Search This Blog

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Filling Spiritual Needs of Early Bible Students

Charles Taze Russell and a small group of associates in and around Allegheny, Pennsylvania, formed a class for Bible study in 1870. As a result of their meetings, they gradually grew in love for God and his Word and progressively came to know what the Bible itself teaches. There was no miraculous speaking in tongues at these meetings. Why not? Such miraculous gifts had accomplished their objective in the first century, and as the Bible foretold, they had ceased. “The next step of progress,” Brother Russell explained, “was the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit, as St. Paul most clearly points out.” (1 Cor. 13:4-10) Furthermore, as also in the first century, there was urgent evangelizing work to do, and for this they needed to be encouraged. (Heb. 10:24, 25) Before long, they were having two regular meetings each week.

Brother Russell realized that it was important for Jehovah’s servants to be a unified people, no matter where they might be scattered around the globe. So, in 1879, shortly after the Watch Tower began to be published, its readers were invited to make request for Brother Russell or one of his associates to visit them. A clearly stated stipulation was “No charge made nor money taken.” After a number of requests came in, Brother Russell set out on a month-long trip that took him as far as Lynn, Massachusetts, with meetings for four to six hours a day at each stop. The subject featured was “Things Pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

Early in 1881, Brother Russell urged Watch Tower readers who as yet had no regular meetings in their area: “Establish one in your own home with your own family, or even a few that may be interested. Read, study, praise and worship together, and where two or three are met in His name, the Lord will be in your midst—your teacher. Such was the character of some of the meetings of the church in the days of the Apostles. (See Philemon, 2).”

The program of meetings developed gradually. Suggestions were offered, but it was left up to each local group to decide what was best for their circumstances. A speaker might occasionally deliver a discourse, but greater emphasis was given to meetings in which everyone could freely participate. Some classes of Bible Students did not at first make much use of the Society’s publications at their meetings, but traveling ministers, the pilgrims, helped them to see the value of doing so.

After some of the volumes of Millennial Dawn had been published, these began to be used as a basis for study. In 1895 the study groups came to be known as Dawn Circles for Bible Study. Some in Norway later referred to them as “reading and conversation meetings,” adding: “Extracts from Brother Russell’s books were read aloud, and when persons had comments or questions, they raised their hands.” Brother Russell recommended that at such studies participants make use of a variety of translations of the Scriptures, marginal references in the Bible, and Bible concordances. The studies were often held with groups of moderate size, in a private home, on an evening convenient to the group. These were forerunners of the present-day Congregation Book Study.

Brother Russell realized that more was needed than just study of doctrinal matters. There must also be expressions of devotion so that people’s hearts would be moved by appreciation of God’s love and by a desire to honor and serve him. The classes were urged to arrange a special meeting for this purpose once a week. These were sometimes referred to as “Cottage Meetings” because they were held in private homes. The program included prayers, hymns of praise, and testimonies related by those in attendance. These testimonies were sometimes encouraging experiences; included, too, were the trials, difficulties, and perplexities confronted during recent days. In some places these meetings fell considerably short of their objective because of excessive emphasis on self. Kindly suggestions for improvement were set out in The Watch Tower.

Recalling those meetings, Edith Brenisen, the wife of one of the early pilgrims in the United States, said: “It was an evening for meditation upon Jehovah’s loving care and for close association with our brothers and sisters. As we listened to some of their experiences we grew to know them better. Observing their faithfulness, seeing how they overcame their difficulties, often helped us in solving some of our own perplexities.” In time, however, it became apparent that meetings designed to equip each one to share in the evangelizing work were more beneficial.

The way in which the Sunday meeting was handled in some places was of concern to the brothers. Some classes tried to discuss the Bible verse by verse. But at times the differences of opinion as to meaning were not at all upbuilding. To improve the situation, certain ones in the congregation in Los Angeles, California, developed outlines for topical Bible study, with questions and references to be examined by all the class before coming to the meeting. In 1902 the Society made available a Bible containing “Berean Bible Study Helps,” including a topical index. To further simplify matters, starting with the March 1, 1905, Watch Tower, outlines for congregation discussion were published, with questions as well as references to the Bible and the Society’s publications for research. These continued until 1914, by which time study questions on the volumes of Studies in the Scriptures were published for use as a basis for Berean Studies.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS

What were those early meetings like? One of them was based on Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices, first published by the Society in 1881. It considered the prophetic significance of Israel’s tabernacle and the sacrifices offered there. Even children benefited greatly from these studies. Recalling these meetings as held in one home, Sara C. Kaelin comments: “The group had increased and sometimes the children had to sit on the steps leading upstairs, but all had to learn and answer questions. What did the bullock represent? The Court? The Holy? The Most Holy? Day of Atonement? High Priest? Underpriest? It was so impressed on our minds that we could visualize the High Priest performing his duties and we knew what it meant.”

“Cottage Meetings” were held on Wednesday evenings. These also became known as Prayer, Praise and Testimony Meetings. Concerning them Edith R. Brenisen writes: “After a hymn and a prayer, the leader read an appropriate scripture, giving a few comments, and then the meeting was turned over to the friends to comment as they wished. Sometimes it would be a joyful experience one had in the service work or some evidence of Jehovah’s special leading or protection. One was free to offer a prayer or ask for a certain hymn to be sung, the words often expressing the thoughts of one’s heart better than the person could. It was an evening for meditation upon Jehovah’s loving care and for close association with our brothers and sisters. As we listened to some of their experiences we grew to know them better. Observing their faithfulness, seeing how they overcame their difficulties, often helped us in solving some of our own perplexities.” This meeting was the forerunner of what has since developed into the service meeting, held weekly by Jehovah’s witnesses today and so helpful to them in their preaching work.

In those early days, “Dawn Circles” were held on Friday evenings. These Bible studies were so named because volumes of Millennial Dawn were used. Ralph H. Leffler recalls that Sunday evening usually was devoted to a Bible study or a discourse on the Scriptures. What was known as a “chart talk” might be given. What was this? He explains: “Under the front cover of Volume I of Studies in the Scriptures there was a long chart. . . . That chart was enlarged to the size of a banner . . . and could be purchased from the Bible House in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. That chart was hung on the wall in front of the audience for all to see as the speaker for the occasion went about explaining its many arches and pyramids. The chart was a graphic illustration of the main Bible events from man’s creation to the end of the millennium and the beginning of ‘ages to come.’ . . . We learned much about Bible history from these ‘chart’ talks. And they were delivered frequently.”

“Chart talks” might be delivered at the regular meeting places of Jehovah’s people or elsewhere. Were these discourses effective? C. E. Sillaway recalls: “The talks must have borne some fruit, for the little group grew from six adults to about fifteen in less than two years.” On one occasion, William P. Mockridge gave a chart talk in a Baptist church in Long Island City, New York, “with the result that several members of [the Baptist preacher’s] church came into the truth and the minister . . . C. A. Erickson also came into the truth and became one of the Society’s traveling . . . speakers.”

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS



Upon the inside of this number you will find a copy of the Chart of the Ages, such as we once had mounted upon rollers, the supply of which has for some time been exhausted, preventing us from filling many applications received. We take this method of placing it in the hands of all our readers. We trust that it may have a two-fold effect: first, that you may be blessed by a fresh examination of the chart and its lessons, as expressed in the explanation furnished in the pamphlet "FOOD" page 105. (Every reader is welcome to a copy of "FOOD" free.) Secondly, we hope that being quickened and refreshed by a clear view of our Father's plan, you may be stimulated as well as enabled, to explain the plan to others, illustrating it by the chart. Thus, no matter how simply you tell it, you can preach the "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people." The chart will not only interest and hold the attention of your thoughtful neighbor, but will make the truth the more easy of comprehension. Thus many can let their light so shine as to honor their Heavenly Father, as well as to bless and refresh their neighbors and friends.

- July 1886, Watchtower, WTB&TS

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Development of the Organization Structure

THE operation of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has undergone significant changes since Charles Taze Russell and his associates first began to study the Bible together in 1870. When the early Bible Students were few in number, they had very little of what outsiders would view as characterizing an organization. Yet, today, as people observe the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their conventions, and their preaching of the good news in over 200 lands, they marvel at how smoothly the organization operates. How has it developed?

The Bible Students were keenly interested in understanding not only Bible doctrine but also the manner in which God’s service was to be performed, as indicated by the Scriptures. They realized that the Bible made no provision for titled clergymen, with a laity to whom they would preach. Brother Russell was determined that there would be no clergy class among them. Through the columns of the Watch Tower, its readers were frequently reminded that Jesus told his followers: “Your Leader is one, the Christ,” but, “All you are brothers.”—Matt. 23:8, 10.

Early Association of Bible Students

Readers of the Watch Tower and related publications soon saw that in order to please God, they had to sever ties with any church that proved itself unfaithful to God by putting creeds and traditions of men ahead of his written Word. (2 Cor. 6:14-18) But after withdrawing from the churches of Christendom, where did they go?

In an article entitled “The Ekklesia,” Brother Russell pointed out that the true church, the Christian congregation, is not an organization with members who have subscribed to some man-made creed and have their names written on a church register. Rather, he explained, it is made up of persons who have “consecrated” (or, dedicated) their time, talents, and life to God, and who have before them the prospect of sharing in the heavenly Kingdom with Christ. These, he said, are Christians who are united in bonds of Christian love and common interest, who respond to the direction of the spirit of God, and who submit to the headship of Christ. Brother Russell was not interested in setting up some other arrangement, and he was strongly against contributing in any way to the sectarianism that existed among professed Christians.

At the same time, he fully appreciated the need for the Lord’s servants to assemble together, in harmony with the counsel at Hebrews 10:23-25. He personally traveled to visit and upbuild readers of the Watch Tower and to bring them together with others in their own area who were of like mind. Early in 1881 he requested that those who were holding regular meetings notify the Watch Tower office as to where these were being held. He saw the value of keeping them in touch with one another.

However, Brother Russell emphasized that they were not attempting to set up an “earthly organization.” Rather, he said, “we adhere only to that heavenly organization—‘whose names are written in heaven.’ (Heb. 12:23; Luke 10:20.)” Because of Christendom’s sordid history, reference to “church organization” usually reminded a person of sectarianism, clergy domination, and membership on the basis of adhering to a creed formulated by a religious council. So, when referring to themselves, Brother Russell felt that the term “association” was a better one.

He was well aware that Christ’s apostles had formed congregations and appointed elders in each. But he believed that Christ was again present, though invisibly so, and was himself personally directing the final harvest of those who would be heirs with him. In view of the circumstances, Brother Russell initially felt that during the time of harvest the arrangement for elders that had existed in the first-century Christian congregations was not needed.

Nevertheless, as the Bible Students grew in number, Brother Russell realized that the Lord was maneuvering matters in a manner different from what he himself had anticipated. An adjustment in viewpoint was needed. But on what basis?

Meeting the Early Needs of the Growing Association

The Watch Tower of November 15, 1895, was devoted almost entirely to the subject “Decently and in Order.” Candidly, Brother Russell there acknowledged: “The apostles had much to say to the early Church concerning order in the assemblies of the saints; and apparently we have been rather negligent of this wise counsel, feeling it to be of rather minor importance, because the Church is so near the end of her course and the harvest is a time of separating.” What moved them to take a fresh look at that counsel?

That article listed four circumstances: (1) It was evident that the spiritual development of individuals varied one from another. There were temptations, trials, difficulties, and dangers that not all were equally prepared to meet. Thus, there was a need for wise and discreet overseers, men of experience and ability, deeply interested in looking out for the spiritual welfare of all and capable of instructing them in the truth. (2) It had been seen that the flock needed to be defended against ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing.’ (Matt. 7:15, KJ) They needed to be fortified by being helped to gain a thorough knowledge of the truth. (3) Experience had shown that if there was no arrangement for appointment of elders to safeguard the flock, some would take that position and come to view the flock as their own. (4) Without an orderly arrangement, individuals loyal to the truth might find their services unwanted because of the influence of a few who disagreed with them.

In the light of this, the Watch Tower stated: “We have no hesitation in commending to the Churches in every place, whether their numbers be large or small, the Apostolic counsel, that, in every company, elders be chosen from among their number to ‘feed’ and ‘take the oversight’ of the flock.” (Acts 14:21-23; 20:17, 28) The local congregations followed through on this sound Scriptural counsel. This was an important step in establishing a congregation structure in harmony with what existed in the days of the apostles.

In accord with the way they understood matters then, however, the selection of elders, and of deacons to assist them, was made by congregation vote. Each year, or more often if necessary, the qualifications of those who might serve were considered, and a vote was taken. It was basically a democratic procedure, but one that was hedged about with limitations designed to act as a safeguard. All in the congregation were urged to review carefully the Biblical qualifications and to express by vote, not their own opinion, but what they believed to be the will of the Lord. Since only those “fully consecrated” were eligible to vote, their collective vote, when guided by the Word and spirit of the Lord, was viewed as expressing the Lord’s will in the matter. Although Brother Russell may not have been completely aware of it, his recommendation of this arrangement was perhaps influenced to some extent not only by his determination to avoid any semblance of an exalted clergy class but also by his own background as a teenager in the Congregational Church.

When the Millennial Dawn volume entitled The New Creation (published in 1904) again discussed in detail the role of elders and the manner in which they were to be selected, special attention was directed to Acts 14:23. Concordances compiled by James Strong and Robert Young were cited as authorities for the view that the statement “they had ordained them elders” (KJ) should be translated “they had elected them elders by a show of hands.” Some Bible translations even say that the elders were ‘appointed by vote.’ (Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible; Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible) But who was to do that voting?

Adopting the view that the voting was to be done by the congregation as a whole did not always yield the results that were hoped for. Those voting were to be persons who were “fully consecrated,” and some who were elected truly met the Scriptural qualifications and humbly served their brothers. But the voting often reflected personal preference rather than the Word and spirit of God. Thus, in Halle, Germany, when certain ones who thought they should be elders did not get the positions they wanted, they caused severe dissension. In Barmen, Germany, among those who were candidates in 1927 were men who opposed the work of the Society, and there was considerable shouting during the showing of hands at election time. So it was necessary to switch over to a secret ballot.

Back in 1916, years before these incidents, Brother Russell, with deep concern, had written: “A horrible state of affairs prevails in some Classes when an election is to be held. The servants of the Church attempt to be rulers, dictators—sometimes even holding the chairmanship of the meeting with the apparent object of seeing that they and their special friends shall be elected as Elders and Deacons. . . . Some quietly try to take advantage of the Class by having the election at some time which is especially favorable to them and their friends. Others seek to pack the meeting with their friends, bringing in comparative strangers, who have no thought of being regular in attendance at the Class, but come merely as an act of friendship to vote for one of their friends.”

Did they simply need to learn how to handle elections along democratic lines more smoothly, or was there something from God’s Word that they had not yet discerned?

Organizing to Get the Good News Preached

At a very early point, Brother Russell recognized that one of the most important responsibilities of every member of the Christian congregation was the work of evangelizing. (1 Pet. 2:9) The Watch Tower explained that it was not to Jesus alone but to all his spirit-anointed followers that the prophetic words of Isaiah 61:1 applied, namely: “Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news,” or, as the King James Version renders Jesus’ quotation of this passage, “He hath anointed me to preach the gospel.”—Luke 4:18.

As early as 1881, the Watch Tower carried the article “Wanted 1,000 Preachers.” This was an appeal to every member of the congregation to use whatever time he could (a half hour, an hour, or two, or three) to share in spreading Bible truth. Men and women who did not have families that were dependent on them and who could give half or more of their time exclusively to the Lord’s work were encouraged to undertake work as colporteur evangelists. The number varied considerably from year to year, but by 1885 there were already about 300 who were sharing in this work as colporteurs. Some others also had a part but on a more limited scale. Suggestions were given to the colporteurs as to how to go about their work. But the field was vast, and at least at the start, they selected their own territory and moved from one area to another largely as it seemed best to them. Then when they met at conventions, they would make needed adjustments to coordinate their efforts.

The same year that the colporteur service began, Brother Russell had a number of tracts (or booklets) printed for free distribution. Outstanding among these was Food for Thinking Christians, which was distributed to the number of 1,200,000 in the first four months. The work involved in arranging this printing and distribution gave rise to the formation of Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society in order to care for necessary details. To prevent disruption of the work in the event of his death, and to facilitate the handling of donations to be used in the work, Brother Russell filed for legal registration of the Society, and this was officially recorded on December 15, 1884. This brought into existence a needed legal instrumentality.

As the need arose, branch offices of the Watch Tower Society were established in other lands. The first was in London, England, on April 23, 1900. Another, in Elberfeld, Germany, in 1902. Two years later, on the other side of the earth, a branch was organized in Melbourne, Australia. At the time of this writing, there are 99 branches worldwide.

Although the organizational arrangements that were needed to provide quantities of Bible literature were taking form, at first it was left to the congregations to work out any local arrangements for public distribution of that material. In a letter dated March 16, 1900, Brother Russell stated how he viewed the matter. That letter, addressed to “Alexander M. Graham, and the Church at Boston, Mass.,” said: “As you all know, it is my decided intention to leave with each company of the Lord’s people the management of their own affairs, according to their own judgments, offering suggestions, not by way of interference, but by way merely of advice.” This included not only their meetings but also the way they carried on their field ministry. Thus, after offering the brothers some practical counsel, he concluded with the comment: “This is merely a suggestion.”

Some activities required more specific direction from the Society. In connection with the showing of the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” it was left to each congregation to determine whether they were willing and able to rent a theater or other facility for a local presentation. However, it was necessary to move equipment from city to city, and schedules had to be met; so in these respects centralized direction was provided by the Society. Each congregation was encouraged to have a Drama Committee to care for local arrangements. But a superintendent sent out by the Society gave careful attention to details in order to make sure that everything went smoothly.

As the years 1914 and then 1915 passed, those spirit-anointed Christians waited eagerly for the fulfillment of their heavenly hope. At the same time, they were encouraged to keep busy in the Lord’s service. Even though they viewed their remaining time in the flesh as very brief, it became evident that in order to carry on the preaching of the good news in an orderly manner, more direction was needed than when they had numbered just a few hundred.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS



Synopsis of Remarks of Bro. MacMillan
at the New York City Temple,
Sunday Morning, Nov. 5, 1916

Part of the text reads:

On the morning he left he made a few brief remarks at the table, saying he would be away for a time and if nothing fails would get back to speak in the Temple, Sunday evening, November 5. He arose from the table and dismissed the friends with no further explanation. Immediately I said to him, "Brother Russell, didn't you forget something?" "No, brother, I have that all fixed." He passed me a bundle of letters, copies of letters, written to various brethren who were the heads of the various departments. As I read them over I was amazed at the wisdom that was displayed in the arrangement of the home and office. He invited me to accompany him to the depot in the taxi he rode over in. I told him what I thought about it. He said, "Brother, nobody can do anything without organization. We have one now, and the work should go on better than ever before."


by A.H. Macmillan


That was a grave responsibility. In order for you to appreciate the position I was in personally, perhaps I should relate an experience I had with C. T. Russell shortly before his death.

Russell always spent the forenoon from eight o'clock until twelve in his study preparing articles for The Watch Tower and any other writing he had to do that called for research on the Bible. Nobody went to the study in the morning unless he was sent for or had something very important, a life or death case.

About five minutes after eight one morning a stenographer fix said to me, "Brother Russell wants to see you in the study."

I thought, "What now?"

I walked up and knocked on the study door. He said, "Come in, brother. Please walk into the drawing room." (This was the room adjoining his study.) "I'll be with you in a moment or two."

When he walked in, with a serious expression on his face, he said, "Brother, are you as deeply interested in the truth as you were when you began?"

I looked surprised.

He continued, "Don't be surprised. That is just a leading question." Then he described his physical condition, and knew enough about pathology to know that he would now live many more months unless he had some relief.

"Now, brother, this is what I want to talk to you about: I am no longer able to take care of the work alone. I must have someone who can be an assistant to the president. The work is increasing rapidly, and it will continue to increase, for there is a world-wide work to be done in preaching the 'gospel of the kingdom' in all the world."

He gave me a word picture of the work that I now see in progress in building up the New World society. He saw it from the Bible. I thought he was talking about something he would like to see, but to me there was not much hope that he would see it.

Then I made an unfortunate remark. "Brother Russell, what you're saying doesn't add up right in my mind." "What do you mean, brother?"

"Your dying and this work going on. Why, when you die we all will complacently fold our arms and wait to go to heaven with you. We will quit then."

"Brother, if that is your idea, you don't see the issue. This is not man's work; it's God's work. No man is indispensable to its success. Now, you are acquainted with brothers in all parts of the country because of your extensive travel serving congregations. You can tell me who you think would be suitable for the position."

We discussed various ones from different parts of the country who were active workers preaching the kingdom message, but he did not seem to think any one of them would be suitable, or in a position to come to Brooklyn.

I moved to leave then, as it was about 11:30 A.M. There was a sliding door from the drawing room out into the hallway, and he pushed that door open. As I was going out he took hold of my arm and said, "Just a minute. You go to your room and pray to the Lord on this matter and come and tell me if Brother Macmillan will accept this position."

He closed the door and I stood there half dazed. I did think it over, very seriously, and prayed about it for some time before I finally told him I would be happy to do all that I could to assist him.

This was shortly before he went away on his final preaching tour. Before he left he wrote letters to what we then termed the heads of the different departments, outlining their duties and informing them that "A. H. Macmillan is to be in full charge of the office and the Bethel Home during my absence. Anything he says for you to do you must do; it doesn't make any difference whether you agree or not. If he tells you incorrectly, I'll attend to him when I get home." Then he handed me copies of all the letters and said, "You have the skeleton organization. Go to work and do things."

This matter weighed heavily on my mind during the two months preceding that election. Obviously Russell expected the work to go on. I had been willing to assist him in his absence, but the thought of taking full management of the entire organization appalled me. I dismissed it.

Then someone said to me, "Mac, you have a strong chance of getting in yourself. You were Brother Russell's special representative when he was gone, and he told all of us to do it as you say. Well, he went away and never did return. It looks like you're the man to carry on."

"Brother," I said, "that's not the way to look at this matter. This is the Lord's work and the only position you get in the Lord's organization is what the Lord sees fit to give you; and I am sure I'm not the man for the job."

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Apostle John’s Fight Against Apostate Elements

NOT long after the Christian congregation came into existence on the day of Pentecost in the year 33 it had to contend with false teachers. The apostles, however, served as a restraining force, keeping in check any revolt against sound Christian doctrine and practice. Nevertheless, as early as about 51, apostate elements were manifesting themselves. The Christian apostle Paul then wrote to fellow believers at Thessalonica: “The mystery of this lawlessness is already at work.”—2 Thess. 2:7.

Toward the close of the first century, the last surviving apostle, John, witnessed apostate elements in far greater number within the congregation than existed back in 51. In his inspired letter, written about 98, he said: “It is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) The apostolic period was about to end. The apostasy against true Christianity would spring into the open.

Also See:

Just what did the aged apostle John face in that “last hour”? One of the errors that he had to expose related to the manner in which Jesus Christ had come. There was, for example, a Jew named Cerinthus who taught the following: ‘Jesus was not born of a virgin but was the natural son of Joseph by Mary. Yet he was wiser, more righteous and more discerning than other men. At the time of his baptism, the Christ, in the form of a dove, came down on him from the Supreme One. Then, when the Christ left him, Jesus suffered death and was raised to life. But the Christ, being spiritual, suffered no harm.’ In this way, Cerinthus denied that Christ had come from heaven and had become flesh to redeem mankind.

It is noteworthy, therefore, that in his Gospel and also in his first inspired letter, the apostle John emphasized that the Word, the Son of God, the Christ, did indeed become flesh. We read: “The Word [who had been with God in heaven] became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father.” (John 1:14) “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have viewed attentively and our hands felt, concerning the word of life, (yes, the life was made manifest, and we have seen and are bearing witness and reporting to you the everlasting life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us,) that which we have seen and heard we are reporting also to you.”—1 John 1:1-3.

Also See:

Any Christian reading these words or hearing them read to him could see that they exposed false doctrines advocated by apostates like Cerinthus. The man Jesus was indeed the Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. In the beginning, before the creation of the universe, he was with the Father in the unseen spirit realm. The aged apostle was writing from personal experience. John knew that the Christ was not someone whose presence could not be ascertained by the senses. The apostle had personally been with the “word of life,” the one whom the Father had granted to have life-giving power and through whom eternal life is possible.

