The Shifting Sands of Interpretation

by refiners fire 12 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • refiners fire
    refiners fire

    Pondering upon the shifting sands of Watchtower interpretation down the years, it is worthwhile to consider just one example of one scripture. We could look at many scriptures and establish ongoing shift, but here we will look at the ongoing shift of understanding relevant to the scripture at Revelation 16 v 3 as an example:

    “And the second poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man, and every living soul died, even the things that were in the sea”….

    In the book THE FINISHED MYSTERY (1917) this second bowls outpouring signified the release of Pastor Russells 2 nd volume of Studies in the Scriptures. “The Time is at Hand”. The fact that this previously held interpretation has been completely abandoned is well known among those who research their Watchtower history, yet in fact, the understanding of this scripture continues to shift even into our own day, as I will demonstrate.

    Now it is most interesting that, by the year 1930, when the book “Light” was written, the Watchtower organization had established HOW and WHEN these bowls were poured out with the greatest of precision. The notion of 7 Conventions and 7 resolutions (the interpretation still held today) is fully established in the “Light” book.

    However, down the years, the understanding of WHO these bowls of wrath were poured upon has been subject to much reinterpretation:

    LIGHT. (1930) page 23,24 / “ The beginning of the pouring out of the second bowl dated from August 25 th , 1923, when, at the Los Angeles convention Gods people sent forth the resolution ‘A Warning’….The pouring out of this bowl was ‘into the sea’ and the wicked class that exploits the people of the earth. The clergy who had held themselves forth as Gods representatives…are the wicked ones of the sea that stir up the filth and mud thereof”…

    There is no absolute specification in the book as to who this “class” is that “exploits the people”, though the book "Light" in connection with all these bowls, generally talks about BIG BUSINESS and CORRUPT POLITICIANS. And of Course, Wicked Clergymen of “Christendom”. By the year 1963 the understanding of what the outpouring of this bowl signifies has changed radically:

    BABYLON THE GREAT HAS FALLEN (1963) page 534 / …” The restless, unsettled, revolutionary elements and the militaristic elements, symbolized by the sea, also come under a divine plague”..…”Revolution occurred in Russia in 1917 and the ungodly Bolsheviks or Communists came to power. They imposed a radically different political scheme on Russia. They believed in world revolution by violent means and by crafty subversiveness. Ever since then they have endeavored to keep the world in an unsettled state”

    No longer is “Big Business” the target of the second bowl. Now the book goes on for some 6 pages and is focused upon COMMUNISM. One would certainly interpret that the 2 nd bowls outpouring was directly upon Revolutionary Soviet Communism specifically.

    BABYLON (1963) page 540 /…”from God's standpoint. All the radicals, revolutionaries and the pushers for world domination by ungodly Communism were judicially viewed as dead by Jehovah and his witnesses. Radicalism's program of human government, as against God's heavenly kingdom, came forth from the "dead" and held forth no hope of life”

    Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that in the early 1960s when this book was written there was a lot of paranoia about Russian Communism, especially after the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ in 1962. By the year 1988, however, when the next book interpreting Revelation was published, the focus of the 2nd bowls outpouring had shifted from Russian Communism (which was a much depleted power) to something more vague and insubstantial. As the book “REVELATION. ITS GRAND CLIMAX AT HAND” (1988) shows . Page 223:

    “ This bowl is directed against ‘the sea’, the seething, rebellious mass of humanity alienated from Jehovah…In Jehovahs eyes this ‘sea’ is like blood, unfit for creatures to live in…..By reason of community responsibility, mankind is guilty of gross shedding of innocent blood”

    And that is all the book says about the second bowl. Actually, the ‘bowls’ of Revelation 16, in recent years, have become secondary to the ‘trumpets’ of Revelation 8. The book does say, on page 220, that :

    “ the targets of the first 4 bowls correspond to those of the first 4 trumpet blasts”.

