Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Theory of Evolution – The Genesis Account

Rejecting or trivializing the Genesis account about Adam and Eve creates a domino effect that undermines nearly every major teaching in the Bible! Such a way of thinking leads to a host of unanswered questions and a faith with nothing to stand on.—Hebrews 11:1.
– Watchtower magazine, November 1st, 1994

Let’s say that the consensus is that our species, being the higher primates, Homo Sapiens, has been on the planet for at least 100,000 years, maybe more. Francis Collins says maybe 100,000. Richard Dawkins thinks maybe a quarter-of-a-million. I’ll take 100,000. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years, our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25 years, dying of their teeth. Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks ‘That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene.’”

- Christopher Hitchens

Now, for those of the belief stated above, Hitchens exposes a great flaw, and many have tried their hand at refuting it and gotten relatively far from the argument in doing so – however, this isn’t a problem for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite Darwin’s work having taken hold across the scientific world by the time that ‘Judge’ Rutherford took the reins of the Watchtower Society in the 1920s, many religions were in the process of a great reactionary opposition movement. Biblical literalism was having life breathed into it, after centuries of believers viewing stories such as the Adam and Eve account as mere metaphor (Armstrong, 2007:3), for fear that Christianity, and faith in general, was being stamped out by the scientists (and therefore, by Satan). It’s no surprise then that Russell’s creation, later resculpted and repackaged by Rutherford, was always going to be staunchly anti-evolution.  It was a threat and allegedly one that a correct interpretation of the scriptures would fix.

For a little more history into this time, Armstrong’s “The Bible: The Biography,” pages 195-201, is a pretty decent overview and completely readable. Of course, the entire book is totally readable, so just buy it (secondhand, it saves trees).

As early as 1898, the Watchtower Society published a conversation between an Evolution-supporting Presbyterian minister and a Bible Student minister, in which the Watchtower’s advocate posits:

I incline … to the opinion that the majority of the advocates of evolutionary theories are not aware of the violent and irreconcilable difference between these theories and the Bible. It appears to me that if it were generally known that if evolutionary theories are true, the Bible doctrines are false, and that if the Bible is of God, his inspired Word, evolutionary theories are absolutely false, many Evolutionists would give the subject deeper study before  accepting and advocating a theory which gives the lie to the words of our Lord and of his Apostles and all the holy Prophets.

In over a hundred years, the Watchtower’s position seems not to have changed. They view that Evolutionary Theory only spells disaster for their tightly held beliefs, not only from the view that this mutational, naturally occurring selective change is not mentioned in the Bible, but as partial Biblical-literalists (remember, they believe the 6 days of creation are metaphorical) it also voids the Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden story.

So, before we go into the science of Evolution itself in my next post, discussing the background of the Garden of Eden account is imperative. After all, if this tale is disingenuous, and more importantly not unique, surely Evolutionary Theory is just the cherry on top to void the Jehovah’s Witness faith? They have positioned themselves dangerously, balancing, and just a small nudge can bring their doctrine tumbling down.

Some time ago I was studying some mythology and came across the Holy Grail of myth. No, not a carpenter’s cup from Indiana Jones, nor, unfortunately enough, was it a pretty French girl in a film adaptation of Dan Brown’s pseudo-academic Da Vinci Code (for the record, I enjoyed that book – forgive me). Instead it was the Epic of Gilgamesh. The oldest parts of this poem date as far back as the 18th century B.C.E. and first saw themselves compiled as an epic  – as far as we know – between 1300 and 1000 B.C.E. Consider then that ancient texts, much like the Hebrew Scriptures, are based on verbal tales, and we arrive at the understandable position that whatever is contained within these stone tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh dates back even further than we can prove with scientific evidence. However, this simply doesn’t matter (and conjecture feels uncomfortable). What matters is that the writers of Genesis weren’t writing in 1000 B.C.E, they were actually writing around four hundred years later, using mythical characters and scenes from their culture and others’. Now, folklore carried by word-of-mouth can evolve a lot over time, but when things become written down, they become reliable sources (the Da Vinci Code, after all, convinced stupid people that it wasn’t a novel) of inspiration and instil long-lasting ideas in the reader. We are, after all, still reading Shakespeare and Beowulf. So it’s no surprise that the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis share stories, in fact, they both have the Garden of Eden account.

