Watchtower Bible School of Gilead

Watchtower Bible School of Gilead

Watchtower Bible School of Gilead is the formal name of the missionary school of Jehovah's Witnesses, typically referred to simply as Gilead or Gilead School.[1][2] Gilead is the flagship school at the Watchtower Educational Center at Patterson, New York, USA.[3][4][5]



Based on their interpretation of Revelation 17:8, Witnesses anticipated a period of peace after World War II, and saw an opportunity to expand their global preaching efforts.[6] In 1942, at the height of the war, Nathan H. Knorr, then president of the Watchtower Society, proposed the establishment of Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.[7] The first class began on February 1, 1943. No tuition was to be charged.[8] Five months later, graduating students began to move out to their assignments in nine Latin-American countries, including Cuba. As early as 1956, graduates were serving "in about a hundred different lands".[9]

Originally founded as a temporary program,[10] Gilead School has held classes at several of the facilities operated by the Watchtower Society:

Gilead has trained over 120 classes since 1943. In 2008, Gilead School surpassed 8000 alumni.[14][15][16] Some Gilead graduates have remained in foreign missionary assignments for decades, others eventually served as traveling overseers, translators, or branch staff; some may be appointed as "special pioneers" if they serve in their home country.[17][18] Encyclopædia Britannica notes that Gilead was intended to train "missionaries and leaders";[19] two current members of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses are Gilead graduates,[20][21] as were four deceased members.[22][23][24][25]

The graduation of each semi-annual Gilead class is a significant event, which may be attended by much of the United States branch staff as well as invited guests from dozens of countries; audiences typically surpass 6000.[26][27][28]

Curriculum and goals

Theology lecturer George D. Chryssides writes that the initial Gilead syllabus was "described as the Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry"; within months the program led to "similar training" in congregations as the Theocratic Ministry School.[29] Female Witnesses could enroll in Gilead school and present talks since its inception in 1943, but could not enroll in congregation schools until 1959.[30][31]

The school is held twice each year and lasts about five months.[32] Students are selected by invitation, and are usually married couples in their thirties who have been involved in missionary work in their home countries for a number of years.[33] After graduation, they are assigned mainly to Africa, South America, Asia and islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Gilead School's main textbook is the Bible. Lectures and student presentations focus on a verse-by-verse study of each of book of the Bible, alternating between the Old and New Testaments, which they refer to as the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. The curriculum is based on the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures published by the Watchtower Society, although other reference material, including other Bible translations are used.[34][35] Students are prepared for missionary work in foreign lands. They learn how to cope with changes in culture and language as well as techniques for conducting meetings and Bible classes. Some students receive additional practical training for translation and literature production.[36]

Rather than the provision of material needs such as hospitals, refugee centers, and orphanages, their missionary work focuses on preaching, with emphasis on their belief that the only permanent solution to mankind's problems is God's Kingdom.[37]

Gilead School extensions

Languages other than English

The entire curriculum at Watchtower Bible School of Gilead is presented in English.[38] Beginning in 1980, occasional extensions to Gilead were established in Germany (called "Gilead Extension School") and in Mexico (called "Gilead Cultural School of Mexico"[39]) to provide training to student missionaries speaking German and Spanish.[40] Occasional extensions to Gilead have also been taught in India.[41][42]

Bible School for Single Brothers

The Bible School for Single Brothers, originally known as the Ministerial Training School and established in 1987, is considered an extension of the Gilead School.[43][44][45] It comprises an 8½ week Bible-based educational program for single elders and ministerial servants (their term for deacons). The curriculum includes detailed Bible study, public speaking skills, teaching, preaching and organizational arrangements.[46]

The course is held in various languages[47][48] and in many countries,[47][49] and the course duration is shorter than that of Gilead. Since its establishment until 2004, 999 classes of the Ministerial Training School were held, training 22,000 students.[50]

