Covers of the Public (center), Study (left) and Simplified (right) editions of The Watchtower in different languages.
|Circulation||Public Edition 59 million bimonthly
Study Edition 15 million monthly
|Publisher||Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania|
|First issue||July 1879|
|Based in||United States|
The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom is an illustrated religious magazine, published monthly in 254 languages by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Along with its companion magazine, Awake!, Jehovah's Witnesses distribute The Watchtower—Public Edition in their door-to-door ministry.
The Watchtower—Public Edition is the most widely circulated magazine in the world, with an average print run of approximately 59 million copies bimonthly, as of 2016. The Watchtower—Study Edition is used at congregation meetings, with an average monthly print run of around 15 million.
The publication was started by Charles Taze Russell on July 1, 1879 under the title Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. According to its first issue, the magazine's purpose was to draw attention to Russell's belief that people of the time were "living 'in the last days' 'the day of the Lord'—'the end' of the Gospel age," and that "the dawn of the 'new' age, are facts not only discernible by the close student of the Word, led by the spirit, but the outward signs recognizable by the world bear the same testimony."
In 1908 the name was changed to The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. In 1920, the Watch Tower Society reprinted all issues from 1879–1919 in seven volumes, known as the Watchtower Reprints, which have since been reprinted by various Bible Student groups. On 15 October 1931, the magazine was renamed The Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence; in January 1939, The Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Kingdom; from March 1939 until the present, its full name has been The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom.
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The stated purpose of The Watchtower is to draw attention to the kingdom of God, which Jehovah's Witnesses believe is a real government that will soon replace all earthly governments. According to the magazine's mission statement:
THIS MAGAZINE, The Watchtower, honors Jehovah God, the Ruler of the universe. It comforts people with the good news that God's heavenly Kingdom will soon end all wickedness and transform the earth into a paradise. It promotes faith in Jesus Christ, who died so that we might gain everlasting life and who is now ruling as King of God's Kingdom. This magazine has been published continuously since 1879 and is nonpolitical. It adheres to the Bible as its authority.
The Watchtower is the primary means of disseminating Jehovah's Witness beliefs, and includes articles relating to biblical prophecies, Christian conduct and morals, and the history of religion and the Bible.
Previously, each issue of the Watchtower contained study articles and other regular features and was distributed to the general public. In 2008, content was divided into a Public Edition distributed to non-Witnesses and a Study Edition, which contains "pointed information prepared especially for Jehovah's Witnesses". The latter is generally distributed only to members but is made available to members of the public attending the study of The Watchtower at congregation meetings.
The Public Edition of The Watchtower contains biblical articles relating to a theme shown on the cover. In January 2013, The Watchtower—Public Edition was reduced from 32 to 16 pages, with greater focus on the official Jehovah's Witnesses website. As of the January 2016 issue, the Public Edition is published every two months.
The Study Edition contains study articles written for the Watchtower Study, as well as other intra-organizational information directed to current and prospective members.
Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide discuss the same article each week at the Watchtower Study. At this meeting, each paragraph is read aloud by a designated reader, after which the conductor asks the question printed at the bottom of the page for that paragraph; members of the congregation are then called upon to answer the questions based on the printed information. They are encouraged to put the information in their own words and to "draw attention to scripture application, supporting arguments, or practical application of the material."
The Writing Committee of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses oversees the research, editing, and development of the articles. The articles are mostly submitted by writing committees from worldwide branch offices, which are then checked by editors and translated into the languages of publication; all involved are volunteers. Women are permitted to write articles that are not of a doctrinal nature. The names of the authors (except in first-person life stories), and other publishing staff are not provided. Articles are produced under the authority and supervision of the Governing Body, and are considered the official teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The magazine is printed in nineteen countries; about 25% of the total is printed at one of the organization's printeries in Georgetown, Ontario, Canada.
As of January 2016, each issue of the Public Edition has an average print run of approximately 59 million copies—the highest magazine circulation in the world. The monthly print run of the Study Edition is not stated in the English edition; the Russian edition states a print run of 15,252,000.
The magazine is distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses in the course of their house-to-house ministry. They are also distributed by approaching people in public places, given informally to acquaintances and professionals, or left as reading material in places such as bus terminals and laundromats.
In addition to printed editions, The Watchtower has been published in other forms. Since 1997, Jehovah's Witnesses' official web sites have carried articles formatted for the Internet, and began hosting digital downloads in 2008. Specific accessibility efforts include:
- Braille: In 1976, The Watchtower became available in Grade II English Braille.
- Audio: In 1988, articles from The Watchtower were recorded on audio cassette, and later on audio CD; audio cassettes are no longer produced. From 2004 until 2009, The Watchtower was released on CD in MP3 format; digital files are now available for download in MP3 and AAC/M4B formats. As of September 2013, digital files for The Watchtower—Simplified Edition are also available for download in these formats.
- Sign language: Since 2004 The Watchtower has been made available monthly in American Sign Language on DVD, and has since been made available in more than 20 sign languages.
- Simplified Edition: In July 2011, the The Watchtower—Study Edition was published in simplified English on a trial basis. From the January 2013 issue, the Simplified Edition is also available in other languages.
- Digital formats. As of 2010, study articles from The Watchtower—Study Edition have been made available as PDF files. PDF files of the public edition of The Watchtower have been available for download since August 1, 2010, and the complete study edition is available as of the February 15, 2011 issue. It has since been made available in various other digital formats, including MOBI and Rich Text Format.