Well, Satan obviously did this to confuse modern scholars, archaeologists, scientists and mythologists so they wouldn’t find the “Truth”! Nothing else can explain it! Unless, of course, we consider that any evidence that contradicts a set of beliefs into the supernatural is more likely to be of sound reasoning, rather than a belief in a talking serpent or a spare rib becoming a woman instead of a Chinese Take-away. Logic: Satan’s creation – clearly.

In the Epic, Gilgamesh has immortality stolen by a snake and Enkidu loses nature’s respect after having a prolonged sex-session with the first female he has met (she’s a harlot); in Genesis, Adam has immortality stolen by a serpent tricking his wife (oh and the serpent is a phallic symbol but let’s not go into that academic theory, it gets a bit naughty). Not to mention another Mesopotamian tale in which a character named Adapa also unknowingly excludes himself from immortality in similar circumstances.

“There are three main parallels between the tales of Adapa and Adam. Both men undergo a test before a god based upon something they were to eat; both fail the test and thus forgo immortality; their failure has consequences for mankind. The god Enki/Ea tells Adapa to go to heaven and apologize to the god Anu, but warns him that he will die if he eats the food in heaven. When Adapa declines Anu’s food, Anu tells him that it was not the food of death but of immortality, and sends Adapa back to Earth. Likewise, in Genesis, Yahweh tells Adam that he will die if he eats from the Tree of Knowledge. When Adam eats from the tree he is cast out of Eden lest he also eat from the Tree of Life and gain immortality.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panbabylonism)

To say there are similarities is a severe understatement (and there are many more folklores and myths that incorporate elements to these stories too). There is simply no room for real originality here and we see a picture, instead, of plagiarism. Plagiarism that only becomes the pejorative when applied with the thick brush of the Watchtower Society. So, while the Liberalist movement has flourished – with the Catholic advocation especially giving it strength in modern decades – publicly accepting Evolution, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have flourished likewise in counter ideologies. It’s not hard, after all, to eventually find people behind the door you knock at desperate for a conspiracy theory. I know too many JWs that believe in the Moon Landing Hoax theories (we really did land there though, just saying) or the 9/11 conspiracies.

Desperate for some plot twist? They really are, because now only a dramatic twist of the story can possibly make their theories fit. The scientific method is being continually finely tuned and improved, and they are being left progressively in the dark with a very sad and evident denial of expanding knowledge.

“The Truth,” in reality, is one of the biggest lies told.

13 thoughts on “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Theory of Evolution – The Genesis Account

  1. Hey, great writing and well constructed arguments. I used this ‘Gilgamesh’ thing with my JW mother. She says that the pagan’s heard about the real story of creation and used it to form their own similar story. To her, the Gilgamesh story is evidence that the Eden story is the truth because it lends weight to the bizarre events we read in Genesis! What say you sir?

    • One of the few, maybe the only one, articles where a reader/user can comment, and I praise you for that. A true faith or doctrine will never ‘tumble,': the masses are the ones who choose to believe or not–but the faith and doctrine will remain. I don’t belong to any religion, tho I have studied most, but I find myself agreeable to Jehova’s Witnesses. Why? The Bible speaks of a righteous people, God’s people, emerging in the “last days.” Are we there? We don’t know, but when JW first came out many “Christians” feared them. As their numbers grew and their studies improved, they put light on the many false religions and why and how they were false. There are “Christian” articles that veil themselves in seeming fear by not allowing comments. Moving on, no religion or group of people or schools, etc., based on ethics, or virtue, or law, etc., will hardly bend its structure for the sake of numbers or acceptance. We KNOW the Catholic Church, from it’s beginnings to now, have hardly ever been on the right path when it comes to The Bible and it’s message. Only those on the narrow road are on the right path. Them giving way to “Evolution” is an escape so that they don’t get Bullied and harassed anymore, being called “stupid” or worse, by the Prejudice and Bullying masses. This is how life usually works and, since the world is getting dumber and dumber, no thanks to pop culture, the masses don’t care, as long as they FIT in. *** I do believe in God. I just don’t belong to any faith. But I do study The Bible and “Evolution” as much as possible. Saying this, the Genome study that took some 10 years, and the years after, still have not proved we came from the ocean to lizard to feathered-or-furry animals. Its still all supposed. *** Out of all the billions of humans, why hasn’t there been a “Switch” that made one an Ape-headed person or vise versa? Or a Road Runner a bird head with the body of a lizard, since it would take only one (maybe two) Switches for it to happen (according to the general THEORY). Natural Selection? No evidence. *** Ahh, I love Gilgamesh. But, it is reasonable, logical, to believe that The Epic Of Gilgamesh came from the actual Biblical events. Any intellectual–not simply educated, but intellectual, would see this. ** Everyone knows that The Bible is accurate and factual but the masses choose to ignore it just to spite something which doesn’t suit their lives styles and/or isn’t beneficial here and now. The Bible is too organized, too well put together, sticking to a Theme, to be simply another tale like Gilgamesh’ – tho from actual Bible events.

