Whitewashing Watchtower History
Notes on the JW history book, Jehovah's Witnesses -- Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, henceforth noted as JWPGK.
While generally well written, and well executed technically, much of the book is a collection of anecdotes and story fragments strung together with little apparent continuity.
In the Society's usual fashion, the book gives few references for source material. This makes it difficult for a reader to check what has been said.
The district assembly talk introducing the book said that it was a candid look at the history of Jehovah's Witnesses. While there are a number of relatively candid discussions of material that used to be covered up, much information has been left out that could have presented a much clearer picture of their history. Likely the Society still wants to keep some of it hidden. In other cases information is presented in bits and pieces, so that the reader sees no continuity of thought. The casual reader will miss much.
The Catholic Church, and especially its clergy, is hammered hard throughout.
p. 45 Box Stetson was probably an Adventist, but this is not mentioned.
p. 46 P 2 Tries to give the impression that Russell had believed in the invisible presence doctrine for some time prior to 1874, although nothing is explicitly stated. The evidence is that Russell didn't come to believe this until after the failed expectations of N. H. Barbour and some Adventists for October, 1874. See Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, p. 310, Note 19; Jonsson, The Gentile Times Reconsidered, pp. 26-7. It's not likely Russell was unaware of Barbour's prediction. He was certainly aware of the Adventist predictions; see JWPGK, p. 132, P 5.
p. 46 P 3 First mention in the book of belief that Christ's presence began in 1874.
p. 47 P 2 Admits that Object And Manner was first published in 1877, not 1873 as Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose had claimed. See pp. 557, 575. See Penton:17. See the Watchtower Publications Indexes under "Watch Tower Publications, Booklets." The 1986-1990 Index doesn't list it at all, the 1930-1985 Index lists it as 1873, the 1930-1960 Index lists it as 1877 (!!!!).
p. 47 P 5 Fails to mention anything about the prediction Barbour and Russell made in Three Worlds that 1878 would see the resurrection. This is mentioned later in the book, however. See p. 632 P 1. Also see the extended discussion at the end of these notes.
Note that in all the discussion of JWPGK's chapter 5, ostensibly about what was believed from 1870-1914, nothing whatsoever was said about the particulars of the 1914 calculation. 606 B.C. is not mentioned. Probably this is done to avoid having JWs start questioning why 606 was changed to 607 B.C. for the start of the Gentile Times, and much stickier, why the destruction of Jerusalem was moved back by one year. This last is completely unjustifiable, as the discussions on page 239 of The Truth Shall Make You Free and page 171 of The Kingdom Is At Hand show. The latter book flat-out lied in its claim about this.
p. 60 P 4 Typical phrasing to minimize certainty and extent of Russell's claims: "not all that they expected had been directly stated in Scripture." The truth is, nothing they expected was even implied in scripture, which is proved in that everything they expected failed.
pp. 67-68 Usual distortion of 1917 schism. See Penton:48-55.
p. 69 P 3-5 Tries to give impression that The Finished Mystery was the truth, whereas it was mostly trash.
p. 76 Box Thoroughly sanitized and misleading description of Beth-Sarim. Never mentions that the main purpose of Beth-Sarim, as stated in Salvation and other publications, was as a residence for the "princes." Never mentions that the deed to Beth-Sarim was in trust for the "princes." In all probability the true purpose of building the place was, as JWPGK states, as a residence for Rutherford. But since it was an opulent mansion, a plausible "scriptural" reason had to be given to the rank-and-file for such profligacy during the depression.
This is reminiscent of what was done with literature distribution in the US and a few other countries. The real reason it is now free is for tax related purposes, probably to avoid the trouble associated with keeping track of sales tax. But the official reason was along the lines of "you received free, give free."
Also related is the new arrangement of helpers for the GB. A simple thing like spreading the work around is turned into a scripturally based and approved thing, and the helpers are called `Nethinim.' This practice is nothing more than providing pacifiers for members who like the trappings of traditional religion but can't have it as JWs.
p. 78 P 2-3 Two small, thoroughly misleading paragraphs devoted to "explaining" the 1925 fiasco. It is unbelievable that the writer of these paragraphs can do so with such utter disregard for the reader's intelligence. Whoever wrote this book is a master of euphemistic doubletalk.
p. 85 P 4 Rutherford denounces Catholic censorship, even while practicing it himself and instituting attitudes that persist today.
p. 98 P 1 Phrase "era of global expansion" used. This is also the title of chapter 3 of Penton's Apocalypse Delayed.
p. 104 P 2-4 Bare minimum description of 1975 fiasco. The statement "some [statements] were likely more definite than advisable" is truly amazing!
p. 106 Reorganization of governing body. See p. 109. Compare with Crisis Of Conscience by Raymond Franz.
p. 111 P 1 WTS version of 1980 troubles. What a distorted picture! It's interesting that this is buried inside a subsection called (p. 110) "Filling Spiritual Needs With Bible Literature."
pp. 132-7 First detailed discussion in book of beliefs about the object and manner of Christ's return, and the Gentile Times.
p. 132 P 4-5 Fails to mention that it was probably the failure of Barbour's predictions of Christ's visible return that led to Barbour and Russell's claim about an invisible return.
p. 133 P 4 Another mention of 1874 as the beginning of Christ's presence. Footnote is quite misleading; see below.
p. 134 P 1 Another cover-up statement about what was expected about Christ's return: "they did not yet clearly discern all the details."
p. 134 P 3 Says that J. A. Brown connected the seven times of Daniel with the Gentile Times. This is directly contradicted by statements in The Gentile Times Reconsidered, pp. 21-2. Where did the WTS get its information?
E. B. Elliot's work mentioning 1914 as a possible Gentile Times date appears to be from the 1st edition of Horae Apocalypticae, pub. 1844, according to Jim Parkinson, a Bible Student in Glendale, California. The calculation was dropped by the time the 4th edition was put out in 1851. The 1st edition does not appear to be in any library in the US, but may well be at the library of the British Museum.
