Myth of the "Faithful Slave"

B J Kotwall and B Stett

(Investigator 78,  2001 May)



Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to YOU, He will appoint him over all his belongings. (Matthew 24:45-47 New World Translation 1984)

The Watchtower Society (WTS) – the legal and publishing agent of Jehovah's Witnesses – uses these verses in an unjustified prophetic sense. It claims that Jesus inspected all churches in 1918 and chose the WTS as the best and made its supporters his "slave class". The "slave class" prepares "spiritual food", i.e. doctrine, for everyone else including the majority of JWs – the "great crowd" – who are not members of the "slave".

Bible commentators outside the WTS understand the passage as encouragement by Jesus to every individual disciple to be faithful and wise. In support we note Jesus stating that the "faithful slave" could also become an "evil" slave – see Matthew 24:48-51.


From 1881 to 1895 the WTS taught that the Slave or Servant is:

…the body of Christ…the whole body individually and collectively, giving the meat in due season to the household of faith – the great company of believers. (Zion's Watch Tower Reprints 1881 Oct-Nov pp. 290-291)
However, in 1895 it became an open secret that the "servant" referred to only one individual, Charles T Russell, the founder of the WTS:
Then you believe that Brother Russell is that servant? Yes I believed that for eighteen years… (IBSA Convention Report 1913 p.102 – Speech by E D Sexton)

The man of linen was the Laodicean servant, the Lord's faithful and wise steward, Pastor Russell. (The Finished Mystery 1917 p. 418)

Without a doubt Pastor Russell filled the office…and was therefore that wise and faithful servant… (The Harp of God 1921 p. 239)

In 1923 Rutherford, the second president of the WTS, distinguished the "office" from the person holding it. He argued that Russell filled the "office" of "that servant" until 1916 but thereafter the WTS plus everyone cooperating with it filled that office. (The Watch Tower 1923 March 1 pp. 67-69)

In 1927 Rutherford returned to the interpretation of 1881– that the servant was the entire "body of Christ".

This demotion of Russell was a logical necessity. If Russell was the servant who provided "meat in due season" then there could be no more "meat" because Russell was dead. Yet Rutherford was continually issuing new "meat" in the form of prophecies and new interpretations. The initial solution in the book The Finished Mystery (1917 p.144) was that Russell was in heaven and supervising the work from there!


After Russell was demoted, the WTS pretended Russell had never claimed to be "that servant":

…the editor and publisher of Zion's Watch Tower disavowed any claim to being individually, in his person, that "faithful and wise servant". He never did claim to be such. (God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached 1973 p. 346)
That this is false we see from:
His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation.
(The Watch Tower Reprints 1916 December 1 p. 5998)
In 1993 the WTS admitted:
The view that she [Russell's wife Maria] voiced concerning the identity of the ‘faithful servant' came to be generally held by the Bible Students for some thirty years. (Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom 1993 p. 143)
This admission blames the error on Russell's wife. Yet, twenty years after Maria Russell left the cult and had no influence over it we read:
THE WATCH TOWER unhesitatingly proclaims brother Russell as "that faithful and wise servant." (The Watch Tower 1917 March 1 p. 67)


When was "that servant" i.e. the alleged "class" appointed? Rutherford taught that the lives of various Old Testament characters were symbolic dramas with 20th century fulfilments. Referring to the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi he claimed:

The part played by Naomi at this point in the drama particularly pictures those found faithful in 1918, and whom the Lord then constituted "the faithful and wise servant" class… (The Watchtower1932 November 1 p. 340)

Naomi therefore seems clearly to represent those who went through the tribulation of 1917 to 1919 and remained faithful and true to God and his kingdom, and who constituted the original remnant or "faithful servant" class… (Preservation 1932 p. 195)

It was in 1918 that the Lord began to build up Zion, which is his capital organization… Then followed the gathering of those who constitute the "faithful and wise servant" class… (World Recovery 1934 p. 49)

So, apparently the "servant" got assigned in 1918/1919.

Later the WTS clarified that the "slave class" started in 33 AD:

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this parable pertains to the one true congregation of Jesus Christ's anointed followers. Beginning with Pentecost, 33 C.E., and continuing through the 19 centuries since then, this slavelike congregation has been feeding its members spiritually, doing so faithfully and discreetly. (The Watchtower 1981 March 1 p. 24)

Down through the years the slavelike congregation has been feeding its true members faithfully and discreetly. From Pentecost, A.D. 33, up to this very present hour this has been lovingly and carefully performed. Yes, and these "domestics" [the individuals in the slave class] have been fed on progressive spiritual food that keeps them abreast of the "bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established." (The Watchtower 1960 July 15 p. 435)

So the "slave" has been "feeding its members…faithfully" "through the 19 centuries" – which would include Russell's lifetime 1852 to 1916.

Let's examine this.

Firstly, the claim that a "Slave" had operated "faithfully" for "19 centuries" is inconsistent with another WTS claim – that Russell:

…revived the great truths taught by Jesus and the Apostles.
(Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose 1959 p. 17)
If the "slave" had been "faithful" and "careful" what was there to revive?

Secondly, the WTS has never identified any 19-century-old congregation or its location and Russell never contacted it! To survive the centuries and supply "progressive spiritual food" implies an organization. But Russell was against the notion of "organization" other than his own:

We belong to NO earthly organization…All the saints now living, or that have lived during this age, belonged to OUR CHURCH ORGANIZATION: such are all ONE Church, and there is NO OTHER recognized by the Lord. Hence any earthly organization which in the least interferes with this union of saints is contrary to the teachings of Scripture and opposed to the Lord's will. (Zion's Watch Tower Reprints 1884 p. 584)
Thirdly, the WTS teaches that Christ returned invisibly in 1914 and inspected all churches in 1918 and chose the WTS to represent him:
Without a question of doubt, it [1918] was a real time of inspection of the Master's "slave" class. All the facts of the case argue that the Master came for the work of inspection at the time… Of, course the sectarian churches of Christendom had made a wartime record for themselves, an open record that had a heavy bearing on their claim to be disciples and slaves of Jesus Christ. Could they, by even their latest record down till 1919, prove that they themselves were the composite "faithful and discreet slave" class…?"
(God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years has Approached 1973 p. 349)
It seems strange that Jesus needed to do an inspection – for surely he would have known about any "faithful" slave of "19 centuries"! Jesus would also have remembered that Russell was "God's mouthpiece":
The truths I present, as God's mouthpiece, were not revealed in visions or dreams, nor by God's audible voice, nor all at once, but gradually…
(The Watch Tower 1906 July 15 p. 229)
And if the "wartime record" was relevant why didn't Jesus pick the Quakers or Adventists as his "slave class"? By 1915 some 380 Russellites served in the German armed forces! C C Binckele, the Russellite representative for Central Europe from 1915 to 1925, reported:
There are at present 380 brothers in the field and others subject to orders any time.
(Souvenir Notes Bible Students' Conventions Supplement 1915 p. 142. Photo copy in Investigator No. 38)
Furthermore, the WTS religion was also "unclean":
The Scriptures describe them as having unclean garments because of their long association with Christian apostasy… They had many practices, characteristics and beliefs similar to the weedlike sects of Christendom. (The Watchtower 1960 July 15 pp. 435-436)
Anyway, Jesus chose the WTS and its supporters in 1919 despite it not being 1900 years old and despite it being unclean and its people involved in World War I:
So the Lord showed his favor by regathering them into a well-organized body of "domestics" in his house. The eight-day general convention held at Cedar point, Ohio, on September 1-8, 1919…indicated to all the world who it was that the returned Lord Jesus had found to be his "faithful and discreet slave" class. (God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached 1973 p. 253)
What, then, did Jesus look for in making his decision? The main criterion was the "right sort of food":
The serving of food, the right sort of food, at the proper time was the issue. It had to be according to this that a decision must be rendered by the returned master. (God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached 1973 p. 350).


The "right sort of food" of the WTS that Jesus would have considered included:

The "time of the end," a period of one hundred and fifteen (115) years, from A.D 1799 to A.D. 1914, is particularly marked in the Scriptures.
(Thy Kingdom Come 1891 p. 23)

Bible prophecy shows that the Lord was due to appear for the second time in 1874.
(The Watch Tower 1922 November 1 p. 333)

Its [The Great Pyramid's] wonderful correspondencies with the Bible leave no room for doubt that the same divine inspirer of the prophets and apostles inspired this "Witness" also.
(Thy Kingdom Come 1891 p. 362)

In the year 1918…Christendom shall go down as a system to oblivion…
(The Finished Mystery 1917 p. 513)

We may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old.
(Millions Now Living Will Never Die 1920)  

During the 1918 inspection Jesus would have read the WTS's textbook – The Finished Mystery. This book contained the greatest nonsense the WTS ever concentrated into one book. It's been estimated that its 600 pages contain about 1,500 points that the WTS later discarded! (Jehovah's Witnesses: A Statistical Survey 1992 p. 204) These 1,500 errors include false prophecies for at least five dates – 1918, 1920, 1921/1922, 1925 and 1932.

