The Watchtower Society has recently received "new light" on the parable of the "sheep and the goats" and the "generation of 1914" (See previous articles). They now claim that their former position on the "generation of 1914" was "speculation" on their part. This raises the question of what exactly is "new light".
Their light frequently gets replaced by new light. What was light or truth to them for decades can overnight be replaced with different light. The previous position is then called "old light"! Doesn't this indicate that what they publish as "light from God" is not really light or truth from God after all, but merely their private interpretations of Scripture? How much confidence then should one place in the Society's position on any issue given their ever changing interpretations of Scripture? How can they claim on the one hand that what they publish is from God and is His interpretation of Scripture and not a private interpretation, and on the other hand change God's interpretation?
Meat in due season
The Watchtower Society from the beginning of its history has claimed that they are publishing "meat" or "food" in due season or at the "right time." They claim that this food, which usually contains interpretations of Scripture, comes not from them, but from God. They have said:
Continually and with promptness is the food from the storehouse supplied to the household.... the Great Provider, Jehovah, and the Lord Jesus Christ,... are the ones supplying the food. 
This food from God is the "proper explanation of the Scriptures."  It has been referred to as "new light," "lightning flashes," and so on. They have said this light comes from Jehovah and is therefore Jehovah's light. 
One of the Watchtower Society's most frequent ways to describe this process by which they receive and then publish "Jehovah's light" on the Bible is to say they are God's "channel of communication." Rutherford went so far as to claim that the "remnant" of Jehovah's Witnesses were in direct communication with Jehovah.  Today they claim that they are God's "channel of communication" in that Jehovah God speaks or communicates to and through the anointed class of JWs.  This is why they made the famous comment that JWs should "respond" to their direction as they would "the voice of God."  Claiming to be God's "channel of communication" through which He speaks is in reality claiming to be God's mouthpiece or prophet. The most famous example of their directly claiming to be God's prophet is from the April 1, 1972 Watchtower, p. 197. After making this claim the article went on to say:
Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a "prophet" of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?
"Of course" what the record shows is a history of false prophecy by this "prophet." The latest example being the so-called "generation of 1914" which was supposed to live to see Armageddon.
JWs and the Bible
Given these claims one can understand why they hold the position they do with regard to the Bible. The Society has taught for most of their history now that no one can properly understand the Bible without their literature. They have frequently made statements like this:
It is not sufficient to possess a Bible and study it, or join in with some religious body that believes in open Bible study. No matter how hard and seriously and prayerfully we study, we cannot get the true understanding apart from the organization and the spirit. 
Since they believe the "organization" alone has the holy spirit to guide them into the truth, they teach that the Bible is a sealed book to all but them:
Consider, too, the fact that Jehovah's organization alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or active force.... To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book. 
Jehovah God caused the Bible to be written in such a way that one needs to come in touch with His human channel before one can fully and accurately understand it.... No question about it. We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the scriptural guidance we need outside the "faithful and discreet slave" organization. 
In fact they have said several times that the Bible belongs to them, the "organization," not to the individual JW or anyone else. 
Since they teach one can not understand the Bible properly without the Watchtower Society's literature, they have frequently admonished individuals who are not of the "anointed" class who may try to understand the Bible on their own. They tell all "sheep-like" people not to "lean on their own understanding" or come up with what they call a "private interpretation" of Scripture. They are told to strictly adhere to whatever the Society puts forth as the latest "proper explanation" of Scripture, even if the individual firmly believes it is wrong. 
No human opinions
Why does the Watchtower Society object to individuals proclaiming "opinions" or "private interpretations" of Scripture? Are their opinions somehow better than all others? No. They have said, at least from about 1928 to 1958 that they didn't publish any human opinion! For example, Rutherford said this about the Watchtower:
The Watchtower is not the instrument of any man or set of men, nor is it published according to the whims of men. No man's opinion is expressed in The Watchtower. God feeds his own people. 
This belief was continued until 1958 at least where they claimed:
The Watchtower is written to upbuild and to bless.... It does not provide some man's opinion, because what is said is based on a Greater One's thought. An understanding of Jehovah's Word is a gift... 
Of course, the only ones who have this "gift" of understanding the Bible are the leaders of the JWs.
A major point to consider in looking at their old position on the "sheep and the goats" and "the generation of 1914," is the Society claimed to publish Jehovah's interpretation of Scripture, not human interpretations when they developed these doctrines. They claimed that no one could interpret the Bible. In fact, they said they din't interpret the Bible. Yet their publications are full of Biblical interpretations. Where do they get them then? Here is how they answered this from the late 1920s until the 1950s:
The small remnant of true followers of the Son of God have no interpretive powers of their own.... "no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation..." (2 Peter 1:20, 21) However, the faithful remnant of Christ's footstep followers are proclaiming God's message from His written Word. How did they get it? The remnant's having the message is made possible because God causes the prophecies which He inspired by His spirit to be fulfilled. Then God, by that same holy spirit or active force, opens the understanding of His spirit-begotten remnant to discern the fulfillment of such prophecies. Thus God by means of His spirit interprets His Word to His servants on the earth in this day. 