Robert Seeley appears to be associated with Elliot, as "Seeley" is the name of one of the publishers of the 4th and 5th editions of Horae.
I wonder what Joseph Seiss actually said. It is of note that JWPGK specifically mentions that Seiss's chronology was later rejected by Russell. Don't the writers know that a correct result arrived at by wrong reasoning is valueless?
p. 134 P 4 Early Herald Of The Morning's mentioned. Where did they get the information? Do they have copies?
p. 134 P 5 Discussion does not make it clear that 1914 and the end of the Gentile Times were predicted as the end of a series of important events that were to take place beginning in 1874.
p. 135 P 1-3 More misleading and whitewashing of expectations for 1914. P 1 1st statement is wrong. Russell for many years claimed to know exactly what would happen by 1914 and spared no effort in publishing these claims. He called his chronology "God's dates." P 3 is priceless: "With varying degrees of success, they endeavored to avoid being dogmatic about details not directly stated in the Scriptures."
At least the Society is actually saying that things were really screwed up, rather than ignoring the whole episode.
p. 137 P 1 Discusses, but thoroughly obscures, the changes that have occurred with regard to 1914. The reader is not told that in 1922 the time of the beginning of Christ's rule was changed from 1878 to 1914. He is not told that it was not until 1943 that the Society finally adopted the view that Christ's presence began in 1914, not 1874 (see extended discussion below). The impression is that these changes came swiftly, not during the next 29 years.
p. 140 P 1-2 Impression is given that description of Armageddon by Russell was to be future, whereas he claimed it started in 1874. Not until around 1910-13 did he switchthe starting time to 1914.
pp. 142-3 Generally correct description of Russell's view of "slave," but p. 143 P 1 is not quite correct, that Russell "personally avoided making such an application." From The Watch Tower, 12/1/1916:
Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell's writings believe that he filled the office of "that faithful and wise servant" ... His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation.
p. 143 P 2 Surprising that the paragraph reproduces Russell's reference to himself as God's mouthpiece. However, our understanding of "mouthpiece" may be different from Russell's. See p. 634 Box, P 4, for comments from C. J. Woodworth about a former Bible Student having been honored by the Lord as "a mouthpiece." See p. 207 Box, P 2, for comments from Russell that Elders were mouthpieces of God.
p. 146 P 3 and on. Key comments on new light, progressive understanding of prophecy, etc. They don't seem to realize that this concept can be applied by anyone to almost any conceivable belief system, and is therefore valueless.
p. 147 P 1-3 No mention is made of the pre-1929 view of "superior authorities." However, it is mentioned later; see p. 190 P 1. The effect is that the complete about-face is not mentioned all in one place in the book, so the casual reader is unaware of it.
p. 147 P 3 Tries to extract mileage out of the flip-flop on superior authorities. As if Christians didn't know about the principle of relative subjection until 1962!
p. 157 P 1 "Any group or individuals that speak in the name of Jehovah put themselves under obligation to convey his word truthfully."
p. 160 P 3 Apparently refers to Christians of a lower quality.
p. 163 P 1 More obscuring of actual beliefs about 1925.
p. 178 P 4 JWs should always speak the truth. Hypocrisy on the part of the Society.
p. 184 Blood brochure.
p. 190 P 1 Belated admission that "higher powers" referred to secular authorities. Why is this not admitted earlier, along with admissions on page 147? Because the references are separate, the reader probably won't see the flip-flop.
p. 201 Sidebox. Tiny admission of what was taught about pyramids.
pp. 205-6 Russell's changing views on organization. This is a clear response to criticism comparing Russell's early ideas on organization to those of today. First establishment of elective elders.
Page 206 P 2 discusses Russell's instituting of the office of elective elders in 1895, pointing out that this was "sound Scriptural counsel." But it carefully avoids using the term "elective elder," and instead says elders were "chosen," because later a discussion on pp. 212-9 says that the office of elective elder was eliminated in the 1930s because it was unscriptural. How can the office be scripturally sound in 1895 but become unscriptural in the 1930s?
The discussions on pp. 213-4 and 217-9 talk about how elders were completely eliminated, but never explicitly say that they were. All local authority became vested in the company or congregation servant. The discussion leaves the impression that there was still a body of elders. It is astoundingthat anyone who was a JW before the current elder arrangement could accept this as a true picture.
p. 219 P 1 Typical gloss: "the facts of modern-day history already considered show that this `slave' employs the Watch Tower Society as a legal instrument." The "facts" already considered don't show this at all.
p. 219 P 2 In 1938 there was no Governing Body. Rutherford was the only governing authority, and the directors were more for show than anything. See Crisis Of Conscience.
p. 220 P 2 Karl Klein's comments about Rutherford are very revealing about both of them. Rutherford acted as if he were God, even though he was a drunk and an adulterer. Klein's approval of Rutherford shows his true colors. But coming from the man who wrote the infamous Watchtower articles comparing "new light" with the tacking of a sailboat, this makes sense. Neither of them had any respect for the intelligence of the rank-and-file. Unfortunately, this is perhaps justified.
p. 222 P 1 Thorough distortion of Acts 15.
pp. 228-9 Much fiction about the Governing Body. There may have been a sort of generic governing body, in that Knorr and Franz were not one man, and in that there was a figurehead board of directors, but using the current capitalized terminology is sheer lying.
p. 248 P 4 Says WTS publications are available to anyone, but this is not true. The Society, through local elders, sometimes denies them to persons they don't like.
