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The history of Jehovah's Witnesses can be traced back to 1872 when Charles Taze Russell began to lead a Bible study group in Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker. Russell's group was originally known as Bible Students and split into several rival organisations after his death in 1916. One of those groups retained control of Russell's magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, and his legal corporation, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania and adopted the name Jehovah's witnesses in 1931. Substantial organizational and doctrinal changes occurred between 1917 and the 1950s. The religion's history has consisted of four distinct phases linked with the successive presidencies of Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Rutherford, Nathan Knorr and Frederick Franz.

1870-1916

Timeline of events from 1870-1916
1877 Russell and Barbour publish The Three Worlds
1879 Russell begins publishing Watch Tower
1881 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is founded
1914 Photo-Drama of Creation released
1916 Russell dies


Early teachings

Charles Taze Russell came in contact with Advent Christian preacher Jonas Wendell (influenced by the Millerites) in 1869 and began a Bible study group soon after in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker. He acknowledged the influence of Adventist ministers George Storrs (who had earlier predicted Christ's return in 1844) and George Stetson, and also strongly reflected the teachings of Philadelphia Lutheran pastor Joseph Seiss.

In the mid-1870s, he published 50,000 copies of a pamphlet explaining his view that Christ would return invisibly before the battle of Armageddon, and in January 1876 met independent Adventist preacher Nelson H. Barbour of Rochester, New York, a former acquaintance of Wendell and the publisher of Herald of the Morning. Barbour, an avid student of Bible chronology, convinced Russell that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874. Russell provided financial backing for Barbour and became co-editor of Barbour's magazine, Herald of the Morning, and the pair jointly issued The Three Worlds (1877), written mostly by Barbour. The book articulated ideas that remained the teachings of Russell's associates for the next 40 years, many of which are still embraced by Jehovah's Witnesses: they identified a 2520-year-long era, ending in 1914, which they termed "the Gentile Times", and they broke ranks with most Second Adventists in teaching that all humankind since Adam would be resurrected to the earth and given the opportunity for eternal perfect human life. It also revealed their expectation that the "saints", including Barbour and Russell, would be taken to heaven in early 1878.

Russell broke with Barbour in July, 1879 over the concept of substitutionary atonement and began publishing his own monthly magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence (now known as The Watchtower), with the pair engaging in a battle through their rival publications for the minds of their readers. Semi-monthly publication of the magazine began in 1892.

Russell continued to develop his interpretations of biblical chronology. By 1878 he was teaching that the "end times" had begun in 1799, and that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874 and had been crowned in heaven as king in 1878. He believed that 1878 also marked the date of the resurrection of the sleeping saints, and the "fall of Babylon", when God officially judged that Christendom had proven unfaithful. October 1914 was held as the end of a harvest period that would culminate in the beginning of Armageddon, manifested by worldwide anarchy and the decline and destruction of civilized society. In early 1881, he predicted that the churches ('Babylon') would begin to fall apart and that the rapture of the saints would take place that year, although they would remain on earth as materialized spirit beings. In 1882, he declared the Trinity doctrine to be false.

Thirty study groups or congregations were established in seven US states in 1879, and the following year Russell visited the congregations to conduct six-hour study sessions and establish a set pattern of meetings.


Watch Tower Society; preaching and teaching programs

In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was formed as an unincorporated administrative agency for the purpose of disseminating tracts, papers, doctrinal treatises and Bibles, with "Pastor" Russell, as he was by then called, as secretary and W.H. Conley as president. Three years later, on December 15, 1884, Russell became the president of the society when it was legally incorporated in Pennsylvaniamarker. Russell began to write a stream of articles, books, pamphlets and sermons, which by his death totaled 50,000 printed pages, with almost 20 million copies of his books printed and distributed around the world. In 1886, he wrote the first of what would become a six-volume series called "Millennial Dawn", later renamed "Studies in the Scriptures", which established his fundamental doctrines. (As a consequence, the Bible Students were sometimes called "Millennial Dawnists".)

Russell advertised for 1000 preachers in 1881, and encouraged all who were members of "the body of Christ" to preach to their neighbours. They did not regard this as their primary duty, however, seeking only to gather the "little flock" of saints, while the vast majority of mankind would be given the opportunity to gain salvation during Christ's 1000-year reign. His supporters gathered as autonomous congregations to study the Bible and his writings. Russell firmly rejected as "wholly unnecessary" the concept of a formal organization for his followers and declared that his group had no record of its members' names, no creeds, and no sectarian name. He wrote in February 1884: "By whatsoever names men may call us, it matters not to us ... we call ourselves simply Christians." Elders and deacons were elected by congregations and Russell tolerated a great latitude of belief among members. He discouraged formal disciplinary procedures by congregation elders, claiming this was beyond their authority, instead recommending that an individual who continued in a wrong course be judged by the entire ecclesia, or congregation, which could ultimately "withdraw from him its fellowship". Disfellowshipping did not mean the wrongdoer was shunned in all social circumstances or by all Bible Students. From 1895, Russell encouraged congregations to study his "Studies in the Scriptures" paragraph-by-paragraph to learn the "truth" he had discovered, and in 1905 he recommended replacing verse-by-verse Bible studies with what he called "Berean Studies" of topics he chose. Congregations were left to choose which form of study – Bible or Berean – they adopted.