No individual student of God's Word reveals God's will or interprets His Word. (2 Pet. 1:20, 21) God interprets and teaches, through Christ the Chief Servant, who in turn uses the discreet slave as the visible channel, the visible theocratic organization. 
They claimed that they published Jehovah's interpretation of Scripture! A long article that addressed the issue of understanding and interpreting the Bible was published in the Watchtower of July 1, 1943. They said on p. 202 that "no individual or religious organization" is the interpreter of God's Word." Instead, they said, "The Supreme Court" [Jehovah God] was the only interpreter of the Bible. They said Jehovah has always used a "channel for making known his truth and interpretations." On the next page they identified the modern-day "channel" for God's interpretation of Scripture as being the "faithful and wise servant," the leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses. "However," they said:
This does not mean that the faithful remnant or society of Jehovah's anointed witnesses are an earthly tribunal of interpretation, delegated to interpret the Scriptures and its prophecies. No.... Christ Jesus.... merely uses the "servant" class to publish the interpretation after the Supreme Court by Christ Jesus reveals it... 
These were not isolated or off-handed remarks, but was their officially stated position for decades. Here are two more examples:
As Jehovah's mouthpiece Jesus interprets the prophetic Scriptures.... Jehovah's witnesses take the divine interpretation of His Word and are thereby fortified... 
Jehovah's Word is not of private human interpretation. He is his own interpreter.... Jehovah's visible organization under Christ is a channel for bringing the divine interpretation of his Word to his devoted people. 
These claims by the Society was best summarized in the following comments from a 1952 Watchtower:
Jehovah as the great Interpreter makes known the meaning of his revelations in his due time, and speculation by men cannot bring to light the true meaning of prophecy before time. Jehovah has provided a channel, the "faithful and discreet slave" class, who are given spiritual "food at the proper time", and this spiritual food includes among other things the understandings of prophecies in the course of their fulfillments. (Matt. 24:45, NW) Jehovah's witnesses themselves are not nor can they be interpreters of prophecies. But as fast as the "superior authorities" Jehovah and Christ Jesus reveal the interpretations through their provided channel that fast do God's people publish them... 
In short, Jehovah God reveals the "divine" interpretation of Scripture to the remnant of JWs and then these merely print God's interpretation as His "channel of communication." "Speculations by men" before the "due time" for Jehovah's interpretation given through His "channel" will never bring to light the "true meaning of Prophecy."
Angels of [New] Light
Rutherford said that everything he wrote was God's interpretation of Scripture and prophecy given to him by angels who transmitted the same into his mind:
... the remnant are instructed by the angels of the Lord. The remnant do not hear audible sounds, because such is not necessary. Jehovah has provided his own good way to convey thoughts to the minds of his anointed ones. 
In Vindication I Rutherford said about "cherubim, seraphim and angels" that "the Lord uses these" to put into their hands the "fiery message from his Word" the Bible "and which is to be used as directed" by these angels. Everything they published from "booklets, magazines, and books" were thus "from the Lord Jehovah" and not men and were "provided by him through Jesus Christ and his underofficers," the angels! Thus, "The interpretation of prophecy, therefore, is not from man but is from the Lord" he said. 
The separation of the "sheep and the goats" and the "generation of 1914" doctrines were developed by Rutherford through such angelic channeling. These doctrines were never presented to my knowledge as the mere "speculations" of men.
Dispite the fact that the Society has never claimed to be "inspired" by God, the above documented claims are essentially the same as their definitions through the years of the word "inspiration." For example, in 1964 they said the following about the inspired writing of the Bible:
... much more important are the supernatural revelations that come from Jehovah through his "only-begotten Son," the Logos, and through the angels, all by means of his holy spirit. It is in this way that Jehovah progressively reveals the truth.... these communications from Jehovah have been received supernaturally in the form of visions, dreams, word-for-word inspiration, or by the regulation of one's thoughts. 
The Society has never, to my knowledge, claimed to receive "progressive revelations" by means of dreams, visions, or "word-for-word inspiration." They have however claimed to receive supernatural revelations from God given to them through Jesus Christ and the angels, all by means of the holy spirit by the "regulation of one's thoughts." This article on progressive revelations also makes the claim that they are the modern channel for new, progressive revelations from God:
... Jehovah revealed many truths in previous generations.... The Kingdom's establishment [in 1914] was the signal for a tremendous increase in revealed truth to be dispensed to Jehovah's people on earth.... As Jehovah revealed his truths by means of the first-century Christian congregation so he does today by means of the present-day Christian congregation. Through this agency he is having carried out prophesying on an intensified and unparalleled scale. All this activity is not an accident. Jehovah is the one behind all of it. The abundance of spiritual food and the amazing details of Jehovah's purposes that have been revealed to Jehovah's anointed witnesses are clear evidence that they are the ones mentioned by Jesus when he foretold a "faithful and discreet slave" class that would be used to dispense God's progressive revelations in these last days. 