Until March 1990, The Watchtower was available for a small charge that varied over time and in different countries. For example, in the United States, the suggested donation per issue was $0.05 in 1950, gradually increasing to $0.25 in 1989. On January 17, 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Jimmy Swaggart that sales of religious literature were subject to taxation, which introduced ambiguity into the formerly tax-free practice of suggesting a specific amount in exchange for the magazines. The Watch Tower Society supported Swaggart in the case, arguing that the perceived sale of religious literature should be exempt from taxation.
From March 1, 1990, the journals were made available at no cost, on a freewill donation basis in the United States, with the stated purpose of simplifying their Bible educational work and distinguishing themselves from those who commercialize religion. An article in May 1990 issue of Our Kingdom Ministry—a newsletter provided to members—stated that "there are growing pressures against all religious elements" and went on to say that their main concern was to move ahead in the worldwide preaching work, "without hindrance."
The sale of Jehovah's Witnesses' literature was gradually phased out in other countries, and The Watchtower has been distributed free of charge worldwide since January 2000, its printing being funded by voluntary donations from Jehovah's Witnesses and members of the public.
- Jehovah's Witnesses publications
- List of Watch Tower Society publications
- List of magazines by circulation
- "The Watchtower". The Watchtower: 2. January 2016.
The Watchtower ... is published monthly with an additional issue published in January, March, May, July, September, and November
- "The New Study Edition of The Watchtower". The Watchtower. January 15, 2008.
- Holden, A. (2002). Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement. Routledge. p. 67.
- "The Watchtower" (PDF). Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. January 1, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
- Meares, Joel (May 13, 2010). "The Most Widely Read Magazine in the World". The New York Review of Magazines (Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism). Archived from the original on October 9, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
- The Watchtower Study Edition, January, 2016, page 2 (russian)
- Watch Tower, July 1, 1879
- Watch Tower Publications, Watchtower Publications Index, 2008
- "Contents page". The Watchtower: 2. January 1, 2013.
- Our Kingdom Ministry, July 2007, p. 1 Exciting Changes for The Watchtower!
- "You Are Warmly Invited", The Watchtower, February 1, 2009, page 21, "The Watchtower Study begins with a song. The information discussed and the questions posed by the conductor appear in the study edition of this magazine. You may obtain a copy of the study edition from one of Jehovah's Witnesses."
- "Jehovah's Witnesses—Featured Items". Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- "Overseers Taking the Lead—The Watchtower Study Conductor". Our Kingdom Ministry: 8. December 1998.
- ""Do Not Tire Out"". The Watchtower: 30. April 15, 2013.
- "Jehovah’s Witnesses—1994 Yearbook Report", 1994 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 29, "The Watchtower is regularly printed in 116 languages. During the past year, many of the translation teams that care for languages used in the magazines were being strengthened, and those that are working on another 70 languages were being trained. Included among these are languages used in Eastern Europe, southern Asia, and Africa, as well as among Indian tribes in South America, and by peoples on the Pacific islands. Developing such teams involves locating, training, and equipping translators, checkers, and proofreaders. All of these must be dedicated Christians, volunteers who are also able to make themselves available for such work."
- Branch Organization Manual. Watch Tower Society. pp. 24–1.
Those used as writers must be dedicated, baptized brothers or sisters in good standing with their local congregations and who have writing ability. ... Some articles will deal with spiritual matters, and these should be written by brothers.
- The Watchtower, March 1, 1987, page 15,
"Each article in both The Watchtower and Awake! and every page, including the artwork, is scrutinized by selected members of the Governing Body before it is printed."
- The Watchtower, November 1, 2005, page 27
- "Question Box", Our Kingdom Ministry, March 1988, page 4, "Perhaps some back issues of the magazines could be distributed free when visiting nursing homes and hospitals. They could be left at Laundromats or in the lobbies of residential buildings where our work is restricted. However, good judgment should be exercised as to how many and how often magazines are left at one place. ... No literature of any kind should be left in mailboxes"
- "Good News on the Internet", Our Kingdom Ministry, November 1997, page 3, "Our Internet Web site has the address http://www.watchtower.org and contains a selection of tracts, brochures, and Watchtower and Awake! articles." (In September 2012, the official website changed to http://www.jw.org.)
- "Announcements", Our Kingdom Ministry, June 2008, page 3, "Since January 2008, audio files of The Watchtower and Awake! in English and Spanish have been made available at the Web site www.jw.org.".
- ws_E_20110715 - Retrieved 2011-04-15. "This new edition will be tried for one year, and if it is helpful, it will continue to be printed." (Introduction letter, p. 3.)
- Global News - Simplifying The Watchtower, August, 15, 2012
- "Publication details". The Watchtower: 4. May 15, 1950.
- "Announcements". Our Kingdom Ministry: 2. October 1989.
- Swaggart Ministries v. California Board of Equalization, 493 U.S. 378 (1990)
- Edmond C. Gruss (2003). The Four Presidents of the Watch Tower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses). Xulon Press. pp. 72–73.
- "Use Our Literature Wisely". Our Kingdom Ministry: 7. May 1990.
At the end of February 1990, it was explained that magazines and literature will be provided to publishers and to the interested public on a complete donation basis, that is, without asking or suggesting that a specific contribution be made as a precondition to receiving an item.
- 2001 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. p. 18.
Another factor in reaching more people with the good news has been the simplified literature distribution arrangement. ... The voluntary donation arrangement is explained to people, but no charge is made for the literature. As of January 2000, that arrangement was extended to all lands where it was not already in operation.