By 1881, two missionaries had been sent to England and the International Bible Students Association was formed in Great Britain in 1914. Congregations were also formed in Canada; by 1914, they were active in many countries. The Watch Tower Society's headquarters were transferred to Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker in 1908.In 1910 Russell introduced the name International Bible Students Association as a means of identifying his worldwide community of Bible study groups. Russell explained that the association would be directed and managed by the Peoples Pulpit Association, which, in turn, represented the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. All Bible Student Classes using Watch Tower Bible study publications could consider themselves identified with the Association and were authorized to use the name International Bible Students' Association in respect to their meetings. The name was also used when advertising and conducting conventions of Russell's followers.

From January 1914, the Bible Students began public showings of the The Photo-Drama of Creation, a presentation synchronising motion pictures with phonograph records containing recorded talks and music. The presentation covered the history of the Bible; worldwide attendance that year alone exceeded nine million.

Russell died on October 31, 1916, in Pampa, Texas during a cross-country preaching trip. For the next 10 years, the Watch Tower Society continued to teach the view that he had fulfilled the roles of the "Laodicean Messenger" of Revelation 3:14-22. and the "Faithful and Wise Servant" of Matthew 24:45.

1917-1942



Timeline of events from 1916-1942
1917 Rutherford elected president of Watch Tower
1917 Schism at Bethel headquarters
1919 Publication of Golden Age begins
1920 Rutherford publishes Millions Now Living Never Die, setting 1925 as date for return of Old Testament "Princes"
1929 Rutherford builds Beth Sarimmarker to hold resurrected Bible personages
1931 Group changes name to Jehovah's witnesses
1942 Rutherford dies


Organizational changes

In accordance with the directions of Russell's will, an editorial committee of five was appointed to supervise the writing of the Watch Tower. At the corporation's annual general meeting on January 6, 1917, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, the Society's legal counsel, was elected as Russell's successor, with new by-laws passed to strengthen the president's authority. Within months, four of the Society's seven directors began objecting to Rutherford's form of leadership, described as "dogmatic, authoritarian and secretive", as he continued to act without consulting the board of directors. A meeting of the full board of directors in June proposed returning control of the Society to the board, but their attempt to hold an impromptu board meeting while Rutherford was away from headquarters failed when police were called to intervene.


Matters came to a head on July 17, 1917, when, at a stormy five-hour meeting, Rutherford announced he had appointed four new directors to replace the four who had opposed him, claiming they had no legal status as directors because of conflict with Pennsylvania law. At the same meeting Rutherford surprised the headquarters staff and the board of directors by announcing the release of the book The Finished Mystery, described as the "posthumous work of Russell" and the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures, but actually written by two Bible Students.

Rutherford and the ousted directors published a number of newsletters through 1917 and 1918 attacking each other and many congregations split into opposing groups of those loyal either to Rutherford or those he had expelled. When the ousted directors claimed Rutherford did not have the support of Bible Students at large, the president called for a democratic straw vote among the Bible Student community and the majority supported his administration. By mid-1919 about one in seven Bible Students had chosen to leave rather than accept his leadership, forming such groups as The Standfast Movement, Paul Johnson Movement, Dawn Bible Students Association, Pastoral Bible Institute of Brooklyn, Elijah Voice Movement and Eagle Society.

The Watch Tower Society set up its own printing establishment and in 1919 Rutherford founded the magazine The Golden Age (now Awake!), which the Bible Students began distributing publicly in response to an increasing emphasis by the Brooklyn headquarters on door-to-door preaching. Rutherford continued to tighten and centralize organizational control of the Bible Students, with Brooklyn appointing a "director" in each congregation in 1919, and a year later requiring all congregation members who participated in the preaching work to report weekly on their witnessing activity. As the Bible Students' preaching work expanded, Rutherford moved to take greater control over their message. The Society's historian, A.H. MacMillan, wrote: "Rutherford wanted to unify the preaching work and, instead of having each individual give his own opinion ... gradually Rutherford himself began to be the main spokesman for the organization."

