Three key men Russell, Rutherford, Knorr.
The theology they developed originated from Seventh-day
Adventism, notably their eschatology.
Charles Russell (1852-1916)
1. Born in what is now part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2. Parents were Presbyterians
3. Russell was troubled by their teaching on predestination
and eternal punishment.
4. By the age of 17, he had become an avowed skeptic and
discarded the Bible altogether.
5. Russell wrote:
a. “Brought up a Presbyterian,
indoctrinated from the Catechism, and being naturally of an inquiring mind, I fell a ready prey to the logic of infidelity, as soon as I
began to think for myself. But that which at first threatened to be the utter
shipwreck of faith in God and the Bible was under God’s providence, overruled
for gook, and merely wrecked my confidence in human creeds and systems of Bible
6. At the age of 18 (1870) he went to a small group of
people listening to the views of Second Adventism by Jonas Wendell
7. Russell became engrossed in the Bible and started his
own Bible study of six people. This met for the next six years (1870-1875)
8. Russell disagreed with the Adventist view that Christ
was coming again in the flesh. He believed in a spiritual, invisible return.
9. Russell wrote a pamphlet and published 50,000 copies
“The Object and Manner of the Lord’s Return”
1876 Russell joined with N. H. Barbour who himself had separated from the
Adventist concerning the form of Christ’s return.
group joined with Barbour’s group and produced a magazine.
1877 Barbour and Russell jointly published a 194 page book entitled “Three
Worlds or Plan of Redemption”
1878 Russell separated from Barbour concerning over the atonement of Christ’s
death. Russell had began to deny that the death of
Christ was the ransom price for Adam and mankind.
started his own periodical called “Zion’s Watch Tower”
on July 1, 1879.
1880 there were thirty congregations in seven states.
1886 Russell issued the first of what was to be a 7-volume series of doctrinal
1891 Russell made his first trip overseas and in 1900 the first branch office
opened in London.
18. Between 1909-1914 3,000 newspapers received Russell’s sermons.
a. Many of these sermons were never delivered
b. A message claimed to have been preached in Honolulu never was
c. Russell advertised “Miracle Wheat” for $1 a pound
that was 5x better, and sued a newspaper for mocking
his claim. He lost the suit when government testing proved it to be inferior to
1913 Russell’s wife divorced him on the grounds of “his conceit, egotism,
domination, and improper conduct in relation to other women.”
said concerning his doctrinal books, “if (a student)
lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood
his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes
into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the “Scripture Studies”
with their references and had not read a page of the Bible as such, he would he
in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the
June of 1912 a pastor wrote a pamphlet rejecting Russell. Russell sued the
pastor. In the trial Russell was proved to be a perjurer. When asked by the
Attorney whether he knew the Greek alphabet, Russell replied, “Oh, yes.” When
he was asked to identify the Greek letters on top of a page of the Greek
Testament he was unable to do so, finally admitting that he was not familiar
with the Greek language. Also, it was proved that his claim to have been
ordained was false.
died on October 31, 1916.
Joseph Rutherford (1869-1942)
1. Became the societies
president in 1917.
2. Born in 1869 to a Baptist family.
3. He practiced law and was admitted to the bar at the
age of 22. He was also appointed as a judge.
4. He joined the JW movement in 1906 and became their
legal counsel in 1907
5. On Dec. 30, 1917 a 4-page booklet was distributed
entitled, “The Fall of Babylon.” It said the Catholic and Protestant religious
organizations would soon pass into oblivion. This aroused such a turmoil that the government intervened. In Canada it was
forbidden to possess copies of the Watchtower publications.
6. In 1918 Rutherford and 7 others were arrested for
stirring up anti war feelings and conspiring to cause insubordination and
refusal of duty in US military. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison.
7. After the war ended society members
petition for the release of the Watchtower leaders. They were released in 1919.
8. Rutherford began to write and his books began to replace
9. Active outreach began to be pushed. IN 1920 members
of the congregations who participated in the witnessing work turned in weekly
societies emphasis switched from teaching and personal
growth to outreach and literature placement.
Oct. 1922 a monthly service sheet of instructions called The Bulletin
was given to all members of the society.
