Contributed by Ann O’Maly
The contrived and unrealistic conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses imagined having with a neighbor in the October 2014 Watchtower will not be reproduced here. Instead let us imagine another conversation another Witness named Andre (ahem, sorry) Cameron has at the home of another man who is also named Jon.
“KEEP SEARCHING” FOR A SUCKER
Cameron: Jon, I’ve really enjoyed the regular discussions we’ve been having about the Bible.* The last time we spoke, you raised a question about God’s Kingdom. You asked why Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Kingdom began ruling in the year 1914.
|*Accepting free home “Bible” studies means you’ll often have Jehovah’s Witnesses bothering you for years.|
Jon: Yes, I was reading one of your flimsy leaflets, and it said that God’s Kingdom started ruling in 1914. That made me curious because I can’t remember ever seeing a passage in the Bible that mentioned the year 1914. So I went to an online Bible and did a search for “1914.” Sure enough, the search engine said: “0 results.”
Cameron: I have to patronize you now by patting you on the head and saying ‘Well done, you’ for knowing how to read and for being able to use a website search engine. Have a cookie.
Jon: Thank you. I do want to keep learning. In fact, I flipped through this book you’ve been trying to convert me with and I found some information on 1914. It mentions a wacked out dream that some Babylonian king had over 2 millennia ago about a big tree that was cut down and then grew back … or something like that.
Cameron: Ah, yes. Daniel chapter 4. It involves a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had.
Jon: Didn’t I just say that? Yes, that’s the one. I read the prophecy over and over. But to be honest, I still don’t see what it has to do with God’s Kingdom or the year 1914.
Cameron: Actually, Jon, you will come to see how obvious it is.
Jon: OK …
Cameron: Don’t feel too bad. Not even Daniel understood what he was talking about. Allow me to divert attention away from your question and lay some groundwork for mindlessly accepting what I say. It was not yet God’s time to reveal the true meaning of Daniel’s prophecy. But now, in our time, we can understand more fully. Daniel 12:9 says: “The words are to be kept secret and sealed up until the time of the end.” So these prophecies would only be understood much later when Jehovah’s Witnesses came on the scene. And as we will soon discuss in our “Bible” (*wink*) study, all evidence indicates that we are God’s chosen people.*
|*Come with us if you want to live.|
Jon: Um, I need to go now …
Cameron: No, I’ve not finished with you. Don’t try to run or I’ll sit on you.
A LESSON IN EISEGESIS
Cameron: To begin, let me briefly summarize what King Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. Then we can talk about what it means.
Jon: *nervously looking around for available exits*
Cameron: In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw an enormous tree that reached all the way to heaven. Then he heard God’s messenger command that the tree be cut down. However, God said for its rootstock to be left in the ground. After a period of “seven times,” the tree would grow again. This prophecy initially applied to King Nebuchadnezzar himself. Although he was a prominent king—like the tree that reached clear to heaven—he was cut down for “seven times.” Do you remember what happened?
Jon: *Buying time while thinking of a way to escape* No, I don’t recall.
Cameron: You’re not very bright, are you? The Bible shows that Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity, evidently for seven years.
Jon: (I know the feeling). Um, you say, ‘evidently.’ What’s ‘evident’ about ‘times’ being ‘years’?
Cameron: I shall ignore your question, Jon, because I don’t want to answer it. Anyway, getting back to what I want to talk about … During that time, he was unable to rule as king. But at the end of the seven times, Nebuchadnezzar regained his sanity and started ruling again.
Jon: What does all of this have to do with God’s Kingdom and the year 1914?
Cameron: Nothing at all. So this is where we invent two fulfillments for this prophecy. The first and real fulfillment happened when King Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership was interrupted, as the Bible explicitly says. The second fulfillment involves fabricating a new interpretation where Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, notorious for oppressing God’s people, actually represents God’s kingdom. So it is this second made-up fulfillment that is related to God’s Kingdom.
Jon: That’s nuts.
Cameron: Hey, by the time I’ve finished with you, you’ll think it makes perfect sense. For one thing, we contort the prophecy itself. According to Daniel 4:17, the prophecy was given “so that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that he gives it to whomever he wants.” Did you notice the expression “the kingdom of mankind”?
Jon: I’m not a child.
Cameron: Right. But you are dim. Who do you suppose is “the Most High”?
Jon: Ah c’mon. Stop that!
Cameron: Were you thinking it was God? Yes? Good. Well done, you. Have another cookie. So that tells us that this prophecy is not only about Nebuchadnezzar. It also involves “the kingdom of mankind”—that is, God’s rulership over mankind. And that makes sense when we look at the prophecy in its context.
Jon: What the hell are you talking about? So God’s kingdom is represented by both God’s rulership over the ‘kingdom of mankind’ and by Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership that was taken away by God’s rulership over ‘the kingdom of mankind’. Can I go now?
THE AGENDA’S CENTRAL THEME
Cameron: Now I’m going to jump away from Daniel 4 and razzle dazzle you with another mind-bending tangent. Would you please read Daniel 2:44?
Jon: OK. …
Cameron: I meant you are to read it out loud to me. It’s an important part of the know-it-all vs. dummy ritual.
Jon: *Sigh* “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it alone will stand forever.” Happy now?
Cameron: Thank you. Would you say that this verse sounds as if it is referring to God’s Kingdom?
Jon: Hmph. You think the part where it says ‘the God of heaven will set up a kingdom’ isn’t enough of a clue for me?
