Time plays a crucial role in the Watchtower religion. In this article we are going to examine how the concept of time is twisted by the Watchtower in an attempt to absolve Jehovah from the sin of telling the first lie.
Back to the beginning
Let’s go back to the beginning (or very nearly the beginning). When critiquing the Bible, people such as myself are quick to point out that in the book of Genesis God lied to Adam. Jehovah told Adam that in the day he ate from the forbidden tree-of-the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil he would die:
And Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”– Genesis 2:16-17 (NWT)
A talking serpent (“the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made” Genesis 3:1), in contradistinction to God’s pronouncement, told Eve that if she ate the forbidden fruit she would not die, but would become “like God: knowing good and evil:”
At this the serpent said to the woman: “YOU positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of YOUR eating from it YOUR eyes are bound to be opened and YOU are bound to be like God, KNOWING good and bad.” — Genesis 3:4-5 (NWT)
Well, if we take this story literally, both the serpent and Jehovah lied. Eve did, in fact die (eventually). Adam died too, but not in the day that he ate from the tree:
And Adam lived on for a hundred and thirty years. Then he became father to a son in his likeness, in his image, and called his name Seth. And the days of Adam after his fathering Seth came to be eight hundred years. Meanwhile he became father to sons and daughters. So all the days of Adam that he lived amounted to nine hundred and thirty years and he died.
— Genesis 5:3-5 (NWT)
So, the only truthful statement that was made on this occasion (according to the Bible) was that they would “become like God knowing good and evil” — a statement made by the serpent, though Jehovah never contradicted this statement–in fact he affirmed it after the fact:
And Jehovah God went on to say: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad…”
But, did Jehovah God really lie? The Bible elsewhere tells us that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), so in order to save the inerrancy of the Bible, fundamentalists need to somehow make God’s statement seem not to be a lie.
Time to the rescue!
Here is a quote from a real-life active Jehovah’s Witness trying to explain this:
“…a day to Jehovah is a thousand years. … 2 Peter 3:8….. Adam lived 930 years and died! Yep that’s within a day!” [sic] — “Anonymous Coward”
To sum up this Witness explanation: Jehovah is off the hook for saying Adam would die in the “day” he ate the forbidden fruit, because — according to something that someone claiming to be “Peter” wrote centuries later — God really meant a thousand years when he said “day.”
Here’s why the Witness argument is silly:
1. The Bible’s First Definition
The very first instance of the Bible’s defining a word for us is when it defines the word “Day,” and it is not defined as a thousand years. It is defined as “light,” and we’re told that God himself named it:
And God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night. And there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day. — Genesis 1:5
Just so there can be no confusion here, not only is the day equated with light, it is also contrasted with night (which is equated with darkness). And, as if that weren’t enough, we are also told that there was an evening and a morning in that “first day.”
In what sense could a thousand-year period have “an evening and a morning?” It would be ridiculous to think that it was light for 500 years and then dark for another 500 years, with a period of twilight between them representing morning and evening — but that is what it would have to have been if the first “day” were a thousand-year period.
2. Speaking so as to be understood by your hearer.
An important question is: What would Adam have thought God meant by the word “Day”? After all, God was trying to communicate an important warning to Adam, so he would’ve used words in the way Adam would understand them. Otherwise he might as well have been speaking Greek, and it wouldn’t be fair to judge Adam on whether he obeyed a warning he couldn’t comprehend.
So, when God issued his warning, would Adam have thought: “that means I’ll die within 365,000 days if I disobey”? Not likely. If God had taught Adam language, we know how he would’ve defined the word “day” to him — because we have that exact definition in Genesis 1:5: a literal earth-day replete with a morning and evening: dawn and dusk: light and darkness.
Elsewhere, in an attempt to save the inerrancy of the Bible, the Watchtower tells us that God spoke to us in a way we could understand: according to the knowledge available at the time of the writing. So, when the Bible tells us that “the Sun stood still” or that a star “stood over a house” on Earth, etc., it is just because the people of that time thought the Sun moved around the Earth and that stars were small lights stuck up in a “firmament” a short distance above their heads. To be consistent, then, God would’ve used the word “day” in the way his hearer (Adam) would’ve understood it: a literal 24 hour day: God’s own definition, rather than the definition given centuries later by whoever forged the second epistle of “Peter.”
The quote from “Peter” has always seemed to me to just be hyperbole, rather than a precise method for determining biblical time periods. The way that the Watchtower uses the quote completely ignores the context. The epistle was written to Christians who were wondering where Jesus was, since they understood him to have said, in effect: “I’ll be right back.” The writer of this epistle was telling them: “No, Jesus is not late, you just have to be patient, because God has a longer range time-plan than you think: a thousand years is like nothing to him.”
If the “day = 1,000 years” formula is meant to be a “key” to understanding the Bible’s use of the word “day,” then it should be used consistently, not just whenever it would save a doctrine. However–no surprise here–the Watchtower does not use it consistently.
Having touched on the “days of creation” above, it’s curious to note that the official Watchtower doctrine holds that the “days of creation” were not a thousand years each. For most of their history, this religion has held that each day of creation was 7,000 years long:
Thus we find the seventh “day” of the creative week to be seven thousand years long. On the basis of the length of the seventh “day” it is therefore reasonable to conclude that each of the other six “days” also was a period of 7,000 years.