And yet they claim that they are not inspired! For example, Rutherford made the claim that what he wrote came from angels who transmitted Biblical interpretations into his mind supernaturally, yet also claimed that this did not mean that the Watchtower publications he penned were "inspired":
Jehovah has made the necessary arrangements within his organization to instruct his people, and all recognize that for some years The Watchtower has been the means of communicating information to God's people. That does not mean that those who prepare the manuscript for The Watchtower are inspired, but rather it means that the Lord through his angels sees to it that the information is given to his people in due time, and he brings to pass the events in fulfillment of his prophecy.... God feeds his people upon the "food convenient" for them, and gives it to them at the proper time. 
Isn't this a "distinction without a difference"? Is not this inspiration even by the Watchtower's definition? They have defined "inspiration" as "The quality or state of being moved by or produced under the direction of a spirit from a superhuman source."  I fail to see the difference. Rutherford claimed his writings were "produced under the direction of a spirit from a superhuman source." At least, that's what he claimed.
Despite these claimed sources for their literature, they now claim that their generation of 1914 prophecy and doctrine was simply their "speculations":
Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah's people have at times speculated about the time when the "great tribulation" would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914.... Is anything gained, then, by looking for dates or speculating about the literal lifetime of a "generation"? Far from it! 
They never said this while they were doing this "speculating"! This is their current approach to explaining their false prophecies-- it was simply their "speculations" and "mistakes." The problem with this is they are thereby implying that what they publish is not "food" from Jehovah God as they previously claimed, it is simply their human, fallible, mistake-prone OPINION. If this is true, why can't everyone form their own opinion and come to their own conclusions? If they want to be consistent in this, they must also drop their claims to spiritual authority in understanding the Bible. This is the problem with their interpretations being wrong while making grandiose claims. They can't have it both ways. If the Watchtower Society's Biblical interpretations did come from spiritual beings like angels as they claimed, since the interpretations were wrong the angels were lying spirits by definition, thus they were under demonic direction. If they say it was simply their "mistake" or "speculation," they are repudiating their previous claims of receiving "new light" from God. They are admitting, in effect, that they were simply publishing their (fleshly) interpretation all the while claiming to be specially enlightened by God! In either case, why should any "thinking person" pay attention to what they say anymore? As Rutherford said:
Those who are convinced that The Watchtower is publishing the opinion or expression of a man should not waste time looking at it at all, because a man's opinion proves nothing. 
References and notes:
1. The Watchtower, August 1, 1950, p. 231, ¶17. See also, The Watchtower, June 1, 1943, p. 166.
2. The Harp of God, 1921, p. 237. 1928 and later editions do not have this statement in them.
3. 1928 Yearbook of the International Bible Students, daily Texts and Comments, May 14. Emphasis in original. See further, 1943 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, Daily Texts and Comments, August 1. They still teach this doctrine today. See for example, The Watchtower, May 15, 1987, p. 31.
4. The Watchtower, September 1, 1930, p. 263, ¶23.
5. Informant, January, 1956, p. 1; The Watchtower, April 1, 1988. p. 31.
6. The Watchtower, June 15, 1957, p. 370, ¶ 6, 7.
7. The Watchtower, August 15, 1952, p. 501, ¶15.
8. The Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p. 402, ¶4.
9. The Watchtower, February 15, 1981, pp. 17, 19. See also, The Watchtower, December 1, 1990, p. 19, ¶ 13.
10. The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 587, ¶9.
11. The Watchtower, February 1, 1952, pp. 79-80, ¶11-12.
12. The Watchtower, November 1, 1931, p. 327. See further, Reconciliation, 1928, p. 6; Government, 1928, p. 5; The Watchtower, August 1, 1940, p. 230, ¶27.
13. The Watchtower, July 1, 1958, p. 406, ¶24.
14. Awake!, October 22, 1947, p. 24.
15. The Watchtower, February 1, 1952, p. 79, ¶10; 1953 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, Daily Texts and Comments, November 9.
16. The Watchtower, July 1, 1943, p. 203, ¶35-36. Emphasis in original. See also, 1944 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, Daily Texts and Comments, December 3.
17. The Watchtower, January 1, 1943, p. 9.
18. The Watchtower, July 15, 1950, p. 214.
19. The Watchtower, April 15, 1952, p. 253, ¶19; 1953 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, Daily Texts and Comments, Wednesday, March 25.
20. Rutherford, J. F., Preparation, 1933, p. 64; The Watchtower, August 15, 1933, pp. 247-8; The Watchtower, September 15, 1938, p. 286.
21. Rutherford, J. F., Vindication I, 1931, p. 120; The Watchtower, May 1, 1938, p. 143.
22. The Watchtower, June 15, 1964, p. 363, ¶13.
23. Ibid., p. 365, ¶20, 22.
24. J. F. Rutherford, Riches, 1936, p. 316.
25. Insight on the Scriptures, 1988, Vol. 1, p. 1202.
26. The Watchtower, Nov. 1, 1995, p. 17, ¶6, p. 19, ¶8.
27. The Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1942, p. 5, ¶9. This is my wife's favorite quote by the Society. She believes it is true and this is why she doesn't "waste any time" reading The Watchtower. I however do. The reason is not that I believe it cotains Jehovah's interpretation of Scripture, but is strictly academic -- I love to research the stuff, boring as it is at times to read.