    Now about this second ‘trumpet’ (which apparently is the same thing as the second ‘bowl’) the book says, on page 135:

    “The question of Government became a burning issue among mankind, especially in the lands of Christendom. In Italy, Mussolini introduced Fascism. Germany embraced Hitlers Nazism, while other countries tried different forms of Socialism….in Russia, the Bolshevik revolution produced the first Communist state.

    So the malais caused by the second bowls outpouring is now much more sweeping than it has been previously. Indeed, page 136 shows that the interpretation involves all forms of experiment in social organization and ALL ATTEMPT AT HUMAN GOVERNMENT :

    “ In Greece an experiment in military dictatorship failed…In Kampuchea an excursion into fundamentalist communism resulted in a reported 2 million deaths….Ongoing struggles over government are reported in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific Islands

    One can see the trend has been away from specifics towards generalization, a trend one would expect to continue as more time passes. As the passage of time demonstrates the Watchtower to be in error in its interpretations those interpretations will become more intangible. We have seen this recently with the ‘generation’ becoming, no longer, a literal generation but a figurative ‘generation’ of a specific mindset. The Watchtower will unquestionably continue to water down and spiritualize its interpretations of scripture until they are so intangible and general that they are impossible to disconfirm.

  • refiners fire
    refiners fire

    The principle stands true relative to the outpouring of the 5 th bowl in Revelation 16 v 10:

    “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast, and his kingdom was full of darkness, and they gnawed their tongues for pain”

    The book “LIGHT” (1930) Page 31, 32:

    “The beast is Satans organization on earth, manifested particularly in the seventh head thereof, which is Great Britain…The ‘seat of the Beast’ …would also properly refer to that part of Satans organization occupying the place of greatest prominence…The doctrine of the Divine right of Kings to rule the people of Earth is clearly involved…Who gives authority to the ruling powers? That was the issue raised and settled by the people of God at London, England, May 28 th , 1926. The Lord by his angel had prepared the bringing forth of a resolution…. It was called “A testimony to the rulers of the world

    The book very definitely indicates that this second bowl is directed at the British Throne, however, by 1963 understanding has altered somewhat:

    BABYLON (1963) Page 551:

    “We have observed that throughout the past millenniums of time the "wild beast" with its seven heads had had one after the other of these seven world powers take the leading place in the world's political field. Hence the capital city representing the dominant world power has changed with the change in political control. Between World War I and World War II the Anglo-American Dual World Power continued to be the Seventh World Power, and the British Empire was still the stronger member, its capital being London, England.

    However, the symbolic "throne of the wild beast" does not necessarily mean the leading capital of the world power, London. After World War II, the United States became the stronger of the dual world power

    The decline of Britains authority as a world power has caused the WT thinktank to water down the intertpretation. From this point on, the “seat of the beast” will never be definitely fixed in any one place.

  • Maverick

    Great research! These pronouncements were made with great drama and intent. And the RF gasped and sighed at the revealing of such deep understandings by the FDS. The air was filled with excitement that God had shared this knowledge with them! Too bad it was all BS! Yes the air was filled, not with excitement and knowledge, but with excrement and nonsense! And so it continues! Maverick

  • refiners fire
    refiners fire

    ..."not with excitement and knowledge, but with excrement and nonsense"....

    Did you make that up yourself? That is very good. Surely we must file that away for future use

  • Gopher

    Thanks for that research on the "evolving" understandings of the Watchtower society on these verses.

    If the light is getting BRIGHTER, as they say, then of course things would get more specific and clear. However as you pointed out, their interpretations are leaving things more vague and unanswered (so as not to be pinned down or proven wrong).

    The light is not growing brighter. The dim bulbs in Brooklyn, New York are turning the dim switch so things get darker, darker and their adherents continue to cling to them in spite of all this.

  • refiners fire
    refiners fire

    Goph. I cant think of many things left that ARENT spiritualized or mystified .

    The "Generation" is gone for good. The only definite thing I can think of immediately thats left in their predictive theories is the UNITED NATIONS. I suppose that will be non literalized next when it gets replaced on the world scene by some other org. When that happens, any major international movement proclaiming 'peace' will be labelled this decades 'scarlet coloured beast'.

