The 2001 Commentaries

A good example of bad Bible chronology

Сошествие Ноя с Арарата (Descent of Noah from Ararat)
Сошествие Ноя с Арарата (Descent of Noah from Ararat) by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1889.
This event occurred only about 4,400 years ago according to the corrupted Hebrew text.

If you have come here looking for the Greek Septuagint bible chronology, it has moved. Please see this page instead.

In 1968, the Jehovah’s Witnesses published the below article in their August 15th edition of their journal, the Watchtower. It calculated that 6,000 years of human history would end in 1975. The article, alongside other statements, led millions of people to believe that Armageddon would come in that year.

Please note that we are not publishing this page to pick on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. No, it’s because this an excellent warning for all of us! It shows us the dangers of trying to predict the date of ‘Armageddon’ and/or Jesus’ coming, and also the problems caused by using corrupted Hebrew manuscripts.

Our Bible translation uses the Greek Septuagint as a source text instead of the Hebrew Masoretic text, which is used by all Western Churches – including the Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So the fault did not begin with the Witnesses, it’s just that the Witnesses promoted the error the most, and suffered for it the most.

We call this faulty chronology ‘The 6000-Year Theory,’ and it was first worked out centuries ago. The calculations went back through the Bible to calculate how long ago Adam was created. It showed that 6,000 years of human history would end in 1975.

The Adventist religions (not just the Witnesses, but also Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, and the surviving Millerite movements) simply took the flawed chronology to their logical conclusions, and announced that 1975 would be a fitting time for God to bring an end to human rule and begin a 1,000-year ‘sabbath’ rule of Jesus. You see, if the first 6,000 years were six ‘days’ of suffering, then the last 1,000-year ‘day’ would be the seventh sabbath day of rest, when God’s Kingdom would arrive under Christ.

As the date approached, most groups began to downplay the 1975 date, except for one: Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many ordinary Witnesses quit their jobs, put off having children, sold their homes, or got into debt – all because their leaders repeatedly reminded them that the 6,000 year mark was fast approaching.

What happened after 1975 came and went? Well, some just shrugged their shoulders and concluded that one should serve God regardless of any date, and moved on. However, some lost their faith in God and the Bible entirely. Why would that happen?

You must understand something about Witness theology. They do not just believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible – they also believe that the men who run the Watch Tower Corporation are personally chosen and anointed by God, and act as his only ‘channel of communication on earth.’ They even refer to their religion as ‘Jehovah’s prophet-like organization.’ So for many, if their organization isn’t true, it means that God, Jesus, and the Bible are also not true. Unfortunately, many millions of people have been ‘stumbled’ this way; most never find their way to God through Christ. Many become atheists.

The man largely responsible for the 1975 craze among Witnesses was their head scholar, Fred Franz, who was later promoted to President of the religion in 1977. People were also upset when he made statements blaming the event on ordinary Witnesses, saying that disappointment over Armageddon not coming was because ‘you expected it to happen!’

But anyway, what about the corrupted manuscripts that led to all this?

As mentioned, the Witnesses used a chronological calculation based on the corrupted 10th century Hebrew Masoretic manuscripts. The Witnesses had used this calculation since their organization was first founded in the 19th century by preacher Charles Taze Russell. The calculation was the basis for a chart called the Divine Plan of the Ages, which appeared in his famous Studies in the Scriptures book series.

Even to this day, most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know that the Bible used by Greek-speaking 1st-century Christians, the Greek Septuagint, provides an entirely different (and vastly more accurate) Bible chronology. Yes, Jesus and the Apostles knew completely different dates from Genesis. The scriptures used by Paul, Peter, James, and the others, would put Adam’s creation at about 7,500 years ago from today (roughly 5479 BCE).

In other words, the 6,000 year mark that the Witnesses (and others) were looking forward to probably occurred back in the early Middle Ages – sometime around 520 CE (or perhaps earlier).

Let’s examine exactly how the Witnesses were misled by using the wrong chronology. Below we’ve copied the relevant parts of the 1968 article of the Witnesses’ Watchtower magazine that explained how they reached the 1975 date.

We have added some of our own commentary in between to help us learn what went wrong, what was overlooked, and to act as a warning example for all of us.

Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?

What basis is there for saying Adam was created nearly 5,993 years ago? Does the one Book that can be implicitly trusted for its truthful historical accuracy, namely, the Inspired Word of Jehovah, the Holy Bible, give support and credence to such a conclusion?


