Addendum to "Awakening, Part 1: Introduction"

– posted by meleti
In my last video, I mentioned a letter I sent into headquarters regarding a 1972 Watchtower article on Matthew 24.  It turns out I got the date wrong.  I was able to recover the letters from my files when I came home from Hilton Head, SC.  The actual article in question is from the November 15, 1974 The Watchtower, page 683 under the subtitle "Some 'Flesh' Saved".

Here's the relevant passage from that issue:

w74 11/15 p. 683 The End of a System of Things
In the interim period between 66 and 70 C.E., there was great turmoil in Jerusalem, several factions fighting to control the city. Then, in 70 C.E. General Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, came up against the city, surrounded it with a fortification of pointed stakes, as Jesus had foretold, and brought the inhabitants to a pitiable state of starvation. It appeared that, if the siege lasted much longer, “no flesh” inside the city would survive. But, as Jesus had prophesied concerning this “great tribulation,” the greatest Jerusalem had ever experienced, “unless Jehovah had cut short the days, no flesh would be saved. But on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen he has cut short the days." [Italics added for clarity]

I found the reasoning to be illogical and wrote in about it.

The way that Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:19, 20 are worded, it appears that the reason for "cutting short the days" was to save his "chosen ones" from violent death. However, since they were no longer there in 70 C.E., having fled 3 1/2 years earlier in obedience to Jesus' warning, the application being made seems silly.  However, the "silly" meter had a ways to go, as their response to my query will bear out.

Let's break this done, just for the fun of it.

It starts out by saying: "To a considerable extent we have to be guided by the way things actually worked out."  Ah, yeah!  What actually worked out was that the chosen ones were not there to benefit from the cutting short of the days, so why cut them short on their account?!

The writer then uses a tactic I've seen before: He classifies my question as hypothetical, and so unworthy of consideration, stating that "what Jesus prophesied was in accord with what occurred."  Ah, no! That's the whole point. He prophesied that the days would be cut short on account of the chosen ones and that did not occur.  Arguably, they were cut short, but not on their account.  It's not the cutting short of the days which is being questioned, but the reason for it.  How could it have been done on their account? They were not there!

The next paragraph gets even sillier.

"...the tribulation was not being cut short for their sake (apparently, "for their sake" doesn't mean the same thing as "on their account") as if they were going to benefit in some way because of its being cut short.  Hence, its being cut short must have been on account of the chosen ones, on account of the fact that they were not there and would not be directly affected when Jehovah brought the destructive tribulation."

There were two options here:  Cut short the days, or don't cut them short. The Bible clearly states that if they were not cut short, everybody dies. So only if they are cut short, does anybody survive. That's not hypothetical. That's clearly what Jesus says.

So they are cut short because of, for the sake of, on account of, in behalf of, in consideration of—insert synonym of your choice—the chosen ones?  Why? How were the chosen ones affected in any way?  They weren't even there!!!

It is nonsensical to state that you are going to do something on account of a person, if that person is going to be unaffected in any way by what you do.  The writer does not seem to understand that particular nuance of English when he concludes his reasoning with the antitypical application of Matthew 24:22. (By the way, there is no antitypical application of Matthew 24:22 in case you're wondering.)

"...the "great tribulation" in the future will be cut short, not for the sake of the chosen ones, but will come in a way not restricted in any way by the anointed, for they will already be out of the danger area, so to speak."

To say that you are doing something—anything—"on account of" someone else is to restrict in some way what you are doing.  That's what the phrase means.  It seems the Organization is again practicing "Brave New English".)

Is your head spinning now?  Imagine being EG or ER (the mystery writer and his supervisor at Bethel) and having to defend such a stupid interpretation of Scripture.

