Roman Catholicism vs. Jehovah’s Witness: Differences

Catholicism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are two distinct branches of Christianity with unique beliefs, practices, and histories.

This article aims to compare these two groups, highlighting key differences and similarities.

From their views on sacred texts to their organizational structures, we’ll examine what sets each apart.

Roman Catholic Bible
Is Catholicism or Jehovah’s Witnesses larger? See below

Comparing Catholicism and Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Comparison

“Roman Catholicism” combines “Roman” to indicate the church’s base in Rome and “Catholicism,” meaning universal.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses” uses “Jehovah,” an English-language representation of God’s name, and “Witnesses” to signify those who bear witness to Jehovah.

CatholicismJehovah’s Witnesses
NameRoman CatholicismJehovah’s Witnesses
SizeApprox. 1.3 billion worldwideApprox. 8.7 million worldwide
Date Started1st Century AD1870s
FounderJesus Christ (according to tradition)Charles Taze Russell
Key BeliefsTrinity, Papal authority, seven SacramentsNo Trinity, God’s Kingdom, Jesus as first creation
Key PracticesMass, confession, prayerDoor-to-door evangelism, no blood transfusions, Kingdom Hall meetings
DivisionsLatin Church, Eastern Catholic ChurchesNo major divisions; organized congregations
Central LocationVatican City, RomeWarwick, New York, USA
Sacred TextsBible, Catechism, Papal EncyclicalsNew World Translation of the Bible

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid blood transfusions?

Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid blood transfusions based on their interpretation of biblical passages that command abstaining from blood.

They believe that accepting blood, even medically, is a serious violation of God’s law and can jeopardize their relationship with Him.

Alternatives to transfusions are sought in medical treatments.

What is the New World Translation?

The New World Translation (NWT) is a Bible version produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

First released in 1950, it was created by the Watch Tower Society’s Translation Committee.

The NWT is distinct for its use of “Jehovah” in both Old and New Testaments. It’s been translated into multiple languages.

Keeping reading to see a comparison table of the New American Bible, which is officially endorsed by the Catholic Church, and the New World Translation.

Catholic church
What does each tradition teach about the Trinity, the Bible, and the sacraments? See below

Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses Beliefs

CatholicismJehovah’s Witnesses
GodOne God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy SpiritOne God, Jehovah; Jesus as first creation
The UniverseCreated by God; fallen due to sinCreated by Jehovah; fallen due to sin
Ultimate RealityGod is the ultimate reality; omnipotent, omniscientJehovah is the ultimate reality; omnipotent, omniscient
Human BeingsCreated in God’s image; fallen due to original sinCreated perfect; fallen due to sin
Problem with the WorldSin and separation from GodSin and separation from Jehovah
Solution to the ProblemSalvation through faith and works; sacramentsFaith in Jehovah and Jesus; evangelism
The AfterlifeHeaven, Hell, PurgatoryParadise Earth for most; Heaven for 144,000

Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses Doctrine

The Trinity in Christian theology refers to the belief in one God existing in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

These three are co-equal, co-eternal, and indivisibly united in one essence.

All orthodox branches of Christianity, including Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox, affirm this doctrine.

CatholicismJehovah’s Witnesses
The BibleInfallible when interpreted by the MagisteriumInfallible; New World Translation preferred
GodOne God in three persons; omnipotent, omniscientOne God, Jehovah; omnipotent, omniscient
Jesus ChristFully God and fully man; Savior of humanityFirst creation by God; not divine; Savior
The TrinityOne God in three persons; co-equalRejects the Trinity; God is one being
The Holy SpiritThird person of the Trinity; active in the worldHoly Spirit is God’s active force, not a person
The AtonementChrist’s sacrifice redeems humanityChrist’s sacrifice redeems humanity; opens path to paradise
The ResurrectionLiteral and bodily resurrection of JesusLiteral resurrection; not bodily for Jesus
The ChurchOne true church led by the PopeOnly true organization led by the Governing Body
Church TraditionSacred Tradition and Magisterium importantRejects church tradition; only Bible matters
The Second ComingAwaited; details guided by church teachingImminent; will establish God’s Kingdom on Earth

What is the Magisterium in Catholicism?