Rutherford organized a series of major annual conventions from 1922 and 1928, which were as much publicity events as spiritual gatherings. A convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1922, was followed by the distribution of 45 million copies of a resolution condemning the clergy for their support of the League of Nations, and in 1927 a talk was broadcast by a network of 53 radio stations. The Watch Tower Society began broadcasting over its own radio station, WBBR, from Staten Islandmarker, New York city, on February 24, 1924; additional stations were later created or acquired throughout the US, and arrangements were made for the network of stations to broadcast talks.

The Finished Mystery

Watch Tower Board of Directors jailed in 1918 for violation of the Espionage Act
The Finished Mystery (1917) contained new predictions, declaring emphatically that God would destroy churches "wholesale" and church members by the millions in 1918, and that all earthly governments would be destroyed in 1920, resulting in anarchy.

The Finished Mystery's strong criticism of clergy support for World War I attracted government attention. It was banned in Canada, and on May 7, 1918, the United States federal government indicted Rutherford and the new board of directors for violation of the Espionage Act, accusing them of conspiring to cause disloyalty, and refusal of military duty. They were found guilty and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. However, in March 1919, the judgment against them was reversed, and they were released from prison. The charges were later dropped. Patriotic fervor during World War I fueled persecution of the Bible Students in America and Europe, including mob violence and tarring and feathering.

Predictions for 1925

In 1918, Rutherford announced that Christ's thousand-year reign would begin in 1925, bringing the restoration of an earthly paradise and the resurrection to earth of Jewish "ancient worthies" (such as Abraham and Isaac). Jerusalem would become the world capital, and the "princes" would communicate with all humankind by radio. Preaching campaigns included distribution of Rutherford's book Millions Now Living Will Never Die, which predicted "end times" events for 1925. Based on these predictions, many Bible Students gave up their businesses and jobs and sold their homes, while Bible Student farmers in Canada and the US refused to seed their spring crops in 1925 and mocked members of their religion who did. Rutherford had a luxury villa, Beth Sarimmarker, built in San Diego, Californiamarker, in 1930 to house the biblical "princes" who were expected to be resurrected before Armageddon. The house was sold after his death in 1942 and the teaching was officially abandoned in 1950. Watch Tower publications made no admission of error over the predictions for 1925, but Rutherford gave apologies at IBSA conventions.

After the 1925 disappointment

The failed expectations for 1925, coupled with other doctrinal changes, led to a dramatic reduction in attendance at the Bible Students' yearly Memorial, from 90,434 in 1925 to 17,380 in 1928. After the disappointment regarding 1925, no further statements were made that explicitly indicated exact dates, but Armageddon was still held to be imminent.

In 1925, Rutherford dismissed the Watch Tower's Editorial Committee following a dispute over a proposed article, giving him full control of the organization and material published in the magazine.

At a convention at Columbus, Ohiomarker on July 26, 1931, Rutherford made a psychological break with the large number of disaffected Bible Students by adopting the name Jehovah's witnesses, based on the scripture at Isaiah 43:10, "You are my witnesses, is the utterance of Jehovah...". In 1932, he eliminated the system of congregations electing bodies of elders, claiming the office of elder was unscriptural, and in 1938 introduced a "theocratic" or "God-ruled" organizational system in which the Brooklyn headquarters would make all appointments in congregations worldwide. Rutherford, who had shown an earlier interest in politics, applied terms to the organization that were more common in politics and business: "organization" replaced "congregation" when referring to the worldwide community of believers, while "companies" denoted individual congregations. He pushed for more "field service" and "campaigns" of kingdom "advertising" in "territories", with "publishers" working under the direction of a field service "captain".

By 1933, the timing of the beginning of Christ's presence (Greek: pa'rou'si'a), his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days", had been moved from 1874 to 1914.From 1935, converts to the movement were generally identified as those who, if worthy, would survive Armageddon and live on a paradise earth. Membership before this time was generally composed of those who believed they would be resurrected to live in heaven to rule over the earth with Christ.

In 1935, Witnesses were told they should refuse to salute the flag, stand for the national anthem, or accept alternative service provided for those who had conscientous objection to military service. Witnesses experienced mob violence and expulsion from public schools in the US and were banned in Canada and Australia because of their pacifist stance. Under Rutherford's leadership, a legal staff was developed to establish their right to preach and their right to refrain from nationalistic ceremonies. In the period from 1938 to 1955, the Watch Tower Society won 36 out of 45 religion-related court cases. These legal battles resulted in significant expansions in freedom of speech and religion in both countries.

Under Rutherford, Jehovah's Witnesses grew from about 44,000 in 1928 to about 115,000 at the time of his death on January 8, 1942.

