An amusing diversion from the 1955 Watchtower

by Nathan Natas 2 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses

    Part 1: Early Voices (1870-1878)

    “SO, THEN, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Heb. 12:1, 2, NW) The writer of that advice was not referring to eyewitnesses of his own running the race as a Christian but was referring to witnesses whom he describes, many of them by name, in his preceding chapter, men and women all the way back to Abel who lived before Jesus finished his earthly ministry and who “had witness borne to them through their faith” that they pleased Jehovah God. (Heb. 11:1-40, NW) They were witnesses of Jehovah the same as Jesus was on earth. (Rev. 1:5; 3:14) In the Bible we have an authentic history of those ancient witnesses, written by some of these witnesses of Jehovah themselves, and all together those writers mention God’s name Jehovah 6,823 or more times.

    In the Christian Greek Scriptures, from Matthew to Revelation, we have a history of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah during Jesus and his apostles’ days, written by inspired disciples of his. Since then over eighteen centuries have passed, and in recent years Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have again come to the fore, becoming a subject of much inquiry and controversy. Many have wondered how Jehovah’s witnesses came into existence. Multitudes have gone to accusers and attackers, thinking to get unprejudiced, undistorted information about the modern witnesses of the Most High God. That authentic information may be made available to all for general enlightenment and for the correcting of many who have been misled by antagonistic would-be informers we begin here a series of articles on a “Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

    EARLY HAPPENINGS (1870-1878)

    Gradually ‘called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light!’ That briefly describes the modern history of Jehovah’s witnesses as they advanced out of the darkness of Babylonish religious thinking toward increased restorations of new Bible truths. (1 Pet. 2:9, NW) The long night of spiritual darkness out of which these Christian witnesses came had existed from the early part of the second century following the death of Christ’s apostles right up to the latter half of the nineteenth century. Early Christianity with its brilliance of right doctrine and cleanness of theocratic organization began to be eclipsed after the year 100 by a creeping spiritual darkness of Babylonish religious teachings, Grecian and Roman pagan philosophies and rank apostasy. Satan the Devil, ever active to defeat the true worship of Jehovah God, had produced apostate, false shepherds, “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” eventually to bring about desolation to the once spiritually flourishing Christian congregation. In spite of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, which really effected no restoration of true worship, the pall of darkness continued over the minds of misled Christians until the time came for Jehovah to send forth his Liberator, the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ, to deliver the true Christian witnesses from their Babylonish bondage.

    While their complete release from Babylonish captivity did not come until A.D. 1919, prior thereto for a period of nearly fifty years the witnesses experienced a gradual awakening to prepare them for their hour of liberation as a New World people. This proved to be similar to the case of the natural Jews in captivity to ancient Babylon, where Daniel and many others of Jehovah’s faithful witnesses were aroused to wakefulness years before, to be ready for the restoration of true worship in Jerusalem when it came at last in 537 B.C. So, too, with Jehovah’s witnesses in these modern times, a stir to spiritual wakefulness became apparent from the 1870’s forward.

    As to the old-world background and setting for the re-entry of Jehovah’s witnesses on the world scene, the period from 1870 to 1900 proved to be destiny-shaping years for this “atomic-age” twentieth century. Forces political, religious and commercial began to maneuver for position to control the incoming new scientific era. Men and organizations were filled with forebodings as to the weird fast-moving days of the future, which some even visioned correctly as being cataclysmic. At the Vatican Council of 1869-70 the Roman Catholic cult sought to strengthen its organization for the immediate future by declaring its autocratic head, the pope, infallible. The leading Protestant religious organizations became spiritually unprogressive in their ways. Their clergy sought to consolidate their power over the laity. This clerical assumption of greater authority over their flocks meant a backward step from freedom of Christian thought and worship on the part of the masses of professed Christians. Infidelity, higher criticism, evolution, spiritism, atheism and communism began to invade and decimate the great world religious organizations Many of the evangelical churches began to “modernize” their false religious doctrines, not according to restored Bible truths, but according to theories of higher criticism and evolution. The paganized modernist form of theology inundated the churches.

