed Bible Students.
(Zion’s Watch Tower Oct & Nov 1881 p. 5)
- December 1896: The slave is one individual and refers solely to Charles Taze Russell, as originally suggested by his wife, Maria F. Russell.
(Zion’s Watch Tower July 15 1906 pp. 215-217; Zion’s Watch Tower Dec 1 1916 p. 356)
- February 1927: The slave refers to an individual and two distinct classes: Jesus Christ alone, Jesus Christ and anointed Bible Students, and sometimes to anointed Bible Students yet on earth.
(The Watchtower Feb 15 1927 p. 53 para. 19-22)
- August 1950: The slave refers to anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who make up the 144000.
(The Watchtower Aug 1 1950 p. 228 para. 5-8)
- October 1950: The slave is the organization behind Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(The Watchtower Oct 15 1950 p. 387 para. 9-10)
- December 1951: The slave is anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who make up the 144000 and is led by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
(The Watchtower Dec 1 1951 p. 723. para. 24; pp. 725-726 para. 6)
- February 1952: The slave is anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who make up the 144000 and they use their legal entity, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society to print material, arrange meetings, organize service activities, sent out missionaries and arrange assemblies.
(The Watchtower Feb 1 1952 pp. 76-79 para. 3-9)
- September 1954: The slave is anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who make up the 144000 and has a governing body who use the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society for administrative, legal and publishing purposes.
(The Watchtower Sep 1 1954 pp. 532-534 para. 13-18)
- November 1956: The slave is anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who make up the 144000 under the direction and authority of the governing body of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
(The Watchtower Nov 15 1956 p. 692 para. 12; Jul 15 1960 p.438 para. 1)
- December 1971: The slave is anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who make up the 144000 under the direction and authority of the governing body of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and started out on Pentecost 33 C.E.
(The Watchtower Dec 15 1971 p. 759)
- February 2009: The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses represents the faithful and discreet slave.
(The Watchtower Feb 15 2009 p. 28 para. 17)
- June 2009: The slave refers only to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(The Watchtower Jun 15 2009 p. 24 para. 18-19)
1931: At an assembly in Columbus, OH, USA 1931 is is clarified that the slave was not Charles Taze Russell as previously thought, but that it was a class of individuals.
(The Watchtower Apr 1 1958 p. 222)
1981: An explanation is provided as to why the identity of “Faithful and Discreet Slave” was unclear for centuries.
(The Watchtower Mar 1 1981 p. 26)
May 1995: The slave is all anointed Christians as a group on earth at any given time. Charles Taze Russell is recognized as having been a member of this class.
(The Watchtower May 15 1995 pp. 16-17 para. 2, 7)
March 2004: The slave refers to all anointed Christians starting from Pentecost 33 C.E. to the present.
(The Watchtower Mar 1 2004 p. 10 para. 9)
July 2013: It is clearly defined that the slave is the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses only.
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2013 p. 22 para. 10)
Note to readers
Some readers of this article have pointed out that the latest change to “the Faithful and Discreet Slave” from all anointed to just the governing body happened in 2013 and not 2009. This, they say, is confirmed in The Watchtower July 15 2013 and supported by the 2016 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, p.16. So, why say the latest change to “the faithful and discreet slave” class happened in 2009? This is because jw.org or The Watch Tower Society, tend to ease in drastic changes slowly. They feed their docile sheep in a confusing manner over a period of time – months and years – so that when they eventually make the change, the rank and file accept it without question.
Here is how the idea was developed over a 4 year period. From 2009 through to 2012, you are likely to read the quoted texts with skepticism. However, we believe that when you continue reading the quoted texts, you’ll discover the transition in Watchtower’s teaching of “the faithful and discreet slave” is a smooth one.
“Should not individual members of the anointed … trust the slave appointed over them?”
(The Watchtower Feb 15 2009, p. 24 para. 3)
“Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same? … How, though, can we demonstrate that we trust the faithful and discreet slave?”
(The Watchtower Feb 15 2009, p. 27 para. 11-12)
“The faithful and discreet slave today is represented by the Governing Body … Listening to the slave class means giving our full cooperation to its Governing Body.”
(The Watchtower Feb 15 2009, p. 28 para. 17)
“[Jesus] called the slave a “steward” and referred to the “domestics” as “his body of attendants.” A steward is a house manager or administrator who is placed over servants. Yet, the steward is also a servant. Who is this slave, or steward, and how does he provide “food at the proper time”? It is vital for all of us to recognize the channel that is used to dispense spiritual food.”
