The Roots of Pastor Russell's Teachings

by Kenneson 16 Replies latest jw friends

  • Kenneson

    How unique were Russell's original teachings? Were they based solely on the Bible? Or did he receive influence from several other sources? What do you think?

    Personally, I think Russell did a pretty good job of telling us some of his sources. Let us consult, first of all, Zion's Watch Tower (May 1890) under the heading "Harvest Gatherings and Siftings. A Brief History of the Development of Present Truth." He starts his narrative with 1868 when he happened upon Jonas Wendell and the Second Adventists. "Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we 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 indisolubly linked. What I heard sent me to the Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the truth..." "At this time, myself and a few other truth seekers in Pittsburgh and Allegheny formed a class for Bible study..." But were most members of this original Bible class Bible Students? Not according to Russell in Z.W.T. Feb. 1881, R. 187: page 3 under "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence." See "A Glance Backward" where Russell admits "Looking back to 1871, we see that many of our company were what are known as Second Adventists..." (They should not to be confused with Seventh Day Adventists.) If they became Bible Students it was much later as we shall see. But Russell himself never admits to being a Second Adventist at all. The very same article credits Second Adventist Benjamin W. Keith with finding that the Emphatic Diaglott translated Matt. 24: 37 and 39 as "presence" rather than "coming." These Adventists had been expecting Christ to return bodily in the fall of 1874, but they were disappointed when it didn't happen. That sent them back to the drawing board. Keith, a contributor to the Second Adventist magazine, Herald of the Morning made the discovery that Christ had indeed come in 1874, not physically but invisibly. He shared his find with the editor, N.H. Barbour. The Second Adventists could now say that they had the right date (1874) but had just expected the wrong thing to occur.: So, the invisible presence of Christ is not original to Russell. And while he may have denied that Adventists helped him to no single truth, his own writings contradict it. See ZWT (July 15, 1906 issue) wherein Russell explains how he came to be associated with Barbour in 1876 and how he adopted Barbour's chronology as well. He had not up to this point been interested in the subject of prophetic time. Russell ends up being assistant editor, along with J.H. Paton of Barbour's Second Adventist magazine, the Herald of the Morning. It is also this magazine (not the Watch Tower) which first indicates that the "Times of the Gentiles" would end in 1914. This date, too, Russell adopted from the Second Adventists.

    In the following article in ZWT (Oct.-Nov. 1881), page 3, entitled "And the Door was Shut" Russell expresses what he thought of both William Miller and Barbour. "To return to the parable. If these movements were of God, and if Brothers Miller and B-----were his instruments, then that 'Midnight Cry,' based on the prophetic and other statements and evidences, was correct, and the 'Bridegroom came' in 1874. We believe that the Midnight Cry was of God, and was fulfilled by the Bridegroom's coming, not because Brothers Miller and B----claimed it, but because the Word of God supports it."

    Additionally, Russell was influenced by other Adventists like George Storrs and George Stetson. George Storrs convinced Russell that one does not have an immortal soul. Upon Storrs death Russell commented in the Feb. 1880, page 7 number: "The news of Bro. Storrs death (Dec. 28th, 1879), reached us too late for insertion in last issue. As then stated our brother had just entered his 84th year and was quite ill. He was we believe 'a faithful servant,' and will soon 'enter into the joys of our Lord.' We mourn the loss of a friend and brother in Christ yet, 'not as those who have no hope.' The great Deliverer is at hand and assures us 'I have the keys, of death and Hades.' " The June 1884 ZWT contains an article by George Storrs entitled "The Will of God." Not only did Russell esteem this Second Adventist, but Stetson as well. In the Nov. 1879 ZWT, is Stetson's obituary. "...The brother's dying request, that the editor of this paper should preach his funeral sermon, was complied with. About twelve hundred persons attended the funeral services, thus giving the evidence of the high esteem in which our brother was held."

    It is also documented that many of the readers of the early Zion's Watch Tower had Adventist backgrounds. See

    Whereas Russell discounts the name Adventists in the Feb. 1884 ZWT under "Our name," and never claimed to be one, it is clear that he fellowshipped with them from 1868 until 1879, had close associates and friends who were Adventists, learned from them and quit the staff of a Second Adventist publication, the Herald of the Morning, after having a disagreement with Barbour in 1878, to begin his own journal in 1879, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. ( As an aside, please note that he believed this presence to have already occurred in 1874.)

    It is not until the April 1, 1910 ZWT, page 119 that the name "International Bible Students' Association" is adopted as the name for followers of the Watch Tower. Although Russell claims to have started his Bible class in 1868, we have noted that the majority of these students of the Bible and associates were Second Adventists. It is clear that a separate group does not really begin to evolve until 1878 when Russell makes a break from Barbour. It is this group that becomes known as Bible Students.