    Politically great forces were stirring. The United States of America was just recovering from its Civil War (1861-1865) to regain its strength rapidly for phenomenal expansion into a great world power. Germany had won the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, to be further built up into a powerful European colossus. Britain was passing through golden years of her Victorian era, sparring for future bids of world control. Industrially, the United States, Britain, France and large portions of Europe were undergoing a revolution in consequence of the invention of the steam engine. The industrial revolution was augmented, as the years progressed, by the discovery of electricity, invention of the telephone, the motorcar and the dozens of other “miracles” of this new atomic-destined civilization. Commercialism likewise rose to new heights as a consequence of the industrialization of leading nations and the creation of new “gold mine” business enterprises. Labor unionism also came to the fore to become an antagonist of advancing capitalism. All this meant a wave of materialism, moneymaking and pleasure-seeking. The invisible demonic powers of this old world produced glittering snares of new enticements to blind the peoples to the incoming higher and finer values of restored Christian truth.

    Amid these rumblings of industrial, commercial, social and religious changes early voices of small religious groups were heard in their efforts to read the signs of the times and predict the imminent second coming of Jesus, Jehovah’s Christ. Various adventist groups were busy in the United States and Europe, proclaiming a visible return of Christ for 1873 or 1874, even though the American founder of their movement, William Miller, had acknowledged his error and disappointment as to the former set dates of 1843 and 1844. Earlier, the German Lutheran theologian Bengel (1687-1751) had fixed upon 1836 as the marked date for the beginning of the millennium of Revelation 20:6. In Scotland and England others, commonly known as “Irvingites,” raised their voices to announce 1835, 1838, 1864 and finally 1866 for Christ’s return. Christian writers such as Elliott and Cumming looked for the end in 1866, Brewer and Decker predicted 1867 and Seiss favored 1870. In Russia, Claas Epp, a leader of the Mennonite Brethren (Bruedergemeinde), and his associate fixed upon the date of 1889 for a great cosmic happening. But all these widely proclaimed predictions came to complete disappointment because they were not based on accurate Biblical knowledge of Jehovah’s prophecies. Christ’s return was destined to be, not a physical manifestation as they had assumed, but rather, as the Scriptures now clearly indicate, an invisible presence of glory and power to provoke the greatest crisis ever experienced by man on earth.

    Still other voices were heard, but these began to proclaim an impending invisible return of the Messiah. One of these groups was led by George Storrs of Brooklyn, New York. He and his associates after 1870 published a magazine entitled The Bible Examiner, setting forth their views that Christ’s return would be an invisible one. Another group headed by H. B. Rice of Oakland, California, published a magazine called The Last Trump, heralding an invisible return as occurring in the 1870’s. A third group comes to our attention, this time of disappointed Second Adventists who forsook that movement because of the failure of the Lord to return in 1873 as the Adventists had further predicted. This group was led by N. H. Barbour. They radiated their activities from Rochester, New York, performing a preaching service by sending out speakers to whatever churches would open their doors to them. They also published a monthly, The Herald of the Morning. One of this group came into possession of B. Wilson’s Diaglott translation of the “New Testament,” noticing in it that, at Matthew 24:27, 37, 39, the word the King James Version rendered coming is translated presence. This was the clue that led this group to advocate an invisible presence of Christ, claiming it began in the fall of 1874.

    Yet a fourth voice of proclaimers of an invisible presence of Christ comes to view, a group of sincere students of the Bible at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., with its chairman, C. T. Russell. Charles Taze Russell was born in Old Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh) February 16, 1852; he was one of three children of Joseph L. and Eliza Birney Russell. Both parents were Presbyterians of Scottish-Irish lineage. Russell’s father operated a clothing store business. His mother died when he was only nine years old. While still a boy, he used to write Bible texts with chalk on the sidewalks, and although brought up a Presbyterian, he joined the neighborhood Congregational church, because it was more liberal. At fifteen years of age Russell was in partnership with his father in a growing chain of men’s clothing stores. But while things went well for young Russell in business, he was troubled in mind. The doctrines of predestination and eternal punishment gave him particular difficulty, and by the time he was seventeen he had become an avowed skeptic, discarding the Bible and the creeds of the churches.

    During the next few months Russell continued to reflect over the subject of religion, unable to accept it, and yet unwilling to let it go. Finally one day in 1870 he dropped into a dusty, dingy little basement hall near his Federal Street store—

    “to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists, the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell . . . Though his Scripture-exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked.”

    Shortly after this Russell and about five others began to meet together regularly from 1870 to 1875 to make a systematic study of the Bible. Note the following description of the change-over of thinking that was the fruitage of these five years of joint Bible study.

    “[We] soon began to see that we were living somewhere near the close of the Gospel age, and near the time when the Lord had declared that the wise, watching ones of his children should come to a clear knowledge of his plan. . . . We came to see something of the love of God, how it had made provision for all mankind, how all must be awakened from the tomb in order that God’s loving plan might be testified to them, and how all who exercise faith in Christ’s redemptive work and render obedience in harmony with the knowledge of God’s will they will then receive, might then (through Christ’s merit) be brought back into full harmony with God, and be granted everlasting life. . . . We came to recognize the difference between our Lord as ‘the man who gave himself,’ and as the Lord who would come again, a spirit being. We saw that spirit-beings can be present, and yet invisible to men. . . . We felt greatly grieved at the error of Second Adventists who were expecting Christ in the flesh, and teaching that the world and all in it except Second Adventists would be burned up in 1873 or 1874, whose time-settings and disappointments and crude ideas generally of the object and manner of his coming brought more or less reproach upon us and upon all who longed for and proclaimed his coming Kingdom. These wrong views so generally held of both the object and manner of the Lord’s return led me to write a pamphlet—The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return, of which some 50,000 copies were published.”

    In January, 1876, Charles Russell for the first time received a copy of the monthly magazine The Herald of the Morning as published by the Rochester group headed by Nelson H. Barbour. A meeting was soon arranged between Russell and Barbour, since it was discovered that their views were the same concerning Christ’s second coming as being invisible. As a result the Pittsburgh Bible group of nearly thirty decided to affiliate with the Rochester group slightly larger in number. Russell became a joint editor along with Barbour for The Herald of the Morning. The Pittsburgh group on Russell’s initiative agreed to finance a small printing place in Rochester for the joint printing undertakings. It was also decided to publish a bound book containing their joint views, the work being completed by 1877. The 194-page publication was entitled “Three Worlds or Plan of Redemption,” by Barbour and Russell as joint authors. During this time Russell at the age of twenty-five began to sell out his business interests and went full time into the preaching work, going from city to city to talk to various gatherings of the public, on the streets and, Sundays, in Protestant churches, where he could arrange such with the clergy.

    This book set forth their belief that Christ’s second presence began invisibly in the fall of 1874 and thereby commenced a forty-year harvest period. Then, remarkably accurately, they set forth the year 1914 as the end of the Gentile times.—Luke 21:24.

    “Hence, it was in B.C. 606, that God’s kingdom ended, the diadem was removed, and all the earth given up to the Gentiles. 2520 years from B.C. 606 will end in A.D. 1914, or forty years from 1874; and this forty years upon which we have now entered is to be such ‘a time of trouble as never was since there was a nation.’ And during this forty years, the kingdom of God is to be set up (but not in the flesh, ‘the natural first and afterwards the spiritual’), the Jews are to be restored, the Gentile kingdoms broken in pieces ‘like a potter’s vessel,’ and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and the judgment age introduced.”—Three Worlds or Plan of Redemption, pp. 83, 189.

    After two years of affiliation a testing occurred that brought about a parting of the ways. In 1878 Barbour began to fall victim to higher criticism. He published an article in the Herald—

    “denying that the death of Christ was the ransom price . . . saying that Christ’s death was no more a settlement of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.”

