The subject of Apostasy can mean a number of different things in the context of varied religious groups.
For Jewish people becoming a follower of Yeshua is still considered by many as an act of apostasy and those who have become believers are referred to as meshumad – meshumadim (pl.)
In Judaism, apostasy refers to the rejection of Judaism and possible defection to another religion by a Jew. The term apostasy is derived from Ancient Greek: ἀποστάτης, meaning “rebellious” (Hebrew: מרד) Equivalent expressions for apostate in Hebrew that are used by rabbinical scholars include mumar (מומר, literally “the one that was changed”), poshea Yisrael (פושע ישראל, literally, “transgressor of Israel”), and kofer (כופר, literally “denier”). Similar terms are meshumad (משומד, lit. “destroyed one”), from tashmud – to destroy or one who has abandoned his faith, and min (מין) or epikoros (אפיקורוס), which denote the negation of God and Judaism, implying atheism.
On Monday 23rd July, 2018 Roni saw the film Apostasy by Daniel Kokotajlo a former member of the Jehovah Witnesses
Here is an utterly absorbing and accomplished debut feature from writer-director Daniel Kokotajlo, known before this for his well-regarded short films Myra and The Mess Hall of an Online Warrior. Apostasy * combines subtlety and sensitivity with real emotional power. It also packs a sledgehammer narrative punch two-thirds in, after which life in the film carries on with eerie quietness as usual, while we, the audience, have no choice but to go into a state of shock. It shows that Kokotajlo can really do something so many new British film-makers can’t or won’t: tell a story.
* (Link to Film Web Site)
The film is set among a community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oldham in north-west England. Kokotajlo grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness family before leaving the faith while at college, and his writing – detached but calmly observant and sympathetic – is evidently based on a real knowledge of this culture, invisible to outsiders. He has apparently used the JW meeting hall in Oldham for the film: the building’s exterior, at any rate. I have to say that Apostasy exposes the slightly preposterous drama of Richard Eyre’s new film The Children Act, with a similar plotline about Jehovah’s Witnesses, based on the Ian McEwan novel. Apostasy is more knowledgeable, less excitable.
Ivanna is concerned about the bad influences Luisa will encounter at college: people of no faith or, even worse, the wrong faith. (She dismisses Catholicism as “wishy-washy”.) Her fears are well founded. Luisa has an unbelieving boyfriend by whom she has got pregnant and her excommunication (to borrow the wishy-washy term) is inevitable. Meanwhile, delicate, shy, clever Alex is very flattered when a young man, an up-and-coming elder in the JW faith, introduces himself to her and her mother at the weekly meeting and asks them both to supper: this is Steven, played by Robert Emms. Alex sees perfectly well how the match is being made by her mother, in concert with the church, so that she will not go down the same route as her sister, and, concerned as she is for Luisa, this responsibility cements her already deeply committed attachment to the orthodoxy. Family tensions become unbearable.
The performances of Finneran, Wright and Parkinson are tremendous and all the more moving for their restraint. Kokotajlo’s direction is lucid and direct. With cinematographer Adam Scarth (who also shot the recent Daphne), he conjures an undramatic world of cloudy days and dull workplaces, kitchens, front rooms. The women’s faces are captured mostly in intimate closeup. Parkinson’s simmering anger as Luisa is almost unwatchably painful, because her rebellion is always tempered by a need not to upset her mother; Wright’s gentleness and tenderness in the role of Alex is heartbreaking.
Finneran’s Ivanna is the most mysterious of all. She is a world away from, say, Geraldine McEwan’s religious matriarch in the BBC TV adaptation of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in 1989. There is no righteous hysteria, no rage, just an utterly serene contentment with the worldview she has grown up with, and the inevitability of the “new system” that will come into being after this current world has come to an end. But Ivanna’s faith is severely tested, and there is a brilliant scene in which Kokotajlo comes in for another key closeup on Ivanna undergoing a silent dark moment of the soul in the midst of a prayer meeting. With the tiniest flinches and winces, Finneran conveys Ivanna’s suppressed turmoil, before she stumbles out to the lavatory to find the elder’s voice has been piped in there too, via the PA system. The word of God is omnipresent. Apostasy is a supremely intelligent and gripping drama.
You may wonder why on a blog concerning Messianic Jewish Perspectives has featured a film about Jehovah Witnesses (JW/ JWs) and someone who has left their faith?
The answer is due to the fact that there are a number of Jewish people who have embraced the JW movement as well and this is also true in Israel today. While living in Cape Town Roni had to do with a young Jewish woman who had become a Witness and she had been referred to him for spiritual advice.