  2. Well, first and foremost, thank you for the compliment! It is hugely appreciated.

    In relation to what you mother said, I can relate. My father says similar things, but I do not venture a conversation with him about these things nowadays as it’s just not worth it – so bravo for bringing this up with her!

    The Gilgamesh epic was written down about 1000 years before any recorded version of the Old Testament can be found or traced to. The old Sumerian and Assyrian documents are not simply other versions of a story, they are primarily the source material (talkorigins.org are good for a list of other myths the Bible borrowed/stole from). Unfortunately, the Jehovah’s Witnesses – as far as I am aware – do not subscribe to any modern scholarly approaches to the authorship of the Bible (modern, as in the past 200 years). It has been long known that the Bible was not written when the stories are set, nor was it written by the names of the Characters in it. All academics, including any serious religious scholars, Bishops, Rabbis, Priests etc will also acknowledge this (I have had conversations with a Reverend at Canterbury Cathedral about this).

    Will they deny this? I am quite sure they will. After all, my memories of childhood consist of them actively talking about Moses etc writing the books themselves and having pictures to show the activity. I don’t know why, I suppose that their literal viewpoint of so much of the Bible would be weakened if it weren’t as fairytale as they want it to be. And in no offence meant to your mother, but I must say I find the entire belief system akin to that of a child’s imagination.

    Also, I cannot be quoted on this, as it is simply from hazy memory, but I seem to remember the Pagan argument is always an interesting one. Pagans were, above, deeply connected with nature, with Polytheism and represented a great problem. Early Christianity (and Judaism) knew they were a threat to their new Monotheist religion: they were popular, idealist and an attractive religious viewpoint to have, so the monotheists spread lies about them. Every branch of a Pagan sect that was destructive was lumped together to completely smear their names as one uniform entity. As the Roman empire adopted Christianity, defaming Paganism was suddenly very advantageous and easy.

    What people must remember is that Judaism and early Christianity were simply small sects at first too, much like the countless Pagan sects that also existed. Jesus was one of hundreds of Messiahs, Moses one of hundreds of Prophets that spoke to God(s). It reminds me of Hollywood: it’s only when a film gets major sponsorship that we suddenly hear about it. Just imagine how many Jesus-like people and groups of disciples there must have been (after all, it still happens nowadays)!

    Sorry for the rather rambling response. I dare say I doubt this will sway her in any way, her’s is a position of Faith after all, so counter-evidence may just not exist to her (as it does not for my father).

    A couple of books I have found hugely interesting on the subject:

    “Who Wrote the Bible?” by Richard Elliot Friedman. This is used and read in seminaries and taught with in the world’s top universities (there was a glowing review from a Jewish lecturer at Harvard, I remember). Karen Armstrongs “The Bible” is good, but

    “Tower of Babel” by Robert T. Pennock. I’m reading this at the moment and it is so useful at filling in the gaps that Witnesses/Creationist like to pick at. Dawkins is always wonderful, but Babel is the actual Creation vs Evolution debate in a whole book, rather than simply Evolutionary Biology with commentary.

    ANYWAY, Have a good day my friend and I hope I have helped. I’m off to do some much-needed food shopping, haha.

    • Ooo, thank you for the reading recommendations. I will be ordering them from the library. I actually just got my card reactivated just because of this list.

      What damaging things does modern Jewish historical views say about Jesus? I think they would be quite scathing, and very rightly so.

      Oh, one thought while I am thinking of it, from what I’ve read, I think there is an excellent chance that “God’s” name never was lost. After all, it is the Christians that say that.

      What can you direct me to read about ethics for Atheists? My ethics have always been Judeo-Christian based. I need ethics that weren’t developed by a paranoid, hate group.

      Hugs -

    • One of the few, maybe the only one, articles where a reader/user can comment, and I praise you for that. A true faith or doctrine will never ‘tumble,': the masses are the ones who choose to believe or not–but the faith and doctrine will remain. I don’t belong to any religion, tho I have studied most, but I find myself agreeable to Jehova’s Witnesses. Why? The Bible speaks of a righteous people, God’s people, emerging in the “last days.” Are we there? We don’t know, but when JW first came out many “Christians” feared them. As their numbers grew and their studies improved, they put light on the many false religions and why and how they were false. There are “Christian” articles that veil themselves in seeming fear by not allowing comments. Moving on, no religion or group of people or schools, etc., based on ethics, or virtue, or law, etc., will hardly bend its structure for the sake of numbers or acceptance. We KNOW the Catholic Church, from it’s beginnings to now, have hardly ever been on the right path when it comes to The Bible and it’s message. Only those on the narrow road are on the right path. Them giving way to “Evolution” is an escape so that they don’t get Bullied and harassed anymore, being called “stupid” or worse, by the Prejudice and Bullying masses. This is how life usually works and, since the world is getting dumber and dumber, no thanks to pop culture, the masses don’t care, as long as they FIT in. *** I do believe in God. I just don’t belong to any faith. But I do study The Bible and “Evolution” as much as possible. Saying this, the Genome study that took some 10 years, and the years after, still have not proved we came from the ocean to lizard to feathered-or-furry animals. Its still all supposed. *** Out of all the billions of humans, why hasn’t there been a “Switch” that made one an Ape-headed person or vise versa? Or a Road Runner a bird head with the body of a lizard, since it would take only one (maybe two) Switches for it to happen (according to the general THEORY). Natural Selection? No evidence. *** Ahh, I love Gilgamesh. But, it is reasonable, logical, to believe that The Epic Of Gilgamesh came from the actual Biblical events. Any intellectual–not simply educated, but intellectual, would see this. ** Everyone knows that The Bible is accurate and factual but the masses choose to ignore it just to spite something which doesn’t suit their lives styles and/or isn’t beneficial here and now. The Bible is too organized, too well put together, sticking to a Theme, to be simply another tale like Gilgamesh’ – tho from actual Bible events.

  3. Hey DS, Thank you for your response. I hope you have stocked up on spiritual food too!!! Do the sell that at Sainsburys yet??? Haha!

    You are right about the futility of a positing responses and arguments against the faith position to which people hold.
    I am only 1 month from being a whole year disfellowshipped for ‘Honesty’!! I find it incredibly ironic that those who claim to have and be in “The Truth” will dismiss an honest person who cannot find it in his heart to attribute the permission and tolerance of so much pain, suffering and agony upon babies, toddlers, children etc etc for thousands of years, to a caring, personal, all-wise, all just god of love.

    However….

    Thanks for your help with the Genesis/Gilgamesh thing. The fact that the religious hierarchy and scholarly types who make up ”Babylon the Great” (haha!) give the literalness of Biblical stories a wide berth, is seen by JWs as a weak and pathetic stance for the Almighty! To be strong, in the eyes of a JW, you must hold to the very trueness of each and every word!

    You have made excellent point about this. Your recollections of being taught that Moses wrote this and Moses wrote that, are of course 100% correct! The “All Scripture’s Inspired” book was very matter of fact in it’s assertions of who wrote what. I feel very lied to. It would be much more honest of ”The Truth” organisation to say: ‘It seems as if…” and “we think this was written by…”

    I thank you for the recommended reads. I’m going to put them on my list! I really wish i had more time to read more. I am part way through ‘Crisis of Conscience’ by Ray Franz (ex Governing Body for WBTS). Also part way through “The History of God” by Mark Smith. I was overawed by Christopher Hitchen’s “God is not Good” book and i enjoyed “The God Hypothesis” (author escapes my memory). All these i read pre-disfellowshipping! I never touched a single item of ”apostate” material leading up to and prior to the dismissal!

