The modern young Jehovah's Witnesses that I knew did not really pay much attention to the year 1914. Even some of the older ones have recently stated "that it's just a date when the Gentile times ended" It has no real meaning to them although without them realising it, it is the sole reason they are in fact Jehovah's Witnesses and not say ,the religion of their grandparents.
To the uninitiated the basic import of the doctrine of 1914 is that Jesus began ruling in his invisible heavenly kingdom in October 4th or 5th of that year. This is worked out by using what the Watchtower Society calls "Bible Chronology".
Here is a link to the Watchtower explanation on their official website.
If you have read the article you will notice that the Bible students apparently "decades in advance" said that there would be "significant developments" in 1914.
The only problem is that of all the things C.T. Russell said about the year 1914 not one of them came to pass. Here is a link to the failed predictions. The one thing that DID happen of course was the great war which seemed to validate the idea (at least among the Bible students) , as JW's were called then, that they were on to something.
The next port of call in the doctrine is to link the "Appointed times of the nations"( Luke21)
With the "Gentile times" of Daniel 4. However there is no Biblical Imperative to link these two accounts as it's clear Jesus was referring to a FUTURE event , not looking back almost 600 years to the previous destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus was giving a prophecy remember. Prophecies are not retroactive in this sense.
This brings us to the next part of this "chronology" ; the year 607 B.C.E. , the year which The Watchtower Society (WTS) say Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. All modern experts in all related fields say that it was in fact the year 587 B.C.E. that this event took place.
The Watchtower Society claim is that if it is the Bible versus "secular" sources then they will choose the Bible. There is a problem however as the Bible contains no fixed B.C.E. dates with which one could determine the exact timing of events. Only the events themselves and people's births, deaths, ages and in the case of kings how long they ruled for etc is described.
The problem the watchtower Society have with this idea of the Bible "fixing" the event of Jerusalem's destruction to the year 607 B.C.E. is that people such as Carl O. Jonsson have spent decades proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the Bible actually testifies that the date of 587 B.C.E. is the most likely date, rather than the "Watchtower date" of 607 B.C.E.
This period of history known as the "Neo Babylonian" era is probably one of the best attested to times from an historical ,archaeological and astronomical perspective which gives the Watchtower Society a massive headache. All of these fields combine to point towards the most likely date of 587 B.C.E. ( Incidentally these same experts are who the Society rely on to produce the "pivotal Date " of 539 B.C.E.)
I have challenged several JW's to give me just one quote from a modern scholar who is not connected to the Watchtower who will testify that the above event took place in 607 B.C.E.
I'm still waiting.
However how do they calculate back to the date 607 B.C.E. from the date of 1914 C.E.?
The explanation is as follows:-
"Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that three and a half times equal “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” “Seven times” would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days. But the Gentile nations did not stop ‘trampling’ on God’s ruler-ship a mere 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall. Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of “a day for a year,” the “seven times” would cover 2,520 years.The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, “the appointed times of the nations” ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King."
Did you notice the way that various disparate parts of the Bible are used in connection with this "teaching"?
First Rev. 12:6 is used to establish "3 and a half times" = 1260 DAYS.
Then this is doubled to represent the 7 times in the book of Daniel.
Then the supposed "Bible rule" of a day for a year is taken from the book of Numbers and Ezekiel.
These scriptures are used arbitrarily and without instruction from the Bible itself to construct a very shaky "mathematically" based doctrine which is built upon a event which did not take place in the year 607 B.C.E. but rather twenty years later in the year 587 B.C.E.
But there is more. What does the Governing Body say about the verse in Rev. 12:6 in their most recent explanation of the book of Revelation?
" How long did this respite for the seed of God’s woman last? Revelation 12:6 says 1,260 days. Revelation 12:14 calls the period a time, times, and half a time; in other words, three and a half times. In fact, both expressions stand for three and a half years, extending in the Northern Hemisphere from the spring of 1919 to the autumn of 1922. This was a period of refreshing recuperation and reorganization for the restored John class."