Nazi Germany

From 1933 to 1945, Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany came under persecution, with as many as 5,000 imprisoned in concentration camps. Unlike Jews, Sinti and Roma, persecuted and killed by virtue of their culture, Jehovah's Witnesses had the opportunity to escape persecution and personal harm by renouncing their religious beliefs. Few recanted their beliefs, in the face of torture, maltreatment in concentration camps, and sometimes execution.

1942-1975

New York headquarters of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society


Timeline of events from 1942-1975
1942 Knorr elected president of Watch Tower Society
1950 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures started (completed 1961)
1966 The year 1975 suggested as possible date for Armageddon


Rutherford was succeeded by Nathan Homer Knorr. Knorr's tenure as president was notable for the transfer from individual to corporate leadership. None of the Society's publications after 1942 acknowledged authorship, and were instead attributed to an anonymous Writing Committee. From about 1944, the term "governing body" began to be used with a measure of frequency, with the term initially applied to the Watch Tower Society's seven-man Board of Directors. Knorr began a campaign of real estate acquisition in Brooklyn to expand the organisation's world headquarters, expanded printing production throughout the world, and organized a series of international assemblies that dwarfed those of Rutherford in the 1920s. In 1958, more than 253,000 Witnesses gathered at two New Yorkmarker venues, Yankee Stadiummarker and the Polo Groundsmarker, for an eight-day convention where more than 7000 were baptised. Other large conventions were held in the US, Canada and Germany.

He instituted major training programs, including the Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead to train missionaries, and the Theocratic Ministry School to give instruction in preaching and public speaking at the congregational level. He commissioned a new translation of the Bible, which was released progressively from 1950, before being published as the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in 1961. Also produced were a Greek-English New Testament interlinear (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) and a Bible dictionary (Aid to Bible Understanding). The offices of elder and ministerial servant (deacon) were restored to Witness congregations in 1972, with appointments being made from headquarters.

Knorr's vice-president, Frederick William Franz, became the leading theologian for the religion, and helped shape the further growth of explicit rules regarding acceptable conduct among members, with a greater emphasis placed on disfellowshipping as a disciplinary measure. He was reportedly the principal translator of the New World Translation.

Adult male Witnesses in the US, Britain, and some European countries were jailed for refusal of military service in the post-war years, with particularly harsh treatment meted out in Spainmarker, Greecemarker, East Germanymarker and Romaniamarker. Wide-scale persecution of Witnesses in several African nations was launched between 1967 and 1975, with as many as 21,000 fleeing Malawimarker to refugee camps in Zambiamarker after a series of murders and beatings in 1972, and 7000 Mozambiqueanmarker members of the religion were arrested in 1975 to be sent to communist re-education camps.

During Knorr's presidency, membership of Jehovah's Witnesses grew from 108,000 to more than two million.

Predictions for 1975

From 1966, Witness publications heightened anticipation of Christ's thousand-year millennial reign beginning in late 1975. In what became a replay of the 1925 cycle of excitement, anticipation and then disappointment, Witness publications and convention talks intensified focus on 1975 as the "appropriate" time for God to act, with statements that "the immediate future is certain to be filled with climactic events ... within a few years at most the final parts of the Bible prophecy relative to these 'last days' will undergo fulfillment". The May 1974 issue of the Watch Tower Society's newsletter, Kingdom Ministry, commended Witnesses who had sold homes and property to devote themselves to preaching in the "short time" remaining. The number of baptisms soared from about 59,000 in 1966, to more than 297,000 in 1974, but membership declined after expectations for the year failed. In 1976 The Watchtower advised those who had been "disappointed" by the failure of the predictions for 1975 to adjust their viewpoint because their understanding had been "based on wrong premises",, but four years later, after several proposals by Governing Body members to apologise to Witnesses were voted down, the Watch Tower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding 1975.

1976-Present

Timeline of events from 1976-Present
1976 Governing Body takes control
1980 Purge of senior Brooklyn headquarters staff
1995 Teaching that generation of 1914 will see Armageddon is abandoned
The leadership structure of Jehovah's Witnesses was reorganized from January 1, 1976, with the power of the presidency passed to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses and the establishment of six committes to oversee tasks such as writing, teaching, publishing and evangelizing work. At this time, Watch Tower Society publications began using the capitalized name, Jehovah's Witnesses. Subsequent presidents of the Watch Tower Society after Knorr's death in 1977 have been Frederick William Franz, Milton George Henschel and Don A. Adams.

