What Happened in 1975?

The follow material comprises some excellent research by an ex-Witness (who prefers to remain anonymous). It shows how the Society tries to predict history -- and then rewrite it.

Most Jehovah's Witnesses who read all of these quotes in one spot quickly realize that the Society has lied to them -- not a flat-out lie, because the Society never said flat-out that "the end" would come in 1975 -- but a white lie in that they now say all kinds of things that sweep the import of what they had said under the rug.

One of the strongest series of messages was given in the August 15, 1968 Watchtower. It contained a series of articles entitled, "The Book of Truthful Historical Dates," "Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?" and "How 1st-Century Events Are Dated in the 20th Century." The titles and content form a sequence clearly designed to impress Witnesses with how strong the evidence was that "the end" would come in 1975, that it was based on clear and strong Bible evidence. Note especially the second title: "Why are YOU looking forward to 1975?" This is a code to Witnesses that they should be looking forward to the date, because the nature of the question assumes that all readers are looking forward to it. See some quotes from these articles below.

By the mid-1960s the Society had apparently forgotten much of what it had learned about setting dates. The book Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, 1966, said on pages 26-30: (Italics added)

The time is fast drawing near for the reality that was foreshadowed by the Jubilee of liberty to be proclaimed throughout the earth to all mankind.... Most certainly the near future would be the most appropriate time for it. God's own written Word indicates that it is the appointed time for it.... In this twentieth century an independent study has been carried on that does not blindly follow some traditional chronological calculations of Christendom, and the published timetable resulting from this independent study gives the date of man's creation as 4026 B.C.E. According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man's creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E..... So in not many years within our own generation we are reaching what Jehovah God could view as the seventh day of man's existence.

How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants! This would be most timely for mankind. It would also be most fitting on God's part, for, remember, mankind has yet ahead of it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the reign of Jesus Christ over earth for a thousand years, the millennial reign of Christ.... It would not be by mere chance or accident but would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ, the "Lord of the sabbath," to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man's existence.

Although the writer had not said flat out that 1975 would see the start of the millennium, he certainly intimated it. It would seem reasonable that if he said that it was "fitting" for God to do certain things, then he must have a good measure of certainty. If he was not certain then he was presumptuous. By saying "it would be according to the loving purpose of God" that the two millennia would coincide, does he not assure the reader of its certainty? Especially since all the suggestions of the "faithful and discreet slave" are to be accorded great weight?

The October 8, 1966 Awake! carried an article entitled "How Much Longer Will It Be?" and under the subheading "6,000 Years Completed in 1975," it too reasoned that the millennium would be the last 1000 years of a 7000-year rest day of God. Abandoning some of the caution shown in the above it said on page 19-20:

Hence, the fact that we are nearing the end of the first 6,000 years of man's existence is of great significance.

Does God's rest day parallel the time man has been on earth since his creation? Apparently so. From the most reliable investigations of Bible chronology, harmonizing with many accepted dates of secular history, we find that Adam was created in the autumn of the year 4026 B.C.E. Sometime in that year Eve could well have been created, directly after which God's rest day commenced. In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man's existence and also the first 6,000 years of God's rest day come to an end? The year 1975. This is worthy of notice, particularly in view of the fact that the "last days" began in 1914, and that the physical facts of our day in fulfillment of prophecy mark this as the last generation of this wicked world. So we can expect the immediate future to be filled with thrilling events for those who rest their faith in God and his promises. It means that within relatively few years we will witness the fulfillment of the remaining prophecies that have to do with the "time of the end."

I can remember being electrified, as a teenager, by the announcement to the congregation in 1968, by a visiting circuit servant, that there were only 88 months left before the end of 6000 years of human history. "Brothers, do you know what that means?" he warned.

The May 1, 1968 Watchtower continued this stimulation of anticipation. Using much the same argument as the above article, it said on page 272:

The immediate future is certain to be filled with climactic events, for this old system is nearing its complete end. Within a few years at most the final parts of Bible prophecy relative to these "last days" will undergo fulfillment, resulting in the liberation of surviving mankind into Christ's glorious 1,000-year reign. What difficult days, but, at the same time, what grand days are just ahead!