    This plain denial of basic Bible doctrine amazed the Pittsburgh group and Russell. Months of argument ensued in publishing articles in the Herald pro and con on the ransom issue. Finally the Pittsburgh Bible group withdrew association from the Barbour group to undertake a separate Bible publishing work. Many of the Rochester group sided in with Russell and his associates on the ransom issue and they too came over to the Pittsburgh association. This parting proved fatal to the Rochester group, for within a few years the Herald ceased to be published and nothing more has been heard from this early voice sounding the “second coming” call. In our next article we shall see who of these many early voices finally received the go-ahead signal from Jehovah to represent him as His witnesses for future ministerial work.


    The Small Sects in America (1949 revised edition) by E. T. Clark, pp. 33, 34. Catholic Encyclopedia (1910, New York), “Irvingites.” Cyclopædia (McClintock & Strong, 1882, New York), “Millennium”; “Bengel, John Albert.”

    Zion’s Watch Tower, Extra Edition, April 25, 1894, pp. 97-99 (“Harvest Siftings”), W October-November 1881, p. 3.

    J. L. Russell died in 1897 at 84, having been a close associate of his son in the Society’s activities. W January 1, 1898, p. 4.

    Harvest Siftings, 1894, published by the Watch Tower Society, pp. 93-95.

    Ibid., pp. 95-97.

    New York Sunday World Magazine, August 30, 1914, “End of all Kingdoms in 1914”; Pittsburgh Press Sunday Magazine, August 23, 1953, “Pastor Russell”; Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, September 4, 1954, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Continue to Grow in Strength Faith.”

    Harvest Siftings, p. 104.

    -- The WATCHTOWER, January 1, 1955, page 4.

    Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses

    Part 31: Ending the Fourth, Beginning the Fifth Decade of Kingdom Operation

    THE “kingdom of the heavens” with Jesus Christ in power as King at his Father’s right hand ended its fortieth year of rule amid its enemies in 1954, about October 1. It began ruling amid World War I in 1914; it ended its fortieth year amid the “cold war” between the East and West blocs of Kingdom enemies that followed World War II. Jehovah’s witnesses, knowing well the times and seasons of God’s purposes, approached and entered the Kingdom’s fortieth year without joining in the dire predictions that some religionists were making about 1954 on the basis of their ideas of parallel time periods in historical events. They entered 1954 planning and arranging to do still greater works in Kingdom service.

    Their long fight in Quebec Province, Canada, to establish the right to preach the Kingdom news to the Catholic population there had been rewarded with a five-judge majority decision in the Supreme Court of Canada, at Ottawa, October 6, 1953, which ruled that Jehovah’s witnesses have the right to put out their religious literature in Quebec. Future efforts by the adversaries of free speech and free worship in Quebec to block the application of this Supreme Court decision showed that they took it in bad grace, as enemies among whom Christ had to rule with an iron rod.

    The exploding of two new models of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific Ocean by America in March, 1954, did not fill Jehovah’s witnesses with dread forebodings of the future. Undisturbed, they went on to give a still greater witness to God’s established kingdom by putting more preaching ministers in the field. In that March a new high number of 154,367 ministers reported time spent in preaching, followed by a still higher peak of 169,015 in April, in America. In other nations, too, the increase was going on. So by the close of the 1954 service year a new world-wide peak of 580,498 preachers was attained, a jump of 60,516 over the preceding year. Door-to-door sermons from the Bible of three to eight minutes’ length were now specially recommended, and also ten- to fifteen-minute sermons in making return visits upon interested persons. All the congregations were brought into accord with a training program to have qualified, experienced ministers to give personal training to irregular ones or less successful ones or to newly interested persons in the most effective ways of preaching in the field. More attention also began to be placed on putting out individual copies of The Watchtower and Awake! at every opportunity, besides obtaining subscriptions for these magazines.

