This page is a review of the 2-part series entitled, A Conversation With a Neighbor—When Did God’s Kingdom Begin Ruling?, appearing in the 1 October 2014 and 1 November 2014 issues of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ magazine, The Watchtower.*
* For more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs about the year 1914, see Jehovah’s Witnesses and 1914.
The articles are posited as fictitious ‘typical conversations’ between a Jehovah’s Witness (‘Cameron’) and a “neighbor”* (‘Jon’). Despite its appearance in the Public Edition of The Watchtower, the series is intended as much as a reminder to Jehovah’s Witnesses about their numerological beliefs as it is to convince non-members.
* Since the introduction of the separate Public and Study editions of The Watchtower, the term ‘householder’ is almost exclusively reserved for the Study Edition; over the same period, “householder” has also been used sparingly in Awake!.
“Keep Searching” for Understanding
‘Cameron’, the Witness, starts off by saying he has enjoyed his “regular discussions” with ‘Jon’. A footnote confirms that these ‘regular discussions’ are not just informal chats, but part of the Witnesses’ “free home Bible study program”. Being the Public Edition of The Watchtower, the article omits that by the end of the indoctrination program, the ‘student’ is expected to be ‘making progress toward baptism as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses’.*
* For example, Our Kingdom Ministry, December 1997, page 3: “Our goal is not just to place literature. … Our goal is to help them progress to the point of dedication and baptism”. See also Our Kingdom Ministry, April 2006, page 3; Our Kingdom Ministry, October 1996, page 7; Our Kingdom Ministry, October 1988, page 8.
‘Cameron’ reminds ‘Jon’ that ‘Jon’ had asked about ‘1914’ on an earlier visit. ‘Jon’ says he saw ‘1914’ in “one of your publications”, obviously in reference to the book currently used by the Witnesses for their ‘Bible study program’, What Does the Bible Really Teach?. ‘Jon’ is apparently diligent enough to have gone to “an online Bible” to search for ‘1914’, and he states that there were “0 results”, which he should already have known if he had already read the publication where he purportedly found reference to ‘1914’. ‘Cameron’ then commends ‘Jon’s’ blind faith in a book from which he has clearly learned nothing.
‘Jon’ says that he “dug around a little more” in “this book we’ve been studying” where he initially saw ‘1914’ mentioned—this entire process of ‘digging’ involves seeing the words “Regarding this date, see the Appendix”, which immediately follows the initial reference to ‘1914’. ‘Jon’ indicates he has gained only the most rudimentary understanding of “a dream… about a big tree that was cut down and then grew back or something like that”. ‘Cameron’ confirms that he is referring to Daniel chapter 4.
‘Jon’ laments that although he has repeatedly read the story in Daniel chapter 4, he—rightly—doesn’t understand what it has to do with 1914 (although he should at least have some idea of what he is expected to have gleaned from the appendix of “this book we’ve been studying”). ‘Cameron’ patronises ‘Jon’ with an irrelevant statement about Daniel 12:8, where Daniel purportedly doesn’t understand something in an entirely unrelated story that wasn’t even written in the same language.* ‘Cameron’ then claims that Daniel’s further unrelated statement at Daniel 12:9 will help them gain an understanding of Daniel chapter 4 in “the time of the end”, and that “all evidence indicates that we are now living in that time period”.# ‘Jon’ then needs ‘Cameron’ to explain the story to him from scratch, as a narrative device for the ‘benefit’ of the reader.
* Chapters 2 to 7 of Daniel were originally written in Aramaic; the remainder were originally written in Hebrew.
# The fact that it is circular reasoning to claim to use something that would only be understood in the ‘time of the end’ to identify the ‘time of the end’ is conveniently ignored.
‘Cameron’ offers to summarise Nebuchadnezzar’s dream outlined in Daniel chapter 4. Ignoring the context of the chapter introduced as a story told by Nebuchadnezzar, the initial summary ‘Cameron’ provides is based on verses 10, 11 & 13–16 (though the corresponding footnote cites verses 13–17). ‘Cameron’ claims that the story “initially applied to King Nebuchadnezzar”. Rather than an ’initial’ application, Daniel chapter 4 repeatedly refers to only a single interpretation (verses 6, 7, 9, 18, 19, 24), including the unambiguous statement in verse 24: “this is the interpretation”, with no provision for more than one fulfilment.
