William Miller

by lepavoux 64 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • vienne

    Russell was not interested in the occult except to warn against it. He wrote articles and a very large booklet to warn against it as alternately a fraud or a work of Satan. See his What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism. I believe you can find that online. Mom has an original, which I suppose it mine now. Some of the Bible Students still print it.


  • Pete Zahut
    Pete Zahut
    Pete I get vienne's frustration.
    The idea that Russell was influenced by Masonic rituals has been debunked so many times and so thoroughly by thoughtful posters it is astonishing that the myth won't die. I guess people prefer a mystery to facts they ought to have known but didn't.
    Even what vienne and her late mum have posted in this forum has shown how poor most exJWs knowledge is of the origins of the religion. Most seem happy that way.
    vienne19 hours ago
    Russell was never a Mason. This is the most uninformed bunch of posters I've seen here in ages.
    Link Dislike Like

    You're right....it's perfectly OK for Vienne to hurl insults at an entire forum of people based on a mistake by one poster, regardless of how many individuals were patient with her before she became a fully licensed and accredited X JW.

    As for me, I'm going to continue to err on the side of kindness.

  • vienne

    In your imagination you can "be sure" of almost anything. But a discussion of Watch Tower origins by those interested whether opposed or adherent should be based on verifiable facts from original sources - not from personal speculation or some moronic web page.

  • vienne

    I'm not an x-JW. I've never been a Witness, and my mom was not a Witness. My dad is a lapsed Presbyterian who doesn't care a bit about religion. And I did not, as Pete claims, insult the entire forum. If you see what I said as an insult, then perhaps it hit home. If it did not 'hit home' then you weren't insulted.

  • Pete Zahut
    Pete Zahut
    In your imagination you can "be sure" of almost anything.

    Which may include imagining that its a good idea to insult others who you view to be less informed than you.

    vienne19 hours ago

    Russell was never a Mason. This is the most uninformed bunch of posters I've seen here in ages.


    ...not from personal speculation or some moronic web page.

    You seem to be adept at the name calling. You disagreed with one poster and felt free to include a "bunch" of us. You don't like a certain webpage so you get to call it " Moronic".

    Why not simply relay your information and be nice about it once?

  • vienne


    You seem to define 'nice' as non-controversial. They're not the same thing. It would not be 'nice' to let those purveying ignorance on important issues to remain ignorant? Do you suggest that some, perhaps most, of the anti-Witness, anti-Russell web pages are historically accurate? Do you suggest that those which are in error in some form should exist unchallenged by better research?

    Or is your complaint your way of facing unpleasant 'truths'?

    Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees in boldy explicit terms; if you were there to hear it first hand would you have been offended, or would you have recognized the truthfulness of what he said? Better that falsehood [purposeful or not] be exposed than for it to continue because we should be 'nice.'

  • minimus

    Thank you for clarifying this issue for me. I was at work and didn’t read it as carefully as I should have.👍

  • vienne

    Bill C.,

    From about 1872 to 1881 Russell held parousia views similar to the Plymouth Brethren, and he certainly knew of their doctrine. But belief in a partially invisible parousia extends back at least to the second century, and was not unique to Plymouth Brethren. Russell says that he came to the teaching by reading J. A. Seiss' Last Times. It is also evident that he read Richard Cunningham Shimeall's The Second Coming of Christ: Or the Impending Approach of “The Restitution of all Things” which also promoted the doctrine of a two-stage, initially invisible, parousia. Others who actively opposed Russell held to that version of parousia doctrine.

    So it is doubtful that Russell got that belief from Plymouth Brethren, but he found it in standard works on prophecy published by those who were mainstream writers. In 1881 the Watch Tower began to teach that Christ's parousia was totally invisible. This was the result of a discussion between the principals in the movement prompted by an article by Lizzie [Elizabeth] A. Allen, a Watch Tower contributor.

    Separate Identity vol 2, says:

    They expected Christ to become visible at least to some in or near 1881, but constant and considerable discussion among Watch Tower adherents modified that belief. Barbourites were tending to discount their shared παρουσία doctrine, drifting back to expecting a visible presence only.

    [photo here]

    First Printing of Object and Manner

    The movement’s principals discussed it among themselves, and discussion became public through an article by Lizzie Allen appearing in the May 1880 issue. Written in response to Barbour’s claims to have uncovered a “clean” theology, his term for his ventures into esoteric belief systems, Allen focused on the sign of Christ’s presence, and the difference in viewpoint between Watch Tower adherents and Barbourites. She referenced Matthew 24:3, presenting a bastardized quotation based on the Emphatic Diaglott, a Greek-English interlinear: “What shall be the sign of Thy parousia, and of the end of the world?” Jesus’ answer showed, she wrote, “the need of a sign.” Jesus warned (Verses 4-5) that many would claim to be the messiah, deceiving many. Allen claimed that “a sign will enable those who obey ... to discern between the false and the true.”

