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Bible Students - A short History


Joachim of Floris: Roman Catholic abbot, first Christian (in 12th century) to use "year for a day" in applying numbers mentioned in Biblical prophecy to predict the appearance of the Messiah.

John Aquila Brown: published in book, Even-Tide (1823), his interpretation of the "seven times" of Daniel, by means of the day-year formula, to produce 2520 years, in exactly the same way as the Watchtower Society does today, except he started with 604 BC and ended up with 1917 AD.  This, 29 years before C.  T.  Russell was born,47 years before C.T.  Russell started his Bible study group, and 50+years before the book "Three Worlds" was written.

William Miller: New England Baptist, end time prophet, in 1818AD predicted the advent of Christ in 1843-1844.

Quit the movement he founded when his predictions, called the "great disappointment of 1844", failed.

Millerites established the "right date-wrong event" idea used by Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) post 1914.

Ellen G.  White: member of Miller movement (Millerite), split off after the disappointment of 1844 and founded the Second Advent movement, the present Seven-Day Adventist group.

Charles Taze Russell: (1852-1916) Raised Presbyterian & member of Congregational Church..  In 1869 young Russell attended meeting by Jonas Wendell, Second Adventist preacher, after which he led a Bible study class that evolved into a separate movement.  Russell was heavily influenced by George Stetson and George Storrs in 3 year relationship.  Jan.  1876, allied with Second Adventists N.  H.  Barbour& J.  H.  Paton.

George Stetson: Spiritual descendent of William Miller and an Advent Christian minister.

George Storrs: Millerite, minister in Methodist Episcopal church, & major founder of the Life and Advent Union, foremost American proponent of "conditionalism," that man does not have an immortal soul but can earn salvation, and of the teaching that the dead are unconscious or asleep until the resurrection.  Published newspaper called the Bible Examiner.  Taught earthly resurrection of the ignorant dead to be educated with knowledge of Christ then judged accordingly.  Russell learned the doctrines of the ransom atonement of Christ, the restitution of mankind to a paradise earth, and the doctrine of conditionalism directly from Storrs and his associates.The practice of celebrating the Lord's Supper once a year on 14 Nisan came from Storrs.

Nelson Barbour: Second Adventist, after teaching that the earth would burn up in 1874, became "main author" of 1877 end time prophetic book, "Three Worlds," paid for & co-published by C.  T.Russell, in which, Barbour now asserted that date (1874) to mark Christ's invisible return in 1874 and the "day of wrath" in AD1914.

Charles Taze Russell: First Watch Tower president, broke away from Barbour and his Second Advent mentors in 1879 to publish his own journal, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence.  Russell enlarged on the proof of the end time date of 1914 by lengthy argumentation in his books (STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES Vol.  1-6) and the Watch Tower magazine from 1879 until his death in 1916.  One of his most interesting features was his claim to prophetic insight,and proof of the 1914 date, by measuring the chambers of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, calling it "God's Bible in stone" and "God's stone witness".  Russell became "pastor" to an increasing group of supporters called "Bible Student's." His ministry survived a divorce, a "Miracle Wheat" scandal, complete with law-suit, which he lost, the issue of "the vow", the 1914 failure and ended with another prediction; Armageddon in 1918.

Joseph Franklin Rutherford: (1869-1942) an attorney and substitute judge, became second Watch Tower president amid Bible Student chaos when Russell neglected to make his four hand-picked successors legal board members.  Three groups of Bible Students broke off by the spring of 1918.  "He had a streak of self-righteousness which caused him to regard anyone who opposed him as of the Devil,"* was moody,rude, profane, had a violent temper, prone to physical violence,smoked cigars & was alcoholic.  Had the book THE FINISHED MYSTERY written & released 1917 in which he infuriated religion and government, ended up getting all eight board members sentenced to prison for treason under the American Espionage Act.  In 1919 instituted door-to-door distribution of magazines and in 1920 "class workers" began to report their activities to the Watch Tower Society.  Predicted "the end" in 1918, 1920, 1925, & 1941.  Started the"Millions Now Living Will Never Die" campaign in 1918, released the book in 1920 that predicted the return of the Ancient Worthies in 1925, built them a mansion in San Diego CA in 1929 that he wintered in till he died.  Had the use of two 16 cylinder Cadillacs in the 30's when his followers experienced the depression, soup lines, &dust bowls.  Was the architect of most present day Watchtower beliefs& practices.  Claimed the Holy Spirit quit working in 1918 and that the Lord sent messages for him to write in the Watchtower books and magazines direct to him through thought transference by Angels.Today he is heralded as "humble as a little child" by group leaders(WT 12-1-'93 p.14).  Changed the group name to "Jehovah's witnesses"in 1931, closed the doors to heaven in 1935 for all but 144,000 JWs.  *(Apocalypse Delayed, M.J.  Penton)

Nathan Homer Knorr: (1905-1977) Raised in the Dutch Reformed Church,third president, set up training programs for recruiters & group speakers, left doctrinal matters up to vice-president F.  Franz.Directed the wave of new recruits flocking to escape the current world end prophecy of 1975.  Required members to follow Watchtower medical advice: banned vaccinations, blood transfusions, and organ transplants.

Fredrick W.  Franz: (1893-1992) Presbyterian ministerial student,Bible translator (NWT committee) self-taught in Hebrew, could not speak Hebrew or translate one verse of Hebrew in a court of law.  Fourth WT president dealt with the 1975 failed prophecy with denial,circled the spiritual wagons and at 88 years of age led a massive purge of suspected dissenters.  Members, including his own nephew,Governing Body member Ray Franz, suspected of "independent thinking" were interrogated, some for hours & hours in secret meetings, then disfellowshipped & shunned.

Milton G.  Henschel: (1921-___) Fifth Society president.  "Transplants of hearts and other organs are a form of cannibalism", "Witnesses believe the last generation is dated from the first global war,1914, and the time is getting near to the end of that generation",and when asked if the Witnesses ever "reform" he answered, "they are always growing in new Bible understanding." [Detroit Free Press July 1968] Nov.  1, 1995 Watchtower / "NEW LIGHT" - "This Generation" no longer refers to the year 1914.

(Questions for JWs, W.  & J.  Cetnar; Zion's Watch Tower, 1906 & 1916; Who Was Who in Church History, E.S.  Moyer; Watchtower,1993; Crisis Of Conscience, R.  Franz; Apocalypse Delayed, M.J.Penton; 1975 Yearbook of JWs; 1917 ed, The Finished Mystery; Three Worlds, N.  Barbour; Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose,1959; Thy Kingdom Come, 1912ed; When Prophecy Fails, L.Festinger; Ellen G.  White and Inspiration, M.  Barnett; The Early Years, A.L.  White; Comments from the Friends, D.  Reed, spring 1993)

1996 Gary Busselman PO Box 88641 Sioux Falls, SD 57105
24 hr.  Message, 605-373-0144
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