Yes, the Bible is reliable and inspired, but copyists and manuscripts are not. The above statement hides the fact that there are two, competing chronologies in Bible manuscripts – and that Western Churches (including the Witnesses) use the later, less reliable one!

The author of this article was likely Mr Fred Franz, who was one of the translators of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own Bible translation. Therefore he must have been fully aware of the two competing chronologies – yet he not only chose not to mention it, but to also imply that there is no conflict at all, that the information we have can be “implicitly trusted.” While that is certainly true for most of the Bible, it is absolutely not true with the chronologies of Genesis.

It is widely acknowledged that the Apostles, and Jesus himself, used a Bible that contained different chronology in Genesis from that found in every Western Bible today (including the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible, the New World Translation)... isn’t that worth mentioning?

So we start off on the wrong foot.

In the marginal references of the Protestant Authorized or King James Version, and in the footnotes of certain editions of the Catholic Douay Version, the date of man’s creation is said to be 4004 B.C.E. This marginal date, however, is no part of the inspired text of the Holy Scriptures, since it was first suggested more than fifteen centuries after the last Bible writer died, and was not added to any edition of the Bible until 1701 C.E.


If you even know the date of a marginal note added in 1701 CE, you must surely know about the Septuagint chronology. There has been a clear choice to not mention it.

It is an insertion based upon the conclusions of an Irish prelate, the Anglican Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656). Ussher’s chronology was only one of the many sincere efforts made during the past centuries to determine the time of Adam’s creation. A hundred years ago when a count was taken, no less than 140 different timetables had been published by serious scholars. In such chronologies, the calculations as to when Adam was created vary all the way from 3616 B.C.E. to 6174 B.C.E., with one wild guess set at 20,000 B.C.E. Such conflicting answers contained in the voluminous libraries around the world certainly tend to compound the confusion when seeking an answer to the above questions.


In that case, there must be many reasons for such wild variations in the calculations by scholars. Indeed there are. So why not mention even one?

In the previous article, we learned from the Inspired Writings themselves, independent of the uninspired marginal notes of some Bibles, that the seventy years of desolation of the land of Judah began to count about October 1, 607 B.C.E. The beginning of this seventy-year period was obviously tied to its ending, that is, with the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.E.


Here we have our first problem, although it is minor.

According to Jeremiah 25:12, the King of Babylon would be called to account only after the foretold 70-year period has ended. It says:

‘But when 70 years have been fulfilled, I will call to account the king of Babylon and that nation for their error,’ declares Jehovah, ‘and I will make the land of the Chaldeans a desolate wasteland for all time.’ –NWT, 2013

Babylon was attacked and defeated by the Medes and Persians in 539 BCE (as you can see above, this date is accepted by the Witnesses). So the King of Babylon could only be ‘called to account’ in that year... it could not happen after he was already gone. Therefore, the 70 years must have ended in 539 BCE at the latest, as it says in the verse above.

Now, if you count back 70 years from 539 BCE you end up at 609 BCE... not 607 BCE.

Although it is not stated in the paragraph above, the official doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses insists that the 70 years actually ended in 537 BCE when the Jews returned to their homeland. However, this would mean that the 70 years ended 2 years after Babylon was defeated. Jeremiah 25:12 clearly says that Babylon will only be called to account after the 70 years are completed.

While this is only a small discrepancy – 2 years – it means that we’ve just begun and our calculations are already wrong.

So with 607 B.C.E. as dependably fixed on our Gregorian calendar as the absolute date of 539 B.C.E...


It is not “dependably fixed,” but simply wrong. As stated above, according to Jeremiah 25:12, the 70 years would count back from 539 BCE, which brings us back to 609 BCE, not 607 BCE.

539 + 70 = 609.

...we are prepared to move farther back in the count of time, to the dating of other important events in Bible history. For instance, the years when Saul, David, and Solomon reigned successively over God’s chosen people can now be dated in terms of the present-day calendar.

At the death of Solomon, his kingdom was split into two parts. The southern two-tribe part, composed of Judah and Benjamin, continued to be ruled by Solomon’s descendants, and was known as the kingdom of Judah. The northern ten tribes made up the kingdom of Israel, sometimes called ‘Samaria’ after the name of its later capital city, and were ruled over by Jeroboam and his successors. By our applying the prophetic time period of 390 years found in Ezekiel 4:1-9 with regard to Jerusalem’s destruction the death of Solomon is found to be in the year 997 B.C.E. This was 390 years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.