1931 the members adopted a resolution that said they would be known as
Jehovah’s Witnesses based on the Isaiah 43:10, “Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant who I have chosen. . .”
they began street distribution of the Watchtower and Consolation
1934 they began playing phonograph records at the doors of homes. This practice
was stopped in 1944 and replaced by personal presentations.
WWII came their policy of neutrality resulted in many JW’s being imprisoned for refusing to serve the armed
16. Rutherford died in 1942.
Nathan Knorr (1905- )
- Became president of the JW’s in 1942.
- At 16 he left the reformed church and joined the JW.s.
- He became the head of the printing operations
- He developed the training program.
- He organized the “theocratic ministry schools” in every JW
- He replaced the doctrinal books with a new set. This time they had
several contributing authors.
- In 1946 the JW doctrinal summary Let God Be True was
- In 1953 a compilation of Scripture passages on 70 topics called Make
Sure of All Things was released. It is used as a handy scripture
reference book during home visits. In 1958 it was published in a new
format entitled From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.
- In 1950 the JW’s produced their own
translation of the Bible called The New World
Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The translators
names are anonymous. This translation is not objective but incorporates
many features which support JW doctrine.
- In 1942 the JW’s were in 54 countries. By
1961 they were in 185 countries.
Source of Authority
- To find their statement of belief you must sift through their
- Books published since 1942 are considered their
authoritative doctrinal guide and replaces the writings of Russell and Rutherford.
- They say, “The Holly Scriptures of the Bible are the standard by
which to judge all religions.”
- They believe God to be the author of the Bible.
- But, when you examine their theology they actually impose their own
theological system upon the scripture and force it to comply with their
- Example: They do not believe in the Holy Spirit as a divine member
of the trinity. Words like God, Lord Jehovah, Rock, are capitalized. The
word “spirit” is never capitalized.
“Go therefore and make
disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.”
Mat.28:19, New World Tran.
Yet in Acts 5:3-4 (NWT) says:
“Ananias, why has Satan emboldened you to play false to the
holy spirit. . .You have
played false, not to men, but to God.”
- Their New World Translation is a biased translation in which many
teachings of the Watchtower Society are smuggled into the text of the
- Their method of interpretation is to find a verse that fits what
they believe and blatantly ignore verses that teach otherwise.
- The JW’s insist that their followers may
only understand the Scriptures as these are interpreted by the leaders of
the Watchtower Society. Of course, the leaders claim to only be influenced
by the Bible.
Methods of Interpretation
- Characterized by absurd literalism.
- Prohibit blood transfusion based on Lev. 17:14,
“Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh. . .” A blood transfusion
is “feeding upon blood.” They will allow death before they will allow a
- Forbid Christmas trees based on Jer. 10:3,4, “The customs of
the peoples are vanity; for one cutteth a tree
out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe,
They deck it with silver and with gold. . .” Jer.
10:2 says “Learn not the way of the nations.” So, this must be a
reference to Christmas trees.
- Literalism is not consistent. They spiritualize things they can not
- They spiritualize the sword of Romans 13:4
- They spiritualize the twelve tribes of Israel in
- They spiritualize Christ’s physical
- They spiritualize Israel being brought back as
- They spiritualize prophecies of Christ physical
and visible return.
- Characterized by absurd typology.
- Noah’s story
Typified Jesus, Noah’s wife pictured the “bride of Christ”
The “bride of Christ” is the
anointed 144,000 members of the Christian congregation.
iii. Noah’s three sons and three daughters-in-law picture
“the great crowd” or the JW’s who are not in anointed
The ark pictured the new covenant
The flood was the battle of
- Matthew 20:1-16, Parable of the Laborers in the
i. 12 hours stood for 12 years which elapsed from 1919
(the year Rutherford and the other seven were released from prison.)
The shilling was the new name
each member of the organization received that year (1919).
- The “knight-jump exegesis”
- This is a term for the way the JW’s jump from one potion of scripture to another
without any regard for context in an attempt to prove their pre-established
- Since the Bible does not teach JW doctrine,
they can not use it in context. They must break rules of hermeneutics in
order to prove their point.
