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Monday, January 31, 2011

1914 - A House Built on Sand (Jehovah's Witnesses)

Anyone who has ever had any interaction with a Jehovah's Witness (JW) will likely have noticed the extraordinary emphasis they place on the year 1914A.D. This is because this date is foundational to their whole existence. In this year, the JWs claim Jesus was installed as King in Heaven, which ushered in 'the end times' of the world, and was "confirmed" by the outbreak of World War I. (Though the JWs have revised their position a few times on just what would happen this year, the date has remained the same.) The JW's entire claim to power is that they were the only ones to correctly predict this date, based on "properly" interpreting Bible "prophecy," and as a result, their leaders were officially awarded by God the status of "Governing Body" (GB).

The GB is also termed The Watchtower Society, and is to be thought of as God's official spokesmen and teacher for all true Christians - akin to the Catholic Magisterium (though the GB is an impostor). The implications are clear: if the GB is genuinely God's official Spokesman for believers, then all Christians have a duty to accept and submit to everything they teach. Thus, a JW who comes to accept the GB will logically trust whatever the GB teaches over and above that of a non-JW interpretation of Scripture. With that in mind, arguing any given doctrine with the JW is essentially a very steep, up-hill battle, since they often wont even consider the reasonableness of a Christian's claims (the JWs are technically non-Christians) or be open to any non-JW literature at all. 


Those who have friends or relatives entrapped in this non-Christian organization should also realize that the primary (and very effective) means of controlling members is by a strict rule of shunning that goes on in this organization, so to even question the GB will often end up resulting in an ex-JW being sternly shunned by his parents, family, and friends. This fear-mongering is an added level of "security" that the Christian apologist must carefully navigate so as to not scare away any potential planting of seeds of hope in the JW's mind. While you should never speak openly of this reality to JWs (who are already worried enough), you must keep it in the forefront of your mind. Without saying it, you should always give off the impression you are their friend and that they can speak to you should they ever leave the Watchtower. (I've even been told by ex-JWs that, as a JW rule of thumb, they are taught that if a Christian tells them something that "makes sense," it's the devil trying to deceive them.)

The most effective way to plant seeds in the JW's mind is to undermine the credibility of the Governing Body by focusing on their dishonesty, since an organization built on lies cannot be operating in God's favor. It's no secret to anyone who has studied up on the JWs will know that there is no shortage of lies and errors in their teachings (e.g. see here). Given that the whole basis for their existence rests on the year 1914A.D., that is a particularly important doctrine to focus on.

It is very important that all such apologetics be based on official JW literature, this ensures that the JW you are speaking with will trust the source. A great source is the JW book "What does the Bible Really Teach?," it is an important book the JWs issued to be mass-produced for potential seekers to get an "introduction" to their teachings. Appendix 10 of that book is entitled "1914 - A Significant Year in Bible Prophecy," which will now be used to examine the JW reasoning for this calculation.

The following are key points behind this doctrine, as taken directly from that Appendix (red highlights by me to indicate key points):
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 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.
  • 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.* [*From October 607 B.C.E. to October 1 B.C.E. is 606 years. Since there is no zero year, from October 1 B.C.E. to October 1914 C.E. is 1,914 years. By adding 606 years and 1,914 years, we get 2,520 years.]

Now to examine these points to see if they are Biblically accurate and logically sound:

1) Luke 21:24 needs to be read in context, and I quote from the JW's official (but corrupt) New World Translation Bible (highlights by me):
20 “Furthermore, when YOU see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. 21 Then let those in Ju·de´a begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; 22 because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled. 23 Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; 24 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 21:20-24 NWT)
Taken plainly, Jesus is predicting a future event, not a past event that is still unfolding during His very lifetime! Some time after Jesus teaches this, Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies, the inhabitants will begin fleeing, since those days will see Jerusalem being sacked and the inhabitants will be tortured and will be led captive.


