I just received the third edition of Greg Stafford’s book Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics (Murietta, CA: Elihu Books, 2009). For those who are not familiar with Stafford, he is an unusually sophisticated Jehovah’s Witness who debated both me and James White earlier in the decade. The first edition of the book, published in 1998, ran 393 pages and was easily the best defense of Jehovah’s Witness theology ever published. (Page lengths cited here include front and back matter.) The second edition in 2000 was 654 pages in length and cemented Stafford’s reputation as the leading apologist for the Jehovah’s Witness religion. This third edition, which Stafford had announced was due out at least a couple of years ago, is 676 pages long.
Stafford’s first chapter, on the name Jehovah, has grown from 54 pages in the second edition to 126 pages in the third. This represents by far the most sizable addition to the book. He has added about 19 pages defending Christ’s real (though temporal) preexistence against the Unitarian position of Anthony Buzzard. Stafford’s already lengthy treatment of John’s “I am” sayings of Jesus now includes a 13-page discussion of the early interpretation of John 8:58. Perhaps of most interest to some is Stafford’s addition of a 50-page chapter that critiques a Reformed view of human will and predestination. Finally, Stafford’s chapter defending the Watchtower’s position on blood transfusions has been replaced with a chapter that, in part, critiques that position. The rest of the chapter urges a more tolerant approach on various issues of morality, notably “sexual orientation” (homosexuality), regarding which Stafford seems, well, ambivalent. In all, there are almost 200 pages of new material.
In order to add all of this new material to the third edition, Stafford has dropped almost as much material from the second edition. Gone entirely is the second edition’s chapter 3, a 57-page chapter rebutting Trinitarian proof texts for the deity of Christ (Zech. 12:10; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; Heb. 1:10-12; John 12:41; and the “Alpha and Omega” texts), as well as a 40-page excursus on Sharp’s rule. Gone also are some 13 pages defending the inferiority of Christ to the Father from various texts (John 14:28; 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28; Mark 13:32/Matt. 24:36; 1 Cor. 8:4-6). Stafford has also dropped all of his earlier appendices, which discussed Luke 23:43, defended Frederick W. Franz, defended the Watchtower’s citations of spiritist Johannes Greber on John 1:1, and defended the NWT rendering of John 14:14. In short, Stafford deemphasizes Christology in the third edition in order to give attention to a wider range of topics without making the book prohibitively long. According to his Introduction to the third edition, he will eventually reprint this omitted material elsewhere.
One apparent reason for the delay in the appearance of the third edition is that Stafford broke ties with the Watchtower Society a few years after the publication of the second edition. Stafford started his own fellowship, the Christian Witnesses of Jah, as a haven for disaffected Jehovah’s Witnesses who do not accept some of its nonbiblical restrictions (e.g., with regard to blood transfusions). Ironically, this means that most Jehovah’s Witnesses will not feel at liberty to read Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended.
From time to time, I will post some additional comments on Stafford’s book. I feel something of a responsibility to do so, because I am the number one target in his book. In fact, in a number of places in the third edition Stafford cites Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kregel, 2007), which I co-authored with Ed Komoszewski. Stay tuned.