Graduates of the school are generally assigned to their home congregations for a time, but are often offered the opportunity to serve in a more needy congregation or area, as and when the need arises. Usually this is in their home country but can sometimes be abroad. They are sometimes used in the capacity of circuit overseers, assigned to help groups of congregations.[51]

Bible School for Christian Couples

A new Bible School for Christian Couples was announced in 2010, similar in duration and adapted from the curriculum of the Bible School for Single Brothers, but for husband and wife pairs to attend together. The school's purpose is to "give couples further training so that they can be more useful to Jehovah’s organization". At the announcement of this new school, it was also announced that wives would also be invited the now-renamed School for Traveling Overseers and Their Wives and School for Branch Committee Members and Their Wives.[52]


  1. ^ "Happy Climax to 80 Years of Gathering". The Watchtower: 22. 15 April 1986. 
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions (1999 edition), page 563
  3. ^ Our Kingdom Ministry, December 1990, page 10
  4. ^ 1993 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 25
  5. ^ The Watchtower, November 15, 1999, pages 8-9
  6. ^ "Postwar Enlargement of the Theocratic Organization", The Watchtower, July 15, 1950, page 219; "Despite wartime difficulties a New World Theocratic convention was held that following summer in Cleveland, Ohio, September 18-20 [1942] ... Brother Knorr gave the address “Peace—Can It Last?” ... this public address showed a peace period would follow World War II ... In the mind of Brother Knorr the idea of a missionary-training school formed. ... The Watch Tower board of directors was enthusiastically in favor of it, and thus what was first called the Watchtower Bible College of Gilead was arranged for."
  7. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 20, ©2000 Grolier Incorporated, page 13, As Retrieved 2009-08-24, "[Knorr] established congregational Theocratic Ministry schools and the society's missionary college, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead."
  8. ^ “Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom” 1993, chap. 23 p. 522; “Missionaries Push Worldwide Expansion” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
  9. ^ Interpretation, Volume 10, ©1956 Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, As Retrieved 2009-08-24, page 329
  10. ^ The Watchtower, June 15, 2001, page 26
  11. ^ Religion in the Twentieth Century by Vergilius Ture Anselm Ferm, ©1948, Philosophical Library, page 387, As Retrieved 2009-08-24
  12. ^ "A New Home for the Gilead Missionary School". The Watchtower: 21. 1 June 1989. 
  13. ^ The Watchtower, December 1, 1995, page 24
  14. ^ "Missionaries Encouraged to Be Like Jeremiah", The Watchtower, February 15, 2009, page 22
  15. ^ The Watchtower, August 15, 2008, page 30
  16. ^ The Watchtower, November 1, 2001, page 23
  17. ^ 2001 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 217
  18. ^ 2005 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 160
  19. ^ Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  20. ^ "Gilead Graduates Go Forth as Zealous Harvest Workers!", The Watchtower, June 15, 2004, page 25, "Gerrit Lösch, a member of the Governing Body and a graduate of the 41st class of Gilead."
  21. ^ "Motivated to Serve", The Watchtower, December 15, 2000, page 27, "David Splane, a former missionary and a graduate of the 42nd class of Gilead who is now serving as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses."
  22. ^ "Graduating Students of the Word of God", The Watchtower, June 1, 1997, page 30, "Lloyd Barry, also of the Governing Body, was a graduate of the 11th class of Gilead and served as a missionary in Japan for over 25 years."
  23. ^ "New Members of the Governing Body", The Watchtower, November 15, 1977, page 680, "The new members of the Governing Body [include] Martin Poetzinger of the Federal Republic of Germany. ... Martin Poetzinger entered the Kingdom service in 1926 and entered pioneer service in 1930. He is a graduate of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead."
  24. ^ "Gilead Graduates Urged to Cultivate Good Communication Skills", The Watchtower, June 1, 1990, page 26, "C. W. Barber, also a member of the Governing Body and himself a graduate of Gilead's 26th class, briefly discussed."
  25. ^ "Gilead Graduates Go Forth as Zealous Harvest Workers!", The Watchtower, June 15, 2004, page 25, "Theodore Jaracz, a member of the Governing Body and a graduate of the seventh class of Gilead..."
  26. ^ "Gilead's 84th Class—Living Up To Expectations!", The Watchtower, June 1, 1988, page 22
