In the October 1, 2014 Watchtower, a “conversation article” is published whereby a Jehovah’s Witness discusses 1914 with his neighbor. It was obviously not a real discussion, but described as a “typical conversation” nonetheless. While the neighbor is nowhere near as skeptical as myself, he still asked some decent questions. In fact, many of the questions are ones that I would ask! The problem is, the answers provided by the JW were quite problematic. I would encourage you to read the article for yourself before proceeding here. It begins on page 10 and goes to 13. Since the article is “part 1,” I assume there will at least be a part 2.
Rather than interacting with the “conversation” directly, I would like to create a conversation of my own; using some of the specific arguments and answers provided by the JW. The difference is, the non-JW will not only ask good questions; he’ll provide rebuttals to the JW answers. While it’s difficult to create a fictitious “real life” conversation, I will do my best to emulate one based my history of discussions with JW apologists. In honor of my favorite JW apologist, “Fred Torres,” I will use “Fred” as the name for my fictitious JW apologist and “Carl” for the Christian apologist (i’ll let you figure out where Carl came from).
Fred: Carl, it was great to meet with you for the first time last week. I enjoyed getting to know about your life, family, and especially your religious background. You did mention that you had done some research on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past. Am I right on that?
Carl: Yes, i’ve done quite a bit of research, both from JW and non-JW sources. I’ve always been interested in the major religious groups who claim the title “Christian” for themselves. The JW’s are certainly “up there” in terms of worldwide influence and worthy of investigation.
Fred: I’m assuming then, after all the research you’ve done, you have some hangups regarding our teachings?
Carl: As a matter of fact, I do. Unfortunately, when I try to point out some of these doctrinal problems, JW’s often retreat and want nothing to do with me. I’m hoping that won’t be the case with you?
Fred: Not at all. I’m sorry you had some negative experiences in the past with the JW’s. I can assure you that our leaders encourage us not to avoid challenges to our faith.
Carl: Well that’s good to hear. Mind if I ask you some questions about your doctrine then?
Fred: Go right ahead!
Carl: Great! What is it that you find to be so “biblical” about the year 1914? In my opinion, it seems to be an unnecessarily complex chronological system that no one could figure out, even if they spent decades studying the Bible.
Fred: First of all, JW’s do not believe that Christians should separate themselves from the teachings of the FDS. Just like the first century, we need a Governing Body to keep us unified. And this means teaching us what the Bible says. So I can say with confidence that all of our beliefs are backed up with Scripture, due to years of in-depth research by the Watchtower Society.
Carl: Well i’m glad you seek to defend your beliefs with the Bible, but what i’m curious about is how you derive 1914 from the Bible? After all, aren’t you always arguing that the Trinity isn’t in the Bible?
Fred: I suppose you’re right about that. But the difference is, I can prove from the Bible that 1914 is when God’s Kingdom started ruling. Unfortunately for you, this cannot be done with the Trinity; whether the word can be found or not. So let’s start with Daniel chapter 4. Are you familiar with the story?
Carl: Yes, this is the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
Fred: Since you seem to have already studied our arguments to some depth, I assume then that you understand why we interpret this dream the way we do?
Carl: Yes, but I don’t quite understand why you think there are two fulfillments of this dream? I think that only a preconceived theological agenda could come up with such a conclusion.
Fred: On the contrary, I think there are some very compelling reasons as to why there should be two fulfillments of this dream. But before I move on, can you tell me what you think we believe the two fulfillments are?
Carl: If I understand your beliefs correctly, the first fulfillment happened when King Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership was interrupted and the second has to do with the interruption of God’s rulership.
Fred: That’s correct. So let’s talk about the second fulfillment since i’m sure we agree on the first. What does your Bible say in Daniel 4:17?
Carl: “This sentence is by decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Fred: Thank you. What do you think about the phrase, “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind?” Don’t you think this is talking about more than just Nebuchadnezzar?
Carl: Of course the dream has implications for more than just Nebuchadnezzar, but what makes you think this is referring to an event taking place thousands of years later?
Fred: Well, it’s talking about God’s rulership over mankind, right?