‘Cameron’ asks ‘Jon’ if he remembers what happened next in the story. Though ‘Jon’ has supposedly read the story “over and over”, and has also read the Witnesses’ publication discussing their interpretation, ‘Jon’ responds, “No, I don’t recall.” ‘Cameron’ then summarises the fulfilment indicated in the story (a footnote provides a citation to verses 20–36). The claim is made that Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity “evidently for seven years”, though the word translated “times” (Aramaic עִדָּן, `iddan) in verses 16, 23, 25 & 32 is a generic term that can apply to years or some other period. After the alleged bout of insanity, Nebuchadnezzar is said to have resumed his position as king of Babylon. Actually, neither secular history nor the Watch Tower Society’s chronology allows for a suitable continuous seven-year period of inactivity during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.*
* A more likely interpretation of the story in Daniel chapter 4 is considered at Seven Times.
‘Jon’ asks what the story has to do with 1914. With no support from Daniel chapter 4, ‘Cameron’ asserts that the “prophecy has two fulfillments”, with the ‘first’ fulfilment being the one Daniel 4:24 directly states as “the interpretation”. ‘Cameron’ provides the Watch Tower Society’s position, claiming there is a second fulfilment involving “God’s rulership”. ‘Jon’ asks how ‘Cameron’ knows this. ‘Cameron’ responds that there ‘must’ be, because Daniel 4:17 states that “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind“, which ‘Cameron’ asserts ‘must’ be something other than Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, despite the fact that Daniel 4:32 uses exactly the same phrase when explicitly referring to Nebuchadnezzar’s purported insanity. ‘Cameron’ then asserts that there is also a broader context.
The Book’s Central Theme
‘Cameron’ claims that “time and again”, Daniel “keeps pointing forward to the establishment of God’s Kingdom under the rulership of his Son, Jesus”. Actually, there is only the first “time” in chapter 2, and “again” in chapter 7 that the book of Daniel refers to a future kingdom of God (and neither mentions Jesus). Chapters 4, 5* and 6 of Daniel allude to God already having a kingdom (all purportedly during the ‘seven times’), without any mention of it permanently replacing other kingdoms. Chapters 8, 9 and 11 of Daniel make no mention of God’s kingdom, and chapters 1, 3, 10 and 12 do not contain the word “kingdom” at all. With more than half the chapters of the book of Daniel not making any reference to God’s kingdom and only two chapters referring to the future establishment of a kingdom, it can hardly be considered the book’s “central theme”.#
* The only suggestion in chapter 5 of ‘God’s kingdom’ is a quote from chapter 4, where it again associates the phrase “the Most High God is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind” with Nebuchadnezzar’s alleged period of insanity.
# For more information about the actual theme of Daniel, see Daniel’s dreams and visions.
Ignoring the facts, ‘Cameron’ continues, telling ‘Jon’ to read Daniel 2:44, a verse often employed by Witnesses with no regard for the original context. Biblical scholars broadly agree that the chapter was written in the second century BCE, and that it refers to a kingdom under God that the Jews hoped would replace the Seleucid empire under Antiochus IV Epiphanes during the Jewish Maccabean period.
‘Cameron’ moves on to “another” (actually, the only other) time the book of Daniel refers to a future kingdom of God, in chapter 7. As with Daniel chapter 2, this story was written in the second century BCE, and refers to the same hypothetical divine kingdom that the Jews hoped would overthrow the Seleucid dynasty. After reading Daniel 7:13–14, ‘Cameron’ asks ‘Jon’ if it sounds familiar, and ‘Jon’ weakly responds, “it mentions a kingdom”. ‘Cameron’ then correctly states that the ‘kingdom’ in chapter 7 is the same as the one in Daniel chapter 2, but in doing so, his previous incorrect comments about Daniel chapter 2 also incorrectly associate chapter 7 with Jesus.
‘Cameron’ then ‘reviews’ their discussion so far. He repeats the lie that the phrase “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind” ‘must’ refer to more than just Babylon’s king, despite the fact that Daniel 4:32 explicitly employs that phrase in the interpretation involving Nebuchadnezzar. Then ‘Cameron’ repeats the lie that there are “prophecies about the establishment of God’s Kingdom” “throughout the book of Daniel”, though it is only actually mentioned in two chapters of Daniel, with no support from Daniel that it has anything at all to do with Jesus.
“Let Seven Times Pass”
‘Cameron’ mentions the ‘first’ fulfilment (that is, the fulfilment the Bible refers to as “the interpretation”), in which Nebuchadnezzar is said to have lost his sanity for ‘seven times’ and then resumed ruling over Babylon. ‘Cameron’ asserts that in the ‘second’ fulfilment, God’s rulership is similarly ‘interrupted’. He adds that it’s “not because of any deficiency on God’s part”, prompting ‘Jon’ to ask what he means.
