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.)