You can download my Keynote slides as a PDF HERE
In the October 1, 2014 Watchtower, a “conversation article” is published whereby a Jehovah’s Witness discusses 1914 with his neighbor. It was obviously not a real discussion, but described as a “typical conversation” nonetheless. While the neighbor is nowhere near as skeptical as myself, he still asked some decent questions. In fact, many of the questions are ones that I would ask! The problem is, the answers provided by the JW were quite problematic. I would encourage you to read the article for yourself before proceeding here. It begins on page 10 and goes to 13. Since the article is “part 1,” I assume there will at least be a part 2.
Rather than interacting with the “conversation” directly, I would like to create a conversation of my own; using some of the specific arguments and answers provided by the JW. The difference is, the non-JW will not only ask good questions; he’ll provide rebuttals to the JW answers. While it’s difficult to create a fictitious “real life” conversation, I will do my best to emulate one based my history of discussions with JW apologists. In honor of my favorite JW apologist, “Fred Torres,” I will use “Fred” as the name for my fictitious JW apologist and “Carl” for the Christian apologist (i’ll let you figure out where Carl came from).
Fred: Carl, it was great to meet with you for the first time last week. I enjoyed getting to know about your life, family, and especially your religious background. You did mention that you had done some research on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past. Am I right on that?
Carl: Yes, i’ve done quite a bit of research, both from JW and non-JW sources. I’ve always been interested in the major religious groups who claim the title “Christian” for themselves. The JW’s are certainly “up there” in terms of worldwide influence and worthy of investigation.
Fred: I’m assuming then, after all the research you’ve done, you have some hangups regarding our teachings?
Carl: As a matter of fact, I do. Unfortunately, when I try to point out some of these doctrinal problems, JW’s often retreat and want nothing to do with me. I’m hoping that won’t be the case with you?
Fred: Not at all. I’m sorry you had some negative experiences in the past with the JW’s. I can assure you that our leaders encourage us not to avoid challenges to our faith.
Carl: Well that’s good to hear. Mind if I ask you some questions about your doctrine then?
Fred: Go right ahead!
Carl: Great! What is it that you find to be so “biblical” about the year 1914? In my opinion, it seems to be an unnecessarily complex chronological system that no one could figure out, even if they spent decades studying the Bible.
Fred: First of all, JW’s do not believe that Christians should separate themselves from the teachings of the FDS. Just like the first century, we need a Governing Body to keep us unified. And this means teaching us what the Bible says. So I can say with confidence that all of our beliefs are backed up with Scripture, due to years of in-depth research by the Watchtower Society.
Carl: Well i’m glad you seek to defend your beliefs with the Bible, but what i’m curious about is how you derive 1914 from the Bible? After all, aren’t you always arguing that the Trinity isn’t in the Bible?
Fred: I suppose you’re right about that. But the difference is, I can prove from the Bible that 1914 is when God’s Kingdom started ruling. Unfortunately for you, this cannot be done with the Trinity; whether the word can be found or not. So let’s start with Daniel chapter 4. Are you familiar with the story?
Carl: Yes, this is the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
Fred: Since you seem to have already studied our arguments to some depth, I assume then that you understand why we interpret this dream the way we do?
Carl: Yes, but I don’t quite understand why you think there are two fulfillments of this dream? I think that only a preconceived theological agenda could come up with such a conclusion.
Fred: On the contrary, I think there are some very compelling reasons as to why there should be two fulfillments of this dream. But before I move on, can you tell me what you think we believe the two fulfillments are?
Carl: If I understand your beliefs correctly, the first fulfillment happened when King Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership was interrupted and the second has to do with the interruption of God’s rulership.
Fred: That’s correct. So let’s talk about the second fulfillment since i’m sure we agree on the first. What does your Bible say in Daniel 4:17?
Carl: “This sentence is by decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Fred: Thank you. What do you think about the phrase, “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind?” Don’t you think this is talking about more than just Nebuchadnezzar?
Carl: Of course the dream has implications for more than just Nebuchadnezzar, but what makes you think this is referring to an event taking place thousands of years later?
Fred: Well, it’s talking about God’s rulership over mankind, right?
Carl: Of course. Jehovah has always been the sovereign ruler over mankind. Wouldn’t you agree?
Fred: Yes, but 4:17 is specific in that “the living” may know this. In addition, the dream involves “the realm” or “kingdom of mankind.”
Carl: That’s correct, but does this text mention anything about mankind recognizing Jehovah’s rulership?
Fred: Sure it does. Who else would “the living” be?
Carl: If you think this is universal, then you are reading more into the text that is actually there. Mind if I ask you about a few texts to better explain my point?
Fred: Please do.
Carl: Ok. Who is said to recognize the “granduer which [God] bestowed on him” according to Daniel 5:19?
Fred: It says, “all the peoples, nations and men of every language.”
Carl: And didn’t all these ones tremble before Nebuchadnezzar because of his ruthless power?