p. 425 P 5 Sanitizes the 1925 prediction given in the "Millions" talks: "It expressed the conviction that the time for the realization of that hope was very near." Very misleading to the casual reader. See also p. 648. This mentions the original talk, "The World Has Ended -- Millions Now Living May Never Die." Most JWs would be rather taken aback by the full text of these presentations, such as claiming 1799 as the start of the time of the end, etc. JWPGK never mentions 1799 or 1844.
p. 466 P 3 Interesting phrasing about JWs as a cultural organization in Mexico. Clearly treading on eggshells here. Apparently don't want to raise any questions. See Crisis Of Conscience.
p. 509 P 1 Compare last statement in the paragraph, Russia "was long viewed by the world as a stronghold of atheism," with WTS predictions about the fulfillment of prophecies in Daniel about the king of the north, etc.
p. 528 P 1 Interesting comments about the WTS being so concerned about the spiritual needs of insignificant persons that it sent out a missionary just because one person wrote a letter. Contrast this with the Society's refusal to answer, or even acknowledge, letters from people who disagree with it. Which is the harder thing to do?
p. 560 Top newspaper clipping. Note claims about Finished Mystery, that it "throws an additional flood of light upon present conditions." Yet the book was trash and full of fanciful speculations.
p. 568 P 2 Another claim about Jehovah's Witnesses, that God "had put his word in their mouths."
p. 571 P 1-2 Ignores other meanings for "house to house" in the Greek.
p. 602 Interesting comments on WTS belief that the New World Translation in English is so accurate that it can be used as the basis for translation into other languages. Implies the original Greek and Hebrew were not necessary.
Discussion indicates that the Society has many of its publications available in on-line computer files. Wouldn't that be interesting to have!
p. 603 P 2 Society commits itself to sticking to God's Word the Bible rather than its own ideas.
p. 610 P 3 Extols virtues of Kingdom Interlinear in bringing out original meaning of Greek text. However, compare the way the Greek word melle (about) is rendered in Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7 with how it is rendered in Rev. 10:7 in the New World Translation.
p. 620 P 3 Discussion of Paton's books is rather confused. He wrote two versions of Day Dawn. The first was approved by Russell and widely distributed. The second was written after their break. See Penton:23.
p. 621 P 1 The quotation from Russell shows how big an ego he had at age 29. He was so supremely confident that his own interpretations and beliefs were precisely those of God that others' deviations from them were seen as deviations from God, not from his own opinions.
p. 621 P 3 A backhanded way of attributing God's approval to Russell: "It certainly could not be expected that God would use C. T. Russell if he did not loyally adhere to God's Word." By the same reasoning, anyone who claims to adhere to God's Word could claim to be used by God in a special way. All this means is that God doesn't use wicked people to represent him. The Society is deliberately confusing a specific issue -- whether God used Russell -with a general one -- whether God uses loyal Christians. See paragraph 4.
p. 621 P 4-5 Implied claim is that Russell was God's visible channel because he advocated the ransom and rejected certain creeds of Christendom (trinity, immortality of the soul).
p. 622 P 1 All this says is that Russell was eclectic in his use of various doctrines and enthusiastic in disseminating his views, particularly his view of Christ's return. The paragraph conveniently neglects to mention that Russell's claim that Christ returned in 1874 was false and therefore unscriptural. How such false teachings can be claimed as evidence that God was using the false teacher is astounding. The book forgets that Russell tended to confuse his own interpretation of the Bible with direct revelation from God. Any JW today acting as Russell did would immediately be disfellowshipped and denounced as an apostate.
p. 622 P 2 Says Russell urged others to check his writings carefully against God's Word, but neglects to say what Russell suggested they do if they found discrepancies. He said that they were being disloyal to God. Russell's speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time is duplicated by the Society today.
The issue of guidance versus inspiration is brought up. For all practical purposes they are identical concepts, but Russell distinguished between them and so does the Society today. This allows them to claim the benefits accorded to one who is inspired without shouldering the responsibility. Compare the quotation with what was published about how Bible Students ought to view Studies In The Scriptures. Russell virtually equated his own writings with the Bible itself. The following material is from the September 15, 1910 Watch Tower article "Is the Reading of `Scripture Studies' Bible Study?", pages 298-9 (4684-5 Reprints).
If the six volumes of SCRIPTURE STUDIES are practically the Bible topically arranged, with Bible proof-texts given, we might not improperly name the volumes -- the Bible in an arranged form. That is to say, they are not merely comments on the bible, but they are practically the Bible itself....
Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the SCRIPTURE STUDIES aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years -- if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the SCRIPTURE STUDIES with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.
How would Russell view the Watchtower Society today, having laid aside the Scripture Studies some seventy years ago?
Further along in the article, after suggesting that people should check Studies In The Scriptures against the Bible, Russell said:
We would conclude, practically, that we could not understand anything about the Bible except as it was revealed. We would, therefore, not waste a great deal of time doing what we know some people do, reading chapter after chapter, to no profit. We would not think of doing it. We would not think we were studying the Scriptures at all. We would think we were following the course that had been anything but profitable to ourselves and many others in the past -- merely reading over the Scriptures. We would say that the same Heavenly Father who had guided us to this truth, to this understanding of the Scriptures as his children, if he had some further information for us he would bring it to our attention in some manner; and therefore we would not see the necessity of reading the new Testament every day or every year; we would not consider that necessary. We would consider that the Scripture which says, "They shall be all taught of God," would imply that in his own appointed way God would bring to our attention whatever feature of divine truth would be "meat in due season for the household of faith."
In other words, God had already revealed to Russell everything he needed to know up to that point, and when God wanted him to know anything else, he would bring it to Russell's attention. In the meantime there was no need for Russell to read the Bible, since he already had everything he needed from it. Was he not God's specially appointed messenger, God's mouthpiece? Of course, this applied especially to the Bible Students. Apparently Russell never read Joshua 1:8:
This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.
p. 622 P 3 Totally pulling the wool over the reader's eyes about how Russell got his "guidance" from God. The book uses the Society's time-worn but effective technique of saying that "some older publication states `blah, blah, blah,' and so therefore the current conclusion is right." This obviates the need for the current writer to have to explain things, leaving the reader who doesn't understand what is being said thinking he must be stupid for not following the argument. Remember that the writer of JWPGK is supposed to be presenting evidence that Russell was guided by God.
