the truth about Jehovah’s Witness, part 2

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. school of ministry and missions instructor. president of fistbump media, llc.

December 6, 2007

In my first article about the shaky foundation of the Jehovah’s Witness belief system focused on the credibility, or lack thereof, of their Bible (the New World Translation). Basically we’ve identified how other modern translations used techniques and scholars in such a way that anyone using these versions of the Bible can have confidence that they are reading a reasonably accurate, and more importantly unbiased translation of the original text. Neither of these (accuracy or bias) can be verified in the case of the Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation. Now I plan to step away from translation techniques, and start looking at interpretation techniques.

The first issue that I want to look at is the idea that they hold to about when the Kingdom of God is (or was supposed to be) ushered in. While the actual date has moved around quite a bit, the year 1914 remains an important year for the Jehovah’s Witness faith. That is the year that Jesus supposedly took His place on the throne of the Kingdom of God. Now I am not an expert (yet) on this whole idea of what they believe that this means to them, but I do want to look at how they arrived at the date. Their publication titled, “What Does The Bible REALLY Teach?” has a great appendix that explains how this date was identified.

The first reference comes from the book of Daniel (see context), where it states that an angel said that a chopped down tree should remain that way for “seven times”. They claim that because one other Biblical author (Ezekiel) used trees in reference to rulership, then Daniel’s reference to a tree also meant that he was referring to rulership, especially when speaking of the rulership of the Kingdom of God.

One of the core rules of Bible interpretation states that, “you cannot use a verse from somewhere else in the Bible to help you interpret a verse.” Therefore, according to this rule, just because Ezekiel used the tree/rulership analogy, does not mean that every other reference in the Bible to a tree was meant to be interpreted as rulership. Even if you overlook this flaw in interpretation, the breaking of this rule does not stop here…

The next reference to finding the date that Jesus will return to take His rightful place on the throne is in Revelation (see context). The reference here is to help us determine how long a “time” is. Basically, the (very loose) interpretation of the text in Revelation states that three and a half times equals 1,260 days. Therefore, one only has to do the math to figure out that the “seven times” that Daniel speaks of, being twice Revelation’s “three and a half times”, means that Daniel is referring to a period of 2,520 days. Again, Daniel’s intent, message, and measures were quite different than those that John would have used. Not to mention that the two books were written to two very different audiences, literally hundred of years apart. Daniel’s message would have needed to be clear to his contemporary readers, so it would have been impossible for him to make a reference that needed another writing from hundreds of years in the future to be understood.

The third and final reference that is used to arrive at the date of 1914 is one from Numbers (see context) that speaks of a “year for each day”. Therefore the 2,520 days of Daniel is actually 2,520 years. Now I think that this reference is also an extreme stretch of a second meaning (typical of prophecy, but not of narrative where this reference is found), but we again are using the idea of translating every reference in the Bible based on one example that doesn’t even intend to communicate this as a standard of truth.

So, now we have the number of years, so all we have to do is calculate it out to figure out when Jesus is due to take the throne. Now we just need the starting date. According to the Jehovah’s Witness, the time starts in 607 B.C. when the Babylonians overtook the city of Jerusalem and officially ended the Davidic reign on the throne (the chopping down of the tree). 2,520 years from that time is the year 1914, and then is when the Davidic reign (through Jesus) is supposed to resume. Aside from the absolutely horrible interpretation of the scriptures, archeology has actually helped to confirm that the final fall of Jerusalem did not actually happen until 586 B.C.!

So, why is there so little “evidence” that what the Jehovah’s Witness people say happened regarding Jesus’ return exist? Well the short answer is that it looks like they were really stretching in their interpretation of the scriptures, but they also based their calculations on an incorrect date anyway. So when it comes to trusting what the Jehovah’s Witness say about the Bible shows that not only is their translation of the text in question, but also the interpretation of that text is extremely flawed.

Regarding the return of Jesus, my Bible has a little quote from Jesus that goes something like this…

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven….   But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father.

Mark 13:26-27,32 (ESV)

 

Stay tuned for more in this series!

