When the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gets something wrong and has to make a correction which is usually introduced to the community as “new light” or “refinements in our understanding”, the excuse frequently echoed to justify the change is that these men are not inspired. There is no evil intent.  The change is actually a reflection of their humility, acknowledging that they are just as imperfect as the rest of us and are only trying to do their best to follow the leading of the holy spirit.

The purpose of this multipart series is to put that belief to the test.  While we can excuse a well-meaning individual operating with the best of intentions when mistakes are made, it is quite another thing if we discover that someone has been lying to us.  What if the individual in question knows that something is false and yet continues to teach it? What if he goes out of his way to quell any dissenting opinion so as to cover over his lie.  In such a case, he might be making us libel for the outcome predicted in Revelation 22:15.

“Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Re 22:15)

We would not want to be guilty of loving and practicing a lie, even by association; so it benefits us to make a careful examination of what we believe.  The doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus began to reign invisibly from the heavens in 1914 makes an excellent test case for us to examine.  This doctrine rests entirely on a time calculation that has 607 B.C.E. as its starting point.  Supposedly, the appointed times of the gentiles that Jesus spoke of at Luke 21:24 began in that year and ended in October of 1914.

Simply put, this doctrine is a cornerstone of the belief system of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and it all rests on 607 B.C.E. being the year when Jerusalem was destroyed and the survivors were taken into captivity to Babylon.  How important is 607 B.C.E. to Witness belief?

  • Without 607, the 1914 invisible presence of Christ didn’t happen.
  • Without 607, the last days didn’t begin in 1914.
  • Without 607, there can be no generation calculation.
  • Without 607, there can be no claimed 1919 appointment of the Governing Body as the Faithful and Discreet Slave (Mt 24:45-47).
  • Without 607, the all-important door-to-door ministry to save people from destruction at the end of the last days becomes a futile waste of billions of hours of effort.

Given all this, it is quite understandable that the organization would put great effort into supporting the validity of 607 as a valid historical date despite the fact that no credible archeological research nor scholarly work supports such a position. Witnesses are led to believe that all the archeological research done by scholars is wrong.  Is this a reasonable assumption?  The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has a powerful invested interest that 607 be proven as the date King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem.  On the other hands, the worldwide community of archeologists has no vested interest in proving Jehovah’s Witnesses wrong.  They are only concerned with getting an accurate analysis of the available data.  As a result, they all concur that the date of Jerusalem’s destruction and the Jewish exile to Babylon occurred in 586 or 587 B.C.E.

To counter this finding, the organization has done research of its own which we’ll find in the following sources:

Let Your Kingdom Come, pages 186-189, Appendix

The Watchtower, Oct 1, 2011, pages 26-31, “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed, Part 1”.

The Watchtower, Nov 1, 2011, pages 22-28, “When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed, Part 2”.

What does The Watchtower claim?

On page 30 of the October 1, 2011 Public Edition of The Watchtower we read:

“Why do many authorities hold to the date 587 B.C.E.? They lean on 2 sources of information; the writings of classical historians and the Canon of Ptolemy.”

This is simply not true.  Today, researchers lean on literally tens of thousands of Neo-Babylonian written documents preserved in clay, located in the British Museum and many other museums around the world. These documents have been painstakingly translated by experts, then compared with each other. They then combined these contemporary documents like puzzle pieces to complete a chronological picture. The comprehensive study of these documents presents the strongest evidence because the data are from primary sources, people who lived during the Neo-Babylonian era. In other words, they were eyewitnesses.

The Babylonians were meticulous in recording everyday mundane activities such as marriages, purchases, land acquisitions, etcetera. They also dated these documents according to the regnal year and name of the current king. In other words, they kept an overwhelming abundance of business receipts and legal records, inadvertently recording a chronological trail for each reigning king during the Neo-Babylonian era. There are so many of these documents chronologically accounted for that the average frequency is one for every few days—not weeks, months or years. So, for every week, experts have documents with the name of a Babylonian king inscribed on it, along with the numbered year of his reign. The complete Neo-Babylonian era has been accounted for by archeologists, and they consider this as primary evidence.  Therefore, the above statement made in The Watchtower article is false.  It requires us to accept without any proof that these archeologists ignore all the evidence they have worked so hard to compile in favor of “the writings of classical historians and the Canon of Ptolemy”.

A Strawman Argument

A classic logical fallacy known as a “strawman argument” consists of making a false claim about what your opponent says, believes or does. Once your audience accepts this false premise, you can proceed to demolish it and appear the winner.  This particular Watchtower article (w11 10/1) utilizes a graphic on page 31 to build just such a strawman argument.