Carl: Well then, wouldn’t you say that Nebuchadnezzar’s being “driven away from mankind”, his restoration and recognition of God’s sovereignty would be known by his people? After all, doesn’t Nebuchadnezzar say, “And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.” (4:36) The next verse is the kicker: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (4:37) So wouldn’t you think Nebuchadnezzar’s people now recognized who was really in sovereign control given how openly he proclaimed these things?
Fred: I see your point, but…
Carl: Let me just show you one more point really quick if you don’t mind…
Fred: Go ahead.
Carl: What do you think Daniel 2:21 means when it says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding?”
Fred: Basically, Jehovah is in charge even of kings!
Carl: That’s right! So my point is that “the living” mentioned in 4:17 most certainly have, do, and will know that Jehovah is the ruler of all mankind. Nebuchadnezzar’s exile and restoration is just one of countless examples of this. How many times beyond Nebuchadnezzar did kings and people of many nations recognize God’s sovereignty? Probably a great many, wouldn’t you agree?
Fred: I see your point, but our argument regarding a dual fulfillment isn’t based on one verse. Daniel 2:44 and 7:13-14 teach that God’s kingdom will have a global rulership.
Carl: I completely agree with that. God’s kingdom certainly will put an end to all the worldly kingdoms. But what does this have to do with a dual fulfillment in Daniel 4?
Fred: Well, it just goes to show that the prophecies are universal.
Carl: But those prophecies aren’t talking about Daniel 4 are they? Doesn’t Daniel 4 have it’s own context? After all, 4:28 says that “all this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.” Well, did it or didn’t it?
Fred: Of course it did, but due to the fact that Daniel 2:33, 7:13-14 and other places speak of a universal kingdom, then this must be the context of Daniel 4 as well.
Carl: Ok, let’s say I agree with you for the sake of argument. Where is the connection with 1914, even if Daniel 4 is speaking of a universal recognition of the kingdom? I’m leaning towards the idea that God’s kingdom was not universally recognized in 1914 any more than it was in 1913.
Fred: We interpret the interruption of the king’s rulership as a second fulfillment of the prophecy. So God’s rulership will be interrupted for a period of time. This is what we believe happened in 607 BCE when God’s rulership was interrupted when the Babylonians conquered the Israelites. Therefore, the “seven times” from Daniel 4 began it’s second fulfillment. At the end of this time period, God’s kingdom would begin to rule again.
Carl: Wow, you really know how to open up a can of worms don’t you?
Fred: What do you mean? Everything I just stated can be proven from the Scriptures.
Carl: I think you take it for granted that you can import so many theological assumptions into a few sentences. You’d have the same reaction if I did the same for some of my beliefs, and rightly so! At any rate, we would really need to take the time to unpack each of those ideas, though i’m unpersuaded that Daniel 4 has a dual fulfillment. Furthermore, i’m surprised such a complex and speculative doctrine can have such an important role in your religion’s doctrine. And you thought the Trinity was unnecessary!
Fred: I understand where you’re coming from, but we really do have a solid grasp on this doctrine and why it can be backed up Scripturally. However, we do need to get together again to discuss it further; especially why the “seven times” can lead us from 607 BCE to 1914.
Carl: That sounds great and i’m looking forward to it!
…to be continued
Debate with a JW: “Is the Watchtower’s interpretation of the faithful slave found in Matthew 24 and Luke 12, as articulated in the July 15th, 2013 Watchtower, accurate?”
The debate is with Rotherham, who is a JW I regularly interact with here. The format is as follows with hyperlinks for each section:
(3) Submit 5 questions
- Rotherham’s First Question to Mike –>Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
- Mike’s First Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
- Rotherham’s Second Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
- Mike’s Second Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
- Rotherham’s Third Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
- Mike’s Third Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
- Rotherham’s Fourth Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
- Mike’s Fourth Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
- Rotherham’s Fifth Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
- Mike’s Fifth Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
Though i’m a little late on this NEWS and many have expressed their thoughts on this new development in Watchtower theology, I was compelled to offer my thoughts too. While some offered commentary through hearsay accounts before the news became public, I was convicted to not do so. But now the cat is out of the bag and I think its worth discussing. While my thoughts are not necessarily unique or new, I find it helpful to discuss in repitition. After all, many of the commentaries are from ex-JW’s, which might hinder their material from being read by faithful JW’s. And since i’m not an ex-JW, this might open a door for a faithful JW to consider what i’m saying without compromising their conviction regarding so-called “apostate literature.”
But I don’t want to be hasty and presumptuous regarding this “new light” provided by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After all, this is simply a NEWS REPORT and not a full doctrinal exposition. So I don’t expect the Watchtower’s report to be exhaustive, answer all the questions, etc. In fact, i’m happy they released this information, regardless of its brevity. It provides an opportunity for JW’s and others to digest this new perspective before its put into print. Therefore, my commentary will be written with this in mind. In fact, I expect that some of my questions and concerns towards this “new light” will be answered once the Governing Body has the opportunity to elaborate, which I trust they will in time.
Still, some might find much of this presumptuous. But these are just honest questions and concerns. I think we all need to apply wisdom and humility here as we consider these teachings by the Governing Body. Nonetheless, “God’s channel” is making definitive and public claims however preliminary and brief they are. Therefore, its our duty as Christians to “examine the Scriptures” in light of these ideas (Acts 17:11); whether rejecting or accepting them.
