[This article is only 40% done. No need to read it yet. It’s cut and paste of some leftover draft material that can be formed into a more coherent article in the next few days.]
As stated elsewhere, the 1914 doctrine is actually made up of several subject areas which are covered in sections corresponding to the menu items across the top of the site. Those subjects include: Gentile Times, 607, Parousia, Generation, The Sign, Kingdom, Faithful Slave, and Chronology (in general)
Therefore this page will deal with a more general set of questions and issues, although the details and evidence will be addressed under the various menu headings, and other featured places on the site.
Because the Watch Tower points most persons to two major resources for the general discussion of 1914, we have produced “rebuttals” to those resources specifically. However, because these resources from the Watch Tower tend to cover all subject areas without addressing the evidence for them, those rebuttals must tend to do the same, covering all the subject areas without all the details of the evidence against them. (Those primary resources currently used by JWs, include the “1914” article in the book “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” and both parts of the “Jon and Cameron” conversation, which was split across both the October and November 2014 Watchtower magazines.)
The 1914 teaching, is one of the oldest teachings that Jehovah’s Witnesses have held. It is therefore one of the “fundamental” or “foundational” doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Even before the first issue of the Watchtower was published in 1879, Charles Taze Russell published an article in a magazine called “The Bible Examiner” in 1876. That article included the interpretation from Daniel 4 and the idea derived therefrom that the Gentile Times would end in 1914. Many of the elements of that article remain intact in the current teaching.
Basically, the idea is presented from Daniel chapter 4 that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about a tree that was cut down, although the stump was banded with bands of iron and copper and would grow again after remaining dormant for “seven times.” Seven times would be 2,520 days, if we take a “time” to mean a year, and if we use 360 days for a year. (7 x 360 = 2,520). If we take the tree to mean the Davidic Kingdom, the Messianic Kingdom, we can also assume that it was around 606 BCE (now 607) when the last Davidic king of Judah was deposed under Nebuchadnezzar. If we were to count 2,520 years from 606 BCE we would reach 1914 (1914 – 2,520 = -606).
Initially, the teaching was that Gentile rule of the earth would end in 1914, at which time Jesus Christ would take over the throne of David and appear visibly to take over the kingdoms of the world. In other words, the rule of the nations would be expected to crumble in 1914 and within a matter of months, Christ’s Kingdom and his power would begin transforming the new earth under his Millennial kingdom (1,000 years).
Since then, the idea that the “Gentile Times” ended has been re-interpreted to mean that the nations continue to rule, but their “lease” has run out. They are now ruling illegitimately as Jesus Christ is now ruling invisibly from heaven. This current invisible rule is his “presence” but only for a short period of time, so that a “generation” can organize to serve Jesus Christ during the last days by preaching the “good news” of that Kingdom to bring as many as possible into the protection of Jehovah’s earthly organization so that they can survive the coming destruction of all the earthly national (Gentile) kingdoms in the battle called Armageddon.
[Note that some of these questions will require a specific knowledge of the logic and argumentation utilized in the Watchtower publications. Also, the questions here include questions that are discussed across various subject areas. Some of them are linked to those subject areas.]
- How do we know that Daniel 4 was not fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, rather than the Davidic Kingdom? (i.e., Daniel 4 states that the fulfillment already came upon Nebuchadnezzar.)
- How do we know that the fulfillment on a pagan king should be interpreted to mean that the fulfillment would be upon a non-pagan king, Jesus?
- How do we know that the 7 times means exactly 2,520 days, and that those days mean exactly 2,520 years. (And why would they also mean 7 years when, as Daniel says, the prophecy would be –and then was — fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar?)
- If 7 times is really supposed to mean 2,520 years, why do Watchtower publications never interpret the Biblical references to 3.5 times as 1,260 years. (Instead, it is always interpreted as a literal 3.5 years, or 42 months, or 1,260 days.)
- If the “Gentile Times” are really 2,520 years, why is the only reference about a time period ever associated with “Gentile” times given as only 42 months, or 1,260 days — never 2,520? (in Revelation 11:1-3.)
- Is it possible that the entire meaning of the dream is — as indicated in Daniel 4 — that all political powers on earth are ultimately under the control and/or permission of Jehovah and that all must ultimately respect that Jehovah is the only true authority?
