The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom

The Watchtower is a monthly illustrated religious magazine, printed and published by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in Wallkill, Ulster County, New York and branch offices around the world. It is known worldwide as the major publication (along with its companion magazine, Awake!) distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses in their door-to-door ministry.


The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom is used by Jehovah's Witnesses as their weekly reading material along with a circular known as the Kingdom Ministry.

The inside cover page of each issue has the following mission statement:

THE PURPOSE OF THIS MAGAZINE, The Watchtower, is to honor Jehovah God, the Supreme Ruler of the universe. Just as watchtowers in ancient times enabled a person to observe developments from afar, so this magazine shows us the significance of world events in the light of Bible prophecies. It comforts people with the good news that God's Kingdom, which is a real government in heaven, will soon bring an end to all wickedness and transform the earth into a paradise. It promotes faith in Jesus Christ, who died so that we might gain everlasting life and who is now ruling as King of God's Kingdom. This magazine has been published by Jehovah's Witnesses continuously since 1879 and is nonpolitical. It adheres to the Bible as its authority.


The publication was started by Charles Taze Russell on July 1, 1879 under the title Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. The first issue stated as its prospectus:

This is the first number of the first volume of "ZION’S WATCH TOWER" and it may not be amiss to state the object of its publication.

That we are living "in the last days" "the day of the Lord" — "the end" of the Gospel age, and consequently, in the dawn of the "new" age, are facts not only discernible by the close student of the Word, led by the spirit, but the outward signs recognizable by the world bear the same testimony, and we are desirous that the “household of faith” be fully awake to the fact, that—

We are living, we are dwelling
In a grand and awful time;
In an age on ages telling
To be living is sublime.|30px

In 1909 the name was changed to The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. In 1920, the Watchtower Society reprinted all the issues from 1879–1919 in seven volumes. This set is known as Watchtower Reprints, which has itself been reprinted through the years by other groups. Later on, in October 1939, the magazine was renamed The Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence, and, from March 1940 until the present, its full name has been The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom. In the past, The Watchtower and its companion Awake! were sold for a small charge, varying over time and from country to country.

However, on January 17, 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sales of religious literature were subject to taxation, which would have required the Watchtower Society to pay tax on the price of the magazines. The Watchtower Society filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief arguing that the sale of religious literature should be exempt from taxation.

From March 1, 1990, the journals were made available at no cost, on a freewill donation basis in the United States."Use Our Literature Wisely" which appeared in the May 1990 Our Kingdom Ministry stated, that "there are growing pressures against all religious elements" and it went on to say that their main concern was to move ahead in the worldwide Kingdom preaching work, "without hindrance."

The sale of the literature around the world was gradually eliminated soon thereafter. It continued until the early 1990s, and in some places until early 2000. The Watchtower is now distributed free of charge worldwide, its printing being funded by voluntary donations. Donations for the Watchtower literature were introduced in order to comply with the changing court positions regarding literature distribution and the new requirement that religious organizations must charge and collect sales taxes on the proceeds of their ministry.


The Public Edition of The Watchtower has an average print run (according to the October 1, 2008 issue) of 37,100,000 copies and is printed monthly, with an issue date of the 1st of the month, in 169 languages (including Braille editions and video sign languages) making it the largest circulation magazine in the world. At least 164 of these languages are published simultaneously, including English, German, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Indonesian, Hindi, and Zulu . The Study Edition is also printed monthly, with an issue date of the 15th, but no list of the number of printed copies or languages is given for this edition.

The magazine is distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. They consider their work a public service. Witnesses commonly offer these magazines in the course of their house-to-house ministry. They are also distributed by approaching people in public places or informally to doctors, academics, politicians and acquaintances. The Watchtower may also be seen left as reading material in public places, including bus terminals, laundromats or other places. Distribution practices such as mailbox drops and placing large stacks in public places are strongly discouraged by the Watchtower Society as they are generally less effective methods of arousing interest versus a personal presentation of the literature.


Over the years, Jehovah's Witnesses have added a variety of editions of the magazine, with a view to making it available to a wider public. In 1976, The Watchtower became available in Grade II English Braille. In 1988, it began to be produced on audio cassette for the benefit of the visually impaired as well as others who wished to listen to it. In 2003, a videocassette edition (of main study articles) in American Sign Language was produced, and this was extended to DVD in 2004. The Watchtower is now released monthly in American Sign Language on DVD. Select articles are available at their official website ( Additionally, 2004 saw the release of The Watchtower on compact disc (MP3 and later audio CD format). In 2006, a DVD edition of The Watchtower was made available in Brazilian Sign Language, and a Mexican Sign Language edition is now available.


The Watchtower is produced in two editions. The issue dated the 1st of the month is produced for the general public. The issue dated the 15th is a study edition that Jehovah's Witnesses use at their congregation meetings, which are open to the public. The Study Edition usually contains either four or five articles written for the Watchtower Study.

Every congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the earth discusses the same information each week at the Watchtower Study. In this meeting a designated reader will read each paragraph aloud, after which the conductor asks the question printed at the bottom of the page for that paragraph; a few minutes (depending on the subject matter) are allotted for the members of the congregation to answer the questions using the information read in the paragraph as a starting point. They are encouraged to put the information in their own words and also to "draw attention to scripture application, supporting arguments, or practical application of the material.

A typical issue usually includes topics such as Bible prophecy, Christian conduct and morals, as well as the history of religion and the Bible.

Regular sections include "Life Story" and "Our Readers Ask", "Imitate their Faith" (four times a year), "Draw Close to God", "For Our Young People" (every other month), "Did You Know?", "What We Learn From Jesus" (four times a year), "Teach Your Children" (every other month), "Keys to Family Happiness" (four times a year), "A Letter From..." (four times a year) and "Would You Welcome a Visit?" Every four months, a section entitled "Do You Remember?" briefly summarizes points from recent issues of the magazine. The November 1 issue contains an article outlining the various ways that donations can be made to support the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses.

From 2005 until 2007, the February 1 issue contained the Witnesses' worldwide "Field Service" report (previously January 1 issue until 2004). According to page 3 of the January 15, 2008 issue:

"The annual report will no longer appear in The Watchtower. Starting in 2008, it will appear as an insert in Our Kingdom Ministry as well as in the Yearbook."

The issue dated the first of each month focuses on religious articles that are offered to the general public. The issue dated the fifteenth of each month contains congregational study articles for the month and other intra-organizational materials that are directed to current members and other interested ones and is not being offered to the general public actively like the public edition is. Additionally, the entire magazine is available for audio-download in MP3 and M4B format at

The Watchtower's subtitle, "Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom," indicates its interest in eschatology, which has frequently been a topic for discussion within its pages.


The Writing Committee within the Watchtower Society oversees the research, editing, and development of the articles. The articles are mostly contributed by writing committees within the branch offices worldwide, which are then checked by a team of editors for accuracy, grammar, spelling, etc., and then translated into the languages of publication by other teams. Women are permitted to write articles provided that they are not of a spiritual nature. The names of the authors (except in most first-person life stories), editors, etc. are never included in the final magazine, though all articles are produced under the authority of the Governing Body, and therefore the content is considered the official position of the organization.

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