When Did Jesus Appoint “the Faithful and Discreet Slave” Over His Domestics?
Consider the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 24. All the verses listed here were to be fulfilled during Christ’s presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”—Verse 3.
- “The tribulation of those days.”—Verse 29.
- “This generation.”—Verse 34.
- “That day and hour.”—Verse 36.
- The “day your Lord is coming.”—Verse 42.
- “At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Verse 44.
Logically, then, “the faithful and discreet slave” must have appeared after Christ’s presence began in 1914.
I’m not sure how this is logical or Scriptural. In looking at both accounts of the parable, Matthew 24 and Luke 12, it is clear that the Master is away or absent in some sense. That is, according to the parable, an appointment is made to put the slave in charge while he is away. Otherwise, if the Master is present, then why the appointment?
While the following is now considered “old light,” it can’t be said that my questions aren’t at least valid since the Watchtower itself considered them:
*** ka chap. 17 p. 341 pars. 21-22 The “Slave” Who Lived to See the “Sign” ***
Since Jesus spoke of this “slave” in his prophecy concerning the “sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things,” did that composite “faithful and discreet slave” first come into existence during his “presence” or parousia from 1914 onward?
22 No; for Jesus’ illustration portrays the lord of the “slave” as going away, as a “man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves.” (Mark 13:34)
At the very least, we see that the parable teaches Christ as “going away” after the initial appointment. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is that the initial appointment simply shifted to a date 1900 years later. What else am I missing? We are now left with the meaning of “presence” and how it can be simultaneously said that Christ is “away” or “absent” while the slave is in charge. Perhaps the Watchtower is also going to refine this aspect too, for they have previously stated quite clearly what Christ has been doing since 1914:
*** w55 2/15 p. 104 How Does Christ Come the Second Time? ***
Since  Christ has been supervising a work of dividing the “sheep” from the “goats” even as he foretold, a work of educating the sheeplike ones so that they can seek Jehovah, righteousness and meekness and thus be hidden in the day of his anger.
At least the “old light” was more consistent in this regard, since Christ would be absent from 33 C.E. until his presence began in 1914. But let’s give the Watchtower an opportunity to clarify this point when they get to it.
Moreover, Jesus indicated that this “slave” would appear during a time when a legitimate question would be: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” Jesus’ apostles had miraculous gifts of holy spirit, so there was scant reason to raise that question in the first century C.E. (1 Corinthians 14:12, 24, 25) Although they were anointed by holy spirit, the apostles and other first-century Christians were not “the faithful and discreet slave” prophesied by Jesus.
It is reasonable to conclude, then, that Jesus appointed “the faithful and discreet slave” over “his domestics” during his presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”
This is somewhat confusing. Why would there have not been a good reason to ask this question at any point in Christian history? If we can ask that question now when we have light from “God’s channel,” then why not with Christ’s chosen apostles? This point appears to be a mere assertion rather than one backed up by exegesis. Furthermore, we see another “reasonable conclusion” that doesn’t seem too reasonable considering my questions above.
“Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”
Jesus was referring, not to an individual, but to a composite “slave”—a group working together as one body. Jesus said that the slave (1) is appointed to a supervisory role “over [the master’s] domestics” and (2) gives the domestics spiritual “food at the proper time.”
While there is not room to belabor the point here, it must be emphasized that the idea of a slave “class” simply does not work exegetically. Notice in Matthew’s account where Jesus refers to the same slave in two different respects:
“Blessed is that slave who his master finds so doing when he comes” (24:46)
“But if that evil slave says in his heart…the master of that slave will come on a day…and will cut him in pieces…” (24:48-51)
If Jesus is presenting a “slave class” in v. 46, then it is possible that this same slave class could come under judgment if they are not faithful. Consequently, there would be no “faithful slave class” to be judged as righteous when the master returns.
The Lukan account provides even more difficulties since there are four types of slaves that will be judged (see Luke 12:43-48). Does this mean that there are four slave classes out there when Jesus makes His final judgment? If so, then who could they be? If the “faithful slave class” can be identified now, then shouldn’t the other 3 slaves be able to as well?
From 1919 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have supervised our worldwide preaching work and have been directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. In recent years, that group has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
While I don’t think its necessary to discuss this in light of the Governing Body’s inception in the 1970’s, I do find this quote to be of some concern. The reason being, why could it have not just as easily been stated, “Since 1879 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” In other words, what really changed in 1919 besides the supposed appointment?
The evidence points to the following conclusion: “The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as “the faithful and discreet slave.”
It is not clear what “evidence” they are referring to, unless one already assumes that 1914 and 1919 are correct. But even then, i’m still not sure why its the Governing Body that gets the appointment? We are still left with gaps and unanswered questions. However, if the conclusion is that those “directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food” are the “faithful slave,” then would it not comprise of more than just 8 men? After all, its not like the Governing Body actually writes all the publications, though i’m sure they examine and approve them. But where does Jesus make these distinctions in the parable?
Who Are the “Domestics”?