  • Pistoff

    refiner's fire wrote:

    The only definite thing I can think of immediately thats left in their predictive theories is the UNITED NATIONS. I suppose that will be non literalized next when it gets replaced on the world scene by some other org.

    Already happening my friend; check the thread about the backing away from calling the scarlet colored beast the UN; now the beast that attacks G the B and then casts an eye on God's people is unknown; "the Bible does not give us details" are the comical words used.

    No kidding, it doesn't give details; that did not stop them from proclaiming for 50 years that the UN was the beast, was ridden by the harlot B the G, and it would turn on religion.

    NOW it is unknown; however, at the same time they say it is unknown, they say that the bible gives indicators to tell us who it is!!!!

    Go figure.

  • onacruse

    RF, I'm disappointed: you obviously haven't been "reading so as to understand" the Watchtowers (1930, p. 7)(bold added):

    24) Former things concerning God’s purposes that did come to pass were understood after the Lord came to his temple and the lightnings of Jehovah illuminated his Word. This same class then see new things which God has declared. In the light of prophecy in the course of fulfilment, and of the further illumination thereof by Jehovah, the remnant class is permitted to see other things that are shortly to follow, concerning which the Lord says: “Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Jehovah takes the remnant into his confidence in a measure by revealing to them the precious things that are in his keeping, These have a better understanding than ever before of what the great battle of God Almighty will mean and how Jehovah will vindicate his name. They understand that he has not restrained evil before this time and that the real purpose is that his word and name might be completely vindicated. Those who are not of the “servant” do not see and appreciate present truth, nor do they see or appreciate other things of the divine purpose that are about to come to pass.

    25) Well do the facts as they exist fit this prophecy. Since the Lord came to his temple, assembled the members of Zion, and made them part of the servant of Jehovah, his purposes continue to unfold with clearness to the remnant. Such have the full assurance of God’s protecting care. No longer are they seeking to ascertain the will of God, but his will has been revealed to them and they delight to keep his commandments and their joy increases. The spirit of the Lord energizes them and they hasten to take advantage of opportunities to serve Jehovah and give praise to his name.

    May you prostrate yourself before the Lord and his Servant Ruthy, that they may have mercy on your miserable carcass.


  • refiners fire
    refiners fire

    Pist and Craig:

    “ The Beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition, and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life.,..”

    The book “light” (1930) page 94, says about this “beast”:

    It came into existence in 1899 and functioned until the World War. It then went into the Abyss and ceased to function. After the World War it came out of the abyss or pit and and began to function again in the form of the League of Nations”.

    The organization, in 1930, apparently had some problems demonstrating that the “Hague International Peace Conference” convened in 1899, was a legitimate precursor to the resurrected beast out of the pit. Some 6 pages of very verbose “proof” follow.

    On page 103 of “light” it says:

    “ It does seem marvelous to the people that this world confederacy for peace was killed and disappeared from 1914 to 1918 and then appeared again. And therefore they give their honor and worship to the beast (Revelation 13 v 8)”

    Hence this is the same beast of Revelation 13v 3. The one of whom it was written “ I saw one of its heads as though slaughtered to death , but the death stroke got healed…”

    Not only that, but:

    “ The beasts ascending out of the pit marked the time when this abomination was set up, which is the astonishing abomination spoken of by the Prophet. (Daniel 12 v 11)…”

    page 107 says:

    “ There are 55 recognized countries in the League … These all give their military, financial, moral and religious support to the ‘scarlet colored beast’ which is the ‘image’…they have all combined for the express purpose of making war on the Lords anointed”

    In this instance I think the Faithful and Discreet Slave ‘ran ahead’ of Jehovahs level of understanding for them. After a couple of incidents like this and getting caught with their predictive pants down, I think maybe they exercize a bit more due caution. Unfortunately, NOTHING theyve ever predicted occurred as expected. Pretty damning indictment that one.

  • TheOldHippie

    Pistoff, that is a slight misunderstanding, I think; unknown is not the role of the United Nations, but who is the King of the North; it is who he is, they are warned against speculating about, not the role played / to be played by the UN.

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