The context of the quotation in paragraph 3 changes the meaning considerably from what the paragraph intends the reader to get. In the July 15, 1906 Watch Tower, on page 229, Russell wrote:
Many are the inquiries relative to the truths presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN and ZION'S WATCH TOWER, as to whence they came and how they developed to their present symmetrical and beautiful proportions -- Were they the results of visions? Did God in any supernatural way grant the solution of these hitherto mysteries of his plan? Are the writers more than ordinary beings? Do they claim any supernatural wisdom or power? or how comes this revelation of God's truth?
No, dear friends, I claim nothing of superiority, nor supernatural power, dignity or authority; nor do I aspire to exalt myself in the estimation of my brethren of the household of faith....
No, the truths I present, as God's mouthpiece, were not revealed in visions or dreams nor by God's audible voice, nor all at once, but gradually, especially since 1870, and particularly since 1880. Neither is this clear unfolding of truth due to any human ingenuity or acuteness of perception, but to the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out.
p. 623 P 2 States: "As his death neared, he did not take the view that there was nothing more to be learned." That is true, based on WTS quotations from 1914 through 1916. However, compare this claim to Russell's earlier discussion from the September 15, 1910 Watch Tower quoted above, which said that God had already revealed everything Russell needed to know, and when God wanted him to know more he would bring it to his attention.
p. 623 P 3 Russell only "realized" there was more work to be done after the near total collapse of his chronological speculations. The second sentence tries to plaster the Society's current view about "spirit-anointed" Christians onto what Russell said about all true Christians. The quotation should be looked up for context.
p. 624 P 3 Mention is made of "the blunt manner in which new Bible study material denounced false religion." This may be referring to The Finished Mystery.
p. 626 P 1 Admission that The Watchtower itself called Russell the "faithful and wise servant." The Society is to be congratulated on its first clear and open admission of a wart on its history. Too bad the rest of the book is not so honest. This ought to raise some questions in the minds of JWs about the Society's claims about the F&DS being appointed in 1919, etc., but it probably won't.
p. 626-8 Discussion should be checked against other historical references.
p. 629 P 4 A textbook example of self-serving circular reasoning. The fact that we observe change proves that change must take place. Since change must take place, it is to be expected that we will observe change. This is a sailboat tacking in circles.
p. 629 P 5 A false analogy. God's ancient servants certainly did not understand all of his purposes, but they did not speculate about what God had not revealed, and then require every other servant of God to accept that speculation on pain of disfellowshipping. As Russell wrote, on page 188 of the February 1881, Zion's Watch Tower:
If we were following a man undoubtedly it would be different with us; undoubtedly one human idea would contradict another and that which was light one or two or six years ago would be regarded as darkness now: But with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, and so it is with truth; any knowledge or light coming from God must be like its author. A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. "New light" never extinguishes older "light," but adds to it. If you were lighting up a building containing seven gas jets you would not extinguish one every time you lighted another, but would add one light to another and they would be in harmony and thus give increase of light: So is it with the light of truth; the true increase is by adding, not by substituting one for another.
p. 629 P 6 The argument presented is reasonable. Unfortunately it nullifies the Society's claim of being guided by God. One who has to "tack" back and forth to arrive at a correct understanding of God's Word is clearly under his own power, not God's. He should be humble enough to realize it.
p. 630 P 2 More circular reasoning re: the great crowd. The great crowd couldn't be clearly identified until it began to manifest itself. It manifested itself by being clearly seen. Absurd! It's no wonder "those who severely criticized Brother Russell did not understand these matters either."
p. 630 P 3-4 Doesn't give the reader enough information to understand what it's talking about. All the reader knows is that some sort of dispute took place. Finally the Society decided on an understanding that has more or less remained in place until today. Again God is left out of this procedure.
Throughout this time, the Society was publishing various statements that indicated it really knew what it was talking about. What's wrong with simply saying, We don't know what this means? The Society does not want to do this simply because it wants to be elevated in the minds of its adherents as a spiritual authority.
p. 631 See below for an extended discussion of some of Russell's chronological speculations discussed in this section.
p. 631 P 1 Some of the Bible Students' hopes and expectations were ridiculed by critics. The writer would like to be able to add, "but this was unjustified." Of course he cannot. The best he can muster is that those promulgating the false teachings were sincere.
p. 631 P 2 A good and clear statement of basic beliefs. What is not stated is that Russell and Rutherford went way beyond these into totally unjustified speculation, and then required their followers to believe these speculations as truth. Had they been labeled as speculations there would have been no problem. The truth is that the originators of these speculations did not see them as such, but as the product of God's guidance of them as individuals.
p. 631 P 3-4 Again, using the term "Bible chronology" for the speculations of Christopher Bowen and others is an insult to God's Word. The paragraph misleads the reader by saying that "they had surely approached the dawn of the foretold Millennium." But they believed that the Millennium had already started in 1874. Furthermore, the paragraph assumes that 6000 years and a 7th 1000 year period have some significance. This ancient rabbinic tradition is so ingrained in WTS thinking that writers never even question it. Even after the failure of the 1975 prediction this view has barely been moderated. Note that, as usual, JWPGK gives no dates for the basis of the chronological calculations.
p. 631 P 5 Explanation of early views on Jubilee cycles. This partly led to the claim of 1874 as Christ's return.
p. 632 P 1 Belief that the resurrection occurred in 1878 is described. This claim is a serious matter, because 2 Tim. 2:18 indicates that some in the 1st century who taught that the resurrection had occurred when it really hadn't were classed as men who "have deviated from the truth." The Society uses this example as a basis for declaring apostate any who even slightly deviates from its corporate line. By the Society's own standard, Russell was an apostate.