This “Quick Summary” starts off by stating something that is true.  “Secular historians usually say that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.E.”  But anything “secular” is viewed by Witnesses as highly suspect. This bias plays into their next statement which is false: Bible Chronology does not strongly indicate that the destruction occurred in 607 B.C.E.  In fact, the Bible gives us no dates at all.  It only points to the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar reign and indicates that the period of servitude lasts 70 years. We must rely on secular research for our starting date, not the Bible.  (Do you not think that if God wanted us to make a calculation like Witnesses have made, he would have given us a start date in his own word and not required us to lean on secular sources?)  As we’ve seen, the time period of 70 years is not unquestionably linked to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, having laid their foundation, the publishers can now build their strawman.

We’ve already demonstrated that the third statement is not true. Secular historians do not mainly base their conclusions on the writings of classical historians, nor on the canon of Ptolemy, but on hard data acquired from thousands of unearthed clay tablets. However, the publishers expect their readers to accept this falsehood  at face value so that they can then discredit the findings of “secular historians” by claiming they rely on unreliable sources when in fact they rely on the hard evidence of thousands of clay tablets.

Of course, there is still the fact of those clay tablets to deal with.  Notice as follows how the Organization is forced to acknowledge this abundance of hard data that establishes the precise date of Jerusalem’s destruction, yet dismisses it all with an unsubstantiated assumption.

“Business tablets exist for all the years traditionally attributed to the Neo-Babylonian kings. When the years that these kings ruled are totaled and a calculation is made back from the last Neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus, the date reached for the destruction of Jerusalem is 587 B.C.E. However, this method of dating works only if each king followed the other in the same year, without any breaks in between.”
(w11 11/1 p. 24 When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?—Part Two)

The highlighted sentence introduces doubt in the findings of the world’s archeologists, but produces now evidence to back it up.  Are we to assume that the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has uncovered hitherto unknown overlaps and gaps in regnal years which countless dedicated researchers have missed?

This is comparable to dismissing fingerprints of an accused found at the scene of a crime in favor of a written statement from his wife claiming he was at home with her the whole time. These thousands of cuneiform tablets are primary sources. Despite occasional scribal or deciphering errors, irregularities or missing pieces, as a combined set, they overwhelmingly present a cohesive and coherent picture. Primary documents present impartial evidence, because they do not have an agenda of their own. They cannot be swayed or bribed. They merely exist as an unbiased witness who answers questions without uttering a word.

To make their doctrine work, the Organization’s calculations require there to be a 20-year gap in the Neo-Babylonian era that simply cannot be accounted for.

Were you aware that Watchtower publications have actually published the accepted regnal years of the Neo-Babylonian kings without any challenge to them?  This ambiguity seems to have been done unwittingly. You should draw your own conclusions from the data listed here:

Counting backwards from 539 BCE when Babylon was destroyed—a date that both archeologists and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree upon—we have Nabonidus who ruled for 17 years from 556 to 539 B.C.E. (it-2 p. 457 Nabonidus; see also Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1195)

Nabonidus followed Labashi-Marduk who only reigned for 9 month from 557 B.C.E.  He was appointed by his father, Neriglissar who reigned for four years from 561 to 557 B.C.E. after murdering Evil-merodach who reigned for 2 years from 563 to 561 B.C.E.
(w65 1/1 p. 29 The Rejoicing of the Wicked Is Short-lived)

Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years from 606-563 B.C.E. (dp chap. 4 p. 50 par. 9; it-2 p. 480 par. 1)

Adding these years together gives us a starting year for Nebuchadnezzar’s rule as 606 B.C.E.

King End of Reign Length of Reign
Nabonidus 539 B.C.E. 17 years
Labashi-Marduk 557 B.C.E. 9 months (taken a 1 year)
Neriglissar 561 B.C.E. 4 years
Evil-merodach 563 B.C.E. 2 years
Nebuchadnezzar 606 B.C.E. 43 years

Jerusalem’s walls were breached in Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year and destroyed by the 19th year of his reign.

“In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, that is, in the 19th year of King Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the chief of the guard, the servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned down the house of Jehovah, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he also burned down the house of every prominent man.” (2 Kings 25:8, 9)

Therefore, adding 19 years to the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign gives us 587 B.C.E. which is precisely what all the experts agree upon, including unwittingly the Organization based on their own published data.

So, how does the Organization get around this?  Where do they find the missing 19 years to push back the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign to 624 B.C.E. to make their 607 B.C.E. destruction of Jerusalem work?