Jesus said that “his domestics” would receive “food at the proper time.” All genuine followers of Jesus are fed by “the faithful and discreet slave.” Therefore, all of Christ’s disciples—both individual anointed Christians and members of the “other sheep”—are “his domestics.”—John 10:16.
To some extent, I actually appreciate this because it lends credibility to my own view on who the “faithful slave” is. Notice that the “domestics” are all genuine followers of Christ, which would include the Governing Body. That is, the Governing Body as individuals must be fed too. Remember, according to the Watchtower, the “faithful slave” only exists when those appointed ones “work together as the Governing Body.”
So why does this lend credibility to my own view? Because the “faithful slave” is any individual Christian who is found to be faithfully dispensing spiritual food and fairly treating his fellow slaves when Christ returns. Therefore, all faithful slaves are helping each other and there is no basis for creating two classes of Christians as the Watchtower does.
After the speaker explained this aspect of Jesus’ prophecy, the audience erupted in sustained applause. Several in attendance later expressed their profound gratitude that Jesus considers them among “his domestics.”
This is amazing but I shouldn’t be surprised. Why did these satisfied ones have to wait for this pronouncement from 8 men before concluding that Jesus considered them among “his domestics.” Was the parable not clear enough to conclude this on their own? Or did they need permission or an authoritative declaration before concluding?
When Does Jesus Appoint the Slave “Over All His Belongings”?
Jesus said that the “master on arriving” (literally, “having come”) will appoint the slave “over all his belongings.” When does the Master, Jesus, arrive?
The expression translated “on arriving” is a form of the Greek word er′kho·mai. Verses 42 and 44 of chapter 24 translate a form of er′kho·mai as “coming.” In those verses, Jesus is referring to his coming as Judge during the great tribulation.—Matthew 24:30; 25:31, 32.
Jesus’ appointment of the “slave” over his “belongings,” then, must also be a future event. He will make that appointment during the great tribulation.
This is where we really need more clarification from the Governing Body. If the “appointment” is still a future event, then what happened in 1919? Obviously, from the article, the “faithful slave” came into existence. But really, why 1919?
I trust that this quotation will clarify my concern:
*** w83 9/15 pp. 19-20 par. 19 “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” ***
To that end, their “master” appointed a collective “faithful steward” class, the body of anointed Christians on the earth since Pentecost 33 C.E. Since the “master” found the remaining ones of this body faithfully and discreetly giving out “food supplies” when he arrived for inspection in 1919, he appointed them “over all his belongings.” (Luke 12:42-44) The facts show that since 1919 this “steward” has faithfully cared for these “belongings.”
Notice, we have two appointments with the “old light” understanding: a 33 C.E. appointment and a 1919 appointment. From what I can gather, the Governing Body is still holding to a first appointment. The difference is, it is now said to occur in 1919 rather than 33 C.E. Therefore, the second appointment is still a future event.
So what does this mean for 1919? Is the basis still sound or are the details now being revised? Unfortunately, we aren’t told.
What Are Jesus’ “Belongings”?
Jesus said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus’ “belongings” thus include more than just his earthly interests. They include the Messianic Kingdom.—Philippians 2:9-11.
Consequently, Jesus will reward “the faithful and discreet slave” by resurrecting the individual members of that group to heavenly life and by giving them royal authority over all Christ’s belongings in heaven and on earth. This is the same reward promised to all faithful anointed Christians.—Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 20:6.
If the same reward is promised to all faithful anointed Christians, then what are they being rewarded for? This is rather perplexing because we still have not been provided with a Scriptural basis for applying the FDS office exclusively to the Governing Body. At best, we’ve been given only reasons for which the slave didn’t come in existence until 1919.
While there is much more I could say on this, I want to conclude with an argument. In Luke 12:41, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, are you addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” While some may think that Jesus didn’t answer Peter directly, I am confident that he did. But notice, who was Jesus’ audience at the time? Was it the “everyone else” (12:31) or the “us” (12:22)?
The point is, Jesus is applying the parable to his audience. Therefore, it would be a nonsensical answer in light of Peter’s question if the various slaves (which is a problem of its own) weren’t going to appear for another 1900 years. Exegetically, there is no reason whatsoever to think that the parable couldn’t be applied to Jesus’ audience: the “us” and/or the “everyone else.”
While I look forward to the Governing Body’s developed explanations that are yet to come, I think that JW’s and others should seriously consider what is said above and critically think through it. And whether you’re a JW or not, I welcome your insights on this matter.
The 1914 doctrine very important to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consider what the Watchtower has to say,
“Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?…That 1914 marked the end of the Gentile Times and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the heavens, as well as the time for Christ’s foretold presence. (Luke 21:7-24; Revelation 11:15–12:10)”
–The Watchtower April 1, 1986 p. 31
“Properly, then, the ending of the Gentile Times in the latter half of 1914 still stands on a historical basis as one of the fundamental Kingdom truths to which we must hold today.”
-The Watchtower January 1, 1983 p. 12
“So Christendom’s clergy refuse to take a stand for Jehovah’s Kingdom by Jesus Christ. For failing to support it, they will be destroyed in the “great tribulation” just ahead. But unlike them, Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and are preaching the Kingdom message in 203 lands. This unparalleled work is an outstanding feature of “the sign” proving that in 1914 Jesus was installed as heavenly King, to rule amid his enemies.—Matthew 24:3, 14, 21; Psalm 110:1, 2; Revelation 18:1-5.”
–The Watchtower September 1, 1985 p. 25
According to the Watchtower, your salvation depends on the acceptance of 1914 in addition to their “entire range” of teachings. Therefore, it is expected that the 1914 doctrine be based upon solid biblical reasoning rather than complex speculations.
The Watchtower publication, What does the Bible Really Teach will be now be considered. Beginning on page 215 in What does the Bible Really Teach (Now cited as “Bible Teach”):
“DECADES in advance, Bible students proclaimed that there would be significant developments in 1914. What were these and what evidence points to 1914 as such an important year?
-Bible Teach p. 215
The Watchtower is misleading its readers in suggesting that the early proclamations of 1914 were of, “significant developments.” Though it is true that 1914 brought about World War I, this was not something that was foretold by Russell or the “Bible Students.” In fact, the “Bible Students” at that time had been proclaiming a different date for Christ’s “invisible presence,” as opposed to what they now teach regarding 1914,
“In 1876, when Russell had first read a copy of Herald of the Morning, he had learned that there was another group who then believed that Christ’s return would be invisible and who associated that return with blessings for all families of the earth. From Mr. Barbour, editor of that publication, Russell also came to be persuaded that Christ’s invisible presence had begun in 1874. Attention was later drawn to this by the subtitle “Herald of Christ’s Presence,” which appeared on the cover of Zion’s Watch Tower.”
–Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, p. 133-134
The facts clearly reveal that, in 1914, the “Bible Students” were predicting something quite significant: the “Battle of Armageddon” and the end of the world. In the Watchtower’s earliest proclamations, they credited the teaching that we now know to be false to God Himself:
“There is no reason for changing the figures; they are God’s dates, not ours; 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but the end!”
–The WatchTower, July 15, 1894, p. 1677
In addition to understating the facts pertaining to the early proclamations of 1914, the What does the Bible Really Teach book gives the impression that the Bible Students were doing something commendable in their proclamation. Other Watchtower publications have not been subtle on this point,
It is easy for the established churches of Christendom and other people to criticize Jehovah’s Witnesses because their publications have, at times, stated that certain things could take place on certain dates. But is not such line of action in harmony with Christ’s injunction to “keep on the watch”? (Mark 13:37)
–The Watchtower 1984 12/1 p. 18
No Bible student should find it commendable to proclaim a false doctrine and attribute it to God.
Given that the Society has had a poor track record of falsely pointing to dates that were supposed to have specific fulfillments (1874, 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1935, 1975), it is wrong for the Society to teach that one must accept what they are now teaching about 1914 to be a true Christian. Furthermore, if a Jehovah’s Witness changes his view on a particular doctrine, it is regarded as apostasy. On the contrary, if the Governing Body (That handful of men who lead the organization) changes their view, it is deemed “new light.”
“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)
–Bible Teach p. 215-216
The 607 B.C.E. date is a very important link in the 1914 chronology. If this date were proven false, then 1914 would be false. Most historians, both biblical and secular, date the destruction of Jerusalem at 586/587 B.C.E. as opposed to 607. More importantly, the 607 date is not in line with what the Scriptures teach. Anyone interested in further details on the 607 date is encouraged to consult The Gentile Times Reconsidered by Carl Olof Jonsson.
Leaving aside 607 B.C.E., there are other important issues at hand; namely, the “trampling of the nations” that is spoken of by Jesus. The publication states that this “trampling” occurred in 607. But notice the time-tense that Jesus places on the statement: “Jerusalem will be trampled.” That is, Jesus is speaking in the future tense. Jesus didn’t speak of something in the future that, according to the publication, happened hundreds of years before he came to earth.
There are addtional clues in the context of Jesus’ statement that gives us even more reason to believe that He is speaking of something future:
“Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be a great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”
-Luke 21:23-24, New World Translation
Given the future-tense phrases that are found in this passage, the Watchtower fails to provide any good reasons to view the “trampling” as an exception in referring to a past event.
“Would this ‘trampling’ go on forever? No, for the prophecy of Ezekiel said regarding Jerusalem’s last king, Zedekiah: ‘Remove the turban, and life 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.”
–Bible Teach p. 216
Though no explicit statement in Scripture speaks of this, the Watchtower insists that Jesus “became King” in 1914. The problem is, the Scriptures indicate that Jesus became King in the first century.
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”
-Matthew 28:18, New World Translation
“He has operated in the case of the Christ when he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come.”
-Ephesians 1:20-21, New World Translation
Christ could not be further exalted or any more “King” than what is described in these Scriptures, which clearly took place in the 1st century upon His resurrection.
“When would that grand event occur? Jesus showed that the Gentiles would rule for a fixed period of time. The account in Daniel chapter 4 holds 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”
–Bible Teach p. 217
This assumption is made by the Watchtower without warrant. That is, they connect the “gentile times” spoken of in Luke 21:24 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4:10, 16 when there is no Scriptural basis for doing so.