Similarly, the October 8, 1968 Awake!, on page 13, emphasized the shortness of the time:

The fact that fifty-four years of the period called the "last days" have already gone by is highly significant. It means that only a few years, at most, remain before the corrupt system of things dominating the earth is destroyed by God.

Today, many years later, we may ask, What does the phrase "the immediate future" mean? How many years are "a few years at most"?

The Watchtower, August 15, 1968, spoke at length about the significance of 1975 on pages 488-501. In the article "The Book of Truthful Historical Dates" it said on page 488:

Do we know that the seventh year from now will conclude the 6,000th year since Adam was created? And if we live to that year 1975, what should we expect to happen?

In this Watchtower, the article "Why Are You Looking Forward To 1975?" raised a good deal of anticipation when it said on page 494: (Editorial comments in brackets)

What about all this talk concerning the year 1975? Lively discussions, some based on speculation, have burst into flame during recent months among serious students of the Bible. [Which students, and who started the fire?] Their interest has been kindled by the belief that 1975 will mark the end of 6,000 years of human history since Adam's creation. The nearness of such an important date indeed fires the imagination and presents unlimited possibilities for discussion.

.... of what benefit is this information to us today?.... why should we be any more interested in the date of Adam's creation than in the birth of King Tut?.... in the fall of the year 1975, a little over seven years from now.... it will be 6,000 years since the creation of Adam.

Note the sense of urgency, and the implication that 6000 years is a figure of special significance. Continuing on page 499: (Italics added, comments in brackets)

Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man's existence coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be by mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah's loving and timely purposes. [What can we say of this from today's perspective?] Our chronology, however, which is reasonably accurate (but admittedly not infallible), at the best only points to the autumn of 1975 as the end of 6,000 years of man's existence on earth. It does not necessarily mean that 1975 marks the end of the first 6,000 years of Jehovah's seventh creative "day." Why not? Because after his creation Adam lived some time during the "sixth day," which unknown amount of time would need to be subtracted from Adam's 930 years, to determine when the sixth seven-thousand-year period or "day" ended, and how long Adam lived into the "seventh day." And yet the end of that sixth creative "day" could end within the same Gregorian calendar year of Adam's creation. It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years.

Note how this reasoning produces a sense of urgency in the reader. It also ignores the express statement in Genesis 2:23 "This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Why would the Bible use the term "at last" if only a short period of less than one year were involved? The Society is well aware of this; Fred Franz did most of the translating of the Hebrew Scriptures and he wrote Life Everlasting In Freedom of the Sons of God, in which this reckoning was first emphasized. Also, there is no scriptural justification for requiring that Eve's creation marked the end of the sixth creative day. There is plenty of room for extra time, as the events since 1975 have borne out.

Actually there is no scriptural justification whatsoever for Fred Franz's continual strong emphasis that the 6000 or 7000 year figures mean anything at all. C. T. Russell placed the acceptance of the 6000 year prophetic scheme in proper perspective when he wrote, in The Time Is At Hand, 1889, page 39: (Italics added)

And though the Bible contains no direct statement that the seventh thousand will be the epoch of Christ's reign, the great Sabbath Day of restitution to the world, yet the venerable tradition is not without reasonable foundation.

One of the people Russell got many ideas from was a Lutheran minister from Philadelphia named Joseph A. Seiss. For many years Seiss was the editor of a magazine called The Prophetic Times. In the January, 1870 issue, Vol. VIII No. 1, pages 12-3, Seiss discussed his ideas on Bible chronology, giving figures that he said were evidence that "1870 brings us to the commencement of the Seventh Thousand of the years since the present world began." In contrast with Barbour and Russell, Seiss was not dogmatic about these figures: "We lay no great stress upon the arithmetic of prophecy; because the starting-points, as well as many of the integers of the calculations, lack in certainty."

As for the "Great Sabbath Day" tradition, he wrote:

It has been a very old, and a very widely accredited theory, that the world, of which Adam was the beginning, is to continue 6000 years in its secular, ailing and toiling condition; and that the seventh thousand is to be one of glorious sabbatic rest, ushered in by the winding up of this present age or dispensation.