Cameron: You’re not nearly as intelligent as I am, so no. Notice that it says that this Kingdom “will stand forever.” That’s true of God’s Kingdom, but it’s not something that we can say of any human government, can we?
Jon: *Taps watch* 1914. Get to 1914.
Cameron: Not yet. I need to ramble on about other prophecies in Daniel first and ask you inane questions to make you look like an imbecile.
Jon: Oh Lordy.
One hour later …
Cameron: Let’s briefly review what we’ve discussed so far.
Jon: Do we have to?
Cameron: Yes we do. I cannot seriously expect you to have kept up with my knight-jump connections and convoluted reasonings. The prophecy in Daniel chapter 4 was given so that people would know that “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind.” This in itself indicates that the prophecy has a bigger fulfillment than just the one involving Nebuchadnezzar. And throughout the book of Daniel, we find prophecies about the establishment of God’s Kingdom under the rulership of his Son. Do you think it’s reasonable to conclude, then, that this prophecy in Daniel chapter 4 also has something to do with God’s Kingdom?
Jon: I still don’t see the connection with 1914.
LET MORE MEANDERINGS PASS
Cameron: Well, let’s go back to King Nebuchadnezzar. In the real fulfillment of the prophecy his rulership was interrupted when the tree was chopped down and left for seven times. That period of seven times ended when Nebuchadnezzar resumed his rulership. In the concocted second fulfillment of the prophecy, God’s rulership would be interrupted for a period of time—but not because of any deficiency on God’s part.
Jon: You said that the ‘kingdom of mankind’ is ruled by the Most High and that rulership was interrupted by the decree of the Most High. How can it not be ‘deficient’ on God’s part if God interrupts his own rulership?
Cameron: I’ll ignore your excellent question, Jon, because this is my imagined conversation and I can manipulate it as I see fit. In Bible times, the Israelite kings who ruled in Jerusalem were said to sit on “Jehovah’s throne.” So the rulership of those kings was really an expression of God’s rulership. In time, however, most of those kings became disobedient to God and most of their subjects followed suit. Because of the Israelites’ disobedience, God allowed them to be conquered by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. From that time on, no more kings represented Jehovah in Jerusalem. In that sense, then, God’s rulership was interrupted. Are you with me so far?
Jon: Um, no. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian in 587 B.C.E.
Cameron: So, as I said, 607 B.C.E. was when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians …
Cameron: That’s what I said, 607 … and this marked the beginning of the seven times, or the period when God’s rulership would be interrupted. At the end of the seven times, God would install a new ruler to represent Him—this time, someone in heaven. So the big question is: When did the seven times end? If we can answer that question, we will know when God’s Kingdom began ruling.
Jon: Ahh. So 1914 comes from starting to count ‘seven times’ from the wrong date.
Cameron: Exactly! You got it.
Jon: But how do we know how long ‘seven times’ is supposed to be?
Cameron: Well, I’m going to ignore that question, Jon, because I’ve just about got in my pioneer hours for this morning. During his earthly ministry, Jesus indicated that the seven times had not yet ended.* …
|*Even though Jesus’ prophecy uses the future tense in Luke 21:24 where Jesus said: “Jerusalem WILL BE trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled,” and this prophecy has frack all to do with Daniel 4, we’ll pretend otherwise.|
… So they must be a very long period of time. The seven times started hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, and they continued until sometime after he returned to heaven. Remember, too, that the meaning of the prophecies in Daniel was not to become clear until Jehovah’s Witnesses appeared on the scene.* …
|*Obey us or die.|
… Interestingly, during the late 1800’s, sincere students of the Bible were moved to examine this and other prophecies very carefully. Even though their ideas about 1914 were completely wrong, we’ve re-written history so that it looks like they were right. By pure chance, World War 1 began and, over the next few decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses could alter their understandings about 1914 and Daniel’s prophecies to conform to those global events, thereby declaring that year as the one where God’s Kingdom began ruling in heaven. Now, I know this is probably a lot to digest . . .
Jon: Yes. I’m definitely getting a migraine.
Cameron: Don’t worry. It took me quite a few indoctrination sessions to see how all the disparate and disjointed pieces could be loosely cobbled together too. But at the very least, I hope our discussion has helped you to see that Jehovah’s Witnesses will doggedly hang on to any old nonsense.
Jon: For sure. I’ve always been impressed with that.
Cameron: And I can see that you’ll agree to just about anything so that I’ll go. You probably still have some questions. For example, we’ve established that the seven times relate to God’s Kingdom and that they began in 607 B.C.E. But how, exactly, do we know that these seven times ended in 1914? *
|*See the appendix “1914—A Significant Year in Bible Prophecy” of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? which leaves out the really important questions you want answers to like, ‘why use the wrong year for Jerusalem’s destruction?’ and ‘what’s with using a day-for-year formula when Dan. 4 doesn’t warrant it?’ and ‘why use a 360-day year in the calculation which is neither a lunar nor solar based year?’ and ‘why make Jesus’ future prediction about the Gentile times a fulfillment starting in the distant past?’ and much, much more.|
Cameron: The Bible itself helps us to determine the precise length of the seven times. Would you like to examine that topic the next time I’m here?
Jon: Not only have I lost interest but I think I have lost the will to live. Please don’t ever speak to me again. … And I want my lawnmower back. NOW.
Do you have a particular Bible subject that you have wondered about? Are you curious about any of the beliefs or religious practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If so, think twice about asking your Jehovah’s Witness neighbor. Instead visit jwfacts.com.
Don’t miss, Part 2 of the Jon & Cameron Show!