By the way, this interpretation was abandoned—sorry, should have used Watchtower-speak—was "clarified" 25 years later when "new light" burst forth:

w99 5/1 p. 10 pars. 9-10 “These Things Must Take Place”
9 Were the days “cut short” and the anointed chosen ones in Jerusalem saved? Professor Graetz suggests: “[Cestius Gallus] did not deem it advisable to continue the combat against heroic enthusiasts and embark on a lengthy campaign at that season, when the autumn rains would soon commence . . . and might prevent the army from receiving provisions. On that account probably he thought it more prudent to retrace his steps.” Whatever Cestius Gallus was thinking, the Roman army retreated from the city, with grave losses inflicted by the pursuing Jews.
10 That surprising Roman retreat allowed “flesh”—Jesus’ disciples who were at risk inside Jerusalem—to be saved. History records that when this window of opportunity opened, Christians fled the region.


Now some might wonder why I'm dredging up a 40-year-old piece of correspondence.  There are several reasons. I'll give you two.

The first, though not the most important, is to show that the brothers at the highest levels are not and never were the Bible scholars many believe them to be.  I realized way back then in my twenties that they were just like the rest of us; just normal Joes trying to understand Scripture.  (At least, that's what I thought then.) I didn't think ill of them, nor did I think they were wicked.  They were just good old boys.  (My view has changed, but now is not the time.)  I can't recall ever admiring any of them and I never held any up as my role model.  In fact, the only role model I've ever had was Jesus Christ, though I've always admired and felt some affinity for the apostle Paul.

Any youthful illusions I had about the spirituality of so-called "glorious ones" disappeared quickly while in Colombia where I rubbed shoulders with missionaries and branch members alike, and saw firsthand their pettiness and peccadilloes. But none of that destroyed my faith in God nor that he was using the Organization for his purpose.  I was still "in the truth", and that attitude remained in me for decades.

The belief that our doctrine was sound led me to the conclusion that Jehovah was simply using very imperfect men to accomplish his work, just as he did throughout the history of the nation of Israel.  The thought that this silly piece of illogical reasoning might be just the tip of the theological iceberg never occurred to me.

"My bad!"

I held the clue in my hand, but it took me almost 40 years to take it to its logical conclusion. Nevertheless, this exchange was beneficial as it ensured that I had no illusions about the men in charge.  I never looked up to them, so when the time came, it was easy for me to see "the man behind the curtain".  Still, I kick myself that I didn't look deeper when I had the chance.

This makes me wonder a little about our calling.  (Ro 8:28; 11:29; 1 Co 1:9, 24-29; Eph 4:4-6; Jude 1:1)  Yehovah (I prefer this spelling and pronunciation over Jehovah) knows when we are ready. He is the potter.  As Romans 9:19-26 shows, he fashions each of us, and it is all done in his good time.  In my case, if I had come to the realization back in the Seventies that all our unique JW doctrines were the fabrications of men—mostly from the pen of J.F. Rutherford's and Fred Franz—would I have kept my faith in God?  Would I have continued to study the Bible and devote myself to the ministry?  Or would I have used my youth for selfish pursuits?  I don't know. God knows.  All I can say is that things have worked out well, because now I have the hope of sharing in the wonderful reward offered to the children of God; a hope I share with all of you who have awakened from the darkness of man-made religion and come into the light of the Anointed one of God, Jesus!

Archived Comments

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  • Comment by Bernardbooks on 2018-10-04 09:51:35

    Thank you for sharing your letter and their response. It’s very revealing to read correspondence like these and see how they have a record and history of belaying and stifling any information brought to their attention that shows error in their interpretation. No surprise.

    w09 2/15 p.27
    “What can be said about the anointed Christians in modern times?
    No doctrinal falsehood is “found in their mouths”

    What they are really doing is suffocating the gift of holy spirit that an individual has received when seeing through the error and finding truth but they don’t want that because it would poke holes in their view of the channel of communication. I would not want to be in their shoes because it seems they have been in a consistent fight down through the years against the spirit.

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2018-10-04 10:52:28

      What a great quote that is from the 2009 Watchtower. Thanks for sharing that, Bernardbooks.

