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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The death of Pastor Russell (10/31/1916)

CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL, known the world over as Pastor Russell, author, lecturer and minister of the Gospel, was born at Pittsburgh, Pa., February 16, 1852; died October 31, 1916. He was the son of Joseph L. and Eliza Birney Russell, both of Scotch-Irish lineage. He was educated in the common schools and under private tutors. Author of "OBJECT AND MANNER OF OUR LORD'S RETURN," "FOOD FOR THINKING CHRISTIANS," "TABERNACLE SHADOWS," "THE DIVINE PLAN OF THE AGES," "THE TIME IS AT HAND," "THY KINGDOM COME," "THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON," "THE ATONEMENT," "THE NEW CREATION," "WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT HELL," "SPIRITISM," "OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS," "THE PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION," et cetera, et cetera.

He was married in 1879 to Maria Frances Ackley. No children blessed this union. Seventeen years later they disagreed about the management of his journal and a separation followed.

Reared under the influence of Christian parents, at an early age he became interested in theology, uniting himself with the Congregational Church, and became active in local mission work. The doctrine of eternal torment of all mankind except the few elect became so abhorrent to him that at the age of seventeen he was a skeptic. He said, "A God that would use His power to create human beings whom He foreknew and predestinated should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving; His standard would be lower than that of many men." He continued to believe, however, in the existence of God, but was not willing to accept the commonly understood teachings as God's revelation of Himself to man. He turned his attention to the investigation of heathen religions, only to find all of these unsatisfactory.


Naturally of a reverential mind, desiring to worship and serve the true God, he reasoned, "All the creeds of Christendom claim to be founded on the Bible, and these are conflicting. Is it possible that the Bible has been misrepresented? It may not teach the terrible doctrine of eternal torment." Turning again to the Bible he determined to make a careful, systematic study of it without reference to creeds of men. As a result the remainder of his life was wholly devoted to teaching the Bible, writing and publishing religious books and papers, lecturing and proclaiming the message of Messiah's Kingdom. He was the greatest religious teacher since St. Paul, and did more than any other man of modern times to establish the faith of the people in the Scriptures.

He was not the founder of a new religion, and never made such claim. He revived the great truths taught by Jesus and the Apostles, and turned the light of the twentieth century upon these. He made no claim of a special revelation from God, but held that it was God's due time for the Bible to be understood; and that, being fully consecrated to the Lord and to His service, he was permitted to understand it. Because he devoted himself to the development of the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Lord was fulfilled in him: "For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."--`2 Peter 1:5-8`.

He clearly taught and proved his teachings by the citation of Scriptural authority--that man does not possess an immortal soul, that he is a soul and is mortal; that the wages of sin is death--not eternal torment; that death came upon man as the just penalty for the violation of God's Law; that death means the destruction of man; that God, in His goodness, has provided the great Ransom-price whereby man may be delivered from the bondage of Sin and Death; that God's beloved Son, Jesus, became a man and grew to manhood's estate, was put to death as a man and raised again from the dead a spirit-being, possessing the Divine nature; that by His death and resurrection Christ Jesus provided and produced the Ransom-price for man's deliverance and restoration; that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man; that every man in God's due time must, therefore, have a fair trial for life, and to this end there shall be a resurrection of all the dead; that Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven and must come the second time; that the period of time elapsing between the First and the Second Coming of the Lord is devoted to the election of the members of the Body of Christ, taken from amongst men; that the requirements for election to that exalted position are, full faith in the shed blood of Jesus as the Ransom-price, a full consecration to do the Father's will, and a faithful continuance in obedience to the Father's will even unto death; that all who thus are consecrated and begotten of the Holy Spirit and are overcomers shall have part in the Chief Resurrection, and be exalted to positions in the Heavenly Kingdom of God and participate with Christ Jesus in His Millennial Reign for the blessing of all the families of the earth; that during the thousand-year reign of Christ all of the dead shall be awakened, and given a fair and impartial trial for life or death; that under said Reign the wilfully disobedient shall be everlastingly destroyed, while those obedient to the righteous rule of Christ shall be fully restored to human perfection of body, mind and character; that during this Millennial Reign the earth shall be brought to a state of Edenic Paradise and made fit as a place habitable for perfect man; that man, fully restored to perfection, will inhabit the beautiful earth in all the ages to come.


Seeing that God has such a wonderful Plan for the blessing of mankind, Pastor Russell gave all of his power and energy to making known these great truths to the world. He never took a vacation; he worked until the day of his death.

