The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) has been known to find quotes from questionable sources if such sources support their teachings. One such example was the known spiritist, Johannes Greber. This article, Tracing All Things With Accuracy will focus on the author, Daniel P. Mannix.
Who is Daniel P. Mannix?
The following quote about Daniel Mannix is from Wikipedia:
Daniel Pratt Mannix IV (Bacton Hill, Pennsylvania, October 27, 1911 – Malvern, Pennsylvania, January 29, 1997) was an American author, journalist, photographer, sideshow performer, stage magician, animal trainer, and filmmaker. His best-known works are the 1958 book Those About to Die, which remained in continuous print for three decades, and the 1967 novel The Fox and the Hound which in 1981 was adapted into an animated film by Walt Disney Productions.
Mannix covered a variety of subject matter as an author. His books ranged from fictional animal stories for children, the natural history of animals, and adventurous accounts about hunting big game to sensational adult non-fiction topics such as a biography of the occultist Aleister Crowley, sympathetic accounts of carnival performers and sideshow freaks, and works describing, among other things, the Hellfire Club, the Atlantic slave trade, the history of torture, and the Roman games. In 1983, he edited The Old Navy: The Glorious Heritage of the U.S. Navy, Recounted through the Journals of an American Patriot by Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix, 3rd, his father’s posthumously published autobiographical account of his life and naval career from the Spanish-American War of 1898 until his retirement in 1928.
Below are 4 of 24 reviews taken from Amazon.com regarding his book, Those About To Die:
“Along the way, we learn about the engineering of the Circus Maximus, the training of the gladiators, the orgiastic response of both plebs and patricians in the audience, and even the horrific cruelty inherent in such a scene.”
“A uncensured exploration of what likely took place in the circuses of ancient Rome. Filled with all the bloodshed, sadism, torture, sex and beastiality that Mannix could reasonably document.”
“By ‘incredible,’ I really do mean ‘unbelievable’ details of Roman excesses, not just in the killing arena, but in raising and eating rare foods: hummingbird tongues, fish that changed colors as they were boiled alive, unborn calves and other animals cooked inside their mothers, and on and on.
“In the arena, there were specialists in animal as well as human destruction called ‘bestiarii’ who could kill a lion with their bare hands.
“The Roman Colosseum arena could be flooded in minutes, not only for mock sea battles, but for imaginary paradise islands populated by luscious women and handsome men singers and musicians–who were fed to crocodiles to the delight of the crowd.”
“Unfortunately, I am not a historian of Ancient Rome but this unforgettable book hammers away at me to try to determine its accuracy. If the book is even 50% accurate, historians have missed the boat completely on Ancient Rome. According to author, Daniel P. Mannix, this is a history of the games. These games commenced with the almost innocent, annual competitive, athletic rituals held at the Circus Maximus. They ended in the development and unfortunate daily operation of some kind of blood lust theater, including the construction and operation of the Flavian Circus, today known as the Coliseum of Rome, with gladiators, animals, bestial sex and other extreme perversions in almost every municipality of the Roman Empire.”
Reading those reviews, it’s unlikely that Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever read such a book. Not only would many Jehovah’s Witnesses not read such a book, many non-Jehovah’s Witnesses would also avoid reading it as it would adversely affect their consciences. Why? Because it is a very graphic book about the horrendous activities that took place in the Roman Coliseum.
Watchtower and “Those About To Die”
Performing a search of “Mannix” within the 2014 Watchtower CD-ROM will result in 13 occurrences where the Watchtower quotes Daniel P Mannix’ book, Those About To Die. They include:
- The Watchtower, 1968, June 1, p.351-352, paragraph 8.
- Awake, 1972, December 8, p.18-23, paragraph 20.
- The Watchtower, 1975, August 15, p.493-498, paragraph 20.
- Awake, 1975, December 8, p.3-4, paragraph 6.
- Awake, 1979, December 22, p., Under the Subheading “Is all disco bad?” Mannix is mentioned, but I doubt it is referring to the author. I just thought it was interesting to see how much things change over time in the organization, even in 35 years.
- The Watchtower, 1983, May 1, p.12-17, paragraph 8.
- Jehovah Witnesses and Education, 1983, under the chapter “Flag salute, anthems, and voting.”
- Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, 1988, p.1195-1196 (Incense)
- Reasoning on the Scriptures, 1989, p.269-276 (Neutrality)
- The Watchtower, 1993, January 15, p.25-30, paragraph 21.