(The Watchtower Jun 15 2009, pp. 20-21 para. 2)
“… today a limited number of anointed men have the responsibility of representing the slave class. They make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses … they [the great crowd] are happy to cooperate fully with the arrangements made by the Governing Body, which represents “the faithful and discreet slave.””
(The Watchtower Jun 15 2009, p. 24 para. 18-19)
“One way to find our place in the congregation and give evidence that we treasure it is to cooperate fully with “the faithful and discreet slave” and its representative Governing Body … We need to examine our response to the direction we receive from the slave class.”
(The Watchtower Nov 15 2009, p. 14 para. 3)
“… publications from “the faithful and discreet slave” can help a person have a pure heart and reject immorality.”
(The Watchtower Mar 15 2010, p. 32)
“… the faithful and discreet slave class has made arrangements for a Family Worship evening.”
(The Watchtower Jun 15 2010, p. 27 para. 12)
“When the time comes to clarify a spiritual matter in our day, holy spirit helps responsible representatives of “the faithful and discreet slave” at world headquarters to discern deep truths that were not previously understood. (Matt. 24:45; 1 Cor. 2:13) The Governing Body as a whole considers adjusted explanations. (Acts 15:6) What they learn, they publish for the benefit of all. (Matt. 10:27) As time goes on, further clarifications may be needed, and these too are honestly explained.”
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2010, p. 23 para. 10)
“In this time of the end, Christ has committed “all his belongings”—all the earthly interests of the Kingdom—to his “faithful and discreet slave” and its representative Governing Body, a group of anointed Christian men. (Matt. 24:45-47) The anointed and their other sheep companions recognize that by following the lead of the modern-day Governing Body, they are in fact following their Leader, Christ.”
(The Watchtower Sep 15 2010, p. 23 para. 8)
“Another way to cooperate with Christ’s “brothers” is to have a positive attitude toward any refinements in our understanding of Scriptural truths as published by “the faithful and discreet slave.””
(The Watchtower May 15 2011, p. 27)
“In modern times, there have been refinements in our understanding of certain Bible teachings. This should not trouble us; it should bolster our confidence in the faithful and discreet slave class. When representative members of the “slave” discern that our viewpoint on some point of truth needs to be clarified or corrected, they do not hold back from making the adjustment. The slave class is more interested in cooperating with God’s unfolding purpose than in shielding itself from criticism over an adjusted understanding. How do you react when an adjustment in our understanding of the Scriptures is presented?”
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2011, p. 30 para. 9)
“Brother Lett urged the audience to keep praying that the Governing Body, as the representative of the slave class, continue to be not only faithful but also wise, or discreet.”
(The Watchtower Aug 15 2011, p. 18)
“… it is important to seek Scriptural counsel from publications of the faithful and discreet slave class …”
(The Watchtower Feb 15 2012, p. 27 para. 5)
“That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.”
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2013, p. 20 para. 2)
“The context of the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave shows that it began to be fulfilled, not at Pentecost 33 C.E., but in this time of the end.”
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2013, p. 21 para. 4)
“The faithful slave must be made up of anointed Christians on earth. Such ones are called “a royal priesthood” and have been commissioned to “ ‘declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) It is only fitting that members of that “royal priesthood” have a direct share in teaching fellow believers the truth.”
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2013, p. 21 para. 8)
“Do all anointed ones on earth make up the faithful slave? No. The reality is that not all anointed ones have a role in dispensing spiritual food to fellow believers worldwide. “
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2013, pp. 21-22 para. 9)
“In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, however, that the word “slave” in Jesus’ illustration is singular, indicating that this is a composite slave. The decisions of the Governing Body are thus made collectively.”
(The Watchtower Jul 15 2013, p. 22 para. 10)
A Forgone Conclusion
From 2009 through to 2013, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has regularly connected the Governing Body with the Faithful and Discreet Slave. Further, they have regularly mentioned that the faithful and discreet slave is responsible for publishing their literature. Additionally, they often directed that all members of Jehovah’s Witnesses should accept the direction presented in those publications. Therefore, when they made the distinct change in 2013, most Jehovah’s Witnesses would have accepted it as a foregone conclusion.
One should give credit to the Governing Body on their method for making the transition smooth. They took their time. They slowly introduced references to the governing body, watchtower publishing, and acceptance of direction when making any mention to “the faithful and discreet slave”. This is an excellent example of indoctrination at it’s best (or worst?).