Then, while living in Haifa during the late 1990s Roni had an encounter with an Israeli named Alexander who was one of the leading members of the JWs in Western Galilee. For a period of three months they regularly met at the Haifa railway station precint for discussions. They both brought English language Bibles with them and note books. Though Alexander’s preferred translation was the New World Translation (NWT – JW), out of deference for Roni he used the American Standard translation, due to the use of Jehovah for the Tetragramaton – YHWH.
The Rules of Engagement
Only Bibles were permitted due to Alexander’s request that Roni did not give him any literature that was critical of the JWs. However, Roni in contrast was happy to receive their Watch Tower publications that aided their discussions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Jehovah’s fast facts and introduction
|Beliefs||One God: Jehovah. No Trinity. Christ is the first creation of God; the Holy Spirit is a force.|
|Practices||No blood transfusions, no celebration of holidays, no use of crosses or religious images. Baptism, Sunday service at Kingdom Hall, strong emphasis on evangelism. No taking up arms – conscientious objectors.|
|Main Holidays||Memorial of Christ’s death, celebrated annually. All Christian or other religious-based holidays are rejected as unbiblical and pagan.|
|Texts||New World Translation of the Scriptures. Plus Numerous Watchtower Publications.|
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Salvation
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe salvation is a gift from God attained by being part of “God’s organization” and putting faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. They do not believe in predestination or eternal security. They believe in different forms of resurrection for two groups of Christians. One group, the anointed, go to heaven while the other group, “the other sheep” or “the great crowd” will live forever on earth.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice and that individuals cannot be saved until they repent of their sins and call on the name of Jehovah. Salvation is described as a free gift from God, but is said to be unattainable without good works that are prompted by faith. The works prove faith is genuine. Preaching is said to be one of the works necessary for salvation, both of themselves and those to whom they preach.They believe that baptism as a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses is “a vital step toward gaining salvation”, and that people can be “saved” by identifying God’s organization. They also believe that conforming to the moral requirements set out in the Bible is essential for salvation.
The Witnesses reject the doctrine of universal salvation, as well as that of predestination or fate. They believe that all intelligent creatures are endowed with free will. They regard salvation to be a result of a person’s own decisions, not of fate. They also reject the concept of “once saved, always saved” (or “eternal security“), instead believing that one must remain faithful until the end to be saved.
Regarding whether non-Witnesses will be “saved”, they believe that Jesus has the responsibility of judging such ones, and that no human can judge for themselves who will be saved. Based on their interpretation of Acts 24:15, they believe there will be a resurrection of righteous and unrighteous people. They believe that non-Witnesses alive now may attain salvation if they “begin to serve God”.
Based on their understanding of scriptures such as Revelation 14:1-4, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christians go to heaven to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God. They, with Jesus, will also perform priestly duties that will bring faithful mankind to perfect health and ‘everlasting life’. They believe that most of those are already in heaven, and that the “remnant” at Revelation 12:17 (KJV) refers to those remaining alive on earth who will be immediately resurrected to heaven when they die. The Witnesses understand Jesus’ words at John 3:3—”except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”—to apply to the 144,000 who are “born again” as “anointed” sons of God in heaven. They teach that the New Testament, which they refer to as the Christian Greek Scriptures, is primarily directed to the 144,000, and by extension, to those associated with them. They believe that the terms “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), “little flock” (Luke 12:32), “New Jerusalem,” and “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:2,9) in the New Testament also refer to the same group of “anointed” Christians.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that being ‘anointed’ involves a personal revelation by God’s spirit which “gives positive assurance of adoption” to the individual alone. Members who claim to be anointed are not given special treatment by other congregation members. However, only those in the anointed class partake of the unleavened bread and wine at the yearly commemoration of Christ’s death, or Memorial.
The ‘other sheep’ and the ‘great crowd’
Watch Tower Society literature states that Jesus’ use of the term “other sheep” in John 10:16 was intended to indicate that the majority of his followers were not part of the 144,000 and would have an earthly, rather than heavenly, hope. In the resurrection, those who died faithful to God are included in the ‘other sheep’ and will receive the “resurrection of the righteous” (“just” KJV) mentioned in Acts 24:15. Those who died without faithfully serving God will receive the “resurrection of the … unrighteous” (“unjust” KJV). They will be given an opportunity to gain God’s favor and join Jesus’ ‘other sheep’ and live forever in an earthly paradise. Individuals unfavorably judged by God are not resurrected, and are said to be in Gehenna, which they consider to be a metaphor for eternal destruction. Those of the ‘other sheep’ who are alive today, some of whom survive through Armageddon without needing a resurrection, are referred to as the ‘great crowd’.
