:Thanks for all the replies everyone. All this research can be exhausting but I want to make sure I well prepared for every possible question and argument.
Believe me, you will never get through the conflict of information regarding the dating for the fall of Jerusalem. Therefore, I think it is simply important for you to hear the basic arguments. Even with that there are just a few possible dates to consider as far as the fall of Jerusalem. Here's the basic conflicts:
The Bible, Josephus and JWs all acknowledge that there was a literal 70-year desolation occurring beginning either the year Jerusalem fell or at the time of the last deportation. Josephus at Ant. 11.1.1 dates the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy and the servitude of the poor people at the last deportation as fulfilling the 70 years. It is this critical reference which divide the waters as to which path you are going to take in the fall of Jerusalem debate in my opinion. Here it is:
[Q]Ant. 11.1.1 "In the first year of the reign of Cyrus, which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they has served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that SERVITUDE seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their timple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity; and these things God did afford them."[/Q]
This is the critical problem since based upon the above, not only is Josephus confirming a literal 70 years of desolation but he is not beginning it until the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar at the time of the last deportation. Taken for face value, this means that Josephus is completely contradicting both the 607BCE and the 587BCE chronology. The 607BCE chronology based upon 70 years from 537BCE is erroneous since the 70 years did not begin when Jerusalem fell in the 18th/19th year but 4 years later in the 23rd year. 587BCE is a gonner since there is not enough time for the 74-year interval from 587BCE to 537BCE which is only 50 years.
You must, therefore, recognize that the Jewish secular source for this dating and the secular records are in conflict for this period by 26 years and there is nothing to resolve it. Someone will try to tell you that Josephus changed his mind about the 70 years later in his reference in "Against Apion" (1.21) about a 50-year period of desolation, but in the SAME WORK (1.19) he again asserts a 70-year desolation period, so he did not change this reference. Instead, the reference to the 50 vs 70 years reflects the two kingship dates for Cyrus with respect to the desolation, when he became king in in Persia and then later in Babylon, which are 20 years apart (559 vs 539).
Having noted that, the only really critical issue at this point is whether or not the Bible is in concert with the 70 years beginning in the 23rd year. The answer is yes!
Thus the next most critical reference is in the Bible in Zechariah 1 and 7 where it is recorded that 70 years elapsed after the denunciation of the cities (i.e. destruction of Jerusalem) in the 2nd year of "Darius" and another 70 years expired after the mourning for Gedeliah in the 7th month dated the 4th year of "Darius". But the context of Zechariah shows that the Jews were still in exile during this time since God had not yet shown "mercy to the cities" thus had not allowed the people to retun as yet. In the 2nd of Darius they were asking: "O Jehovah of armies, how long will you yourself not show mercy to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah, whom you have denounced these seventy years?"
And in the 4th of Darius there are also several references proving the Jews were still in exile including 8:8 "And I shall certainly bring them in, and they must reside in the midst of Jerusalem."
HARMONIZING JOSEPHUS WITH ZECHARIAH: Therefore, if the Jews were still in exile in the 2nd and 4th of Darius, this must be Darius the MEDE! If so, then the Bible confirms that the Jews would have still been in exile up to 72 years after the fall of Jerusalem! This is consistent with the Jews not beginning the last 70 years until the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar which would have seen them returning 74 years after the fall of Jerusalem.
So there is harmony between the Bible and Josephus for the 70 years of desolation beginning in the 23rd year and a direct Biblical reference to the Jews being in exile up to 72 years after the fall of Jerusalem.
That being the case, there is no way possible that 587BCE is a valid date per the Bible since there is simply not enough time for this 74-year period.
Both the Bible and Josephus critically challenge the popular Neo-Babylonian dating for this period and especially the 587BCE dating since it is too short. If you accept the Bible or Josephus, then there is no choice but to accept the Neo-Babylonian dating was revised and is in error.
So, at this point, unless you are doubting the Bible, you don't need to look further at the 587BCE dating arguments since they will NEVER EVER WORK out in comparison to the Bible.
So my advice, if you just want to prove 1914 is wrong, without getting into all the arguments, is simply to point out the 70 years did not begin until the 23rd year, which is 4-5 years after when the Society says it does. That proves 607BCE is wrong by 4-5 years no matter what according to both Josephus and the Bible.
That is a happy medium for you as far as the ancient dating and knowing that 607BCE and 587BCE are unreliable and in conflict with the Bible.
