Did Russell ask that no publications be written after he died?

by ackack 25 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • ackack

    There is a debate brewing on wikipedia over whether Russell's will stated that no new publications be made by the Watchtower Society, and if Rutherford violated his will.

    The relevant portion from his will reads:

    As the Society has already pledged to me that it will publish no other periodicals, it shall also be required that the Editorial Committee shall write for or be connected with no other publications in any manner or degree.

    What's your opinion?


  • Leolaia

    The publication of new material other than the Watch Tower magazine (for which the Editorial Committee was arranged), and especially the publication of the Golden Age periodical, was a clear violation of the Will. Note the wording of the sentence:

    "As the Society has already pledged to me that it will publish no other periodicals, it shall also be required that the Editorial Committee shall write for or be connected with no other publications in any manner or degree" (Watch Tower, 1 December 1916, p. 358).

    This is a blanket statement. And the record shows that the Society abided by these wishes in 1917, at least in appearance. The only material distributed this year were old publications (such as Studies in the Scriptures, Manna and other already-published books and booklets, Proto-Drama of Creation Scenarios) and the Watch Tower magazine (cf. 15 December 1917 Watch Tower, pp. 374-375). The one exception was the Finished Mystery book, but it was styled as a posthumous work of Russell that had already been written and published according to his wishes:

    "Time and again Pastor Russell said that the Seventh Volume of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES would be written; and it was expected that he would write it. The Scriptures show that the Seventh Volume must be published. Pastor Russell passed from the earth, and the Seventh Volume remained unpublished.... But the fact is, he did write it. This book may properly be said to be a posthumous publication of Pastor Russell. Why? Because to him the Lord gave the “key”, to him was given the privilege of making clear to the Church in its last years the “Mystery of God”; to him was granted the privilege of hearing from the hands of the Lord to the Household of Faith “meat in due season” for the special development and sustenance of God’s dear little ones. This service he has faithfully performed. ... With the “key” which Brother Russell, as the Lord’s servant, had placed in his hands, Brother Woodworth, by the Lord’s grace, has been enabled to bring together everything that Brother Russell wrote on Revelation" (The Finished Mystery, 1917, pp. 5-6).

    In reality, Russell had very little to do with the writing of the Finished Mystery, but this cover story accommodated the publication of the book to the stated wishes in the Will. Many Bible Students were not sold on this story and expressed doubts that it really was written by Russell. A letter by Frank F. Cook to Mr. Charles R. Cox, written in August-September 1917, for instance states: "I have no thought that Brother Russell would ever have permitted such a message going out to the people....It is important to bear in mind that there has been a tradition among us that the 7th Volume had to be written, and after Brother Russell's death, not being able to find any manuscripts among the things that he left behind, somebody had to get busy and get out the volume that the friends might not be disappointed and one of our cherished expectations might not lack fulfillment". The book was also published without the knowledge or authorization of the Board of Directors, and it was copyrighted in the name of the People's Pulpit Association rather than the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (the "Society" mentioned in the Will).

    Moreover, Rutherford was already violating the Will in other ways by imposing new bylaws that made him a President for life and dismissing the four directors that did not support him, so any "fidelity" to the Will was in appearance only. The printing of internal pamphlets in 1917 and 1918 in the wake of the Paul SL Johnson/Board of Directors schisms constituted another possible breach of the Will; although they were not intended for public circulation, they were published for Bible Students and printed with donated funds. In his response Harvest Siftings Reviewed, Paul SL Johnson noted two other little-noticed breaches of the Will with repect to publications: "He [Rutherford] suggested the publication of one, and admittedly permitted the publication of two of his discourses as volunteer matter. The Will directs that volunteer matter consist of Bro. Russell’s discourses. He should have refrained from such a suggestion. He should also have prevented others overriding the Will in this matter" (pp. 19-20). Johnson's opinion of Rutherford's treatment of the Will is as follows:

    "Let us stand for Bro. Russell’s wise arrangements! Let us stand for Bro. Russell’s Will! Let us stand for Bro. Russell’s Board! Let us stand for Bro. Russell’s charter! Let us stand for Bro. Russell’s W. T. B. & T. S.! The Society’s only right to the things that Bro. Russell bequeathed to it is that the intents of his writings, will, and charter be obeyed. No one has a right to exercise any authority in the Society, unless he submits to Bro. Russell’s expressed wishes respecting those bequests. These Bro. Rutherford has disregarded; and therefore has morally forfeited the right to exercise any authority with respect to the W. T. B. & T. S. Will not the shareholders bring such pressure to bear by their votes as to enforce compliance with them, and set aside those who do not comply with them? Would not Bro. Walter Page, a former vice-president, make a much better President than Bro. Rutherford?" (Paul SL Johnson, Harvest Siftings Reviewed, 1 November 1917, p. 18-19).