- Why do Watchtower publications claim that the last king of the Davidic line in Judah ended when Jerusalem was destroyed in 606 or 607 BCE when we have no evidence to indicate that Jerusalem was destroyed then, and yet there are many lines of evidence, all in 100% agreement, that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 or 586 BCE?
- Why does the Watchtower material not accept both the secular and the Biblical evidence that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587/6 BCE?
- Is it a sign of hypocrisy in the Watchtower publications that dates like 539 BCE are accepted without question, yet it is the same evidence that indicates 539 BCE is correct that also indicates that 587 is correct, and that 607 is incorrect?
- Why does the Watchtower continue to say that the “Gentile Times” ended in 1914, when we are still living in “Gentile Times”?
- Why does the Watchtower claim to have been correct about the idea that the “Gentile Times” ended in 1914, when none of the predicted meanings of the term “Gentile Times” or “ended” are considered to have been correct? (Likened to making a prediction in 2008 that Barack Obama would lose the 2012 U.S. presidential election, and yet continuing to speak of the “Obama Loss” in 2012, claiming that he did “lose” that election even after he was sworn into office.)
- Why does the Watchtower material apparently use a definition of “parousia” or “presence” as used in Matthew 24 that is different from the way the word was understood by first-century speakers of Greek? (And different from first and second century translators of Greek into other languages at a time when koine Greek was still a living language?)
- Why does the Watchtower teach that the “generation that will not pass away” does not mean “generation” in any common sense of the word but instead refers to two groups of contemporaries who have lived for over a span of time that now approaches, perhaps, 120 years? (Current teaching is that the first group of those contemporaries was already anointed and old enough to be able to discern, in 1914, a “composite signs” that Jesus predicted in Matthew 24.)
- Does the Watchtower consistently interpret (and translate) Matthew 24 in a way that makes use of least likely meaning of several words instead of the most likely meaning of the words?
- Does the Watchtower interpretation of Matthew 24 produce a need to also accept a more unlikely meaning and translation of phrases about the “parousia” that are used in other parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures?
- Is there any Biblical reason to think that Jesus needed to inactively “wait” at God’s right hand before beginning to rule as king in 1914 when he was already seated at the right hand of God at the time of his resurrection?
- Is there any Biblical reason to think that Jesus needed to “stand” up from his seated position in order to actually take his power and rule as king?
- Why did Jesus have to wait to be given authority to rule as king in 1914 if “all authority” had been given him around 33 CE (at the time of his resurrection)? (see Matthew 28:19.)
- Is there any Biblical reason to think that Jesus was not already ruling as King from the time he sat at God’s right hand?
- If the Watchtower is correct when it states that “sitting at God’s right hand” does not mean the same thing as “rule as king” then why did the apostle Paul translate or paraphrase “sit at my right hand” from Psalm 110 with the expression “rule as king”? (See 1 Corinthians 15:25)
(There are many more specific questions that could be added here, but these types of questions can be placed in the menu sections set up for discussions of specific questions.)
A GENERAL CASE AGAINST THE 1914 TEACHING
This will sound very odd to most JWs, but last year the Watchtower magazine came about as close as it ever has to abandoning the 1914 doctrine altogether. After reading the July 15, 2013. I thought it might be useful to borrow some of the language from that same article. (It is quoted and commented upon here.)
As recorded at Luke 21:24, Jesus said: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations [“the times of the Gentiles,” King James Version] are fulfilled.” Jerusalem had been the capital city of the Jewish nation—the seat of rulership of the line of kings from the house of King David. (Psalm 48:1, 2) However, these kings were unique among national leaders. They sat on “Jehovah’s throne” as representatives of God himself. (1 Chronicles 29:23) Jerusalem was thus a symbol of Jehovah’s rulership.
How and when, though, did God’s rulership begin to be “trampled on by the nations”? This happened in 607 B.C.E. when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. “Jehovah’s throne” became vacant, and the line of kings who descended from David was interrupted. (2 Kings 25:1-26) Would this ‘trampling’ go on forever? No, for the prophecy of Ezekiel said regarding Jerusalem’s last king, Zedekiah: “Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. . . . It will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” (Ezekiel 21:26, 27) The one who has “the legal right” to the Davidic crown is Christ Jesus. (Luke 1:32, 33) So the ‘trampling’ would end when Jesus became King.