    This point was preliminary to other, more important thoughts. A “sign” was needed because “of the obscurity which marks the period of his return.” Christ’s presence was not to generate,

    ... physical demonstrations as shall make all aware of it. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the presence of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away, so shall also the presence of the Son of man be, (Vers. 37-39.) all things will indeed continue as from the beginning. How then will the church be aware of His presence, except by a sign?

    The sign was given only to those who obeyed Christ’s commands, “and these cannot show it to the unfaithful.” Christ’s presence would be known to those outside the faith when he performed mighty acts. Allen paraphrased Matthew 24:23-28, which reads according to the Authorized Version:

    At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. ”So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

    In her view the ‘lightning” was not, and could not be, natural light, “else His presence would not be likened to the days that were before the flood.” She saw it as spiritual light, “divine truth.” A “great and wonderful unfolding of truth is all that the bible gives us a right to expect during the presence of the Son of man, and before translation,” she wrote.[1] This was meant as a refutation of the assertion of some Barbourites that Jesus would appear to his servants before heavenly resurrection. It was not a rejection of a two-stage parousia, but it planted the seeds for that. If one accepted her arguments, then one understood that Christ’s presence was totally invisible.

    Her rejection of Barbourite belief was based on 1 John 3:2: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” If ‘the saints’ do not understand Jesus’ nature until they are resurrected, then Christ would not appear to humans in advance. She appealed to Colossians 3:4, writing:

    Again, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:4). Hence, we urge on those who are “looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” the Savior's command, “Take heed let no man deceive you.” The light of truth made plain by the Spirit, is the only promised guide, while here we wait. And this to us, is far more convincing than any physical manifestation could be.

    The fuller implications of this article are apparent. It set off discussions that did not immediately make it to The Watch Tower. Two of the movement’s principals and some of its new clergy adherents had some familiarity with Koiné Greek [1st Century commonly-spoken Greek]. The dust started to settle after a behind the scenes discussion of the Greek text of Revelation 1:7 which says of Christ’s return that “Every eye shall see him.” Russell summarized their conclusions in the September 1880 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. Entitled “Optomai,” a common transliteration of the Greek verb to see, the article said:

    The Greek word Optomai rendered shall see, in Rev. 1:7. – “Every eye shall see him,” and rendered, shall appear, in Heb. 9:28 “To them that look for Him shall he appear a second time,” does not always mean to see with the eye. It rather signifies attend and recognize. Illustrations of its meaning attend: The priests and elders answered Judas; “See (Optomai – attend) thou to that.” Matt. 27:4. Again, Pilate said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person; see (optomai – attend) ye to it.” Vs. 24. Also the word look in Acts 18:15. The general signification of the word however, is recognize ...

    Again, Jesus said to Mary concerning Lazarus' resurrection, “Said I not that thou shouldst see (optomai) the glory of God? John 11:40. Mary's eyes saw no glory but she did see Lazarus raised, and in the power thus displayed she recognized the glory of God.

    Again “All flesh shall see (optomai – recognize) the salvation of God.” Luke 3:6. In the light of these illustrations of the use of the word we can realize that there may be but little seeing of The Christ on the part of the world with the eye. See how similar is the last illustration with the first text quoted – “every eye” and “all flesh” shall recognize Him as the salvation of God.[2]

    This was not a novel interpretation. Others asserted this. And it is all within the word’s definition. Walter Roy Goff [1877-1953], a post-millennialist Lutheran clergyman, used the same points to support his views, writing:

    [T]he four main passages which are supposed by many people to mean that we shall see with corporeal eyes the Lord's return have about them abundant reason for any careful interpreter to say they do not contain such literal meaning. And if this is so, then the disciples did not expect a visible return of their Lord after the statement of the men in white apparel (Acts 1:11), as some assert ... . And those today, who build up their argument for a visible return on these four passages and others like them, must be wrong, especially since there are definite passages denying a visible coming, (Luke 17:22), “Ye shall desire, * * * * but ye shall not see,” (John 16:10), “I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more,”[3]

    This discussion became settled doctrine with the publication of Food for Thinking Christians. If there was indefiniteness in Allen’s article, Russell’s article was much more pointed, and it became a clear doctrinal statement. Quoting or paraphrasing Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:2; and Ephesians 1:18 but without citing them, Russell wrote:

    How will He come again? Briefly stated, we believe the Scriptures to teach that our Lord will never again appear as a man; that at his second coming he will be invisible to mankind; that none will ever see him except the Church: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” that the Church will not see him until changed from natural to spiritual bodies; that then “we shall see him as he is” [not as he was], for “we shall be like him” [not he like us, as at the first advent]. But while none are to see him with their natural eyes, all are to recognize his presence and his power (“the eyes of their understanding being opened”). Hence we read: “Every eye shall see (optomai – recognize) him”[4]

    This doctrinal transition brought argumentative comments from Barbour, but that conflict is subject matter for volume three of Separate Identity. As clergy outrage intensified after 1895, the Watch Tower parousia doctrine was interminably criticized and often misrepresented. This continued through the 20th Century and into the present century. Consider Walter Martin’s comment:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses claim scholarship for this blanket translation of parousia, yet not one great scholar in the history of Greek exegesis and translation has ever held this view. Since 1871, when “Pastor” Russell produced this concept, it has been denounced by every competent scholar upon examination.

