Theseus slays Procrustes

Theseus slays Procrustes

The scripture in 1 Corinthians 1:10 is an important Bible verse. This passage teaches us that we need to be united in our brotherly love and belief in Jesus Christ. Here it is in two different translations:

Now I exhort YOU, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that YOU should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among YOU, but that YOU may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NWT)

Now I entreat you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to cultivate a spirit of harmony–all of you–and that there be no divisions among you, but rather a perfect union through your having one mind and one judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 Weymouth New Testament)


The verse has been used often in Watchtower publications to assert that true Christians should all believe the same, and have unity of thought to a very fine degree. As has been brought out in past articles such as The Organization: the Way, the Truth, and the Life, if we do not accept the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in to·to, we could be expelled if it ever comes to light. [6] This scripture in Corinthians is used to buttress the policy and belief that all Christians should believe the same on all tenets of faith. Is that what Paul under inspiration was trying to tell us? What do Bible commentators have to say about this scripture? And who is Procrustes [1], [2]  (pronounced: proh-KRUHS-teez) and what does he have to do with this WT teaching?


First, let’s examine some Watchtower Society comments on 1 Corinthians 1:10:

Now if anyone comes into the congregation to try to upset adherence to that true Word of God and causes stumbling or a division in the congregation, it is necessary to avoid that one. The best way to avoid him is to disfellowship that person, set him aside, get him out of the congregation. (WT 1952 3/1 p. 135 par. 11 Keeping the Organization Clean)

Here we see a leap made from identifying the problem, i.e., a divisive person or influence, to a ruling that anyone thus categorized would be congregationally shunned. The next quote is revealing as a contrast to the former:

Their recognizing Jehovah as the one true God; the Bible as his Word of truth; his kingdom as mankind’s only hope, and their dedicating themselves to do God’s will. As a result these have become “fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.”—1 Cor. 1:10 (WT 1957 7/1 p. 396 Help Others to Oneness Under Their Creator)

The Watchtower here asserts a reasonable conclusion; that Paul’s words would apply to major doctrinal points such as belief in the Creator and his inspired word, not peripheral beliefs or creeds. The next quote shows still more balance:

The Christian is to put on a new personality created according to God’s will. (Eph. 4:20-24) This will result in all Christians being united with God in their thinking, as well as with one another. (1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 15:5) Such does not make for collective thinking or mass psychology, as some have claimed. It results in each dedicated believer being trained to use his thinking ability not independently but individually, yet submissively to God and in co-operation with one’s fellow man. (WT 1960 2/15 p. 106 par. 6 Safeguard Your Thinking Ability)

Finally a more recent quote from the 2003 Awake boils it down even more succinctly:

He was encouraging the brothers to follow Jesus Christ unitedly, not to be split into disunited groups. (Awake 2003 5/8 p. 26 Does Christian Unity Require Uniformity?)

Following Christ is indeed the crux of our faith and unites us as Christians more than anything else. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. (John 14:6) We do not need to debate farther if we agree on this point. Unfortunately though, in practice the first quote from 1952 is what takes place among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Anyone that does not accept each and every one of the well over 100 doctrinal tenets is subject to judicial investigation and disfellowship.

To balance things out, let us turn to two well-known and often quoted Bible commentaries. Barnes and Clarke’s Commentary brings out these salient points:

…Although perfect uniformity of opinion cannot be expected among people on the subject of religion any more than on other subjects, yet on the great and fundamental doctrines of Christianity, Christians may be agreed; on all points in which they differ they may evince a good spirit; and on all subjects they may express their sentiments in the language of the Bible, and thus “speak the same thing.”

But that ye “be perfectly joined together” …The apostle here evidently desires that they should be united in feeling; that every member of the church should occupy his appropriate place, as every member of a well proportioned body, or part of a machine has its appropriate place and use; see his wishes more fully expressed in 1Co. 12:12-31.

“In the same mind” – This cannot mean that they were to be united in precisely the same shades of opinion, which is impossible – but that their minds were to be disposed toward each other with mutual good will, and that they should live in harmony.

“And in the same judgment” – …Union of feeling is possible even where people differ much in their views of things. They may love each other much, even where they do not see alike. They may give each other credit for honesty and sincerity, and may be willing to suppose that others “may be right,” and “are honest” even where their own views differ. The foundation of Christian union is not so much laid in uniformity of intellectual perception as in right feelings of the heart. And the proper way to produce union in the church of God, is not to begin by attempting to equalize all intellects on the bed of Procrustes, but to produce supreme love to God, and elevated and pure Christian love to all who bear the image and the name of the Redeemer.


Clarke’s Commentary adds this:

On every essential doctrine of the Gospel all genuine Christians agree: why then need religious communion be interrupted? This general agreement is all that the apostle can have in view; for it cannot be expected that any number of men should in every respect perfectly coincide in their views of all the minor points, on which an exact conformity in sentiment is impossible to minds so variously constituted as those of the human race. Angels may thus agree, who see nothing through an imperfect or false medium; but to man this is impossible. Therefore men should bear with each other, and not be so ready to imagine that none have the truth of God but they and their party.