As with his lie about the ‘central theme’ of the book of Daniel, ‘Cameron’ again falsely characterises an isolated statement in the Bible as being more general, claiming that “Israelite kings who ruled in Jerusalem were said to sit on ‘Jehovah’s throne’”, with a footnote citing 1 Chronicles 29:23. However, that verse and 1 Chronicles 28:5, both in reference to Solomon, are the only instances where any of the kings ‘in Bible times’ are said to have represented ‘Jehovah’s throne’. In fact, 1 Samuel 8:4–9 indicates that setting up a king over the Jews was seen as rejecting God. Consistent with that, ‘Cameron’ states that “most of those kings became disobedient to God”. Jeremiah 3:14–17 goes further, indicating that even during the reign of Josiah (considered to be a ‘good’ king), rule from Jerusalem was not considered to represent “Jehovah’s throne”, which was only seen as a future event.
‘Cameron’ then repeats what is arguably the Watch Tower Society’s most prominent lie—that Jerusalem was “conquered by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E.”,* an assertion ‘Jon’ accepts without question (apparently because his use of the Internet has not extended beyond “an online Bible”). ‘Cameron’ continues with the Watch Tower Society’s dogma, stating that “607 B.C.E. marked the beginning of seven times,” after which “God would install a new ruler to represent Him … in heaven”. However, Colossians 1:13 asserts that Jesus was already king in heaven in the first century CE; this is ignored, and ‘Cameron’ instead asks the leading question, “When did the seven times end?” At this point, ‘Jon’ is aware that he is expected to “guess” ’1914′, but doesn’t understand why.
* For more information about how the Bible does not support Jehovah’s Witnesses’ selection of 607 BCE, see 607 for Beginners.
‘Cameron’ tells another lie, claiming that “Jesus indicated that the seven times had not yet ended”. A footnote cites Luke 21:24, where Jesus is said to refer to “the appointed times of the nations” during which Jerusalem would be ‘trampled’, which the context and grammar of the original text indicate to be a period that had not yet started, with no relationship to Daniel’s ‘seven times’.* The footnote adds that “the interruption of God’s rulership was still in effect in Jesus’ time”, yet no such period was in effect even in Nebuchadnezzar’s time. The very chapter of Daniel that introduces the “seven times” directly states in the ‘first fulfilment’ (or “the interpretation”) that God was then the “Ruler in the kingdom of mankind”, and that God’s rulership was already “an everlasting kingdom” that had authority to inflict seven years of madness on Nebuchadnezzar, even though this was purportedly during the supposed ‘second fulfilment’ of the ‘seven times’.
* A form of the Greek verb esomai (“will be”) is used in reference to each of the actions at Luke 21:23–24. Revelation 11:2 indicates the length of this period of ‘trampling’ by ‘the nations’ to be forty-two months.
‘Cameron’ continues, claiming that “sincere students of the Bible” “began to discern” the ‘seven times’ “during the late 1800’s”, alluding to Charles Taze Russell’s Bible study group. In reality, Russell derived his beliefs about the ‘seven times’ from individuals such as John Aquila Brown and William Miller from the first half of the nineteenth century. Other Adventist groups had suggested many nineteenth- and twentieth-century dates for the end of the ‘seven times’, and 1914 had been suggested at least as early as 1844 in Edward Elliot’s Horæ Apocalypticæ, Volume III.
‘Cameron’ asserts that “major world events” since 1914 “confirm” it as “the year God’s Kingdom began ruling in heaven”, but does not cite any specific events. Russell did not believe that 1914 indicated the beginning of God’s kingdom, but believed Jesus had been ruling in heaven since 1878.* ‘Cameron’ also claims 1914 is the year in which “this world entered … the time of the end”, however Russell believed that the “time of the end” began in 1799 and that 1914 would mark the end of that period.# No mention is made of October of 1914, when the ‘major world events’ are supposed to have begun.
* Studies in the Scriptures Volume III (Thy Kingdom Come), page 150.
# Studies in the Scriptures Volume III (Thy Kingdom Come), page 23: “‘The time of the End,’ a period of one hundred and fifteen (115) years, from A. D. 1799 to A. D. 1914, is particularly marked in the Scriptures.”; Zion’s Watch Tower, 15 July 1894, page 226: “But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble.”
