Unfulfilled Predictions And Changes In Doctrine In The WTBS
Statements of the Watchtower Society
The Watchtower Society has made a number of statements in its publications since its inception that have resulted in criticism, particularly from mainstream Christians and former Jehovah's Witnesses. These critics have highlighted a number of controversial statements, changes of doctrine, and failed predictions made by the Watchtower Society. Lists of controversial statements, such as those found below, are found in a number of books and on numerous websites.
See also main article Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses
Predictions such as the following have appeared in various Watchtower publications:
- 1907: Armageddon will culminate in the year 1914.
- 1917: In 1918, God would begin to destroy churches "wholesale" and church members by the millions. 
- 1922-1923: The resurrection of the dead would occur in 1925. In preparation for the 1925 date, the Watchtower Society acquired a property in California, and built a mansion on it. The property was to house people such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Samuel, whom they thought would be resurrected to life in 1925.
- 1938: In 1938, Armaggedon was too close for marriage or child bearing.
- 1941: There were only "months" remaining until Armageddon.
- 1942: Armageddon was "immediately before us." 
- 1969: Human existence would not last long enough for young people to grow old; the world system would end "in a few years". Young Witnesses were encouraged not to bother pursuing tertiary education for this reason.
- 1969: Christ's thousand-year reign would begin in 1975. There was a considerable amount of related speculation in Watchtower publications in the decade or so leading up to 1975.
- 1984: There were "many indications" that "the end" was closer than the end of the 20th century.
A number of Christian apologists have argued that in making predictions about the future, the Watchtower Society have acted as a prophet, often citing Watchtower Society publications that use the word "prophet" in referring to the organization. The Watchtower Society itself has condemned others for making false predictions about the future, stating that such people were "guilty of false prophesying". The apologists argue, based on Deuteronomy 18:22:
||When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (ESV)
that the Watchtower Society does not represent God.
The Watchtower Society has stated as early as 1908, "We are not prophesying; we are merely giving our surmises....We do not even [assert] that there is no mistake in our interpretation of prophesy and our calculations of chronology. We have merely laid these before you, leaving it for each to exercise his own faith or doubt in respect to them." They have also stated that they do not have the gift of prophecy. More recently they have defended themselves against claims of "false prophesying", by saying that they do not claim to be inspired prophets, and that their predictions have never been made "in the name of Jehovah" but rather are given only as an interpretation of Scripture.
However, the Watchtower Society has also made contradictory statements asserting their predictions to be definite. "The date of the close of that ‘battle’ is definitely marked in Scripture as October, 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October, 1874."; "Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874" (notably, this was written in 1923, indicating that 1914 was not taught as the beginning of Christ's presence until a later period, despite contrary claims by Jehovah's Witnesses that "The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honesthearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914"); "We see no reason for changing the figures — nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble.".
For more on the topic see Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses by M. James Penton, professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Lethbridge and former Jehovah's Witness ISBN 978-0802079732
Changes of doctrine
|History of Eschatological Doctrine
||Last Days Begin
||Christ as King
||Resurrection of 144,000
||Judgment of Religion
||1914, 1915, 1918, 1920
||within a generation of 1914
||within a generation of 1914
The Watchtower Society has made a number of changes to its doctrines since its inception. The controversy surrounding this issue is that the Watchtower Society has said that:
- People can only fully and accurately understand the Bible and God's purposes through their association with the religion.
- Witnesses are encouraged to attain to “oneness” and thus not to “harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding,” or be suspicious of their teachings, but rather to have confidence in what they print.
A number of changes in chronology have occurred, particularly in regards to dates for important events such as Armaggedon, and the return of Jesus to the Earth (see table, right). For example, prior to 1914, it was said that Armageddon would end in 1914. In a 1915 edition of the same book, it was said that Armaggedon would end that year. Today, Witnesses are taught to expect Armageddon imminently.
Other changes in interpretation of the Bible have been noted by critics. These have included statements about the Bible itself; identification of persons in the Bible; whether or not people receive a second chance after death; and perhaps most controversially, their standing on blood transfusions. The standing of the Watchtower Society on other matters such as the acceptability of vaccinations or tertiary education has also changed over time.
- See also: Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses
Statements about itself
Critics of the Watchtower Society (or of Jehovah's Witnesses generally) often cite statements such as those listed above alongside other published statements that the Watchtower Society has made about itself; namely that:
- The Watchtower Society is the "one and only channel" used by God to continually to dispense truth
- The Watchtower Society is "directed by Jehovah" and "under the direct supervision of Christ Jesus" and that it "alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or force"
These critics have used such statements to question the credibility of the Watchtower Society.