Personal Insights and Comments
Roni’s personal refections are not based solely upon the three month study that he undertook with Alexander, for while living in Johannesburg, South Africa, he also together with a chap called Peter had debated with JWs in Edenvale, Jo’burg.
On a new housing estate there were two groups of women who were actively seeking to recruit new members for their women’s groups – the one was an Evangelical church and the other was a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witnesses. Peter had been asked if he could come and speak to the combined group in a community hall and bring a friend with him (Roni), because there were four women who were struggeling to decide which group to join – either the JWs or the Evangelicals.
Roni clearly recall the afternoon meeting
The leading JW lady gave a presentation about their beliefs and hoping that the undecided women should choose their group. Much like the list of some of their principle doctrines listed above she clearly articulated them. Roni then responded and gave a short Gosple presentation in which he outlined the Kerygma (from the ancient Greek word κήρυγμαkérugma) is a Greek word used in the New Testament for “preaching” (see Luke 4:18-19, Romans 10:14, Matthew 3:1). It is related to the Greek verb κηρύσσωkērússō, literally meaning “to cry or proclaim as a herald” and being used in the sense of “to proclaim, announce, preach”. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the apostolic proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ“. Amongst biblical scholars, the term has come to mean the core of the early church’s oral tradition about Jesus.
Peter who was conversant with New Testament Greek (Koine Greek 300 BC – 300 AD Byzantine official use until 1453), and he spoke about the problems with the New World Translation of the New Testament that has a theological bias seeking to prove cardinal JW doctrines.
When Peter had concluded speaking Roni asked for some of those present to give their personal stories from both groups as to how they had come to faith in Jehovah and joined the JWs and also from some of those from the Evangelical church who had made a profession of faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
The outcome of the meeting that took place was as follows:
The JWs who spoke said how that through their joining the Witnesses they had found peace of mind and hope for the future in which a ‘new day would dawn’ and after Armageddon had happened. While those who had embraced Jesus as saviour, spoke of finding a living faith through trusting in God.
Roni subsequently heard from Peter that of those four women who were undecided, two became committed believers in Jesus and joined the Evangelical church, one had joined the JWs and one stopped associating with either group.
Alexander and Roni
There were areas of agreement and also some profound issues that they could not agree upon. Roni elaborates:
- They both have a Jewish heritage
- Their respect for Scripture as God’s Word – though for Roni, not the NWT of the JWs
- A love for God and his concern for humanity and their plight in a godless age
- God does have a plan for the redemption of humanity
- The uniqueness of Yeshua – though they differed on the question of his divinity
- God wants to establish his kingdom rule in the earth – though they differed substantially as to what that means
- Personal responsibility for one’s own life, i.e. one cannot blame others for one’s own choices and failures
- Universal peace and overcoming conflict and war – reconciliation and harmony among all God’s people
However, it became clear that neither of them was willing to embrace the other’s beliefs on the things that kept them apart:
- The Person and Work of Yeshua – for Roni, he is the divine Son of God, Saviour and Lord. He is not a created being and his purpose for coming into this world was much more than just paying the ransom price as a ransom sacrifice as held by the JWs. Though the doctrine of the Tri-Unity/ Trinity is not explicit in the Scripture, it is implicit and there are many passages that testify to that reality (The trinitarian formula at the end of Matthews gospel may well be a later addition – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…” – ( Matthew 2819 )
- The Holy Spirit is not a force but a Person and one of the God-head
- The New World Translation is an unrelaible edition of the Bible that seeks to prove the JWs theologically biased doctrines and is linguistically unsound
- Salvation is by grace through faith alone and not by joining some society/ organisation such as the Watch Tower Society and becoming a member of a Jehova Witnesses Kingdom Hall
- The JWs doctrine of salvation is deficient as they speak only of Jesus paying the ransom price/ sacrifice
- Their Millennial teaching is confused and biblically unsound – the issue of the 144,000 who are those alone elected to go to heaven does not square with sound teaching about rewards and who is eligble for heaven
- It is irrelavant as to what was the shape of the instrument of troture and execution upon which Jesus died – stake Stauros (σταυρός) is a Greek word and can equally mean cross. It could have been a T – shaped cross – tau upon which Jesus died
- Or as the Hebrew Scripture call the place of execution as The Cursed Tree
- What is important is that Jesus/Yehua died to take away sin and to make full atonement for all humankind There are many different expressions of the Messianic faith/ Christian faith and one group such as the JWs does not have the menopolly
- It has been wisely said that when someone takes a Scriptural text out of context and creates a pretext for a doctrine that does violence to sound hermeneutical principles (sound biblical interpretation)
- It is not suprising that when this approach is used to establishing doctrine that one will land up with many un-biblical doctrines that cannot be substantiated by Scripture
- Such groups however sincere that they may be must be avoided at all costs
By mutual agreement Roni and Alexander decided to not continue to meet – Shalom
The 11 Beliefs You Should Know about Jehovah’s Witnesses When They Knock at the Door
The following is a brief overview of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, along with what the Bible really teaches, printed among the many articles and resources in the back of the ESV Study Bible (posted by permission).
