Part 2: How Does the Society Deal With Its Own Past History?

Posted by Seeker on June 11, 1997 at 08:27:50

As I pondered these questions, I began to notice those quotes above. I thought it was funny how I knew almost nothing of these past predictions, just general observations that seemed to 'sanitize' the past. So I began to wonder what else was said in past years that is no longer referred to today?

Have you ever noticed how the Society quotes publications, including their own, without giving a complete reference? In other words, they say this quote comes from 'such-and-such' a publication, but gives no date, no page number, and so forth. Not always, of course, with the Creation book being an obvious exception [and one that will be covered under the next heading]. Even when they quote from the Watchtower, they are sometimes vague when making their quotes. Why is that, I wondered? So I began to check. And what I found was disturbing, for I found cases of seeming dishonesty and deception in what they were doing.

That's a serious charge; can I back it up? Here's an example of this. In From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained it says on page 170:

"In the "Watchtower" magazine of March 1880, they said: "The Times of the Gentiles extend to 1914, and the heavenly kingdom will not have full sway till then." Of all people, only the witnesses pointed to 1914 as the year for God's kingdom to be fully set up in heaven."

The point being made here is a familiar one, namely that the Society predicted, decades in advance, that the year 1914 would be the year God's Kingdom would be established in the heavens. Sounds familiar, right? We all know they said this, and this excerpt from the book confirms it by quoting from the Watch Tower of 1880. So what's the problem? Well, did you know that this is an incomplete quotation? That the complete quotation gives an entirely different viewpoint? Here's the complete quotation, and this time you can note that it is on page two of the March, 1880 Watchtower in case you want to check for yourself, as I did. [The Kingdom Hall library has all of the old volumes, so feel free to check these references to prove to yourself that I am not lying.]:

""The Times of the gentiles" extend to 1914, and the heavenly kingdom will not have full sway till then, but as a "Stone" the kingdom of God is set up "in the days of these (ten gentile) kings," and by consuming them it becomes a universal kingdom -- a "great mountain and fills the whole Earth.""

Notice the difference? The entire quotation shows that 1914 was expected to be the year that the kingdom of God would be set up in the earth, not heaven. The quotation from the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained says the partial quote shows that they expected 1914 to be the year God's kingdom would be 'fully set up in heaven'. The full quote is really talking about how that meant it would be extended to the earth in that year.

Now, you're probably thinking 'Well, that quote isn't the clearest, so I guess this is all blowing stuff out of proportion'. But the problem is that Brother Russell could not have been talking about the kingdom of God being set up in heaven in 1914. Why not? Because he believed that the kingdom was already set up in heaven in the 1870s, as will be clearly shown below.

So, if Russell believed that the kingdom was established in the heavens before he wrote that article in the 1880 Watch Tower, what was he saying? That the kingdom would be set up in heaven in 1914? Clearly not. That it would be 'fully set up in heaven' in 1914? Yes, that is what the Paradise book says. So what does that mean, to be fully set up? That it would extend its rule to the earth that year. That is what Russell believed back then.

Just to take a few examples to prove this point, note the following:

Volume II of Studies in the Scriptures, entitled The Time Is At Hand, originally published in 1889, said concerning the Times of the Gentiles, on pages 76-77:

"God's Kingdom, the Kingdom of Jehovah's Anointed... will be established gradually, during a great time of trouble with which the Gospel age will close, and in the midst of which present dominions shall be utterly consumed, passing away amid great confusion.

"In this chapter we present the Bible evidence proving that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e., the full end of their lease of dominion, will be reached in A.D. 1914; and that that date will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men. And be it observed, that if this is shown to be a fact firmly established by the Scriptures, it will prove:

"-- Firstly, That at that date the Kingdom of God, for which our Lord taught us to pray, saying, "Thy Kingdom come," will have obtained full, universal control, and that it will then be "set up," or firmly established, in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions."

On page 99 The Time Is At Hand further said:

"In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914."

On page 101 The Time Is At Hand said:

"Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the "battle of the great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced. The gathering of the armies is plainly visible from the standpoint of God's Word."

On pp. 206, 209, God's Kingdom Of a Thousand Years Has Approached said:

"It is true that the editor and publisher of Zion's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence calculated that the "presence" or parousia of the heavenly bridegroom began in the year 1874 C.E. [...] In the year 1943 the Watchtower 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 and went according to the oldest and most authentic reading of Acts 13:20, and accepted the spelled-out numbers of the Hebrew Scriptures. This moved forward the end of six thousand years of man's existence into the decade of the 1970's. Naturally this did away with the year 1874 C.E."