They do not. They add a footnote to their article which we’ve already seen, but let’s look at it again.

“Business tablets exist for all the years traditionally attributed to the Neo-Babylonian kings. When the years that these kings ruled are totaled and a calculation is made back from the last Neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus, the date reached for the destruction of Jerusalem is 587 B.C.E. However, this method of dating works only if each king followed the other in the same year, without any breaks in between.”
(w11 11/1 p. 24 When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?—Part Two)

What this amounts to is saying that the 19 years must be there because they must be there.  We need them to be there, so they must be there.  The reasoning is that the Bible cannot be wrong, and according to the Organization’s interpretation of Jeremiah 25:11-14, there would be seventy years of desolation which ended in 537 B.C.E. when the Israelites returned to their land.

Now, we agree that the Bible cannot be wrong, which leaves us with two possibilities.  Either the world’s archeological community is wrong, or the Governing Body is misinterpreting the Bible.

Here’s the relevant passage:

“. . .And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”’ “‘And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘their error, even against the land of the Chal·deʹans, and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite. And I will bring in upon that land all my words that I have spoken against it, even all that is written in this book that Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations. For even they themselves, many nations and great kings, have exploited them as servants; and I will repay them according to their activity and according to the work of their hands.’”” (Jer 25:11-14)

You see the problem right off the bat? Jeremiah says that seventy years would end when Babylon is called to account. That was in 539 B.C.E. Therefore, counting back 70 years gives us 609 B.C.E. not 607. So, from the get-go the Organization’s calculations are flawed.

Now, take a hard look at verse 11. It says, “these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon 70 years.” It’s not talking about being exiled to Babylon. It’s talking about serving Babylon.  And it’s not just talking about Israel, but the nations surrounding it as well—”these nations”.

Israel was conquered by Babylon some 20 years before Babylon returned to destroy the city and carry off its population.  At first, it served Babylon as a vassal state, paying tribute.  Babylon also carried away all the intellectuals and youth of the nation in that first conquest. Daniel and his three companions were among that group.

So, the start date of the 70 years isn’t from the point of time when Babylon utterly destroyed Jerusalem, but from the time in which it first conquered all those nations including Israel. Therefore, the Organization can accept 587 B.C.E. as the date in which Jerusalem was destroyed without violating the 70-year prophecy. Yet they have adamantly refused to do this. Instead, they have chosen to willfully ignore the hard evidence and perpetrate a lie.

This is the real issue we need to face.

If this were just the result of imperfect men making honest mistakes due to imperfection, then we might be able to overlook it. We might view this as a theory they have advanced, nothing more. But the reality is that even if it started as a well-meaning theory or interpretation, not really based on evidence, now they have access to the evidence. We all do.  Given this, on what basis do they continue to advance this theory as fact?  If we, sitting in our homes without the benefit of formal education in archeology and the forensic sciences, can learn these things, who much more so the Organization with the significant resources at its disposal?  Yet, they continue to perpetuate a false teaching and aggressively punish anyone who openly disagrees with them—which as we all know is the case.  What does this say about their true motivation? It is up to each one to think seriously on this.  We wouldn’t want our Lord Jesus to have to apply the words of Revelation 22:15 to us individually.

“Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.’” (Re 22:15)

Are the Watchtower researchers ignorant of these facts?  Are they only guilty of a mistake due to imperfection and sloppy research?

We would like to give you one additional resource to ponder:

There is is a Neo-Babylonian primary source whose significance in dating the length of the reign of these kings is something The Watchtower fails to tell us about. This is a tombstone inscription that proves there were no gaps equal to twenty years between these Kings. It supercedes the historians’ accounts because the narrators were there during these kings’ reigns.

This inscription is the short biography of the Queen Mother of King Nabonidus’, Adad-Guppi. This inscription was discovered on a commemorative stone slab in the year 1906. A second copy was found 50 years later in a different excavation site. So now we have corroborative evidence of its accuracy.

On it, the Queen Mother narrates her life, though part of it was completed posthumously by her son, King Nabonidus. She was an eyewitness who lived through the reigns of all the kings from the Neo-Babylonian period.  The inscription gives her age at 104 using the combined years of all the reigning kings and reveals there were clearly no gaps as the Organization contends.  The document referenced is NABON. N°24, HARRAN.  We have reproduced its contents below for your examination.  Additionally, there is a website called Worldcat.org.  If you want to confirm if this document is real and hasn’t been altered. This amazing website will show which library close to you has a relevant book on their shelves. This document is located in The Ancient Near Eastern Texts by James B Pritchard. It is listed under the table of contents under Mother of Nabonidus. Volume 2, page 275 or Volume 3, page 311, 312.