The apostle John had heard Jesus Christ’s voice and had observed him day after day. John had walked with him, eaten meals with him and had seen him at rest. Hearing and seeing can, of course, be involuntary, without deliberate choice on the part of the person whose senses are stimulated. This may be why John took the matter of seeing a step farther, indicating that he had viewed the “word of life” attentively. Yes, the apostle chose to look upon the Son of God, doing so earnestly, attentively, and saw him with pleasure. What John had heard and seen was no apparition. He had with his own hands felt the Son of God.—Compare Luke 24:39; John 20:25, 27.

What was the apostle John’s objective in fighting apostasy by setting forth the truth about Jesus Christ? Here is his answer: “That you too may be having a sharing with us. Furthermore, this sharing of ours is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And so we are writing these things that our joy may be in full measure.”—1 John 1:3, 4.

According to these words, the apostle John wanted his fellow believers to be just as fully convinced about Jesus Christ as were he and the other apostles who had seen, heard and touched the Son of God. John wanted them to share with the apostles in the joy that had resulted from their close association with Jesus Christ. So the whole object of what John wrote was to help fellow believers to continue experiencing the happiness resulting from an approved standing before Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.

Apostate elements, on the other hand, would have robbed Christians of that joy. Rightly, then, the apostle John exposed them by setting forth undeniable evidence that the Christ had come in the flesh.

Also See:

This forcefully illustrates that purity in Christian doctrine should never be minimized. A distorted view of Jesus Christ and of his Father makes it impossible to experience the joy that comes from having a close relationship with them. And persons lacking an approved standing before God and Christ come under condemnatory judgment. (2 Thess. 1:6-10) This should impress on all professing Christians the importance of examining their beliefs and activity in the light of the Scriptures to make sure that they have not been influenced by apostate teachers such as those who began to flourish after the apostles died. Then, in imitation of the apostle John, genuine believers must continue to defend the truth and expose religious error. Their lives and the lives of those who listen to them depend on this.—1 Tim. 4:16.

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1978

Apostasy (IPA: /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal religious disaffiliation or abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatizes. The word derives from Greek αποστασία (apostasia), meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "stand", "standing". Bryan R. Wilson, who was a professor of Sociology at Oxford University, writes that apostates of new religious movements are generally in need of self-justification, and seek to reconstruct their past and to excuse their former affiliations, while blaming those who were formerly their closest associates. Wilson utilizes the term atrocity story, [a story] that is in his view rehearsed by the apostate to explain how, by manipulation, coercion or deceit, he was recruited to a group that he now condemns. Wilson also challenges the reliability of the apostate's testimony by saying that "the apostate [is] always seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation, to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim, but subsequently a redeemed crusader."

Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University writes “There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem. In short, on the face of things, apostates from new religions do not meet the standards of personal objectivity, professional competence, and informed understanding required of expert witnesses.”

Religious scholars have routinely found the testimony and public statements of apostates to be unreliable. In his book "The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement", Professor David Bromley, Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Virginia Commonwealth University, explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure. This then opens the door to being recruited and used by organizations which seek to use their testimony as a weapon against a minority religion. "Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group."

John Gordon Melton is an American religious scholar who was the founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and is currently a research specialist in religion and New Religious Movements with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While testifying as an expert witness in a lawsuit, said that when investigating groups one should not rely solely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members, and that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents. Melton also follows the argumentation of Lewis Carter and David Bromley and claims that as a result of this study, the [psychological] treatment (coerced or voluntary) of former members largely ceased, and that a (perceived) lack of widespread need for psychological help by former members of new religions would in itself be the strongest evidence refuting early sweeping condemnations of new religions as causes of psychological trauma.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Photo Drama of Creation (1914)


The Bible Students were keenly aware of Jesus Christ’s prophecy: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14, King James Version) So, as that significant year 1914 drew closer, God’s people undertook an all-out campaign of worldwide proportions—a hitherto unparalleled educational and warning work. They employed a bold, new method of declaring the good news.

Say it now is the year 1914. Imagine that you are seated among hundreds of persons in a darkened auditorium. Before you is a large motion-picture screen. To your surprise, a white-haired man in a frock coat appears, and, without a note in hand, he begins to speak. Oh, you have been to the movies before. But this one is different. The man speaks and you hear his words. This is no common silent movie. It is something special, both technically and in the message it conveys, and you are impressed. The man? He is Charles Taze Russell. This production? It is the “Photo-Drama of Creation.”

C. T. Russell recognized that motion pictures were a fine medium for reaching masses of people. In 1912, therefore, he began preparing the Photo-Drama of Creation. It turned out to be an eight-hour-long photographic slide and moving picture production, complete with color and sound. Designed to be shown in four parts, the Photo-Drama carried viewers from creation through human history to the climax of God’s purpose for earth and mankind at the end of Jesus Christ’s thousand-year reign. Pictorial slides and motion pictures were synchronized with phonograph records of talks and music. There had been various experiments with color and sound movies, but years would pass before they would be commercially successful. Not until 1922 did an all-color, feature-length motion picture make an appearance. And film audiences in general had to wait until 1927 to hear both dialogue and music combined in a commercial movie. Yet, the Photo-Drama of Creation was not without the color, the spoken word and the music. It was years ahead of its time, and millions saw it free of charge!

A fortune for those days—some $300,000—was spent by the Society in producing the Photo-Drama. And of the work involved, Russell wrote: “God kindly veiled our eyes as respects the amount of labor connected with the DRAMA. Had we foreknown the cost of time and money and patience necessary for the start we would never have begun it. But neither did we know in advance the great success that would attend the DRAMA.” Choice musical recordings and ninety-six phonograph-record talks were prepared. Stereopticon slides were made of fine art pictures illustrating world history, and it was necessary to make hundreds of new paintings and sketches. All the color slides and films had to be hand painted, some of this work being accomplished in the Society’s own Art Room. And, think of it! This had to be done repeatedly, for there were at least twenty four-part sets prepared, making it possible to show a portion of the Drama in eighty different cities on a given day.

What took place behind the scenes during exhibitions of the Photo-Drama of Creation? “The Drama started with a movie of Brother Russell,” says Alice Hoffman. “As he would appear on the screen and his lips began to move, a phonograph would be started at the precise moment and we would enjoy listening to his voice.”

The unfolding of a flower and the hatching of a chick were among the memorable features of the Photo-Drama movies. These examples of time-lapse photography truly impressed viewers. “At the same time that these pictures were being shown,” comments Karl F. Klein, “there was an accompaniment of very fine music, such gems as Narcissus and Humoreske.”

There were also many other things to remember. “Right now,” says Martha Meredith, “I see Noah and his family walking into the ark with the animals, and the picture of Abraham and Isaac walking to Mount Moriah where Abraham was going to offer his son as a sacrifice. When I saw Abraham put his son on the altar—this son he dearly loved—I shed tears. No wonder Jehovah called Abraham his friend . . . he knew that Abraham would obey his voice at all times.”—Jas. 2:23.

Besides the regular Photo-Drama of Creation, there were “Eureka Drama” outfits. One was made up of the ninety-six recorded lectures, as well as musical recordings. The other consisted of both the records and the slides. Though the latter Eureka Drama lacked motion pictures, it was very successful when shown in less densely populated areas.

During 1914 the Photo-Drama of Creation was shown free throughout the United States. This was very expensive, both for the Society and for the local Bible Students, who contributed money to rent suitable places for its exhibition. And so, in the course of time, it no longer was shown to large audiences. But the Photo-Drama of Creation had done a great work in acquainting persons with God’s Word and purposes.

To illustrate: In a letter to C. T. Russell, one person wrote: “My wife and I truly thank our heavenly Father for the great and priceless blessing which has come to us through your instrumentality. It was your beautiful Photo-Drama which was the cause of our seeing and accepting the truth as our own.” And Lily R. Parnell, tells us: “These pictorial demonstrations of Jehovah’s purposes for mankind aroused the interest of many thinking people so that the congregation [at Greenfield, Massachusetts] grew larger, since they made the Bible a living book and proved to thoughtful ones what precious information our God had provided for salvation to those who would avail themselves of his provision.”

Not without reason, therefore, has it been said by Demetrius Papageorge, long a member of the Society’s headquarters staff: “The Photo-Drama was a masterpiece of a project, when we consider the small number of Bible Students and the proportionately small amount of finances available. It really was Jehovah’s spirit behind it!”