    April 3, 1954, saw the entry of a new feature, the film entitled “The New World Society in Action,” of one hour and twenty minutes’ length. On that night this film was shown for the first time outside Brooklyn headquarters to an audience of 1,110 at a New York City circuit assembly. To date it has proved a mighty instrument in visually acquainting all viewers with the magnitude of the Society’s organization, its institutions, its field activities, its large-scale conventions, its smooth, efficient functioning and the spirit by which it is moved. In the territories of the Watch Tower Society’s branch offices, even in Taiwan during the eighteen-year-long ban upon Jehovah’s witnesses, the film was exhibited to large appreciative audiences. By the close of the 1955 service year this motion picture, with accompanying commentary, had been shown to 2,379,549 persons.

    The year 1954 proved to be a notable one for assemblies. During the summer, beginning with the Boston (Massachusetts) assembly on June 24, 1954, four-day district and national assemblies were held around the globe, including assemblies even in such places as Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, besides other places on six continents and the islands of the seas. Eighty of these assemblies brought out a total public audience of 427,000 and more, and a total of 14,509 were baptized. The Berlin assembly took the lead, with 22,500 present to hear “God’s Love to the Rescue in Man’s Crisis” and with a baptism of 1,022. At the Toronto (Ontario) district assembly a fifth day was added to accommodate the graduation of the 116 students of the twenty-third class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The effect of all these assemblies became quite evident in the New World society.

    Quite appropriately in 1954, the seventieth year from when the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania was incorporated December 13, 1884, the Society completed construction of an outstanding building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to house its registered offices. On September 4, 1954, the building was dedicated by officers of the Society, and on Friday, October 1, 1954, the first annual business meeting of the Society was held there with its president as chairman. An attendance of 820 overflowed from the main auditorium, which seats 500, to the auxiliary auditorium in the basement of the building.

    The year 1955 opened the fifth decade for God’s established kingdom to rule amid its enemies. The early part of the year was marked by outstanding legal decisions. On January 7, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Lord Judge of the Court of Sessions handed down the decision that Jehovah’s witnesses are a religious denomination but their pioneer publishers and congregation servants are not “regular ministers” of religion within the meaning of the 1948 National Service Act of Britain. The adverse part of this decision was appealed to a three-judge High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, only to have an unfavorable decision rendered by all three judges July 21, 1955. On this an appeal is now being made to the House of Lords, London, England, the final court of appeal for the British Empire. However, in America, on March 14, 1955, the Supreme Court at Washington, D.C., ruled favorably on three cases of Jehovah’s witnesses, that the witnesses must be considered sincere conscientious objectors to carnal warfare of this world even though they are willing to fight a war at God’s command, a “theocratic war,” not an earthly kind. On these grounds the Court reversed the convictions of three witnesses who had refused induction into military service. But in Poland, according to reports by news dispatches and radio, five witnesses of Jehovah were arrested on the false charge of being spies for political America and were sentenced in March, 1955, to years of imprisonment. Mark 13:9 and Luke 21:12 were still being fulfilled upon Jehovah’s witnesses in this “time of the end.”

    For the general guidance of all Kingdom publishers in their field activities the new service booklet of 64 pages on “Preaching Together in Unity” was released on January 1, 1955. To increase the publication of literature, especially the magazines, in the spring of the year the Watchtower Society began building its new thirteen-story factory across the street from its present nine-story factory in Brooklyn. As a judgment against the entire system of worldly religion came the challenging message under the title “Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is ‘the Light of the World’?” This message exploded upon the world Sunday, April 3, 1955, by the simultaneous delivery of a uniform public address on that subject by speakers in thirty languages the world over. At the close of the address all speakers announced the release of the new 32-page booklet upon the same subject, copies of which were given free to all in attendance. Throughout the earth well over a half million attended this powerful lecture. According to the president’s letter of February 10, 1955, it had been expected to publish ten million copies of the booklet in ten languages. But the Society’s branches were so eager for the message that it was published in thirty languages and more than 21,000,000 copies were printed.