The idea is indeed a venerable tradition. It may ultimately be based on an old tradition that the seventh creative day of Genesis is itself 7000 years long, and that the Messiah would reign during the final 1000 years of it. A very early source, quite possibly 1st century A.D., is the New Testament apocryphal book called "The Epistle of Barnabas." There exist a number of early Christian writings sometimes referred to as the apocrypha of the New Testament, which were at one time or another considered for membership in the New Testament canon. From the 1979 reprint of a 1926 English translation of these, called The Lost Books of the Bible, here are the relevant passages:

Furthermore it is written concerning the sabbath, in the Ten Commandments, which God spake in the Mount Sinai to Moses, face to face; Sanctify the sabbath of the Lord with pure hands, and with a clean heart. And elsewhere he saith; If thy children shall keep my sabbaths, then will I put my mercy upon them. And even in the beginning of the creation he makes mention of the sabbath. And God made in six days the works of his hands; and he finished them on the seventh day, and he rested the seventh day, and sanctified it.

Consider, my children, what that signifies, he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this; that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. For with him one day is a thousand years; as himself testifieth, saying, Behold this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, shall all things be accomplished. And what is that he saith, And he rested the seventh day: he meaneth this; that when his Son shall come, and abolish the season of the Wicked One, and judge the ungodly; and shall change the sun and the moon, and the stars; then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day. [The Lost Books of the Bible, p. 160-2; Chap. 13, The Epistle of Barnabas]

I wrote a letter to the Society in the early 1970s, expressing my misgivings about the 6000 and 7000 years as exact numbers. Their reply said, essentially, that rounding off the numbers is an assumption, i.e., since we are near the 6000 year mark already, and the end is so close, the round number 6000 looks awfully nice.

Another point is that if 6000 years, as an exact number, has any meaning, and if Jesus was actually the one through whom God created everything else, and if angels were witnesses to all that creative activity, as Job 38:7 seems to indicate, then Jesus and the angels would have been able to figure out when the final end of the world would come. But Jesus said explicitly: "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." Therefore the 6000 year round number assumption must be incorrect.

Ignoring these considerations, the August 13, 1968 Watchtower article continues, on page 500:

This time between Adam's creation and the beginning of the seventh day, the day of rest, let it be noted, need not have been a long time. It could have been a rather short one. The naming of the animals by Adam, and his discovery that there was no complement for himself, required no great length of time.

Note how definite the writer is on this point. It is clear that producing a sense of urgency is the whole point of the article. Continuing on pages 500-501:

One thing is absolutely certain, Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six thousand years of man's existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:34) This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent.

The article even implies that one should be careful about putting too much weight on Jesus' own cautionary words:

This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that "concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." To the contrary, it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end. Make no mistake, it is sufficient that the Father himself knows both the "day and hour."

The article even justifies producing a sense of urgency:

There was a ring of alarm and a cry of urgency in all their [the apostles] writings.... And rightly so. If they had delayed or dillydallied and had been complacent with the idea the end was was some thousands of years off they would never have finished running the race set before them.

As if the apostles needed to be kept in the dark or they would have slacked off. This speaks volumes as to the Society's attitude toward those in its care.

The Watchtower, May 1, 1968, abandoned all caution when it said on page 271, paragraph 4:

Thus, Adam's naming of the animals and his realizing that he needed a counterpart would have occupied only a brief time after his creation. Since it was also Jehovah's purpose for man to multiply and fill the earth, it is logical that he would create Eve soon after Adam, perhaps just a few weeks or months later in the same year, 4026 B.C.E. After her creation, God's rest day, the seventh period, immediately followed.

The study question for this paragraph then asked, "When were Adam and Eve created?" Paragraphs 5 and 6 then said: (Italics added)

After [Eve's] creation, God's rest day, the seventh period, immediately followed. Therefore, God's seventh day and the time man has been on earth apparently run parallel. To calculate where man is in the stream of time relative to God's seventh day of 7,000 years, we need to determine how long a time has elapsed from the year of Adam and Eve's creation in 4026 B.C.E.....

The seventh day of the Jewish week, the sabbath, would well picture the final 1,000-year reign of God's kingdom under Christ when mankind would be uplifted from 6,000 years of sin and death. (Rev. 20:6) Hence, when Christians note from God's timetable the approaching end of 6,000 years of human history, it fills them with anticipation. Particularly is this true because the great sign of the "last days" has been in the course of fulfillment since the beginning of the "time of the end" in 1914.