      • Reply by MarthaMartha on 2018-10-06 08:49:40

        Great quote BB!
        Yes, there they were blowing their own trumpet again.
        One of the things that made me uncomfortable in recent years was the eagerness to make claims about the integrity/honesty/faithfulness of themselves as a group, that can’t be made until our Lord returns.
        There was a comment in a WT article something along the lines of
        ‘Jehovah and Jesus will be delighted to reward the faithful slave with all their belongings.’
        What hubris! What cheek!
        A discreet slave would humbly wait to see if the master deemed them worthy of a reward.
        Of course, if they read the scripture properly in the first place they would see that Jesus asked a question. He didn’t make a statement or ‘prophecy’ as it has been spun.
        As Meleti shows, giving scripture “wriggle room” isn’t new with the writing committee past and present.

        • Reply by Bernardbooks on 2018-10-06 11:01:04

          I agree with you completely Martha.
          I’ve heard several ones in the org say such things as, ‘the members of the governing body are so humble’ but the attitude as expressed in their own literature about themselves shows the complete opposite of being discreet and humble.

          (Isaiah 5:21)
          Woe to those wise in their own eyes
          And discreet in their own sight!

    • Reply by kindnessfirst on 2018-10-08 14:05:00

      I have been saddened repeatedly when asking appointed elders to explain John 4:24 to me.
      “ worship with SPIRIT and truth.”
      They get the “truth” part, have no concept of “spirit” & heartfelt personal application of divine principles of HS that supersede & define (supposedly) organizational doctrine & “Law”. Your quote & comment is deeply appreciated. Thank you
      The irrational and rabid fear of essential personal “gnosticism” is alive & well once again among those who value control over “ministering as a slave“ to the “least of these my brothers”.

      Even though, “each of us will render an account for himself to God”

      “The faith that you have, have it in accord with yourself in the sight of God. Happy is the man that does not put himself on judgment by what he approves. 23 But if he has doubts, he is already condemned .... Indeed, everything that is not out of (personal) faith is sin”- Ro14

  • Comment by limping lamb on 2018-10-04 10:00:56

    Hello Eric, I am a longtime lurker on your web pages, and thank you for all the time and effort you put in to produce them. (They have given me encouragement to believe I have not become insane! ).
    The Watchtower article you highlighted mystifies me. Having been babtised in 1966, I had always believed that the 'great tribulation' for the Jews in Jerusalem started in 66ce with the arrival of the Roman armies and the pointed stakes. That this tribulation was cut short to allow for Christians (along with any others) to escape.
    The return of the Roman armies in 70ce meant destruction for most of the remaining ones, and pictured 'Armageddon' except that, looking at that explanation, I wonder who the escapees would picture? (Especially since they were not presumably Christians)
    The 1974 Watchtower article cannot possibly refer to the chosen ones being Christians, as they had already escaped, but would surely have to refer to the poor souls who survived the crushing defeat. Did Yehovah really choose certain individuals to survive at that time? IMHO Watchtower writers confused themselves along with everyone else. ( In my own congregation here in the U.K., study conductors would excuse such confusing statements and questions as 'Americanisms' !)
    The phrase 'chosen ones' is generally used of persons of good standing with our Father, which I think may be part of the confusion.
    The 1999 Watchtower is more in line with what I thought we all always believed, so I now realise that I was probably putting my own 'spin' on whatever was being printed.

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2018-10-04 10:50:04

      Putting our own spin on what was printed is how many of us cooped over the years. :)

  • Comment by Dan Adams on 2018-10-04 18:29:41

    Good grief - that Watchtower response letter is so confusing I don't know how you even made sense of it! I had to read your break-own of it a few times just to wrap my brain around what they were saying.

    I certainly don't know how to interpret these verses in Matthew, but as I read this blog, the first thing that popped into my mind was that perhaps the cutting short on account of the chosen ones could be explained as being on account of the prayers, or intercession of the chosen ones. Surely those who left were distraught over the fate that awaited their family and friends who didn't believe and didn't follow when they escaped. And there's at least a hint of biblical precedent of Jehovah sparing the Israelites on account of Moses' intercession, and Jehovah's willingness to spare any righteous in Sodom & Gomorrah on account of Abraham's intercession. I'm not going to say this is the correct way to understand Jesus' words, but it doesn't seem as convoluted as the reply you received.

