Jehovah’s calendar was an attempt by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1935 to supersede the familiar Gregorian calendar with all its pagan and religious associations. In our calendar days and months are named for pagan deities, Sun-day; Moon-day, Tyr’s-sday, Woden’s-day, Thor’s-day, Frige-day, Saturn’s-day.
You can read about the name origins here. Our months are named for two-faced Janus in January, the god of openings and closings, Februa, the pagan ritual of cleansing, gives us February, Mars, the God of war, gives us March, and so forth. You can read more here.
It is not unusual for a religious movement in its infancy to turn its attention to anything and everything in an effort to create the world more in its own image, to gain control. People get corrected in this hotbed of reform, purification, restoration, and the establishment of distinctives.
One example from an earlier time is that of the Mormons. Under the direction of Brigham Young, their second president, a whole language system was invented, Deseret. It was ostensibly to aid and accelerate the learning of a more phonetically consistent language among people coming to Utah from all over Western Europe.
It also served to have Mormons read only LDS literature, keeping them away from other sources that might influence and corrupt their minds. In both examples, Jehovah’s Calendar and the Deseret alphabet, the thought of isolationism and purity were never far from the mind.
Both Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists established strict dietary rules for their followers, the latter embracing vegetarianism, the former jumping on the temperance bandwagon that had a profound effect on America from 1826.
When it comes to Jehovah’s calendar, you might think it impossible to imagine a greater waste of time and effort on something so inconsequential. It is important to understand, however, that the project was driven more by what Jehovah’s Witnesses stood against than what they stood for. Reading extensive accounts of the thinking behind this enterprise makes this very clear as they make villains of everyone, but chiefly the Catholic Church.
One thing you can be certain of is the favourite target of the Jehovah’s Witness is the Catholic Church, and no opportunity is missed to bring out any stick that can be found with which to beat it. Of course, Protestant churches come in for some flak too, if only as unwitting followers of Catholic folly.
Clayton J Woodworth
Jehovah’s Calendar was the brainchild of Clayton Woodworth who, as editor of The Golden Age, came up with some pretty wacky and dangerous ideas. The calendar was not his first outing as a crank, and Jehovah’s Witnesses today continue to suffer because of his unscientific, unbiblical ideas. Describing vaccinations as ‘worthless, harmful from a medical standpoint, and morally wrong from a biblical standpoint,’ The Golden Age spoke out vociferously against them from 1921 to 1952.
‘Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice…We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can, and to his credit can such evils be placed. … Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations.’ Golden Age 1921 Oct 12 p.17.
Medicine in general was treated with suspicion:
“Medicine originated in demonology and spent its time until the last century and a half trying to exorcise demons. During the past half century it has tried to exorcise germs.” Golden Age1931 Aug 5 p.728
Charles Russell saw no prohibition to blood transfusions, nor to eating blood in Scripture but from 1927, under Joseph Rutherford’s guidance, blood transfusions too became prohibited, along with organ transplants, aluminium utensils, bobbed hair, breakfast food, chewing gum, sleeping on your left hand side…I kid you not.
It was during this strange period of separation, denial, proscription, and medical quackery that Jehovah’s Calendar first made its appearance.
The Second Hand in the Timepiece of God
Jehovah’s Calendar was trailed extensively and, with the blessing of Joseph Rutherford himself, first appeared in the 1935 Yearbook with no further explanation than the text at the bottom of the page; ‘A series of articles in explanation will appear in The Golden Age. Watch for them.’
The March 1, 1935 edition of the Watchtower (p.80) highlighted for the reader the coming series of articles, further heightening expectations:
‘According to the Word of God the Gregorian calendar is entirely wrong, and this alone is proof that the making of that calendar and its introduction were not by God’s direction but mere clone under the influence of Satan, the enemy of Jehovah. Now, since the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and his enthronement and his gathering together of his faithful followers, the time seems at hand to more clearly understand God’s purposes as expressed in his Word, and this includes the manner of measuring time. It seems proper and fitting that we should try to ascertain the correct way of measuring time and give publication thereto.’
The Golden Age issues of March 13th, 27th, and April 10th of 1935 ran a series of articles entitled, “The Second Hand in the Timepiece of God” which was subtitled “An Explanation Respecting a Complete Change of Calendar, with Suggestions as to How the Calendar of Jehovah God Can Be Put Into Effect Easily and Naturally, Without Any Confusion.” The articles were written by Clayton J. Woodworth, editor of the Golden Age magazine. You can read them here
‘In this series of articles it will be shown that all the foregoing calendars (Jewish, Roman, Greek, Julian, Mohammedan, French revolution, Gregorian) are calendars of the Devil…Jehovah God is nowhere mentioned in the Gregorian calendar. It would suit Satan well to have Him lost sight of altogether.’ Golden Age, 13 March 1935, p.356
The names of heathen gods in profane calendars, we are told, were included by the inspiration and guiding hand of Satan. Jehovah’s Calendar, by contrast,
…’will permanently replace, as far as calendars are concerned, the efforts of Satan to hide some of God’s beautiful truth, now, since 1918,coming out from his temple in such a refreshing stream.’
Readers will appreciate, we are told, ‘why a new calendar should be adopted by those who honor the creator.’
Complaining that our calendars all bear pagan names, the articles suggest ‘James’ the brother of Jesus instead of the two-faced god of openings and closings ‘Janus.’ Instead of February, named for the cleansing (februation) of women for the fertility god Lupercus, they suggest James, brother of John, and first apostolic martyr. Peter might have given his name to the third month, instead of Mars, so on and so forth.
