Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 033
HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 33 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon and in this episode, I will be concluding my review of the 1928 booklet The “Seven Thunders” of Millennial Dawn by Methodist minister B H Shadduck, which was an early exposé of Charles Taze Russell’s Millennial Dawn books, and Rutherford’s later writings.
In earlier episodes of this podcast, we looked at how Russell had predicted certain amazing things for certain dates, and when those events failed to transpire, the dates in the Watch Tower publications—and in one case even the length of a chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza—were simply reset like a slow-running clock to fit the story after the fact. Of all the prophesies that Russell and Rutherford made, not one single prophesy ever came true. That’s really quite some failure rate by any standard. Yet even today, some Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Russell predicted the First World War. Well, he didn’t. This was exposed by Shadduck way back in 1928 on page 16 of his booklet. Shadduck wrote:
So, again, this was one of many instances where the Watch Tower publications were edited to hide the failed predictions and, effectively, to rewrite history—a common thing that cults do, and what Jehovah’s Witnesses still does even in modern times, but it wasn’t just failed date prophecies that Shadduck exposed. He also drew attention to what he called “Farcical Expositions”. On page 13 of The “Seven Thunders” he wrote:
Now, those applications may seem laughable to us now—especially the idea of the Devil scratching his head when reading his copy of The Bible Student Monthly—but Watch Tower’s habit of applying significant Bible prophecies to mundane events continues even today. For example, the 1335 days prophesy of Daniel 12:12 is currently applied to the time period between a convention at Cedar Point, Ohio on September 3, 1922, and a London convention held in May 1926 when a resolution entitled “A Testimony to the Rulers of the World” was adopted by Jehovah’s Witnesses—as if that had any Biblical significance whatsoever! Then there is the 2300 days prophesy of Daniel 8:14. The book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy pp. 177-179 explains:
“For ‘the holy place’ to be ‘brought,’ or restored, to what it should be, the 2,300 days must have begun when it previously was in the ‘right condition’ from God’s standpoint. At the earliest, this was on June 1, 1938, when The Watchtower published part 1 of the article ‘Organization.’ Part 2 appeared in the issue of June 15, 1938. Counting 2,300 days (6 years, 4 months, and 20 days on the Hebrew calendar) from June 1 or 15, 1938, brings us to October 8 or 22, 1944. On the first day of a special assembly held at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on September 30 and October 1, 1944, the Watch Tower Society’s president spoke on the subject ‘The Theocratic Alignment Today.’ At the annual corporate meeting on October 2, the Society’s charter was amended in an effort to bring it as close to a theocratic arrangement as the law would allow. With the publication of clarified Biblical requirements, theocratic organization was soon more fully installed in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, The Watchtower of October 15, 1944, contained an article entitled ‘Organized for Final Work.’ It and other service-oriented articles of the same period indicated that the 2,300 days had ended and that ‘the holy place’ was again in its ‘right condition.'”
I’m not gonna lie. Just reading that made my eyes glaze over. From the perspective of someone who is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, I can now see how ridiculous that explanation is—to say that a Bible prophecy has anything to do with a 2-part article published in The Watchtower, one part on June 1st and the other on June 15th, and then to count 2300 days from either date to arrive at either October 8th or 22nd, and then to completely ignore both of those dates and focus in on a totally different date, September 30th, the first day of a convention, or was it October 1st when Rutherford gave his talk? Or maybe October 15th when another article about organisation was published in The Watchtower—I mean, seriously?—but when you’re a Witness and subjected to this kind of constant indoctrination at meetings and in the publications, this kind of nonsense just washes over you and you accept it as “the truth”, especially if it sounds deep and you can’t come up with any better explanation yourself.
But nothing comes close to being as crazy as the interpretation highlighted by Shadduck on page 14 of The “Seven Thunders”. This one relates to the establishment of the kingdom in Palestine which the Bible Students predicted for 1925. The scripture used to “prove” this is Genesis 15:9 where Jehovah told Abraham to: “take… a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Now, the cow, the she-goat and ram were, as stated in the verses, each 3 years old—so 9 years in total—but then, somehow, Watch Tower concludes that the combined ages of the turtledove and pigeon are two years old, added to the 9 years, brings you to a grand total of 11 years, which in the Hebrew lunar calendar amounts to 3960 days. They then substitute days for years to give 3960 years and add that to the year 2035 BCE which they claim was the year this interaction between God and Abraham took place. Of course, there’s no actual proof that it was 2035 BCE, or that the turtle dove and pigeon were two years old total, but hey!—when you “do the math” as David Splane likes to say, it brings you to 1925 AD—the date for the kingdom of Palestine to be established on earth, except it wasn’t. It was again just a load of twaddle.
Now, Shadduck highlights just how ridiculous this number crunching was when he points out that “one weakness of [this] method [was] that if the turtledove was two years old [instead of a year], the kingdom [would] not [be] due [un]till AD 2285.” So there you go—we still have 264 years to go until the kingdom is established in… Palestine… apparently.
Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses—if they thought about it honestly—would read that prediction and just think it was crazy, that Watch Tower was grasping at straws, trying to make the numbers fit, and they’d be okay with that because it was written over 100 years ago—”old light” as they like to call it—but that realisation would only be because they have the benefit of hindsight and they know that the events predicted back then didn’t come true—but this crazy grabbing at straws situation is ongoing. Currently, Watch Tower promotes an “overlapping generations” doctrine to explain why the generation that was alive in 1914 have all died off without the end coming. It really is a ludicrous explanation, just as ludicrous as adding up the combined ages of a cow, sheep, and a couple of pigeons—only now it’s the age of Fred Franz when he was anointed in 1914, deducted from his age in 1992 when he died, added to the age of the average anointed person in 1992, added to—you get the idea. It’s just rubbish—it really is—and it has absolutely no scriptural backing, but Jehovah’s Witnesses swallow it hook, line, and sinker because it’s presented by the governing body who they believe to be God’s spokesman—so it must be true, right? Except it no longer matters if it is true—which it isn’t by the way—because when the prediction fails, the governing body will just come up with a brand new interpretation, and Jehovah’s Witnesses will accept that as “the truth”, again. It’s just this neverending relaunch of “truth”, over and over, which surely makes a mockery of truth.
