Our Readers Ask
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Accept the Old Testament?
Jehovah’s Witnesses view the Bible as God’s Word and accept both the Old Testament and the New Testament as integral parts of it. However, they prefer to use the more fitting designations “Hebrew Scriptures” and “Christian Greek Scriptures,” Hebrew and Greek being the principal languages in which the Old and the New Testaments were originally written.
On the other hand, some who profess Christianity are reluctant to accept the Old Testament. They say that it depicts an angry God who sanctioned wars, murder, and actions hard to harmonize with the all-loving, moral God revealed in the New Testament. Or they reason that since the Old Testament deals chiefly with the Jewish religion, it is not relevant for Christians. However, in view of God’s command found at Deuteronomy 12:32 not to add to or take away from his word, are these valid reasons for rejecting some three fourths of the Bible?
Sometime in 50 C.E. when the Christian apostle Paul visited the citizens of Thessalonica, Greece, “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.” (Acts 17:1-3) Some of his listeners became Christians, and Paul later commended them, saying: “When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) At the time of his visit, of the 27 books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, apparently only the Gospel of Matthew had been written. So “the Scriptures” that Paul used to prove “by references” were obviously texts from the Hebrew Scriptures.
In fact, Christian Greek Scripture writers directly referred to texts in the Hebrew Scriptures some 320 times and indirectly another several hundred times. Why? “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) This clearly indicates that those who today accept the entire Bible greatly benefit by doing so.
The Christian Greek Scriptures, based on the foundation laid by the Hebrew Scriptures, are a logical extension of God’s Word brought about by the gradual unfolding of God’s purposes. They in no way diminish the value of the Hebrew Scriptures. Herbert H. Farmer, professor of divinity at Cambridge University, argues that the Gospels “cannot be understood apart from what went before in the history of the old covenant people, as set before us in the Old Testament.”
God’s Word needs no revision. Nevertheless, “the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Proverbs 4:18) By adding the Christian Greek Scriptures to the Bible canon, God shed increased light upon the outworking of his purpose without diminishing the value of the Hebrew Scriptures. They are all part of “the saying of Jehovah [that] endures forever.”