Compare this with what Russell had said in The Time Is At Hand (see above) -- the idea the sabbath day pictures the 7th 1000 year period was a venerable tradition even in his day.

The Watchtower article added a cautionary note on page 272:

Does this mean that the year 1975 will bring the battle of Armageddon? No one can say with certainty what any particular year will bring.

However, this cautionary note was bound to be lost in view of the strong previous statements. That some Watchtower writers lost their caution is further emphasized by the statement in the October 8, 1968 Watchtower, which said on page 14: (Italics added)

According to reliable Bible chronology Adam and Eve were created in 4026 B.C.E.

The 1969 book Aid to Bible Understanding indicated that Adam and Eve were created in the same year. On page 333, under the subject "Chronology," it showed the time from Adam's creation to the birth of Seth as 130 years, and on page 538, under the subject "Eve," it said that at the age of 130 Eve gave birth to Seth.

The 1969 booklet The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years was also quite definite about 1975. On pages 25-26 it said: (Italics added)

More recently earnest researchers of the Holy Bible have made a recheck of its chronology. According to their calculations the six millenniums of mankind's life on earth would end in the mid-seventies. Thus the seventh millennium from man's creation by Jehovah God would begin within less than ten years....

In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be "Lord even of the sabbath day," this thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums.

The above material is remarkably similar in spirit to the claims made by J. F. Rutherford in Millions Now Living Will Never Die.

Some very direct statements about 1975 came from the Kingdom Ministry. The March, 1968 issue urged getting into pioneer service, saying:

In view of the short period of time left, we want to do this as often as circumstances permit. Just think, brothers, there are only about ninety months left before 6,000 years of man's existence on earth is completed.

The Kingdom Ministry of June 1969 mentioned approvingly that some were turning down scholarships and employment in the spirit of increased service.

The May, 1974 Kingdom Ministry, having referred to the "short time left," said:

Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end.

I know a number of Witnesses who were married during the early 1970s, and have since expressed their amazement at having had their children grow to the same age they were when they were married.

The Watchtower, May 1, 1975, said of a Watchtower Bible School of Gilead graduation held on March 2, 1975: (Italics added)

Another speaker, F. W. Franz, the Society's vice- president, forcefully impressed on the audience the urgency of the Christian preaching work. He stressed that, according to dependable Bible chronology, 6,000 years of human history will end this coming September according to the lunar calendar. This coincides with a time when "the human species [is] about to starve itself to death," as well as its being faced with poisoning by pollution and destruction by nuclear weapons. Franz added: "There's no basis for believing that mankind, faced with what it now faces, can exist for the seventh thousand-year period" under the present system of things.

Does this mean that we know exactly when God will destroy this old system and establish a new one? Franz showed that we do not, for we do not know how short was the time interval between Adam's creation and the creation of Eve, at which point God's rest day of seven thousand years began. (Heb. 4:3,4) But, he pointed out, "we should not think that this year of 1975 is of no significance to us," for the Bible proves that Jehovah is "the greatest chronologist" and "we have the anchor date, 1914, marking the end of the Gentile Times." So, he continued, "we are filled with anticipation for the near future, for our generation."

If this is not building anticipation without quite saying specifically what the anticipation should be based on, I don't know what is.

The Society was even more direct in its private communications with its own officials. The following excerpt is taken from a letter from the Society to a district overseer Lester Duggan, apparently sometime in 1975, in answer to a question regarding the subheading on page 51 in the Eternal Purpose book.

While the beginning of the "seventh day" is admittedly tentative, the end of the six thousand years of man's history in the fall of 1975 is not tentative, but is accepted as a certain date. So in good faith and with right motive to enhance Bible education, the date 1975 has been presented with confidence, as one of considerable significance. While some outsiders have come to be quick in denouncing the Society, yet we calmly wait for the completion of this Biblical year of 1975, as we continue to strengthen ourselves spiritually. From Jehovah's viewpoint and his eternal purpose for the earth, the completion of six thousand years of man's residence on this earth is bound to be important.

Even the year texts for the early 1970s reflected the sense of urgency the Society was building.

1974: "Although the fig tree itself may not blossom,.... I will exult in Jehovah himself." -- Hab. 3:17, 18.

