Jehovah’s Witnesses follow a unique chronology developed by their leaders of events in ancient Israel that diverges from the generally accepted interpretation of biblical chronology. Watchtower leaders insist that ancient Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 607 BCE, while the normally accepted chronology places that event about 20 years later. Witness leaders, while claiming to base this understanding on Scripture alone (which does not give them the support they claim it does), actually insist on their 607 BCE date to support their prophetic calculations leading to the supposed invisible return of Christ in the year 1914. For Witnesses, if Jerusalem did not fall in 607 BCE, then Christ did not return in 1914. Watchtower leaders claim that their appointment to authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses stem from Christ’s return in 1914. So, the 607 BCE date in their chronology is pivotal to the movement and its loss would signify that Watchtower leaders do not have a special commission from God to lead the movement.
The October 1, 2011 Watchtower, pp. 26-31, contains a defense of their 607 BCE chronology entitled, “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed? Why it Matters? What the Evidence Shows?” The article attempts to shore up the unique chronology that Witness leaders use to assert their authority by casting doubt on the accepted chronology that all historians accept. A second article from the November issue then attempts to interpret Babylonian clay documents from the 6th century BCE, without citing one authority who agrees with their interpretation, totally different from all accepted scholarship to defend their 607 BCE date. One would think Witness leaders must believe there’s a conspiracy among scholars studying ancient Babylonia to discredit their unique chronology!
For readers interested in a detailed analysis of this latest defense of the Watchtower’s chronology I would recommend a study just completed by researcher Doug Mason. In it, Doug shows the circular reasoning Witness leaders use:
The false reasoning used by the Watchtower to arrive at 607 BCE
Broadly, difficulties faced by the WTS include:
- The starting point of 539 BCE relies on secular records, secular chronologies, classical historians, and secular scholars.
- Although the WTS calculates the date of Babylon‘s fall from secular sources, such as classical historians, business tablets, and astronomical tablets, it also denigrates those sources.
- Without any evidence (since none exists), the WTS assumes the first Returnees dedicated the temple site in 537 BCE.
- The WTS assumes that this event marked the conclusion of the “Seventy Years”.
- The WTS assumes Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar just over 70 years before the Returnees assembled at the destroyed site.
- It assumes that when the Jews entered Egypt following Gedaliah‘s murder, that this emptied Judah of every person.
- The WTS assumes that the Jews entered Egypt two months after Jerusalem‘s destruction.
- It assumes that this event marked the start of the “70 Years”. There is no explicit Biblical statement to that effect.
Every step in the WTS‘s “Bible chronology” is concerned with its primary objective of maintaining 1914 CE as the eschatologically significant date. Therefore, rather than seeking evidence and proof, the WTS seeks support for the conclusion it commences with.
Further, Doug Mason shows that the “70 years” mentioned in the Bible that Watchtower leaders cite to extend the Babylonian captivity another 20 years actually does not support their interpretation. (See pp. 10-25 of his study)
Doug has graciously given permission for distribution of his study. Click the link below to download the Critique of “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?” Part 1:
A rebuttal of Part 2 from the November Watchtower is now available and can be read here.
For further reading: