For a number of years, literature published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society cited a Bible translation by a German Catholic priest named Johannes Greber to support certain renditions of the Scriptures in their own New World Translation. His translation was most commonly used in support of the Watchtowerís translation of John 1:1, "and the Word was a god." For example, in the book The Word-Who is He? - According to John, published in 1962, they say, on page 5:
"Similar is the reading by a former Roman Catholic priest: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.' (Footnote: The New Testament - A New Translation and Explanation ... by Johannes Greber)"
The Watchtowerís first major reference work, Aid to Bible Understanding, published in 1971, again uses Greberís translation to support the New World Translation on John 1:1:
A translation by the former Roman Catholic priest Johannes Greber (1937 ed.) renders the second appearance of the word "god" in the sentence as "a god." ( Aid to Bible Understanding 1971 p. 1669)
Aid to Bible Understanding also used Greberís translation in support of the Watchtowerís translation of Matt 27:52, which is rendered to eliminate the reference to the resurrection of the dead which occurred at the time of the death of Jesus:
Matt 27:52 - The translation by Johannes Greber (1937) of these verses reads as follows: "Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city." (Aid to Bible Understanding p. 1134)
References to Greberís translation appears several times in the Watchtower, as late as 1976, after which they ceased using him as a reference source. They ultimately repudiated him in 1984.
Johannes Greber was a Catholic priest in Germany in the 1920ís. In 1923, he was invited by one of his parishioners to a prayer meeting. Greber describes what he encountered there:
Scarcely was the prayer ended when the boy fell over forward with a slump and an exhalation of breath so sudden that I was startled ... After a few seconds he was pushed upright in a series of jerks as though by an invisible hand, and remained sitting with his eyes closed. The boy Greber describes was a medium, and the meeting was a seance. The spirit, speaking through the boy, answered several of Greberís questions, including one about why Christianity was no longer exerting an influence on people in his day:
The teachings of Christ are no longer found in their original purity and clearness in those documents which have come down to you. In what is called the New Testament, several paragraphs, indeed entire chapters, have been omitted. What you have now are mutilated copies ... Even the last letter of the Apostle Paul addressed to all Christian communities has been destroyed. In it he carefully explained those passages in his earlier writings that had given rise to misunderstanding. But his explanations were not in accord with many erroneous doctrines that had subsequently crept into the Christian faith.
The spirit who spoke through the boy later identified itself, and the nature of his mission:
You are right to ask me who I am, for it is your first duty to test the spirits that speak to you and to assure yourself that they were sent by God ... I swear to you before God that I am one of His good spirits, indeed one of His highest spirits, but my name keep to yourself ... From the days of the first man down to the present, the spirit-world has communicated with mankind. That is true of both the good spirit-world and the bad. ... [T]he World of spirits, which is separated from you materially, has various ways of communicating with you by means perceptible to your senses ... [W]hen the Bible says: "God spoke", it was not God himself who spoke, because as a rule, God speaks only through his spirit-messengers.
The spirit then invited Greber to further investigate this world of spirit communication. Greber responded to this invitation:
What captivated me most of all, and I might say, irresistibly, was the clear-cut reasoning and convincing logic of that to which I had listened for the first time in my life. Only the truth could exert so great an influence upon me, an influence from which I had not the power to withdraw, even had I been so inclined. ... In the end, I resolved to follow the directions I had received [from the spirit] , even though it meant the greatest personal sacrifice, the loss of my position and my means of support.
Greber sought confirmation of the validity of the seance experience by seeking out other seances and mediums, where he heard many of the same "truths" proclaimed. Ultimately he relinquished his position as a Catholic priest, and wrote a book in 1932 entitled Communication with the Spirit World of God-Its Laws and Purpose, which detailed his journey into spiritism, and depicted the truths and principles of his new understanding of Christianity, revealed to him through his communication with the spirits. He also wrote a translation of the New Testament in 1933, aided by his communication with the spirit world. It was this work that the Watchtower Society used to support its own translation of selected verses in their New World Translation.