    When Rutherford and the remaining directors were released from prison in 1919, Rutherford flagrantly disregarded the Will's wishes on publication by starting a new periodical, the Golden Age, intended for public distribution. As Timothy White notes, "Many Bible Students were too shocked at this unfaithfulness [to the Will] to engage in The Golden Age distribution" (p. 186). Rutherford directly addressed this problem in the 15 October 1919 Watch Tower (p. 318):

    Here Rutherford insists that he is still abiding to the Will but interprets it extremely liberally. His idiosyncratic reading is that the Will forbids only the establishment of a journal that rivals the Watch Tower. Since the Golden Age was intended to be an auxiliary to the Watch Tower, subordinate to it, Rutherford claims that he is being faithful to the Will. Of course, the Will actually says nothing about forbidding a publication rivalling the Watch Tower; it states in no uncertain terms that the Society "will publish no other periodicals" and "will be connected with no other publications in any manner or degree". Furthermore, the statement that the Society will "publish no other periodicals" is interpolated with Rutherford's interpretive comment that this means that the Society "will not enter into a general publishing business, but will confine its activities to the publication of the truth". Again, such a reading has no basis in the actual Will itself.

    In 1933, Rutherford later expressed his disdain towards the Will and its demands on publication in the following way: "The dreamers, who are opposers, wept and howled, and still weep and howl, because the 'last will and testament of a dead man was not strictly followed,' assuming that any man could put a restriction on God's work" (Preparation, 1933, p. 117).

    Hope this helps!

  • juni

    Thanks Leolaia for your info. Seems like Rutherford and onward split hairs and used semantics. They saw a goldmine in this "truth" business. Look at the behemoth today. Russell has rolled over so many times in his grave he's dizzy.


  • Joe Grundy
    Joe Grundy

    Thanks for this info, Leolaia.

    So in a nutshell what happened was that Russell believed his writings were inspired (or at least guided), comprehensive and that no more were needed. Rutherford (and later JW bosses) over-ruled that and having been pumping stuff out ever since, also claiming to be guided or inspired..

    Do many JWs know about this?

  • Leolaia

    IMHO the 1919 Watch Tower article interprets Russell's Will with the same freewheeling abandon as the Finished Mystery book interpreted the prophecies of Revelation.

  • VM44

    Rutherford wanted total, absolute control over The Watchtower, and all of its witness followers.

    Yet, at the same time, Rutherford insisted that he was not the head of the Jehovah's Witnesse!

    Either Rutheford was totally self deluded, or he was very very apt at manipulation of the masses! Perhaps he was both at the the same time.


  • VM44

    Rutherford always mentioned that he was doing "God's work" or the "Lord's work". But who decided and determined what exactly was involved in carrying out the "Lord's work"?

    Rutherford did!

    Rutherford claimed that the Holy Spirit was not involved in conveying information to the faithful on earth, but rather angels were used!

    From what Rutherford wrote, he believed that angels were used as the channel of communication to bring him the information that he then wrote down in Watchtower articles!

    Rutherford was the terminal point of a direct communication line to Jehovah God!

    Now the question is "Did Rutherford really believe this, or was Rutherford really a religious con man?"


  • Leolaia

    Joe Grundy....Bear in mind that at the time Russell wrote his Will, he believed that the "Harvest" and Armageddon would be finished by 1914. And shortly before he died, he was persuaded to think that maybe by 1918 all would be accomplished and the Harvest work would be complete (cf. 1 January 1916 Watch Tower, pp. 4-5; 1 September 1916 Watch Tower, pp. 263-265). The Will did not view the work as continuing much further at all; only circulating what has already been published as well as the Watch Tower would be all that would be needed. In fact, Russell construed the final phase of the pastoral work as analogous to Elijah "smiting" the Jordan before being raised to heaven; Russell believed this would be a work in which the people of the earth would be tested and judged, just prior to the glorification of the church in the resurrection (1 February 1916 Watch Tower, pp. 38-40; Elisha represented the "secondary spiritual class" who would remain on earth during the time of trial). This was the rationale behind the Finished Mystery book....that this is the book, completing Russell's oeuvre, that would "smite the Jordan" and bring warning of the judgment and tribulation just prior to April 1918 when the elect would be raptured and resurrected to heaven and when the churches and peoples of the earth would be divinely "judged". When the government banned the book, Rutherford and the Society took this as a fulfillment of Russell's expectation that the "door" would close just prior to the end, and regarded it as confirmation that the Harvest work would end in April 1918. So when the Society was in "captivity" in 1918-1919, its leaders really did believe that the work was finished.

    But when the war ended and they were released from prison in 1919 (with the "elect" still on earth), Rutherford had to find a way to explain the prophetic failure of the Finished Mystery book and thus had a new date to look forward to: 1925. But there was a big problem. The Harvest was supposedly over and there would be no further preaching work, so there would seemingly be no justification for a "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" campaign. So at the 1919 Cedar Point lecture, Rutherford offered a new interpretation of the Elijah/Elisha type in which both figures represent the same church but Elijah represented the work up to 1918, while Elisha represents the new work Rutherford wanted the Bible Students to engage in. And in the 1 July 1920 Watchtower, Rutherford changed Russell's old interpretation of Matthew 24:14 to make the scripture refer to the renewed preaching work (which, of course, the Society still claims to this day). And since the new campaigns would require new literature, this gave the religious rationale for breaking Russell's Will and producing new literature espousing Rutherford's new views.

  • Joe Grundy
    Joe Grundy


    Thanks again. I follow that, and understand better now.

    What was it Shakespeare (or somebody) said - 'Oh what a tangled web we weave ... '

  • jschwehm

    I believe the Chicago Bible Students distribute a tract entitled When Pastor Russell Died which gives their side of the story as to what happened with the will. I found the tract to be very interesting.

    Jeff Schwehm


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