As time goes by the past becomes more hazy, however it is good to take a look at the origins of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and see how they stand up under scrutiny, especially when they make claims of being appointed by God at certain stages.
Most will acknowledge Charles Taze Russell as the founder of the religion known today as Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is a lot of historical events that have taken place since it’s inception, here is a brief overview of it’s start:
- Charles Taze Russell born 1852, raised a Presbyterian
- At age 23 Russell receives a magazine called The Herald of the Morning, published by Nelson H Barbour, an Adventist. The Adventists were awaiting Christ’s return and had predicted various dates to no avail. Now Barbour was preaching that Christ had returned in 1874, but invisibly.
- In 1876 Russell became financial backer to Barbour’s magazine, they believed that the Rapture would be in 1878. This did not take place. Russell had many different businesses.
- In 1879 Russell quit the staff of the Adventist magazine and started his own, calling it Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. He started preaching form the pulpits of Protestant churches, soon he was known as “Pastor”
- His teachings were becoming diverse to the churches, in 1882 he rejected the Trinity doctrine. He also preached the end of the world would be 1914.
- In 1916 Russell died, failing to see his predictions come true. He had left instructions that his successor be shared with the Watch Tower’s board of directors and editorial committee.
- Joseph F Rutherford who was vice president used the law to break up the board of directors, his aim was to take control. After securing headquarters he started to take control of the congregations, running it as a tight knit organisation. Some congregations broke away, many of these Russellite groups still exist today.
- 1925 was predicted as the date when Abraham Isaac and Jacob would be resurrected to earth.
- By 1927 Rutherford had made the door to door literature distribution work essential to all members
- In 1931 the Bible Students are renamed Jehovah’s Witnesses which helped to differentiate them from the break off groups.
- 1942 Rutherford dies and Nathan H Knorr takes up the presidency, with Frederick Franz dealing in doctrinal matters. the Watch Tower society start to publish their literature anonymously.
- Fred Franz starts to change the chronology, establishing 1914 and not 1874 as Christ’s invisible return. During the 1960s, the year 1975 is spoken of as likely being the time for Armageddon, much of the literature from that time has since been revised or no longer available to view.
- Knorr sets up training programs for members to become effective door to door preachers.
- In the 1970s the board of directors became the Governing Body with additional members being added, giving the impression that the Watch Tower has authority from God not as a legal corporation.
- 1977 Knorr dies, and Franz inherits a troubled organisation. For the first time in decades they are losing members, with many questioning dates such as 1975, as well as the heavenly calling ending in 1935
- 1980 sees a crackdown on members studying independently to the Watch Tower, with judicial committees being formed and members being excommunicated for apostasy. Members who were disfellowshipped or left voluntarily were to be shunned as being disloyal, with former friends not even allowed to say “Hello” to them.
The above is the ‘in a nut shell’ version, the countless business interests, court cases etc. are all well documented, you can find link to these in the resources section.
Recent history shows numerous changes, put down to ‘new light’, much of which can be found online