1. The divine name.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s one true name—the name by which he must be identified—is Jehovah.
Biblically, however, God is identified by many names, including:
God (Hb. ‘elohim; Gen. 1:1),
God Almighty (Hb. ‘El Shadday; Gen. 17:1),
Lord (Hb. ‘Adonay; Ps. 8:1), and
Lord of hosts (Hb. yhwh tseba’ot; 1 Sam. 1:3).
2. The Trinity.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Trinity is unbiblical because the word is not in the Bible and because the Bible emphasizes that there is one God.
the Father (1 Pet. 1:2),
the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).
Each of these three possesses the attributes of deity—including
Still further, each of the three is involved in doing the works of deity—such as creating the universe:
Thus doctrinal support for the Trinity is compellingly strong.
3. Jesus Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was created by Jehovah as the archangel Michael before the physical world existed, and is a lesser, though mighty, god.
4. The incarnation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that when Jesus was born on earth, he was a mere human and not God in human flesh.
The word for “fullness” (Gk. plērōma) carries the idea of the sum total. “Deity” (Gk. theotēs) refers to the nature, being, and attributes of God.
Therefore, the incarnate Jesus was the sum total of the nature, being, and attributes of God in bodily form.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was resurrected spiritually from the dead, but not physically.
6. The second coming.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the second coming was an invisible, spiritual event that occurred in the year 1914.
Biblically, however, the yet-future second coming will be physical, visible (Acts 1:9-11; cf. Titus 2:13), and will be accompanied by visible cosmic disturbances (Matt. 24:29-30). Every eye will see him (Rev. 1:7).
7. The Holy Spirit.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force of God and not a distinct person.
Biblically, however, the Holy Spirit has the three primary attributes of personality:
a mind (Rom. 8:27),
emotions (Eph. 4:30), and
will (1 Cor. 12:11).
Moreover, personal pronouns are used of him (Acts 13:2). Also, he does things that only a person can do, including:
teaching (John 14:26),
testifying (John 15:26),
commissioning (Acts 13:4),
issuing commands (Acts 8:29), and
interceding (Rom. 8:26).
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19).
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that salvation requires faith in Christ, association with God’s organization (i.e., their religion), and obedience to its rules.
Biblically, however, viewing obedience to rules as a requirement for salvation nullifies the gospel (Gal. 2:16-21; Col. 2:20-23). Salvation is based wholly on God’s unmerited favor (grace), not on the believer’s performance.
9. Two redeemed peoples.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there are two peoples of God: (1) the Anointed Class (144,000) will live in heaven and rule with Christ; and (2) the “other sheep” (all other believers) will live forever on a paradise earth.
Biblically, however, a heavenly destiny awaits all who believe in Christ (John 14:1-3; 17:24; 2 Cor. 5:1; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:5; 1 Thess. 4:17; Heb. 3:1), and these same people will also dwell on the new earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4).
10. No immaterial soul.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that humans have an immaterial nature. The “soul” is simply the life-force within a person. At death, that life-force leaves the body.
Biblically, however, the word “soul” is multifaceted. One key meaning of the term is man’s immaterial self that consciously survives death (Gen. 35:18; Rev. 6:9-10). Unbelievers are in conscious woe (Matt. 13:42; 25:41, 46; Luke 16:22-24; Rev. 14:11) while believers are in conscious bliss in heaven (1 Cor. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 7:17; 21:4).
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe hell is not a place of eternal suffering but is rather the common grave of humankind. The wicked are annihilated—snuffed out of conscious existence forever.
Anathema Maranatha – “The Lord He Comes – Cursed are those that do not follow the Truth!”
A Strong Warning To All Who Distort The Truth of The Gospel Message!
MTMI – Messianic Teaching Ministry International