Last month, I shared research by my friend Doug Mason which debunks the first part of the Watchtower Society’s (the publishing agent for Jehovah’s Witnesses) latest attempt to shore up their unique Old Testament chronology which puts ancient Jerusalem’s conquest by the Babylonians at 607 BCE, instead of the commonly accepted date of 587 BCE. At first glance, this seems like an inconsequential squabble and in one sense it is. But, for the Jehovah’s Witness leaders, everything depends on the 607 BCE date as it serves as the focal point of their doctrines relating to the year 1914:
- That 607 BCE is the beginning of a prophetic interpretation supposedly pointing to 1914
- That Christ returned invisibly in 1914 and was enthroned as earth’s king in heaven
- That in 1914 Christ began an inspection of his followers and this led to Watchtower leaders receiving a divine appointment over the Christian congregation in 1919
- That the generation which saw the events of 1914 would not pass away until the final battle of Armageddon (now interpreted as one generation nearly 100 years long with two overlapping parts)
Two recent issues of the Watchtower magazine gave new defenses in support of their 607 BCE chronology. These are the October 1, 2011 and November 1, 2011 issues. The series is entitled “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?” The Watchtower’s Society’s arguments in the October Watchtower were discussed at this earlier post with a refutation provided by Doug Mason.
Doug has now completed research on the November 1, 2011 Watchtower, which has the subtitle: “What the Clay Documents Really Show.” Amazingly, in that article, the Watchtower Society publishes its own interpretation of documents that have been researched by scholars in the study of Neo-Babylonian history. The Watchtower Society gives its own novel interpretation, citing no scholarly studies on the subject in support, of crucial data that historians have used to fix the chronology of the period.
I’ll let Doug introduce his latest research which demonstrates the psuedo-scholarship used by Witness leaders, who are desperately holding onto the 607 BCE date because they know that if that date falls, their claim to spiritual authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses would also fall. In the body of Doug’s article below, you can download the refutation of the November 1, 2011 Watchtower article as he has graciously given permission for us to share it here.
Refuting the November 1, 2011 Watchtower article: “What the Clay Documents Really Show?”
By Doug Mason
While every scholar dates the destruction of Jerusalem at 587 BCE, the Watchtower Society alone says it was destroyed 20 years earlier, in 607 BCE. To arrive at this date, the Watchtower Society needs to either lengthen the reign of one or more known neo-Babylonian kings or it needs to insert additional, currently unknown kings.
The Watchtower article classifies the neo-Babylonian tablets as: Chronicles, Business tablets, and Astronomical tablets. The article denigrates the Chronicles and the Business Tablets as unreliable. However, the article does agree that business tablets exist for every known neo-Babylonian king and that with those tablets, the date of 587 BCE for Jerusalem’s destruction is reached.
The article uses Business tablets to suggest an interval between some kings’ reigns. Analysis however shows the tablets indicate overlaps, not gaps.
When it considers the Astronomical tablets, the article considers only one, dated to Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year. However, the Watchtower discounts the planetary readings and it ignores the Lunar Three measurements. When it deals with the tablet’s record of a lunar eclipse, the Watchtower creates its own calendar for 588 BCE. And without providing any substantiating evidence, the article claims that the data on the tablet fits its date for Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year.
The critique provides statistical evidence that this eclipse took place in 568 BCE and could not have taken place in 588 BCE. The Critique also shows that the Lunar Three measurements on the tablet confirm Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year as 568/567 BCE.
The critique shows that the Watchtower article employs several unacceptable practices:
- misrepresents its sources;
- fails to provide the contexts of the sources it cites;
- does not describe the methods it uses or the outputs from its calculations;
- exhibits gross inconsistencies, such as accepting information from sources but rejecting the way that those sources arrived at their conclusions;
- does not provide all the necessary statistics;
- ignores critical data, such as the many witnesses that show the Lunar Three measurements prove Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year equated to 568 BCE;
- reasons from innuendo and from faulty hypotheses;
- hides the fact that calculations prove Jerusalem was not destroyed in 607 BCE;
- presents their faulty interpretation of the “Seventy Years” as “Bible chronology”.
The critique is provided as two related parts and can be downloaded in PDF format at the links below:
For further reading:
Critique of the October & November 2011 Watchtowers on chronology (PDF) by Carl Olof Jonsson
Are We Living in a Special Time? by Tom Cabeen