Friday, April 9, 2010

LDS Lesson #12

So today I once again walked down to meet with the LDS missionaries. I got another surprise when I learned that Demophon had been transferred, being replaced with another missionary whom I'll call "Cresphontes". We got a ride back to campus with Epaphos, whose family had driven me to church the time I went last month. Epaphos, Kallinos, and Cresphontes accompanied me to the campus chapel, where we found an empty classroom in the basement to occupy. On the way over, Cresphontes and I chatted about where he'd been before his transfer: not too far from my hometown, as it turns out. He'd served with a predominantly Spanish-speaking ward in the county seat. Cresphontes, like Demophon and Kallinos before him, were in awe of the grandeur of the chapel; as I found out from Kallinos on the walk over, Demophon had been blown away by the pipe organ in the sanctuary.

When we got to the classroom, we chatted for a bit about a couple classes I'd had in the room before, one of which was Religion in America, and I explained to Epaphos that I'd actually taught the material on Mormonism in that class, since I knew more about it than the professor. I then, of course, had to explain yet again for Epaphos and Cresphontes how I first came into contact with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and then Kallinos opened us in prayer. Then I told them what the church building in Greece was like, how my discussions with Creon and Orestes and Admetus went, etc., etc., and eventually how I came to continue things here. The missionaries were somewhat surprised to hear that the missionaries in Greece couldn't get their hands on an English copy of the Doctrine and Covenants for me. And I also talked with them about fires, riots, and economic collapse - Greece in a nutshell, in other words.

Then, of course, Kallinos had to go and ask the question about what in particular got me interested in the Latter-day Saints, and I again gave my feeble answer of interest in the different range of exegetical and theological views that one finds there that aren't present in mainstream Christianity, etc., etc. I always have a hard time with that question. Then it went on:

Cresphontes: So you've read the Book of Mormon, ah, did you take Moroni's promise at the end? How'd you feel after that?

JB: Uhhh... I'm still working on persisting in prayer to know if these things are true. I haven't yet heard anything definitive either way. So I'm going to keep praying about it and keep working at it "by study and also by faith", I think is the phrase.

Kallinos: If you were to receive that it was true, what would you do?

JB: I would immediately begin moving in the direction of becoming a baptized member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kallinos: Good, so you have the 'real intent' down....


Cresphontes: Do you mind if I share with you the experience I had, how I got my answer?

JB: Go for it.

Cresphontes: Well, I was raised in the church, so I mean, I was fed this stuff by my parents from an early age [...] but everyone needs to prove (?) it. Because we're not born Mormon, Buddhist, Taoist, anarchist. We find the truth by how hard we search for it [...] Um, when I was about fourteen or fifteen, and I was attending seminary - which is kind of like a class [...] high school, where [I learned (?)] gospel doctrine, I learned the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Old Testament and New Testament. I personally thought that the Book of Mormon was false, because there wasn't any scientific proof of it. Something I became very aware of is that trying to prove God exists with science might be fun but won't work. How I got my answer was, Gordon B. Hinckley - the prophet at the time - told us to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. So this was around August [...] like every teenager [...] I read little bits now and then. Around Christmas break, I was like, "You know what? If I read this, and if it's true, then what I believe is true, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, the authority of God is back on the earth in the priesthood, [...] Jesus Christ's true Church, the Church he set up, is back on the earth. If it's false, then I guess I gotta [...]." So for me it was kind of hit or miss. (?) [...] I prayed, and... there was no voice. And immediately I got choked up. Immediately I thought of my family: my mom, my dad, my brothers. I thought of the family I would have someday. It was like I saw my whole life, how it could be if the Church is true. And then right [...] I heard a voice, very small, very silent [...] 'it's true'. And after that I was like, "Well I guess I know the direction my life's going." [...] We are where we are today because we received those answers. What's nice is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today being more and more able to provide proof intellectually that it's true... but ultimately Heavenly Father wants us to know spiritually that it's true. Because you can change your thoughts, you can change your opinions, but you really can't-- it's really hard to change your feelings about something. So if you get a burning within yourself, a feeling, especially that something is true, that changes your whole point of view [...] the course that God wants you to go. [...] Your answer will come, and it will be something you'll never forget.

Kallinos: So, how do you think that you can know that it's true?

