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Confusion Regarding the “Generation of 1914” Change

[Quotes from the Watchtower, including their New World Translation, are in blue.]


The fall of 1995 saw the demise of “the generation of 1914” doctrine, a major Watchtower doctrine.  For the benefit of those who have come into the Organization after that momentous event, we give a brief overview.  The long-standing teaching was that the generation that witnessed the events of 1914 would live to see Armageddon; a review of the publications up to 1995 will show how important this doctrine was.  The new teaching, dropped like a bombshell in 1995, is that the word “generation” in Luke 21:32 should not be understood in terms of a fixed age or length of time.  The Watchtower’s announcement sent shock waves through the Organization, and it isn’t strange that there was continuing fallout after this re-interpretation.  Just because the old doctrine has been expunged from WT literature, does not mean that the ramifications have been forgotten by long-time Witnesses, nor that it should be!     


How’s that again?

The WT calls the new teaching an “updated” and “improved” understanding and reassures Witnesses that the end of the system is still near despite the fact that it is now disconnected from the 1914 generation.  (Clearly the WT cannot afford to have Witnesses lose the incentive for work that date-setting has always provided them!) 

Considerable confusion resulted when this well-established doctrine of the 1914 generation was suddenly dismissed as “speculation” [1]  (WT, Nov. 1, 1995)!  Both the May 1, and June 1, 1997 Questions from Readers reflected Jehovah’s Witnesses’ ongoing difficulty in swallowing this change. Every seasoned Witness knows that the former understanding was said to be “the Creator’s Promise” and  “Jehovah’s prophetic word”. (Emphasis added)


WT Excuses

In discussing the “updated understanding” [2], the WT says, “It must be acknowledged that we have not always taken Jesus’ words in that sense.  There is a tendency for imperfect humans to want to be specific about the date when the end will come.  Recall that even the apostles sought more specifics, asking:  ‘Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?’ - Acts 1:6.  With similar sincere intentions, God’s servants in modern times have tried to derive from what Jesus said about ‘generation’ some clear time element calculated from 1914.” (WT, June 1, 1997, p28)


But, wait a minute ...

Four points need to be made in response to this WT quote:

1.   The WT leaders excuse themselves as “imperfect humans”.  But they claimed to be speaking “Jehovah’s prophetic word” and “the Creator’s promise”. 

2.   The WT leaders compare themselves to the apostles. But the apostles were only asking a question.  The WT, on the other hand, made a false prediction in Jehovah’s Name.  (The apostles wrote authoritatively after Pentecost.)

3.   Because of it’s faulty presupposition, the WT persists in attaching some significance to the date 1914 even though the date it rests on, 607 BCE, is now rejected by scholars as the date for the destruction of Jerusalem.

4.   The WT leaders refer to themselves as “God’s servants in modern times”.   This is circular reasoning, as that is precisely what is in question.  In fact, the failure of their prophecies leads us to conclude they are not God’s servants.


Written by Greta Olsoe

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[1] When their prophecies fail or major teachings are dumped the WT has a reserve of favorite terms to cover it up; if you are a Witness you will recognize these useful words: “old light”, “misunderstanding”, “misapplication” , “overoptimism” “unfulfilled expectations”, “misplaced expectations”, “premature expectations”, “unrealized hopes”, “conjectures”, “erroneous views”, “mistakes”, “misconceptions”, “false predictions” etc.  But never what they truly are, “false prophecies”!


[2] Another list of useful words for the replacements for these “mistakes” are: “new light”, “flashes of light”, “adjustments” “updated understanding”, “improved understanding” (May 1, June 1, 97) and “refined understanding” (Aug. 1, 97), etc.