Like other Christians he was looking for the Second Coming of Christ. Between 1872-6 he discovered that the Scriptures clearly teach that the Lord would not return in a body of flesh, but would return as a spirit being, invisible to human eyes, and that His second presence was due in the autumn of 1874. This led to the publishing of a booklet entitled, "The Object and Manner of Our Lord's Return," which had a phenomenal circulation.

Many students of the Bible throughout the United States and Canada responded to the information derived from that book, and his correspondence became voluminous. Realizing the necessity of keeping the Truth before the minds of those who had begun to investigate, in 1879 he began the publication of THE WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE, and was its sole Editor to the time of his death. This journal is issued semi-monthly; it never publishes advertisements, but is devoted exclusively to religious topics. Among the English speaking people in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, its semi-monthly circulation is 45,000 copies. It is also published in German, French, Swedish, Dano-Norwegian and Polish, reaching a large number of subscribers in America and Europe.

He was President of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY from its organization in 1884 until his death. He was also President of the PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION, organized in 1909, and the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, incorporated in London, in 1913, both of the latter corporations being adjuncts to the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY. Through these religious corporations, as well as by word of mouth, he promulgated the Gospel of Messiah's Kingdom. He was the author of the following publications, issued between the years 1881 and 1914, each having phenomenal circulation, as given below:


He was also the author of WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT SPIRITISM, OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS, et cetera, et cetera. He was the author of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, which had been exhibited prior to his death to more than nine million persons. He wrote and published the SCENARIO of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, which has had a very wide circulation. His publications were translated into thirty-five different languages. At the same time he was Pastor of more than 1,200 congregations of Bible Students, in different parts of the world. These he visited and taught as often as possible.

He organized and conducted a Lecture Bureau which constantly employed seventy Bible lecturers, who traveled and delivered lectures on the Scriptures. He organized and managed an auxiliary lecture bureau of seven hundred men who gave a portion of their time to lecturing on Bible teachings. Each year he wrote practically all of the copy for the BIBLE STUDENTS MONTHLY, the annual distribution of which amounted to approximately fifty million copies.

His weekly sermons were handled by a newspaper syndicate. More than 2,000 newspapers, with a combined circulation of fifteen million readers, at one time published his discourses. All told, more than 4,000 newspapers published these sermons.

The Continent, a publication whose editor often opposed Pastor Russell, once published the following significant statement concerning him:

"His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together."


Pastor Russell adhered closely to the teachings of the Scriptures. He believed and taught that we are living in the time of the second presence of our Lord, and that His presence dates from 1874; that since that time we have been living in the "time of the end"--the "end of the Age," during which the Lord has been conducting His great Harvest work; that, in harmony with the Lord's own statement, this Harvest work is separating true Christians designated as "wheat," from merely professing Christians, designated as "tares," and gathering the true saints into the Kingdom of the Lord. It is here interesting to note that Jesus said, "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over His Household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing! Verily I say unto you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods." Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell's writings believe that he filled the office of "that faithful and wise servant," and that his great work was giving to the Household of Faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation. For a more detailed account of his work, reference is made to THE WATCH TOWER of June 1st, 1916.

In 1910 Pastor Russell visited Palestine and Russia. He there orally delivered lectures to thousands of orthodox Jews on the regathering of Jews to Palestine. In 1911 he was one of a committee of seven who made a journey around the world and especially examined into the conditions of missionary work in Japan, China, Korea and India. On the same occasion he again visited the Jews in Palestine and Galatia, explaining to them that the prophecies teach that the Jews at an early date will again be established in Palestine. On his return to America he was given a great ovation at the New York City Hippodrome by thousands of Jews, his discourse on this occasion being published by Hebrew papers both in America and in Europe.

During the 42 years of Pastor Russell's Christian work he never directly or indirectly solicited money. No collection was ever taken at any meeting addressed by him or by any of his associates. He had faith that the Lord would supply sufficient money to carry on His work; that the work was the Lord's, and not man's. The fact that voluntary contributions were liberally made by many persons throughout the world proved that his conclusions were correct.

He devoted his private fortune entirely to the cause to which he gave his life. He received the nominal sum of $11.00 per month for his personal expenses. He died, leaving no estate whatsoever.

Thus closed the career of a most remarkable man. He was loved most by those who knew him best.