The 2nd footnote says that certain "parallels" led to the suggestion of 1915 as a "culmination of anarchistic upheaval," and that this new date was incorporated in revised versions of Studies In The Scriptures beginning in about 1914. The paragraph does not say when this change of understanding occurred, merely saying "it was stated," but it occurred sometime in 1912. This can be seen from the dates given in Vol. 2 of Studies, where early 1912 printings use 1914 everywhere, mid-1912 versions have 1915 substituted in certain places, and late 1912 versions have 1915 substituted in every place the 1916 versions do. The March 1, 1915 Watch Tower called attention to some of these changes, on page 5649 of Reprints, and may have additional information. By not giving the source references, JWPGK deftly covers over the fact that there were some 35 years between the original speculations about parallels and the later ones that caused 1915 to become significant.
The evidence is that 1914 was changed to 1915 in some places simply because many of the events Russell had predicted would occur long before 1914 never happened, and this failure forced him to rethink all of the dates. This has some support in the following material from a 1912 Watch Tower. Likely this is the source for the "extended parallels."
The discussion was in the context of a question about Russell's chronology that came up as early as 1904 -- what about the "zero year"? Was the length of time from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. one year, or two? Russell discussed this, as well as summarizing its application to his chronology, in the December 1, 1912 Watch Tower, pages 377-8. He was evidently rather confused about it, and said that the end of the times of the Gentiles could come in either 1914 or 1915.
Since this question is agitating the minds of a considerable number of the friends, we have presented it here in some detail. We remind the readers, however, that nothing in the Scriptures says definitely that the trouble upon the Gentiles will be accomplished before the close of the Times of the Gentiles, whether that be October, 1914, or October, 1915. The trouble doubtless will be considerable before the final crash, even though that crash come suddenly, like the casting of a great millstone into the sea. (Rev. 18:21) The parallel between the Jewish harvest and the present harvest would corroborate the thought that the trouble to the full will be accomplished by October, 1915.
Many of our readers will recall our reference to this subject in a sermon preached at Allegheny, Pa., January 11, 1904, and published in the Pittsburgh Gazette. We make an extract from that sermon as follows: --
"We find, then, that the Seven Times of Israel's punishment and the Seven Times of Gentile dominion are the same; and that they began with the captivity of Zedekiah, and, as will be seen from the Chart, they terminate with the year 1915. According to the best obtainable evidences on the subject, synchronized with the Scriptural testimony, Zedekiah's captivity took place in October, 605 1/4 years before A.D. 1. If we will add to this 1914 1/4 years, we will have the year, October, 1915, as the date for the end of Gentile supremacy in the world -- the end of the lease of 2,520 years, which will not be renewed. Instead, he whose right the kingdom is, shall take possession of it. This, therefore, marks when the Lord himself shall assume control of the world's affairs, to end its reign of sin and death, and to bring in the True Light."
There surely is room for slight differences of opinion on this subject and it behooves us to grant each other the widest latitude. The lease of power to the Gentiles may end in October, 1914, or in October, 1915. And the period of intense strife and anarchy "such as never was since there was a nation" may be the final ending of the Gentile Times or the beginning of Messiah's reign. [See Vol. 2, SCRIPTURE STUDIES.]
p. 632 P 2 A lesson in how to sanitize a false prophecy. Explains the basis for the 1925 prediction as yet another revised misunderstanding of the Jubilee cycles. Pulls a rabbit out of the hat: "What a happy prospect!" Kind of like Santa Claus coming this Christmas: "What a happy prospect!"
p. 632 P 3 Blames KJV for Russell's getting the chronology wrong. See the extended discussion at the end of these notes for details. The footnotes admit that Russell's chronology was completely wrong. The "corrected" chronology led to the 1975 prediction. Again note the hilarious attempt at sanitizing the false prediction: "This later led to the idea -- sometimes stated as a possibility, sometimes more firmly -- that since the seventh millennium of human history would begin in 1975, events associated with the beginning of Christ's Millennial Reign might start to take place then."
p. 633 P 1 Admits that the chronological speculations were wrong and bore the fruit of disappointment. "Disappointment" is an understatement.
p. 633 P 2 Clearly referring to Raymond Franz, Ed Dunlap and others. The paragraph is again thoroughly misleading because the only dates given are 1925 and 1975. Most of the crucial events with respect to 1975 that are referred to actually took place in 1980 through 1983. They really had no relation to 1975. The difficulties that Raymond Franz and certain others had may have had some relation to the 1975 date, but their published material shows that other factors were far more important in their ultimately leaving the Society. Of course, the Society does not want its membership to know the truth, and so it casts all these events in as vague a manner as possible.
p. 633 P 4 States that "some expectations had not been fulfilled." The truth is that no expectations had been fulfilled, not for 1914, 1918, 1925 or 1975, or times in between. Gives Daniel's prophecy of the 69 weeks as an example of fulfilled prophecy. This raises several issues. First, the Society's "explanation" of the chronology of the 69 weeks prophecy has about as much weight as its claims about 1914. Second, Daniel's prophecy leaves little to the imagination. Events associated with the starting and ending times are clearly stated. The only speculation involved is whether the "weeks" are weeks of years. All commentators agree that they are. Claims about 1914 are in a different category entirely.
p. 634 A fascinating letter by C. J. Woodworth. It is of note that, as screwy as he was in some ways, he made the effort to write to someone he saw as in spiritual trouble. Contrast this with the Society's present attitude that any who dissent are not worthy of further contact.