The balance and clarity of these explanations of the scripture speak for themselves. Not everyone thinks or believes things in an identical way. It does not seem possible that Paul could have been referring to such a rigid code of rules and doctrinal positions that all would be required to adhere to and strictly believe in order to gain salvation.  Barnes mentions Procrustes; here is the story of this mythical character:


The mythological son of Poseidon, named Procrustes (he who stretches). He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered utmost hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal, treated like kings,  and then sent to their room for a good night’s rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn’t volunteer was the method by which this “one-size-fits-all” was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed, and chopping off his legs if he was too long. The hero Theseus eventually turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed. [3], [4], [5]


This colorful and brutal story parallels the current policy and mindset of the Witness organization. All things are either stretched or chopped to fit inside the Procrustean, “Watchtower bed” of theology. Anything that falls outside of it or is perceived to come up short must be stretched to fit. Individual Witness thinking processes often unconsciously mimic this. When an argument is presented it is elongated or squeezed into the JW mold. Watchtower publications and policy letters are quoted as authority on a regular basis, thus reinforcing the circular reasoning. With some there is little room for any other belief system, as their thinking is so aligned and in agreement with the thought process that it is “better to be wrong in the Organization than right outside of it”. What may next come to mind is the question “Will there be a Theseus to come along and chop off the legs of this particular Procrustes?” Only time will tell. We leave it in God’s hands and trust in him and his chosen King. Barnes and Clarke have helped us to see the true meaning of 1 Corinthians 1:10, but we don’t need to rest our conviction that God and Christ love us and accept our sincere sacrifice outside any man-made organization just on their words. The words of our Lord Jesus also ring true in Matthew 22:36-39:


“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Holman Christian Standard)









…A Procrustes bed is used as a modern analogy of an arbitrary standard by which exact conformity is required. It has been used as comparisons in literature, math and computer science. In his recently released book, ‘The Procrustes Bed: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms’ Nassim Taleb says that it is not only that many times we try to fit into wrong boxes, but that the emphasis is on the box rather than the object. He also points out the danger of overestimating or under estimating variables as in Modern Portfolio Theory that uses risk assessment like Bell Curve distribution sigmas to gauge investment pairing and balancing…The Procrustes Bed analogy of government policy can be made in areas like health care and education. As Procrustes would stretch his shorter victims and amputate his taller ones, government health care policy would give more health care to the healthy and less to the very sick. Individuals with health care needs ‘out of the bed’ of protocol would either have to look for it on the private or black market while the healthiest would be required an annual exam and other benefits that they don’t want. The analogy could also apply regarding cost sharing as healthy and unhealthy would be in the bed with the same premiums. Alternative care options which even now are generally only available to those with discretionary income, might under government health care be outlawed or even more expensive. Those who have the money might be joining those already fleeing other nation’s government health care, like a Danny Williams former Canadian MP who flew to Miami, FL  for a heart procedure last year.


[6] “Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (WT 1986 4/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers)

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4 Comments on Watchtower Tenets and the Bed of Procrustes

  1. andrew says:

    You’ve described well the misuse that the org. gives this verse. While the purpose of the text is to unite Christians the Watchtower uses it to divide JWs from other Christians. In fact any Christian who isn’t part of the org. is a “so-called Christian” or a “professed Christian” but never a true Christian.


  2. Victor says:

    I may be wrong but the text of Romans 16:17 sounds similar to 2 Thess. 3:14,15 about “Marking”. Not supposed to be disfellowshipped until a 1st and 2nd admonition and that is only if you are promoting a sect. (Titus 3:10).

    The famous “Bad associations spoil useful habits” verse at 1 Cor 15:33. Paul said this after referring to those that questioned the resurrection. Also to me just sounds like the marking concept.

    Psalm 133:1 was in effect when Jesus was on the earth. But, he did not get censored by God for calling the religious leaders in His day hypocrites and offspring of Vipers. Matthew chapter 23 is just some of the things he said against the scribes and pharisees. Matt 23:1 starts out by Jesus talking to the crowds and his disciples. I honestly believe Jesus would’ve been disfellowshipped if he came down here today.

    That said knowing about the history of JWs such as CT Russell maybe being a Mason and Some think Rutherford might have been wacky because he said the office of the Holy Spirit was vacated and received all his info from angels. 1 Cor 2:10 for example says you are supposed to get info from the spirit.

    Rumor went around that CJ Woodworth confessed of being demon possessed. It is supposedly in the 1913 convention report and he also says something that “sounds” like demon possession in commentary in the “Finished Mystery”.

    Perhaps that is why that the WT did nothing when Roy Goodrich said that the ERA mahines the WT was endorsing was spiritism.

    The preface I believe says that the editor of “Angels and Women” said the original author of Seola was under the influence of demons. (I have a electronic copy of the book and it does say that.) I thought we are not supposed to even watch Cinderella because of the magic in it but they endorsed a demon inspired book.

    There is a video on you tube about angels and women and Sam Herd is endorsing the book. Or atleast speaking positively about it.

    Does the Freemason black and white checkered floor for story 98 in “My Book of Bible Stories” prove anything? I don’t know but I have a strong feeling that said floor did not exist in Jesus’ Day.

    Point is that the Core doctrine to me is “Truth”. If satan infiltrated HQ in Brooklyn IDK. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest this, but can’t prove anything.

    Matthew 23:3 basically says to do as they say not as they do; that’s about all you can do.


  3. LonelySheep says:

    About two weeks ago I had an elder pull this stunt on me. I asked him to look at the context. If you read the next verses the oneness in mind had to do with Jesus, as some were saying they belonged to Apollos, some to Paul etc. So all the scripture is saying, rather than being divided by personalities (sectarianism) we should be united by our faith in the body of Christ. Simples.


  4. Bible student says:

    Christian unity is freedom in serving christ.


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