Now we are at our second problem. Nobody can reliably date the length of the Judean and Israelite kings, because different kings used different methods of calculating their reigning years – and the Bible doesn’t say which methods were used by which king! Presumably, back when the Bible was written, it was all obvious and didn’t even need to be said, but unfortunately that was thousands of years ago, and it’s not obvious anymore.

That’s why if you try to add up the lengths of the kings for Judah and Israel, and try comparing them, you’ll see that the numbers don’t agree.

To date, nobody has figured it out!

So to get around this, it is common to turn to something Ezekiel did. As part of a prophetic demonstration to the Jews, Jehovah/Yahweh told Ezekiel to lie on his side for 390 days. Why? Each day was meant to represent a year of the unfaithfulness of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Since Israel has pretty much always been unfaithful, the Watchtower magazine took the view that its first king, King RehoBoam, must have begun ruling 390 years prior. That’s pretty reasonable.

However, it would be rather remarkable if the northern Kingdom of Israel had existed for exactly 390 years. Could it have been 390 years and 6 months? Perhaps. Also, is this 390 years counting King RehoBoam’s ascension year? We don’t know. Do you see the uncertainty? The calculation could easily be off by months. And we’re assuming that 390 is an exact count. How do we know that it’s not a round number? We don’t.

Indeed, nobody knows the exact start-date of these 390 years because the Bible doesn’t say. So this is really just an educated guess (indeed, we use the same guess when calculating our own chronology). So, it could well be a correct guess – we don’t know – maybe it’s 100% correct. But that’s the point – nobody knows.

Note that some paragraphs are now skipped for brevity...

Date of Exodus, 1513 B.C.E.

Looking back into the distant past we see another milestone in man’s history, the never-to-be-forgotten exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, under the leadership of Moses. Were it not for Jehovah’s faithful Word the Bible, it would be impossible to locate this great event accurately on the calendar, for Egyptian hieroglyphics are conspicuously silent concerning the humiliating defeat handed that first world power by Jehovah. But with the Bible’s chronology, how relatively simple it is to date that memorable event!


A third problem. What it implies above is incorrect, and that’s a good thing.

There is evidence for the Exodus, it’s just that most scholars (and the Churches and the Witnesses) are probably dating the Exodus to the wrong year.

If we use the chronology from the Septuagint, we would realize that the Exodus probably occurred some 200 years earlier under Pharaoh Ahmose I – and there are many records from his reign that point to the Exodus.

That’s great news; but how sad for the Witnesses to be denied such knowledge because it doesn’t align with their official doctrines.

We are now skipping a few paragraphs for brevity...

How long since the flood?

Already, with the help supplied by the Bible, we have accurately measured back from the spring of this year 1968 C.E. to the spring of 1513 B.C.E., a total of 3,480 years. With the continued faithful memory and accurate historical record of Jehovah’s Holy Word, we can penetrate even deeper into the past, back to the flood of Noah’s day.


We read of a ‘faithful memory,’ an ‘accurate historical record’ – yet again, we see no mention of the two competing Bible chronologies – or that the Witnesses have chosen to reject the one likely used by Jesus and the Apostles (which is, in our view, the correct one). Nor do we see mention of the reasonable uncertainties in the 390 years.

Note that we are again skipping some paragraphs for brevity...

Well, then, how long were the Israelites down in Egypt as alien residents? Exodus 12:40, 41 says, ‘And the dwelling of the sons of Israel, who had dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came about at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, it even came about on this very day that all the armies of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt.’

Here verse 40 in the Septuagint reads: ‘But the dwelling of the sons of Israel which they [and their fathers, Alexandrine MS] dwelt in the land of Egypt AND IN THE LAND OF CANAAN [was] four hundred and thirty years long.’ The Samaritan Pentateuch reads: ‘IN THE LAND OF CANAAN and in the land of Egypt.’ Thus both of these versions, which are based on Hebrew texts older than the Masoretic, include the words ‘in the land of Canaan’ together with the word ‘Egypt.’


It is very disappointing to see the author invoke the Septuagint to back up this one number, but fail to inform readers that the Septuagint contradicts the entire calculation.

