Questions and thoughts on the "1914 generation" doctrine, a brief history

by run dont walk 4 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • run dont walk
    run dont walk

    well, its been 8 years since the last change in the "generation" term, i have seen lots of questions and great topics on this.

    I would like to cover it from top to bottom (briefly, dont want to write an encyclopedia), and get your opinions, and see if i am right or way off track !!!!!

    Here we go,

    1879 Russell beging Zions watchtower, and predicts end of the world by 1914, and all following him will go to heaven.

    Now, lets remember something here, Russell NEVER taught about a paradise earth, 144,000, generation ideas, or called god Jehovah.

    So in reality the Jehovahs Witness Organization started with Rutherford (and what a piece of work he was) in 1916-1917 or so.

    Rutherford assumes control of the organization, proceeds to disfellowship or fire all people in charge and replaces them with his own choices, thus causing new religions to start (Russellites etc.), predicts end of the world in 1925 (when this does not happen, Rutherford loses approx 25% of his following), builds Beth Sarim, for Abrahams return to earth, and as he said "made a complete ass of myself."

    then the generation theory begins,

    1920's (?)

    Rutherford teaches a generation lasts 30-40 years, christ died in 33 ad and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 ad, 37 years, therefore would it not make sense that god would bring an end to this system in that time peiod. (1914 + 37 years = 1951 or so)

    If you are a religious leader who want to keep your followers on their toes, you don't propose the end of the world many years into the future. You propose it will come real soon. Thus, the maximum length of "this generation" did not become an issue for the Jehovah's Witnesses before approaching this limit. The length of a generation as Jesus' audience would have understood it in the first century was 30-40 years.
    The question being asked by the disciples was when the temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed. This happened in the year 70 AD, being between 30 and 40 years after Jesus' words. "The length of time is indicated by him when he said, "Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur." (Matt. 24:34, NW) The actual meaning of these words is, beyond question, that which takes a "generation" in the ordinary sense, as at Mark 8:12 and Acts 13:36, or for those who are living at the given period." (Watchtower, Jul 1 1951, page 404; bold added)
    "By keeping the people ignorant they led them into having Jesus killed on a torture stake at Calvary. Thirty-seven years later this willfully cultivated ignorance led to its fatal consequences, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem with an enormous loss of human lives, just as Jesus had predicted, and the breaking up of the Jewish nation till this day. And now in this "time of the end" the revived nation of Israel with capital at the modern city of Jerusalem chooses to go on in the steps of its forefathers . . ." (Watchtower Sep 1 1950 page 277; see also Oct 1 1950 page 407; bold added)

    1952 they reword the generation term, to 70-80 years,

    1960's Watchtower says that those living at the time of 1914 and could understand the events around them (quote those 15 years or older) , this generation will by no means pass away.

    1968: those who were 15 years old in 1914
    However, "speculative" proved to be just what the Watchtower Society was. At this time, the whole JW community was firmly focused on the year 1975, which coincided quite well with the maximum length of a generation, provided one did not start counting at zero: "Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the 'last days' began. . . . Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of 'this generation' nearly 70 years old today." Awake! Oct 8 1968 page 13; bold added, italic in original)
    Of course, this figure was not chosen randomly. The 70-80 years idea would fit perfectly with 1975, when those who had been 15 years old in 1914 would be 76 years old!

    1978 quote "babies born during WW1, would not be part of the generation"

    1978 : 'not babies born during World War I'
    Even after the 1975-failure, the speculation over length of the generation continued. The figure fifteen was not repeated, but the WTS used a definition that would keep a sense of urgency. "Thus, when it comes to the application in our time, the "generation" logically would not apply to babies born during World War I. It applies to Christ's followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus' composite "sign."" (Watchtower Oct 1 1978 page 31; bold added)

    1980, rewords 1960's theory to 10 years old or more, buys them a few more years.