JB: I think that ultimately I'll find the answer in prayer. I will pray earnestly to God with all of my being to know if it is true, and by persisting in doing so and making sure that I have real intent, pour everything that I am into it, eventually I believe that God will show me - whether it be like that, or whether it be by pointing me in the direction of things that will indicate to me one way or the other whether or not it's true - that God will reveal to me what the answer is.

Kallinos: Alright. Um, good, that's good, you're on the right track. Um, [...] you read the Bible, we know that you love the Bible, so [...]

I can't recall exactly what came in at this point, but Kallinos quoted James 2:19 and started saying things like "belief involves more than just faith", and essentially the gist of his monologue was that since I'm clearly doing everything else right, the problem must be some sort of moral failing, because that's the only thing they can think of that would explain why God hasn't told me that theirs is the One True ChurchTM. In retrospect, the whole general tone of the conversation - well, monologue - had an uncanny resemblance to certain large swaths of the Book of Job. Now, even I found this portion at least somewhat insulting, indicating to me that perhaps Kallinos dozed off when the Missionary Training Center taught the lesson on this little thing called "tact". Tip to LDS missionaries: try to avoid making baseless insinuations that God isn't talking to your prospective convert because your convert is rebelling against God. Instead, maybe you could try something that would go a bit more like this:

A: Hmm, so you're clearly a believer in the Bible, you believe that Jesus is Son of God, Savior, and Lord... You know what's at stake in this, I can see that you have 'real intent', and you're praying in earnest to God to reveal this to you. Hmmm... may I read a few passages from the Bible with you?

B: Sure.

A: [select a few passages of moral exhortation] How would you currently rate yourself against this?

B: Well, I could always be doing better. But I am abiding by what you call the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom, and I strive to devote myself to following God's commands and living by grace through faith.

A: Very good! Well, I can't tell you just what it is that might explain why God isn't answering your prayers, although I'll certainly pray about it and pray for you. In the meantime, the only thing I can think to suggest - and, again, I don't claim to know what's in your heart at all - is to continue working on living up to God's standards insofar as you know them, and I'm sure that when you do so, God will reveal even more to you.

Not perfect, of course - it still smacks of a bit too much works-righteousness - but at least more tactful and less presumptuous. Kallinos, however, didn't go this route. Instead, what he said was filled with statements like these:
  • "You've got a sincere heart, you've got the real intent... but there are lots of people with good intentions that don't really lead to very much."
  • "You've got a lot of faith [...] and then it comes to the second part, which is repentance. And that's kind of the biggie, and a big preparation step. And that's what we would invite you to start working on now. You have all the faith in the world, that's definitely true, and now you need to start acting upon that. You know, there's a lot of things you could do besides just praying that will lead you to your answer. You know? It is within your capacity to come to church. It is within your capacity to study the [Standard Works (?)] and to pray. It is within your capacity to keep the Word of Wisdom. It is within your capacity to do a lot of other [...] gospel principle [...] right there?"
  • He went on to cite Stephen R. Covey again to make the point that "the Church is true to you to the extent that you are true to the Church. If you're not being true to the Church, it's not going to be very true to you".
  • "If you want to know whether this came from Joseph Smith or if this came from God, do it. Okay? More than just praying. You know, Moroni 10:3-5, you know, that's a great way to receive revelation, I use it a lot of the time, it does work, sometimes additional effort is required. 'To whom much is given, much is required' [Luke 12:48]. You've been given a lot [...] start acting on it."
  • "Don't just wait for the answer to come to you; go and look for it. Search for it and keep the commandments of God. You know, don't just read the Book of Mormon for information's sake, read it with the intent of reading what it instructs you to do, and then do accordingly."
In the course of all of this, Kallinos talked some about how he'd gained a testimony, and how:'s not like the answer came all at once, it's not like it was a grand revelation or [...] a distinct feeling that this is true. That came later. It did come, but it didn't come at first. At first it was simply impressions or feelings that I should do this or I should do that - just little pieces and bits of the truth, you know - [...] and I had seen in the Book of Mormon or Doctrine & Covenants where it says that the Lord teaches you "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" [2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 128:21]....

We also discussed a few other passages, like John 7:17 and Alma 7:23-25. Kallinos also grilled me some more about whether I'd really be willing to tithe, things like that. So anyway, after Kallinos was done lecturing me, he asked if I'd come out to their church again soon and I naturally agreed. He then assured me:

I just want you to know that, as you faithfully live the gospel of Jesus Christ and the principles that were brought forward in this modern dispensation - the dispensation that we know as "the fullness of times" - that you will know it's true.