- Published by the WTB&TS in the December 1, 1916 Watchtower

Nathan H. Knorr (1905-1977)

Thursday, January 8, 1942, marked the end of the earthly life of seventy-two-year-old Joseph Franklin Rutherford. For twenty-five years he had been president of the Watch Tower Society. When the Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell, died in 1916, the Bible Students were shocked and many wondered how they could carry on in God’s service. Furthermore, selfish men sought control of the Society and this posed problems for some time, though their opposition and schemes were completely overcome through divine aid. The death of J. F. Rutherford did not have such effects, however. Of course, foes of God’s people thought that the work of Jehovah’s witnesses would grind to a stop, but they were mistaken. “The theocratic organization proceeded without a halt or a stumble,” remarks Grant Suiter.

On January 13, 1942, all board members of the Pennsylvania and New York corporations used by God’s people met jointly at Brooklyn Bethel. Several days earlier, the Society’s vice-president, Nathan H. Knorr, had asked that they earnestly seek divine wisdom by prayer and meditation, and this they did. Their joint meeting was opened by prayer for Jehovah’s guidance, and after careful consideration Brother Knorr was nominated and unanimously elected president of the Society. “No one that I knew about even questioned the appointment of Brother Knorr,” says C. W. Barber, “and everyone was determined to stand shoulder to shoulder supporting him and proving our devotion to Jehovah’s organization. There was complete unity also among all the directors of the Society.” Many telegrams and letters were received showing that Jehovah’s servants world wide were unified and determined to carry on with the preaching work.

Nathan Homer Knorr was born at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1905, of American-born parents. When he was sixteen years old, he became associated with the Allentown congregation of Bible Students, and in 1922 attended the Cedar Point convention, where he made up his mind to resign from membership in the Reformed Church. An opportunity to be immersed in water to symbolize the dedication of his life to Jehovah God came on July 4, 1923, while Frederick W. Franz, from Brooklyn Bethel, was visiting the Allentown congregation. Brother Fred Franz delivered the baptismal discourse, and eighteen-year-old Nathan H. Knorr was among the individuals baptized that day in the Little Lehigh River. This has always been a joyful day to remember, and what a pleasure it has been for Brother Knorr to be privileged to work side by side with Brother Fred Franz for over fifty-one years now!

About two months later, on September 6, 1923, Brother Knorr became a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family. C. W. Barber recalls: “The noontime that he arrived, upon coming home for lunch, we saw a young brother busy putting his clothes and things into one of the dressers in room A-9. Not knowing that a change had been made and that he was taking the place of a brother that had been moved to WBBR on Staten Island, a few words of remonstration followed. ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘We’ve got enough in this room already and it’s too crowded.’ We figured one more in the room was too much, but things calmed down, and the young brother turned out to be none other than Brother N. H. Knorr. Not exactly a suitable welcome, but we often enjoyed talking about this situation years later and laughed heartily. Right from the start it was evident that he had not come to Bethel to do anything else but apply himself to the work at hand. He applied himself vigorously in the shipping department and made rapid progress in handling responsibilities and doing whatever he was asked to do.”

Later he served on the dispatch desk at the Society’s printing plant and on February 8, 1928, he was appointed by Brother Rutherford to be a copartner in the publishing of the Golden Age magazine. Clayton J. Woodworth was editor; Robert J. Martin, business manager, and Nathan H. Knorr, secretary and treasurer. When factory manager Robert J. Martin died on September 23, 1932, J. F. Rutherford appointed N. H. Knorr to serve in that capacity. On January 11, 1934, Brother Knorr was elected as a director of the Peoples Pulpit Association (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.). He was made the Association’s vice-president on January 10, 1935, following the death of E. J. Coward. On June 10, 1940, Brother Knorr became a director and was chosen as vice-president of the Pennsylvania corporation, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. His election to the presidency of both societies came about on January 13, 1942. He was also made president of the International Bible Students Association. As to Brother Knorr’s attitude toward the work, J. L. Cantwell recalls: “In 1940, when there was so much persecution going on, branches were being closed down and mob action was taking place. One night we were working overtime at the factory. A ‘fire drill’ was called and, among other things, Brother Knorr, who presided at the resulting meeting, said: ‘I know that things look bad for the work. But something all of us here will want to remember is: If Armageddon comes tomorrow, we want to have run the factory all night tonight.’”