Do you notice how the Current teaching from the book Jehovah's Witnesses have just studied recently, applies it?
This book says it applies to a literal period of time during the early part of the last century. Without this one scripture there is no 2520 days, no 7 times and no 1914. So why have the Governing Body said that this was fulfilled in the above quote?
Moreover does it seem reasonable to apply this VERY SAME scripture to a period supposedly beginning some 2500 years in the past (607 B.C.E.) and then give another completely unrelated application of it in a modern day setting (1919-1922) in LITERAL DAYS?
Where is the scriptural imperative that allows for anyone to do this?
Also worth noting is that the years that they are talking about are special "Watchtower prophetic years" They abandon the normal use of lunar years in Bible prophecy ( i.e. 360 days in each year) in favour of solar years (i.e. 365 days) again in a completely arbitrary fashion.
Since these numbers are from the Bible it would be only fair to count years the way the Bible does , in increments of 360 days each.
So with 607 b.c.e. as a starting date and counting 2520 years (Bible lunar) it only brings you to 1878 a.d. , a date of no significance today in JW doctrine. So they have "stretched out" the prophecy to suit their 1914 date by using years of 365 days each.
Whatever way you choose to examine the date 1914 in witness doctrine it is seriously flawed and remember it's not just a date in a so-called "prophecy", the JW's whole belief system and authority rests upon it. A very shaky foundation indeed. A house built upon the sand?
Of course the import of all of this is huge in terms of the very foundation on which Jehovah's Witnesses base their faith. A faith which turns out to be based not on the Bible , but on the organisation itself and it's dogmatic, enforced teachings.
Without 1914 and it's associated doctrines they have no special meaning as an organisation and no special message to deliver that is distinct from any other "Christian " group.
The way that 1914 is arrived at is completely arbitrary from a Biblical perspective, but this is overlooked by all who profess to believe, as the "appointment" of the WTBTS and it's leaders is solely contingent on them being correct about this belief.
As I stated before in my experience many of the younger generation and perhaps some older ones, do not really place too much emphasis on the doctrines or the year 1914. The how or the why they believe what they do is not a chief concern, rather maintaining their status quo is mostly what it's all about as a Jehovah's Witness.
How many times are they going to be challenged about the accuracy and truth of their doctrines in their door-knocking work these days? Not very much is the likelihood.
Suppose you did care though and you wanted to question what you were actually being asked to believe both from a scriptural or an historical , not to mention logical perspective?
You would be met with a gasp of disbelief and a very troubled looking face looking back at you asking if you are questioning the "slave class" on this issue?
Think about it logically, if the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Inc. and it's Governing Body accepted that they were completely wrong about the 1914 doctrine then where would that leave them?
Remember they are a Corporation, a business. Their whole ethos is built upon the assumption that Jesus , shortly after establishing his kingdom in 1914 appointed their leaders as his sole representatives on earth.
So it follows that if they are wrong about their 1914 doctrine then they most certainly are not his representatives on earth and never will be as this quote from the Watchtower demonstrates:-
*** w91 12/1 p. 7 Is Any Religion Good Enough? ***
How to Choose the Right Religion
What will guide us in choosing the right religion? The Encyclopædia Universalis is correct when it highlights the importance of truth.
"A religion that teaches lies cannot be true."
So where does this leave a faithful Witness then? They can choose to serve the organisation knowing that it teaches falsehood and demands that it's followers obey or they can take a stand refusing to give any more of their life to a lost cause. It may be difficult as many, like my self have former friends and family in the group, but it can be done with some strength of character , a bit of investigation coupled with a determination to find the truth about what Jehovah's Witnesses teach.
Ask yourself ; is finding out the truth about the teachings you have perhaps spent many years believing hard to take? Yes of course!
But wanting or needing something to be true when it plainly isn't does not make it any less of a lie.