–Watchtower 2/15/1970 p.120
They figured this out by working backwards from 1975 being “6,000 years from Adam’s creation” plus the 1,000 year “Millennium” to round out the 7th day to 7,000 years. So they decided each “creative day” must’ve been 7,000 years long. But since 1975 proved to be a dud, they have since been forced to change their tune: so now they say that each of the days is an indefinite period “thousands of years long”.
And, of course, there are instances where they admit that God speaks of a “day” as a literal 24-hour period, lest the absurdities become too pronounced. For instance, if the Israelites under Joshua’s command were supposed to march around Jericho for seven thousand years–when Jehovah told them to march for seven days–they’d still be marching (Joshua 6:2-4).
Other instances where they say that a “day” is not a thousand years are seen in the Watchtower’s circuitous manner of arriving at the year 1919 for their claimed appointment (by no less than Jesus) as the “Faithful and Discreet Slave Class.” So, let’s take a short digression to review exactly that:
The Tortuous Journey to 1919
1. Arriving at 1914
Okay, first of all you have to establish the year 1914 by taking the “seven times” of Dan. 2 and multiplying by 360 (according to the formula of “a day for a year” — and pretending that a year consists of 360 days instead of 365.) That gives you 2,520 years for the “Gentile Times” [even though in that account King Nebuchadnezzar, representing the Gentile power of that time, was off his throne for those “seven times,” lost to madness and grazing like a cow in the field–we’ll still pretend that the seven times represents the time when gentile kingdoms will rule the Earth before “spiritual Israel” takes over.]
Starting at 1914, you then have to go back in time 2,520 years which brings you to 607 BCE. Now, in order for all of this to work out, you have to pretend that 607 BCE was the year that Jerusalem was destroyed [even though it is known to have occurred in 587 BCE.] Then we have to pretend that we arrived at 1914 by counting seven times from the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 BCE instead of admitting that we went the other way around.
2. Arriving at 1918
To 1914 (October, to be as precise as the Watchtower) we then add the 1,260 days (aka 42 months, or 3 1/2 years) from Revelation 11:2,3 when the “temple is trampled”. Here we use the formula: “a day = a day” to bring us to April, 1918. But nothing happened then, so we arbitrarily stretch it out a couple of months by starting the 42 months in December of 1914 instead of October. That brings us to June, 1918 when the leaders of the Watchtower were imprisoned (which is the closest thing they could find to “trampling the temple.”)
3. Arriving at 1919
To June, 1918 we add the 3 1/2 days of Rev. 11:9, only this time we pretend that a day is about 2-1/2 months (a tad more than 77 days to be precise), so that 3 1/2 days equals 9 months, which brings us to March, 1919 when the Watchtower leaders were released from prison, thus “proving” that they were judged to be the “Faithful and Discreet Slave” by none other than Jesus himself [whom I’m sure would be as surprised as the rest of us to see his parable turned into this convoluted prophecy about some ex-cons]!
So what does a “day” mean in the Bible, according to the Watchtower?
- 1 day
- 77.14 days
- 360 days
- 1 year
- 1,000 years
- 7,000+ years
With such an extensive list it’s easy to give yourself plenty of “wiggle room” for all of your doctrines and prophecies! How could you ever be wrong [at least in your own eyes, and those of your gullible followers]? If one of the above doesn’t fit, you can easily make up yet another new meaning to keep everyone happily bewildered.
As we’ve seen, the Watchtower does not apply its formula of “a day equals a thousand years” consistently. Rather, they try to retrofit the meaning of a “day” in hindsight to fit their preconceived ideas. [In fact–correct me if I’m wrong–but I think the “talking serpent” story is the single instance where they actually apply the “day=1,000 years” formula.]
It’s as if I were to say that “in 10 days the stock-market will crash,” and then when it doesn’t crash until 5 years from now I turn around and say, “well, a ‘day’ meant 1/2 year in that instance,” so I was right.
According to the Bible, Adam and Eve died eventually, but not as a direct result of eating the forbidden fruit. The Bible shows that they still could’ve lived forever if only they had eaten from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22). So, it was not eating from the first tree that killed them; it was not eating from the second tree. The serpent was not lying: and the only liar in the little drama was Jehovah. Which I guess makes him the “father of the lie.”
It would be as if I had a very young son whom I told: “If you eat this Twinky you will die that very day.” But a neighbor-kid tells him truthfully: “You can’t die from eating a Twinky.” Then my son eats the Twinky, and I lock him outside where, after several days, he dies of exposure and starvation. Then I say: “See, I told you you’d die from eating that Twinky — within uh, a ‘day:’ as I interpret ‘days.’ Too bad for you, but the important point is that I am vindicated! I told the truth and that neighbor-kid was lying to you.”
What would you like to say to such a parent? _____________________________!!!
Now, say that to Jehovah, because time has failed to save his reputation.
BTW: I don’t recommend actually eating Twinkies–but it’s better than drinking the Kool-Aid.
Next: Part Two: “Doing Time!”