  • RR
    It is not until the April 1, 1910 ZWT, page 119 that the name "International Bible Students' Association" is adopted as the name for followers of the Watch Tower. Although Russell claims to have started his Bible class in 1868, we have noted that the majority of these students of the Bible and associates were Second Adventists. It is clear that a separate group does not really begin to evolve until 1878 when Russell makes a break from Barbour. It is this group that becomes known as Bible Students.

    Correction: Russell did not adopt the name IBSA "for the followers of the Watch Tower" in 1910.

    The early congregations, which were mostly "house-churches" (largers groups would meet in rented halls), did not have an official name, they did use the term "Bible Students" or International Bible Students" but this was simply for advertisements purposes.

    When asked:

    ADVERTISING--What Name to Use? (1909)--2--By what name would you suggest that the local classes advertise their meetings, so as to avoid the confusion of a multiplicity of titles, such as: "Millennial Dawn, "Believers in the Atonement," "Believers in the Precious Blood, "Bible Students," etc.

    ANSWER .--It is a difficult matter to know how to advertise, not for ourselves, but difficult to keep from being misunderstood by the people. "Church of God"; "Church of the Living God"; "Church of Christ." Any of those names would suit us very well, and we would have no objections to them, but we find that there are various denominations who have appropriated those titles, not that we think they have a right to apply them to themselves, but we would like to
    live in peace. It is a difficult matter to decide, and each class will have to do that for themselves. 1909 Convention Question Meeting

    In 1911, the supporters of the WTS were describes as "associated Bible Students":

    Pastor Russell took up the various features of missionary work in home and foreign lands, in which he and associated Bible Students are co-laboring. He referred to the progress in Bible study which is being effected throughout the civilized world and to the more or less successful methods. He urged all to remember that every child of God is an ambassador and representative of the Kingdom and prospectively a member of the "Body" of the glorious Messiah. - Watch Tower 10/01/11 p. 369

    In 1914, when the WTS Sociaty incorporated the work in Europe under the banner of International Bible Students Association, Russell stated in the Watch Tower of 1914, under the HEADING:

    ASSOCIATED BIBLE STUDENTS We suggest that the above name be used by all classes locally in newspaper advertising and otherwise instead of the title, International Bible Students Association, which name properly belongs only to national and international use.

    When advertisements appear on the religious page of newspapers classified denominationally, this title, ASSOCIATED BIBLE STUDENTS, can be used instead of a sectarian name. Watch Tower 11/01/14 p. 321

    But he was flexibale:



    We have noted the paragraph in November 1st WATCH TOWER re the name "ASSOCIATED BIBLE STUDENTS" in place of the one we have been using, "INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION." We can see some reasons why we are not entitled to use the latter name and we think the new one a very good one.

    Shall we take down the signs that now appear on the Temple and change our stationery? (The signs over the doors now read, "PEOPLE'S TEMPLE, LOCAL HEADQUARTERS INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION.")

    Trusting we may impose on your valuable time long enough to reply to these queries, and assuring you of our continued love and prayers, we are, THE LOS ANGELES ECCLESIA.


    The words "ASSOCIATED BIBLE STUDENTS" on a religious-notice page of newspapers seems a very good name. We therefore use it in advertising local New York Meetings. This does not mean that we have abandoned the use of the words INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION in connection with all literature, conventions and general affairs. As respects the friends everywhere, if they think it best to continue the use of the name INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION they may do so; but we would like that it be used only as you have used it in Los Angeles; namely, "Local Headquarters (or Local Class ) INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION." - Watch Tower 01/01/15 p. 1

    Starting in February of that year (1915) "Associated Bible Students" was the term used officially. However, it was not an incorporated name. When Russell died, JUdge Rutherford went back to using the IBSA name to distinquish his International Bible Students from the Associated Bible Students. Today, Most Bible Student classes use the ABS name.


  • Kenneson

    It may have been for advertising purposes, but the name "International Bible Students Association" was Russell's original name for the Bible Classes (followers of the Watch Tower). And if you advertise yourselves as International Bible Students Association, what name do you suppose people will call you? ZWT April 1, 1910: R4593:page 119:


    FOR many years the dear friends who regularly meet all over the world for the study of God's Word, using the WATCH TOWER publications as helping hands, have been perplexed to know how to advertise themselves...Now in the Lord's providence we have thought of a title suitable, we believe, to the Lord's people everywhere, and free from objection, we believe, on every score, the title at the head of this article...In harmony with New York state laws the association will be under the direction and management of the People's Pulpit Association, which, in turn, represent the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. To avoid everything that might be construed as "joining," the membership is confined to those constituting the chartered Peoples Pulpit Association. The provision is made that all Bible Student Classes using the Bible Study Helps published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society may consider themselves identified with the association and authorized to use the name "International Bible Students Association" in respect to their meetings."

