Chronology

The Watch Tower Society has always been known as a promoter and defender of chronology as a valuable and worthwhile area of Biblical study.  And, of course, not all study of chronology in their publications is designed to defend the teachings about 1914. At least, it’s not all directly applied to that purpose. This does not mean that individual Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to take any extra interest in the subject beyond learning how to defend “1914.” Until 2014, even this particular endeavor was not given much  attention. 2014 is a clear exception to the norm. The October and November 2014 issues of The Watchtower have articles specifically geared toward convincing someone who is presented as skeptical about 1914. (Those articles are commented upon more closely on this site.){links}

The Watch Tower has, however, brought the 1914 teaching into the limelight in a way that had not been done in prior years. It now bible1914appears in an appendix of their most popular Bible, the New World Translation, 2013 Edition.  No previous Bibles have ever mentioned “1914,” not even the “NWT Reference Bible,” with all its extra appendixes. (Those previous appendixes actually included material about the word “parousia/presence” that has now been omitted from the 2013 revision.)

Overall, however, chronology is not mentioned as much as it has been in the past. There have been times when 1914 was mentioned much more often. A look at the most recent Watchtower Library CD-ROM gives a good idea. Searching on the term “1914” we realize that some of those references may be coincidental (e.g., an unrelated mention of a book or event in that year) and may not be references to the teaching itself. We can account partially for that by also comparing mentions of 1914 to 1913 and 1915. The percentage in the last column accounts for these coincidental references and compares how much less the doctrine has been mentioned in each decade, using the 1950’s decade as the baseline.

Publication Decade 1913 1914 1915 % inc/dec
  Watchtower 1950’s  23  891  24  baseline
  Watchtower 1960’s  34  867  23 -3.3%
  Watchtower 1970’s 9  583  9 -33.8%
  Watchtower 1980’s  22  802  22 -10.1%
  Watchtower 1990’s  10  481  15 -46.0%
  Watchtower 2000’s 10  216  6 -76.0%
  Watchtower 2010’s N/A N/A N/A N/A*

*The 2010’s decade is not available yet because we are only 4 years into the decade.

Discussion of the 1914 date seemed to have been cut by a third during the 1970’s. (This might surprise Witnesses who remember all the attention given to 1975, although “1975,” had already been mentioned 46 times in The Watchtower during the 1960’s!) However the 1990’s saw the mention of 1914 cut nearly in half, and the 2000’s have seen the mention cut by more than three-fourths. What will the 2010’s bring?

It’s true that –in writing, at least– dates were played down a bit in the 1970’s as if we were holding our breath for something. Of course, part of the explanation for the 70’s is the fact that while there were between about 50 and 80 mentions of 1914 during almost every year up to 1975, the Watchtower did suddenly get very shy about the 1914 date (and any dates for that matter) in both 1976 and 1977, mentioning it only 30 times in 1976 and only 21 times in 1977. (That’s less mentions in entire year than some single articles had in the 1950’s and 1960’s.) Not only that, but there wasn’t even a single mention of 1914 in any of the new books released at the summer conventions in both 1978 and 1979. That had never happened before.

Of course, the 1914 teaching came back in a big way in the 1980’s, which was, of course, a very clear attempt to “rebuild” the Watch Tower’s reputation for chronology that it had lost from 1976 through 1979. In 1984, this peaked to levels far higher than any previous year (including even the high levels of the 1950’s and 1960’s.) But all that extra attention wasn’t sustainable in the 1990’s or the 2000’s.

So it remains to be seen if this recent extra attention given to 1914 is just a necessary “glitch” in honor of the 2014 centennial.  Other recent changes around chronology issues (diminishing 1918, for example{link}) might give the impression that the Watch Tower leaders would prefer to give less attention to specific dates, because this particular focus on 1914 could easily backfire, in terms of its usefulness in encouraging the brothers (or, rousing the troops?).

Therefore, questions about the Watch Tower’s current position on the importance of chronology might best be asked again in early 2015. In the meantime, we offer the following general questions about chronology-based doctrines, many of which are also the topics of articles and posts in this section:

  • What does the Bible really say about Chronology?
  • Does the Bible warn us against researching Chronology?
  • What can we learn from past speculation by Jehovah’s Witnesses?
  • Has there been any recent date speculation by Jehovah’s Witnesses?
  • How do Chronology doctrines affect life choices regarding: Education, Career & Financial?
  • How do Chronology teachings affect life choices regarding: Marriage & Children
  • How have other religions historically handled Chronology speculation?
  • What is the relationship between Chronology teachings and obedience to the Faithful and Discreet Slave
  • Is there really a case to be made that publishing Chronology speculations and False Prophecy?

Those questions above will be considered in the various articles in this section. Watch for them under under the Chronology section menu.

 

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