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS

As the keenly anticipated year 1914 drew near, the preaching work did not slow down. A tour by Charles T. Russell in the late summer of 1913 embraced conventions in London and Glasgow. Speaking in London on August 4, 1913, he declared: “. . . the Gentile times will close with October, 1914—not a great while in the distance.” He expressed the belief that the ‘burning up’ to which the Bible refers would be “not a literal burning, but a time of trouble—that is the ‘fire’ spoken of by the apostles and prophets as being the feature which will close this present age, and the feature with which the new dispensation will be introduced.”

When the year 1914 broke, it found the Society intensely active and looking far forward. An entirely new project was launched. To drive home in a striking way truths the Bible Students had been proclaiming for forty years, “The Photo-Drama of Creation” entered the field. The first showing in Britain came in July 1914. The Society produced twenty complete outfits, each consisting of projectors, films, slides, screens, gramophones, records and scenarios. The complete program consisted of four two-hour exhibitions followed by a finale consisting of a lecture. Eighty shows could therefore run concurrently. The aim was to show the “Drama” in the best and largest theaters in the leading cities throughout the country. Advance superintendents made contracts with theater managers. A publicity superintendent followed up and made arrangements for an extensive advertising campaign. Then came the opening superintendent. His task was to check arrangements and make sure all operating details were satisfactory. Finally came the operators to carry out the meeting routine, arrange for the distribution of scenarios and free booklets and to plan for follow-up on all turning in their names as being interested.

The usual plan was for Part 1 of the “Drama” to be run for a full week in any given location. Then Part 2 was shown for the second week, and so on for the four. A fifth session was given over to a final lecture. Of course, the time available had much to do with how long each session of the “Photo-Drama” showing would be. Brother Russell was himself present for the start of the showings in London, where packed houses enjoyed the presentation very much. Then Russell and his party traveled to Glasgow and other Scottish cities to start this new work there also.

The London Opera House, Kingsway, was thought to be an ideal place for the series, but it was taken for granted that the cost would place it out of bounds. However, in October 1914 came an offer from the management for a period, October 12-27, for a fee of £100. The Society seized this opportunity. The brothers in London rose to the occasion and, with only a week to go, managed to distribute some four hundred thousand “Drama” tracts before the opening day. These tracts were really small newspapers copiously illustrated with scenes from the particular part of the “Drama” advertised, and they contained a great deal of descriptive and other reading matter. Also used for advertising the occasion were a large number of window cards and circulars. Brothers called on business houses, stores, hotels, hospitals and all places likely to engage a large staff and supplied them with a quantity of show cards and admission tickets.

There were a great number of box seats available at the Opera House. So special invitation cards were sent out to the aristocracy and people of good address in London. As a result, the boxes were nearly always filled by a class of people, including titled people, that the “Drama” had not hitherto reached. Two bishops were known to have attended. Interest continued to mount as the series at the Opera House progressed. The finale came on Tuesday, October 27, when more than one thousand attended in the afternoon. In the evening the Opera House was again packed and hundreds were turned away, unable to gain admission. Later, the Royal Albert Hall in London was also used for “Drama” presentations. The first seven days’ attendance ran up to 24,192. The report of the showing of the “Photo-Drama” in Scotland at this time indicated that forty-five towns were visited, including Glasgow, with an aggregate attendance of three hundred thousand. The number of names of interested persons handed in at final lectures totaled 4,919.

Following tours of England and Scotland, the “Photo-Drama of Creation” was presented to large appreciative audiences in Belfast, Portadown, Ballymena and other centers in Ireland. The Society also provided a shortened version of the “Drama” with no films or moving pictures, but with slides only. That exhibition was known as the Eureka Drama. These showings too drew substantial crowds of interested persons.

By the end of 1914, after six months of showing the “Drama” in the British Isles, 1,226,650 had seen the exhibition in ninety-seven cities besides London. The spread of the Kingdom message by this and by the regular house-to-house visitation by the Bible Students had resulted in a great expansion of the organization in the British Isles. When the first world war broke out, there were 182 congregations, and the attendance at the Memorial that year amounted to 4,100. But drastic developments were imminent, not only in the world situation, but also within the Society.

- 1973 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS

Expanding the Proclamation of the Good News

In 1912, Russell and his associates embarked on a bold educational venture that was far ahead of its time. In fact, it was to reach millions of people worldwide. It was the “Photo-Drama of Creation”—a combination motion picture and slide presentation, synchronized with musical recordings and phonograph-record talks. It was about eight hours in length and was presented in four parts. Besides the regular “Photo-Drama,” the “Eureka Drama,” consisting of either the recorded lectures and musical recordings or the records plus the slides, was also made available. Though it lacked motion pictures, it was successfully presented in less densely populated areas.

Imagine the historic scene: In January 1914, during the era of silent movies, an audience of 5,000 gathered at The Temple, a building on West 63rd Street, in New York City. Many others had to be turned away. The occasion? Why, the premiere in New York of the “Photo-Drama of Creation”! Before the audience was a large motion-picture screen. As they watched—and listened—something truly amazing happened. C. T. Russell, then in his early 60’s, appeared on the screen. His lips began to move, and his words could be heard! As the presentation continued, it took those in attendance—by means of words, color pictures, and music—from earth’s creation to the end of Christ’s Millennial Reign. During the presentation they also saw (by means of time-lapse photography) other things that astounded them—the unfolding of a flower and the hatching of a chick. They were truly impressed!

By the end of 1914, the “Photo-Drama” had been presented before millions of persons in North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. The “Photo-Drama” certainly proved to be an effective means of reaching masses of people in a relatively short period of


The “Photo-Drama of Creation” combined motion pictures and a slide presentation, synchronized with sound. This striking presentation took the audience from the time of creation to the end of the Millennium.

At least 20 four-part sets were prepared, making it possible for a part of the “Photo-Drama” to be shown in 80 different cities each day. It was a real challenge to fill those 80 engagements. Train schedules were not always convenient. Congregations could not always rent exhibition locations on the desired dates. Yet, by the end of 1914, the “Photo-Drama” had been presented to audiences totaling over 9,000,000 in North America, Europe, and Australia.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (1993), WTB&TS


The Angelophone recordings

With the success of the Photodrama in mind, and the realisation that records were now highly popular, a few Bible Students set up the Angelico Company in 1916. Ostensibly it was to manufacture and sell phonographs, but with each purchase came a set of 50 Angelophone recordings. For some reason they were numbered 49-98, although it is certain that no 1-48 were ever issued. The records were small seven inch discs using the ‘hill and dale’ method to squeeze two minutes on a side at 85 rpm. They were advertised as ‘Old Fireside Hymns’ sung by the celebrated baritone Henry Burr. On the reverse side (also at 85 rpm) were a series of two minute sermons to explain the hymns. These were uncredited, but were Pastor Russell’s own voice. Those who had questions could write to a ‘Free Information Bureau for Angelophone Patrons’. This of course was the Watch Tower Society.

It must have sounded a good idea on paper; reaching people who might be prejudiced by the words Watch Tower. In practice, it was a disaster!

For a start, Henry Burr sounds rather the worse for wear. The hymns contain some high notes that his baritone had considerable difficulty in reaching. Limited to two minutes many hymns were abridged. The reverse side, Pastor Russell’s short sermons – and the only reason the Bible Students would purchase – was even worse! Russell was now in very poor health and died in October 1916. His voice, unsuitable for the Photodrama, was even more unsuitable now. The recordings were very poorly made, and today (without a transcript) much of what is said is indecipherable. It appears to have been the same at the time because complaints flooded in, and the Watch Tower had to announce they had been re-recorded. This time, Harry Humphries was hired again. His voice was slightly slower, so the speed for his recordings was reduced to 80 rpm. There is some improvement, but not a lot, and the records soon ceased production. The Angelophone Hymnal disappeared from the Society’s cost list after 1919.

Note for collectors: there are two issues. The first issue has dark blue paper labels for the ‘Old Fireside Hymns’ and an embossed title for the lectures given (uncredited) by Russell. The second issue has light blue paper labels for the hymns (the words ‘Old Fireside’ are omitted) and off-white paper labels for the lectures given (uncredited) by Humphries.

Taken from “The Watchtower (IBSA) Recordings” published in “The Historic Record” issue 27 (dated April 1993) with kind permission of the author.

- Posted by jerome at Thursday, September 01, 2011 - Watch Tower History @

Monday, August 10, 2009

“This is not man’s work.”