    Associated Bible Students replaced in 1914, for the most part, in advertisements what formally had been International Bible Students Association. Henceforth, if International Bible Students Association was used "local" was to be used ahead of it, reserving International Bible Students for national and international purposes. So, I fail to see why it is incorrect to say that in 1910 the name Russell chose (adopted) for the Bible Classes was International Bible Students Association. You mention Feb. 15, 1915 being officially when the name Associated Bible Students was adopted. ZWT on that date, page 64 still advertises International Bible Students Association Classes. But thanks for pointing to the changes made from International Bible Students to Associated Bible Students. But where do I confirm the OFFICIAL name change?

  • Kenneson


    Correction. You wrote "Starting in February of that year (1915) 'Associated Bible Students' was the term used officially." I had looked only at the Feb. 15 issue, but went back to check the Feb. 1 number. This is no doubt what you are inferring to: "Berean Questions In 'Scripture Studies": "The classes of Associated Bible Students throughout the world..." But, this is still referring to the local classes, isn't that correct? For I continue to find references to International Bible Students Association right up to near Russell's death in the Oct. 15, 1916 ZWT. I didn't check after that. On page 306: "I.B.S.A. Berean Bible Studies." On page 307: "What we preach and teach" and specifically "Present Errors and Opposition to Light" where Russell refers to the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION.

    It seems to me that both names continued to be used throughout up to Rutherford. I suppose the real separation came after Rutherford usurped control.

  • VM44

    "I suppose the real separation came after Rutherford usurped control." Rutherford ran things like it was his own personal religion! From the way he lived, one would think he thought of himself as a King! --VM44

  • justhuman

    Also Russell adopted many occult teachings, like Pyramidology, numerology, known as New Age.

    He used masonic symbols and ideas. So actually Russell made a mixure of religion combining all this

  • Kenneson


    There is no evidence to support your contention. Please read carefully the following thread:

  • RR
    The classes of Associated Bible Students throughout the world..." But, this is still referring to the local classes, isn't that correct?

    Yes, this was the official use of the name by the individual congregations of that time. However the term IBSA was used exclusively by the Society, and it was used collectively of the BibleStudents as a whole. For instance, the conventions were normally IBSA Conventions, although the Watch Tower name was used also.

    Russell did aloow certain congregations to use the term IBSA to advertise their meetings, these were normally the largerclass who own property, the London Tabernacle, the Los Angelos Temple, the New York Temple, etc.


  • RR

    JU, I agree with Ken, many rumors abound, but not one shred of evidence. In fact a search on the web will give links and histroical information about many orthodox Christian religions who also use these symbols. For instance the cross and crown.


  • Undaunted Danny
    Undaunted Danny

    Mutated Millerites and 'all along the Watchtower' Luke 8:17 "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open" Jehovah's Witnesses stay home election day [TODAYS NEWS]
    Winston Salem Journal, NC - 6 hours ago
    ... In this most political of seasons, where small percentages of votes in key states could prove decisive, the Jehovah's Witnesses are staying true to their ...

    [ EXCERPT from above:Jehovah's Witnesses, a true made-in-America religion, grew out of a movement that began with the end-time prophecies of William Miller, the founder of Adventism. The "Great Disappointment" of 1844 - when Miller's predictions of the Second Coming did not come true - did not deter him or others from their vision.

    Coming out of the Adventist tradition was Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Witnesses.

    Russell set 1874 as the date for Christ's return, and 1914 for the battle of Armageddon and the beginning of Jesus' rule on Earth.

    World War I seemed to confirm his prophecy, but the slogan of Russellites that "millions now living will never die" lost some impact when Russell died in 1916.

    After several other failed attempts to predict the end of this world, the Witnesses in the 1990s officially dismissed date-setting as speculation. But the church continues to teach that the end is near, creating an urgency for individuals to prepare for the coming kingdom.

    [Comment from Danny, this is a remake/republish of an earlier.,Watchtower coming out,doctrinal position published here: Jehovah's Witnesses see voting as divisive Thursday, July 29, 2004
    David Briggs Plain Dealer Religion Reporter [click for discussion] [Footnote from Danny:The Watchtower has "purged" hundred's of thousands of followers for failing the now defunct 1914,"Jesus returned to power" loyalty oath and sentenced them to eternal damnation! We know where all the bodies are buried.don't we? NO rest for the Wicked Watchtower!

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