In early 1994 I wrote a letter to Governing Body member Albert Schroeder, in which I covered material about the Society's history of calculating various periods supposedly related to the "7,000-year creative days". Here is the text, which contains some items pertinent to this thread:
[b]7,000 Year Creative Days[/b]
I told you that one of my earliest difficulties with the Society's teachings had to do with the length of the 7th creative day. I mentioned that I had written to the Society more than 20 years ago to find an answer to my questions about this, but I was not able to remember well enough what I had written to effectively communicate to you the problem I had been concerned with. You referred me to the article "The End of 6,000 Years of Man-Rule Approaches" in the October 1, 1975 [i]Watchtower[/i]. Upon reading this article I began to remember the details, and I would like to explain them to you more properly. I think they contain an important point. Please bear with me and see if you do not agree.
On page 579, para. 1 says that 6,000 years of human history was completed in 1975. Paragraph 2 then states:
[quote]Does this mean, then, that mankind has now reached 6,000 years into the 7,000-year period that God `blessed and made sacred' as his great "rest day"? Does it mean that Christ's millennial Kingdom rule, as the final 1,000 years of that "rest day," is to be reckoned from September 1975?--Gen. 1:27, 31; 2:2, 3; Rev. 20:1-6.[/quote]
Note how the paragraph has [i]assumed[/i] that God's rest day is 7,000 years long, and that the Millennium corresponds to the final 1,000 years of it. These [i]assumptions[/i] are what I was trying to communicate to you. The scriptures cited, of course, do not indicate a time period. What they do indicate, along with Heb. 4:9-11 is that God's rest day began shortly after Adam and Eve's creation, and continues in our day. However, I do not think any scriptures say that Christ's millennial rule would be the final 1,000 years of that rest day, although it is not an unreasonable assumption.
I looked up other references to the length of the creative days, and found perhaps the clearest statement of how the 7,000 year figure is obtained in [i]Good News To Make You Happy,[/i] page 60, para. 6:
[quote]The Bible count of time shows that it is now close to six thousand years since God began `resting' from his creative works on earth. Just ahead of us lies the thousand-year reign of Christ, by the end of which God's purpose of filling the earth with a happy human family will have been accomplished. God's `rest day' will then end. This would indicate that this `rest day' would be of seven thousand years' duration.[/quote]
Again note that the reasoning contains unstated assumptions: our time is approximately 6,000 years from the beginning of the rest day; the 1,000 year reign is about to begin; the assumption that this 1,000 year period is at the end of God's rest day; finally the assumption that this approximate seven thousand year period is [i]precisely[/i] 7,000 years long. Therefore, 6,000 years is assumed to be a significant figure.
In preparing my letter of 20 some years ago I looked up much material in the Society's publications. One article must have been from the February 15, 1970 [i]Watchtower,[/i] which discusses this material in more detail on pages 120-121. The first paragraphs on page 120 say this:
[quote]Jehovah has been enjoying his sabbath or rest from physical creation almost six thousand years now... This accounts for 6,000 years. Is that the length of the seventh day? No,... the "day" must still be continuing. Actually these six thousand years have been, as it were, man's workweek, in which he labored by the sweat of his face. But he will get rest during the coming thousand-year reign of Christ, which Bible chronology and fulfillment of Bible prophecy show is to begin very soon... The seventh one thousand years of the seventh "day" will thus in itself be a sabbath... Thus we find the seventh "day" of the creative week to be seven thousand years long.[/quote]
Another article I checked again is from the October 8, 1966 [i]Awake![/i] It too reasoned that the millennium would be the last 1,000 years of a 7,000-year rest day of God. It said on pages 19-20:
[quote]Does God's rest day parallel the time man has been on earth since his creation? Apparently so. From the most reliable investigations of Bible chronology, harmonizing with many accepted dates of secular history, we find that Adam was created in the autumn of the year 4026 B.C.E. Sometime in that year Eve could well have been created, directly after which God's rest day commenced. In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man's existence and also the first 6,000 years of God's rest day come to an end? The year 1975.[/quote]
Note how these two articles made the same assumptions as [i]Good News To Make You Happy[/i]. As I wrote in my letter of 20 years ago, I see no solid scriptural basis for making these assumptions. I'd like to hear your comments on this.
Some recent publications are more conservative in their approach. For example, the [i]Creation[/i] book says that the "days" of Genesis could have embraced millenniums, but does not specify a number (p. 27). The [i]Reasoning[/i] book handles it the same way (pp. 88, 126). [i]Insight,[/i] Vol. 1, page 545, para. 2, handles it almost this way, but again implicitly assumes that God's rest day ends with the Millennium:
[quote]The Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ, who is Scripturally identified as "Lord of the sabbath" (Mt 12:8), is evidently part of the great sabbath, God's rest day. (Re 20:1-6) This would indicate the passing of thousands of years from the commencement of God's rest day to its end.[/quote]
The August 1, 1989 [i]Watchtower[/i] makes the same assumptions again, on page 27, para. 18.
I think the key concept we should keep in mind is that the Bible does not state that the Millennium closes God's great rest day.
Why do I think this material is important? I can think of four major reasons:
(1) As I explained in our phone conversation, back in the early 1970s I had wanted to understand the basis for our expectation that 1975 might bring the end of the system of things. It is always desirable to know why one believes what one believes. To do that one must understand [i]all[/i] of one's underlying assumptions. When I found, over the years, that the assumptions you and I have been discussing were never clearly enunciated in Watchtower publications, even after the Society's reply to me clearly stated that these were just assumptions, I was naturally disappointed.