There are, of course, many religious organizations, and a considerable number of teachers make some use of the Bible. Was God particularly using Charles Taze Russell? If so, did God cease to have a visible channel when Brother Russell died? These became critical issues, ones that led to further testing and sifting.

It certainly could not be expected that God would use C. T. Russell if he did not loyally adhere to God’s Word. (Jer. 23:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) God would not use a man who fearfully refrained from preaching what he saw clearly written in the Scriptures. (Ezek. 2:6-8) Nor would God use a person who exploited his knowledge of the Scriptures to bring glory to himself. (John 5:44) So, what do the facts show?

As Jehovah’s Witnesses today review the work that he did, the things he taught, his reason for teaching them, and the outcome, they have no doubt that Charles Taze Russell was, indeed, used by God in a special way and at a significant time.

This view is not based solely on the firm stand that Brother Russell took with regard to the ransom. It also takes into account the fact that he fearlessly rejected creeds that contained some of the foundation beliefs of Christendom, because these clashed with the inspired Scriptures. These beliefs included the doctrine of the Trinity (which had its roots in ancient Babylon and was not adopted by so-called Christians until long after Bible writing was completed) as well as the teaching that human souls are inherently immortal (which had been adopted by men who were overawed by the philosophy of Plato and which left them open to such ideas as the eternal torment of souls in hellfire). Many of Christendom’s scholars, too, know that these doctrines are not taught in the Bible, but that is not generally what their preachers say from the pulpits. In contrast, Brother Russell undertook an intensive campaign to share what the Bible actually does say with everyone who was willing to hear.

Noteworthy too is what Brother Russell did with other highly significant truths that he learned from God’s Word. He discerned that Christ would return as a glorious spirit person, invisible to human eyes. As early as 1876, he recognized that the year 1914 would mark the end of the Gentile Times. (Luke 21:24, KJ) Other Bible scholars had likewise perceived some of these things and had advocated them. But Brother Russell used all his resources to give them international publicity on a scale then unequaled by any other individual or group.

He urged others to check his writings carefully against God’s inspired Word so that they would be satisfied that what they were learning was in full harmony with it. To one who wrote a letter of inquiry, Brother Russell replied: “If it was proper for the early Christians to prove what they received from the apostles, who were and who claimed to be inspired, how much more important it is that you fully satisfy yourself that these teachings keep closely within their outline instructions and those of our Lord;—since their author claims no inspiration, but merely the guidance of the Lord, as one used of him in feeding his flock.”

Brother Russell claimed no supernatural power, no divine revelations. He did not claim credit for what he taught. He was an outstanding student of the Bible. But he explained that his remarkable understanding of the Scriptures was due to ‘the simple fact that God’s due time had come.’ He said: “If I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out.” He referred to himself as being simply like an index finger, pointing to what is stated in God’s Word.

Charles Taze Russell wanted no glory from humans. To readjust the thinking of any who were inclined to give excessive honor to him, Brother Russell wrote, in 1896: “As we have been to some extent, by the grace of God, used in the ministry of the gospel, it may not be out of place to say here what we have frequently said in private, and previously in these columns,—namely, that while we appreciate the love, sympathy, confidence and fellowship of fellow-servants and of the entire household of faith, we want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings; nor do we wish to be called Reverend or Rabbi. Nor do we wish that any should be called by our name.”

As his death neared, he did not take the view that there was nothing more to be learned, that there was no more work to be done. He had often spoken of preparing a seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. When asked about it before he died, he said to Menta Sturgeon, his traveling companion: “Some one else can write that.” In his will he expressed the desire that The Watch Tower continue to be published under the direction of a committee of men fully devoted to the Lord. He stated that those who would thus serve were to be men “thoroughly loyal to the doctrines of the Scriptures—especially so to the doctrine of the Ransom—that there is no acceptance with God and no salvation to eternal life except through faith in Christ and obedience to His Word and its spirit.”

Brother Russell realized that there was much work yet to be done in preaching the good news. At a question-and-answer session in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, in 1915, he was asked when Christ’s spirit-anointed followers then living could expect to receive their heavenly reward. He replied: “I do not know, but there is a great work to be done. And it will take thousands of brethren and millions in money to do it. Where these will come from I don’t know—the Lord knows his own business.” Then, in 1916, a short while before he began the speaking tour on which he died, he called A. H. Macmillan, an administrative assistant, to his office. On that occasion he said: “I am not able to carry on the work any longer, and yet there is a great work to be done.” For three hours he described to Brother Macmillan the extensive preaching work that he saw ahead, on the basis of the Scriptures. To Brother Macmillan’s objections, he replied: “This is not man’s work.”

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1993

George Storrs (1796 - 1879)

Additional Reading:

Millerite preacher and writer, chief proponent of conditional immortality. Born in New Hampshire, he was first a Congregationalist, then a Methodist. He withdrew from the Methodist ministry in 1840 to lecture against slavery. However, three years earlier Storrs had been led, by a small tract written by Henry Grew, of Philadelphia, to search the Scriptures carefully on the question of the final destiny of human beings and on their state in death. After several years of investigation, conversation, and correspondence with certain ministers, he reached the conclusion that human beings do not possess inherent immortality, but receive it only as a gift through Christ, and that the wicked who refuse the gift will be utterly exterminated through fire at the second death. In 1841 he issued An Enquiry: Are the Souls of the Wicked Immortal? In Three Letters, written originally to a friend and published anonymously.

By 1842 he felt impelled to speak out clearly to his small congregation on his views on the nature of humanity. He gave six sermons, which he revised and published as An Enquiry: Are the Souls of the Wicked Immortal? In Six Sermons (Albany, N.Y., 1842).

Soon afterward, convinced that the Adventist positions were correct, he left his ministry in Albany in 1842 to travel and preach the Adventist message. He did not introduce his personal views on the nature of humanity into these public services but, beset with inquiries, he revised his Six Sermons, and distributed them at his own expense. In 1843 the Six Sermons were also published in England. Charles Fitch accepted the doctrine of conditional immortality in January 1844, becoming Storrs’s first ministerial convert. Other ministers followed. But there was opposition. William Miller himself took Storrs to task, Litch issued a little paper, the Anti-Annihilationist, against Storrs’s position, and I. E. Jones protested in a letter to Miller.

In 1843 Storrs started the Bible Examiner in Albany, which advocated Miller’s view of the coming of Christ in 1843–1844. He wrote a small book, in question-and-answer form, also called the Bible Examiner, a verse-by-verse exposition of the leading chapters of Daniel and of Revelation, together with Isa. 55, Zech. 14, and Matt. 24.

An effective writer and preacher, Storrs was one of the most vigorous advocates of the seventh-month expectation, but, immediately after the great disappointment of 1844 he was one of the first to disclaim the movement, attributing it to “mesmeric influence.” In 1845 he embraced “Judaistic” millennial views, that is, the Literalist interpretation (see Premillennialism), according to which the kingdom prophecies were to be fulfilled literally to the literal Jews during the millennium. The Adventists continued to cite Storrs against Storrs on this subject.

In the next decade he accepted the view, advocated first by his associate editor on the Bible Examiner, that none of the wicked dead would be resurrected at all. He became president of the “Life and Advent Union,” organized in 1863 to propagate this doctrine. He later returned to the view of the resurrection of all the dead.

- IMS Media Adventist Library

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Moabite Stone

The Moabite Stone—Destroyed but Not Lost

THE Moabite, or Mesha, Stone was deliberately broken up within a year of its discovery in 1868. It was almost 3,000 years old. A piece of polished black basalt with a neatly rounded top, it was 44 inches high, [112 cm] 28 inches [71 cm] wide, and 14 inches [36 cm] thick. Some time after it was broken up, 2 large and 18 smaller fragments were recovered, but a third of the stone was irretrievably lost. How was such an extraordinary artifact almost lost forever? And how valuable is it to students of the Bible?

Intrigue and Distrust

F. A. Klein was the first and last European to see the stone in its unbroken state. It was lying among the ruins of Dibon to the northeast of the Dead Sea. He made some brief sketches of parts of the 35-line inscription within its raised border and, upon returning to Jerusalem, reported the find to his Prussian superior. The script was immediately identified as Phoenician and its importance recognized. The Royal Museum of Berlin put up money to buy the stone, but soon other interested parties were contending for it. Alerted to the value of their prize, the local sheikhs hid it and raised its price to ridiculous heights.

