Brethren, Peace be with you.
Today, as I reflected upon Revelation 14: 1-4 (NAB) during lectio divina, I noticed something I'd never noticed before. Read the highlighted portion by yourselves:
That brought to mind the Jehovah's Witnesses' (JWs) insistence that this number of 144,000 elect ones, whom they insist are to reign with Jesus as "spiritual" creatures and whose ranks are filled solely by JWs, and whose Governing Body are assured members of the 144,000 elect ones.The Lamb’s Companions.* 1Then I looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion,* and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.a 2I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3They were singing [what seemed to be] a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth.b 4These are they who were not defiled with women; they are virgins* and these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the firstfruits of the human race for God and the Lamb.c 5On their lips no deceit* has been found; they are unblemished.d
Now, in my view this poses a hermeneutical conundrum, because, an interpreter cannot declare a fragment of a statement as literally true and judge the rest of the verse as "symbolic" and still expect the statement to make sense. In this instance. if the number 144,000 elect-ones is to be interpreted literally, and not as a symbolic gematria of 12x12x1,000 - which carries its own meaning - then the other contextual verses are to be considered literal also. What this means is that in order to qualify for the 144,000 chaste, the individual JW, whether rank-and-file or member of its governing body must be a male virgins. However, if this virginity requirement is to be understood symbolically, then the 144,000 number should also be seen as symbolic. The interpreter, in this case the JWs, can't split the difference and solve the problem unless they are bending the text to their own theological agenda, which they are.
Not that there isn't any kind of writing that allows the mixing of symbols, metaphors, similes, and realistic description in a single texts. We usually call those kinds of texts poetry and poetry comes with its own rules and styles, of which the author always gives to the reader a clue. I got news for you: Revelation 15:1-5 isn't poetry either.
Do you get the point? I mean, the requirement of a life of consecrated virginity probably comes as bad news to any JW claiming to be a member of the 144,000 but that's what Scripture says, if interpreted in a literal-grammatical way, as the JWs often do, without consistency and coherence. Moreover, in Revelation 7 we see that these 144,000 elect-ones were gathered from the 12 tribes of Israel. In other words, to be a member of the 144,000 one has to be of Jewish descent.
To conclude: a member of the 144,000 will have to be literally Jewish, or descended from Jews; always a male; who's never told a lie; and who's never ever engaged in sexual intercourse. Goyim like you, me, all women, and most of the JWs who ever lived need not apply!
• What is the significance of the number 144,000 to Jehovah's Witnesses?Courtesy of Catholic Answers.com
• How do I refute the Jehovah's Witness claim about the 144,000?
• More Stumpers for the Jehovah's Witnesses