Paragraph 6 of this letter indicates once again that the belief of the Bible Students just after 1914 was that the war would culminate in world anarchy. The last paragraph does not indicate that Woodworth was later seen as a crank. See Penton:52.
p. 635 P 1 Another self-serving argument. Paints a picture that the 1914 prediction was a unique and wonderful thing. In reality, very many years of the 19th and 20th centuries have been claimed as the end of the Gentile Times by someone.
p. 635 P 2 Admits that Russell believed old order would end in 1914 and new order would begin.
p. 635 P 3 The meaning of the quoted material is grossly distorted by leaving off a key statement from the end. The paragraph states:
In its issue of October 15, 1913, The Watch Tower had stated: "According to the best chronological reckoning of which we are capable, it is approximately that time -whether it be October, 1914, or later. Without dogmatizing, we are looking for certain events: (1) The termination of the Gentile Times-Gentile supremacy in the world -- and (2) For the inauguration of Messiah's Kingdom in the world."
This is completely misleading because the very next sentences in The Watch Tower (p. 5328 Reprints) said:
The kingdoms of earth will come to an end, and "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom."
Other references show that this kingdom was to be earthly, not heavenly, as JWPGK implies. See The Time Is At Hand, pp. 76-7, 101. Furthermore, the same Watch Tower issue contained an introduction to the book by Morton Edgar on how the Great Pyramid supported the claim of 1914 for the end of the Gentile Times. See p. 5336 of Reprints.
p. 635 P 5 Yet another false analogy. The apostles at times had wrong expectations but they did not teach them to others. Jesus corrected them as soon as they questioned him about it.
p. 637 P 2 Introduction to section that explains importance of adherence to witnessing work and to "theocratic" organization. Very self-serving claims imply that only those who adhered to the Society's methods of preaching and believed that it is truly God's organization were of good heart condition.
p. 638 P 1 Speaks of those who "felt it beneath their dignity to preach from house to house." But Rutherford was the prime example of this. Even today many GB members don't do it. See Crisis Of Conscience.
p. 638 P 4 In 1932 elective office of elder was discontinued. Elective is emphasized since office of appointed elder was instituted in 1971. Does not indicate how elders were then appointed, except that a service director was appointed by the Society.
p. 639 P 3 Another subtle attempt at misrepresentation. "Governing Body" is capitalized, whereas in 1938 the function was vested in Rutherford alone. The board of directors could hardly be called a governing body. There wasn't even a "governing body" mentioned until 1944. See various Publications Indexes, under "Jehovah's Witnesses, governing body." These indicate the official switch from gb to GB in 1976. See also Crisis Of Conscience.
p. 639 P 4 How does the WTS know that "the work" applies to "our day?" Because of the claims that we are now in the last days, and that its interpretation of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 is correct. We may well be in the last days, but this assumption should be clearly set out.
p. 645 Begins discussion of Russell's marital situation. No mention made of what were probably the real sources of the trouble -- Russell's insistence on a "platonic" marriage, and his gigantic ego. No mention of the following statement by the presiding Justice from the decision in his 1908 divorce trial:
His course of conduct towards his wife evidenced such insistent egotism and extravagant self praise that it would be manifest to the jury that his conduct towards her was one of continual arrogant domination, that would necessarily render the life of any Christian woman a burden and make her condition intolerable.
p. 648 P 1 1918 talk "Millions Now Living *May* Never Die" mentioned. This use of `may' rather than `will' was the source of some confusion at the 1991 and 1992 district assemblies, since `will' was always used in published material.
p. 692 P 3 Describes with approval the publicity given to JW opposers' tactics. Note the contrast with p. 633 P 2, where JW opposers are ostracized for giving publicity to the wrongs done.
p. 706 P 1 States that "true followers of Christ in our day must be humble, willing to accept discipline and, when necessary, make adjustments, in order to bring their thinking into ever closer harmony with God's." First, this is a non-sequitur with respect to the two questions the paragraph asked. Second, does anyone think that the Governing Body is willing to apply this counsel to itself?
p. 706 P 3 States that "the one true Christian congregation would have to be an organization that holds to the Bible as its foremost authority, not one that quotes scattered verses but rejects the rest when these do not conform to its contemporary theology." Well said! Will the Society apply this standard to itself from now on? How about with respect to all the scriptures it ignores that bear on the 1914 doctrine?
p. 707 P 3 Lists some of Russell's fundamental beliefs. Unfortunately leaves out some that he considered fundamental but were later abandoned, such as on the pyramids. Oddly enough the book only mentions pyramids once, on page 201, although it was a prominent feature of Russell's theology and deserves more than a passing mention.
p. 708 P 1 Begins discussion of how JWs are led by God. Also presents key question asked by critics about `adjustments to understanding': "If they were truly chosen and led by God and if their teachings were backed by Scriptural authority to begin with, why would such changes be necessary?"
p. 708 P 2 Explicitly states that JW organization is not inspired.
p. 708 P 3 Contradicts the previous paragraph by making an implicit distinction between being `inspired' by God and merely being `led' or `guided,' and then claiming that "Jehovah leads or guides them to such understanding by means of his holy spirit." This is the key: a flat claim that God guides them. No other explanation is given of how "Jehovah leads his people."
p. 708 P 4 False analogy with a dark room, and more circular reasoning. How do we know that Jehovah gradually and progressively enlightens his people? Because that's how he's done it with Jehovah's Witnesses. See p. 709 P 1. Fails to mention Russell's view: "A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. `New light' never extinguishes older `light,' but adds to it."
p. 708 P 5 Again compares the lack of understanding of God's servants in ancient times with those in modern times. Again fails to mention that those ancient servants are not recorded as having censured and persecuted those who refused to accept their misunderstandings.
p. 709 P 1 Fine words about truth remaining fixed despite the misunderstandings of God's servants.