- To them the Bible is a box of building blocks
that can be assembled anyway the builder wants to assemble them.
- Example- 1914 was the year when Christ’s
Kingdom was established.
Their theology: “Christ the
Messiah did not set up “God’s kingdom at his first advent or at once after ascending
to heaven.” (The Truth Shall Make You Free, p. 241)
Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations,
until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (NWT)
607 BC Israel
goes to Babylon
Christ will receive a kingdom never to be destroyed.
Christ then receives this kingdom
at the end of the times of the nations.
Dan. 4:25-26 tells us when.
Nebuchadnezzar is to be reduced to a beast in “seven times.”
vii. These seven times symbolize the length of the “time
of the nations.”
viii. How long is “seven times” then? Rev. 12:6 and 12:14
tells us “a time, times and half a time” equal 1260 days.
“A time, times and half a time”
are 3 1/2 years which are 1260 days. Seven years would be twice that, or 2,520
But, the “seven times” are not a
literal 2,520 days but instead are years. Why? Because in Ezekiel 4:6 the KJ
translation says, “I have appointed thee every day for a year.”
So, 2,520 days are 2,520 years
which means the “time of the nations” will be 2,520 years.
xii. The “time of the nations” began in 607 and will end
2,520 years later. When you do the math you get the year. . . .607 BC plus 2,
520 years equals
1914! (do not count 607 as a full year since that is when it began)
- “Rear-view” method of interpreting prophecy.
- A primitive Bible prophecy trick: First, take
current or past events; Second, find some
Biblical texts which can somehow be made to fit these events; Third,
triumphantly point to the events as “fulfilled prophecies.”
- Example: Revelation 11:11-13, The two witnesses who were revived after being killed
occurred in 1919 when Rutherford and other leaders of the movement were
released from prison.
- Example: Revelation 17:3-6, shows a woman
sitting on a scarlet beast. The woman is the heathen and Christian
religions riding the beast of the League of Nations
(now the United Nations)
Doctrine of God
- Jehovah is the only true God.
- Before creation Jehovah was alone in universal space.
- They say Yahweh is the correct pronunciation they prefer Jehovah.
- They introduce this name 237 more times into their translation.
- They deny the deity of Jesus. He may be called a god, but never
- Jesus is mighty but not almighty.
- He was created by Jehovah as the first son. Since Jesus had a
beginning he is not God and can not be part of the trinity.
- The holy spirit for JW’s is “the
invisible active force of Almighty God which moves his servants to do his
will.” “It (HS) is the impersonal, invisible active force that complish his will even at great distances, over light
years of space.”
are Unitarians. They believe in God in only one person.
- Jesus is a person but not divine. The holy spirit
is neither a person nor divine.
recognize the love of God but emphasize his power and justice.
The Works of God
- This was rejected by Russell in the Reformed
teaching of Protestant Christianity.
- Only Jesus Christ was predestined. Christ was
used to form the heavens and earth and then to form the new creation.
- Those that were to become new creations and
members of the new nation were not predestined individuals but their
total number and the nations they come from was
- Rev 7:4-8 and 14:1,3 gives us the predestined
number of those saved: 144,000
- Notice: the Bible gives a number and says they
are from the 12 tribes of Israel.
The JW’s take the number literally, but the
tribes as figurative. Yet, it is the same verse, the same context. Half
is literal, half is figurative.
- Others outside this predestined number may
obtain everlasting life a paradise earth. This is “the great crowd that
no one could number” from Revl7:9,10.
- How can you be in this great crowd? By hearing
the voice of the Right Shepherd and coming into the New World Society and
subjecting themselves to the Society’s
requirements for other sheep.
Man’s State of Sin
- In Eden one of God’s good angels who
had been placed in Eden
as the overseer of humankind, rebelled against God.
- The penalty for this first sin was physical death – not eternal
torment in hell.
- Quote from “The Truth Shall Make You Free, “There is not a scrap of
evidence that Adam repented. He was a willful rebel and was beyond
repentance, and his sentence is beyond recall. .
.Adam did and went nowhere but to the dust form which he had been taken.”