    1984 just six yearss after saying no babies born, changes it to say all of those born before or during 1914, this generation would by no means pass away

    1984 : babies part of generation after all
    God failed to arrive, and the Society felt the need to reverse what was 'logical' in 1978, and the idea that the generation had to be able to consciously understand what was going on was left behind. Conscious thought is obviously not important in this organization anyway: "If Jesus used "generation" in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80's or 90's, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive." (Watchtower May 15 1984 page 5; bold added)

    1985 all those are 71 or older


    1988: babies born in 1914
    The limit was pushed yet a little bit forward when the term "generation of 1914" was being used. Now those born in 1914 was part of the generation. "Likewise today, most of the generation of 1914 has passed away. However, there are still millions on earth who were born in that yearor prior to it." (Watchtower Apr 8 1988 page 14; bold added) Of course, it was now a dead end.
    1988: a generation 75 years?
    Small hints, significant enough to raise expectations but vague as to not cause signficant disappointment when it failed, was dropped all the time. Perhaps 1989 would be it? "J. A. Bengel states in his New Testament Word Studies: "The Hebrews . . . reckon seventy-five years as one generation, and the words, shall not pass away, intimate that the greater part of that generation [of Jesus' day] indeed, but not the whole of it, should have passed away before all should be fulfilled."" (Watchtower Apr 8 1988 page 14; bold added)
    Of course, it was not coincidental that this author was quoted in 1988, being one year before the 75-year limit would end! This book had not been quoted by the Watchtower Society earlier, and would not be quoted later. 1992 all those now 78 or older

    1991 Fred Franz's classic statement :

    Of course, as 1994 was approaching caution took them. In 1991, the late WTS president Fred Franz was quoted as saying: "But we are as strong for it as we ever were, and we are appreciating it all the more the longer we have to wait for it. It is something worth waiting for, even if it required a million years." (Watchtower Dec 15 1991 page 11; bold added)

    why would the President and faithful servant and annoited class member, say such a thing, unless he knew it was wrong (the generation idea), can someone post this whole page article for all to see ???????????????????

    1995, we all know the change that occurred, my grandmother is still alive and 91 years old, some still living, Watchtower gives up and does not wait until all are gone, but changes it with some still living, how did they know they were not right, should they of waited til all had died ???????

    This silent change probably worked. The average Witness would probably have missed the whole change if it wasn't for the news coverage in sources like LA Times and & Newsweek.

    and could you post them ????????????????????????????

    1996-2003 soon

    2004 now they have no idea, been some speculation that they are looking towards 2034 now, when will it end !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Questions ????????

    does anyone now exactly when the generation idea started or came about ? first publication it was mentioned.

    same to the paradise earth idea ? when did it start, and what publication.

    I read somewhere on the net, and CANNOT find the article now, that a reverend in 1822 (i believe) published a book, telling about a paradise earth for all to live in, this idea was laughed at and not accepted, the book was pulled from stores and did not sell very well. Anyone else heard this ???????

    thanks to all, please add in any important thing you feel i missed (generation ideas), didnt want to write too much.

  • Gedanken


    Here is an interesting site where you can do a simple text-search in your browser for the term "generation" over the various "epochs" of WT history. It would be worth checking the quotations against original sources, of course, but this might be a useful start. The dates listed refer to dates mentioned by the WT in one way or another rather than to the dates that the various remarks were actually made - the latter are contained in the source references.


  • Nan


    Is one of the items you were looking for?

    Not sure if this will show up as a link. If not, just copy & paste in your browser:

    Take care,


  • eyeslice

    The 1995 change only muddies the water as far as I can see. Quote;

    ?Rather than providing a rule for measuring time, the term ?generation? as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics?.

    Those contemporary to the year 1914 have long gone - the 30 to 40 year definition seems good to me for a contemporary generation. By 1954 I would guess most of the generals and leading politcians of the 1st WW would have been dead and gone, just as all those from the 2nd war have now gone - Stalin, Hitler, Eisenhower, Churchill and DeGualle.


  • Gedanken

    The following quote is quite interesting to compare to what was said in 1995:

    *** w51 7/1 403-4 Vision of the "Time of the End" ***
    Though the statement pertaining to the time of trouble is brief, we should not understand that to indicate it is a very short time. For we are bound to take into account the many other prophecies in the book of Daniel, and elsewhere, in order to grasp how much is involved. Christ Jesus groups many such prophecies and enlarges on them when explaining to his disciples some of the things which must come to pass in the last days. (See Matthew 24.) He shows the beginning of this time and how the troubles increase, and mentions some of the sorrows to fall on the world, during the time of trouble. The length of time is indicated by him when he said, "Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur." (Matt. 24:34, NW) The actual meaning of these words is, beyond question, that which takes a "generation" in the ordinary sense, as at Mark 8:12 and Acts 13:36, or for those who are living at the given period. So it was on "this generation" that the accumulated judgments were to fall. (Matt. 23:36) This therefore means that from 1914 a generation shall not pass till all is fulfilled, and amidst a great time of trouble.


Share this