p. 709 P 2 Claims that it was the "zeal and enthusiasm for the vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty" that "have led to premature expectations as to when the end of Satan's wicked system of things would come." Hogwash! Zeal and enthusiasm for God most certainly do not have to lead to the gross prophetic speculations the Watchtower Society has indulged in. The Bible records no such things.
p. 709 P 3 A key argument in the question of whether the Society is a false prophet. Again compares the mere question of Jesus' disciples about the imminence of the Kingdom in their day with the gross speculation the Society has forced its members to accept. This is total nonsense! The Society has preached these falsehoods worldwide for many decades. It has disfellowshipped and labeled as wicked any members who publicly disagreed with these false prophecies. There is no comparison.
p. 709 P 4 Lists the requirements for the one true religion. Of course, these are precisely the doctrines of JWs, so no surprise here. They fail to note that several other religions also meet these requirements.
p. 711 P 5 Talks about the love JWs have for one another. But on command, this love can be turned off or on as by a switch. The Society need only push the switch.
p. 713 P 4 Says that JWs "keep searching the Scriptures with an open mind." Time will tell.
Extended discussion of JWPGK'S blaming of Russell's chronological error of 100 some-odd years on the King James Version.
Beginning on page 631, Jehovah's Witnesses -Proclaimers Of God's Kingdom discusses a bit of the development of the chronological framework used by C. T.Russell. Of course, nearly all this framework has been abandoned because later research showed it was quite unscriptural even at the time it was first written down. In an effort to soften how unscriptural this chronological speculation actually was, and to give the impression that it was in fact scriptural, the book says, with reference to the Bible Students' hopes and expectations for when many of their beliefs would be fulfilled:
It was only natural that they should wonder when and how these things would occur. Did the inspired Scriptures provide any clues?
Using Bible chronology that had first been laid out by Christopher Bowen of England, they thought that 6,000 years of human history had ended in 1873, that thereafter they were in the seventh thousand-year period of human history, and that they had surely approached the dawn of the foretold Millennium. The series of books known as Millennial Dawn (and later called Studies In The Scriptures), which were penned by C. T. Russell, drew attention to the implications of this according to what the Bible Students understood from the Scriptures.
Note that JWPGK calls Bowen's chronology Bible chronology. That is like calling belief in hellfire a Bible doctrine.
Something else that was seen as a possible time indicator involved the arrangement that God instituted in ancient Israel for a Jubilee, a year of release, every 50th year. This came after a series of seven 7-year periods, each of which ended with a sabbath year. During the Jubilee year, Hebrew slaves were freed and hereditary land possessions that had been sold were restored. (Lev. 25:8-10) Calculations based on this cycle of years led to the conclusion that perhaps a greater Jubilee for all the earth had begun in the autumn of 1874, that evidently the Lord had returned in that year and was invisibly present, and that "the times of restitution of all things" had arrived. -- Acts 3:19-21, KJ.
Next are discussed other aspects of Russell's chronology, such as his claim that the resurrection had begun in 1878. Finally, a different understanding of the Jubilee cycles is discussed. This became the basis for Rutherford's failed prediction of 1925 as "the end of the world."
On pages 632-3, JWPGK continues:
"Later on, during the years from 1935 through 1944, a review of the overall framework of Bible chronology revealed that a poor translation of Acts 13:19,20 in the King James Version,* along with certain other factors, had thrown off the chronology by over a century.# "
The footnotes read:
* Compare the rendering in The Emphasised Bible, translated by J. B. Rotherham; see also the footnote on Acts 13:20 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures With References.
# See The Truth Shall Make You Free, chapter XI; The Kingdom Is At Hand, pages 171-5; also The Golden Age, March 27, 1935, pages 391, 412. In the light of these corrected tables of Bible chronology, it could be seen that previous use of the dates 1873 and 1878, as well as related dates derived from these on the basis of parallels with first-century events, were based on misunderstandings.
As is usual in JWPGK, just enough information is given the reader to form a dim picture of the real situation. The things that were done are described with passive tense verbs, and the people who did them are not mentioned. This casts a comfortable anonymity over the proceedings and isolates those responsible from what they did. Everything is seen through a veil of obscurantism.
The last paragraph quoted above gives the impression that the chronology used by Russell and the Bible Students was thrown off by a factor not under their control, namely, the poor translation of Acts 13:19,20 in the KJV. See also JWPGK, page 133, footnote*. But this factor was only a problem for Christopher Bowen, not for anyone with access to newer Bible translations based on ancient Greek texts that were just coming to light. For example, the Emphatic Diaglott, first published in completed form in 1864, had a marginal note showing the alternate rendering from the "Vatican Manuscript," which was not available to the KJV translators but is the basis for the Society's New World Translation. This alternate rendering was part of the basis for the Society's changes to chronology from 1935 through 1946. It came to light as early as 1775, when the first of J. J. Griesbach's Greek texts became available. This text was the basis for the Diaglott. The Diaglott was well known, of course, to N. H. Barbour and C. T. Russell, since its rendering of the Greek parousia as "presence" was the basis for their doctrine of the "invisible presence" of Christ. They knew this translation very well.
Was the Emphatic Diaglott the only translation that indicated an alternate rendering for Acts 13:19,20? Not at all. After the mid-19th century many translations became available using the latest Greek texts. The well-known text of Westcott and Hort, today's standard, became available in 1881, although others were available much earlier. The English Revised Bible, using the latest Greek texts, was available by 1885, and many other Bibles using the latest texts became available by about 1900. The American Standard Version, a revision of the English Revised Bible, was published in 1901. According to JWPGK (pp. 605-6) the Society was distributing a variety of Bibles by 1896, of which the following used the latest Greek texts to render Acts 13:19,20: Tischendorf's New Testament, the Variorum Bible, Rotherham's translation, the Holman Linear Parallel Edition containing the English Revised Version, and the Emphatic Diaglott.
