Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 054
THE FOUNDATION OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES’ claim to being the only true religion on Earth is their teaching that 1914 was a special year in Bible prophecy. 1914 is the bedrock upon which their entire system of end-time beliefs, and their supposed appointment by God, is based. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1914 was the year Jesus was invisibly enthroned as king of God’s kingdom in heaven. It was around 1914 that Satan was, also invisibly, thrown out of heaven, and the year the “last days” and Jesus’ invisible “presence” began. Up until 2008, it was taught that the “generation” who saw the events of 1914 would “not pass away” before Armageddon occurred. (Matthew 24:34) Not long after the start of Jesus’ supposed presence, in 1919 to be precise, the selection of the governing body as his “faithful and discreet slave” is said to have taken place.—Matthew 24:45,46.
All of these beliefs, as well as the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “the truth”, hang on the assumption that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 607 BCE and that Daniel chapter 4 refers to a period of 2520 years known as “the gentile times” starting in 607 BCE and ending in 1914. The problem is, that the Bible teaches no such thing. Nor does secular history provide any evidence for the Witnesses’ peculiar 607/1914 doctrine. Carl Olof Jonsson’s well-researched book The Gentile Times Reconsidered explains this subject much better than I can, but here are my reasons for not believing Jehovah’s Witnesses are “the truth” anymore.
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses accept what Watch Tower tells them without question, namely that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE, but it wasn’t. 607 is unsupported by either the Bible or secular history as the date of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians. It’s a date made up by the Bible Students back in the day for the sole purpose of applying the “seven times” of Daniel 4:16 to 1914 and to shore up their teachings, especially the one that they alone are God’s chosen people.
The Bible Students originally predicted that 1914 would be the “end of the gentile times”. Jehovah’s Witnesses still teach this today. They adopted this catchy phrase from Jesus’ words in Luke 21:24 where he spoke of “the appointed times of the nations. Jehovah’s Witnesses have applied these “times” to the “seven times” of Daniel chapter 4. This is an unsubstantiated doctrinal leap. There was never a valid reason to believe that the “times” in Luke 21 had anything to do with the “seven times” in Daniel chapter 4. The association was made purely for the purpose of pinpointing 1914 as a special date, to add substance to the Bible Students’ bold claims that the end was near and that they were God’s chosen “prophet”.
Initially, 1914 was interpreted by Watch Tower as being the end of non-Jewish rulership on earth, marking the start of Armageddon and Jesus’ 1000-year reign. Obviously, 1914 did not see the start of Armageddon, nor any obvious evidence of Christ’s millennial rulership, so the Bible Students had to make a choice, either a) drop the 607/1914 doctrine or b) reinterpret 1914 to mean something other than Armageddon. They chose the latter saying that 1914 marked the beginning of Jesus’ invisible “presence” instead. However, there was never a good reason to believe 1914 had any relationship to Jesus’ rulership, invisible or otherwise. At best it was a prophecy about Nebuchadnezzar’s mental health impacting on his rulership, but even this is debatable. The Bible Students’ application to Jesus’ presence was purely a case of holding onto an already established belief in order not to appear guilty of falsely prophesying, namely that 1914 was significant. It wasn’t.
The 607/1914 doctrine is flawed at its most basic level. The claim that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE is simply wrong. The most basic research will quickly ascertain that Jerusalem was actually destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. This is a historical fact well supported by evidence found outside of the Bible. This means the Jews were exiled to Babylonia from 587 BCE to some time after 539 BCE when Cyrus overthrew Babylon—approximately 48 years, not 70 years as claimed by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
But doesn’t the Bible say the Jews were exiled for 70 years? Doesn’t it tell us that their exile ended in 537 BCE, two years after the overthrow of Babylon? No, it doesn’t. Firstly, 537 BCE, the supposed return of the Jews to their homeland, has no scriptural or historical basis. It is just a guess by Jehovah’s Witnesses which conveniently allows for their 607 date seventy years earlier. The fact is, the Jews could have arrived in Judea any time after their liberation in 539 BCE. Secondly, the correct translation of Jeremiah 29:10 may be “for Babylon” rather than “at Babylon” suggesting that the 70 years may not actually refer to the length of time the Jews were exiled in Babylon at all, but rather to the period of time that Babylon ruled over the nations as a world power, established by secular historians to have been from 609 to 539 BCE.—Jeremiah 25:11,12; Daniel 9:2.
Simply put, there is no reason to believe the “seven times” Daniel applied to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 4 have a second, greater fulfilment to Jesus’ rulership, nor that 607 or 1914 have any relevance doctrinally. In fact, there is no reference in secular history to Nebuchadnezzar losing his sanity for 7 years and then regaining it, so the whole story might just be a fabricated one. Interestingly, there were rumours of Nabonidus losing his sanity, so perhaps this was an example of literary conflation. To top it all, the book of Daniel was most likely written after the things it supposedly “prophesied” actually happened, ie. in the third or early second century. The Witnesses’ 1914 doctrine has no basis in reality. It’s simply a teaching that they employ to make them look clever, to make them appear to be God’s mouthpiece.
Despite the First World War occurring in 1914, this year really has no prophetical relevance for Christians. It is not the date Jesus was appointed as the king of God’s kingdom. According to scripture, that occurred while he was on earth in the first century. He was anointed as king at his baptism. (Luke 3:22) He presented himself to the Jews as their king when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:5) and he died with a sign above his head which read “King of the Jews”. (John 19:19) Nor did 1914 mark Jesus’ “presence” (Matthew 24:3) or the start of the “last days”. (2 Timothy 3:1) Depending on whether you take a preterist or a futurist view, these events may refer to either 66-70 AD or to a future period of “great tribulation” leading up to Armageddon. (Matthew 24:21) If we accept a futurist view we should remember Jesus’ words in Acts 1:7: “It does not belong to you to know the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.”
Other events that Jehovah’s Witnesses associate with 1914 and Jesus’ “presence”, for example, Satan being cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:7) and the governing body being appointed as Jesus’ “faithful and discreet slave” (Matthew 24:45,46) also have no scriptural basis or secular proof. Jehovah’s Witnesses only have the word of the governing body to say these invisible events happened, and they only teach these things because their own authority depends upon it.
In conclusion, 1914 is not what Jehovah’s Witnesses claim it to be. None of the invisible events they associate with 1914 occurred then. Apart from it being the start of the First World War, 1914 was a year like any other. Everything Jehovah’s Witnesses apply to 1914 is done to provide an argument for their religion being the only true one. Maintaining the 1914 doctrine, even after it has been proved false, is simply a case of self-preservation.
These are the reasons I don’t believe Jehovah’s Witnesses are “the truth”.