    As always, I enjoyed the post. Thanks for all your hard work.

  • Comment by Leonardo Josephus on 2018-10-05 04:02:34

    My two cents worth is that WT seems to say, and you have correctly argued in your letter, Eric, that because the chosen ones were out of Jerusalem, then there was no need to prolong the agony for the Jews stuck inside. So, the Roman retribution was going to come anyway, but Jehovah (and/or Jesus) made sure they did not suffer as much as the Romans would have otherwise done. On this basis if the anointed are all chosen then the Great Tribulation will not need to be so great, because the anointed will be chosen and not on the earth.
    So will it or won't it be a Great Tribulation ? Might it have been worse ? Who knows ?At least I now understand the official explanation of Matthew 24:21,22, which, to be honest I had not given too much thought to, lately.
    Thank you very much Eric for bringing this out.

  • Comment by Not Thinking It Through—Again! - Beroean Pickets - Reviewer on 2018-10-05 18:59:02

    […] my last post, I spoke about how ill-conceived some of (most of?) the doctrines of truly are. By […]

  • Comment by Leonardo Josephus on 2018-10-07 05:14:28

    Hi Eric (again). Having gone past the convoluted explanation, I picked up on how we felt about what we were being taught 40 odd years ago. Much of what I learned, I understood as being "best guesses", some of which were nonsense (e.g the prophetic periods in the book of Daniel running between conventions etc). It did not feel like we were being told "You must believe this..or else". It felt like a searching for truth. But over the years WT has bolted on to the "fact" of 1914, the changed appointments of the F & D slave, making it effectively compulsory to believe these things or you are in trouble.

    I do not believe it was always so. And that is how and why I got into this religion.

    But someone has changed the rules.

  • Comment by kindnessfirst on 2018-10-08 13:17:02

    Wow! I’m getting a dizziness headache ?
    Thank you Eric.
    It’s so challenging to be a “humble slave” ministering to “lowly ones” and you can’t just say “we really don’t know, it was just a guess to quiet the rabble” ?
    Appreciate the post from 09 WT also, Oh My!

    My wife and I were discussing the parable of the wheat and the weeds in parallel with Matthew 25 “in reply the king will say to them, ‘Truly I say to YOU, To the extent that YOU did it to one of the LEAST of these my brothers, YOU did it to me.’ As a single anointed sister most of her adult life she was treated horrendously by elders & congregations following their lead. It is becoming more and more self evident that weeds are manifesting among Gods people and in particular by their treatment of “lowly ones”, “widows and orphans”. -James 1:27

    That’s why the Scriptural standard for apostasy (Jude, 2Peter 2, etc) is primarily based on conduct towards others, “abusing Gods holy ones”, our own brethren, esp “widows and orphans”, the LEAST of the lowly & broken-hearted.
    NOT arguments on doctrine (other than respect for the Christ, Hmmm)
    “By their fruits you will know them” Again given in context of recognizing false shepherds, abusive “wolves” within Gods flock, not the “lowly”.

    It makes sense in the light of this post. Even a “lowly one” knows when they or others are being treated abusively even if they are not able to argue obscure points of doctrine, chronology, prophecy etc. So the ongoing debate on not reading “apostate” material is moot. I can’t tell you how many elders could not give me a coherent scriptural definition of apostasy! The most common response, “That’s a really complicated issue, too much to get into, just don’t read their literature!” Huh?? Reminds me of letter above.

    Ezekiel 13:10 “...yes, for the reason that they have led my people astray, saying, “There is peace!” when there is no peace, and there is one that is building a partition wall, but in vain there are those plastering it with whitewash.”

    Or as their own alternate reading of Jer8:9,11 (cross reference to 1Th “Peace & Security”!)

    “And they try to heal the fracture of the daughter of my people superficially, saying: “There is peace! There is peace!” when there is no peace.”

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