Given all this, the first two points of JW reasoning above are quite dubious, for not only did they rip Luke 21:24 out of context (not even quoting the full verse), they apply this to a 600 year old past event that was still unfolding even throughout Jesus' own lifetime. The JWs are mixing history here, falsely applying this future event to the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem hundreds of years earlier, to which the Jews had already long returned and settled back into Jerusalem and even built the Second Temple there which lasted until 70AD. A far more objective and balanced interpretation is given in the Haydock Biblical Commentary on Luke 21, verse 24:
Whoever reads Josephus's history of the calamities which befell Jerusalem before its destruction, will find none of these terrible menaces unfulfilled. Seventy thousand were carried away captives in this war. After the soldiers were weary of killing, Titus ordered the finest of the young men to be kept to adorn his triumph.  ... After Jerusalem had been taken and destroyed by the Romans, another city was built from its ruins, called Ælia, after the name of the emperor Ælius Adrian. This was inhabited by pagans and some Christians for the Jews were forbidden even to come near it, for more than two or three centuries. Tertullian informs us, that they even bought, at a great price, permission to see it at a distance, and drop a tear over the ashes of their ancient and ill-fated country. Thus was Jerusalem trodden under foot, till the time of the nations was accomplished; that is, till Christianity, in every nation, had triumphed over the persecution of paganism.
This, to me, is a very plausible fulfillment of Christ's prophecy and warning, and fits the teachings of this chapter. Whether there is another fulfillment of this in the future is unclear, but I wouldn't rule it out without further examination.

The next problematic statement is the JW claim that "607 B.C.E." is "when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians." Where do the JWs come up with this figure? Not from Scripture, for Scripture doesn't give us such dates. Rather, this date is derived from purely secular documents and fragments of documents, each with their own level of uncertainty and questionability. It's not a stretch to say God wouldn't have left believers guessing or relying on such "evidence" to derive such a critical date, especially when such scholarship didn't even exist until about 100 years ago! And worse yet, the very secular scholars who the JWs rely on for this date in fact give a different date for the conquering of Jerusalem by the Babylonians at approximately 587BC. But the JWs wont have any of this, and dogmatically stick with 607BC because that's what's needed to make their math "work". Any reasonable individual would note that God wouldn't have us rely on dates established by such guesswork, and reason tells us all ancient dates are approximate at best.

Moving on, the JWs say: "The ‘trampling’ would end when Jesus became King." This statement contains two serious problems: (1) nowhere does Luke 21 or any other passage say this; and (2) Jesus is already King (e.g. the sign posted on the Cross says Jesus was King of the Jews, and Matthew 28:18 says "all authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me"). The JWs virtually invented this (and the other requirements) out of thin air, and such claims are wholly bogus. (This "installment as King" is part of their modifying their account of just what was to take place in 1914A.D., since it originally was to mark Christ's Second Coming, which they now say is simply Christ's "invisible presence," but that's for another time.)

Just when you thought things couldn't get any more weird, the JWs jump to Daniel 4, to Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar's dream, particularly the mentioning of "seven times". First of all, I encourage all to stop and read this chapter of Daniel. It has nothing to do with these so called 'Gentile times' of trampling, and doesn't even apply to the Jewish kings or lineage, but strictly to Nebuchadnezzar himself. The Prophet Daniel explicitly says:
"20The tree that you beheld [in your dream], that grew great and became strong and the height of which finally reached the heavens... 22 it is you, O king [Nebuchadnezzar], because you have grown great and become strong, and your grandeur has grown great and reached to the heavens, and your rulership to the extremity of the earth." (NWT)
And as Daniel continues, he comments upon the cutting down and says the "seven times themselves will pass over you" (verse 26) applying this punishment and time period to Nebuchadnezzar only. As the chapter concludes, it says Nebuchadnezzar eventually repented and was restored as king, fulfilling the prophecy that the stump of the tree was not to be cut but remain until the "seven times" had passed. The JWs continue to invent things out of thin air and violate the clear and explicit teachings of Scripture, contradicting Daniel's own official interpretation and fulfillment of this prophecy!


The second half of the JW argument is essentially one big math problem, something Scripture never advocates (since the Bible is not a secret-code book). First, the JWs proceed to determine what exactly "seven times" means. They come upon Revelation 12:6,14, which says '3.5 times' equals '1,260 days', and thus 'doubling' that would yield '7 times' equal to '2,520 days'. While this so-called math is 'right', that doesn't mean the two passages can or were ever intended to be combined. For example, Daniel 12:7,11, says '3.5 times' is equal to '1,290 days' (i.e. 30 days more than Rev 12), which will obviously screw up the JW's math if applied! This problem of mixing-and-matching figures will become more apparent in the next step the JWs make.


After "concluding" that the 7 times of Daniel 4 is "equal" to 2,520 days, the JWs immediately say: "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." Rather than stop and ask if maybe it is they who are doing the math wrong and falsely applying the Daniel 4 prophecy, they reason that since 2,520 "days" doesn't result in anything, well then, we should keep searching until we make this number mean something! It's a text-book case of the logical fallacy known as bait-and-switch. The use of the term "evidently" by the JWs is an implicit admission that things are not as clear as they were telling us, and that we must proceed to guess at just what this 'important' number means.