YOU CHOICE: Now, it's your choice to go with arguments regarding whether the Bible and Josephus are incorrect about the dating or whether you are going to stick with the Bible as being true. But you can't have it both ways.
IF YOU GO WITH THE BIBLE: Now, if you go with the Bible, you need to consider 2 possible dates for the fall of Jerusalem basically based upon whether the 70 weeks prophecy is fulfilled by Cyrus or in the 20th of Artaxerxes. That's the two Biblical arguments on the books.
20th of Artaxerxes: If you think the 70 weeks was fulfilled by Artaxerxes in his 20th year, then you can deal with arguments about adjusting his 20th year to 455BCE, since that's the date the 70 weeks must begin to match up with 29CE. The WTS adjusts both the reign of Xerxes (reduced 10 years) making him a co-ruler with Darius, and extends the rule of Artaxerxes I from 41 years to 51 years to move the 20th of Artaxerxes from 445 BCE (secular) to 455BCE.
1st of Cyrus: But others, like myself, believe the prophecy about the "word going forth to rebuild Jerusalem" must be dated to the 1st of Cyrus when they first began to rebulid the city. In that case, you are forced to date the 1st of Cyrus in 455BCE. From this point, though, you have to deal with another date for the fall of Jerusalem based upon Josephus and the Bible which is 74 years earlier than 455BCE which is 529BCE. Of course, there are lots of arguments about that.
So, what I suggest, since probably you still will be confused or at least in doubt about what to really conclude, is simply to accept the three possible dates, 607, 587 or 529BCE and calculate the "end of the gentile times" if you want from either of these dates which give you 1914, 1934 and 1992.
No matter what and how much research you do which could take months and years, with lots of bias from everybody (ncluding myself), you still will only be debating about those three dates, 607, 587 or 529BCE.
But remember, the Bible nor Josephus can accommodate the 607BCE or the 587BCE dating. There is conflict. Biblical harmony is possible with the 529BCE dating since it is based upon the 74-year interval from the fall of Jerusalem to the 1st of Cyrus (529 to 455BCE).
So have fun, but realize you can't have it both ways. If you accept the Bible as true, upon which you life may depend, then you have to chuck both 607BCE and 587BCE and at least consider as a possible date, 529BCE as the correct date for the fall of Jerusalem.
If not,then you should consider the fall of Jerusalm as INCONCLUSIVE per the current research and play with the options of either of the 3 dates, remembering that 607BCE and 587BCE can't ever be Biblically correct. You'll have to doubt the Bible and Josephus and dismiss them both if you want to embrace 587BCE or 607BCE. There is no other choice here.
But as I said, if you want to avoid trying to become an expert on this dating or any conflicts with various persons promoting one date or another, the easiest way to know 1914 is wrong is simply to understand the 70 years began at the time of the last deportation!!
The people who were last deported were those remaining ones who had ran down to Egypt who did return to Jerusalem/Judah as Jeremiah 44:14 and 28 says. So there WERE people in the land right up until the 23rd year at the time of the last deportation and thus the 70 years did not begin until the last Jews were removed off their land which was not until the last deportation in the 23rd year. That means dating the 70 years from the fall of Jerusalem is a simple mathematical error and if you insist upon the Jews returning in 537BCE you must date the fall of Jerusalem 74 years earlier than 537 which would be 612BCE, and that, of course, throws off 1914 by 4 years to 1910. But at least you know 1914 is wrong and you have a firm basis for dismissing the witnesses as FALSE PROPHETS with confidence. And you can do that now without any worry about the other research as to when the fall of Jerusalem really occurred. At least you can do that from your own Bible and from Josephus with no problem.
So I suggest you focus on that which can be easily understood and without any additional research. You will have accomplished your goal. Then if you want to really look at all the arguments for 587 vs 607 vs 529 BCE that will be a major undertaking and your choice. But at least you know going into it that 587BCE is never going to be Biblical and that 607BCE is also wrong Biblically. 612BCE and 529BCE are the only dates that would be Biblically correct as far as the 74-year interval required by Josephus.
So have fun and best wishes for leaving the witnesses, but don't leave the Bible. It will always prove to be true, regardless of the fact that the organization has failed and is a false prophet, just as you can see.
And go out and celebrate that the "truth has set you free!" It's great being away from the organization!!! No more jive elders to deal with or jive Watchtower propaganda about Jehovah's channel!