Aid to Bible Understanding

"Aid to Bible Understanding" was the first doctrinal and biblical encyclopedia of Jehovah's Witnesses. The book, now out of print, was published in part in 1969, and in full in 1971 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. It was superseded in 1988 by the two-volume work "Insight on the Scriptures". It is also referred to as the "Aid Book".


The "Aid Book" cross-references articles by biblical subject. In this sense, the work is more like a concordance than encyclopedia. The first volume, covering articles beginning with A-D and part of E, was released on July 9, 1969 at the "Peace on Earth" International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The work has 1,696 pages, contains color maps on its end sheets and some black and white illustrations within with the text, but is not indexed.


The writing of and research for "Aid Book" lead to different interpretations of Bible verses and seems to have been a catalyst for Jehovah's Witnesses to adjust doctrines after its publishing. For example, in the mid 1970's the Watchtower Society delegated oversight of congregations and branch offices to committees of elders. (See .) The commentary on the subjects "Older Man" and "Overseer" in the 1971 publishing of this book had called into question the use of individual elders as overseers, or single points of authority within the religion's organizational structure. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=23-25]

Controversy also arose regarding the "Aid Book" as high-profile members of the religion who contributed to its articles eventually left the organization. (See Raymond Franz.) Officially, the encyclopedia has an anonymous author, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, yet the organization admits over "250 researchers ... contributed to the work". (Aid 5). Raymond Franz, a former member of Jehovah's Witnesses, claimed to be one of these researchers and says the vast majority of the contributions submitted could not be used because of credibility or superficiality. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=20] Instead, Franz says that Nathan H. Knorr appointed Lyman Swingle (later part of the Governing Body), Edward Dunlap of the Gilead school staff, along with Franz in the Writing Department, as the primary writers. Frederick W. Franz, the organization's vice president, advised these writers when scholarly questions arose, or referred them to secular Bible commentaries held by the world headquarters' library. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=21-23]


* Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. "Aid to Bible Understanding". Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.: New York, 1971.

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