A purge of senior Brooklyn headquarters staff was carried out in April and May 1980 after it was discovered some at the highest ranks of the hierarchy dissented with core Watch Tower Society doctrines, particularly surrounding the significance of 1914, and wished to propose adjustments as "new understandings" to continue the century-long tradition of changes in doctrines. Unease at the chronology doctrines had in fact surfaced within the Governing Body earlier that year. In February, three Governing Body members – aware that those who had been alive in 1914 were rapidly dwindling in number despite the teaching that their generation would be alive to see Armageddon – had proposed a radical change in Watch Tower doctrines to require that the "generation" that would see the arrival of Armageddon had been alive only since 1957, the year of the launch of the Russian space satellite Sputnik. The proposal, which would have extended the deadline for Armageddon by 43 years, failed to gain a majority vote. Internal dissatisfaction with official doctrines continued to grow, however, leading to a series of secret investigations and judicial hearings. Among those expelled from the Witnesses was former Governing Body member Raymond Franz. Many of those expelled were labelled by Governing Body members as "spiritual fornicators", "mentally diseased" and "insane". The purge resulted in a number of schisms in the religion in Canada, Britain, and northern Europe, and prompted the formation of loose groups of disaffected former Witnesses. The Watch Tower Society responded to the crisis with a new, hardened attitude towards the treatment of expelled Witnesses.

In 1995, changes regarding their understanding of Jesus' comments regarding "this generation" (from Matthew 24:34) were published. Throughout the previous four decades, Jehovah's Witnesses had taught that the generation that saw the events of 1914 would not die out before Armageddon came. The understanding of the 'generation' was again adjusted in 2008, to refer to the remnant of the anointed. Jehovah's Witnesses continue to teach that Armageddon is imminent.