So while Christopher Bowen might be excused for publishing an incorrect chronology, there was no such excuse for N.H. Barbour in the early 1870s, and certainly not for the Watchtower Society after 1900. It is quite evident that the only reason the chronology was retained in spite of the availability of correct translations is that it had already become well established doctrine and was seen by Russell as divinely inspired. Concerning these dates, Zion's Watch Tower, July 15, 1894, said on page 226, under the subtitle "Can It Be Delayed Until 1914?":
"We see no reason for changing the figures -- nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours."
The footnote marked with a * above inadvertently admits that this information was known early on. The footnote marked with a # refers to several other references. Interestingly, chapter XI of The Truth Shall Make You Free (1943) quotes Acts 13:19,20 from the American Standard Version and makes no references to any changes of understanding from earlier publications or from the KJV or from the Diaglott. Nor does the reference in The Kingdom Is At Hand (1944) explain these things. It only states the results as a given.
Apparently it was left for the 1973 book God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached to explain what was done. Chapter 11 contains an explanation of the reasoning behind the presentation in the earlier books. The book gives an explanation on pages 206-11, which will not be reproduced here. Let it suffice to say that a discrepancy of 100 years is evident between the 450 year period of the Judges implied by the KJV and Diaglott renderings of Acts 13:19,20 and the 350 years calculated in the discussion in paragraph 51. JWPGK says that the discrepancy was due to a poor translation of this scripture in the KJV, but God's Kingdom Of A Thousand Years expressly states that the error was due to following the suggestion of a footnote in The Emphatic Diaglott. Paragraph 52 does mention the KJV as being in agreement with the Diaglott, but the impression is that the argument in the Diaglott was the deciding factor. So the book clearly admits that there were factors that could have caused a correct chronology to be ascertained, if only proper account was taken of all the relevant information. It must be asked, Since the correct information was available to N. H. Barbour and C. T. Russell, why did God's spirit not direct them to a correct understanding? Did God really want the correct understanding to be hidden for some 70 years, until 1943?
The God's Kingdom book also only speaks of C. T. Russell as having made these calculations. No mention is made of N. H. Barbour or Christopher Bowen or any other socalled Bible chronologers of the time. This is another example of the Society's past practice of attempting to credit Russell with originating all of his teachings, rather than attributing them to various Adventist and other sources. The Watchtower Society is to be commended for rectifying this in JWPGK.
Continuing with our discussion of the presentation in JWPGK book, a serious omission is that it does not tell the reader about the alternate rendering for Acts 13:19,20 mentioned in the Diaglott, as discussed above. Instead, the KJV is blamed for the error. This alternate rendering, if followed, would have required all of Barbour and Russell's chronology to be shifted forward by 100 years. Christ's presence would have to begin in 1974, not 1874. Of course, this was not a desirable result, and so rather than honestly evaluating both renderings, which were available in The Diaglott, they used the incorrect but comforting rendering of Acts 13 as a basis for their calculations.
This discussion brings up another problem with the God's Kingdom book. It says that the error in the calculation of the start of Christ's presence was due to faulty information in the Diaglott. However, the difference between 1874 and 1914 is 40years, not 100. The book, in paragraph 55, sidesteps the explanation of how 1874 was moved to 1914 as the start of Christ's presence. Rather than explaining how the 100 year discrepancy fits in, it merely says:
In the year 1943 the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society published the book The Truth Shall Make You Free. In its chapter 11, entitled "The Count of Time," it did away with the insertion of 100 years into the period of the Judges.... Naturally this did away with the year 1874 C.E. as the date of return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the beginning of his invisible presence or parousia.... What, then, about the parousia (presence) of Christ? Page 324 of the above book positively says: "The King's presence or parousia began in 1914." Also, in the Watchtower... the statement is made: "... Messiah, the Son of man, came into Kingdom power A.D. 1914 and... this constitutes his second coming and the beginning of his second parousia or presence."
So, with a wave of the pen -- "the book positively says...."-- the author of God's Kingdom evades a difficult explanation. This is reminiscent of a similar evasion in the 1944 book The Kingdom Is At Hand. On page 171 it stated that The Truth Shall Make You Free explained how the Society changed the date of Jerusalem's destruction from the summer of 606 B.C. to 607 B.C. But the latter book did no such thing, and so the Society never actually gave a reason for the change, although it claimed it did. The same kind of thing was done in changing the date for the beginning of the prophecy of 69 weeks for the Messiah from 454 to 455 B.C.E. in the mid-1940s.
Our discussion brings up some other interesting points. Paragraph 49 of the God's Kingdom book makes a number of unstated assumptions that have all proved unfounded. While the Bible nowhere states it, the book assumes that Russell's assigning 7000 years to a "magic" time period is correct. In otherwords, it assumes that there are precisely seven millennia in a creative "week." This notion can be traced back to Jewish rabbinical thought. Russell himself knew this was only an assumption, but his successors seem to have forgotten it. He wrote: "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 a reasonable foundation." (The Time Is At Hand, p. 39) The Society applied this "venerable tradition" to its 1975 prediction, and the failure is known to all students of religion.
A little thought shows how unreasonable this assumption is. When God created the earth, "all the sons of God began shouting in applause" (Job 38:7). So angels were on hand when God created man, and they knew the exact date this occurred. Therefore, if the 7th millennium corresponded to Christ's reign the angels would have known when it would start, and also the start of Armageddon and "that day and hour" of Matthew 24:36. But because Matt. 24:36 says that "concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father," there can be no correspondence between the 1000 year reign and the 7th 1000 year period of human history.
It should be clear that the Society's publications, even the new history book that was billed in the public talk releasing it as a candid look at the history of Jehovah's Witnesses, do not give a complete picture of the many chronological calculations it has advanced over the years.
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