So Jesus chose as "faithful and discreet" the cult with 1,500 errors in one book and rejected as "false" the churches that rejected those 1,500 errors!

Was Jesus perhaps biased? Consider:

The Lord assumes an interest in and responsibility for the complete series of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, the last one of which especially represents the winepress feature (Rev. 14:18-20)  (The Finished Mystery 1917 p. 295)
For Jesus to be responsible for The Finished Mystery and hence its 1,500 errors and then favor the cult using it because it had the "right sort of food" suggests his "inspection" in 1918 was indeed biased!

The inspection of 1918 was a sham for another reason – Jesus made up his mind 34 years earlier!

8:3. And another angel. - Not the "voice of the Lord," mentioned in the preceding chapter, but the corporate body - the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, which Pastor Russell formed to finish his work. This verse shows that, though Pastor Russell has passed beyond the veil, he is still managing every feature of the Harvest work. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is the greatest corporation in the world, because from the time of its organization until now the Lord has used it as His channel through which to make known the Glad Tidings.
(The Finished Mystery 1917 p. 144)
Russell started the WTS in 1881 and incorporated it in 1884. Obviously, any inspection by Jesus in 1918 was prejudged i.e. biased!

Recall again the sensational claim in The Finished Mystery that Pastor Russell continued to manage the "harvest work" after his death! Contact with the dead is spiritualism – something that JWs now claim to abhor! Jesus must have missed that point although he was responsible for it!

Anyway, in 1919 so the teaching goes Jesus organized the WTS and its supporters as his sole collective representative and rejected all other churches.


The "faithful and discreet slave" is supposed to number 144,000 when totalled up from the 1st century to the 20th. The "remnant" of these numbered 8661 in 2000 AD. (The Watchtower 2001 January 1 p. 21)

This so-called "anointed remnant" of the "slave class" is mainly American but includes other nationalities. Supposedly all of them the "class" share in providing and dispensing of "food":

The "slave" class continues to be identifiable both by its activity of providing spiritual food and by the existence of a spiritually well-fed congregation. (The Watchtower 1981 March 1 p. 30)

These [the "great crowd"], too would need spiritual food, and it would be served to them by the composite "slave," Christ's spirit-anointed servants. To please Jehovah, we need to accept this channel and act in full harmony with it. (United in Worship of the Only True God 1983 p. 120)

From 1921 to 1941 almost every WTS book and booklet, and almost everything in The Watch Tower was written by one man – J F Rutherford!

Since the 1940s a "Governing Body" which is selected from the "remnant" has ruled the JWs. Ray Franz is a former Governing Body member who defected in 1981. He writes:

The fact is that not even 1 percent of the number of "anointed" ones have the slightest part in determining what Jehovah's Witnesses receive in the way of Biblical material or in the forming of policy or the directing of the activities of that people… By far the majority of the articles published in The Watchtower magazine were written by persons not of the "anointed class". (In Search of Christian Freedom 1991 p. 154)


The 1914 date for the arrival of Jesus is calculated by adding 2520 years to the date when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. The WTS says this was in 607 BC but this has no support outside the WTS. Modern textbooks and encyclopedias say Jerusalem fell in 586 BC. (Jonsson, C O 1998 The Gentile Times Reconsidered)

The JW identification of the "Slave class" therefore rests on false chronology.


Five reasons why the "faithful and discreet slave" class is imaginary:

1 The WTS has been inconsistent about who the Slave is. Until 1895 it taught that the Slave is the whole body of Christ. Then it held that the Slave is an individual Russell. In 1927 the WTS again claimed the Slave was the whole body of Christ – this in their theology being 144,000 persons.

2 The "slave class" has supposedly existed since 33 A.D. but the WTS has not identified any individuals, groups or locations of this "slave class" after the 1st century until C T Russell appeared.

3 The alleged "slave class" is admitted to have been spiritually "unclean" in 1918. Analysis of WTS publications of that period reveal errors by thousands – "food" so poisoned that the WTS now opposes its use. Yet Jesus supposedly inspected all churches in 1918 and confirmed the promoters of this poison as his sole "faithful slave".

4 The entire "slave" class, now comprised of the "remnant", supposedly produces the "food". In reality most are never consulted in any decisions, publications or doctrinal revisions.

5 The chronology behind the "return" of Jesus in 1914 and hence his inspection of all churches in 1918 is false.

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