See also



References

  1. Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, p. 43. These were also known as "Second Adventists."
  2. Pages 35-36 of Jonas Wendell's treatise The Present Truth or Meat in Due Season pointed to 1873 for the time of Christ's visible return.
  3. Watch Tower, 1906, as cited by James Penton, page 17
  4. The Object and Manner of Our Lord's Return, published in 1873, according to the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, but as late as 1877, according to James Penton.
  5. Barbour had originally predicted a visible return of Christ for 1873, but when that failed to eventuate, decided in 1874 he had returned invisibly in 1874. See Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873: or the Midnight Cry, N.H. Barbour (1871). Available online at: http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/history/barbour%20midnight%20cry.htm accessed February 20, 2006
  6. The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning, March 1874. See Section under "Our Faith."
  7. Russell explains how he accepted the idea of an invisible return of Christ in 1874 from N.H. Barbour in "Harvest Gatherings and Siftings" in the July 15, 1906 Watch Tower, Reprints page 3822.
  8. The issues of Herald of the Morning from 1874-1876 are available online at: http://tjliberte.free.fr/Library/Watchtower_Publications/1874-1876_Herald_of_the_Morning.pdf accessed August 23, 2007
  9. Though the book bore the names of both men as authors, James Penton (Apocalypse Delayed) points out that in early issues of the Watch Tower, Russell repeatedly referred to Barbour as its author. In the July 15, 1906 Watch Tower Russell said it was "mostly written by Mr Barbour". See Watch Tower reprint.
  10. The Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World by N.H. Barbour and C.T. Russell (1877). Text available online at: http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/history/3worlds.pdf accessed March 15, 2006
  11. The Three Worlds, pp. 184-185
  12. Russell explained his side of the break with Barbour in the first issue of the Watch Tower.
  13. Online copies of the Watch Tower from 1879-1916 can be viewed by issue at: http://www.mostholyfaith.com/bible/Reprints/index.asp or by article at: http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbv5/links.htm. These are taken from the 7 volume Watch Tower Reprints published by the Watch Tower Society in 1920 which reprinted all the issues from 1879-1919.
  14. "The 'Time of the End,' a period of one hundred and fifteen (115) years, from A.D. 1799 to A.D. 1914, is particularly marked in the Scriptures." Thy Kingdom Come, 1890, p. 23.
  15. Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, pp. 631-632
  16. Thy Kingdom Come (1890), Volume 3 of Studies in the Scriptures, pp. 305-308.
  17. "This spuing out, or casting off, of the nominal church as an organization in 1878, we then understood, and still proclaim, to be the date of the commencement of Babylon's fall..."— "The Consummation of Our Hope" in Zion's Watch Tower, April 1883. Reprints pp. 474-5.
  18. "Things to Come--And The Present European Situation" in The Watch Tower, January 15, 1892, Reprints, p. 1355
  19. "Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses", Watchtower, January 15, 1955, page 14.
  20. Holden, A. (2002) Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement. (p.18)
  21. Yearbook 1975, Watch Tower Society, 1975.
  22. The titles of the six volumes are: 1) The Divine Plan of the Ages, 2) The Time is At Hand, 3) Thy Kingdom Come, 4) The Battle of Armageddon, 5) The At-one-ment Between God and Man, 6) The New Creation
  23. Raymond Franz, "In Search of Christian Freedom", Commentary Press, 2007, chapter 4
  24. Watch Tower, February 1984, reprinted at [1] and cited by Franz, "In Search of Christian Freedom", chapter 4.
  25. What Pastor Russell Said, Leslie W. Jones, 1917, pg 346, as cited by Penton, 1997, pg 31, "The Lord's word does not authorize any court of Elders, or anyone else, to become busybodies. This would be going back to the practices of the Dark Ages during the Inquisition and we would be showing the same spirit as did the inquisitors."
  26. Russell directed that an unrepentent person be judged by the entire ecclesia, rather than the elders. He directed that the ecclesia not make the wrongdoer's faults public. See Charles T. Russell, The New Creation Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1904, pages 289-290}
  27. Apocalypse Delayed, James Penton, page 31.
  28. "Organized Testimony to the New World", Watchtower, July 15, 1950, page 215.
  29. Watchtower, April 1910.
  30. Slides and film from the Photo-Drama can be viewed online at: http://www.agsconsulting.com/pdoc/menu.htm; the book is available online at: http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/russell/Drama.pdf
  31. Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watch Tower Society, p. 422
  32. See chart "The Seven Messengers to the Church" from The Finished Mystery (1917), page 66.
  33. The Finished Mystery, page 5
  34. Charles Taze Russell's will
  35. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, chapter 3.
  36. Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, pp. 64-65
  37. Apocalypse Delayed, M.J. Penton, p. 51. Rutherford, as chief legal counsel for the Watch Tower Society, had written the new by-laws. (See Harvest Siftings II, written by J.F. Rutherford.)
  38. M James Penton, "Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses", University of Toronto Press, 1997, ISBN 0802079733
  39. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2002, chapter 3.
  40. Rutherford published his version of the dispute in Harvest Siftings
  41. Harvest Siftings II
  42. See Rutherford's Harvest Siftings under subheading "Seeds Begin to Bring Forth."
  43. The four directors were not able to achieve the needed quorum of five to transact business. Rutherford had left instructions to call the police to prevent such an action. See Faith on the March by A.H. Macmillan, p. 79. The directors claim, however, that the police officer did not force them out. (Apocalypse Delayed, M.J. Penton, pp. 319-320) Rutherford, in Harvest Siftings, dates this as July 5, 1917.
  44. See Faith on the March, p. 80. The ousted directors disagreed: "...if the directors were not legally elected, neither were the Society's three officers: Rutherford, Pierson, and Van Amburgh. In order to have been chosen officers in January 1917, they would have had to have been legally elected directors. Yet, they had not been, and hence, by Rutherford's own logic, did not hold office legally."--Apocalypse Delayed, M. James Penton, p. 52
  45. , published 1917, was called the seventh volume of "Studies in the Scriptures". PDF version of The Finished Mystery
  46. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, page 61.
  47. Jehovah's Witnesses, Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1993, pg 68.
  48. Watch Tower publications since 1917 have vilified those who opposed Rutherford and make no attempt to convey their version of events. In its account of the events of 1917, the 1993 Proclaimers of God's Kingdom book refers to the opposing camps as "those loyal to the Society and those who were easy prey to the smooth talk of the opposers" (pg. 68). The 1975 Yearbook (pg. 87) dismisses the four ousted directors as "rebellious individuals who claimed to be board members" (pg. 92) and men who "ambitiously sought to gain administrative control of the Society". The 1959 history book Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose also incorrectly claims the legal advice given to the ousted directors confirmed that given to Rutherford. Their own journal, Light After Darkness, makes it plain their legal advice disagreed with Rutherford's.
  49. Jehovah's Witnesses: The New World Society by Marley Cole, pp. 89-90. Cole reports that 31 members of the headquarters staff were expelled and produces the votes from 813 American congregations.
  50. Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, Commentary Press, 2007. Chapter 6.
  51. Edited by C.J. Woodworth, The Golden Age was intended as a general news magazine to proclaim the incoming "golden age."
  52. Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, pp. 259-260
  53. Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, Commentary Press, 2007. Chapter 4.
  54. A.H. MacMillan, Faith on the March, 1957, as cited by Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, Commentary Press, 2007, page 190.
  55. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997, page 59.
  56. See also Prohibition and the League of Nations: Born of God or the Devil, Which? by J.F. Rutherford (1930)
  57. "How Great a Witness?", The Watchtower, January 1, 1968, page 14.