Upon setting out to make 2,520 "days" mean something 'significant', the book goes onto say: "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." As with the previous calculations of 2,520 "days," the JWs jump to the conclusion these days must actually be years. And in "support" of this they appeal to Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, giving the reader the impression this substitution is valid and warranted. But upon examining those two verses, they are not concerned with prophecy, especially not this Daniel 4 prophecy (which doesn't apply this at all), but rather a calculation used to dole out an immediate punishment. One is not free to simply substitute a-day-for-a-year on demand, especially when 2,520 and 1,260 "days" is already symbolic.

Finally comes the grand math-equation:
607BC + 2,520 years = 1914AD
On this equation rests the whole foundation for the Watchtower organization. While the "math" here works quite fine when doing simple addition, a fatal flaw exists within that equation. To highlight that flaw, I present a parallel equation:
2feet + 3meters = 5feet
What's wrong with this measurement? The units are inconsistent, even though the numeric digits add up correctly. As a result, the "answer" is totally bogus. In the case of the JW "math," the dates 607BC and 1914AD are based on the Roman Calendar consisting of 365-days-per-year, while the 2,520 "years" are Biblical years that did not consist of 365 days but rather 360! The result is:
607RomanYears + 2,520JewishYears = 1914RomanYears
Thus, the JW's - God's alleged Spokesmen - fell into a blatant math error right in the midst of their most important calculation! In their rush to build a case, they fell right into a blatant pitfall. The condemnation of Scripture is readily apparent, as St Paul says (in his quote of the Prophet Job): "God catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end" (1 Cor 3:19).

There are a few potential objections which the JW might try in desperation:
(1) Claim that the math still "works" in pointing out 1914AD is when the world radically changed, namely the start of World War I, and thus such "details" of inconsistent units are irrelevant. This is desperation pure and simple, since nothing excuses blatantly incorrect math errors, especially God's chosen organization.
(2) Claim that the Jewish Year eventually catches up with the Roman Year, since there is a Jewish Calendar that is 354 days-per-year but makes up for lost days by adding an extra month at regular intervals. While there is a Jewish Calendar that is 354-days-per-year (with extra months added at regular intervals), this is a "modern" calendar that only really began to be in use around 70AD and has undergone various changes. Further, there is no indication that it just-so-happens to match up precisely to October 1914AD. More importantly, it is not a Biblically based calendar, nor does it excuse the still inconsistent units. According to the Bible, the only Jewish Year indicated was 360 days-per-year. This can be shown two ways: (a) Genesis 7-8 shows that 5 months consists of 150 days, thus indicating a month is 30 days (not 29 days-per-month as the 354 calendar requires); (b) Revelation 11:2-3 indicates 1,260 days equals 42 months, which divides out to 3.5 years (thus 3.5 'times' when applied to Rev 12) at 360 days-per-year.

Before I conclude, while I was preparing this article, I came across another devastating detail by accident, as I was simply reading over Revelation 11:2-3,
1 And a reed like a rod was given me as he said: “Get up and measure the temple [sanctuary] of God and the altar and those worshiping in it. 2 But as for the courtyard that is outside the temple [sanctuary], cast it clear out and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. 3 And I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days dressed in sackcloth.” (NWT)
I was stunned when I read this, because verse 2 speaks of a time when the Gentile nations "will trample the holy city," a clear reference to the trampling of Jerusalem Jesus spoke of. Further, the Greek word for "trample" is only used 5 times in the New Testament, and the only time trampling of a city is used is here and (you guessed it) Luke 21:24!! But why are the JWs going to Daniel 4, which doesn't speak of trampling, yet avoid Revelation 11:2, which clearly speaks of trampling Jerusalem by Gentile Nations? The answer is clear: the time frame Scripture gives for this trampling is 42 months (1,260 days), exactly half of what the JWs claim it needed to be! And after doing some further investigation into this verse, it turns out the JWs ignore any connection with Luke 21:24 (for obvious reasons) and instead claim it is actually a literal 42 months, and this trampling took place between 1914AD and 1918AD when their GB leadership was being jailed for alleged legal offenses. This all too convenient JW response and interpretation is simply ridiculous and clearly done out of desperation. 


Hopefully one will begin to truly grasp just how important the year 1914A.D. is for the JWs and just how far they will go to "defend" their doctrine. As was the goal of this article, the objective reader will see that the JW's logic from start to finish is utterly fallacious, erroneous, and deceptive. It is clearly a man-made scheme, inspired by Satan, which has sadly engulfed the minds of many and hurt many families along the way. The good news is that effective apologetics for this group is on the rise, and no doubt seeds will be planted with prayer and careful preparation. The sad news is that most JWs are ignorant, and deliberately kept that way, and are under the constant fear of shunning should they begin thinking for themselves. Thinking for oneself is the cornerstone of Catholic Christian apologetics, because with the Truth on our side, we have nothing to fear or hide from!

