Watchtower Dates

The Watchtower Society (WTS) - the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) - is famous for their dates. Individual Witnesses know about the current prophetic years (1914, 1918, etc) but are mostly completely ignorant about the history of their movement, and when asked is most likely to deny that the WTS ever said anything about the end of the world in 1914 and 1925. Even for a recent episode like 1975, the JWs will often flatly deny that the WTS ever proclaimed Armageddon within no more than a few months from October 1975.

This list is intended to be comprehensive, if not exhaustive. There's a massive amount of research by many individuals behind this short summary, but we can never guarantee against errors. If you find any, please let us know.

As time goes, full quotations and even scanned pages of WTS literature documenting this will be included.



Note 1: References to this beginning of the "last days" in 1798/9 is found to be remarkably absent in many of Russell's writings. In fact, 1798 was a part of in Barbour's chronology, with the (alleged) start of papal rule in 538AD as a basis year, but Russell replaced it with 1799 (539AD basis) in the beginning of 1889. The 1799 date was emphasised as late as in Our Lord's Return, a Rutherford booklet from 1929, but evidently abandoned with almost all of the old chronology in 1930, with Light I. See Note 2.

Note 2: Sometime between the booklet Our Lord's Return in 1929 and Vindication I in 1931 Rutherford rejected almost all of Russell's old chronology and many other central doctrines. The book Light I (1930) emphasised the time from 1879 to 1918 as a time of preparation, and 1918 as the coming of the Lord to his temple. 1914 is stated to be the year God put Christ on his throne. 1874 is understood to be wrong. The first explicit statement about Christ's "parousia" from 1914 seems to be in the 1932 booklet What is Truth? which says "The prophecy of the Bible, fully supported by the physical facts in fulfilment thereof, shows that the second coming of Christ dates from the fall of the year 1914." For some strange reason, the WTS book God's Kingdom (1973), p207-9, claimed this change from 1874 to 1914 came in 1943, when the WTS completed a new chronological system, which included moving Jerusalem's destruction from 606BC to 607BCE to keep the 1914 date while finally accounting for the non-existing "zero year." See also Proclaimers p133.

Note 3: Some Watchtower dates are NOT included in this listing, notably those who were derived from earlier chronology but were abandoned long before that year approached. One example: SiS7 p61, 62 says "The actual depopulation of the whole of Palestine did not occur until the year 135 A. D. (corresponding to our year 1980), . . . It is possible that A. D. 1980 may have something of special interest for Fleshly Israel, but certainly not for us. It is 70 years beyond 1910, the date when Pastor Russell gave his great witness to the Jewish people in the New York Hippodrome."

Key to Publication Codes:

Three Worlds:
Nelson Barbour and C. T. Russell: Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World, Rochester, NY 1877. Written by Nelson Barbour. Russell financed the publication and is listed as co-author (Note: NOT a Watch Tower Society booklet, but still listed in their Watch Tower Publications Index).

C. T. Russell/Rutherford et al/anonymous: Zion's Watch Tower, Watch Tower and The Watchtower, periodical issued by Watch Tower Society. Semimonthly in English and most major languages. Editor from start in 1879 to 1916 was Charles Taze Russell. Abbreviation "repr" refers to page numbers in "reprints" issued by WTS in 1919 and still printed (1879-1916 volumes) by some Bible Student groups in the USA.

Studies in the Scriptures, volumes 1-6 by C. T. Russell and Volume 7 by Woodworth and Fisher. Series also named Millennial Dawn before 1904; see Proclaimers p53 footnote. Note that new revisions with sometimes substantial changes were reissued by Russell and the Watch Tower Society until at least 1926. Changes are not noted, and it's often difficult to know when a particular book is printed.

Joseph Rutherford: Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920. Booklet.

Rutherford/anonymous: Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. Annual book with official reports and statement for the previous year, and usually giving the history of the JWs in one or two specific countries.

Our Lord's Return:
Joseph Rutherford: Our Lord's Return, 1929. Booklet.

Light I:
Joseph Rutherford: Light I, 1930.

Vindication I:
Joseph Rutherford: Vindication I, 1931.

What is Truth?:
Joseph Rutherford: Our Lord's Return, 1932. Booklet.

Anonymous: Periodical by Watch Tower Society. Semimonthly in English and most major languages.

Divine Purpose:
Anonymous: Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959. Previous official history of the JWs.

Life Everlasting:
Anonymous: Life Everlasting - in Freedom of the Sons of God, 1966.

God's Kingdom:
Anonymous: God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years has Approached, 1973.

Revelation Climax:
Anonymous: Revelation - Its Great Climax is at Hand!, 1988. "Commentary" to the book of Revelation. JWs have a historicism (and premillenistic) interpretation of the book of Revelation, applying JW events in our time to symbols and events in the Revelation.

Anonymous: Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993. Current official history of the JWs.

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