‘Cameron’ suggests that the ‘information’ he has provided is “probably a lot to digest”, which is probably true in the sense that it is ‘difficult to stomach’. ‘Cameron’ says he hopes his misleading cherry-picked verses taken out of their original context have convinced ‘Jon’ “that Jehovah’s Witnesses do base their beliefs about the Kingdom on the Bible”. It is obvious that ‘Jon’ not only has no knowledge of the relevant secular history regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, but also that the only things he knows about the Bible are what ‘Cameron’ has told him, providing no basis for comparison. In particular, ‘Jon’ is apparently unaware that ‘Cameron’ has misrepresented several scriptures:
- Daniel 12:8 doesn’t say anything at all about Daniel not being able to understand something in chapter 4;
- the expression, “the Most High is the Ruler in the kingdom of mankind” is specifically used in reference to the (so-called ‘initial’) fulfilment involving Nebuchadnezzar at Daniel 4:32 and doesn’t indicate a ‘second fulfilment’;
- the ‘kingdom of God’ is not the ‘central theme’ of Daniel, and only two of the stories refer to a future establishment of such a kingdom;
- only one Israelite king in ‘Bible times’ (Solomon) was ever said to sit on ‘Jehovah’s throne’; Jeremiah 3:17 states (during Josiah’s reign) that Jerusalem would be considered ‘Jehovah’s throne’ only at a future time;
- Luke 21:24 relates to events in the first century CE, and says nothing at all about ‘seven times’, or that the ‘appointed times of the nations’ had already started.
With ‘Jon’ worse off than when he started, ‘Cameron’ indicates that on his next visit he will try to convince ‘Jon’ about the Adventist numerology of the ‘seven times’, which should have been a fundamental concept to establish before making claims about 1914. A footnote explains to the reader that the fictional conversation will be continued in the next article in the series.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream—A Brief Review
‘Cameron’ returns, expressing how much he enjoys indoctrinating ‘Jon’. A footnote again refers to the “systematic discussions” of the Witnesses’ “free Bible study program”, again without any acknowledgement that the ‘student’ is expected to be ‘making progress toward baptism as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses’.
‘Cameron’ reminds ‘Jon’ about his previous ‘visit’, and their ‘discussion’ about how Jehovah’s Witnesses make special claims about the year 1914. A footnote reminds the reader that Part 2 of the series follows Part 1. ‘Jon’, who apparently has not sought to verify any of ‘Cameron’s’ previous claims, superficially recalls that they had talked about “King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about a big tree.” ‘Cameron’ then reminds ‘Jon’ of his previous claim that the story in Daniel chapter 4 has two fulfilments, based on his misrepresentation of a phrase at Daniel 4:17, and his mischaracterisation of an element from two stories in the book of Daniel as the book’s “central theme”.
After briefly considering the supposed ‘initial fulfilment’ (which the story explicitly gives as “the interpretation”), ‘Cameron’ turns attention to the alleged ‘larger fulfilment’. He again dogmatically repeats the false claim that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE, which remains unchallenged by ‘Jon’. ‘Cameron’ asserts that from that point, “there were no more kings on earth who represented Jehovah God”, ignoring the indication at Jeremiah 3:17 that even during the reign of ‘good’ king Josiah, Jerusalem was not yet called ‘the throne of Jehovah’. ‘Cameron’ continues, claiming that after ‘seven times’ “God would appoint a new Ruler … in heaven”, again ignoring the fact that according to Colossians 1:13, Jesus was already ruling in heaven in the first century CE. Having asserted both the start and end points of the alleged ‘seven times’—with no secular support for either—‘Cameron’ now decides to address the numerological gymnastics required for determining the supposed length of time in between.
Seven Times End—The Last Days Begin
As he did during his previous ‘visit’, ‘Cameron’ again asserts that the ‘times’ in Daniel chapter 4 were “evidently” literal years, even though the word translated “times” can refer to other periods. He then claims that in the supposed ‘larger fulfilment’, the ‘seven times’ ‘must’ be longer than seven literal years. ‘Jon’ asks why, and ‘Cameron’ claims to know that nothing special happened in heaven seven literal years after Jerusalem’s destruction.* ‘Cameron’ then refers to his previous assertion that Jesus’ purported reference to some other period ‘must’ be about the ‘seven times’, and circularly reasons that the ‘seven times’ ‘must’ therefore be longer than seven years.
* Actually, from the perspective of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ chronology, assigning literal years to the period would mean that the supposed ‘larger fulfilment’ would have ended some time prior to the earliest possible time to tell the story in Daniel chapter 4.