He even mentions that the Septuagint is older than the Masoretic text, implying that it is therefore more reliable. Okay, so why not go further and just use the very oldest chronology of all, the Septuagint chronology? Is it obvious why: those manuscripts say that 6,000 years of human existence ended in the early Medieval era.

So readers are left with the impression that the Septuagint is just another manuscript supporting the 1975 year, when in fact it contradicts it by over 1,500 years.

From the time that Abraham entered Canaan until Isaac’s birth was 25 years; from that time until Jacob’s birth, 60 more years; and after that it was another 130 years before Jacob entered Egypt. All together, this makes a total of 215 years, exactly half of the 430 years, spent in Canaan before moving in to Egypt. (Gen. 12:4; 21:5; 25:26; 47:9) The apostle Paul, under inspiration, also confirms that from the making of the Abrahamic covenant at the time the patriarch moved into Canaan, it was 430 years down to the institution of the Law covenant. — Gal. 3:17.

By adding these 430 years to the 1513, it puts us back to 1943 B.C.E., the time when Abraham first entered Canaan following the death of his father Terah in Haran, Mesopotamia. It is now only a matter of adding up the years of a few generations to date the Flood correctly. The figures are given in Genesis, chapters 11 and 12, and may be summarized as follows:


Here, the calculation is that the Israelites spent just over 200 years in Egypt. What’s wrong with that?

Well, we have our fourth problem – it’s just not possible. The Bible says that during the time they were there, the nation grew from just seventy-five people to over a million! While people have tried to come up with all kinds of explanations to make this possible, the simplest explanation is that the chronology has been misinterpreted, and the numbers are wrong. Once you have the correct numbers, there is absolutely no problem with the Bible’s account; it works out perfectly. For more information, please see our commentary on this period.

But next we come to the fifth (and worst) problem. Each of the births shown below, from Shelah to Terah, are likely off by 100 years. Why? The ancient Hebrew Masoretic text that is used by all Western Bible translations (including the New World Translation) was deliberately corrupted in the 1st century / early 2nd century AD to alter the chronology. It deletes 100 years from each of those births, shortening the time between the Flood and AbraHam leaving for CanaAn by 700 years! To learn more about this, see our page on why we use the more reliable Greek Septuagint.

Also, several of the pre-flood years also appear to be off by more than 100 years.

From start of Flood to Arpachshad’s birth (Gen. 11:10) 2 years
To birth of Shelah (11:12) 35 years
To birth of Eber (11:14) 30 years
To birth of Peleg (11:26) 34 years
To birth of Reu (11:18) 30 years
To birth of Serug (11:20) 32 years
To birth of Nahor (11:22) 30 years
To birth of Terah (11:24) 29 years
To death of Terah in Haran, and Abram’s departure to Canaan at age of 75 (11:32; 12:4) 205 years
Total 427 years

Adding these 427 years to the year 1943 B.C.E. dates the beginning of the Deluge at 2370 B.C.E., 4,337 years ago.

Our comments:

And among this list we have the sixth problem. The list makes no mention of the patriarch Kainan, son of Arpachshad, who appears in some manuscripts but not in others. He is not mentioned in the Watchtower Society’s own translation of Genesis, but he IS mentioned in their translation of Luke (where it lists Jesus’ ancestry).

Why is this important? Well, including or excluding Kainan, son of Arpachshad, can add or remove 135 years to the calculations!

Disappointingly, the author chooses to not mention the issue at all – even though it exists as quite a stunning contradiction in their own Bible translation (this contradiction does not exist in our own translation). The article gives the impression that everything is certain in this part of the calculation, when it is not.

If Kainan, son of Arpachshad, was included in the 1975 calculation, it would mean that 6,000-year mark already passed back in 1840 (but of course, we are already out by centuries more than that).

6,000 years from Adam’s creation

In a similar manner, it is only necessary to add up the following years involving ten pre-Flood generations to get the date of Adam’s creation, namely:
From Adam’s creation
To birth of Seth (Gen. 5:3) 130 years
To birth of Enosh (5:6) 105 years
To birth of Kenan (5:9) 90 years
To birth of Mahalalel (5:12) 70 years
To birth of Jared (5:15) 65 years
To birth of Enoch (5:18) 162 years
To birth of Methuselah (5:21) 65 years
To birth of Lamech (5:25) 187 years
To birth of Noah (5:28, 29) 182 years
To beginning of Flood (7:6) 600 years
Total 1,656 years

Adding this figure 1,656 to 2,370 gives 4026 B.C.E., the Gregorian calendar year in which Adam was created. Since man naturally began to count time with his own beginning, and since man’s most ancient calendars started each year in the autumn, it is reasonable to assume that the first man Adam was created in the fall of the year.


