JARGON [jahr-guhn, -gon]
And this brings us to the “theocratic language”, a term employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The scripture in Zephaniah 3:9 is used as the origin of the term. It contains the expression “pure language” and reads this way in the New World Translation:
“Then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zeph. 3:9)
A comment on this verse in the 2008 Watchtower says the following:
The pure language is the truth about Jehovah God and his purposes as found in his Word, the Bible. That “language” includes a correct understanding of the truth about God’s Kingdom and how it will sanctify Jehovah’s name, vindicate his sovereignty, and bring eternal blessings to faithful mankind. (Watchtower 2008 8/15 p. 22 par. 5 Are You Speaking the “Pure Language” Fluently?)
It is to be noted that the word “truth” can be a loaded word and has many shades of meaning; to different people, and in different contexts it can mean many things. As has been commented on in other articles on this blog, Jesus is the truth, not an organization. He is the Word, God’s spokesman. And the Word is Truth. (John 14:6; John 1:1; John 17:17)
Examples of the use of this jargon or lingo abound throughout the meetings, literature, and everyday speech of the average Witness. It is said that we must keep up with the “celestial chariot”. We should be in step with “present truth” as revealed by the “slave class”. This is part of being “in the truth” and differentiates us from the “worldly” people of mankind.
But how much weight should be placed on any one phrase? How solid is one word as opposed to another similar one? Are meanings and thoughts more important than individual words to differentiate whether a person is spiritual or not? The “new system” is an outdated term according to the literature and has been replaced by “the new world”. The designation “Bulletin board” was replaced many years ago by “Information board” for the place where announcements and letters are posted in the Kingdom Hall. I once heard a Circuit Overseer (during a servants and elders meeting) humiliate a brother for several awkward minutes due to using that older term instead of the new one. The brother used the outdated term without realizing it, and was embarrassed in front of all for it.
Actually, the regular changing of terminology (jargon) is one of the tools used in mental conditioning and mind control. Those that keep up with the changing terms are deemed part of the “in crowd” and the others that are behind the times are on the outside looking in. George Orwell made great use of this concept in his famous novel 1984.
In light of the above, the following short essay written by a brother that successfully faded a number of years ago is presented. It touches on the subject of correct wording, as well as the illusion that one set of preferred words or phrases can be more powerful than another.
Put yourself back to those halcyon days of crisscrossing the territory while hunting up return visits accompanied by five others biding (but counting) their time until its time for a coffee break…
If you were riding in such a car group even today, I have to imagine that probably no eyebrows would be raised (not too high, anyway) if you were to casually mention that you wondered if the WT Society would ever change its explanation of the parable of the “Unrighteous Steward”, and if perhaps the “everlasting dwelling places” were indeed what they’re explained to be. Now, you might get a small grimace from one or two in the car, but probably only elicit either blank or ho-hum stares from most or all riding with you. (Most probably wouldn’t know what the current explanation is, so you could probably get away with saying whatever you wanted to anyway…) But it’s not likely your offhanded question would send anyone into a panic attack or a red alert. However, if in this very same car group you were to voice as genuine your concern that the explanation of the parable of the “faithful and discreet slave” was probably wrong—then the fir would likely begin to fly, and you could easily find yourself as sorry grist for the congregation’s rumor mill, and should expect worse to follow later.
But why? In each example noted above, aren’t they both simply parables of Jesus? But clearly, the explanation of one parable is seen by JWs as far more important than the other—given an almost sacrosanct status, actually.—Luke 16:1-9; Matt. 24:45-47.
Or let’s say you’re still in that same imaginary car group and are still out and about making return visits. You probably wouldn’t rattle anyone’s cage too much if you were to casually wonder out loud to the group whether or not some day the WT Society might change its explanation of the 200 million cavalry mentioned in Revelation; and that maybe this numbered cavalry symbol is something denoting demonic forces of darkness permitted to plague earth’s inhabitants instead of meaning the “anointed” and “great crowd” distributing tons of literature and whatnot. Now this comment might just evoke a stomach-rumble and a hurried suggestion that it’s high time for that coffee break, but probably no real indignant hullabaloo would erupt. On the other hand, what if you were to say that you’ve always had real trouble seeing the 144,000 in Revelation as literal; that you’re convinced it’s symbolic and that it refers to those sealed for protection during the great day of God and Christ’s wrath, and that then later these same ones are taken to heaven to join yet others. Now that kind of comment would probably put you in a world of hurt in a Brooklyn New York second; leading to rumors at first, and very likely reports about you to the elders, and then a call at your home or an invitation to a meeting in the back room at the Kingdom Hall.
But why? In each example noted, aren’t they both simply numbered symbols found in the book of Revelation? But again, it’s plain that the explanation of one numbered symbol has taken on a near sacred and inviolable position in the JW Theology Hierarchy.—Luke 16:1-9; Rev. 9:16; 7:4; 14:1.
When a member of a sect insists that the Bible alone is his authority, what he actually means by “the Bible” is the Bible as his sect has come to interpret and understand it. Thus, a sect will often have its own terminology that reflects its peculiar interpretation of Scripture. The words of the sect’s own special vocabulary can become loaded, and even turn into easy shortcuts that bypass thought and reasoning—making such unnecessary when one talks the group jargon.
On page 112 of the Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook (1971) under the subheading “Unfamiliar terms explained” we read:
“Our study of the Scriptures and the Watch Tower Society’s publications has given us a vocabulary of terms quite strange to those unacquainted with our work. If we were to explain the truths of the Bible to some audiences, using such terms as these, either much of what we say would be lost or our speech would be entirely unintelligible.
“Consider your audience. What is the level of their understanding? How much do they know of our work? How many of these expressions will be as readily understood by them as by the speaker? Terms like ‘theocracy,’ ‘remnant,’ ‘other sheep,’ even ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Kingdom,’ can convey either a different thought to the hearer’s mind or none at all. Even such terms as ‘soul,’ ‘hell’ and ‘immortality’ need to be clarified if the hearer is unfamiliar with our work. But if the talk is being delivered to the congregation, terms such as these need not be explained. So the setting should be taken into account.”
The words “other” and “sheep” are seen side by side only once in the Greek Scriptures (Or NT) in the New World Translation at John 10:16. The word “anointed” is found six times in the NT—five with reference to Jesus, and once with reference to believers in Jesus. The word “anointing” appears three times, all in First John, and all with reference to believers in Jesus. However, such is the great significance of these terms in JW parlance that they even appear on one’s publisher’s record card, where either “O.S.” or “Anointed” is to be checked.