  58. "The Finished Mystery 1917, p. 485|"In the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by the millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity.'" (Later editions read differently)
  59. The Finished Mystery, 1917 edition, p. 258.|"And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy." (This date was changed in later editions.)
  60. Trial documents: Rutherford et al. vs. the United States, Application for Executive Clemency – 1919, Reversal by Appeals Court
  61. Rutherford gives his defense against the charges in and in the tract The Case of the IBSA
  62. Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, chap. 10 p. 138
  63. Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, 2007, page 144.
  64. Edmond C. Gross, Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?, Xulon Press, 2001, ISBN 193123230X, chapter 24.[
  65. The Way to Paradise, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1924, as cited by Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, page 230.
  66. Millions Now Living Will Never Die, J.F. Rutherford (1920). Scanned copy available online at: http://www.strictlygenteel.co.uk/millions/millions.html accessed February 18, 2006
  67. Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, pp. 632-633. See also The Way to Paradise (1924), pp. 220-235.
  68. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997, page 58.
  69. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, page 235.
  70. See March 31, 1930 Time magazine, p. 60.
  71. Attendance at the annual Memorial (statistics were published each year in the Watch Tower) shows the growth in the period before 1925. 1919: 17,961, 1922: 32,661, 1923: 42,000, 1924: 62,696, 1925: 90,434. 1926 marked the first decrease: 89,278. There are no published statistics from 1929–1934. In 1935, Memorial attendance was 63,146.
  72. "There was a measure of disappointment on the part of Jehovah’s faithful ones on earth concerning the years 1914, 1918, and 1925, which disappointment lasted for a time. Later the faithful learned that these dates were definitely fixed in the Scriptures; and they also learned to quit fixing dates for the future and predicting what would come to pass on a certain date, but to rely (and they do rely) upon the Word of God as to the events that must come to pass."-- Vindication, Vol. 1, by J.F. Rutherford, (1931), p.338-339
  73. The Watchtower, September 15, 1941 p. 288 spoke of "the remaining months before Armageddon."
  74. See Watchtower, June 15, 1938, p. 185: "In the beginning of the first Hebrew month The Watchtower of March 1, 1925 published the article "The Birth of The Nation", meaning the kingdom had begun to function. An editorial committee, humanly provided for, then was supposed to control the publication of The Watchtower, and the majority of that committee strenuously objected to the publication of that article "The Birth of The Nation", but, by the Lord's grace it was published and that really marked the beginning of the end of the editorial committee, indicating that the Lord himself is running the organization."
  75. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, page 62.
  76. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, page 64.
  77. affirms that "the Lord's second presence dates from 1874." and reiterated this position. The eschatological changes during this period are documented in
  78. Adelaide Company of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. v. The Commonwealth of Australia
  79. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997, page 89.
  80. See, e.g., Cantwell v. State of Connecticut, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
  81. Heather and Gary Botting, The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses, University of Toronto Press, 1984, page 41.
  82. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, page 74.
  83. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997, page 86.
  84. Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, p. 106
  85. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, page 72.
  86. Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, Commentary Press, 2007, chapter 8.
  87. Former Governing Body member Raymond Franz claims the translators of the New World Translation were Fred Franz, Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder and George Gangas. Crisis of Conscience (4th ed., 2004), pg. 56. Atlanta: Commentary Press, ISBN 0-914675-23-0.
  88. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997, pages 145-146.
  89. as cited by Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, chapter 9.
  90. See 1975: 'THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR GOD TO ACT'. Page 14 of the October 8, 1968 Awake! demonstrates the disclaimer that was made at the time: "Does this mean that the above evidence positively points to 1975 as the complete end of this system of things? Since the Bible does not specifically state this, no man can say...If the 1970s should see intervention by Jehovah God to bring an end to a corrupt world drifting toward ultimate disintegration, that should surely not surprise us."
  91. See "Witnessing the End" in the July 18, 1969 Time magazine. Scan available online at: http://www.dannyhaszard.com/time1975.jpg accessed February 14, 2006
  92. .
  93. Watchtower, May 1, 1968, as cited by Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, chapter 9.
  94. Kingdom Ministry, May 1974, page 3, "Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end."
  95. This drop in membership has been variously analyzed. Richard Singelenberg ( "The '1975'-prophecy and its impact among Dutch Jehovah's Witnesses") in Sociological Analysis 50(1)1989, pp 23–40 notes a nine per cent drop in total publishers (door-to-door preachers) and a 38 per cent drop in pioneers (full-time preachers) in the Netherlands. Stark and Iannoccone have analyzed the impact on US Witnesses. The January 30, 1982 Los Angeles Times ("Defectors Feel 'Witness' Wrath: Critics say Baptism Rise Gives False Picture of Growth" by John Dart, p. B4) cited statistics showing a net increase of publishers worldwide from 1971–1981 of 737,241, while baptisms totaled 1.71 million for the same period.
  96. "A Solid Basis for Confidence", Watchtower, July 15, 1976, page 441.
  97. According to Raymond Franz, proposals were brought to the Governing Body in 1976, 1977 and 1979 that a statement should be made acknowledging the error, but Milton Henschel and others recommended the wiser course would be to ignore the matter and hope Witnesses would eventually forget about it. See Crisis of Conscience, page 250.
  98. The Watchtower, March 15, 1980, p.17 "With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, ... considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. ... there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated. ... persons having to do with the publication of the information ... contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date."
  99. 1977 Yearbook, Watch Tower Society, as cited b M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, page 220.
  100. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1977, pages 117-123.
  101. Heather and Gary Botting, The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses, University of Toronto Press, 1984, pages 158-165.
  102. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997. Page 218.
  103. Copy of proposal as presented to Governing Body reproduced in Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, 1997, page 262.
  104. Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 2007, chapters 11-12.
  105. See ”1914 and ‘This Generation’”, pp. 254-272 in Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz. Available online at: http://web.archive.org/web/20060208160353/http://users.volja.net/izobcenec4/coc/10.pdf accessed February 12, 2006
  106. "He shows the beginning of this time and how the troubles increase, and mentions some of the sorrows to fall on the world, during the time of trouble. The length of time is indicated by him when he said, 'Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.' (Matt. 24:34, NW) The actual meaning of these words is, beyond question, that which takes a 'generation' in the ordinary sense, as at Mark 8:12 and Acts 13:36, or for those who are living at the given period. So it was on 'this generation' that the accumulated judgments were to fall. (Matt. 23:36) This therefore means that from 1914 a generation shall not pass till all is fulfilled, and amidst a great time of trouble. Vision of the 'Time of the End', The Watchtower, July 1951, p. 404
  107. The Watchtower, February 15, 2008, page 24 paragraph 15: "As a group, those anointed comprise the present "generation" of contemporaries who won't pass away "until all the things come to pass."
  108. "A Time To Keep Awake", The Watchtower (November 1, 1995), p. 19 par. 12, and p. 20 par. 15.