“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.”
–Bible Teach p. 217
Though it is true that trees are sometimes used to represent rulership, the Watchtower is not justified in applying this to the tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The text itself identifies the tree as something else and this creates a very difficult problem for the Watchtower’s interpretation; namely, that they are insisting on an interpretation contrary to what is stated in the text:
“This was the dream that I myself, King Neb-u-chad-nez’are, beheld; and you yourself, O Bel-te-shaz’zar [or, Daniel], say what the interpretation is…the tree that you beheld…it is you, O king, because you have grown great and become strong…”
-Daniel 4:18, 20, 22, New World Translation
Since the meaning of the tree is provided by Daniel, there is no good reason to look beyond the interpretation given. But even if we consider the possibility that the “tree” represents “how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem would be interrupted,” the text itself provides a contrary perspective:
“This is the interpretation, O king, and the decree of the Most High is that which must befall my lord the king. And you they will be driving away from men, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will come to be, and the vegetation is what they will give even to you to eat just like the bulls; and with the dew of the heavens you yourself will be getting wet, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it.”
-Daniel 4:24-25, New World Translation
If the interpretation is what the Watchtower says, then it is contradictory to the interpretation given by Daniel himself under inspiration. That is, Daniel informs the king that the “cutting down of the tree” represents how he will be driven away from human society to act like a beast in the wild.
“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 after Jerusalem’s fall.”
–Bible Teach p. 217
This explanation is similar the connections made between Luke 21:24 and Daniel 4 in that they do not provide a basis for which one should connect Revelation 12:6, 14 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4. But even if such a connection is assumed, the Watchtower still has to prove that the “cutting of the tree” represents “God’s rulership” when, in fact, the text expresses something different.
Even if this leaves open the question as to what the “seven times” means in Daniel 4, one is limited with what the text says, for Daniel 4:28 states that, “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.” In addition, verse 33 articulates, “The word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled.” Therefore, whatever the “seven times” means, the interpretation explains that they were fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar.
“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.”
–Bible Teach p. 217
The Watchtower does not provide a basis for connecting these “formulas” in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4. Furthermore, it is not warranted to apply the 2,520 years to the “seven times,” when Daniel 4 specifically expresses that this time period was fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar.
As for Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, is there is nothing in these texts which provides a basis for making “interpretive formulas” and imposing them on other texts. If there were a connection, where would one draw the line? Should the “a day for a year” formula be applied to any place where the word “day” occurs? If the Watchtower cannot provide a biblically sound answer to these questions, then there is no Scriptural basis to make this connection with Daniel 4.
“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”
–Bible Teach p. 217
Since a) 2,520 years as well as the 607 B.C.E. date have been shown to be speculative at best, b) the connections between Luke 21:24 and Daniel 4 are made without basis and c) Scripture supports the idea of Christ’s enthronement occurring at the ascension in the first century, then this paragraph made by the Watchtower has no merit.
“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.”
–Bible Teach p. 218
It is interesting to note that many Bible students that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they are living in “the last days” without having any knowledge of the 1914 doctrine. There is no disputing the fact that significant events occurred in 1914. But without a Scriptural basis, there is no warrant for believing that Christ was enthroned in 1914. In addition, the Watchtower has no biblical precedence for insisting that one cannot be a true Christian unless they hold to this complex, speculative doctrine.
*** w89 4/15 pp. 6-7 par. 8 The Infamous Harlot—Her Fall ***
8 For some 40 years the Bible Students boldly proclaimed that the year 1914 would mark the end of the Gentile Times. As expected, that year brought world-shaking events, not the least of these being the first world war.
One has to wonder how the Watchtower can portray their own history in this light. But then again, many JW’s and non-JW’s reading the literature may be unaware of its history of failed predictions. Therefore, such ones would see no reason to question these commendations.
However, when one considers the nature of the actual predictions made pre-1914, it would be difficult to deny that such words are not an accurate portrayal. Some may even conclude that such a misrepresentation of pre-1914 predictions are nothing short of dishonest.
Compare the above quotation to what was really said about 1914:
“The date of the close of that ‘battle’ is definitely marked in Scripture as October, 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October, 1874.” –Zion’s Watch Tower Jan. 15, 1892 p. 22
“We see no reason for changing the figures—nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the View presented in the Watch Tower of Jan. 15, ’92. We advise that it be read again.” –Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1894 p. 226
“True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved…In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished at the end of A.D. 1914.” –The Time is at Hand (1908 ed.) p. 99
“Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that due ‘battle of the great day of God Almighty’ (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced.” –Time is at Hand(1911 ed.) p. 101
It should be readily obvious to anyone that there was more going on than predictions merely about “world shaking events” and the “end of the gentile times.” Thus, what happened in 1914 was notexpected, contrary to what the Watchtower would have us believe according to the above quotation. On the contrary, what was expected was “the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership.”