But when we look at the names on Jehovah’s Calendar we find Redemption (January), Life (February), Visitment (March), Freedom (April), Vindication (May), Hope (June), King (July), Peace (August), Order (September), Logos (October), Jehovah (November), Temple (December).
Where have the apostles gone? Surely, Petros might have made March more interesting than Visitment? If you are going to make a fuss about one of the ‘Sons of Thunder’ then Thunder might have done nicely for February instead of Life. The idea is growing on me just as the author seems to have cooled to it. Imagine, ‘I’ll meet you at 3pm on 13th of Thunder under the clock at New York Central!’
The days of the week don’t come out any better with, Lightday (Monday), Heavenday (Tuesday), Earthday (Wednesday), Starday (Thursday), Lifeday (Friday), Manday (Saturday), Godsday (Sunday). I am sure it must have made sense to someone but can’t imagine how or why. Look for yourself:
Burying Charles Russell
What is most interesting is how the articles begin to systematically dismantle Charles Russell’s so carefully constructed system of understanding the times. Russell had the 6,000 years of human history run out in 1874 with the invisible return of Christ, having carefully reckoned Adam’s creation in 4128 BC.
The Golden Age articles date Adam’s creation to 4028 BC and the parousia to 1914. This all revolved around the ‘erroneous’ insertion of 100 years into the book of Judges, an apparent discrepancy between Acts 13:20 and 1 Kings 6:1, something ‘corrected’ by the Watchtower Society. You can read their own, albeit convoluted, explanation in the 1943 volume, The Truth Shall Set You Free, from p.205.
When readers were troubled by this development the Watchtower of May 1, 1935 p.142 warned:
‘God’s people should keep in mind the “pyramid” delusion and the speculations that accompanied the study of chronology, and the pitfalls into which these things led many. Do not fall into a similar trap. It is of far more importance to under- stand our commission and to perform it than to understand at just what time Adam was created. Be reasonable and moderate. Avoid wild speculation as to at what time and in what manner things future will come to pass. Be sure that you always are guided by the counsel of the Lord’s Word. The statements in The Golden Age are not dogmatic, but are worthy of due and careful consideration.’
The first of the Golden Age articles specifically states, ‘This is no nonsense, or worse than nonsense from the Great Pyramid in Egypt…’ Charles Russell was being systematically buried, along with his increasingly embarrassing domestic arrangements and his nonsensical system based on the measurements of the Great Pyramid.
Jehovah’s Calendar, after all the work that went into it, all the boasting typical of every innovation of the Watchtower, was quickly abandoned, never to be mentioned again. Some say Rutherford and Woodward fell out, others that Rutherford saw in time the foolishness of such an enterprise, its insane unworkability.
Writing for INWIT publishing, Vincent Mallete observed:
Next to the day, the week is the most important calendric unit in our life. And yet, there is no astronomical significance to the week. Nothing cosmic happens in the heavens in seven days.1 How, then, did the week come to assume such importance?
The first thing to understand is that a week is not necessarily seven days. In pre-literate societies, weeks of 4 to 10 days were observed; those weeks were typically the interval from one market day to the next. Four to 10 days gave farmers enough time to accumulate and transport goods to sell. (The one week that was almost always avoided was the 7-day week — it was considered unlucky!)
The 7-day week was introduced in Rome (where ides, nones, and calends were the vogue) in the first century A.D. by Persian astrologists, not by Christians or Jews as is commonly thought. The idea was that there would be a day for the five known planets plus the sun and the moon, making seven; this was an ancient West Asian idea.
However, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire in the time of Constantine (c. 325 A.D.), the familiar Hebrew-Christian week of 7 days, beginning on Sunday, became combined with the pagan week and took its place in the Julian calendar.
Thereafter, the week now observed in Rome appeared seamless with the 7-day week of the Bible — even though its pagan roots were obvious in the names of the days: Saturn’s day, Sun’s day, Moon’s day. The other days take their equally pagan names in English from a detour into Norse mythology: Tiw’s day, Woden’s day, Thor’s day, and Fria’s day.
The amazing thing is that today the 7-day week, which is widely viewed as being Judeo-Christian, holds sway for civil purposes over the entire world. Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Africans, Japanese, and a hundred others sit down at the U.N. to the tune of a 7-day week, in perfect peace (at least calendrically!).
So dear is this succession of 7 days that when the calendar changed from Julian to Gregorian the week was preserved, though not the days of the month: in 1752, in England, Sept. 14 followed Sept. 2 — but Thursday followed Wednesday, as always. Eleven days disappeared from the calendar — but not from the week!http://industrialmindworks.com/inwit/writings/week.html
We cannot function in a world where our every cultural reference point is alien to the world in which we live, even down to the days of the week and the months of the year. I am reminded of Jeremiah’s letter to the leaders of Israel in exile which said, in part:
‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them.” (Jeremiah 29:7-9)
God’s people are to walk according to his statutes but they are also to bring peace and be a blessing to those not of their ‘tribe.’ Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses seek every opportunity to stand apart from the people among whom they live, judging them at every turn and on every point. God’s people are distinctive, to be sure, but we are also part of this fallen world, exiles from the kingdom to which we now belong. Paul, in his letter to Corinth, wisely counsels:
‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolators, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality, or greed, or is an idolator, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.’ (1 Cor.5:9-13)
Whether it is a Monday in June, a Wednesday in September, or a Friday in January, the Lord is interested in how we conducted our lives on that day, not what we named it.
‘He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8)