- They declare that only the 144,000 have been and will be born again
or begotten of God.
- No one from the Old Testament can be born again and so they are not
in the 144,000 but are of the “great crowd.”
- The majority of JW’s are “the great
crowd” that can not be born again but they do believe and can be faithful
to Jehovah without regeneration.
- So, they teach that Adam fell and all are sinful, the 144,000 are
born again, the rest are simply obedient which results in eternal life on
paradise earth. So, the sin nature is conquered by man?
The Person of Christ
- During his prehuman state, from the time
of his creation until he was born, Christ was the Logos or Word. He was
not equal with God, but was his spokesperson.
- During his human state he laid aside his glory, but it was not the
incarnation of God since Jesus is not God. It was the “personality,”
“life,” or the “life pattern” of the first created being of God. Christ is
not God in the flesh.
- Jehovah God raised Christ from the dead, “not as a human Son, but
as a mighty immortal spirit Son. . . “ (Let God
Be True, p.40) Christ was not raised as a man physically, but as a
spirit. The logic behind this is “in order to atone for the sin of Adam,
Christ had to sacrifice his human body. This means that he had to renounce
it permanently and could not get it back again. Therefore God raised him
as a spirit Son. (Religion for Mankind, p259) God disposed of the
body of Christ like he did Moses’ body but no one knows how. (The Truth
Shall Make You Free, p. 264)
The Work of Christ
- Adam’s sin caused all men to inherit physical death and inborn sin.
- Jesus Christ made atonement for us and thus removed for believers
the results of Adam’s sin.
- The application of the word atonement means that “the human life
that Jesus Christ laid down in sacrifice must be exactly equal to that
life which h Adam forfeited for all his offspring; it must be a perfect
human life, no more, no less.” (You May Survive Armageddon, p. 39)
- Adam lost perfect human life with its rights and earthly prospects,
Jesus laid down his perfect earthly life to pay for Adam’s loss. Man now
can be restored to Eden.
- God’s justice for sin is satisfied not in Christ death, but in
man’s death. The sin of Adam produced death (which results in
annihilation, dust to dust) in man. When men die they satisfy God’s justice.
Christ who gave his perfect human life, and never got it back (since he
was raised spiritually) allows men to have the perfect human condition
given to Adam.
Doctrine of Salvation
- Who will benefit from the ransom of Christ?
- “By willingly laying down his human life Christ could use its right
to buy back the worthy ones of Adam’s children.” (Paradise Lost, p.
- “However, that life will not be the same for all. The Bible plainly
shows that some of these, that is, 144,000, will share in heavenly glory
with Christ Jesus, while the others will enjoy the blessings of life down
here on earth.” (Let God Be True, p. 298)
- How are the 144,000 saved?
- First believe and repent
- They “must undergo the sacrifice of all human
life right and hopes, even as Jesus did.” (LGBT)
- But, to be in position to do this they must be
justified by God to be worthy of sacrificing their life. This takes place
at baptism. Then they can do step “b.”
- When they do, God acknowledges them as
spiritual sons like Jesus.
- They then become members of Christ’s body and
- God consecrates them for a holy work.
- This anointing means that they are made kings
and priests of God and together with Christ they will rule over the rest
- To achieve this they must preach the good news
of Christ’s Kingdom. If they maintain their integrity until death, they
will receive immortality.
- But, ultimately the selection of the 144,000
depends on God’s sovereign act. It is based on worthiness and then God’s
- How are the Other Sheep saved, the “great
- They need faith in Jehovah and in Jesus Christ
- They must dedicate themselves to do God’s will
- They must carry out their dedication
- They must be baptized by immersion
- But, they do not need to sacrifice the prospect
of perfect human life in the coming paradise.
- So, God does not need to justify them like he
does the 144,000
- And, then, God does not need to regenerate
them, in fact, they can not be born again.
- Neither does God need to anoint them to be
priest and kings.
- In all this the majority of JW’s
are according to their own doctrine not born again, not justified, not
renewed, not anointed, not members of the universal priesthood, not
members of Christ body, with out the holy spirit.
But, yet they will achieve a place in an earthly paradise because they
repent and change their behavior.