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” -Matthew 28:18
Jesus’ words are clear and unmistakably with reference to his rule and reign at the time in which these words were spoken. In fact, His words speak to his having “all authority” as something healready possessed. How then, could the Watchtower view this authority as not having been bestowed for another 2,000 years in the future? Notice the consistent application of “All authority has been given me in heaven and on earth…since 1914”:
*** cf chap. 9 pp. 94-95 par. 15 “Go . . . and Make Disciples” ***
Before giving the commission, Jesus says: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Verse 18) Does Jesus really have such vast authority? Yes, indeed! He is the archangel, commanding myriads of myriads of angels. (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 12:7) As “head of the congregation,” he has authority over his followers on earth. (Ephesians 5:23) Since 1914, he has been ruling as Messianic King in heaven. (Revelation 11:15) His authority reaches even into the grave, for he has the power to resurrect the dead. (John 5:26-28) By first declaring his extensive authority, Jesus indicates that the words that follow are not a suggestion but a command. We are wise to obey, for his authority is not self-assumed but divinely bestowed.—1 Corinthians 15:27.
*** w04 7/1 p. 8 pars. 3-4 ‘Go and Make Disciples’ ***
First, why should we obey the command to make disciples? Jesus stated: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples.” The word “therefore” points to a major reason why we should obey this command. It is because Jesus, the one who issued the command, has “all authority.” How extensive is his authority?
4 Jesus has authority over his congregation, and since 1914 he has had authority over God’s newly established Kingdom. (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 11:15)
*** w61 9/1 p. 524 par. 10 Hold Your Position ***
As part of the composite sign earlier referred to, Jesus said: “And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This would be in fulfillment of the vision given to the prophet Daniel, where he saw coming “with the clouds of the heavens” a “son of man,” who is given “rulership and dignity and kingdom” by Jehovah, the enthroned “Ancient of Days.” As has often been shown from the Scriptures in these columns, this was fulfilled A.D. 1914, at the expiration of the “appointed times of the nations,” when Christ began to rule as king. It is in this way and through this kingdom under Christ that Jehovah can be said to assume kingly power, and it is by this means that he will assert his authority in no uncertain terms. When on earth Jesus said: “For the Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son,” and shortly after his resurrection he said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” But he knew he would first have to sit and wait at his Father’s right hand until the due time to receive the rulership and kingdom before exercising that authority and executing that judgment.—Luke 21:27; Dan. 7:13, 14; John 5:22; Matt. 28:18; Ps. 110:1.
*** w87 7/1 p. 18 par. 11 Michael the Great Prince Stands Up ***
After his resurrection in 33 C.E., Jesus told his followers: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus has long exercised such authority over his anointed servants on earth. (Colossians 1:13) However, the time had not yet come for Jesus to exercise authority as King of God’s Kingdom. Rather, after his ascension he ‘sat at God’s right hand in heaven’ until the time for the establishment of that Kingdom. (Psalm 110:1, 2; Acts 2:34, 35) That time came in 1914, “the time appointed.” (Daniel 11:29) In that year, Jesus was enthroned as reigning King of God’s Kingdom and immediately, as Michael the archangel, he cast Satan out of heaven. (Revelation 11:15; 12:5-9) So since 1914 Jesus has been “standing” as King.—Psalm 2:6.
*** w83 10/1 p. 22 Do You Respect the Name of Christ? ***
Finally, Isaiah said that Jesus’ name would be “Prince of Peace.” He would be a King, bringing peace to his subjects. (Psalm 72:6, 7) After his resurrection Jesus showed the extent of his authority when he said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) This great authority included ruling as King over his own congregation since 33 C.E. and over God’s Kingdom since 1914. (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 11:15)
*** re chap. 4 pp. 18-19 par. 4 Jesus Comes With Encouragement ***
Now in Jehovah’s presence, he is exalted high above all earthly kings, being invested with “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18; Psalm 89:27; 1 Timothy 6:15) In 1914 he was installed as King to rule among the earthly nations.—Psalm 2:6-9.
According to the Watchtower, correctly understanding the 70 year prophecy, as mentioned in several places in Scripture, is crucial to understand the date for when Jerusalem was destroyed. According to The Watchtower, Jerusalem fell in 607. If Jerusalem didn’t fall in 607, then the chronology falls apart and 1914 is no longer true. Therefore, if we were to investigate such an important issue, we should not find any holes or inconsistencies for such an important doctrine. Therefore, the Watchtower’s chronology should be tested see if it holds up to scrutiny.
*** si p. 84 par. 35 Bible Book Number 14—2 Chronicles ***
The closing verses of Second Chronicles (36:17-23) give conclusive proof of the fulfillment of Jeremiah 25:12 and, in addition, show that a full 70 years must be counted from the complete desolation of the land to the restoration of Jehovah’s worship at Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E. This desolation therefore begins in 607 B.C.E.—Jer. 29:10; 2 Ki. 25:1-26; Ezra 3:1-6.
According to the Watchtower, the seventy years ended in 537. And the only way to arrive at the correct date for the destruction of Jerusalem is to count backwards 70 years, which would end up in 607.
*** gm chap. 9 p. 123 par. 16 Prophecies That Came True ***
In 539 B.C.E., the time of Babylon’s rule as the preeminent world power came to an end when the vigorous Persian ruler Cyrus, accompanied by the army of Media, marched against the city.