- The Watchtower, 2002, September 15, p.21-25, paragraph 8.
- Learn from the Great Teacher, 2003, p.146.
- The Watchtower, 2013, January 15, p.7-11, paragraph 16.
In the 2011 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 9-13, subheading Tracing All Things With Accuracy. It reads:
Jesus said that the faithful slave would be discreet in giving the domestics “their food at the proper time.” Christ thus indicated that those who dispense this “food” would be conscientious, prudent, and discerning in providing spiritual food for the household of faith.—Matt. 24:45-47.
In our time, Christ’s anointed brothers use the Writing Department in Brooklyn, New York, to provide spiritual information in the form of magazines, brochures, books, and other printed and electronic material. This spiritual food, like physical food, has to be well prepared. Even Bible writers, who were directed by holy spirit, made sure that they recorded information that was thoroughly researched and accurate. Luke, for example, spoke to many eyewitnesses and “traced all things from the start with accuracy.”—Luke 1:1-4.
The Writing Department follows the pattern of ‘tracing all things with accuracy.’ But where can reliable information be found? While the Internet is a convenient and quick source of vast amounts of information, our researchers do not rely on blogs or poorly documented Web entries written by unidentified or unqualified persons. For example, Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, warns that some articles on its own site “contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism,” adding that “users need to be aware of this.” Thus, the Writing Department looks to standard reference works, articles written by recognized experts, and books produced by respected publishers.
The Writing Department itself has a comprehensive library with thousands of books. Additionally, our researchers make use of nearby public and academic libraries. They can also obtain specialized material from other sources by means of interlibrary loans. One of the large university libraries that our researchers use has some five million books, 58,000 periodicals, 5.4 million microforms, and thousands of electronic databases. The Writing Department also maintains a large archive of clippings, experiences, and historical information that is constantly being updated with material from local sources as well as from our branch offices around the world.
Of course, it is as Ecclesiastes 12:12 reminds us: “To the making of many books there is no end.” Even reputable sources may contain false information. So how do we check for quality, accuracy, and reliability?
Take, for example, the following statement in the brochure Was Life Created? about spider silk being one of the strongest materials on earth: “If enlarged to the size of a football field, a web of dragline silk 0.4 inch thick with strands 1.6 inches apart could stop a jumbo jet in flight!” Although the source for this statement was a reputable science magazine, it was not the original source, and the original source was ambiguous. Therefore, it became necessary to contact the researcher who made the original statement and check how he reached this conclusion. Our researchers also had to find the formula and the information needed to calculate for themselves what impact a jumbo jet might have on a spiderweb the size of a football field. Many hours of research and meticulous calculations eventually confirmed the accuracy of this astounding piece of information.
At times, though, even a seemingly reputable source may fail to corroborate details adequately. For example: Gandhi has been quoted as saying at his ashram (religious retreat) to Lord Irwin: “When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.” However, a thorough investigation of this statement revealed that there is no evidence that Lord Irwin ever visited Gandhi at his ashram, raising unanswered questions about where, when, and whether Gandhi made this statement. Hence, our publications do not use this particular quote anymore.
Or you may have read about the incident involving Sir Isaac Newton and a model of the solar system. Reportedly, a visiting atheist asked: “Who made it?” When Newton answered, “Nobody!” the atheist replied, “You must think I am a fool!” Newton is then said to have told the atheist that his puny imitation of the much grander solar system proves that there has to be a designer or maker. As appealing as this account may be, historical sources, as well as Newton scholars and biographers, cannot provide evidence that this conversation really occurred. Interestingly, the earliest references to this incident appeared in the early 1800’s using, not Newton’s name, but the name of German scholar Athanasius Kircher. Consequently, our Writing Department no longer uses this account in our publications.
Sometimes even minor statements require additional research to confirm their accuracy. For instance, a brother may say in his life story that he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1915. But Czechoslovakia did not come into existence until 1918. So, where was he born? Settling the question might require examining old maps or historical records.
Then, too, a brother may state in his experience that he was baptized in San Francisco on a specific date. Careful scrutiny, however, might reveal that there was no convention or assembly on that date in that city. How can such a discrepancy be reconciled? Individual memories can at times be fragile. While the brother would probably not get confused about the place of his baptism, he might not accurately recall the date of the event. It is usually possible to confirm the accuracy of details by cross-checking various sources of information.
