For Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are two things that instill instant fear in them. One of those fears is apostates. Apostates are to be shunned completely and utterly, without question. The other is spiritism. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses are not known to perform exorcisms, they will get rid of anything that has a hint of spiritism or anything that will invite demons into their presence. In Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature, you will find many scriptures quoted and articles written condemning ones from engaging in practices of spiritism and from touching unclean things. (Isaiah 52:11)
What is ironic is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s ties to spiritism. Yes, I said it: The Watchtower has ties to spiritism! When I found out this information, I was shocked to the core.
If you have a Watchtower Library CD ROM, please type in the name Johannes Greber into the search engine. You will find that there are several references to this man in Watchtower literature.
Who was Johannes Greber?
Johannes Greber was a Catholic priest turned spiritist who translated the New Testament with the help of God’s “spirits.” He used his wife, who was a spirit-medium, to channel spirits to help translate difficult verses in the bible. His experiences with spirits and their communications with him are related in his book Communication with the Spirit World, published in 1932. With this information, let’s look at each reference to Greber in the Watchtower publications.
33 Is such official Catholic teaching as the above an impenetrable defense against the invasion of spiritism? No! It is an invitation to spiritism, and the conditions in Roman Catholic lands, such as Peru, Costa Rica, Cuba and Haiti, show Roman Catholicism to be no bulwark against this spreading peril. In such lands the Catholic people, even up to 90 per cent, mix spiritism or voodooism right in with Roman Catholicism, practicing both at the same time with no objection or penalty by the priests. It comes as no surprise that one Johannes Greber, a former Catholic clergyman, has become a spiritualist and has published the book entitled “Communication with the Spirit World, Its laws and Its Purpose.” (1932, Macoy Publishing Company, New York) In its Foreword he makes the typical misstatement: “The most significant spiritualistic book is the Bible; for its principal contents hinge upon the messages of the beyond to those existing in the present.”
– The Watchtower 1955 October 1 p. 603 par. 33 Part 3—What Do the Scriptures Say About “Survival After Death”?
Here, Watchtower fully exposes who Johannes Greber was.
10 Says Johannes Greber in the introduction of his translation of The New Testament, copyrighted in 1937: “I myself was a Catholic priest, and until I was forty-eight years old had never as much as believed in the possibility of communicating with the world of God’s spirits. The day came, however, when I involuntarily took my first step toward such communication, and experienced things that shook me to the depths of my soul. . . . My experiences are related in a book that has appeared in both German and English and bears the title, Communication with the Spirit-World: Its Laws and Its Purpose.” (Page 15, ¶ 2, 3) In keeping with his Roman Catholic extraction Greber’s translation is bound with a gold-leaf cross on its stiff front cover. In the Foreword of his aforementioned book ex-priest Greber says: “The most significant spiritualistic book is the Bible.” Under this impression Greber endeavors to make his New Testament translation read very spiritualistic.
– The Watchtower 1956 February 15 pp. 110-111 pars. 10-11 Triumphing over Wicked Spirit Forces
Again, another exposé on who Greber was.
5 But most controversial of all is the following reading of John 1:1, 2: “The Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This Word was in the beginning with God.” This reading is found in The New Testament in An Improved Version, published in London, England, in 1808. Similar is the reading by a former Roman Catholic priest: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without it nothing created sprang into existence.” (John 1:1-3)* Alongside that reading with its much-debated expression “a god” may be placed the reading found in The Four Gospels—A New Translation, by Professor Charles Cutler Torrey, second edition of 1947, namely: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was god. When he was in the beginning with God all things were created through him; without him came no created thing into being.” (John 1:1-3) Note that what the Word is said to be is spelled without a capital initial letter, namely, “god.”
Footnote: The New Testament—A New Translation and Explanation Based on the Oldest Manuscripts, by Johannes Greber (a translation from German into English), edition of 1937, the front cover of this bound translation being stamped with a golden cross.