Here is a link to a translation online.

Adad-Guppi Memorial Stone Text

From the 20th year of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, that I was born (in)
until the 42nd year of Assurbanipal, the 3rd year of Asur-etillu-ili,
his son, the 2 I St year of Nabopolassar, the 43rd year of Nebuchadrezzar,
the 2nd year of Awel-Marduk, the 4th year of Neriglissar,
in 95 years of the god Sin, king of the gods of heaven and earth,
(in) which I sought after the shrines of his great godhead,
(for) my good doings he looked upon me with a smile
he heard my prayers, he granted my saying, the wrath
of his heart calmed. Towards E-hul-hul the temple of Sin
which (is) in Harran, the abode of his heart’s delight, he was reconciled, he had
regard. Sin, king of the gods, looked upon me and
Nabu-na’id (my) only son, the issue of my womb, to the kingship
he called, and the kingship of Sumer and Akkad
from the border of Egypt (on) the upper sea even to the lower sea
all the lands he entrusted hither
to his hands. My two hands I lifted up and to Sin, king of the gods,
reverently with imploration [(I prayed) thus, ” Nabu-na’id
(my) son, offspring of my womb, beloved of his mother,]
Col. II.

thou hast called him to the kingship, thou hast pronounced his name,
at the command of thy great godhead may the great gods
go at his two sides, may they make his enemies to fall,
forget not, (but) make good E-hul-hul and the finishing of its foundation (?)
When in my dream, his two hands had been laid on, Sin, king of the gods,
spoke to me thus, ” With thee I will put into the hands of Nabu-na’id, thy son, the return of the gods and the habitation of Harran ;
He shall build E-hul-hul, shall perfect its structure, (and) Harran
more than (it was) before he shall perfect and restore it to its place.
The hand of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku, and Sadarnunna
I. he shall clasp and cause them to enter E-hul-hul “. The word of Sin,
king of the gods, which he spoke to me I honoured, and I myself saw (it fulfilled);
Nabu-na’id, (my) only son, offspring of my womb, the rites
forgotten of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku, and
Sadarnunna he perfected, E-hul-hul
anew he built and perfected its structure, Harran more
than before he perfected and restored it to its place ; the hand
of Sin, Nin-gal, Nusku, and Sadarnunna from
Suanna his royal city he clasped, and in the midst of Harran
in E-hul-hul the abode of their hearts’ ease with gladness
and rejoicing he let them dwell. What from former times Sin, king of the gods,
had not done and had not granted to anybody (he did) for the love of me
who had ever worshipped his godhead, laid hold on the hem of his robe-Sin, king of the gods,
uplifted my head and set upon me a good name in the land,
long days, years of heart’s ease he multiplied upon me.
(Nabonidus): From the time of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, until the 9th year
of Nabu-na’id king of Babylon, the son, offspring of my womb
104 years of happiness, with the reverence which Sin, king of the gods,
placed in me, he made me flourish, my own self : the sight of my two is clear,
I am excellent in understanding, my hand and both feet are sound,
well-chosen are my words, meat and drink
agree with me, my flesh is goodly, glad is my heart.
My descendants to four generations from me flourishing in themselves
I have seen, I am fulfilled (with) offspring. O Sin, king of the gods, for favour
thou hast looked upon me, thou hast lengthened my days : Nabu-na’id, king of Babylon,
my son, to Sin my lord I have devoted him. So long as he is alive
let him not offend against thee ; the genius of favour, genius of favour which (to be) with me
thou hast appointed and they have caused me to attain offspring, with him (too)
appoint (them), and wickedness and offense against thy great godhead
endure not, (but) let him worship thy great godhead. In the 2I years
of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, in the 43 years of Nebuchadrezzar,
son of Nabopolassar, and 4 years of Neriglissar, king of Babylon,
(when) they exercised the kingship, for 68 years
with all my heart I reverenced them, I kept watch over them,
Nabu-na’id (my) son, offspring of my womb, before Nebuchadrezzar
son of Nabopolassar and (before) Neriglissar, king of Babylon, I caused him to stand,
daytime and night he kept watch over them
what was pleasing to them he performed continually,
my name he made (to be) favourite in their sight, (and) like
[a daughter of] their [own] they uplifted my head
Col. III.