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a 15 year Zealous Person for Jehovah (and elder) here is my story.

http://exjehovahswitnessforum.yuku.com/topic/922

scotju said...

I was never a JW, I was a member of the Armstrong cult aka Worldwide Church of God. The leaders of the WCG indulged in prophetic date setting too, that ended up just like the Witlesses. The Worldwide had a hangup about the year 1975. They claimed Christ was going to come back in 1975. Interestingly enough, so did the JW's! Needless to say, both parties were disapointed!

Serena said...

Come check us out at www.catholicxjw.com . You'll find articles on the dates as well as many other articles from a Catholic-Ex Jehovah's Witness perspective.

Best of luck to you.

Nick said...

Serena,

Thank you for that link, it will be a great help to many. I've know about it for a while, and it really helped me get into JW apologetics. Nonetheless, it is a link that many Catholics need to be aware of, so it's good you posted it since the suggestion slipped my mind.

Jeff said...

It is always easy to try and discredit the beliefs of others.But when you do,it causes others to look at your own beliefs.A religion such as rhe Catholic Church has hand s absolutely dripping with blood from wars and massacres of 'heretics'over the centuries.Many examples are available,but to mention only one;the St Bartholomew massacre of Protestants,that the Church was so happy with, minted a medal with Pope Gregory,s image on it.Christ always taught that violence was never the answer,those that live by the sword will die by the sword.The invention of the 'just war'doctrine is just that,an invention.Who of you can imagine Jesus screaming as he plunged a bayonet into someones throat?Read the Scriptures and let them be your guide,not the teachings of men.

Nick said...

Hi Jeff,

While you might have some case to be made, that doesn't affect the abounding problems with the 1914 doctrine as it relates to Scripture. I could be part of the most anti-war Christian community ever and still not accept 1914.

Captain Slog said...

Good article! More evidence against the Witnesses here: www.smartsociety.org/theenemyatthedoor.html

lidiapurple said...

Be advised, Captain slog's link is to an athiest's site.

Anonymous said...

Jesus taught Christians not to worship the dead or pray to the dead. Nick you violate that command from Jesus and worship a so called saint. Jesus said knowone comes to the Father except through me. We can come boldly to God's throne in prayer. So why believe anything you write here if you can't obey Christ yourself.

Anonymous said...

About 1914, yes I believe Jesus and his word of warning in Matthew 24. In 1914 it's a proven documented fact the first World War started then. It's in the History books now. Jesus proved that Satan and demons were kicked out of Heaven into earth. So betweeen 1914-1918 you have two World Wars, on a global scale. JW teaching was right my friends. In Revelation 21, the angels even said, "Wow" to the inhabitants on the earth, Satan has been kicked out of heaven and is very mad. Jesus is cleaning up Heaven first.

Anonymous said...

Nick, you are writing lies about Jehovah's Witnesses and the teachings of the Bible. You will have to answer to Jesus for your lies.

Nick said...

Anonymous,

(1) We don't believe the dead are dead as you suggest, their souls live on. This is why Jesus could talk to Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration. If you are right, then Jesus violated His own teaching.

(2) Satan has been causing problems on earth since the beginning. To say that Satan only came to earth in 1914 is impossible.

(3) You say I'm writing lies, please correct me. If you don't correct me, I cannot know any better, and the guilt should technically rest on the one who refused to correct the one in error.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't anybody referred to the Matthew 24:36
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the father!
So why do j.ws think they know this date?

Anonymous said...

Would you consider running through the temple with a whip violent? When someone is blaspheming and desicrating holy ground, does that not deserve a just response? Don't forget that the Protestants were also killing Catholics. Christ showed us that one should always stand up for their faith. No man of true faith should be abandoned to the tyranny of power hungry kings. So please read the new testament in the context of a 1st century Jew, then tell me Christ is not God, and he believes we should let our fellow Christians die.

Anonymous said...

It also historical fact the fall of Jerusalem was in 587, effectively moving 1914 to 1935. By the way world war to started in 1939.

Anonymous said...

It's all so strange to me how JW's abhor picturing Jesus plunging a bayonet into someone's throat yet turn right around and tell us that Jesus will lovingly destroy all His enemies at Armageddon! If Jesus wants us to love our enemies, then why will He not follow His own admonition?