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
SOME “FLESH” SAVED
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.
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!