Saturday, March 14, 2009

JW Study Meeting #17

Today's meeting mostly consisted of just small-talk, but I also got a whole bunch of books, including:
  • You Can Live Forever on Paradise Earth
  • Mankind's Search for God
  • United in Worship of the Only True God - I technically had this before, but I misplaced it somewhere, I think
  • Isaiah's Prophecy: Light for All Mankind (2 vols.)
  • Live with Jehovah's Day in Mind
  • Keep Yourselves in God's Love
I can't really remember anything, save the relating of a Jeff Foxworthy-esque joke: "You know you might be a Jehovah's Witness.... if you have a shelf in your house devoted exclusively to 192-page books." (See, that's the standard length for most of theirs.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

JW Study Meeting #16

The fifteenth meeting was so uneventful that I scarcely have any recollection of it, but the sixteenth was a bit more exciting. My girlfriend's been spending spring break with me, so she was still here to sit in on the session. When Uriah and Shem arrived at 1:30 PM today, we started off with over half an hour of smalltalk. One of my cats, Moses, had basically all of his teeth extracted over the past week, so there was some discussion of that and my upcoming (May 21st) dental extraction (classic third molar business). Uriah and Shem both told me of their experiences with that procedure. Shem just plain hates needles, while Uriah turned out to have an extra tooth up near his sinuses that had to be surgically removed at the same time.

I mentioned that I've now finished Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy!, and I asked them about other JW commentaries on books of the Bible. I already have that one on Daniel and Revelation--Its Grand Climax at Hand!. They're gonna bring me both volumes of the Isaiah commentary, Isaiah's Prophecy--Light for All Mankind. I think Uriah is also gonna look around for a copy of Commentary on the Letter of James, which is one of their few other biblical commentaries.

In terms of other books, Uriah hopes to bring me a copy of Mankind's Search for God, which he was stunned he hadn't brought me yet, as well as a newer book called Live with Jehovah's Day in Mind, which I hadn't even heard of before today. And evidently there's yet another fairly new book called Keep Yourselves in God's Love, just released in 2008.

As for my request for a copy of The Word--Who is He? According to John, the 1962 publication that goes into the most detail on the Johannine Prologue, Uriah hasn't had any real luck yet, unfortunately. Heh... good thing I scanned the copy I received via ILL last semester. Someday when I have time, I'll see about stitching the scanned images together into a readable PDF to hold me over until I can get a real physical copy of the book.

And I think Uriah is going to look into getting me a Kingdom Interlinear, and maybe a copy of You Can Live Forever on Paradise Earth. I asked about a book called Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What is Fine, and neither Uriah nor Shem had heard of it, but Uriah said he'd look into it. (Checking now, it was the book they used prior to Reasoning from the Scriptures.) Uriah also made note of a publication they have--I forget the title--that is for targeted distribution for areas that have a lot of superstition and spiritism. Due to a mix-up, the local Kingdom Hall has far too many unnecessary copies of it, and it's not like it's something that they need many of in, well, the heart of Amish country. So I'll be getting one of those too.

Uriah mentioned that the website that JWs use to order books for congregations--I should mentioned that, from what I can gather, Uriah is the inventory guy for the local Kingdom Hall--now allows them to check the inventories of other area Kingdom Halls, so if one has a book in stock that somebody wants to have at another, no need for an order, just send it on over.

Heh, so after we chatted about books and such, there was some further small-talk pertaining to my hobby, genealogy, and I related some tales about my newfound ancestors, such as the heroic last stand of my ancestor Captain Michael Pierce against a massive Native American ambush in 1676, or that fact that my ancestor Abigail Sewell's grandnephew Samuel Sewall was one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials (and, I might add, the only one with enough sense to later on recant his decision).

Eventually, we somehow actually came around to the subject of, well, the Bible. We had sort of a brief discussion today of certain Scriptural passages that I'd brought up previously.

For Ezekiel 32:21-30 and Isaiah 14:9-20, Uriah basically said that he'd send me some Watchtower articles dealing with those, but he doesn't think that they portray any sort of activity in Sheol. We went then to 1 Samuel 28, the tale of the witch of Endor. For JWs, Samuel doesn't actually appear anywhere in this chapter; rather, it is merely a demonic manifestation wrought through the medium, wherein an evil spirit impersonates Samuel. As I found, the NWT even has quotation marks around Samuel's name in this chapter. The purpose of the spirit's impersonation of Samuel was to keep Saul from turning back to God, by reinforcing his acceptance of spiritism. As for the content of the message, the words were, strictly speaking, true, and thus were credible to Saul because they accorded with what he already knew from Deuteronomy 18 and from his life; however, they served to lure him further away from God rather than spur him to repentance. Since, then, this is only a demon and not a human spirit, nothing here serves to challenge the JW belief about the fate of the dead--or, at least, this is the argument as paraphrased from Uriah's presentation.

We then moved to 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, where I thought that Uriah's case was less obviously implausible, if one granted some of the premises. This passage is, of course, one of the classic texts used by orthodox Christians in favor of a disembodied intermediate state, but it didn't take long into the explanation before I saw how the JWs would interpret the passage. Basically, Paul was a member of the anointed class, and his addressees were all of the anointed class, the 144,000 of Revelation. When he speaks of being home in the body and absent from the Lord, that refers to this present life, which is uncontroversial. A typical orthodox Christian construal of the next few verses would have being absent from the body but home with the Lord refer to, of course, the intermediate state in which we exist wholly separate from our bodies. For the JWs, however, this is a reference to the post-resurrection state of the anointed class. After being resurrected as spirit-creatures, they will be in the heavenly presence of Jesus (also a spirit-creature), and thus be both absent from the body and at home with the Lord.

I didn't present any counterarguments this time around, though I did ask plenty of questions about 1 Samuel 28 to make sure that I was following what they were saying. Uriah also informed me that, in their belief, those of the anointed class who died long ago (e.g., Paul) were spiritually resurrected in 1914 during Christ's invisible return, and that for those of the anointed class in the present, they are resurrected as spirit-beings in heaven at the moment of their death. Uriah pointed--I'm not entirely sure to what end, though--to 1 Corinthians 15:51 to note that there would be anointed Christians still alive at the time of the trumpet's sounding. Uriah made mention that, according to the official tally as of last year's memorial service, there were 9,985 members of the anointed class still in this earthly life. The total was sealed in 1935, but there can be replacement of a handful if some apostasize, on the model of Matthias' replacement of Judas among the Twelve.

That's about where we stopped for this week; I'll be meeting them again next Saturday, barring unforeseen circumstances. I've got a confirmation of the date of their annual Lord's Evening Meal memorial service (9 April 2009), which I plan to attend at the local Kingdom Hall. I'm going to talk to my best friend Daniel to see if he'll be free that evening to come along. Should be pretty interesting.