    The reason this Russellite rendering is so dangerous is that it attempts to prove that parousia in regard to Christ’s second advent really means that His return or “presence” was to be invisible, and unknown to all but “the faithful.”[5]

    This is a polemicist’s poor research and a misrepresentation. His misstatements vary from minor to significant. The 1871 date is wildly wrong, something he could easily have known when he wrote. Russell did not originate the concept, but as we’ve shown elsewhere, it has a long history. He suggests that no “great” Greek-language scholar ever accepted a uniform translation of παρουσία as presence. One supposes that any scholar that disagreed with Martin would not have been ‘great’ in his eyes, including Joseph Rotherham, who noted in the appendix to his translation: “In this edition the word parousia is uniformly rendered ‘presence’ (‘coming,’ as a representative of this word, being set aside). The original term occurs twenty-four times in the N. T. [He lists all the verses which we omit from this quotation] ... The sense of ‘presence’ is so plainly shewn by the contrast with ‘absence’ (implied in 2 Co. x. 10, and expressed in Ph. ii. 12) that the question naturally arises, – Why not always so render it?”[6] Martin failed to cite or quote any of the “great” scholars who rejected Watch Tower exposition of παρουσία. When one only writes polemics, it is convenient to avoid citing sources.

    Martin misrepresented Russell and modern Watchtower belief, claiming that their view is that only “the faithful” would be aware of it. He puts ‘the faithful’ in quotes, but the phrase is lacking on the pages he cites as is the belief he attributes to Watch Tower adherents. Russell, the modern Watchtower, and Bible Student groups all believe that in time Christ’s presence will become apparent to everyone, at least when Christ executes God’s judgment. Martin’s real objection was that Russell and modern descendent religions present an understanding of prophecy different from his own. The same is true for Russell’s contemporaries who wrote similarly. Many whom wrote anti-Russell tracts simply mentioned the teaching without refuting it, relying on shock value to accomplish their purpose.[7]

    [1] The Watchtower publication Aid to Bible Understanding [1971, page 1069] and its revision as Insight on the Scriptures commented on Jesus’ words: “Christ Jesus showed that his presence would not be kept secret, even as it is impossible to conceal lightning that ‘comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts.’ (Mt 24:23-27; Lu 17:20-24)” [Insight, volume 2, page 255] This suggests only that Jesus’ parousia would become widely known. However, The Watchtower [May 1, 1993, page 12] returned to Allen’s exposition, saying: “As Jesus foretold, in a global way, lightnings of Bible truth continue to flash over broad areas from eastern parts to western parts. Truly, as modern light bearers, Jehovah’s Witnesses prove to be ‘a light of the nations, that [Jehovah’s] salvation may come to be to the extremity of the earth.’ – Isaiah 49:6.”

    [2] C.T. Russell: Optomai, Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1880, page 8.

    [3] W. R. Goff: The Handbook of Eschatology, Or, A Consistent Biblical View of the Lord’s Return, Keystone Publishing House, Blairsville, Pennsylvania, 1917, page 34.

    [4] C. T. Russell: Food for Thinking Christians, Watch Tower Supplement, 1881, page 63.

    [5] W. Martin and R. Zacharias: The Kingdom of the Cults, “updated edition,” 2003, page 101.

    [6] J. B. Rotherham: Emphasized Bible, 1897 edition, appendix, page 271.

    [7] An example is George Whitefield Ridout’s The Deadly Fallacy of Russellism or Millennial Dawnism. [Kansas City, Missouri, No date.]

  • vienne

    sorry for the typo in the last sentence, which should read "many of whom"

  • Pete Zahut
    Pete Zahut
    viennean hour ago
    You seem to define 'nice' as non-controversial. They're not the same thing. It would not be 'nice' to let those purveying ignorance on important issues to remain ignorant?

    Where would you get such an idea? If you read my original comment without the obvious filters you have on, you'll see that all I'm asking of you is to relay the information you wish to relay and do so without calling names such as " uninformed and Morinc". Just because you believe you may feel you are more informed on a matter doesn't mean you get to speak condescendingly to those who aren't as informed as you think they should be. I don't see were all this hostility is coming from?

    Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees in boldy explicit terms; if you were there to hear it first hand would you have been offended, or would you have recognized the truthfulness of what he said?

    Really....are you comparing your words on this forum to the message Jesus? He was the Son of GOD and anything he said, he said with authority and he said it in person. You are a mere mortal as are the rest of us, and you have no more authority than anyone else on this forum. Unlike Jesus, your harsh words are coming from the safety of anonymity.

    Once again, you are free to do as you please but I'm asking you to simply say what you have to say but leave out the name calling. I don't know how to be more clear.

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