 

Other posts in this series:

15 Comments

  1. Hans

    I’ve been dealing with returning Jehovah’s Witnesses and have been rooting around looking for topics to bring up with them next time they come around — thanks for your work in breaking down some problems (flaws…) in the timeline, and the previous post on translation / interpretation. Not sure if they’ll listen, of course, but something to talk about…

    Reply
  2. Hans

    I’ve been dealing with returning Jehovah’s Witnesses and have been rooting around looking for topics to bring up with them next time they come around — thanks for your work in breaking down some problems (flaws…) in the timeline, and the previous post on translation / interpretation. Not sure if they’ll listen, of course, but something to talk about…

    Reply
  3. Hans

    I’ve been dealing with returning Jehovah’s Witnesses and have been rooting around looking for topics to bring up with them next time they come around — thanks for your work in breaking down some problems (flaws…) in the timeline, and the previous post on translation / interpretation. Not sure if they’ll listen, of course, but something to talk about…

    Reply
  4. BibleDude

    Thanks! Stick around as I complete this series. I also plan to break down a few other “flaws” of interpretation that lead to some of their common practices, and plan to end the series with some ideas about how to effectively talk to them. It is my hope to not only expose the deception so that we do not fall into it, but also to learn how to show the light to those who are caught in that deception.

    Amen!

    Reply
  5. BibleDude

    Thanks! Stick around as I complete this series. I also plan to break down a few other “flaws” of interpretation that lead to some of their common practices, and plan to end the series with some ideas about how to effectively talk to them. It is my hope to not only expose the deception so that we do not fall into it, but also to learn how to show the light to those who are caught in that deception.

    Amen!

    Reply
  6. BibleDude

    Thanks! Stick around as I complete this series. I also plan to break down a few other “flaws” of interpretation that lead to some of their common practices, and plan to end the series with some ideas about how to effectively talk to them. It is my hope to not only expose the deception so that we do not fall into it, but also to learn how to show the light to those who are caught in that deception.

    Amen!

    Reply
  7. slaveofone

    You must be kidding me. So what? Let’s say you’re right and JWs are wrong. Who cares? Is that really gonna make any major difference at all between your faith and theirs? Why spend all this time building boundary markers between yourself and them in terms of dateline interpretation? What is this gonna matter? You’ve said a whole lot here about what makes the JWs different from you and yet you’ve said nothing at all. Christianity isn’t about how one interprets dates and time-lines in ancient texts.

    Reply
  8. slaveofone

    You must be kidding me. So what? Let’s say you’re right and JWs are wrong. Who cares? Is that really gonna make any major difference at all between your faith and theirs? Why spend all this time building boundary markers between yourself and them in terms of dateline interpretation? What is this gonna matter? You’ve said a whole lot here about what makes the JWs different from you and yet you’ve said nothing at all. Christianity isn’t about how one interprets dates and time-lines in ancient texts.

    Reply
  9. slaveofone

    You must be kidding me. So what? Let’s say you’re right and JWs are wrong. Who cares? Is that really gonna make any major difference at all between your faith and theirs? Why spend all this time building boundary markers between yourself and them in terms of dateline interpretation? What is this gonna matter? You’ve said a whole lot here about what makes the JWs different from you and yet you’ve said nothing at all. Christianity isn’t about how one interprets dates and time-lines in ancient texts.

    Reply
  10. BibleDude

    slaveofone,
    Thanks for the comments! I suggest that you read the whole series, especially part 5, in order to understand my heart. I think that once you read that post, then you might take back some of what you’ve said…

    Dan

    Reply
  11. BibleDude

    slaveofone,
    Thanks for the comments! I suggest that you read the whole series, especially part 5, in order to understand my heart. I think that once you read that post, then you might take back some of what you’ve said…

    Dan

    Reply
  12. BibleDude

    slaveofone,
    Thanks for the comments! I suggest that you read the whole series, especially part 5, in order to understand my heart. I think that once you read that post, then you might take back some of what you’ve said…

    Dan

    Reply
  13. Angelo

    I have let a Jw thrust his beliefs on me for about a year. bible study’s at work even went to his mentor’s house and now i am gathering biblical scripture’s about the 144,000 heaven etc. to bring to light. i had over looked the verse in mark thank you for pointing that one out.

    Reply
  14. Angelo

    I have let a Jw thrust his beliefs on me for about a year. bible study’s at work even went to his mentor’s house and now i am gathering biblical scripture’s about the 144,000 heaven etc. to bring to light. i had over looked the verse in mark thank you for pointing that one out.

    Reply
  15. Angelo

    I have let a Jw thrust his beliefs on me for about a year. bible study’s at work even went to his mentor’s house and now i am gathering biblical scripture’s about the 144,000 heaven etc. to bring to light. i had over looked the verse in mark thank you for pointing that one out.

    Reply

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the truth about Jehovah’s Witness, part 2

by Dan King time to read: 5 min
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