Questions From Readers
● Have there been witnesses of Jehovah on earth in every period of human history? What about the Dark Ages?
It does not appear wise to answer these questions dogmatically. However, it does seem that reason and the facts of history, together with what God’s Word has to say, allow for the conclusion that there have been witnesses of Jehovah on earth in every period of human history.
The mere fact that only three Witnesses are mentioned by name before the Flood does not mean that there may not have been others. It is quite probable that Abel was married at the time he was a faithful Witness and so his wife could have continued being a Witness after his death. And then there was Lamech; for him to utter the inspired prophecy about his son Noah he also must have been a witness of Jehovah.—Gen. 5:29.
After the Flood we find faithful Shem surviving until Abraham’s day. And were not Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Job faithful witnesses, even as must have been the parents of Moses? With the forming of the nation of Israel the entire nation became a nation of witnesses, even as Jehovah shows at Isaiah 43:10-12. That nation continued as witnesses of Jehovah until 36 C.E.
That Jehovah has also had witnesses on earth from Christ’s time until our day seems to be indicated by Jesus’ parable of the wheat and weeds as recorded at Matthew chapter thirteen. Therein Jesus stated that both the wheat and the weeds would continue growing together until the harvest, when a separation would take place. This parable may be taken to imply that during all this time, from the first sowing until the harvest, there would be some genuine Christians, “wheat,” even though at times their number might be exceedingly small.
Thus throughout the centuries there have been professed Christians who rejected the error of the trinity, usually called “Arians.” There were those who closely followed primitive Christianity and who were known as quartodecimans because of celebrating Christ’s memorial on Nisan 14, holding out against the paganizing trend of Rome. Then there were the Paulicians from the seventh century onward, whose teachings have been termed “genuine apostolic Bible-Christianity.” They stood solely by the “New Testament,” practiced adult baptism, believed that God in his love had sent an angel to earth who at his baptism became God’s Son. They rejected unscriptural tradition, had no clergy-laity distinction, refused to revere the cross.
Then there were the Waldenses from the twelfth century forward, who had much in common with the previous Paulicians in rejecting all false tradition such as purgatory, the mass, and so forth, and adhering closely to the Bible, although they did not limit themselves to the so-called “New Testament.” The only two ceremonies they recognized were baptism and the Lord’s evening meal. They strictly followed Bible principles regarding morality and refused to celebrate popular religious holidays such as Palm Sunday, Easter, All Saints’ Day, and so forth. Typical is the statement of one of them, who was martyred, that ‘the Cross should not be prayed to but loathed as the instrument of the Just One’s death.’
Many were the Arians, Paulicians and Waldenses, not to mention others, who because of their Bible-based religion suffered martyrdom. Not that this in itself or together with their beliefs, as noted in the foregoing, indicated that all of them had God’s approval. Why not? Because time and again not a few of these took up the sword to defend themselves against Roman Catholic crusades in violation of Matthew 26:52.
The foregoing facts therefore would appear to demonstrate two things: (1) That through all the centuries from the time of Abel to modern times there were those who adhered so closely to God’s Word as to be considered God’s witnesses that had his approval. (2) That the number of them must have been small. This would be in keeping with the limited number composing the body of Christ as well as with the fact that comparatively large numbers of these appeared at the sowing and at the harvesttime.