We have 539 not as the date for the end of the 70 years, but for the end of Babylon’s rule, which was then taken over by Cyrus.
*** kc p. 189 Appendix to Chapter 14 ***
Daniel relied on that word, trusting that the 70 years were not a ‘round number’ but an exact figure that could be counted on.
In this reference, we have an explicit and clear declaration by the Watchtower that the 70 years has to be 70 years, not 68, 69, or 71, but 70.
Let’s review what we have so far:
According to the Watchtower,
1. The seventy years ended in 537 (si p. 84 par. 35)
2. Babylon’s rule came to an end in 539 (gm chap. 9 p. 123 par. 16)
3. The 70 years cannot be a round number (kc p. 189)
Now, let’s test these three points against what the Scriptures teach.
“And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years. “ (Jeremiah 25:11, NWT)
Here we have a mention of the seventy years, which the Watchtower believes started with the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 and ended in 537.
“And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation.” (Jeremiah 25:12, NWT)
With this verse, there is one very important detail to notice: Babylon falls after the 70 years are fulfilled. And according to the Watchtower, when did the 70 years end? Didn’t they say 537? But didn’t they also say that Babylon fell in 539? This is a very noteworthy discrepancy. Just to make sure this is correct, let’s review the facts.
1. Jeremiah 25:12 says that the King of Babylon will be punished after the 70 years have been fulfilled.
2. The Watchtower says that Babylon’s rule came to an end in 539 (gm chap. 9 p. 123 par. 16)
3. Therefore, the seventy years must have ended in 539, not in 537.
Either the Bible is right in the 70 years ending with Babylon’s fall in 539, or the Bible is wrong, since the Watchtower claims the 70 years had to of ended in 537.
The Watchtower has long argued that Jesus’ kingship began in 1914, almost two thousand years after he had ascended into heaven.
*** w08 2/15 p. 21 par. 3 Christ’s Presence—What Does It Mean to You? ***
What of the “presence” that the apostles asked about? This is the translation of the Greek word pa·rou·si′a. Christ’s pa·rou·si′a, or presence, started with Jesus’ installation as King in heaven in 1914
But the text of Scripture has some interesting things to say with regard to the time-frame of Jesus’ exaltation as heavenly king:
(Ephesians 1:20) with which he has operated in the case of the Christ when he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
When did Ephesians 1:20 occur? The Watchtower explains.
*** w64 8/1 p. 478 Why Two Covenants for Kingdom Power? ***
So after Jesus had faithfully finished his earthly ministry, God “raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come.” (Eph. 1:20, 21) At that time, in the year 33 C.E., Psalm 110:1 applied, which says: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’”
If verse 20 occurred in 33, then it would naturally follow that the rest of the passage occurred then as well,
(Ephesians 1:21-23) far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come. 22 He also subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all.
If the Watchtower is correct that Jesus’ exaltation as King didn’t occur until 1914, then they would have to, by implication, deny that this passage in Ephesians is not referring to Jesus’ exaltation as king since they have already established that it is in reference to 33 C.E. The following quote should provide some interesting insights into this dilemma:
*** w73 2/15 p. 103 Why Does “Faith in the Name” of Jesus Christ Bring Life? ***
This helps us to understand why it is that, at Ephesians 1:21, the apostle Paul links ‘names’ with ‘governments, authorities, powers and lordships.’ We can also see that it is because God has put his Son at the head of the Kingdom government and given him all authority to carry out the divine will that Philippians 2:9-11 says that God exalted Jesus to “a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Other than being described as “King of the Jews,” nowhere in the Christian Scriptures is Jesus explicitly identified as “King.” So, when we declare that “Jesus was exalted as King,” whether it be in 33 C.E. or 1914, it is by implication. And what does the Watchtower quote above declare? “God has put his Son at the head of the Kingdom government and given him all authority to carry out the divine will.” This sounds a lot like one who is exalted as king. But how can this be when the Watchtower has declared that his exaltation as king didn’t happen until 1914? Here is the stated dilemma:
1. According to the Watchtower, Jesus was exalted as King in 1914 (w08 2/15 p. 21 par. 3)
2. ” ” Ephesians 1:20-22 took place in 33 C.E. (w64 8/1 p. 478)
3. ” ” Ephesians 1:20-22 refers to Christ’s exaltation as King (w73 2/15 p. 103)
4. Therefore, either the Watchtower is wrong in that Jesus was exalted as king in 1914, or the Bible is wrong in Ephesians 1:20-22.
This may, in fact, not be the case as there are several arguable places where Jesus is identified as King. But my question is, in what sense? When “King” is explicitly used in reference to Jesus, is it in the sense that he is the sovereign ruler of the Universe? Yes, Jesus is the King as the sovereign ruler of the Universe, but this is more based on the clear reading of Scripture more than it is from anexplicit reading of Scripture. For instance, “Jesus is our Savior” is an explicit statement in Scripture (Titus 2:13) and not merely something that is implied from a text. “Jesus is King of the Universe” is something that is clearly implied from texts like Ephesians 1:20-22 but not necessarily an explicit word-for-word derivation.