    Distribution of the booklet to the outside public followed at once upon the heels of the public lecture. Thousands of newly interested persons took a hand in the distribution for the first time. This produced a new peak of Kingdom publishers of 625,256, during the month of April. Thoroughly aroused, the friendlily disposed people turned out in unprecedented numbers the following Thursday night, April 7, to celebrate the Lord’s evening meal, to run up a total attendance of 878,303, of whom, however, only 16,815 partook as the remnant of the heavenly Kingdom class. During April and the following month of May the new booklet moved out into eighty-eight lands, to reach a phenomenal circulation in just two months’ time, even in lands where Jehovah’s witnesses were banned, such as the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Eastern Germany. The clergy of Christendom came in for direct attention later. Along with this “blitz” distribution Jehovah’s witnesses wound up their special January-to-April campaign for new Watchtower subscriptions by obtaining 562,228 new magazine subscriptions by the close of April, and that in forty languages.

    Thirteen “Triumphant Kingdom” assemblies next dominated the scene, occasioning the movement of hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses from over sixty lands to the thirteen assembly sites, all at their own expense. Five-day assemblies these were, with a uniform program, the climax of which was the public address by the Society’s president or its vice-president on the theme “World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom.” In weekly succession the series moved forward from June 22 at Chicago, Illinois, to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, to Los Angeles, California, to Dallas, Texas (in Spanish and English), to Yankee Stadium, New York city (for the third time), across the Atlantic to Twickenham (London), England, to Paris, France, to Rome, Italy (simultaneous with the last three days of Paris), to Nuremberg, Germany, to Berlin, Germany (simultaneous with the last three days of Nuremberg), to simultaneous assemblies at Stockholm, Sweden, and The Hague, Netherlands, and finally to Helsinki, Finland, August 25-28. The leap of the assembly series across the Atlantic from North American to European shores witnessed the greatest mass movement of conventioners from the Americas in history, over 4,500 of them.

    During the series the public address was delivered thus in nine countries and in nine languages to a total of 403,682 hearers. The number of those baptized totaled 13,016. From the assemblies a flood of new literature poured out over the world: Volume II of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Qualified to Be Ministers, What Do the Scriptures Say About “Survival After Death”? You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World and the public-address booklet World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom. After the close of the assembly in each country 257,124 copies of the unprecedently distributed booklet Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is “the Light of the World”? were mailed world-wide by individual witnesses to each of the religious clergymen and editors of religious publications in their territory. What acknowledgments of receipt of the booklet were received varied from vicious or deploring to qualifiedly agreeing or kindly.

    At the end of August the 1955 service year ended. How? With a marked expansion in the New World society and its activities. The monthly average of preaching witnesses rose to 570,694 for the 158 lands reporting, whereas once a peak of 642,929 publishers was reached. A total of 63,636 were baptized. The total hours of field preaching went up to 85,823,250, accompanied by increases in the distribution of Bibles, books, booklets, magazines and tracts. Yankee Stadium also witnessed its third graduation exercises of a class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, the 102 graduates making up the twenty-fifth class of the school since its founding February 1 of 1943. To these have now been added the 106 graduates of the twenty-sixth class, whose graduation exercises took place at Gilead Sunday, February 12, 1956. Missionary graduates are now sprinkled all over the earth in a hundred lands and islands. To these missionaries the Watch Tower Society has recently added more special pioneers in many lands, to augment the ingathering of “other sheep.”

    The year 1956 has already experienced steps toward better management and regulation of the organization. The zoning of the earth into ten zones has taken place, each zone embracing a number of the Society’s seventy-seven branches. Over each of the ten areas is a zone servant. January 1, 1956, the first of the zone servants inaugurated this zone work of inspecting branches. February 29 the Society’s president himself departed by air from Brooklyn on a ten-week tour of the South Pacific and Far East to visit the Society’s branches there, to address assemblies and congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses and to address the public in major cities on the subject “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator.”

    Thus till now Jehovah’s witnesses have made an inerasable, everlasting record in modern history. This record will yet be added to before they finish their pre-Armageddon witness, all with praise and credit to the only living and true God, whose witnesses they have been privileged to be. -- The WATCHTOWER, April 1, 1956, page 220.

    (end of series)

  • greendawn

    Did the JWs, the then Bible Students, come out of spiritual darkness on departing from their adventist roots? Even in 1919 they were nowhere in the light since according to today's JW understanding the truth of the then JWs was false. They gave up most of Russell's teachings, and Rutherford's.

