Lost history found ...

by vienne 7 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • vienne

    One of our research helpers, an expert on Watchtower history, located the original of Smyth's letter that appears in Studies volume 3. He's prepared an illustrated article for our history blog entitled "William Morris Wright and Charles Piazzi Smyth." [You probably know Smyth as Royal Astronomer for Scotland and a Pyramidologist.

    A few of you follow our research. I think those interested in Watchtower history in the Russell era will find this interesting:


  • cofty

    Very interesting piece of history. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Finkelstein

    Interesting thank you Vienne

    It also leaves one in puzzling dismay in how these men were so unacceptting to the Egyptian mythological practice at the time to why these Pyramids were originally built.

    They had a concept with little ancient archeology or ancient scriptural texts to back themselves up.

    I think they went on the premise that well this was greatest monument built in ancient times so this must be the one that is spoken about in the bible.

    This kind of unscriptural date setting by the leaders of the WTS carried on right throughout 20th century and influenced other date setting schemes like the 6000 years of mankind's existence and still carries on to this day.

  • dropoffyourkeylee

    Wow, an incredible find!

  • Phizzy

    Thank you for posting this, most interesting ! I think it really underlines how C.T.R was a plagiarist a lot of the time rather than an original thinker.

    Piazzi Smyth made a number of failed predictions of the Second Coming, failure being no surprise, as the whole idea that the Pyramid was prophetic in any way was preposterous, and, as the Egypt expert Flinders Petrie showed, Piazzi Smyth's, and therefore Russell's measurements, were totally wrong.

    Nonsense all of it, but very typical of a lot of late 19th century speculations. A different era, but today's Conspiracy Theorists etc remind me of this type of person.

  • sparky1

    Vienne......I have sent you a PM.

  • Crazyguy

    Phizzy your so right Russell was nothing more then a plagiarist all right! He didn’t come up with an original idea just stole it all. But in all reality almost everything the WT has come up with is also from others even 1975 was stolen from Armstrong.

  • vienne

    One of our comments on Russell's borrowing:

    Outside observers and antagonists commented on the mixture of doctrines out of which Watch Tower teachings were compounded. They seldom identified the exact sources. After William G. Moorehead, a professor at United Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Xenia, Ohio, pronounced “Millennial Dawn of C. T. Russell a mixture of Unitarianism, Universalism, Second Probation, and Restorationism, and the Swdenborgian method of exegesis” he was parroted endlessly and uncritically. Charles Cyrus Cook suggested more wide ranging sources for Russell’s theology:

    "It seems as though in his earlier years, in his haberdasher’s shop in Allegheny, when business was dull, or after business hours, Russell had gathered together all the scraps and remnants of ancient errors, such as Gnosticism (know-it-all-ism), Manicheism, Arianism, Sabellianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Pelagianism, etc., etc., and had cast them, one and all, into the fusing-pot of his own great and fervid imagination, and that “Millennial Dawnism” came forth to enlighten (?) benighted humanity."[1]

    None of Russell’s theology derived from these “ancient errors.” While C. C. Cook, D.D., was apparently educated somewhere, we are safe in claiming that he either could not define these ancient belief systems or he simply made this up out of his own “fervid imagination.” Claims such as these were scare tactics used without regard to the facts. Two elements are at play here. Some expected something ‘original’ from Russell, and failing to find it wrote off everything he taught. Russell, of course, would have been horrified at the suggestion that he originated anything. He sought to recapture Scriptural truth and the First Century Christian polity. Labeling Watch Tower teachings allowed opposers to avoid engagement. It was like slapping a poison label on a bottle of water without having tested it. Most “refutations” of Watch Tower teaching consisted of personal attacks or the suggestion that believing Millennial Dawn doctrine led to a degraded Christian personality.[2] There was a restating, sometimes an inaccurate one, of Watch Tower teaching presented for the “shock” value.[3] There were few serious attempts to refute Watch Tower doctrine.

    While Russell and his associates derived their beliefs from varied sources, most of them came from within the One Faith movement. This doesn’t mean they uncritically accepted everything that came their way, and they certainly achieved something less than unity. But it was the unique doctrinal blend believed by the majority that gave them a separate identity. This was a process that covered some years, culminating with the publication of Millennial Dawn: The Plan of the Ages in 1886. Zygmunt suggests that Russell’s election as pastor and an increasing doctrinal unity were key elements in establishing a separate identity:

    "The transition from study-circle to congregation reflected not only Russell’s emergence as a leader within the Allegheny group but also the crystallization of a more or less distinctive doctrinal system. Although “bible study” continued to be an important feature of congregational activity, its initially “open-ended” exploratory character tended to wane in proportion as basic “truths” were discovered and instituted as creedal tenets. Formal sermon and “bible discourse” became more prominent parts of the proceedings, congregational “bible study” increasingly assuming the form of a selective review of scriptures supporting particular beliefs, and eventually being supplemented by more devotional exercises. The crystallization of a doctrinal system was important, in turn, in transforming the purely local congregation into a trans-local sectarian movement."[4]

    While we must note that Zygmunt supposes a unity that didn’t completely exist in 1876 or for some years thereafter, this is a good summary of events. Zygmunt’s research suffered from lack of resources and an occasional presumption made without evidence, but he was correct when he wrote: “The movement’s collective identity and earthly mission were derived directly from this configuration of beliefs.”[5]

    Alan Thomas Rogerson, a former adherent, found it surprising that Russell originated nothing. We’re equally surprised at his amazement. Russell made his role as a restorer of “truth” plain. He denied originating anything. A passing acquaintance with his writings shows this. Never-the-less, Rogerson reached the sound conclusion that the Bible Study group’s doctrinal set gave them a separate identity:

    "It is perhaps surprising that Russell was so dependent on others for his ideas and was not an innovator as far doctrines were concerned. His system of belief, which ultimately formed the ideology of the sect he founded, was one that strongly appealed to laymen. This fits the way it was constructed, as Russell, still a young man in search for a satisfactory system, selected doctrines from his various teachers and fitted them together in a way that appealed to him. It was this unique arrangement of doctrines that characterizes Russell’s ideology and not the originality of any of its parts."[6]

    [1] C. C. Cook: More Data on Pastor Russell, the author, no date but c. 1912, page 4. Having read much of what Dr. Cook wrote about Russell and about the Catholic Church, one of the authors of this work suggests that “C. C. Cook” is a misspelling for “C. C. Kook.”

    [2] “We have observed Russellism for a long time and have never yet known an unregenerate person who looked into it, but who liked it. It is a religion made strictly for the fleshly man, and is a perfect fit.” – C. C. Cook, op. cit., page 5.

    [3] Walter T. Conner, a Baptist clergyman and professor, admitted as much: “His teachings are so absurd and so contrary to commonly accepted Christian principles that a statement of what he taught is enough. To state his teaching is to refute it.” – W. T. Conner: The Teachings of Pastor Russell, Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1926, page 5.

    [4] J. Zygmunt: Dissertation, page 205

    [5] J. Zygmunt: Prophetic Failure and Chiliastic Identity, published in Jon R. Stone [editor]: Expecting Armageddon, Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy, Routledge, 2002, page, 68.

    [6] A. T. Rogerson: A Sociological Analysis of the Origin and Development of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their Schismatic Groups, Thesis submitted for D.Phil., Oxford University, 1972, page 38. As with many researchers from the decade of the 1970s, Rogerson’s work is flawed by dependence on secondary sources.

    From Separate Identity, vol. One

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