And then Kallinos related the story of Glenn Beck's conversion, wherein Beck decided to try to disprove the "law of tithing" by following it and watching his life get worse, but instead was confounded when he found himself increasingly blessed by it. And eventually Kallinos qualified his previous lecture by acknowledging that I'm hardly an exceptionally sinful wanton, and he asked if I'd strive to live in accordance with God's commandments insofar as I know them. I said yes, and he replied, "Good, because I know that as you do so, you will receive an answer that it's true [...] because everything that's true is light, and light is discernible, that it's true. Truth has a familiar ring to it."

(I, on the other hand, would bring to mind passages like Jeremiah 17:9 and the simple patent fact that we humans have a nearly endless capacity for self-deception, especially when it comes to following our feelings - and, contrary to what Cresphontes suggested, beliefs obtained by reason are more properly stable than beliefs obtained by feelings. By that I mean that relatively seldom is, "I get a good feeling when I consider this", a good warrant for a belief in something. That's the overall problem that I have with standard LDS epistemology. I have little fundamental complaint at the notion of some beliefs being warranted by religious experience in certain situations, at least not so long as those beliefs are potentially defeasible. If we accept a general rule of, "Religious thoughts that bring a feeling of peace are true; religious thoughts that bring the opposite feelings are false", the result is absolute chaos if we're even a slight bit consistent.)

Cresphontes - the more tactful and easygoing of this missionary pair - then talked a bit about the usefulness of setting goals. And then he said something fairly interesting:

In the short time I've gotten to know you, and everything that we've both experienced, I've felt the Spirit probably a little more strongly than I have in my mission in this room right now. You have a wonderful testimony of these truths, you have an open mind, you have a soft heart - your heart isn't hardened, which is wonderful, I wish more people could be like that. I testify to you that as you start to set goals, as you start to make the leap of faith (as many people describe it), that God will prepare every step of your way - especially if this is true, especially if you make that leap. I promise you that as you do this, as you're setting goals, and especially [...] prayer [...] setting goals along with noble works, that those two will go together beautifully and that you will receive your answer. As a set-apart servant of the Lord and his messenger, I can promise you that you will receive one.

After that was done, I got to hear the story of how Epaphos had come to become a Latter-day Saint. He and his wife were converts from a nominal Lutheran background. One day when he wasn't home, some missionaries had dropped off a copy of the Book of Mormon with his wife, and when he got home, she said to him, "Some men dropped by today, and I think they were sent from God!" He was initially "rebellious", to use his word, and didn't much want to have further contact with them, but the missionaries were very persistent in sticking with him and suggesting times to meet until he couldn't duck them anymore. Eventually he got to the missionary discussions and reached the part where they taught about the LDS doctrine of the spirit's pre-existence, and Epaphos said that it was something that he'd always thought about but that his Lutheran church never discussed. "If we're spiritual, if we have a spirit, where was our spirit then? Before we're here? And I always thought about that, something missing in it, and that closed the gap right there, that was something that was missing, and I-- it was a familiar thing, too, when they taught it." And he went on to discuss some of his own experiences with being blessed through tithing, and then told a story about the second time he went to an LDS temple. (He said that the first time he was there to get his temple marriage and his endowment, it was all so new and strange to him that he doesn't even remember it well any more.) He said that when he sat down in the Celestial Room, "every question that entered my mind was immediately answered. Immediately! With answers I had never even thought of". He said that the questions had ranged from issues with raising his kids to interpretation of assorted scriptural passages. "And I knew the answer was coming from the Holy Spirit, I just knew it, because it was just things that I'd never thought about, never even imagined". He also said that he never forgot it because "it's never happened since, it was just this one time. And I guess God was giving me a special experience to strengthen my testimony. Because I do get answers from the Holy Ghost, just... not that way, a flood of answers". He also mentioned that, since it was nearly three decades ago, he's completely forgotten what the questions actually were. Epaphros went on to talk about how the Spirit doesn't speak to our physical bodies but to our own spirits, and how testimonies usually start out relatively little and grow over time.

Anyway, the missionaries talked for a bit about their stories, I think - I seem to recall Cresphontes talking about his dad - and we then covered some other topics, and in the process of explaining why I wasn't sure where I was in the Book of Mormon (I'd been going through an audio version), I described how my computer had just completely gone to pot - or, as I described it this time around, that "I guess you could say my computer joined the sons of perdition". And then I mentioned that I'd gotten a new computer recently, but that the upshot is that I no longer was certain what files I'd listened to and what files I hadn't.

Cresphontes then said that it had been a privilege talking to me and asked if I had any questions. I said that I did have one that I was curious about after visiting their church last time, and that was why water is used in the sacrament, rather than "something more grape-based" like wine or grape juice. They explained that it had been revealed to Joseph Smith (cf. D&C 27) not to use wine in the sacrament, since that would be contrary to the Word of Wisdom. Kallinos, after noting that they don't drink wine since they don't drink alcohol, simply said - in keeping with D&C 27:2 - that "it doesn't matter what we eat or drink; honestly, we could drink orange juice and eat a bagel if it came down to it, if we had nothing else, but what matters is that we do it 'with an eye single to the glory of God' and that we do it in remembrance that Jesus has died for our sins". Cresphontes added that in his ward back home, there are some people with gluten allergies, and consequently they have a special tray with rice cakes for the sacramental bread.

Eventually things took some interesting turns (I mentioned that very soon I'd be taking part in a big panel discussion on Christianity and homosexuality, so I'd been doing a lot of extra reading and preparation to "speak the truth in love" [Ephesians 4:15]), and I ended up as the recipient of a 'priesthood blessing' at Cresphontes' suggestion. (Kallinos half-rebuked Cresphontes by saying that "we don't solicit blessings", but Epaphos remarked that a person can hardly request one if they don't really know about them. In the end, I requested it.) So all three of them - Kallinos, Cresphontes, and Epaphos - all stood up and gathered around me and laid hands on the top of my head while I remained seated. I had chosen Kallinos to actually deliver the blessing, and so it went something like this:

[JB], in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood which we hold, we give you a blessing of comfort and of peace from your Heavenly Father. [JB], your Heavenly Father is well aware of your circumstances. He loves you. He wants you to be happy, he wants you to experience all the joys and the privilege that comes to his children in this life. He wants you to taste of his love and his mercy in your life. He recognizes the difficulty of the schooling and education that you're going through at this time, and he will bless you with knowledge, with wisdom according to your needs, as you exercise your faith in him and as you turn to him in prayer. [JB], your Heavenly Father wants you to be at peace. He wants you to feel the Spirit. Always be willing to do that which will invite the Spirit. Always be willing to follow your savior Jesus Christ, and he will give unto you peace. Continue in the path that you are walking, because it is the correct path. As (?) you will continue to exercise your faith in Jesus Christ, he will continue to bless (?) you. We leave you with these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Anyway, that was how things wound down with our meeting, and as we walked upstairs and out of the chapel, we continued to hear the lovely singing of a large choir that had begun performing a concert about midway through the priesthood blessing. I parted ways with my friends on the sidewalk, looking forward to seeing them again at church the next Sunday.

Friday, April 2, 2010

JW Chronology Problematized by JW Literature

Yesterday I was reading some of my blog subscriptions, and I stumbled across something new by Mike Felker from The Apologetic Front blog. (I'd been subscribing to his channel on YouTube for ages, but only recently took a look at the blog.) That something new was a bit of research he did that shows - using nothing but literature published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, official literature of Jehovah's Witnesses - that Jerusalem actually did fall in 587 BC, rather than 607 BC as Jehovah's Witnesses idiosyncratically believe. And the reason why this is so important is that their prophetic chronology is really the cornerstone of their religion; if Jerusalem didn't fall in 607 BC, then they can't biblically justify, even with their other eisegetical manuevers, their belief that the parousia occurred in 1914; that belief, however, is the bedrock of JW eschatology and has enormous ramifications on numerous other areas of JW doctrine. So, without further ado, please watch Mike's excellent video:

Mike isn't the first one to discover this problem, of course. Although I only watched this other video today (also very well done), Carlos Scienza posted it a few months ago:

I'll lay out the case below in a somewhat different way for those whose computers can't handle video so well for some reason or another (and believe me, I sympathize):
  1. Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 BC
    • "The outstanding Absolute date from the B.C. period of the Hebrew Scriptures is that for the fall of Babylon as the capital city of the third world power at the hands of Cyrus, king of the Persians, October 13, 539 B.C., Julian calendar (or October 7 by our present Gregorian calendar), which event is referred to at Isaiah 45:1. This date is made absolute by reason of the archaeological discovery and dating of the famous Nabunaid Chronicle, which itself gives a date for the fall of Babylon and which figure specialists have determined equals October 13, 539 B.C., according to the Julian calendar of the Romans" (The Watchtower, 1 February 1955, p. 94)
    • "It is well to understand that all Bible chronology dates for events prior to 539 B.C. must be figured backward from the Absolute date of 539 B.C." (The Watchtower, 1 February 1955, p. 95)
    • "One such fixed or absolute date is in connection with the events recorded in the fifth chapter of Daniel, verses one to thirty-one. That was concerning the time when the Medes and the Persians under Cyrus the Great broke up Belshazzar's notorious carousal, capture the city of Babylon, and overthrew the Third World Empire. The year was 539 B.C.E. on the Gregorian calendar, four years after the Buddhist Era began in India" (The Watchtower, 15 August 1968, p. 490)
    • "Recognized authorities of today accept 539 B.C.E. without any question as the year Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus the Great" (The Watchtower, 15 August 1968, p. 491)
  2. Nabonidus (Nabu-na'id) ruled from 556 BC to 539 BC
    • "Last supreme monarch of the Babylonian Empire; father of Belshazzar. On the basis of cuneiform texts he is believed to have ruled some 17 years (556-539 B.C.E.)" (Insight on the Scriptures 2:457)
    • "Nabonidus' ascension to the throne followed the assassination of Labashi-Marduk" (Insight on the Scriptures 2:458)
  3. Labashi-Marduk ruled in 556 BC
    • "[Neriglissar's] underage son Labashi-Marduk, a vicious boy, succeeded him, and was assassinated within nine months" (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29)
  4. Neriglissar (Nergal-shar-usur) ruled from 560 BC to 556 BC
    • "[Evil-merodach] was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who reigned for four years, which time he spent mainly in building operations" (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29)
  5. Evil-merodach (Amel-Marduk) ruled from 562 BC to 560 BC
    • "Evil-merodach reigned two years and was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar..." (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29)
  6. Nebuchadnezzar (Nabu-kudurri-usur) ruled before Evil-merodach from 605 BC to 562 BC
    • "The Babylonian king who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar to the throne in 581 B.C.E" (Insight on the Scriptures 1:773)
      • Note that the date of 581 BC is based on JW belief in 607 BC, rather than the other way around. The same erroneous date of 581 BC is asserted elsewhere: "Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach) as the oldest son succeeded Nebuchadnezzar to the throne in 581 B.C.E." (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29). I'll discuss this issue further in a bit; for the moment, however, note that everything else up until this point shows that the date of 581 B.C.E. is inconsistent with other statements accepted by Jehovah's Witnesses.
    • "Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned for 43 years, headed a dynasty that ruled over the Babylonian Empire" (Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy!, p. 50)
  7. Jerusalem fell in 587 BC
    • "Finally, in 607 B.C.E., on Tammuz (June-July) 9 in the 11th year of Zedekiah's reign (Nebuchadnezzar's 19th year if counting from his accession year or his 18th regnal year), a breach was made in Jerusalem's wall" (Insight into the Scriptures 2:481)
      • Note again that, while the publication falsely asserts the year to have been 607 BC, the important aspect of this quote is that it places the event in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. And, since it follows conclusively from other statements admitted in JW publications that Nebuchadnezzar's reign had to begin in 605 BC, the year of Jerusalem's fall can only be 587 BC--quod erat demonstrandum.

Every single quote involved here is available on the Watchtower Library CD-ROM. Anyone who has a copy can verify all quotes used here; I did, and they all check out solidly. It's undeniable--whatever arguments Jehovah's Witnesses use to attempt to establish a 607 BC date for the fall of Jerusalem, the fact remains that their own literature contains every single fact that, put together, show irrefutably that Jerusalem fell in 587 BC. But what about the statements that Evil-merodach's reign began in 581 BC, or that the fall of Jerusalem really did happen in 607 BC? It has to be noted that these are assertions inconsistent with others that appeared in JW literature. Furthermore, remember that it was admitted that every date before 539 BC has to be calculated backwards from 539 BC, not another date. The date of 581 BC can only be obtained by counting forwards from 607 BC, which in turn relies on a highly questionable jump backwards from 537 BC, rather than 539 BC. On the other hand, the date of 587 BC, as shown above, is derived from counting backwards from 539 BC through all the Babylonian rulers to show that Jehovah's Witnesses cannot consistently avoid the implication that Nebuchadnezzar's reign only began in 605 BC--the date universally accepted by all non-JW sources. Only Jehovah's Witnesses deny this, and as shown above they must do so inconsistently. Now, lest a JW apologist attempt to say that certain relevant names have been omitted here, consider the complete list of relevant Babylonian rulers, as excerpted from yet another JW publication:

Evil-merodach, 582 B.C.E
Belshazzar, died 539 B.C.E. (The Watchtower, 15 June 1960, p. 377)

So what we have here is a complete list of rulers. But Nabonidus, as Jehovah's Witnesses must admit, started ruling in 556 BC. Labashi-Marduk ruled for just nine months, while Neriglissar ruled for four years. At most, that could push the chronology back to 561 (though actually 560) BC for the start of Neriglissar's rule; but, since authoritative JW literature has already shown that Neriglissar ruled for only two years, rather than over two decades, there is simply no way to associate the year 582/1 BC with Evil-merodach, which ruins the proposed JW chronology. And the calculations that do so are simply impeccable.

And lest some JW apologist try to say that the calculations in the theocratic literature that demonstrate the 587 BC date were simply incorrect, consider that the entry on "Chronology" in Insight on the Scriptures indicates, fairly plainly, that their calculations are, for all intents and purposes, infallible, since they refuse to distinguish their understanding of the timeline from what the Bible actually says.

So what's the bottom line here? We have both a firm anchor point (539 BC), a complete order of consecutive reigns extending throughout the period in question, and lengths for each reign. Mathematically, without rejecting at least one of those three, there is simply no way to escape the truth: Jerusalem fell in 587 BC, thereby invalidating a substantial block of JW doctrine. That is, the only way to avoid the conclusion is to reject one of the following three propositions:

  • We have a firm anchor point in 539 BC.
  • We have a complete order of consecutive reigns, without considerable gaps, stretching from the destruction of Jerusalem to 539 BC.
  • We have roughly accurate figures for the length of each reign of which we have record (that is, the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Neriglissar, Labashi-marduk, and Nabonidus).

To deny the first is not open to Jehovah's Witnesses at all; it's too firmly entrenched in what they believe. What about the second? It doesn't seem so. Remember, not only does The Watchtower give what purports to be a complete "chronological chart" that admits of no gaps, but their discussions of the individual reigns doesn't appear to give any place to gaps beyond a few months or so at the most. Certainly nowhere to stuff two decades of either unknown rulers or anarchy! Note also that many of the figures in question came to power by killing their predecessors, which precludes the possibility of additional intervening rulers. So, how about the third? Could a Jehovah's Witness be justified here in denying that the reign lengths are accurate? Again, the answer must be no. The only candidates up for revision are Evil-merodach, Neriglissar, and Labashi-marduk. Assuming for the sake of argument that Jerusalem fell in 607 BC, we'd have to place the beginning of Evil-merodach's reign in 582/1 BC, and the end of Labashi-Marduk's reign in 557/6 BC, since Insight on the Scriptures unequivocally places the start of Nabonidus' reign in 556 BC; the Babylonian Chronicles, after all, definitely places the fall of Babylon as occurring in the 17th year of Nabonidus' reign (the particular tablet in question is the Nabunaid Chronicle cited by The Watchtower in one of the quotes above). So, then, we have to somehow cram at least 24 years into these three reigns, which The Watchtower has instead affirmed to have taken less than seven years! This, like the other two theoretical possibilities, will never work. (I also add that I have before me right now a translation of a Babylonian document from the reign of Nabonidus that makes clear that, at the very least, Neriglissar's reign was four years--see J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, p. 312. The text also explicitly affirms only 104 years from "the time of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, to the 6th year of Nabonidus, king of Babylon", which is also inconsistent with the 607 BC date for the destruction of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar. I'll also mention, for those who might be interested, that other texts of the period mention Neriglissar and Labashi-Marduk by name.)

My challenge to all Jehovah's Witnesses is this: show how one of these three possibilities is genuinely viable. If none of them are, and thus if all three propositions above are true, then the data given in Watchtower publications shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jehovah's Witness chronology is in significant error, thus undermining JW teachings.