    In fact the dictatorial take over by the demonic Rutherford drove them ever deeper into Babylon and its spiritual darkness and captivity by 1919.

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    I was going to post this under a new thread, but I am limited to starting only two threads a day.

    To address Greendawn's question, The Watchtower Society teaches that The Bible Students were in "Babylonish captivity" until 1919. Presumably Judge Rutherford led them out.

    * * * * *

    The following information was extracted from
    which looks to be a work in progress (some sections are empty). I thought it gave a nice overview of the legend of Jehovah's Unified Worshippers (my term).

    = = = = =

    The Bible Student movement is a religious movement that sprang mainly from the teachings of Pastor Charles Taze Russell (whose folowers generally called themselves "Bible Students"). It has led to the creation of many movements, some of which have moved away from the doctrines of Pastor Russell. The most prominent group of the movement today is the Jehovah's Witnesses.


    Apart from Charles Taze Russell early figures and influences included : Charles Russell in 1911 Charles Taze Russell, (February 16, 1852 - October 31, 1916), known as Pastor Russell, was an American evangelist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who founded what is known as the Bible Student movement. ...

    Nelson H. Barbour (1824-1908)
    Henry Dunn (1801-1878)
    Dunbar Isidore Heath (1816-1888)
    George Stetson (1814-1879)
    Jonas Wendell (1815-1873)
    R. E. Streeter (1847-1924)
    Dwight Moody (1835-1899)


    In 1909, Pastor Russell expressed that the "true church" was not developing under the New Covenant, and declared that the New Covenant was future, applied to the nation of Israel.

    This, and challenges to other doctrines, led some to leave in 1910, leading to the formation of New Covenant Bible Students, who began to hold their yearly Christian Believers Conferences. Among them was E. C. Hennings, formerly Australian Branch Manager of the International Bible Students Association, who published The New Covenant Advocate and Kingdom Herald, which continued until 1944. A congregation of Bible Students, the New Creation Bible Students started to publish the New Creation magazine in 1940 which eventually led to the Christian Millennial Fellowship, a publishing house for the Bible Students.

    M.L. McPhail, Pilgrim member of the Chicago Bible Students, also disassociated himself from Russell's movement at that time and led the New Covenent Bible Students in the United States, founding the New Covenant Believers in 1909. They published The Kingdom Scribe until 1975. This groups still publishes today under the name Berean Bible Students Church.

    In 1928, the Italian Bible Students Association in Hartford, Connecticut withdrew it's support from the Watchtower Society and changed it's name to the Millennial Bible Students Church, then to Christian Millennial Fellowship, Inc.. They eventuallly rejected many of Russell's writings as erroneous. The group is now located in New Jersey.


    The Associated Bible Students is the branch of the Bible Student movement that follows the most closely the teachings and views of Charles Taze Russell, also known as "Pastor Russell". The Bible Students practice regular reading and study of the Bible and hold Bible Study classes utilizing the six volumes of "Studies in the Scriptures", written by Pastor Russell.

    Most of these groups seperated from the Watchtower Society in the years following Russell's death in 1916 and Joseph Franklin Rutherford's take over.

    In 1918, a Bible Student Convention was held independantly of the Watchtower society. At the second convention, a few months later, the Pastoral Bible Institute was founded and began publishing The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, edited by R. E. Streeter. The magazine continues to be published today [].

    The Australian Berean Bible Institute also formally seperated from the Watchtower society in 1918. They published The Voice and the People's papers.

    In December 1918, Charles E. Heard and some others, considering Rutherford's recommendation to buy war bonds to be a perversion to Russell's pacifism teachings, founded the StandFast Bible Students Association in Portland. Their name originates from their decision to “stand fast on war principles that our dear Pastor Russell announced”. Opposed to public witnessing, they eventually dwindled and disappeared, but not without giving birth to a splinter group, the Elijah Voice Society, founded by John A. Herdersen and C. D. McCray in 1923, noted for their witnessing and pacifist activity.