So, the Paradise book uses that quote to show that the Society believed, decades in advance, that the kingdom would be fully set up in the heavens in 1914. What's deceptive about that quote, what they are not telling you, is that Russell really believed that the kingdom was already set up in the heavens by then and that it would extend its rule to the earth in 1914. Both ideas, of course, proved to be wrong. So by selectively quoted the 1880 Watchtower, the Society made it seem they had successfully predicted one thing, when the actual quote clearly shows they unsuccessfully predicted two other things entirely.

Is this earthshaking? Nope, not a bit. But it is a pattern and one that repeats itself on many occasions. The Society in this case made it look as if they got more right than they really did in the past. They selectively chose the parts that seemed to make themselves look good, and ignored the part that made them look bad. Ask yourself, if you believe this is trivial, did you know that the Society taught for some sixty years that the kingdom was established in the 1870s? If not, why not? Do you only recall some vague references to wrong ideas that were quickly corrected? The Society is always publishing its own history, so how could something that central to the Truth be ignored, such that almost no one knows it even happened today?

Here is another example of what I feel is deceptive quoting:

"... Bible chronology also fixes the time for Christ's second presence and the assuming of his right to rule as at 1914; this date was published in The Watchtower as early as 1879, 35 years before 1914." [The Sign of Christ's Presence, p. 3]

Again, a familiar thought, that the Society taught, decades in advance, that Christ's second presence would begin in 1914. However, what if you wanted to check this reference? Where in the 1879 Watchtower would you go? Which issue? What page number? Isn't it funny that they never tell you where to check this reference? Not just here, but in any publication, you won't find a specific reference to look up to prove the above quoted assertion. Why not?

Sad to say, it's because you won't find anything in the 1879 Watchtower that would support the above quote. Not surprisingly, really, because in 1879 Brother Russell firmly believed that Christ's second presence had already begun, so it would have been silly to say it would begin in 1914! What will you find in the 1879 Watch Tower or in years near then? That the Gentile Times would end in 1914. That is there, but the idea of Christ's second presence, or the kingdom being established, in 1914 was never mentioned. Interestingly, if you look at the above quote carefully, you will see that is says two things:

1) The Bible indicates Christ's second presence and kingdom rule began in 1914; and

2) The date 1914 was published as early as 1879.

See the point? They don't come out and say that in 1879 they wrote that in 1914 Christ's second presence would being, merely that the date 1914 was published (for some unmentioned reason) then. It is the juxtaposition of the two thoughts that makes it sound as if the 1879 Watchtower predicted more than it really did, and that is what makes the above quote deceptive.

Consider another quote:

"The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence... that Jesus' presence in heavenly kingdom power began in 1914." [w93, 1/15, p. 5]

'Consistently'? Only if you consider since 1943 to be consistent. For the previous sixty years or so the Watchtower consistently presented evidence that Jesus' presence in heavenly kingdom power began in the 1870s. That doesn't sound consistent at all, which makes the above recent quote deceptive.

Now, could it be that the authors of these incomplete or deceptive quotes just didn't know what the earlier Watchtowers said? Hardly. How can you get one part of a quotation and completely miss the very next part? And wouldn't the Writing Committee be aware of what the Society itself taught about Christ's presence? Even if the actual author of the 1993 Watchtower article quoted above was unaware of the history, wouldn't the proofreaders catch that? Or the Governing Body members who approve each article, all of whom were alive back when the Society taught that Christ's presence began in the 1870s? No, this has to be a deliberately selective approach to history. Here's another example: The 1922 Cedar Point, Ohio, convention is regularly referred to in Watchtower publications as a major milestone in the organization's history. Today the Society sometimes quotes a small portion of the keynote address in support of 1914. It ignores the fact that 1799 and 1874 figured with equal strength in the argument advanced and in the conclusion the audience was called upon to reach. The November 1, 1922 Watchtower reproduced the talk:

"Bible prophecy shows that the Lord was due to appear for the second time in the year 1874. Fulfilled prophecy shows beyond a doubt that he did appear in 1874. Fulfilled prophecy is otherwise designated the physical facts; and these facts are indisputable... Since [Christ] has been present from 1874, it follows, from the facts as we now see them, that the period from 1874 to 1914 is the day of preparation. This in no wise militates against the thought that "the time of the end" is from 1799 until 1914.... For six thousand years God has been preparing for this kingdom. For nineteen hundred years he has been gathering out the kingdom class from amongst men. Since 1874 the King of glory has been present; and during that time he has conducted a harvest and has gathered unto himself the temple class. Since 1914 the King of glory has taken his power and reigns. He has cleansed the lips of the temple class and sends them forth with the message. The importance of the message of the kingdom cannot be overstated. It is the message of all messages. It is the message of the hour. It is incumbent upon those who are the Lord's to declare it. The kingdom of heaven is at hand; the King reigns; Satan's empire is falling; millions now living will never die.