In Roman Catholicism, the Magisterium is the church’s teaching authority, exercised by the Pope and bishops.

It interprets and preserves doctrine, ensuring teachings remain consistent.

The Magisterium is the final arbiter in interpreting the Bible and Sacred Tradition.

Kingdom Hall
What are the important practices in each tradition? See below

New American Bible (NAB) vs. New World Translation (NWT)

New American BibleNew World Translation
OriginCatholic translationJehovah’s Witnesses translation
Date of PublicationFirst edition 1970First edition 1950
Translation MethodDynamic equivalence; scholarly approachLiteral translation; unique terms
Included Books73 books including Deuterocanonicals66 books; no Deuterocanonicals
FootnotesExtensive footnotes and cross-referencesLimited footnotes; focus on doctrinal points
UsageUsed in Catholic liturgy and studyUsed by Jehovah’s Witnesses for study and evangelism
Divine NameUses “God” and “Lord”Uses “Jehovah” for God’s name
Jesus’ DivinityAffirmsDenies
AvailabilityWidely available; various editionsPrimarily available through Jehovah’s Witnesses; limited editions

How do Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret John 1:1 differently?

John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Orthodox Christians interpret this as affirming Jesus’ divinity, equating the “Word” with Jesus.

They believe Jesus is fully God. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation renders the verse as “the Word was a god,” suggesting Jesus is a divine being but distinct and lesser than Almighty God.

This reflects their non-Trinitarian view.

Comparing Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Practices

CatholicismJehovah’s Witnesses
Worship ServicesMass; highly liturgicalKingdom Hall meetings; less liturgical
Sacraments/OrdinancesSeven Sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, etc.Baptism; Memorial of Christ’s death
PrayerFormal prayers like the Rosary; personal prayersPersonal prayers; no use of religious symbols
ClergyPriests, bishops; celibate clergyElders; no clergy class; not celibate
Church GovernanceHierarchical; led by the PopeHierarchical; led by the Governing Body
Bible StudyEncouraged; part of catechismEncouraged; often in organized study groups
FastingDuring Lent and specific daysNo specific fasting days
MusicTraditional hymns; choral musicKingdom songs; no use of religious symbols
Social OutreachCharitable work; social justice initiativesLimited; focus on evangelism

Sacraments in Catholicism and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Catholic ViewJehovah’s Witnesses View
Number of SacramentsSeven: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, etc.Ordinances rather than sacraments; includes Baptism and Memorial of Christ’s death
Role in SalvationMeans of grace; essential for salvationNecessary for a relationship with Jehovah; not essential for salvation
Who Can AdministerOrdained clergyBaptism by elders; Memorial by congregation
Age of ParticipationVaries; Baptism usually as infantsBaptism as adults after study and dedication
FrequencyVaries; Eucharist often weeklyBaptism once; Memorial annually
FormalityHighly ritualisticLess ritualistic but formal
AuthorityAdministered under the authority of the PopeAdministered under the authority of the Governing Body

10 Key Events in Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses History

CatholicismJehovah’s Witnesses
1Council of Nicaea, 325 ADFormation of Bible Student movement, 1870s
2Great Schism, 1054Publication of “The Watchtower,” 1879
3Crusades, 1095-1291Name changed to Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1931
4Inquisition, 13th CenturyRelease of New World Translation, 1950
5Council of Trent, 1545-1563Refusal of blood transfusions doctrine, 1945
6Counter-Reformation, 16th CenturyFormation of the Governing Body, 1971
7Vatican I, 1869-1870Legal victory in U.S. Supreme Court, 1943
8Vatican II, 1962-1965Persecution in Nazi Germany
9Papal Infallibility declared, 1870Expansion of door-to-door ministry, 1920s
10Election of Pope Francis, 2013“Great Apostasy” teaching solidified, 1920s

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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