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

EVEN BEFORE World War II came to an end, in fact while the work was closing down on all sides, N. H. Knorr turned his attention to providing even further strength to the organization with the thought of expansion. He began with the individual minister. Knorr knew that the organization could be no stronger than the individuals who compose it. He knew the New World society could accomplish no more than its associated ministers were qualified to do. He knew that if each one of Jehovah's witnesses were to fulfill his own personal vow of dedication to Jehovah he must individually be trained and equipped. (See Luke 12 47.) After he became president he wasted no time in setting in motion what has probably become one of the most extensive educational campaigns ever conducted. This is the way it came about.

Knorr's close association with Rutherford in his last days enabled him to know precisely what he had in his mind concerning the operation of the organization. Of course, he had thoughts too where the work could be expanded; so when the theocratic organization began to operate in 1938, even before he became president, Knorr saw the need of training those in the organization to handle their work efficiently, and to coordinate all efforts for expansion of the work. He encouraged and succeeded in setting in motion an arrangement whereby all countries would be divided into zones, each zone composed of twenty congregations. A zone servant was appointed to visit the congregations in his zone. In addition assemblies were arranged for all the congregations in a zone. Rutherford recognized the benefits such an arrangement could bring, and on October 1, 1938, set it in operation. Within three years the number of active ministers in the field had more than doubled. However, Rutherford felt the work had accomplished its purpose by that time, and it was discontinued December 1 1941 In a special letter issued to all congregations he encouraged all of Jehovah's witnesses to stand on their own feet and maintain their ministry, come what may. This certainly seemed like needed counsel because, within a few days after his letter was circulated throughout the United States, this country was involved in World War II, and only a little more than a month later Rutherford himself was dead. Knorr realized much work lay ahead and that many more people were yet to see the need to dedicate their lives to Jehovah God and serve him before the full end was to come at Armageddon. Because of the severe trials coming on Jehovah's witnesses, they would need further counsel and training, especially new ones associating with the work. So in the fall of 1942, his first year as president, he reorganized the zones into circuits and set in motion a revised arrangement of the work. Four years later, he further revised the work and again arranged for assemblies to be held twice a year in each circuit. Again expansion came rapidly.

- Faith on the March, by A.H. Macmillan

On June 8, 1977, after an illness of some months, Nathan H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania since January 13, 1942, succumbed at Watchtower Farms, Wallkill, New York. Frederick W. Franz has succeeded him as president of this legal agency used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for administrative and publishing purposes. Interestingly, in a front-page article, Georgia’s Columbus Times commented: “Wednesday night, June 8th, a great man died. His greatness was not due to being a powerful politician nor a commercial giant, for upon his death he had few worldly goods.” It was observed that few persons even recognize his name, “although his life work has had a profound effect upon all nations and has touched the lives of most of their citizens.” Mentioning how this was so, the newspaper said that Mr. Knorr had spoken at hundreds of assemblies held by Jehovah’s Witnesses world wide, including “the world’s largest religious assembly” in New York city (in 1958), a gathering “attended by over 250,000, filling simultaneously the Polo Grounds and Yank[ee] Stadium.” The Columbus Times also referred to his role in instituting congregational schools and one for foreign missionaries (the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead). “So,” remarked the newspaper, “every time one of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocks on your door and offers you a free home Bible study you personally are benefiting from this extension of Mr. Knorr’s Bible training program for Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The number of Witnesses has risen from 115,240 in 1942 to 2,248,390 in 1976. However, the Times pointed out that, like the apostle Paul and Apollos, “Mr. Knorr has only ‘planted and watered, but God has made it grow,’ and Mr. Knorr has never claimed credit for himself for this phenomenal increase in the numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—1 Cor. 3:5-8.

- 1977 Awake, published by the WTB&TS

Nathan Homer Knorr (April 23, 1905 - June 8, 1977) was the third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, becoming so on January 13, 1942, replacing Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who had served in the position since 1916.

Nathan Knorr was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He began to show interest in the International Bible Students at age 16. He left the Reformed Church in 1922 and was baptized on July 4, 1923 as a Bible Student following a baptism talk by Frederick W. Franz, with whom Knorr became close friends. Knorr became a volunteer at the Watch Tower headquarters in Brooklyn on September 6, 1923, and became its factory manager in September 1932. On January 11, 1934, at age 28, Knorr was elected director of the Peoples Pulpit Association (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.), and was made its vice president the following year. In January 1942, Knorr became president of International Bible Students Association and the corporations now known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Knorr was married to Audrey Mock in 1953. He died from a cerebral tumor June 8, 1977 while receiving hospice care at an extension of world headquarters, quieter Watchtower Farms in Wallkill, New York.