When would that grand event occur? Jesus showed that the Gentiles would rule for a fixed period of time. The account in Daniel chapter 4holds the key to knowing how long that period would last. It relates a prophetic dream experienced by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He saw an immense tree that was chopped down. Its stump could not grow because it was banded with iron and copper. An angel declared: “Let seven times pass over it.”—Daniel 4:10-16.
In the Bible, trees are sometimes used to represent rulership. (Ezekiel 17:22-24; 31:2-5) So the chopping down of the symbolic tree represents how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem, would be interrupted. However, the vision served notice that this ‘trampling of Jerusalem’ would be temporary—a period of “seven times.” How long a period is that?
Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that three and a half times equal “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” “Seven times” would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days. But the Gentile nations did not stop ‘trampling’ on God’s rulership a mere 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall. Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of “a day for a year,” the “seven times” would cover 2,520 years.
The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, “the appointed times of the nations” ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King. *—Psalm 2:1-6; Daniel 7:13, 14.
Just as Jesus predicted, his “presence” as heavenly King has been marked by dramatic world developments—war, famine, earthquakes, pestilences. (Matthew 24:3-8; Luke 21:11) Such developments bear powerful testimony to the fact that 1914 indeed marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of “the last days” of this present wicked system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
It’s quite simple.
1. There are no prophecies in the Bible that point to any specific time beyond the prophecies concerning which Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem by Roman armies.
2. We are specifically warned against any concerns with chronology in Paul’s letters. (As to the times and seasons brothers you need NOTHING to be written to you.)
4. etc add 6 of these
Warning: This is going to have a long and boring intro to provide context and perpective. You probably don’t need it or want it. So if you are really interested in only the case against 1914 skip straight to here. *for now it’s below but will be moved to another page to link to later, because otherwise this is too long.
You can’t prove a negative, so no one should make an argument that we are not in the last days or that the end of the current system of things can occur at any time. There is no question that the potential nearness of “the end” has always been one of the basic tenets of Christianity as set out in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
So what’s the problem?
For me, it was always a matter of truth and honesty. What I had always been most proud of as a Witness was that we stood for honesty and integrity, so that our reputation preceded us in front of other Witnesses or anyone else. That included potential employers, persons from whom we would rent stadiums for assemblies, persons I might have business dealings with in the future, or anyone else I might meet at any time. I had found a wallet containing money at age 10 or so and returned it to the person who lost it. My parents were anxious to have me include a letter that “witnessed” to them about why I returned it, and why my religious beliefs as a JW produced the motivation to do what was right. I’ve done the same thing many times since, but without any accompanying letter.
I knew that people might not like our beliefs, but that was because they were not yet aware of the overall inter-connected nature of the doctrines that made it all fit together. If any honest-hearted person would give it a chance with an open mind, I was always sure that such a person would accept our doctrines. And during my time pioneering and even at Bethel, I’m sure this part of my beliefs about our work came through. I’ve had about 25 different Bible Studies with interested persons, and 7 of them have become baptized JWs, 4 of them while I was at Bethel.
So I was already surprised to learn in my first few days at Bethel that my roommate stole money from me — and from several others. I was surprised to hear every few days about another Bethelite being removed from Bethel service for theft, or adultery, or fornication, or homosexuality. I thought I was mentally ready to accept hear almost any kind of announcement and not be too surprised.
But that ability to suppress surprise would be tested.
Before I left Bethel, I had already read almost all the Society’s publications from 1876 to 1980. It was a personal project, but also related to some assignments I had been given. I did not start out reading them critically, although I admit that my amateur proofreading skills did lead me to read very carefully, and a bit more critically over time. The Aid Book took up most of the time, for a few months. (I reported at least 30 proofreading errors in the Aid Book, and found many more that I kept to myself.) After the Aid Book, though, the other books and magazines went much faster than I imagined they would.