A French archaeologist managed to get a paper squeeze of the writing, but because the squeeze had to be snatched away before it was dry, the impression was barely legible. In the meantime, orders came from Damascus for the Bedouin to surrender their stone to government officials. Rather than comply, the Bedouin determined to destroy it. So they lit a fire around the precious relic and repeatedly doused it with water. When the stone fractured, the fragments were quickly distributed among local families to be placed in their granaries, ostensibly in order to ensure a blessing for their crops. It was also the best way for individuals to negotiate personally for the sale of the scattered fragments.

Biblical History Comes to Life

With the aid of plaster casts and paper pressings to augment the pieces that were purchased, the inscription on the stone was ultimately recovered. When the full text was revealed, scholars were astounded. The ancient stela was described at the time as “the most remarkable monolith that has ever been discovered.”

King Mesha of Moab erected the Moabite Stone to his god Chemosh to commemorate Mesha’s breaking of Israel’s domination, which, he says, had lasted 40 years and was allowed by Chemosh because he was “angry with his land.” This revolt of Moab is usually considered to be related to the events recorded in the third chapter of 2 Kings. On the monument, Mesha boasts of being very religious, of building cities and a highway, and of winning a victory over Israel. In this, he gives all credit to his god Chemosh. Mesha’s defeat and the sacrifice of his own son—reported in the Bible—are, as one would expect, omitted in this self-glorifying inscription.

Many locations listed by Mesha as places he captured are mentioned in the Bible, among them Medeba, Ataroth, Nebo, and Jahaz. Thus, the stone supports the accuracy of the Bible’s accounts. Outstanding, however, is Mesha’s use of the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, the name of Israel’s God, in the 18th line of the record. There Mesha brags: “I took from there [Nebo] the [vessels] of Yahweh, dragging them before Chemosh.” Outside of the Bible, this is probably the earliest record of the use of the divine name.

In 1873 the Moabite Stone was restored, with plaster casts of the missing text added, and put on exhibition in the Louvre museum, Paris, where it has remained. A facsimile can be seen in the British Museum, London.

- April 15, 1990 Watchtower, WTB&TS

The Moabite Stone was discovered in 1868 about 20 miles east of the Dead Sea. What is most amazing is that it mentions "Israel," "Yahweh" and the "House of David." It is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

"The skeptics' claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend. Last year the French scholar Andre Lemaire reported a related "House of David" discovery in Biblical Archaeology Review. His subject was the Mesha Stele (also known as the Moabite Stone), the most extensive inscription ever recovered from ancient Palestine. Found in 1868 at the ruins of biblical Dibon and later fractured, the basalt stone wound up in the Louvre, where Lemaire spent seven years studying it. His conclusion: the phrase "House of David" appears there as well. As with the Tel Dan fragment, this inscription comes from an enemy of Israel boasting of a victory--King Mesha of Moab, who figured in the Bible. Lemaire had to reconstruct a missing letter to decode the wording, but if he's right, there are now two 9th century references to David's dynasty." - TIME Magazine, December 18, 1995 Volume 146, No. 25

"The House of David"

Line 31 is very significant. In 1993 a stela was discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel mentioning the "House of David" (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1993: 119-121). This inscription provided the first mention of David in a contemporary text outside the Bible. The existence of king David has been in question by scholars for centuries. At about the same time the Dan stela was found, French scholar Andre Lemaire was working on the Mesha Inscription and determined that the same phrase appeared there in line 31 (Bible and Spade, Summer 1995: 91-92). Lemaire was able to identify a previously indistinguishable letter as a "d" in the phrase "House of David." This phrase was used commonly in the Old Testament for the Davidic dynasty.

“AS REGARDS Mesha the king of Moab, he became a sheep raiser and he paid to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand unshorn male sheep. And it came about that as soon as Ahab died the king of Moab began to revolt against the king of Israel.” (2 Ki. 3:4, 5) The revolt of King Mesha of Moab is corroborated by ancient writing outside the Bible—an inscribed stone called the Moabite Stone. Written in a dialect differing little from Biblical Hebrew, it was erected by King Mesha partly to commemorate this revolt. In 1868 this stone was found within the territory of Moab. Concerning it, James B. Pritchard writes in Archaeology and the Old Testament:

“A most spectacular enlargement of biblical history has come from a Canaanite inscription, called the Moabite stone, which turned up ninety years ago in the Arab village of Dhiban in Transjordan, about halfway along the east side of the Dead Sea. . . . The famous slab of black basalt [is] inscribed with an account of the wars and building program of Mesha, king of Moab. . . . The text, a long one of thirty-four lines, is written in the first person singular and begins with a somewhat boastful recital by Mesha, king of Moab, of his triumphs over the house of Omri, king of Israel. . . .

“Mesha interpreted the success of his enemy, Israel, as a token of his own god’s anger with his land: ‘As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years, for Chemosh was angry at his land. And his son followed him and he also said, “I will humble Moab.” In my time he spoke thus, but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever!’

“Mesha [said he] received his instructions for battle from his god Chemosh. When his god gave him a victory, he ‘devoted’—the same word is used in the inscription as appears in the Hebrew account of Joshua devoting the spoils of Jericho to Yahweh—all the inhabitants of the town of Nebo to his god Ashtar-Chemosh. The incident of the taking of Nebo is described by Mesha: ‘And Chemosh said to me, “Go, take Nebo from Israel!” So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking it and slaying all, seven thousand men, boys, women, girls and maidservants, for I had devoted them to destruction for the god Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took from there the . . . of Yahweh [Jehovah], dragging them before Chemosh.’ In this brief passage we have the only mention of the name of Israel’s god, Yahweh [Jehovah], ever found outside Palestine proper.”

Moab’s king was indeed boastful. His boastings might seem to indicate that Moab’s false god Chemosh was victorious over the true God Jehovah. But the Moabite stone does not tell the full story. After Mesha’s revolt, King Jehoram of Israel enlisted the aid of King Jehoshaphat of Judah in an expedition against Moab. The allied forces were almost destroyed, however, in the dry wilderness because of lack of water. At this critical time Jehoshaphat called for Elisha the prophet. Elisha explained that Jehovah would help in the war against Moab only for the sake of Jehoshaphat. Said Elisha to the king of Israel: “As Jehovah of armies before whom I do stand is living, if it were not that it is the face of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah for which I am having consideration, I would not look at you or see you.” Jehovah would give the victory over Moab, said Elisha, “and this will indeed be a trivial thing in the eyes of Jehovah and he will certainly give Moab into your hand.” True to Jehovah’s promise, the Moabites were greatly humiliated and defeated.—2 Ki. 3:14, 18.

The false god Chemosh could not save Moab, and King Mesha’s writing on the Moabite Stone cannot cover up Jehovah’s victory over Moab, because the Bible records many prophecies and history attests to their fulfillment. Said Jeremiah: “Moab will certainly be annihilated from being a people, for it is against Jehovah that he has put on great airs [as did Mesha on his Moabite Stone]. Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh have perished.” And Zephaniah prophesied: “‘Therefore, as I am alive,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, ‘Moab herself will become just like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah, a place possessed by nettles, and a salt pit, and a desolate waste, even to time indefinite. . . . This is what they will have instead of their pride, because they reproached and kept putting on great airs against the people of Jehovah of armies.’”—Jer. 48:42, 46; Zeph. 2:9, 10.

December 1, 1960 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Flavius Josephus

Josephus—Historian Well-suited to His Subject

THE Middle East is a focal point of international interest today, as it was 2,000 years ago. Then, as now, it was the home of a Jewish state surrounded by hostile neighbors in which religious feelings mixed with nationalistic aspirations ran high. Then, as now, the Middle East played a vital role in the world economy. (Egyptian grain was used to feed the population of ancient Rome.) Then, too, this politically sensitive area was a gateway between the Roman Empire and her rivals.

In the midst of these circumstances, prophecies were uttered regarding that Jewish nation. These prophecies were to be fulfilled in remarkable detail. It was foretold, for example, that the city of Jerusalem would be surrounded—first by encamped armies and then by a fortification of pointed stakes—and that the city would fall to its enemies after a bitter struggle, marked by famine, pestilence, and great cruelty. It was predicted that the much-admired temple at Jerusalem, recently enlarged and beautified, would be utterly demolished.