One possible explanation for the Watchtower Societyís use of Johannes Greberís translation is ignorance about Greberís beliefs and sources. It is clear from their own literature, however, that they were aware that he was a spiritist:
Communication with the Spirit World: Its Laws and Its Purpose... In keeping with his Roman Catholic extraction Greberís translation is bound with a gold-leaf cross on its stiff front cover. In the Foreword of his aforementioned book ex-priest Greber says: "The most significant spiritualistic book is the Bible." Under this impression Greber endeavours to make his New Testament translation read very spiritualistic ... Greberís translation of these verses [1 John 4:1-3] reads: "My dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, to learn whether they come from God. For many false spirits have emerged from the abyss ... and are speaking through human mediums ..." Very plainly the spirits in which ex-priest Greber believes helped him in his translation. (Watchtower 2/15/56 p. 111)
Notice that this article appeared six years before the first reference to Greber in the Watchtower, and at that time the Society was aware both of his book and the nature of his New Testament translation. In spite of this, they continued to use Greber as a reference for nearly twenty years, including a place in their major reference work, Aid to Bible Understanding. Another possibility for the Watchtower Societyís use of Greberís translation might be that the Society looks lightly on spiritism. This is also not the case. The Watchtower Society actively condemns any type of spiritism as communication with demons. For example, in their reference work Insight on the Scriptures they say:
It, therefore, logically follows that any claimed communication ... [with spirits] ... must be from an evil source that stands in opposition to Jehovah God. The Bible clearly indicates that wicked spirits, demons, are this evil source.
The Society ultimately stopped using Greber as a reference in 1983, when the following Questions from Readers appeared in the Watchtower:
The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism (Deuteronomy 18:10-2).
After his encounter with the "good spirits" through mediums and seances, Greber set out to learn from them the principles of the spirit world. He also sought a better understanding of the many areas where, according to the spirits, Christianity had become corrupted over the ages. In his book, Communication with the Spirit World, he says:
The teachings received by me relating to the laws governing spirit-communication ... shed so much light on events related in the Bible which theretofore I had not been able to understand. ... However, the great religious problems were what concerned me most of all. ... I [was] primarily interested in discovering whether all the religious doctrines I had so far believed and taught were true, or whether among the tenets of my church there were any which were at variance with the truth. ... I could scarcely have foreseen that such discrepancies would prove to be as numerous and as wide as I subsequently found them to be ... It was from this spirit-world that I hoped to learn the truth concerning the most important questions of life.
... Once we grant the possibility of men being initiated into the full truth by direct communication with Godís good spirits, the foundations of the churches begin to totter. ... men will no longer have to depend on the clergy in their search after truth, but will, through their communication with Godís spirit-world, learn of the direct road to the source of truth... Greber then detailed his revelations from the spirit world on the major issues of Christianity: God, Christ, the redemption, heaven and hell, and a number of others.
When Greberís spirit-channelled doctrines are compared with those of the Watchtower Society, the similarity is at once striking and troubling. Listed below is a comparison between these doctrines and those of the Jehovahís Witnesses. It is important to keep several things in mind as one reads these comparisons. First, these are not Greberís opinions or beliefs, but those of the spirits with whom Greber communicated. The Society accurately depicts the Bibleís condemnation of such communication with spirits as contact with demons.
Secondly, keep in mind that Greber was originally a Roman Catholic priest, and therefore held beliefs in harmony with those taught by all the major orthodox denominations of Christendom-beliefs which the Watchtower Society condemns as originating with Satan. It is worth considering why the demons with whom Greber communicated would want to "enlighten" him by teaching him doctrines which the "faithful and wise servant" of the Watchtower Society is now distributing as "meat in due season", i.e., Biblical truths taught by the anointed leaders of the Society.
In the following list, Greberís spirit doctrines are preceded by JG, and the Watchtowerís teachings by WT. The Greber quotes are all taken from Communication with the Spirit World: Its Laws and Its Purpose, unless otherwise stated.
JG: Material forms are images of spiritual forms, and since all material things have form and shape, so, too, have all spiritual things, and so, also, has God. ... Inasmuch, then, as God has a shape, He can be seen by the other spirits. (Page 260, and Page 261)
WT: The bodies of spirit persons (God, Christ, the angels)
(Insight on the Scriptures p. 348)
JG: Inasmuch as God possesses shape and personality, He is not omnipresent ... as a personified spirit He is not everywhere. (Page 261)
WT: The true God is not omnipresent, for he is spoken of
as having a location.
(Insight on the Scriptures p. 969)
JG: You have plenty of proof that I am a truthful spirit
... When I tell you that God has no foreknowledge of the voluntary
actions of men, I am not detracting from His greatness. ... such
unerring foreknowledge is possessed by no spirit, nor even by
(Page 263, and Page 265)
WT: Jehovah has the ability to foreknow events, but the
Bible shows that he makes selective and discretionary use of that
(Reasoning from the Scriptures p. 141)
JG: Christ is the highest of the spirits created by God and the sole one to be created directly. ... Christ Himself was not God, but only the first of Godís sons. ... Christ is the highest spirit which the omnipotent God could create. Christ ... is the first created "son of God", and as such, His highest and most perfect Creature. (Page 301, and Page 267)
WT: Thus the Scriptures identify the Word (Jesus in his
prehuman existence) as Godís first creation, his first-born Son.
(Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 p.52)
... This means that [Jesus] was created before all the other spirit sons of God, and that he is the only one who was directly created by God.
(You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p. 58)
JG: Christ was therefore the Son of God, and claimed to be nothing more. He was not the Deity. Not once did he say: "I am God." (Page 330)
WT: Well, did Jesus ever say that he was God? No, he never
did. Rather, in the Bible he is called "Godís Son."
(You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p. 39)
Christ is Godís Agent in Creation, Not the Creator
JG: Save for the first created Son of God, the entire spirit-world was brought into existence not by direct Divine creation ... but was called into being through the Son upon whom God had conferred creative power. (Page 267, and Page 268)
WT: The Sonís share in the creative works did not make
him a co-Creator with his Father. The power for creation came
from God through his holy spirit...
(Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 p. 52)
JG: You see how illogical it is for your [Greberís] former religion to base its contention of the Divinity of Christ upon the phrase: "I and the Father are one", in the face of the fact that the same oneness that exists between them is promised to all who believe. (Page 333)
WT: This charge of blasphemy arose as a result of Jesus
having said, "I and the Father are one." (Joh 10:30)
... this did not mean that Jesus claimed to be the Father or to
be God ...
(Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 p. 54)
JG: After His resurrection, Christ said: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. (John 20:17) (Page 364)
WT: He taught men, not to worship him, but to worship Jehovah
his Father ... "I am ascending to my Father and your Father,
and to my God and your God."
(Make Sure of All Things p. 283)
JG: Again, nothing is known by the Son of the Day of Judgement, the knowledge of which is Godís alone: "The day and the hour of fulfillment are known to no one, neither the angels of heaven, nor to the Son, but to my Father alone." (Matt 24:36)
WT: Also, Jesus explained that there were some things that
neither he nor the angels in heaven knew, but that only God knew
(You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p. 39)
JG: Not even of Christ was the natural body raised. (Page 385)
WT: Jesus Christ was spoken of as "the first resurrected from the dead."(Acts 26:23) This means he was the first to be resurrected of those who would not have to die again. Also, he was the first to be raised as a spirit person.
(Paradise on Earth p. 172)
JG: Materialized in human form, Christ appeared to those
who had been closest to Him in life ... The fact Christ after
his death upon earth appeared to his followers in material form
has led you to the erroneous conclusion that His spirit re-entered
His former physical body. In reality He made Himself visible in
the same manner in which all spirits do so, namely by materialization
of his spiritual body.
(Page 351, and Page 387)
WT: Jesus Christ ... his resurrection was "in the
spirit," to life in heaven. .... However, for 40 days after
his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples on different
occasions in various fleshly bodies, just as angels ahd appeared
to men of ancient times.
(Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 p. 786)
JG: The further fact [is] that Christ had human weaknesses and failings ... Thus Christ, as a mortal, had to learn obedience ... The word "sin" is used here not to designate transgressions due to human infirmities from which not even Christ was free, but with reference to the iniquity which severs us from God ... (Page 323)
WT: Still a Free Moral Agent - ... this certainty did not
relieve Godís Son of the weight of responsibility, nor did it
eliminate his freedom of choice:either to be faithful or unfaithful.
(Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 p. 68)
JG: You teach the union of three persons in one Godhead
... This is a piece of human fallacy and is an absurdity. (Page 265)
... Christ taught a unipersonalist God ... He knows of no triune
God of Whom the Catholic and other Christian denomonations teach.
Only the Father is God.
WT: The reason the Bible does not clearly teach the Trinity
doctrine is simple: It is not a Bible teaching. Had God been a
Trinity, he would surely have made it clear so that Jesus and
his disciples could have taught it to others. And that vital information
would have been included in Godís inspired Word. It would not
have been left to imperfect men to struggle with centuries later.
Watchtower 11/1/91 p. 23)
JG: A doctrine to which you cling with astonishing tenacity ... is that of an "eternal Hell." ... This is a wholly mistaken, manmade idea. ... there is no authority in the bible to support your inhuman and untrue doctrine of an everlasting Hell. (Page 377, and Page 379)
WT: Did Almighty God create such a place of torment? ...
If the idea of roasting people in fire had never come into Godís
heart, does it seem reasonable that he created a fiery hell for
thse who do not serve him?
(Paradise on Earth p. 81)