  27. ^ "Missionaries Are Compared to Locusts", The Watchtower, August 15, 2008, page 30, "EVERY six months, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead holds a graduation program to which the entire United States Bethel family is invited. On March 8, 2008, guests from more than 30 countries joined the Bethel family ... 6,411 in attendance"
  28. ^ "They Made the Hearts of Their Parents Rejoice", The Watchtower, January 1, 2006, page 13, "On Saturday, September 10, 2005, an international group of 6,859 people attended the graduation of the 119th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead."
  29. ^ "Introduction", Historical Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses by George D. Chryssides, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008, Page lvii
  30. ^ “Jehovah Is My Strength”, The Watchtower, October 15, 2008, page 18, "At that time [1951], sisters were not yet enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School in the local congregations, but at Gilead we sisters received assignments to give student talks and reports."
  31. ^ "Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses", The Watchtower, February 15, 1959, page 120, "[1958 conventions announced that] from the beginning of 1959, sisters in the congregations were to be privileged to enroll in the weekly Theocratic Ministry School."
  32. ^ Sect, cult, and church in Alberta by William Edward Mann, ©1955, University of Toronto Press, page 109, As Retrieved 2009-08-24, "Watch Tower Bible Society of Gilead [sic] in the eastern United States, which gave a five-month training course to leaders selected by the central organization from branches in all parts of the world."
  33. ^ “Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom” –1993, chap. 23 p. 523
  34. ^ "Be Joyful With the Kingdom Hope!", The Watchtower, June 15, 2001, page 26, "The main textbook is the Bible. And then we have Bible study aids to help us understand the Bible. Those are available to all. There is no secret information dispensed at Gilead."
  35. ^ 1970 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 71, "Of course, an intensive study of the Bible constitutes the major part of Gilead School's curriculum. Students must read the entire Bible, starting when they receive their letter of invitation to the school. ... Bible courses, which consist of a verse-by-verse study of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, also two other subjects designed to cover the Bible from the doctrinal standpoint and, finally, the practical application of the Bible's principles of everyday living in Jehovah's organization and the Christian ministry."
  36. ^ Andover Newton Quarterly, Volume 3, ©1962 Andover Newton Theological School, As Retrieved 2009-08-24, page 16, "[Students] work for half a day at the factory and attend the Gilead School for half a day. The work at the factory is on-the-job training, intended to fit them to operate printing establishments in their own countries."
  37. ^Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom” –1993, chap. 23 p. 523
  38. ^ The Watchtower, October 15, 1982, page 31
  39. ^ 1982 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 22
  40. ^ The Watchtower, June 15, 1982, page 8
  41. ^ 1992 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 255
  42. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, pages 544-545
  43. ^ Awake!, September 8, 1993, page 18
  44. ^ 1996 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 16
  45. ^ The Watchtower, June 15, 2011, page 32
  46. ^ "A School Whose Graduates Benefit People Worldwide". (2006-Nov-15). The Watchtower, p. 10
  47. ^ a b The Watchtower, November 15, 2006, page 10
  48. ^ Our Kingdom Ministry, June 1999, page 1
  49. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, page 300
  50. ^ Our Kingdom Ministry, August 2004, page 3
  51. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p. 20 "Traveling Overseers—Fellow Workers in the Truth " © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 1993
  52. ^ "A History-Making Meeting", The Watchtower, August 15, 2011, page 21, "Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing revealed that the Ministerial Training School would henceforth be known as the Bible School for Single Brothers. It would soon be complemented by the Bible School for Christian Couples. This school would give couples further training so that they can be more useful to Jehovah’s organization. Brother Lett also announced that the School for Traveling Overseers and Their Wives and the School for Branch Committee Members and Their Wives would be expanded to two classes each year at Patterson, with provisions for those who have previously attended to attend a second time."

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