Knorr contributed significantly to Jehovah's Witnesses, with an intense educational focus. Within a month of his taking office, arrangements were made for an Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry, a school that featured Bible research and public speaking. On September 24, 1942, Knorr suggested that the Society establish another school to train missionaries for service in foreign countries. The suggestion was unanimously approved by the board of directors. The first class of the Gilead School - the name given to this missionary school - commenced February 1, 1943. Knorr arranged for the creation of new branch offices in many countries. In 1942, when he became president, there were 25 branch offices worldwide. By 1946, despite the events of World War II, the number of branch offices increased to 57. Over the next 30 years, the number of branch offices increased to 97. The doctrine of not accepting blood transfusions was also introduced during Knorr's leadership.

From October 1, 1972, adjustments began in the oversight of the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. The writing of Aid to Bible Understanding led to a new understanding of the Bible's mention of elders and "older men" and seems to have been the catalyst for the religion to adjust its organizational structure. A revision to the Watchtower Society's organizational manual in 1972 explains, "it is noteworthy that the Bible does not say that there was only one 'older man', one overseer, in each congregation. Rather, it indicates that there were a number of such." There would no longer be one congregation servant, or overseer, but a body of elders and ministerial servants. One elder would be designated chairman, but all the elders would have equal authority and share the responsibility for making decisions. Later, the chairmanship of the Governing Body would also be affected, rotating in alphabetical order. In December 1975, leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses passed from the president of the Watch Tower Society to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Beginning January 1, 1976 the Governing Body formed several committees to oversee publishing, writing, teaching, service and personnel. Knorr worked with the new arrangement until illness shortly before his death forced his move from the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Following Knorr's death in June 1977, Frederick W. Franz succeeded him as corporation president.

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 12/15/2010

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jonas Wendell (1815-1873)

To The Readers Of "The Herald Of The Morning"

JUNE 1879

"Dear Friends:"

"I have been a Bible student since I first had my attention called to the second coming of our Lord, by Jonas Wendell, a Second Advent Preacher, about 1869, who was then preaching the burning of the world as being due in 1873. But though he first awakened my interest on the subject, I was not a convert, either to the time he suggested nor to the events he predicted. I, in company with others in Pittsburgh, organized and maintained a Bible class for the searching of the Scriptures, meeting every Sunday."

"We reasoned that, if Christ’s coming were to end probation, and bring irrevocable ruin upon ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind; then it could scarcely be considered desirable, neither could we pray with proper spirit, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come quickly!" We had rather request-much as we should "love his appearing"-that he remain away and our sufferings and trials continue so that "if by any means we might save some." Not only so, but great masses of scripture referring to the Millennial glory and teaching that "All nations which thou hast made shall come and worship before thee," &c., &c., would be left unfulfilled if at His coming there should be a wreck of matter and a crush of world."

"We first saw Millennial glory-then the glorious work which is offered us as His Bride; that we are by faith the "seed of Abraham;" and as such, heirs of the promises, &c., in whom "all the families of the earth shall be blest." (Gal. 3) This most certainly points to a probation in the future after He has come. Thus, speedily, steadily and surely God led us to recognize the second coming of our Lord as being not the sunset of all hope to mankind, but the rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings."

"The Lord gave us many helps in the study of His word, among whom stood prominently, our dearly beloved and aged brother, George Storrs, who, both by word and pen, gave us much assistance; but we ever sought not to be followers of men, however good or wise, but "Followers of God, as dear children." Thus growing in grace and knowledge for seven years, the year 1876 found us."

"Up to this time we persistently ignored times and looked with pity upon Mr. Thurman’s and Mr. Wendell’s ideas. (the latter was preaching the same time as Bro. Barbour; viz: The burning of the world in 1873.) We regarded those ideas as unworthy of consideration, for though we believed the event "nigh even at the doors," yet we recognized the fact that the church will be withdrawn-translated-before there would be any open manifestation to the world, or, in other words, the two stages of Christ’s second advent, viz: coming for his saints, and coming with all his saints."


"Among other theories, I stumbled upon Adventism. Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall, where I had heard religious services were held, to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists, the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell, long since deceased. Thus, I confess indebtedness to Adventists as well as to other denominations. Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth."