I nourished (their spirits), and incense offering
rich, of sweet savour,
I appointed for them continually and
laid ever before them.
(Now) in the 9th year of Nabu-na’id,
king of Babylon, the fate
of herself carried her off, and
Nabu-na’id, king of Babylon,
(her) son, issue of her womb,
her corpse entombed, and [robes]
splendid, a bright mantle
gold, bright
beautiful stones, [precious] stones,
costly stones
sweet oil her corpse he [anointed]
they laid it in a secret place. [Oxen and]
sheep (especially) fattened he [slaughtered]
before it. He assembled [the people]
of Babylon and Borsippa, [with the people]
dwelling in far regions, [kings, princes, and]
governors, from [the border]
of Egypt on the Upper Sea
(even) to the Lower Sea he [made to come up],
mourning an
weeping he performed, [dust ?]
they cast upon their heads, for 7 days
and 7 nights with
they cut themselves(?), their clothes
were cast down(?). On the seventh day
the people(?) of all the land their hair(?)
shaved, and
their clothes
the of their clothes
in(?) their places(?)
they ? to
at meat (?)
perfumes refined he amassed (?)
sweet oil upon the heads [of the people]
he poured out, their hearts
he made glad, he [cheered (?)]
their minds, the road [to their homes]
he did not(?) withhold(?)
to their own places they went.
Do thou, whether a king or a prince .
(Remainder too fragmentary for translation until: –)
Fear (the gods), in heaven and earth
pray to them, [neglect] not [the utterance]
of the mouth of Sin and the goddess
make safe the of thy seed
[ever(?)] and for [ever(?)].

So, it is documented that from the 20th year of Ashurbanipal to the 9th year of his own reign, Nabonidus’ mother, Adad Guppi lived up to *104. She omitted the boy King Labashi-Marduk, as it is believed Nabonidus engineered his murder after he had reigned for some months.

She would have been approximately 22 or 23 when Nabopolasar ascended to the throne.

Age Adad’s + Kings’ Regnal Length
23 + 21 yrs (Nabonassar )= 44
44 + 43 yrs (Nebuchadnezzar)= 87
87 +  2 yrs (Amel-Marduk)= 89
89 + 4 yrs (Neriglissar)= 93
93 Her son Nabonidus ascended to the throne.
+ 9 She passed away 9 months later
*102 Nabonidus’ 9th year

 

*This document records her age as 104. The 2-year discrepancy is well known by experts. The Babylonians didn’t keep track of birthdays so the scribe had to add up her years. He made an error by not accounting for a 2-year overlap of the reign of Asur-etillu-ili, (King of Assyria) with the reign of Naboplassar, (King of Babylon). See page 331, 332 of the book, Gentile Times Reconsidered, by Carl Olof Jonsson for a more in-depth explanation.

There are no gaps as indicated by this simple chart, only an overlap. If Jerusalem had been destroyed in 607 B.C.E., Adad Guppi would have been an unlikely 122 years old when she passed away. Additionally, the years of the kings’ reign on this document match the names/regnal years of each king found on the tens of thousands of Babylonian daily business and legal receipts.

The Witness teaching of 607 B.C.E. as the year of Jerusalem’s destruction is only an hypothesis unsupported by hard evidence. Evidence such as the Adad Guppi inscription consists of established fact. This primary source, the Adad Guppi inscription, destroys the 20-year-gap-between-kings hypothesis. The writers of Aid to Bible Understanding would have been shown the Adad Guppi biography, but there is no mention of it in any of the Organization’s own publications.

“Speak truth each of you with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).

Given this command of God, do you feel that the rank and file were not entitled to see the biography of Adad-Guppi? Should we have not been shown all the evidence The Watchtower’s researchers had found?  Were we not entitled to be able to make an informed decision on what to believe? Look at their own views on sharing evidence.

This command, however, does not mean that we should tell everyone who asks us all he wants to know. We must tell the truth to one who is entitled to know, but if one is not so entitled we may be evasive. (The Watchtower, June 1, 1960, pp. 351-352)

Maybe they don’t know about this inscription, one may think. That is simply not the case.  The Organization is aware of it. They actually refer to it in the article under consideration.  See the Notes section, item 9 on page 31. They even include another misleading statement.

“Also the Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus, (H1B), line 30, has him (Asur-etillu’ili) listed just before Nabopolassar.”  (Again a misleading statement from the Watchtower as they try to claim Ptolemy’s kings’ list is inaccurate because Asur-etillu-ili ”s name isn’t included on his list of Babylonian kings).  In actuality, he was a King of Assyria, never a dual king of Babylon and Assyria. If he was, he would have been included on Ptolemy ‘s list.

So, this is just one of a few items of evidence that the Governing Body is aware of, but the contents of which they have concealed from the rank and file. What else is out there? The next article will provide more primary evidence that speaks for itself.

 

 

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.