    In 1928, Norman Woodworth, cousin of C.J. Woodworth, left the Watchtower society (he had created its radio program), to create the radio program Frank and Ernest with the help of the Brooklyn congregation of Bible Students. In 1931, the Dawn Bible Students Association was founded (by Norman Woodworth among others) for the purpose of again publishing the "Studies in the Scriptures" series which the Watchtower Society had ceased publication of in 1927. They began publication of The Bible Students Radio Echo as a method of following up interest in the radio program. This publication was soon renamed "The Dawn and Herald of Christ’s Presence", a bi-monthly, and later monthly, journal. Today, they carry on with publishing work, as well as radio and television programs.

    While most congregations are under no central leadership, most Bible Students remain united and supportive. The Pastoral Bible Institute continues to publish "The Herald", and acting as publishing houses for various ecclesias (congregations) around the world.


    Paul S. L. Johnson, eventually founded the Layman's Home Missionary Movement in 1919 (Again, Johnson's death in 1950 lead to internal disagreements and the formation of splinter groups, the Epiphany Bible Students Association and the Laodicean Home Missionary Movement). Johnson believed he was the last member of the 144,000, and that with his death all chance for a heavenly reward to the faithful had ceased. His associate, Raymond Jolly, taught that he was the last member of the "great multitude" of Revelation 7. Upon his death all remaining members ceased any thought of enterinig heaven, and believed they would live upon a perfected earth in God's Kingdom as a group referred to as the "modern worthies".


    In 1917, Alexander F.L. Freytag, Branch manager of the Swiss Watch Tower Society since 1898, founded the Angel of Jehovah Bible and Tract Society (also known as the Philanthropic Assembly of the Friends of Man and The Church of the Kingdom of God, Philanthropic Assembly) and started publishing his views; he was ousted from the Watchtower Society by Rutherford in 1919. He published two journals, the monthly The Monitor of the Reign of Justice and the weekly Paper For All.

    Jesse Hemery was one of the most prominent Bible Students of England, and had been appointed president of the International Bible Students Association by Pastor Russell in 1901, and held that post until 1946. In 1951, he was disfellowshipped by N.H. Knorr and founded the Goshen Fellowship. He died in 1955, and the group is currently led by Frank Lewis Brown.


    The Jehovah's Witnesses have been the "main branch" of the movement, in the sense that they remained in control of the legal entities founded by Pastor Russell (such as the Watchtower Society), and that the other groups mostly formed themselves by disassociating themselves from the leadership of the Watchtower Society. A number of corporations are in use by Jehovahs Witnesses.


    The Jehovah's Witnesses have known several schisms throughout their history. While the legal entities founded by Charles Taze Russell (the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the International Bible Students Association, etc.) have always remained grouped, many congregations in the Bible Student movement have rejected their leadership. The word schism, from the Greek "schisma," means a division or a split, usually in an organization.

    Note that most of these groups split before the Jehovah's Witnesses adopted that name in 1931. They previously called themselves "Bible Students" (and still did so afterwards), and as a consequence several splinter groups call themselves "Bible Students".

    In 1942, The Jehovah's Witnesses changed the date of Christ's Second Coming in their doctrine from 1874 to 1914, which again led to the departure of several groups who kept the original date.

    The German Bible Students Association had stayed affiliated to the Watchtower Society but had no contact under Hitler's regime, who persecuted them severely. However, when the contact was re-established, they disagreed with the changes that had occured in the meantime, and disassociated themselves with the Watchtower Society.


    Bible Student's Fellowship (San Diego, California)
    Bible Way Publications (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
    Chicago Bible Students (Chicago, Illinois)
    Christian Renewal Ministry (Saratoga, California)
    Church of God, Faith of Abraham (Wenatchee, Washington)
    Eagle Society (address unknown) Haviland Davis (Albany, New York)
    Hirsho-Kittenger Movement (now defunct)
    Olson Movement (now defunct)
    Ritchie Movement (now defunct, led by A. I. Ritchie, vice-president of the Watchtower Society)
    Sturgeon Movement (now defunct)

Share this