The month in which Adam was created is only based on a guess, and furthermore, it is probably an incorrect one. It is just not true that our most ancient calendars started each year in the autumn.

The Ancient Egyptian year begins in July because that is when the Nile river would flood. The Sumerians, Babylonians, and Persians chose to begin their years in late March when the length of the day and night are perfectly equal. The Athenians began their year on the Summer Solstice. The Chinese year begins in the coldest part of Winter, to mark the beginning of the turn to Spring. Ancient India has several different calenders, but most start their years in the spring.

The only ancient calendar that began its year in September/October that I can find is that of the Jews. While the ancient Ethiopian year did begin in the autumn, it was because it marks the end of the rainy season – and some say it was to commemorate the return home of the Queen of Sheba (who is not too ancient). The ancient Celtic calendar begins its year in November, but that’s believed to be a way of marking the start of the dark winter (and the Celts are not especially ancient).

Did man ‘naturally began to count time with his own beginning?’ Well, if he did, he didn’t for very long, since these ancient calendars all differ. Different cultures chose to start their years to mark important events – and the most common practice was to begin the year in the spring.

Yet this incorrect claim that “man’s most ancient calendars started each year in the autumn” was enough for many Witnesses to expect Armageddon to come in September, 1975. Yes, many Witnesses were counting down to that month.

Some even counted down to the evening of September 5th – why? Because that’s the more precise date Mr Franz calculated elsewhere – 6pm, if you’re wondering.

Thus, through a careful independent study by dedicated Bible scholars who have pursued the subject for a number of years, and who have not blindly followed some traditional chronological calculations of Christendom, we have arrived at a date for Adam’s creation that is 22 years more distant in the past than Ussher’s figure. This means time is running out two decades sooner than traditional chronology anticipates.


Given the large number of errors in the calculation, ‘independent study’ reminds me of certain proverbs:

Those with no guidance will fall like the leaves;
But, salvation is found [by seeking] advice. —Proverbs 11:14, LXX

Like a city without walls and protection,
Is the person who won’t take advice. –Proverbs 25:28, LXX

Yes, ‘independent study’ is nothing to brag about. You ought to be consulting others. If they had, then this incorrect calculation pointing to 1975 would have never been printed.

We can also assume that the ‘dedicated Bible scholars’ being referred to here is Mr Franz himself and perhaps those surrounding him. Again, we are reminded of a proverb:

Let your praises come from your friends (not from you)…
Let them come from the lips of strangers (not yours). —Proverbs 27:2

Also, using the words ‘blindly followed... Christendom’ seems to be implying that others may be stupidly following whatever they’re told, whereas the author is oh-so much smarter. It is a put-down of anyone who doesn’t believe as the author does. Yet, the author had made several blind assumptions, and unfortunately, he has also failed to disclose all the problems – in other words, keeping his readers in the dark (in which they can, rather ironically, ‘blindly’ follow whatever he says).

The disparaging reference to ‘Christendom’ is ironic, as the Watchtower organization has always made enormous use of materials from various Churches. Their headquarters have libraries filled with bibles, lexicons, dictionaries, commentaries, maps, and so on, much of which was researched, written, or published by church members, church ministers, or church organizations. Even some archaeology and manuscript work is sponsored by churches. The Watchtower magazine also quotes Bible scholars, and many of these are church ministers (this fact is not mentioned, however).

So the disparaging remark towards people in Christendom is not only in poor taste, but rather hypocritical and unthankful. It is also at odds with Philippians 2:3, which says:

‘Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you.’ —NWT

One common Witness teaching is that taking ‘spiritual food’ from Christendom is like ‘eating from the table of demons.’ Yet, while not eating from the table of demons is good advice, it seems that it is acceptable to “steal from Satan’s pantry.”