    My mother is broken hearted of course. And it’s frustrating for that she will not allow her own logical mind to entertain what i have found to be true (or possible at the very least). But there we go. The loss of structure, friendships and belonging would be much greater for her, i feel. So perhaps let sleeping dogs lie as they say! (She sent me this link the other day, if you get a chance to scan it. May prove useful in your blogging!

    Have a good day… and thanks again…!

  4. This was such an excellent post. Well needed. My knowledge of Evolution has been given to me by under-educated creationists. I needed this update you’ve written.

    It is quite interesting what you’ve written about Gilgamesh. I will be looking that story up.

    Hugs -

  5. That really old stuff is fun! And if one really considers it, enlightening. But on subjects subjected to facts elucidated by science today, not very pertinent, seems to me. We don’t use the Greeks ‘ view of matter any more. Or unless one is religious, Biblical Genesis. Evolution is obfuscated a lot, so it’s hard to have an honest discussion, I think. Coming at it from religion is fine, so long as one admits that it’s based upon faith, not fact. Coming at it from science is ok too, so long as one admits that there are no basic facts, only theories at this point. But too often those admissions aren’t available when they’re needed and progress doesn’t appear. Or so it seems to me.

    Gilgamesh dates way back’ so do others from other cultures. I believe (don’t know) people have been around longer than advertised and have been more sophisticated than advertised as well. That’s just shaving with Occam’s razor, no research involved so it’s not a fact. Makes sense to me, though.

  6. Big fan of Gilgamesh, the first man who “fired the bricks.” I like the honest tragedy in it that eternal life is denied him. It showed a serious maturity in the poets thinking. Excellent post!

  7. One of the few, maybe the only one, articles where a reader/user can comment, and I praise you for that. A true faith or doctrine will never ‘tumble,': the masses are the ones who choose to believe or not–but the faith and doctrine will remain. I don’t belong to any religion, tho I have studied most, but I find myself agreeable to Jehova’s Witnesses. Why? The Bible speaks of a righteous people, God’s people, emerging in the “last days.” Are we there? We don’t know, but when JW first came out many “Christians” feared them. As their numbers grew and their studies improved, they put light on the many false religions and why and how they were false. There are “Christian” articles that veil themselves in seeming fear by not allowing comments. Moving on, no religion or group of people or schools, etc., based on ethics, or virtue, or law, etc., will hardly bend its structure for the sake of numbers or acceptance. We KNOW the Catholic Church, from it’s beginnings to now, have hardly ever been on the right path when it comes to The Bible and it’s message. Only those on the narrow road are on the right path. Them giving way to “Evolution” is an escape so that they don’t get Bullied and harassed anymore, being called “stupid” or worse, by the Prejudice and Bullying masses. This is how life usually works and, since the world is getting dumber and dumber, no thanks to pop culture, the masses don’t care, as long as they FIT in. *** I do believe in God. I just don’t belong to any faith. But I do study The Bible and “Evolution” as much as possible. Saying this, the Genome study that took some 10 years, and the years after, still have not proved we came from the ocean to lizard to feathered-or-furry animals. Its still all supposed. *** Out of all the billions of humans, why hasn’t there been a “Switch” that made one an Ape-headed person or vise versa? Or a Road Runner a bird head with the body of a lizard, since it would take only one (maybe two) Switches for it to happen (according to the general THEORY). Natural Selection? No evidence. *** Ahh, I love Gilgamesh. But, it is reasonable, logical, to believe that The Epic Of Gilgamesh came from the actual Biblical events. Any intellectual–not simply educated, but intellectual, would see this. ** Everyone knows that The Bible is accurate and factual but the masses choose to ignore it just to spite something which doesn’t suit their lives styles and/or isn’t beneficial here and now. The Bible is too organized, too well put together, sticking to a Theme, to be simply another tale like Gilgamesh’ – tho from actual Bible events.

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