- ^ e.g., Watters, Randall (2004) Thus Saith Jehovah's Witnesses, Common Sense Publications; Gruss, Edmond (2001) Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?, Xulon Press; Reed, David A. (1990) Index of Watchtower Errors, 1879 to 1989, Baker Books
- ^ e.g., The Watchtower Information Service; Quotes-Watchtower.co.uk; Reexamine.Quotes. See also 
- ^ See this page for a more complete listing
- ^ Russell, C.T, The Time is At Hand, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1907 p. 101
- ^ Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, 1917, p. 485.
- ^ Watchtower, May 15, 1922; Sep. 1, 1922; Apr. 1, 1923; Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1925, p. 110
- ^ Face the Facts, 1938, pp. 46-50
- ^ Watchtower, Sep. 15, 1941, p. 288
- ^ Watchtower, May 1, 1942, p. 139
- ^ Awake!, May 22, 1969, p. 15
- ^ The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years (1969) (Watchtower publication) Available online; see also 
- ^ See, for example, Awake!, Oct. 8, 1966, pp. 19-20; Watchtower, Oct. 15, 1966, pp. 628-631; May 1, 1967 p. 262; May 1, 1968, p. 271; Aug. 15, 1968, p. 494; Oct. 15, 1974, p. 635; May 1, 1975, p. 285. See this page (starting about half-way down the page, beginning with "How Much Longer Will It Be?") for full quotes.
- ^ Watchtower, Mar 1, 1984, pp. 18-19
- ^ Waldeck, Val Jehovah’s Witnesses: What do they believe?. Pilgrim Publications SA. ISBN 1-920092-08-0; Buttrey, John M (2004). Let No One Mislead You. iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-30710-8; see also some of the books referenced at the start of this section, and the end of the article.
- ^ "This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women… Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses… Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a “prophet” of God. It is another to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?" The Watchtower, 'They Shall Know that a Prophet Was Among Them', Apr. 1, 1972, p.197
- ^ "Whom has God actually used as his prophet?... Jehovah's witnesses are deeply grateful today that the plain facts show that God has been pleased to use them. ... It has been because Jehovah thrust out his hand of power and touched their lips and put his words in their mouths..." The Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1959, pp.39-41
- ^ From Awake! Magazine: True, there have been those in times past who predicted an 'end to the world,' even announcing a specific date. Some have gathered groups of people with them and fled to the hills or withdrawn into their houses waiting for the end. Yet, nothing happened. The 'end' did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? Missing was the full measure of evidence required in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. missing from such people were God's truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them. (Awake!, Oct. 8, 1968, p. 23, emphasis added)
- ^ Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence January 1908 "Views From the Watchtower"
- ^ The Watchtower Jan. 1883, p. 425
- ^ Watchtower, May 15, 1976, p. 297; Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, p. 136
- ^ Awake! Mar. 22, 1993, pp. 3-4
- ^ The Watchtower, 15 January, 1892, page 1355
- ^ The Watchtower, 1 March, 1923, p 67
- ^ The Watchtower, 15 January, 1993, page 5
- ^ The Watchtower, 15 July, 1894, page 1677
- ^ Watchtower, Sep. 1, 1954, p. 529; Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587; Dec. 1, 1981, p.27; Feb 15, 1981, p.19
- ^ Ephesians 4:13 The Watchtower, Aug 1, 2001 p. 13
- ^ Watchtower, Aug. 1, 2001
- ^ Qualified, 1955, p. 156
- ^ e.g., 1902: The Book of Ruth is not prophetic. (Watchtower Reprints IV, p. 3110, Nov 15, 1902); 1932: The Book of Ruth is prophetic. (Preservation, 1932, pp. 169, 175, 176)
- ^ e.g., 1917: Apollyon is Satan (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, 1917) 1969: Apollyon is Jesus (Then Is Finished the Mystery of God, p. 232)
- ^ See this page
- ^ See this page
- ^ See this site
- ^ See this site
- ^ Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1919; also Watchtower, May 15, 1933, pp. 154-155; Jul. 15, 1960, pp. 438-439; Our Kingdom Ministry, Sep. 2002, p. 8
- ^ Watchtower, Nov. 1, 1956, p. 666; Watchtower, Jun. 1, 1955, p. 333
- ^ Watchtower, Jul. 1, 1973, p. 402
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