In summary, the Writing Department insists on using only material that is accurate and truthful, even regarding seemingly insignificant details. As a result, “the faithful and discreet slave” can consistently supply spiritual food that brings honor to “the God of truth,” Jehovah.—Ps. 31:5.
Text underlined is ours and is used for emphasis. Text in italics is also ours and is used to highlight Watchtower’s hypocrisy.
This article is meant to assure Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Writing Department goes above and beyond to make sure what they print is thoroughly researched and true. They mention that they do not rely on poorly documented web entries because, as they say, “they are written by unidentified or unqualified persons”. They provide Wikipedia as an example because it states that it can “contain significant misinformation.” The article goes on to provide examples that are clearly designed to reassure the reader that the WTBTS performs thorough research on all their articles. You’re sure to notice the irony. The Watchtower’s own writers are unidentified, thus how is one to know they are qualified!? Indeed, all one needs to do is read Truncating Singh on this website to prove that Watchtower presents its own misinformation and if they are thoroughly researching their articles, then they are knowingly twisting the truth to suit their argument. A twisting of truth is a lie.
Are the Watchtower’s Claims True?
Does WTBTS use recognized experts, respected publishers, standard reference works? It’s impossible to know when their writers are unidentified! So rather, let’s look at the evidence to determine if the WTBTS practices what it preaches.
Why would WTBTS quote from such a graphic, sadistic, and blood-filled book as Those About To Die?
There is the rebuttal that the WTBTS refers many times to the Holocaust. This was as gruesome. or even more so, than the Roman Games. However, the Holocaust references come from documented history, taken from recognized experts, respected publishers, and standard reference works. They are not quotes from a book by a writer who also wrote a “biography of the occultist Aleister Crowley” and who wrote “sympathetic accounts of carnival performers and sideshow freaks”.
Would anyone consider the book Those About To Die historical, academic, or encyclopedic?
Although the book is a work of non-fiction, it’s difficult to ascertain its reliability as Daniel P Mannix was an author, not a historian. Regarding the standards that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to adhere to, this man’s character is definitely questionable. This includes his reliability as a respected expert. One must also consider that he wrote a biography on an occultist.
From 1968 to 2002, the Watchtower only quoted Daniel P Mannix in publications that children would be unlikely to read. These include The Watchtower, Awake and other brochures and books designed for a mature audience. Incidentally, in those references, he is never referred to as a historian. However, in 2003, the Watchtower quoted Mannix in their children’s book Learn From The Great Teacher. In there it reads, on page 146:
We can learn a lesson from what happened back then. Even today men set up images, or idols, for worship. The Encyclopedia Americana says: “The flag, like the cross, is sacred.” Images can be made of wood, stone, metal, or cloth. Early disciples of Jesus would not do an act of worship to the Roman emperor, which the historian Daniel P. Mannix said could be compared with “refusing to salute the flag or repeat the oath of allegiance.”
Text underlined is ours.
Notice that in a children’s book, Daniel P Mannix is referred to as a historian. This is a lie. Mannix was not a historian. He was simply an author who wrote a book of non-fiction. Are children so precocious that they would think to verify the authenticity of the Watchtower’s comments? You decide.
Are the WTBTS tracing all things with accuracy as they claim?
When quoting Daniel P. Mannix, the Watchtower would refer to the ONE statement:
Christians refused to . . . sacrifice to the emperor’s genius—roughly equivalent today to refusing to salute the flag or repeat the oath of allegiance. . . . Very few of the Christians recanted, although an altar with a fire burning on it was generally kept in the arena for their convenience. All a prisoner had to do was scatter a pinch of incense on the flame and he was given a Certificate of Sacrifice and turned free. It was also carefully explained to him that he was not worshiping the emperor; merely acknowledging the divine character of the emperor as head of the Roman state. Still, almost no Christians availed themselves of the chance to escape.
The WTBTS is not tracing all things with accuracy. This is simply copying and pasting. Yet, they try to assure their readers that they spend hours upon hours researching to make sure a spider web can stop an airplane, that Lord Irwin really quoted Ghandi, or that Sir Isaac Newton really said those things that were related by atheist. The Writing Department cannot spend 60 minutes to find out about this author and his book? That’s about how long it took for AvoidJW.org to research information for this article. Clearly, there is enough information on Daniel Mannix that one would need to consider quoting from another source.
Really, is it that difficult for the Watchtower’s writing department to research thoroughly their sources of information to make sure it truly brings praise to Jehovah?