Like many other Christians, the Jehovah's Witnesses believe Christianity apostatized almost immediately after the Church came into existence. Mormons believe this explicitly. This belief seems more or less implicit among Protestants.
Like Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses also have explicit belief in a general apostasy. The "Bible Teach" booklet has numerous references to so-called "apostate Christianity" and seems to take special interest in attacking the oldest liturgical Christian communions: Catholic and Orthodox.
- For example, the drawing of the mitered bishop with a pectoral cross, that they use as a symbol of religious pretense and place alongside drawings of people engaging in sinful activity. (p. 91)
- For a second example, the photograph of a cross and a statue of Mary alongside other images that they use to represent idolatry or false worship: a Buddha, ceremonial masks, a shrine with food and incense offerings. (p. 155)
- For a third example, they seem to have a special enmity toward any kind of religious celebration, especially the two highest feasts of the liturgical year: Easter and Christmas. (This is recurring theme addressed specifically on pages 222-223.)
The Bible, in their view, is completely pure of any pagan influence, but anyone can verify for themselves this understanding of the Bible's relationship with paganism is a little off. The sacred authors of the Old and New Testaments borrowed freely from the symbols of their pagan neighbors without scruples.
- Consider that the first account of creation deliberately follows the pattern of "Enuma Elish", a Babylonian creation myth.
- Second, consider that the Old Testament makes numerous references to Leviathan/Lot(h)an/Rahab, a sea creature from pagan mythology.
- Third, consider that the New Testament frequently quotes Greek poets, philosophers, and other persons of the pagan persuasion.
But, they have what I see as an even more serious problem: the fact that their canon for the New Testament is directly dependent upon this so-called "apostate Christianity". It's a historical fact that Christians didn't settle upon a working New Testament canon until local councils that occurred about 400AD (Rome, Hippo, Carthage). The Catholic Church didn't define its canon of Sacred Scripture dogmatically until Trent.
Why do the Jehovah's Witnesses, with all their scruples against pagan influence, put so much confidence in the composition of the New Testament canon considering its "apostate" source? Why do they not put even more confidence into doctrines that were developed and defined by the same church at a much earlier time, such as doctrines concerning Baptism, the Eucharist, and the Divinity of Jesus Christ?