Further reading

Three official histories of Jehovah's Witnesses have been published by the Watch Tower Society. The first two are out of print. The most recent one is available in many public libraries and on the Watchtower Library CD-ROM.

  • Qualified To Be Ministers, pages 297-345 (1955)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose (1959)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (1993)


Books by members

  • Jehovah's Witnesses: The New World Society by Marley Cole. This book received a positive review in the August 15, 1955 Watchtower: "Much of the material was gathered by personal interviews with witnesses, some of them being officials of the Society. Frequently in the news is something about the religion of President Eisenhower's parents. This book gives the facts often overlooked or concealed, with documentary proof that they were Jehovah's witnesses for many years." Cole was an active Witness and wrote the book in collaboration with Witness leaders. It was also distributed by the Watch Tower Society. 229 pages. Publisher: The Vantage Press, 1955.
  • Faith on the March by A. H. Macmillan. Macmillan provides a first-person account of the early history of Jehovah's Witnesses from his meeting of Charles Taze Russell in 1900 to the time of the writing of the book (1957). He served with three of the Presidents of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society: Russell, Rutherford, and Knorr (who wrote the book's introduction). - Publisher: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 57-8528 (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1957)
  • A People for His Name: A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and an Evaluation by Tony Wills, (2006) 2nd edition. (The first edition was published under the pseudonym Timothy White.) The author, a life-long Witness, presents an in-depth look at the Bible Student/Jehovah's Witness movement. He explores its doctrinal growth and shifts and notes schisms from the main body. 300 pages. ISBN 978-1-4303-0100-4.
  • Armed with the Constitution: Jehovah's Witnesses in Alabama and the U.S Supreme Court, 1939-1946 by Merlin Newton. Newton researches the contributions of two Jehovah's Witnesses—a black man and a white woman—in expanding the meaning of the First Amendment in 1940s Alabama. She examines two key U.S. Supreme Court decisions, as well as court records, memoirs, letters, and interviews of Jehovah's Witnesses. - Publisher: University Alabama Press; Religion and American Culture Series, Reprint edition (June 28, 2002). Paperback: 240 pages. ISBN 0-8173-1228-5
  • O'er the Ramparts They Watched by Victor Blackwell.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada: Champions of freedom of speech and worship by M. James Penton. Penton, who is a professor emeritus of history at University of Lethbridge (and who was a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses), examines the history of legal activities that led to expansion of religious freedoms in Canada. Referenced in the January 1, 1977 Watchtower, page 11 and the 1979 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 94. - Publisher: Macmillan of Canada. ISBN 0-7705-1340-9 (Canada, 1976)


Books by non-members

  • Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of Jehovah's Witnesses by Alan Rogerson. Constable. 1969
  • Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses by M. James Penton. Penton, who is a professor emeritus of history at University of Lethbridge, examines the history of Jehovah's Witnesses, and their doctrines. Read selections from: Google Book Search - Publisher: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3 (Canada, 1998)


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