– The Watchtower 1962 September 15 p. 554 par. 5 “The Word”—Who Is He? According to John
This is the first instance where Watchtower used Greber in their publications in anything other than a negative tone. I find it interesting that the first time Greber was used to support Watchtower teachings was in a tiny footnote. Keep in mind that just 7 years previously, the Watchtower exposed who Greber was! They even admitted that it was under this impression, channeling spirits, that he endeavored to make his translation very spiritualistic.
Using Greber To Support Watchtower Teachings
Tombs Opened at Jesus Death
The translation by Johannes Greber (1937) of these verses reads as follows: “Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.”
– Aid to Bible Understanding 1971, p. 1134
A translation by a former Roman Catholic Priest, Johannes Greber, and (1937 edition) renders the second appearance of the word “god” in the sentence as “a god.”
– Aid to Bible Understanding 1971, p. 1669
Clearly, the Watchtower Society have used another 2 references in Johannes Greber’s bible to support their doctrine.
Without wresting the Greek grammar, a translator can render Matthew 27:52, 53 in a way that suggests that a similar exposing of corpses resulted from the earthquake occurring at Jesus’ death. Thus the translation by Johannes Greber (1937) renders these verses: “Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.”—Compare the New World Translation.
– The Watchtower 1975 October 15 p. 640 Questions From Readers
Again, another reference to Greber in support of their teachings. But the thing that disturbed me the most was that The Watchtower is inviting its readers to compare their rendering of these verses in the New World Translation with Greber’s translation that was aided by means of channeling “spirits.”)
Event Clarifies Bible
● The recent Guatemalan earthquake affected even some of those already dead. “Time” magazine reports that “several mourners who went to bury their dead in family plots found that the coffins of long-dead relatives had been uncovered by the quake.” Something similar occurred during an earthquake in the Jerusalem area at Jesus’ death. At that time, dead bodies were customarily placed in vaults or chambers cut from Palestine’s soft limestone rock, often in hillsides. A report in the Bible, as translated by Johannes Greber, says that when Jesus died, “the earth quaked, and the rocks were shattered. Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.” Hence, rather than a resurrection, as some Bible translations imply, there appears to have been merely an exposure of the dead to observers, as in Guatemala.—Matt. 27:51-53.
– The Watchtower 1976 April 15 p. 231 Insight on the News
And yet another use of Johannes Greber’s bible in support of Watchtower teachings.
Questions From Readers
■ Why, in recent years, has The Watchtower not made use of the translation by the former Catholic priest, Johannes Greber?
This translation was used occasionally in support of renderings of Matthew 27:52, 53 and John 1:1, as given in the New World Translation and other authoritative Bible versions. But as indicated in a foreword to the 1980 edition of The New Testament by Johannes Greber, this translator relied on “God’s Spirit World” to clarify for him how he should translate difficult passages. It is stated: “His wife, a medium of God’s Spirit world was often instrumental in conveying the correct answers from God’s Messengers to Pastor Greber.” The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) The scholarship that forms the basis for the rendering of the above-cited texts in the New World Translation is sound and for this reason does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority. Nothing is lost, therefore, by ceasing to use his New Testament.
– The Watchtower 1983 April 1 p. 31 Questions From Readers
Please read this reference again. It took me several times to fully grasp what is being said. The Watchtower has a knack for juggling their wording with semantics, thus weaseling their way out of a corner. But, upon further investigation, this is a corner they cannot get out from.
After reading this a few times, digesting every word, I see exactly what is happening. The Watchtower is giving the impression that they did not know about who Greber really was until 1980. In 1980, the Greber foundation printed a revised edition of Greber’s bible. In this forward, it was revealed that his spirit-medium wife helped him translate difficult passages. For a religion that preaches and teaches to touch nothing unclean, and to have nothing to do with spiritism, this was an eye-opening discovery.
For a religion that calls itself “the truth”, was this really the truth?
All one has to do is look at the evidence quoted.