The thing is, the governing body has positioned itself now so that anything it says now is accepted as “the truth”. As far as Jehovah’s Witnesses are concerned, the governing body is Jesus’ “faithful and discreet slave” and anything they say is “the truth”—but who says it is? The governing body say so! This is a perfect example of “circular reasoning” and it’s nothing new. Way back in 1928, Shadduck noted that the Bible Students were guilty of what he called at the time “Reasoning in a Circle”. On page 14 of The “Seven Thunders” he wrote:
Even after Russell had died in 1916 and Rutherford had taken over control of the organisation, Watch Tower continued to pedal ludicrous ideas, the boldest of these being Rutherford’s 1920 claim that “Millions Now Living Will Never Die”. He made this claim because he’d calculated that the new world would arrive in the next 5 years. Now, I’m still not sure if that was daring or just plain stupid, but here is what Shadduck had to say about this failed prediction on page 24 of The “Seven Thunders”:
It seems to me that Rutherford was using a scattergun approach—blast the landscape with dates and expectations and maybe, just maybe, one of them would be right. Shadduck noted similar on page 23 of his booklet:
Watch Tower uses a similar approach today only instead of dates they just keep repeating a promise, namely that “we are standing on the threshold of the new world”. I recently counted the number of times they’ve stated this since 1950 and it’s at least 45 times, the latest iteration being Patrick LaFranca on JW Broadcasting saying with a very straight face: “Now we stand at the very threshold of the new world.” I suggest most likely we do not, but they just keep saying it—at least once a year, if my calculations are correct—in the hope that at some point it will come true and they can say: “There you go—we told you so!”
Meanwhile, for all the times their words fail, Watch Tower just hopes you’ll kind of forget. Shadduck made an interesting point about forgetting actually on page 27 of his booklet. Under the heading “Rutherford’s Witnesses” he wrote:
Really, that’s it in a nutshell. “The truth” that Watch Tower has proclaimed for almost 150 years now simply hasn’t happened. Nothing they have prophesied has ever come true. It’s just a long list of promises, and dates, and wishful thinking, with absolutely no reason to believe that the Bible—even if it is from God—is referring to this specific time in human history. Watch Tower has just done what every other “Bible-based” religious cult does. It takes the scriptures and claims it’s God’s appointed mouthpiece. Then it interprets scripture prophesies and says its interpretation must be true because—it’s God-appointed mouthpiece—and when the predictions fail, it just resets the clock and sweeps the evidence of its failures under the carpet. That’s why, I think, in my first judicial hearing for apostasy in 2006, I was told in no uncertain terms I should have never read the older Watch Tower publications because I discovered the lies on which the organisation was built.
It’s common for Jehovah’s Witnesses to complain when an apostate highlights the many falsehoods from their past. They ask: “Why are you being so negative? Just look at the good things that came out of Russell’s early work. Now we have a loving, worldwide brotherhood being taught what is definitely the truth now.” Well, Shadduck answered this on the final page of his booklet with these words:
That kind of says it all I think. As far as truth is concerned, the Watch Tower organisation started off wonky and it’s continued to build on the 607/1914 chronology which is so obviously wrong. Sure, if you want to belong to a cult that love-bombs newly interested ones, and shows conditional love to its members, but then shuns you if you wish to officially leave—go ahead—but if “the truth”, spiritual truth, really matters to you, you should know that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not possess it. They have a governing body of self-appointed men, who claim to be Jesus’ “faithful and discreet slave”, with absolutely no evidence to that “fact”—quite the opposite when you consider the many, many failed predictions they’ve made over the years—and what they teach now is just like shifting sand on a beach. Give it five years and what they teach as “truth” today will then be “old light” and forgotten about. Then they will come up with a “new truth” for its members to swallow—rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. That’s really how it is.
Shadduck ends his book with an apt illustration that applies as much to Jehovah’s Witnesses today as it did to the Bible Students in 1928:
Just remember that the next time a Jehovah’s Witness calls at your door or sends you a letter promising you a “better world”. It sounds great but it’s a “decoy duck” designed to reel you in. Then, once captured, you will be fed year-in-year-out on cult propaganda and spiritual falsehoods until in the end you no longer know what real truth is.
I think Shadduck did a masterful job of highlighting Watch Tower’s failed predictions, its false prophecies really, its lame attempts at applying significant Bible prophesies to what were just mundane events—and to itself—and its circular reasoning, and you know what?—nothing has changed. Jehovah’s Witnesses today are no different really, except more people are involved. The 8-man governing body now sits arrogantly in a position of control over 8 million-plus members globally—one man per million—and their flock laps up whatever it says is “the truth”, however absurd it may be. Their minds are being numbed to anything truly spiritual, as they are fed on sweet tales of paradise and pandas and constant promises that it’s coming “any time soon”. In the meantime, they’re continually asked to donate their time and money to an organisation that seems to have no plans of going out of business “any time soon”. It is, quite simply, a business model, and it works. It is, as Shadduck correctly identified 93 years ago, a cult—one to be avoided.
You can download a copy of The “Seven Thunders” of Millennial Dawn from the OnionUnlimited website. Meanwhile, that’s all from me for now. Thank you for listening in. I hope you can join me again soon.