After much of the mathematics and genealogies, really, of what benefit is this information to us today? Is it not all dead history, as uninteresting and profitless as walking through a cemetery copying old dates off tombstones? After all, why should we be any more interested in the date of Adam’s creation than in the birth of King Tut? Well, for one thing, if 4,026 is added to 1,968 (allowing for the lack of a zero year between C.E. and B.C.E.) one gets a total of 5,993 years, come this autumn, since Adam’s creation. That means, in the fall of the year 1975, a little over seven years from now (and not in 1997, as would be the case if Ussher’s figures were correct), it will be 6,000 years since the creation of Adam, the father of all mankind!


Adding up several wrong numbers will not produce a correct one.

Here, Mr Franz states that others who may be using the famous chronology of Ussher, would mistakenly look to 1997 as the year. Is this just an off-hand remark? Perhaps not. We can imagine how this fact would get people talking:

‘Only we know the true date!’
‘Others are looking 20 years too late!’
‘Everyone else will be caught unawares!’
‘We must get out and preach, and warn everyone!’

Adam created at close of ‘sixth day’

Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man’s existence coincides with the Sabbath-like thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be by mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah’s loving and timely purposes. Our chronology, however, which is reasonably accurate (but admittedly, not infallible), at the best only points to the autumn of 1975 as the end of 6,000 years of man’s existence on earth. It does not necessarily mean that 1975 marks the end of the first 6,000 years of Jehovah’s seventh creative ‘day.’ Why not? Because after his creation Adam lived some time during the ‘sixth day,’ which unknown amount of time would need to be subtracted from Adam’s 930 years, to determine when the sixth seven-thousand-year period or ‘day’ ended, and how long Adam lived into the ‘seventh day.’ And yet the end of that sixth creative ‘day’ could end within the same Gregorian calendar year of Adam’s creation. It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years.


While it seems like Mr Franz might be about to pour cold water on any excitement, and breaking out into a run of humility, we are disappointed. At the last moment, he destroys it all by stating that the calculation may only be out by a few weeks or months – a mind-boggling claim that cannot be even slightly true, given what we have discussed.

(Please note that we have skipped the final paragraphs of the very long article for brevity.)


The author calls his chronology “reasonably accurate”, yet we have seen that it is wildy inaccurate. But that is not the worst part. Do you notice how the author hasn’t allowed you, the reader, to come to that conclusion yourself? Counter-evidence and counter-arguments were simply not provided. You are only provided with information that supports the claim. Since ordinary Witnesses are strongly discouraged (read: forbidden) from reading anything about the Bible from any other source, they would never know much of the information you have just read. Members are warned not to “listen to the voice of a stranger.” Indeed, all of their religious knowledge must come from the Society and nowhere else.

And if you disobey and are caught, you will be punished.

So back before 1975, normal Witnesses knew nothing about the different chronology that is presented by the Greek Septuagint, books of ancient historian Josephus, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and other ancient writings. The Greek Septuagint was even the Bible used by 1st-century Christians, perhaps even by Jesus and the Apostles themselves. Yet the Watchtower magazine provided no reasons for basing all these calculations on a different, later, text which gives completely different numbers – a text that (by the way) the early Church Fathers argued had been deliberately corrupted by the Rabbis.

Also, no mention is made of the fact that Kainan, son of Arpachshad, would put the numbers out by 135 years – and that excluding him creates a Bible contradiction.

No mention is made of the mathematical impossibility of Israel only being in Egypt for just over 200 years. We did not even discuss the impossibility of Nimrod building cities so soon after the flood in the flawed chronology. And so on, and so forth.

And of course, 1975 came and went.

You can see the full article in the Watchtower Online Library.

The real questions

Now, while we’ve described what happened, and where the errors were, we haven’t yet answered why it happened.

Mr Franz and the entire leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses had all the information they needed to know that the 1975 calculation must be wrong. Yet they ignored everything that contradicted it. Why? What would motivate them to do this?

And why did all Witnesses worldwide go along with it? Why didn’t more scholarly ones – who perhaps know something about Bible chronology – speak up, and put a stop to it before the damage was done?

These are the real questions, and here are the lessons for us.

While we can’t look into Fred Franz’ mind, we do know some facts about him. He joined the movement in 1914 after studying Charles Taze Russell’s work, the Studies in the Scriptures, including the Divine Plan of the Ages – yes, the chronology that ended in 1975. He even met Mr Russell. It seems that Fred had a strong emotional connection to Charles and would perhaps not want to contradict the very foundation of his works, and his own new-found faith, too.