In 1955, The Watchtower knew he was a spiritualist and wrote a book about communicating with the spirit world. This should have raised red flags all over the place: STAY AWAY FROM THIS PERSON!
In 1956, The Watchtower even quotes from the introduction of his bible translation, stating how he got involved in spiritism and that his translation was aimed to be a very spiritualistic read. There is no question that at the very least, The Watchtower knew what Greber was involved in, and how he intended his bible translation to become. The Watchtower may not have known about his wife, but at this point, it really is a moot point.
In 1962, beginning with a little footnote, The Watchtower begins to use Johannes Greber in support of their teachings. They knew who he was, but because they had a difficult time finding support for scriptures such as John 1:1, they had to find support in a former Catholic priest who used séances with the spirit world to translate his version of the bible. Let that sink in for a minute…
There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, anyone who employs divination, anyone practicing magic, anyone who looks for omens, a sorcerer, anyone binding others with a spell, anyone who consults a spirit medium or a fortune-teller, or anyone who inquires of the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable practices Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you. You should prove yourself blameless before Jehovah your God.
– Deuteronomy 18:10-13 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 2013 (bold text inserted for emphasis)
So again, I ask: Was Watchtower telling the whole truth in 1983?
The answer is clearly and resoundingly NO. They were lying about when they knew about Greber. The forward in Greber’s 1980 edition about his spirit-medium really didn’t soften the blow like The Watchtower was probably looking for. Their hand was caught in the spiritistic cookie jar.
I wish this is where it ended, but sadly, the story continues.
As I looked into the Spanish Translation of The Watchtower Library CD ROM, I noticed that there are only 2 references to Greber. Both references were articles that used Greber to support their teachings.
The 1983 Questions From Readers where The Watchtower admitted looking to a known spiritist was never translated into Spanish. So, from the Spanish speaking perspective, it seems like Greber is a respected source that The Watchtower is using to support their teachings.
In the 1983 Questions From Readers, The Watchtower promised its readers that they would no longer use Greber in support of their teachings. This was due to his close rapport with spiritism. Was this the case? Well, in Spanish, they omitted the article about Greber altogether, so I guess The Watchtower may have a point there. I believe The Watchtower was hiding the facts from the Spanish speaking and reading Jehovah’s Witnesses rather than keeping its word about not using him any longer.
This begs two questions:
1. If The Watchtower was hiding things to the Spanish speaking audience, were they hiding the facts from other language groups?
2. In what other languages conveniently did they not translate the 1983 Questions From Readers?
My sources confirmed with Watchtower Library CD ROM’s in different languages that this article was never translated into German and French, therefore omitted.
But did Watchtower keep its word and no longer use Greber in support of their teachings because of his close rapport with spiritism?
In 1987, The Watchtower translated Aid to Bible Understanding into Spanish. In the English version, there are 2 references to Greber. In Spanish, there was a reference to Greber that was not removed. Really, when an organization like The Watchtower Society discovers that a man used his spirit-medium wife to help translate the bible, and knowing that Greber’s practices were something detestable to the God, should they not have made sure that any and all future references to Greber would be removed from future reprints and translations?
Lastly, there are Watchtower letters sent to the Greber Foundation thanking them for copies of his bible translation as well as for his book, Communication with the Spirit World of God – Its laws and Its Purpose, since both books are difficult to come by. These letters are dated in the year 1980. Shortly afterward, there are letters from persons writing to The Watchtower headquarters requesting the address where these books can be found. The Watchtower, after just receiving books from the Greber Foundation, lied to such ones, claiming that they did not know how to obtain Greber’s books. They simply provided an old address where Greber lived prior to his death.
We see, in this whole tangled web of lies, that The Watchtower is teaching that those who practice spiritism are enemies of God. However the evidence shows that they themselves are seeking support from a known spiritist who is looking to the spirit world.
“Do as I say, and not as I do” has never meant more to me now that I am no longer a member of that religion.