Jehovah's Witnesses found in the April 1, 1972 Watchtower Magazine as a proof. They choose this because, in spite of the multitudinous evidence to the contrary, it is the only one they can find where it seems to say that Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves a "prophet."
But does the Watchtower Society really claim to be an inspired prophet, receiving information directly (and therefore perfectly) from God?
The Watchtower has said:
"We have not the gift of prophecy." - January 1883, page 425.
"Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible." - December 15, 1896, page 306.
"[the fact that some have Jehovah's spirit] does not mean those now serving as Jehovah's Witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this magazine, The Watchtower, are inspired and infallible and without mistakes." - May 15, 1947, page 157.
"The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic." - August 15, 1950, page 263.
"The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers. (2 Tim. 3:16) And so, at times, it has been necessary, as understanding became clearer, to correct views. (Prov. 4:18)" - February 15, 1981, page 19.
No, as the preface to every Watchtower magazine for the year 1972 (including, of course, the April 1, 1972 issue which had the article, "They Shall Know That a Prophet Was Among Them") says:
"No, `The Watchtower' is NO INSPIRED PROPHET, but it follows and explains a Book of prophecy ....— Which Book? The Sacred Bible of the Holy Scriptures, written by inspiration in the name of the creator of heaven and earth, the only living and true God."
C. T. Russell wrote in an October 1, 1907 WT article:
"A dear Brother inquires, Can we feel absolutely sure that the Chronology set forth in the Dawn-Studies is correct? - That the harvest began in 1874 and will end in A.D. 1914....?"
"We answer," Russell continues, "as we have frequently done before in the Dawns and Towers and orally and by letter, that we have never claimed that they were knowledge, nor based upon indisputable evidence, facts, knowledge; our claim has always been that they are based on faith. We have set forth the evidence as plainly as possible and stated the conclusions of faith we draw from them....
"Many have examined these evidences and have accepted them; others equally bright do not endorse them....
"We neither urge nor insist upon our views as infallible, nor do we smite or abuse those who disagree; but regard as `brethren' all sanctified believers in the precious blood.
"On the contrary, it is those who differ who smite us and speak evil of us .... They are our critics who always claim the infallibility. We go humbly onward following the Apostle's example and words, `We believe and therefore speak,' whether others hear or forbear to hear. Is not this in accord with the Spirit of Christ? ....
"But some of those who come to a trifling point on which they disagree seem to imagine that the entire harvest work must be overthrown, or at least stopped, until they get their little jot or tittle satisfactorily adjusted." ....
"If, therefore, dearly beloved, it should turn that our chronology is all wrong, we may conclude that with it we have had much advantage everyway. If the attainment of our glorious hopes and present joys in the Lord should cost us such disappointment as our friends fear, we should rejoice and count it cheap!"
And in the Jan. 1, 1911 WT, Russell wrote:
"Suppose that our chronological calculations (never set forth as infallible) should prove to be fallible and in error. Our conclusion would merely be that the error could not be very great ....
"If, then, it should prove eventually that the crisis of earthly government will not be reached by the end of 1914, should we not be very faithful anyway, and remember that had it not been for that alarm clock which helped awaken us from the worldly stupor, we might not have been sufficiently awake to appreciate and enjoy the wonderful spiritual blessings which daily crown our lives?"
Something Other Than an Inspired Prophet Was Meant by the Word "Prophet"
Notice how this Jan. 1, 1971 Watchtower magazine explains it, for example.
"Jehovah's people today .... are having a share in the fulfillment of the prophecy, `your sons and your daughters will certainly prophesy.' (Joel 2:28) Not that these prophesy in the sense of foretelling events under inspiration, but rather in that they are making public proclamation of the inspired dreams and visions long ago recorded. They prophesy in the sense of being God's spokesmen. That this is one of the meanings of `prophesy' is apparent from the fact that Jehovah God appointed Aaron to be prophet to his brother Moses. Aaron did not foretell things to Moses, but he served as Moses' spokesman or mouthpiece - Ex. 7:1. - p. 32. (Compare WT, Oct. 1, 1961, p. 593.)"
Watchtower Society's Use of Quotation Marks Show Different Meaning For the Word "Prophet"
But to make it even clearer and less liable to misunderstanding, The Watchtower Society wrote the word in such a manner in that 1 April 1972 WT article that everyone should have known that "prophet" was being used in a special sense.
You see, quotation marks have a number of uses. There are two times when quotation marks are used around a single word (such as "prophet"). One is when you are talking about it as a word. For example: The word "is" was used as a verb in the last sentence. Or: we have discussed the fundamental meaning of the word "prophet." Another use for quotation marks around a single word is when the writer is indicating that he is using that word in a special sense, different from how the reader might ordinarily understand it.
The Handbook of Effective Writing, Moore, 1966, p.145, explains it:
"Double quotation marks are used to enclose ... a word used in an unusual way."
And The Guide and Handbook for Writing, Griggs-Webster, 1964, p. 487, says:
"Use quotation marks to indicate a word used in a different sense than someone else has used it."
For example, the Watchtower Society has also taught the importance of Christian women being "daughters" of Sarah. - p. 264, Life Everlasting in the Freedom of the Sons of God (Also see p. 162: "bride," "wife," "rock-mass"). Persons with no regard for truth (ravening wolves in sheep's clothing) could take such statements and insist that the Watchtower Society teaches that you must be a physical Jew (or at least a literal physical descendant of Sarah) in order to be a Christian woman. This is obviously untrue and the use of quotation marks around "daughters" helps show that the Watchtower Society intended a figurative meaning: that Christian women are to be similar to Sarah only in certain respects! (1 Peter 3:6)
In the 1 April 1972 Watchtower article in question the word "prophet" was enclosed with quotation marks at least 12 different times when the word was applied to the Watchtower Society. E.g.,
"He had a "prophet" to warn them. This "prophet" was not one man, but was a body of men and women.... Today they are known as Jehovah's Christian witnesses." - p. 197.
The quotation marks alone tell the reader that "prophet" as applied to Jehovah's Witnesses in that article is not to be understood as an inspired Biblical prophet but in a different sense.
It is intellectually (and morally) very dishonest to accuse the Watchtower Society of being a false prophet in the complete Biblical sense of an inspired prophet (including inspired prediction of future events) if the accuser is aware of that society's teaching on the subject (or even understands the common meanings of quotation mark use).
The Watchtower Society Has Always Taught That the Miraculous Gift of Prophesying to Foretell Future Events Ended With the Death of the Last Apostle
The Watchtower Society has also taught (from the beginning, I believe) that the miraculous gifts of the spirit (including the gift of inspired prophecy) were no longer given to earthly men after the death of the last Apostle.
Examine these statements found in the Aid book and a 1971 Watchtower magazine:
"Evidently, with the death of the apostles, the transmittal of the gifts of the Spirit ended, and the miraculous gifts of the spirit ceased altogether as those having received these gifts passed off the earthly scene." - - - - "Prophesying was a greater gift than speaking in tongues .... the particular ones having the miraculous gift of prophesying were able to foretell future events, as did Agabus." - Aid, pp. 655, 656.
1971 Watchtower, pp. 502, 503, 504: Speaking of the first century miraculous gifts of the spirit -
"The gift of `prophesying' included, besides speaking the magnificent things of God, the inspired ability to speak accurately of things to come. This inspired foretelling of events seems to have been generally limited, however, to things that affected the congregation at that time, enabling it to meet the foreseen situation, as in the case of the famine in the time of Emperor Claudius, foretold by the Christian prophet Agabus." - - - - "Are the miraculous gifts of the spirit necessary for the congregation to carry on its work and to maintain its cleanness, uprightness and unity? No, such gifts are not needed...." (p. 503) - - - - "Inspired prophesying today would be superfluous. The prophecies written in the Bible being complete as a guide to the congregation today, nothing needs to be added. Accordingly, since God's Word provides a perfect guide, there is no need to have the gift of discernment of prophecies in a miraculous sense, for there are no inspired prophets now authorized by God." (p. 504)
In other words, the Watchtower Society believes there ceased to be miraculous gifts bestowed when the "Church" reached "maturity" around 100 A.D. The "Church" was firmly established by this time and all the inspired scriptures had already been written and transmitted to the congregations. (1 Cor. 13:2, 8-11)
Others have taught this very same belief. Even W. E. Vine, "recognized as one of the world's foremost [NT] Greek scholars" and a favorite of many in orthodox Christendom, affirms the following quotation: "With the completion of the canon of Scripture prophecy apparently passed away, 1 Cor. 13:8, 9." - p. 893, Vine.
The Society has always taught this understanding. Even Russell taught it in his WT articles (e.g., WT Sept. 15, 1911). Since they have always believed that no Christian for the past 1800 years at least has been able to predict future events infallibly by direct inspiration, how could anyone honestly accuse them of being false prophets in that sense?
For more, see:
PROPHET (Insight-2 pp. 694-698; Watchtower Online Library)
The Greek pro·phe′tes literally means “a speaker out [Gr., pro, “before” or “in front of,” and phe·mi′, “say”]” and thus describes a proclaimer, one who makes known messages attributed to a divine source. (Compare Tit 1:12.) Though this includes the thought of a predictor of the future, the fundamental meaning of the word is NOT that of prediction. (Compare Jg 6:7-10.)
Have Jehovah's Witnesses ever claimed to be an INSPIRED prophet? (Search For Bible Truths)
Does the Watchtower Society really claim to be an inspired prophet? (Jehovah's Witnesses Questions and Answers)
The Problem with "False Prophecy" Polemics (Bible Translation and Study)
The Churches, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Question of Unfulfilled Prophetic Expectations (Jehovah's Witnesses United)
Are Jehovah's Witnesses False Prophets? (From God's Word)
Dates (1914; 1975) (Search For Bible Truths)
'False Prophet' Claim and Jerusalem 607 B.C.E. (Search For Bible Truths)
The Destruction of Jerusalem - 607 B.C.? (Search For Bible Truths)
Are Jehovah's Witnesses False Prophets? (From God's Word)
Why so many False Alarms? (Pastor Russell)
Has The Watchtower Society Ever Claimed to be Infallible? (Search For Bible Truths)
Was Nathan a False Prophet? (Jehovah's Witnesses Stand Firm)