I had a lot of questions, and my first contact in the Writing Department who learned about my questions was already aware of most issues I brought up (RL). I didn’t dare share the fact that I had come to completely question the whole 1914 schema, at least not directly. But some of my questions must have given me away. He figured it out. After a lot of changing the subject to non-controversial discussions for a couple months, he finally admitted that he himself didn’t believe in 1914, and neither did at least 4 other members of the Writing Department, and perhaps even 2 or 3 members of the Governing Body. Over time, I was able to make friends with 2 (JN and N/A) other members of Writing and 1 member of the Governing Body (LS) who admitted that he thought we should minimize the emphasis on chronology in favor of certain types of articles that were becoming more common. Another member of the Governing Body (BS) I was working with on research issues, never admitted what he personally believed on chronology, but confided that several members of the Governing Body had doubts about some of our doctrines but that this was the way things changed: “If no one at his level questioned anything how could we progress.” Near the end of my Bethel career, I learned that there was another member of the Governing Body (DS), who would become somewhat open and friendly with me only after I announced I was leaving Bethel, who believed that we should scrap all the 1918, 1919, 1920’s prophetic fulfillments and start over from scratch, and that included the identity of the little flock and other sheep. (He never told me he didn’t believe in 1914, but someone else told me that he just couldn’t admit it out loud to anyone after his appointment to the GB in 1975.) All this time I had never met or spoken with Ray Franz, who would be removed from his assignment by the time I left Bethel. I understand that he also did not agree with some of the same chronological issues although he had done his best to defend them for the Aid Book and after receiving “the manuscript.”
After a while, I began to think that my friends in Writing had the better perspective. They said it wasn’t worth fighting these issues about chronology even where we see specific mistakes because those issues aren’t that important and will surely work their way out sooner or later. In the meantime, why do or say anything that could get you in trouble, when there is so much positive spiritual food to be concerned with. Getting in trouble would only put one on the outside, and what kind of positive work could you do from there. None of my friends were ever directly removed for things they said or did, but two of my friends were finally asked to leave the Writing Department due to suspicions about what they believed based on things they didn’t write about.
In the meantime, my reading project was mounting up dozens of issues. I had discovered that, for example:
- For a brief period of time, the Watchtower was one of those religions that had accepted the League of Nations as a kind of political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.
- I had discovered that Rutherford’s way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures and defining various “classes” was formulaic and predictable even when it required inconsistency.
- I had discovered that Russell had tentatively lost faith in the expectations for 1914 starting in late 1913 and early 1914 to the point where he surmised about what people might think of things he had written when they were being read 100 years from now.
- I discovered that the Watchtower had explicitly admitted things that we also later claimed were never said. (e.g., that Russell supposedly had never claimed to be, personally, the faithful and wise servant.)
- I had discovered that most of the factual mistakes that I could most easily uncover were mistakes in our own coverage of our Watchtower Society history and issues around chronology.
- I was told about “the manuscript” from Sweden, that no one wanted to answer, which was just being pushed from person to person and finally seemed to end up on a shelf. I saw in once in the office of the brother in Writing who gave half of my wedding talk. (FR) I wasn’t allowed to read it. I was aware that no one wanted to answer it while Fred Franz was still around, and that action was very likely going to be taken against the brother who wrote it, no matter what his motive.
So as anyone should be able to see, my beliefs about 1914 came out an experience. It was a unique experience that lasted perhaps 4 years. Other persons could have gone through a similar experience with a completely different outcome for their beliefs. I was young and impressionable, and the respected brothers I worked with influenced me with their outlook. I might have read the same information, had the same questions, and ended up going to other brothers for answers, and my final beliefs would have likely been influenced by their answers and their perspective.
So, I apologize for all that context and background, but now I’m ready to actually list out the case against the 1914 teaching.
1. There are too many questions that cannot be answered about 1914.
2. There are too many Greek words (and a couple of Hebrew words, too) that have been translated and interpreted with a specific slant that all indicate we have gone in the wrong direction on this one. For example:
Is it 70 years by Babylon or “for” Babylon
Is it conclusion or end,
Is it ..
At every possible turn, there is an easy way to understand the general Biblical view about chronology and the verses that have become the source for 1914. The easy way provides a consistent message that cannot also allow for a specific date prior to Christ’s return when he also returns to begin an invisible presence. There is also a difficult and complex way of reading it that would permit 1914 to be extracted from the verses. The problem is that this complexity doesn’t go away, but keeps coming up again over and over. Have to change the calendar to make it work, have to change the meaning of words, have to minimize scriptures that contradict, and saythey had special case meanings. Kingdom, all authority, “rule as king”.