Already having been told the supposed start and end points of the period, ‘Jon’ now asks how long the ‘seven times’ ‘must’ be. ‘Cameron’ claims that the book of Revelation helps to determine the length of the period. A footnote cites Revelation 12:6 & 14, which compares a period of 1,260 days with 3½ ‘times’ (Greek καιρός, kairos).* ‘Cameron’ asserts that the two unrelated Aramaic and Greek words translated ‘times’ ‘must’ refer to periods of the same length, concluding that Daniel’s reference to ‘seven times’ ‘must’ mean 2,520 days. He then asserts that ‘sometimes’, ‘days’ in biblical prophecies mean ‘years’ (a footnote cites Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6), without providing any basis for when this ‘rule’ should be applied, or why it should be applied to the ‘seven times’ of Daniel chapter 4.#
* The article ignores the fact that this same period of time (3½ ‘times’ = 1,260 days = forty-two months) is given at Revelation 11:2 as the length of the ‘appointed times of the nations’.
#The Watch Tower Society does not apply the same ‘rule’ to the ‘times’ at Daniel 7:25 (Aramaic עִדָּן, `iddan) or 12:7 (Hebrew מוֹעֵד, mow`ed), or at Revelation 12:14 (Greek καιρός, kairos).
Having taken several scriptures out of context and completely misrepresented others, applied inconsistent methods of interpretation, and apparently unaware of the circular reasoning of his entire argument and the historical development of his own beliefs, ‘Cameron’ proudly states, “Counting forward from 607 B.C.E., 2,520 years takes us to the year 1914. That’s how we arrive at 1914 as the year that the seven times ended, the start of Jesus’ rule as King of God’s Kingdom.” He then says, “since 1914, major world events have happened”, which is meaningless because ‘major world events’ also occurred prior to 1914. Unable to see any problems with anything ‘Cameron’ has said, ‘Jon’ simply asks, “What sort of events?”
‘Cameron’ next quotes Matthew 24:7. Ignoring the context of the chapter about events that would purportedly occur prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, he instead adopts a tactic typical of ‘end-times’ groups—an appeal to fear. He states that there have been food shortages and earthquakes since 1914, which is pointless because the same things also occurred prior to 1914. With his sights firmly set on an obvious coincidence, ‘Cameron’ then alludes to the part of the verse about ‘wars’, and asks ‘Jon’ when the “first world war” “broke out”. ‘Jon’ exclaims, “That was in 1914, the same year that you’re saying Jesus began ruling!” The phrase “nation will rise against nation” is hardly the same as ‘world war’ and even if the events exactly coincided, it would not be proof of the claim about ‘Jesus ruling in heaven’. But more significantly, World War I began several months prior to the alleged completion of the ‘seven times’ in October of 1914. Though ‘October’ appears on the article’s accompanying diagram (erroneously given as the month in which Jerusalem was destroyed), the fictional ‘conversation’ makes no mention at all of October of 1914. Notably, Russell actually believed that Armageddon would “break out with suddenness and force not long after October, 1914.”* It didn’t. World War I began prior to October, and was a predictable continuation of the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. Although many (but far from all) countries were involved in World War I as a result of colonialism, it was primarily a European war.
* The Watch Tower, 15 May 1911, page 146.
‘Cameron’ claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ butchery of scripture and history “really makes sense”. He adds that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are convinced that Jesus began ruling as King of God’s Kingdom in 1914” (change from 1878 by Joseph Rutherford in 1920*) and “that the last days began in that same year” (changed from 1799 by Rutherford in 1929#). ‘Jon’ is confused, so ‘Cameron’ offers a platitude, stating that it ‘took him a while to grasp it fully too’.
* The Watch Tower, 1 July 1920, page 196.
# The Watch Tower, 1 December 1929, pages 355–357.
‘Cameron’ tells ‘Jon’ he hopes he has at least ‘helped’ him to see that “Jehovah’s Witnesses do base their beliefs about that year on the Scriptures”, even though it is in a fashion that anyone could ‘base’ just about anything on them. ‘Jon’ naively responds that he is “impressed” that ‘Cameron’ ‘always refers to scriptures’, oblivious to the fact that ‘Cameron’ is simply cherry-picking—and misrepresenting—scriptures as dictated by the Watch Tower Society. In addition to the misuse of scriptures in the October article, the November article misrepresents a number of scriptures:
- the Greek word translated ‘times’ at Revelation 12:14 has no relationship to the Aramaic word in Daniel chapter 4;
- the supposed ‘day for a year rule’ is applied arbitrarily by the Watch Tower Society, and is not used for their interpretations of ‘times’ at Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7 or Revelation 12:14;
- Matthew 24:7 is part of a response to a question about when Jerusalem’s temple would be destroyed, and relates to events in the first century CE.
‘Jon’ laments that “this is so complicated”, and wonders why the Bible cannot present information in a straightforward manner. ‘Cameron’ says that “maybe” on a future visit, he will explain why understanding the Bible ‘requires effort’.
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