Why Should We Be Interested?

The precise fulfillment of these prophecies 37 years after they were given makes them of keen interest to observers of the world political scene today. This is especially true because Bible students see that there will be a like but major fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies that is to affect the inhabitants of all the earth today.—Luke 19:43, 44; 21:5-35.

But all of this happened over 1,900 years ago. How do we know that Jesus’ prophecies regarding Jerusalem were fulfilled in minute detail? Our knowledge of events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman armies in the year 70 C.E. is dependent to a considerable extent on the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. In his book The Wars of the Jews he reports on events foretold by Jesus, although there is no evidence that Josephus was himself a Christian, or even that he was familiar with Jesus’ prophecies.

Josephus tells us, for example, that the Roman general Titus built a fortification of pointed stakes to hasten the arrival of famine conditions in besieged Jerusalem, just as Jesus had predicted. (Jesus said: “Your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes and will encircle you and distress you from every side.”) Josephus speaks at length of the terrible straits to which the inhabitants of the city were reduced by the famine, pestilence, and the bloodshed they endured, all of which Jesus had spoken of. (“There will be . . . pestilences and food shortages.” “They will fall by the edge of the sword.”) He tells us of the razing of the temple to its foundations, without a stone left upon a stone, precisely as Jesus predicted. (“Not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not thrown down.”)

Who Was Flavius Josephus?

Just who was this Jewish historian who has come down to us with the Roman family name “Flavius”? Was he really in a position to give us accurate information on events in first-century Judea? Can we trust what he says?

First, it should be noted that Josephus was not writing dead history from the vantage point of some imperial library; he was writing of the events of his day. Indeed, he was an eyewitness of most of the events he chronicled. His account is the more fascinating because he served actively during the Jewish-Roman war on both sides, beginning as a general of the Jewish forces in Galilee, and ending as an adviser to General Titus. So close did his friendship with Titus and his father Vespasian become that Josephus later adopted their family name, Flavius, which is why he is known to us as Flavius Josephus, and not by his Jewish name, Joseph ben Matthias.

Born a few years after Jesus’ death, Josephus became a keen observer of political trends. He was of noble birth, a member of the religious sect of the Pharisees and had family connections with the more aristocratic sect of the Sadducees. He tells us that at the age of 26 he was sent to Rome as part of a group to secure the release of certain Jewish priests, who had been sent in bonds to Caesar by the Roman procurator Felix on “small and trifling” charges. This instance recalls to readers of the Bible the difficulty that the apostle Paul had with this same Felix, who kept him imprisoned for two years, hoping for a bribe. (Acts 24:27) While in Rome, young Josephus formed a friendship with none other than the wife of Emperor Nero, the Empress Poppea, who intervened to free his friends.

When Josephus returned to Jerusalem, full of admiration for Roman culture and military power, he was aghast to find the Jewish nation more and more bent on war with the Romans. Apparently hoping to be in a position to negotiate with the Romans, Josephus accepted an assignment from the Jewish moderates in Jerusalem to go to Galilee as a sort of military governor-general. While there he busied himself fortifying the cities of Galilee, organizing the local troops on the Roman model, and fighting off all sorts of plots laid against him by local Zealots.

A Bold and Cunning Character

The personality of Josephus is a study in cunning. This can be seen by the way he handled matters when the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee revolted against his authority and expelled him. Lacking the forces to march against the city, Josephus had his supporters each take a ship and sail it across to Tiberias. Josephus barely had enough men to sail the 230 ships he commandeered, but the people of Tiberias did not know that, and thought the ships were full of soldiers. Bluffing all the way, he frightened the people into surrender with no loss of life.

Soon the Roman general Vespasian invaded Galilee with 60,000 men to avenge the humiliation of Cestius Gallus back in 66 C.E. Vespasian finally cornered Josephus in the little mountain town of Jotapata, which fell after a fierce siege of 47 days. Josephus and 40 other survivors hid in a cave. When the hiding place was discovered, the Romans sent word that Josephus’ life would be spared if he would surrender.

This was tempting to Josephus, but greatly displeased his men, who had made up their minds to conclude a suicide pact. Pretending to go along with the idea, Josephus proposed that lots be chosen to determine the order in which the men would kill one another. Some suspect that Josephus “loaded the dice,” because at the end only he and one other survivor remained, at which point Josephus persuaded the fellow to surrender to the Romans with him.

After being taken captive, Josephus boldly flattered the superstitious Vespasian by claiming to be a prophet, and prophesying that Vespasian was to be ruler of the world. Vespasian was sufficiently impressed to change his plans to send Josephus to Nero. Instead, he kept his prisoner guarded to see what would happen. In 69 C.E. when Vespasian was acclaimed emperor, he remembered Josephus’ prophecy of two years previous and Josephus from that time on became an intimate friend and adviser to the Flavian family.

When Vespasian went to Rome to take over the empire, Josephus went with Titus, Vespasian’s son, to finish the war against the Jews by taking Jerusalem. He served Titus as an adviser on Jewish tactics, and as a tool of Roman propaganda, risked his life before the walls of Jerusalem as he called on his people to surrender.


It was during this period that Josephus was able to see with his own eyes the events that proved the truth of Jesus’ notable prophecy against Jerusalem. Jesus had foretold “great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people,” and Josephus made note of the wrath of the Romans, who had originally been inclined to be lenient with the Jews, but had been infuriated by the unwillingness of the Jews to yield.—Luke 21:23.

When the city fell after a relatively short siege of four and a half months, the Roman soldiers killed until they were too tired to kill any more. “They slew those whom they overtook without mercy, and set fire to the houses whither the Jews had fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine . . . they ran everyone through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood.”

It is of interest to note that not only the ferocity, but the very brevity of the siege of Jerusalem had been predicted by Jesus when he said: “In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved.” (Matt. 24:22) During the siege, Josephus watched in numbing horror as the Jews pitched 600,000 bodies over the walls of the city, victims of the famine, disease and factional warfare in the city. At that rate, everyone in Jerusalem would have died in another five months!

Josephus tells us that the total of Jewish dead in the siege reached 1,100,000, and defends this figure by pointing out that the siege occurred when great multitudes of pilgrims were in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Josephus’ figure has been doubted since the Roman historian Tacitus gives a lower figure—600,000.

However, it should be remembered that Tacitus was not an eyewitness. His writings are full of inaccuracies regarding Jewish history and customs, and he admits that his casualty statistics were received secondhand.

Josephus further defends his figure of 1,100,000 by pointing out that not long before the Roman invasion of Judea a count had been taken of the number of animals sacrificed during the Passover and it was found that 256,500 had been killed. Since an average of 10 persons would eat the Passover meal from the same animal, Josephus concluded that as many as 2,500,000 persons could be found in Jerusalem for the Passover.

Credible, Not Infallible

Josephus’ credentials as an eyewitness historian are impressive. Of course, he was not an eyewitness to events inside the city of Jerusalem during its siege, but he was able to procure the freedom of some 200 Jewish survivors after the fall of the city and he could have interviewed them. During the siege there was also a steady stream of Jewish deserters, and Josephus was free to interview these as well. Additionally, he apparently had access to the diaries and commentaries of his patrons Vespasian and Titus, since he refers to these documents in his later writings.

This is not to say that Josephus’ history is infallible. His point of view is clearly affected by his desire to please his Roman benefactors, as well as by his dislike of the Zealots who took control of Jerusalem during the siege, some of whom had been his enemies when he was military governor of Galilee. But there is no reason to doubt the overall accuracy of Josephus’ work. After all, it was written during the lifetime of all those involved in the events being chronicled. Any serious inaccuracies would have been pounced upon by the author’s many jealous detractors.

Josephus’ writings make fascinating reading for students of history and students of the Bible alike. Perhaps you were not aware that secular history so strikingly confirms Bible prophecy. Although the Bible does not depend on Josephus, or any secular historian, for verification of what it says, nevertheless an appreciation of how the Bible has proved true in the past might well encourage objective persons to consider closely what it says for our day.

Had you previously thought of Josephus as a quiet scholar in a musty library? In short order he was a diplomat, general, prisoner of war, self-proclaimed prophet, Roman military adviser, and vivid chronicler of current events—truly a historian uniquely suited to his subject!

- August 8, 1980 Awake, WTB&TS