Watchtower Leaders Trying to Salvage 1914 Teaching

Jesus words at Matthew 24:34 have held a special interest for Jehovah’s Witnesses:

I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

The May 15, 1984 Watchtower proclaimed that the "generation of 1914" would not pass away.

For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses interpreted these words as applying in a special way to the world since the year 1914. When I first got involved with the Witnesses in the 1960s, they taught that the generation alive in the year 1914 would not die off before the End at Armageddon. It was this expectation that helped fuel the anticipation many Witnesses had for the 1975 prediction that I blogged about earlier.

However, as the “generation of 1914″ got to be too long for anyone to put credence into that belief, that teaching was revised in the year 1995. Witness leaders published that year an article in their main religious journal,  The Watchtower, dropping the idea that the “generation” that Jesus referred to was tied to the year 1914. This change was whimsically noted in a Newsweek article that year entitled “Apocalypse Later.” For many Witnesses, this dropping of the “generation of 1914″ teaching after many years of presenting it as promised by the Creator was quite troubling.

Up until 1995, the masthead of the Witness journal Awake! emphasized the "generation of 1914" teaching as "the Creator's promise".

Interestingly, up at the Internet Archive is a detailed chart showing how the JW teaching about the “generation” of Matthew 24:34 has changed over the years. Six different interpretations of Matthew 24:34 by Watchtower leaders are identified in that chart over the years. All these changes are successively viewed as “new light” that God supposedly has given Witness leaders. Critics would say that the changes occurred because the Watchtower Society’s eschatological interpretations have proven faulty.

Someone with insider access has leaked the latest explanation of Matthew 24:34 from the upcoming summer District Conventions to be held throughout the world. Normally, these things are considered “top secret” and the rank-and-file Witness has no knowledge of this leaked information. This lecture to be given at the District Convention resonates with how it was discussed in the Watchtower magazine earlier this year. The outline for a talk to be given this summer at JW conventions emphasizes the 1914 date with this most recent explanation. Now, according to Watchtower leaders, there is an overlap of “contemporaries” — those “anointed” (JWs with the heavenly hope) who saw the events of 1914 and who lived until late in the 20th century — with those who are “anointed” today.

Here’s a You Tube presentation with the recently leaked information:

You can imagine that Watchtower leaders will be trying to figure out who leaked this confidential outline.

UPDATE (5/20/10): You Tube has taken down the video because of a copyright complaint by the Watchtower Society. However, it is up at some other places, such as this location at Vimeo:

Here are the main points that are made from the lecture:

…the “generation” referred to at Matthew 24:34 comprises of two groups of anointed Christians. The first group was on hand in 1914 when “the sign” of Christ’s presence began to be observed (Mt 24:3). The second group, made up of those who were anointed later, are for a time contemporaries of the older group.

Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:34 indicate that some in the second group will witness the beginning of the “great tribulation.” Hence, the length of the “generation” is limited.

To illustrate: F.W. Franz was born in 1893, baptized in 1913, and thus alive to discern “the sign” in 1914. Since Brother Franz lived until 1992, many present–day anointed ones were contemporaries of his and are part of the “generation” that Jesus said would not pass away “until all these things occur.”

Frederick W. Franz served as an officer of the Watchtower Society from the 1940s up to the early 1990s.

The Watchtower magazine explains the new teaching this way:

We do not know the exact length of “this generation,” but it includes these two groups whose lives overlap. Even though the anointed vary in age, those in the two groups constituting the generation are contemporaries during part of the last days. How comforting it is to know that the younger anointed contemporaries of those older anointed ones who discerned the sign when it became evident beginning in 1914 will not die off before the great tribulation starts! (June 15, 2010 Watchtower, p. 5)

So, now, “this generation” includes two human lifespans (which overlap) from the year 1914! Armageddon is still just around the corner.

With this understanding, Witnesses should not seek a normal life because the End is still imminent. Witness youths should not think of going to university for four or more years to prepare for a career because there really isn’t much time left before this world will be destroyed. Instead, what is needed in the short time left before Armageddon is more door-to-door preaching!

For some Witnesses, this re-connecting the “generation” from Matthew 24:34 with the year 1914 will bring back memories of the earlier teaching. While this may be comforting for some older Witnesses who remember the pre-1995 teaching, it will also be troubling to some Witnesses who are conscious of the fact that the year 2014 will mark the centennial of the Return of Christ according to Watchtower teaching. 2014 is less than four years away and its passing without Armageddon’s arrival will likely cause suppressed doubts to surface among some Witnesses. Obviously, some Witnesses at high levels in the Organization have enough doubt already to share insider information with critics of the religion.

In a high control group such as the Witnesses, there are no public indications that some would welcome the jettisoning of the year 1914 from their theology. Though interpretations of its significance have changed dramatically, 1914 has held a prominent place in Watchtower publications for many years. However, I’ve had a few Witnesses express their doubts privately about the official 1914 chronology. Time well tell how further delays for Armageddon will be played out in the Witness community.

Further reading:

Changes to the Generation Teaching

Discussion on the Watchtower Society’s suppression of the leaked District Convention outline

Recording of lecture from 2010 District Convention about Generation change

607: The Shaky Foundation of the 1914 Doctrine

Historical Idealism and Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Critical Analysis of How They Present Their History

“This Generation” Teaching Changes for the 6th Time in the April 15, 2010 Watchtower

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11 Responses to Watchtower Leaders Trying to Salvage 1914 Teaching

  1. Lola LB says:

    Talk about moving the goalpost.

  2. Fred Franz says:

    You discovered our trick! Hopefully no magazine-selling JWs will be enlightened and ruin our xcellent growth.

  3. Alison M says:

    So, now that they have tried to salvage the 1914 teaching, what other teachngs are they going to salvage. What is next with the JWs!

  4. poe says:

    WOW!!! Simply wow, I didn’t even realize that 100 years was only 4 yrs away!! I call BS on their ‘new light’, its all a load. So sad.. I can’t believe that my sister and mother are still believers!! :'(

  5. As 2014 approaches they might have to find some way to quietly ditch the 1914 doctrine.

  6. neweyes says:

    If you have the “Truth” why the secrecy, why try to hide it, why have the video removed?

  7. John Wh says:

    I wonder why it has taken so long for the “new light” on this latest “generation” explanation seeing that it is such a central doctrine of JW’s? I mean, to get it wrong after all these decades means JW’s taught people untruths (basically a lie) for decades concerning their many previous/errorneous explanations of “this generation”! It sure sounds like they are guessing, doesn’t it. This is turning out to be as big of a fiasco as “stay[ing] alive to 1975″! The internet is going to bring the house of cards down on the Governing Body – it’s been nothing but a scam and they have destroyed people’s live for decades. They should divvy up their assets to all past and current members and just encourage people to read their Bibles and come to their own conclusions on interpretation.

  8. [...] At the time this was written, the Watchtower Society was in the midst of emphasizing the date 1975 as the probable time for the Battle of Armageddon. It was also held that there would only be one generation of people from the year 1914 to the End. All this, of course, has been re-interpreted. [...]

  9. John White says:

    I quote from the blog above: “For many Witnesses, this dropping of the “generation of 1914″ teaching after many years of presenting it as promised by the Creator was quite troubling.”

    Boy, has that proven to be a true statement (it may even be an understatement). At the time many JWs had no where to go to discuss this shocking change in a long-time, hard-core belief and teaching of their religion.

    Concurrent to this change in 1995, the internet was just starting to make inroads into people’s homes. As such, these JWs were able to see that it wasn’t only themselves troubled by this change, as many started espressing doubts on the internet.

    In time, those troubled JWs realized that many of their fellow JWs were rocked by this change too, so much so, they decided to research other aspects of their religion. The rest is history, as they say.

    There’s so much out on the internet that exposes this religion, the only conclusion that can be reached is that the WTS is a false prophet, a cult, and to be fled from – never to be trusted again.

    How the leaders of the WTS can sleep at night is a mystery to me. They should be ashamed of themselves. (I’m so thankful that the internet has brought out the real truth about this religion and has fully exposed it. For any faithful JW doubters of that conclusion, start your research… it will be quite an eye-opener.)

  10. Seeker says:

    It’s heartbreaking , that millions devote their entire lives to this organisation – for many years I did too , believing all the lies ..time and history will be this religions greatest enemy and it’s undoing. The ones I feel for are those whose hopes and faith will eventually be dashed to pieces!

  11. Lyte Lee says:

    Think of all those who went to their graves beliiving all the lies of the Watchtower. Their have to be unscrupulous people in the GB who know exactly what they’re doing. I’m praying that one of them is going to be a man of true conviction and expose the organization from within for what it really is, a false teacher and prophet and that millions now enslaved will be set free by the truth and saved.

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