1975: "I will say to Jehovah: `You are my refuge and my stronghold' " -- Ps. 91:2

By early 1976 it had become evident that the Society's expectations for 1975 would not be realized, just as they had not been for 1914 and 1925. Did the Society follow the excellent example of Bible writers and own up to the error? Did it show show same candor as the Bible writers? No. Instead it followed exactly the same course J. F. Rutherford had followed after the 1925 failure, and blamed the disappointment on Jehovah's Witnesses themselves. The July 15, 1976 Watchtower, on page 441, approached the problem sideways. Without actually mentioning 1975 it said: (Italics added)

... it is not advisable for us to set our sights on a certain date, neglecting everyday things we would ordinarily care for as Christians, such as things that we and our families really need. We may be forgetting that, when the "day" comes, it will not change the principle that Christians must at all times take care of all their responsibilities. If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises.

How cynical can you get? Who was it that provided the "wrong premises"? Did each one of Jehovah's Witnesses, individually, conclude that 1975 was to be the end of 6000 years of human history, that "we should not think that this year of 1975 is of no significance to us," that "according to reliable Bible chronology Adam and Eve were created in 4026 B.C.E.," that "the seventh millennium from man's creation by Jehovah God would begin within less than ten years," that Jesus' "thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums," and that "God's seventh day and the time man has been on earth apparently run parallel"? I know I never thought of such things on my own. Nor would I have been permitted to express or act on them if I had.

By 1979 it became evident that the 1975 failure had produced a serious credibility gap. Even worse, the years 1977 and 1978 had shown a drop in the worldwide number of publishers for the first time in decades. So in early 1980 the Society finally admitted it had been wrong, that it had had at least some part in building up the false hopes for 1975.

The March 15, 1980 Watchtower article "Choosing the Best Way of Life" contains, on page 17, the acknowledgement that the Society misled people by its promotion of the 1975 date. That it came at all is surprising; I remember my own reaction upon reading it when it first came out. That it came more than four years after the failure of the 1975 prediction became evident is inexcusable. The article said: (Italics added)

In modern times such eagerness, commendable in itself, has led to attempts at setting dates for the desired liberation from the suffering and troubles that are the lot of persons throughout the earth. With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting -- in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man's existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated.

In its issue of July 15, 1976, The Watchtower, commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights on a certain date, stated: "If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises." In saying "anyone," The Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah's Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date.

Note how even this admission is buried in an article about something else, "choosing the best way of life." It does not candidly admit that the Society had some responsibility for what happened. Rather, it uses the passive voice to shift responsibility into outer space: "it is to be regretted" that these things happened. Again, how cynical!

As for the fact that the statements of urgency overshadowed the cautionary ones, was that not the intention from the very start? Why else would such information be emphasized? What other result could possibly have been expected? Especially since the Society has published many statements on how it expects Jehovah's Witnesses to view what it publishes, such as:

Do we truly appreciate how Jehovah is directing his visible organization?

When we appreciatively accept the spiritual provisions that come through the `slave' class and its Governing body, for whom are we showing respect?

Their duties include receiving and passing on to all of Jehovah's earthly servants spiritual food at the proper time.

How vital it is for everyone in God's family to submit loyally to the teachings and arrangements of the Great Theocrat, Jehovah, and his King-Son, Christ Jesus, as transmitted through the `faithful slave' on earth!

The Society did candidly acknowledge some responsibility for the hopes it raised by the 1975 prediction, but it was not for general public consumption. The 1980 Yearbook, on pages 30-31, spoke of a talk given at the 1979 conventions, called by the title of the above Watchtower article, "Choosing the Best Way of Life." The talk

acknowledged the Society's responsibility for some of the disappointment a number felt regarding 1975.

Today, all the decade-long buildup of hopes centered on 1975 is discounted as being of any particular importance. Many people who became Jehovah's Witnesses since 1975 have little idea of the sense of urgency that was in the air. The essence of Russell's words in 1916 is again expressed by the organization: It "certainly did have a very stimulating and sanctifying effect upon thousands, all of whom can praise the Lord -- even for the mistake."

audio clips regarding 1975

back to Free Minds, Inc. Home Page