The Watchtower Organization (Jehovah’s Witnesses) has maintained that following the death of Jesus and His apostles, the Christian Church became corrupted with ideas of Greek philosophy and paganism. There was a great apostasy where the true church was almost lost. A primary doctrine corrupted was the nature of Christ, who they teach was the first creation of Jehovah God. Even though this apostasy of the church was widespread, a faithful remnant of anointed men continued the true beliefs that Jehovah’s Witnesses hold today.
The Watchtower booklet, “Should You Believe in the Trinity” quotes the writings of a few early church fathers to support their contention these men taught their doctrines. Did the early church fathers teach what the Watchtower Organization believes? Was there a great apostasy that corrupted the true teachings of Jesus and His apostles? Was there a faithful remnant who held similar beliefs to Jehovah’s Witnesses? I will look at some of the ancient writings and examine these claims by the Watchtower.
The first question I will address is did a great apostasy occur? Did the vast majority of the early church abandon the clear teachings of Jesus and his apostles? A great apostasy would require an extraordinary event where the loss of faith of an entire generation including disciples of the apostles and eyewitnesses of the thousands of martyrs who refused to deny Jesus and worship pagan gods. This is an incredible historical event that can be tested. Interesting is Mormonism makes a similar claim. They maintain there was a complete apostasy of the true teachings of Christianity and the one true church was restored over 1800 years later by the angel Moroni who delivered the golden plates to Joseph Smith.
Was the true faith of the Jehovah’s Witnesses abandoned completely by the early church? Historical facts do not support this contention. Ancient writings, such as Gnosticism, which combined elements of Greek and Pagan philosophies, survived until today. Yet, we do not have a single manuscript that points to any group who believed like the Witnesses do. If they are the surviving remnant of the one true ancient church, how is this possible? How can they claim there was a great apostasy without any manuscript evidence?
The most compelling argument against this so called widespread apostasy is to say the apostles of Jesus completely failed their mission. These men were commissioned by Jesus to teach what he taught and share the truth of the resurrection. An apostasy means they blew their mission. This also implies that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, lacked the power to preserve His church. If this apostasy took place then we can conclude the apostles were incompetent and God is weak.
Therefore, we have no reason to support the contention the church abandoned the teachings of Jesus following His crucifixion and the death of the apostles. The absence of literary evidence for an alternative group of believers and the implication of a total failure of God and the apostles of Jesus make this view implausible.
What about the writings of the early church fathers? Did they teach the doctrines of the Watchtower society?