Carl: Of course. Jehovah has always been the sovereign ruler over mankind. Wouldn’t you agree?
Fred: Yes, but 4:17 is specific in that “the living” may know this. In addition, the dream involves “the realm” or “kingdom of mankind.”
Carl: That’s correct, but does this text mention anything about mankind recognizing Jehovah’s rulership?
Fred: Sure it does. Who else would “the living” be?
Carl: If you think this is universal, then you are reading more into the text that is actually there. Mind if I ask you about a few texts to better explain my point?
Fred: Please do.
Carl: Ok. Who is said to recognize the “granduer which [God] bestowed on him” according to Daniel 5:19?
Fred: It says, “all the peoples, nations and men of every language.”
Carl: And didn’t all these ones tremble before Nebuchadnezzar because of his ruthless power?
Carl: Well then, wouldn’t you say that Nebuchadnezzar’s being “driven away from mankind”, his restoration and recognition of God’s sovereignty would be known by his people? After all, doesn’t Nebuchadnezzar say, “And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.” (4:36) The next verse is the kicker: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (4:37) So wouldn’t you think Nebuchadnezzar’s people now recognized who was really in sovereign control given how openly he proclaimed these things?
Fred: I see your point, but…
Carl: Let me just show you one more point really quick if you don’t mind…
Fred: Go ahead.
Carl: What do you think Daniel 2:21 means when it says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding?”
Fred: Basically, Jehovah is in charge even of kings!
Carl: That’s right! So my point is that “the living” mentioned in 4:17 most certainly have, do, and will know that Jehovah is the ruler of all mankind. Nebuchadnezzar’s exile and restoration is just one of countless examples of this. How many times beyond Nebuchadnezzar did kings and people of many nations recognize God’s sovereignty? Probably a great many, wouldn’t you agree?
Fred: I see your point, but our argument regarding a dual fulfillment isn’t based on one verse. Daniel 2:44 and 7:13-14 teach that God’s kingdom will have a global rulership.
Carl: I completely agree with that. God’s kingdom certainly will put an end to all the worldly kingdoms. But what does this have to do with a dual fulfillment in Daniel 4?
Fred: Well, it just goes to show that the prophecies are universal.
Carl: But those prophecies aren’t talking about Daniel 4 are they? Doesn’t Daniel 4 have it’s own context? After all, 4:28 says that “all this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.” Well, did it or didn’t it?
Fred: Of course it did, but due to the fact that Daniel 2:33, 7:13-14 and other places speak of a universal kingdom, then this must be the context of Daniel 4 as well.
Carl: Ok, let’s say I agree with you for the sake of argument. Where is the connection with 1914, even if Daniel 4 is speaking of a universal recognition of the kingdom? I’m leaning towards the idea that God’s kingdom was not universally recognized in 1914 any more than it was in 1913.
Fred: We interpret the interruption of the king’s rulership as a second fulfillment of the prophecy. So God’s rulership will be interrupted for a period of time. This is what we believe happened in 607 BCE when God’s rulership was interrupted when the Babylonians conquered the Israelites. Therefore, the “seven times” from Daniel 4 began it’s second fulfillment. At the end of this time period, God’s kingdom would begin to rule again.
Carl: Wow, you really know how to open up a can of worms don’t you?
Fred: What do you mean? Everything I just stated can be proven from the Scriptures.
Carl: I think you take it for granted that you can import so many theological assumptions into a few sentences. You’d have the same reaction if I did the same for some of my beliefs, and rightly so! At any rate, we would really need to take the time to unpack each of those ideas, though i’m unpersuaded that Daniel 4 has a dual fulfillment. Furthermore, i’m surprised such a complex and speculative doctrine can have such an important role in your religion’s doctrine. And you thought the Trinity was unnecessary!
Fred: I understand where you’re coming from, but we really do have a solid grasp on this doctrine and why it can be backed up Scripturally. However, we do need to get together again to discuss it further; especially why the “seven times” can lead us from 607 BCE to 1914.
Carl: That sounds great and i’m looking forward to it!
…to be continued