(2) If 6,000 years has any meaning as an exact number, then Jesus, being the one through whom God created everything else, and angels, being witnesses to all that creative activity, as Job 38:7 seems to indicate, would have been able to figure out when the final end of the system would come. But Jesus said explicitly: "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36) For these reasons I think the assumptions we've discussed must be incorrect.
(3) Most Witnesses continue to believe that each creative day was literally 7,000 years long. I'm sure you are aware that this figure results in a time span for the existence of life on earth very different from the results geologists have found. You should know that many informed Witnesses are very uncomfortable with this implied dating, and would be very happy if the Society would either prove it, or else change its view. If we simply accept that the Bible does not say that the Millennium closes God's great rest day, then unlimited time is available for Jehovah's creating of life, because the length of the rest day is unknown.
(4) The historical background of the assumption of a 7,000 year creative week along with Messiah's rule at its end shows that it is not part of scripture. The enclosed photocopies show that it is an old rabbinic tradition going back to the 2nd century B.C.E. Surely Jehovah's people need to be wary of such traditions. C. T. Russell recognized this tradition in [i]The Time Is At Hand,[/i] saying on page 39:
[quote]And though the Bible contains no direct statement that the seventh thousand will be the epoch of Christ's reign, the great Sabbath Day of restitution to the world, yet the venerable tradition is not without reasonable foundation.[/quote]
A publication edited by Joseph Seiss, which the new [i]JV[/i] book mentions on page 134 as having pointed to 1914 as a significant date, also referred to the ancient tradition. The January, 1870 issue of [i]The Prophetic Times,[/i] Vol. VIII No. 1, page 12, said:
[quote]It has been a very old, and a very widely accredited theory, that the world, of which Adam was the beginning, is to continue 6000 years in its secular, ailing and toiling condition; and that the seventh thousand is to be one of glorious sabbatic rest, ushered in by the winding up of this present age or dispensation.[/quote]
Another 19th century author mentioned by the [i]JV[/i] book, E. B. Elliott, in the 5th edition of [i] Horae Apocalypticae,[/i] Vol. 3, on page 140, said:
[quote]... I mean the argument from the seven days of creation. "The words of the prophet Elias should be marked by every one, and inscribed upon our walls, and on the entrances of our houses. Six thousand years shall this world stand, and after that be destroyed: 2000 years without the law; 2000 years under the law of Moses; 2000 years under the Messiah ...[/quote]
See also the references to footnote 2, in Vol. 1, pp. 231, 396.
A third author mentioned by the [i]JV[/i] book, John A. Brown, in [i]The Even-Tide,[/i] Vol. 2, page 65, speaking of the same rabbinic tradition, added some perspective to the opinion of the Jewish scholars:
[quote]Whether this opinion be well or ill founded, it is a point worthy of consideration, being generally received among them as little less genuine than their own sacred scriptures: but credit must be given to it only as confirmed by the sacred pages. The tradition so universally held among the Jews, no doubt influenced the minds of the first Jewish converts, and through them the successors of the Apostles; but, like many other traditions, has been rejected as fabulous by another body of Christians, equally respectable and worthy to be believed; and we may rest assured that, had there been any thing worthy of credit, or that could be considered as a Divine revelation, some one of the prophets, or of the sacred historians, would have recorded it for the instruction of future ages. I would refer, however, to Mede for more full information of the ancient opinions upon this subject, and would only give the substance of the celebrated traditions of the most learned Jewish Rabbies.[/quote]
The tradition is referred to in Ainsworth's [i]Annotations[/i] of 1626, of which I've enclosed a copy. Interestingly, the [i]Aid[/i] book discusses this reference of Ainsworth on page 1427, under "Sabbath Day." It also makes the same assumptions I discussed above. The discussion of this topic in the [i]Insight[/i] book is more circumspect and concludes nothing definite about the length of God's rest. The idea of judgments related to 1,000 year time periods can even be found in Plato's writings [i]The Republic[/i] and [i]Phaedrus[/i], as well as in the beliefs of the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism.
The tradition is explicitly stated in the "New Testament Apocryphal" book (possibly 1st century C.E.) [i]The Epistle of Barnabas,[/i] Ch. 13, which states:
[quote]Furthermore it is written concerning the sabbath, in the Ten Commandments, which God spake in the Mount Sinai to Moses, face to face; Sanctify the sabbath of the Lord with pure hands, and with a clean heart. And elsewhere he saith; If thy children shall keep my sabbaths, then will I put my mercy upon them. And even in the beginning of the creation he makes mention of the sabbath. And God made in six days the works of his hands; and he finished them on the seventh day, and he rested the seventh day, and sanctified it.
Consider, my children, what that signifies, he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this; that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. For with him one day is a thousand years; as himself testifieth, saying, Behold this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, shall all things be accomplished. And what is that he saith, And he rested the seventh day: he meaneth this; that when his Son shall come, and abolish the season of the Wicked One, and judge the ungodly; and shall change the sun and the moon, and the stars; then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day. [From [i]The Lost Books of the Bible,[/i] pp. 160-2][/quote]
I should apologize for beating this issue to death, but I really do think it is a significant one. I would certainly appreciate your specific comments.