How does Judaism deal with apostasy

What Really Is An Apostate?

Aug 11, 2013 byDoug Shields

The thought occurred to me today that most Jehovah’s Witnesses have no idea what an apostate is.

They THINK they do but they don’t actually know.

Why is this? Because an “apostate” is kicked out of the congregation without any public forum with which to state their case!

Everything done to a brother or sister who is accused of apostasy is done behind closed doors and the facts of the case are only privy to a select few that answer to the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Once they are disfellowshipped, nobody is allowed to speak to them and thus the fate of the “apostate” is sealed forever. Only those willing to risk their status in the congregation (none) by speaking with this person will actually know the facts.

How very neat and manageable!

Let me propose something a little “crazy”.

Let’s just suppose that a single rank and file JW realized that the Watchtower leadership was teaching falsehood. What if he or she had proof that this was the case? What if their findings were entirely correct? What if they chose to openly disagree with one or more of the Watchtower’s teachings even going so far as challenging them with the scriptures?

What would happen to them?

If you answered that they would be summarily disfellowshipped for apostasy then you get a gold star.

Does this reflect the praise given by Peter of the Bereans? Notice what he said of them:

Acts: 17:11

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Now if Peter wrote this under divine inspiration, and there is every indication that he did, what were the Bereans to do if they found something in Paul’s teaching that wasn’t true? Were they to just “wait on Jehovah?” The context of this scripture indicates nothing of the sort. In fact it indicates the total opposite. If a Christian found something false in a teaching it was his responsibility to expose it, not sit on it and hope the leadership corrects it later.

What was the Bible’s definition of apostasy?

I tried doing a search for the words “apostate” and “apostasy” in the American Standard Version, the King James Version and the New International Version of the Bible. A search returned NO RESULTS!

Yet when I searched the New World Translation for the same word I found a whopping twenty-three instances of the word. Incidentally, all of the instances of that search occurred in the Old Testament and in much of the Watchtower’s commentary for certain scriptures. None of them occurred in the New Testament. I’m assuming that it is easier to disguise a mistranslation when mistranslating Hebrew than Greek.

The other interesting twist on this word is simply this: The word was only found in the Hebrew Scriptures of the New World Translation, which meant this applied to Judaism.

Strictly speaking, wasn’t Christ an apostate of the version of Judaism handed down by the Pharisees of His day? Was the Apostle Paul? Was Peter? Were the early Jewish Christians? If you answered “Yes!” you get another gold star!

Why is the word “apostate” so important to Jehovah’s Witnesses when no other mainstream Bible versions even mention it?

Because this is a word that the Watchtower has seized upon as a most effective means of thought and crowd control.

By lifting this term straight from the archaic policies of the Catholic Inquisition, making it heinous and despicable in the minds of its followers, the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society has conditioned all of its adherents to accept their judgment and authority without question knowing that to do otherwise would mean swift and immediate excommunication…correction I meant disfellowshipping for apostasy.

This word held fear for everyone during the Holy Inquisition of the Dark Ages. To be accused of apostasy was the equivalent of being in “league with Lucifer” and the punishment was to be tortured to death unless they recanted their position.

Is it any different for Jehovah’s Witnesses today?

What does this do for the Vatican, I mean, the Watchtower leadership?

If I held your family and friends as hostage and threatened you with eternal isolation from them, would that get your attention? Would it keep you from speaking up? Would it cause you to follow my orders? Would it keep you in line?

Those are rhetorical questions.

So what really is an apostate?

The Christian view of apostasy is pretty simple and John gave a good definition of it:

2 John 2:8-10

Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting.

Pretty simple isn’t it? Yet the majority of apostates leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t denying Christ in the least. As a matter of fact the majority are placing more importance on Christ than the Watchtower leadership does!

What is the Watchtower definition of an apostate?

Well that, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty simple:

Any member who is audacious enough to openly disagree with the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society on any point of belief or teaching¬† is an apostate…period.

Know what? My wife disagrees with me often. So does my daughter. Yet the thought of disowning them for such audacity never occurred to me. Humans shouldn’t do that to each other. Neither should Jehovah’s Witnesses.

If burning people at the stake ever comes back into style I’m sure the Watchtower will throw their collective hats in the ring. Until then the only fate they can legally inflict is to break up families and friends and for what? Simply an honest and open difference of opinion!

Do these resemble the actions of Christ or the Jewish religious leaders who put Him to death?

I’ll leave that answer to you.



Doug Shields is an activist against religious oppression, control and abuse. He has a lot of experience dealing with these issues because he was an active Jehovah’s Witness himself for over twenty-three years. Doug has been privileged to help elders, ministerial servants, full time pioneers and even a circuit overseer to find the strength and determination to face the painful truth about the Watchtower Bible And Tract Society.

If you would like to have Doug speak at your church, meetup or other event you can contact him here.