"Do you believe it? Do you believe that the King of glory is present, and has been since 1874? Do you believe that during that time he has conducted his harvest work? Do you believe that he has had during that time a faithful and wise servant through whom he directed his work and the feeding of the household of faith? Do you believe that the Lord is now in his temple, judging the nations of earth? Do you believe that the King of glory has begun his reign?

"Then back to the field, O ye sons of the most high God! Gird on your armor! Be sober, be vigilant, be active, be brave. Be faithful and true witnesses for the Lord. Go forward in the fight until every vestige of Babylon lies desolate. Herald the message far and wide. The world must know that Jehovah is God and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the day of all days. Behold, the King reigns! You are his publicity agents. Therefore advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom."

Interesting how this speech is referred to so often today, yet the 1874 date that is a key part of that speech is completely ignored! Yes, in 1922 "the King reigns", but they believed he had been reigning since 1874! I never knew that until I saw the full context of the usual short quote.

Consider just a few more quotes, dealing with the Society's own history around 1914:

"There is no doubt that many throughout this period were overzealous in their statements as to what could be expected. Some read into the Watch Tower statements that were never intended, and while it was necessary for Russell to call attention to the certainty that a great change was due at the end of the Gentile times, he still encouraged his readers to keep an open mind, especially as regards the time element." [Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p. 52]

The Society has said this sort of thing on several occasions. The idea being that it really is the friend's fault for being overzealous in their expectations. But was Brother Russell really 'encouraging his readers to keep an open mind, especially as regards the time element'?

"But I am not willing to admit that this calculation is even one year out" [Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World, 1877, p. 84]

That doesn't sound like encouragement to keep an open mind, does it? Did the actual year matter all that much? Yes:

".... Suppose that A.D. 1915 should pass with the world's affairs all serene and with evidence that the "very elect" had not all been "changed" and without the restoration of natural Israel to favor under the New Covenant (Rom. 11:12, 15). What then? Would not that prove our chronology wrong? Yes, surely! Would not that prove a keen disappointment? Indeed it would! It would work irreparable wreck to the parallel dispensations and Israel's double, and to the Jubilee calculations, and to the prophecy of the 2300 days of Daniel, and to the epoch called "Gentile Times," and to the 1,260, 1,290, and 1,335 days.... none of these would be available longer." [w1907, 10/1, p. 295]

Of course, as things turned out differently than expected, the Society's viewpoint changed accordingly:

"October 1914 passed, and C. T. Russell and his associates were still on earth. Then October 1915 passed. Was Russell disappointed? In The Watch Tower of February 1, 1916, he wrote: "'But, Brother Russell, what is your thought as to the time of our change? Were you not disappointed that it did not come when we hoped that it would?' you will ask. No, we reply, we were not disappointed...." ... No, the Bible Students were not 'taken home' to heaven in October 1914. Nevertheless, the Gentile Times did end in that year." [Proclaimers, 1993, p. 62]

So in 1907, the Watchtower said it would prove a great disappointment, would work irreparable harm to all their calculations. In 1916, however, suddenly they were not disappointed at all.

Finally, note how the 'time element' shifted:

"In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914." [The Time is at Hand, p. 99, pre-1912 editions]

"In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished near the end of A.D. 1915." [The Time is at Hand, p. 99, post-1912 editions]

Is this so serious? I think it is. Consider the many times the Society publishes information showing how they have made mistakes in the past and have moved on to brighter and brighter light. Wouldn't it be more honest, and more openly candid, to admit the full extent of their mistakes, instead of glossing over the more serious ones? Wouldn't that be more like Moses, recording his worst failings, or the apostles recording their endless mistakes? Wouldn't that give us more confidence in the honesty and candor of the Society? Isn't that the example set for us in the Scriptures? What does the Bible say about the one "covering over a matter"?

In summary, these are only a few examples out of many where the Society has selectively picked from their past history to make themselves look more accurate than they really were.