If you have already decided ahead-of-time that a person or theory is right, you can become blind to anything that contradicts it. You can begin to cherry-pick evidence to support it, and disregard evidence against it. And soon enough, whatever you want to be true suddenly is true. And it seems that’s exactly what Fred did with the 1975 calculation.

The calculation was right because he was only going to find reasons to say it’s right. All contradictory facts were from Satan’s world, from ‘false religion,’ from people who aren’t as enlightened, by people who don’t have the truth.

Following men

But at the root of it all was admiration of a man instead of Christ. Yes, a man whom Mr Franz believed was the only one on earth whom God gave the truth – Charles Taze Russell. He was regarded as the ‘Laodicean Messenger’ from Revelation – yes, a messenger sent from God Himself. And if Mr Russell was God’s own messenger, who could contradict him?

But it was obvious to anyone who even did the smallest amount of research that the 1975 calculation was full of very large errors – so why didn’t anyone around Mr Franz correct him?

Well, it’s likely that many others at the Society’s headquarters felt the same way as Mr Franz did about not wanting to up-end Russell’s work. But also, Mr Franz had gained a fearsome reputation as the Organization’s head scholar. If a problem arose, it was said to ‘send it to Freddy’ for an answer. He was even called the ‘Society’s Oracle.’

In other words, everyone looked up to him as if he had a direct channel to God. And who are you to question a man who has God’s ear?

History is full of examples of kings and presidents who cannot be questioned. They usually end up making many silly decisions, humiliating themselves, and leading everyone to disaster – because everybody around them is a ‘Yes man.’ That’s how you end up with a North Korean dictator thinking he invented the cheeseburger. Or with one South American president spending millions on creating his own smartphone, while his country runs out of toilet paper. Nobody is there to say ‘no.’

So again, we can blame admiration of men instead of admiration of Christ.

But why didn’t ordinary Witnesses rise up against this 1975 calculation? Surely some were scholarly enough to see at least a few of the critical problems?

Fear and control

Well, again, this is where obedience to men instead of to Christ really comes in to play. Witnesses must obey the organization’s leaders at all time and in everything. Questioning them is dangerous, and contradicting anything they say is strictly forbidden. Witnesses can be punished with disfellowshipping (excommunication), meaning that questioning or contradicting what’s taught by their leaders can – with no exaggeration – cause you to lose your entire family. That truly puts the ‘fear of God’ in people – or rather, the fear of punishment by men.

Once you understand that fact, it becomes obvious why there was no popular rebellion or split over the matter. If you stand up against the leaders – you could lose everything.

Of course, there was also much excitement at the prospect of Jesus returning and God’s Kingdom beginning to rule on Earth. So with a carrot at one end, and a stick at the other, the entire army marched forward and straight off the precipice – all following the orders of an ‘Oracle’ who thinks he knows everything and who cannot be questioned.

Not the first such error

However, this was not the first such time this happened. The exact same thing ocurred 50 years earlier. In the 1920s, the then leader of the Watchtower Society, JF Rutherford, predicted that Armageddon would come in 1925. When nothing happened, a much worse disaster unfolded, leading to a massive, sudden collapse in numbers (some claim an 80% drop in attendence to their annual commemoration of Jesus’ death).

Yet even this was not the first time. Before that, the founder of the movement, Charles Taze Russell, had predicted Jesus’ visible return, the destruction of all nations, and the end of Christendom, in October 1914. When that failed to happen, the date was moved to 1915.

But even that was not the start, as 70 years earlier, the Baptist minister William Miller predicted that Armageddon would come in 1844 (later moved to 1845). It was his chronology that formed the basis for the one used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to predict 1975.

1844, 1845, 1914, 1915, 1925, 1975...

As they say, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

How to avoid it

So how could the Witnesses have avoided all this? By doing just ONE of the following things, the entire fiasco could have been avoided...

So these are warnings to all of us. We can see what could happen to us if we started admiring certain men, or a man, instead of only Christ. We can see the dangers of trying to control and rule over others, becoming intolerant of anyone that disagrees with us. We can see that if we put ourselves in a big bubble, or echo chamber, where we are never challenged on anything we believe, then we’ll reject valuable insight – and end up believing all kinds of nonsense, while thinking we’re wise!

Or to put it another way:

‘Pride is before a crash.’ —Proverbs 16:18, NWT

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