"I soon began to see that we were living somewhere near the close of the Gospel age, and near the time when the Lord had declared that the wise, watching ones of his children should come to a clear knowledge of his plan. At this time, myself and a few other truth-seekers in Pittsburgh and Allegheny formed a class for Bible study, and from 1870 to 1875 was a time of constant growth in grace and knowledge and love of God and his Word. We came to see something of the love of God, how it had made provision for all mankind, how all must be awakened from the tomb in order that God’s loving plan might be testified to them, and how all who exercise faith in Christ’s redemptive work and render obedience in harmony with the knowledge of God’s will they will then receive, shall then (through Christ’s merit) be brought back into full harmony with God, and be granted everlasting life. This we saw to be the Restitution work foretold in Acts 3:21. But though seeing that the Church was called to joint-heirship with the Lord in the Millennial Kingdom, up to that time we had failed to see clearly the great distinction between the reward of the Church now on trial and the reward of the faithful of the world after its trial, at the close of the Millennial age—that the reward of the former is to be the glory of the spiritual, divine nature, while that of the latter is to be the glory of restitution—restoration to the perfection of human nature once enjoyed in Eden by their progenitor and head, Adam."


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

The twig, though, had been trained by God-fearing parents; it was inclined "in the direction of the Lord." While he was still searching for truth, one evening in 1869, something happened that reestablished Charles’ wavering faith. Walking along near the Russells’ store on Federal Street, he heard religious singing coming from a basement hall. In his own words, this is what took place:

"Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall, where I had heard religious services were held, to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists [Advent Christian Church], the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell . . . Thus, I confess indebtedness to Adventists as well as to other denominations. Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, . . . it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth."

That meeting renewed young Russell’s determination to search for Scriptural truth. It sent him back to his Bible with more eagerness than ever before. Russell soon came to believe that the time was near for those who served the Lord to come to a clear knowledge of His purpose. So, in 1870, fired by enthusiasm, he and a few acquaintances in Pittsburgh and nearby Allegheny got together and formed a class for Bible study. According to a later associate of Russell, the small Bible class was conducted in this manner: "Someone would raise a question. They would discuss it. They would look up all related scriptures on the point and then, when they were satisfied on the harmony of these texts, they would finally state their conclusion and make a record of it." As Russell later acknowledged, the period "from 1870 to 1875 was a time of constant growth in grace and knowledge and love of God and his Word."

Wednesday, September 10, 1873 G. W. STETSON

He was born December 25th, 1815, and fell asleep August 14th, 1873. Age fifty seven years, seven months, and fourteen days. He experienced remission of sins in Syracuse, N.Y., about 1843, and united with the M.E. church. About 1845 he came into the truth of life and immortality in Christ only, of his soon coming, and reign with the saints on earth renewed, and the everlasting destruction of the finally impenitent wicked. He began preaching these views at Syracuse, in 1847, and was instrumental in bringing Bro. C.B. Turner into the faith. HE was committed to what has since been called, "the 1854 movement," and was very sanguine in the correctness of the chronological data given, as reaching to "the end of the days," and the time of the promised blessing. The time passing without a realization of the expected event, his "faith failed him," as a result of overweening confidence in human computations of time, and human misapplication of data divinely given; and he turned aside from "the word," and got out of "the way," and for several years "went astray."

Bro. Turner becoming acquainted with these facts in his life, moved with true Christian philanthropy, came to Edenboro in the winter of 1864-1865, and proved instrumental in Bro. Wendell's recovery and restoration. He resumed "preaching the word," and his labors were owned and greatly blessed in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and New England, from 1865 to 1871; since when he has been in failing health. I had particularly noticed that, for the last year especially, his powers of life, and memory seemed to be failing him rapidly; but during the same time his faith, love, purity of life, and spiritual mindedness, were as markedly and correspondingly increasing. He had settled on 1873 as the year in which "the hope of seeing Jesus and being made like him" should be realized by a waiting and expectant church, and set forth the reasons for his hope in a little work entitle, "Present truth," or "Meat in Due Season," to which Bro. E. Wolcott (of Keysport, N. J.), has added an essay on "The End." (I have a supply of these, for free distribution. Send stamps with orders for mailing.)

From June 15 to July 5th, Bro. Wendell was with the N. W. Pennsylvania mission tent, conjointly with Bro. Sweet and Ongley, and thence to July 10 at the "Time Conference," in Rochester, N.Y. From there he came home to adjust some pecuniary matters preparatory to his return to the Mission Tent. On Aug. 7th, he called to see Bro. Goodwin at the pump factory in E., and as he was about to pass form the upper to the lower story, made a misstep at the head, and was precipitated headlong to the bottom of the stairs, by which he received severe internal injuries, from which he never fully recovered, and which probably, hastened his dissolution. But on Wednesday evening, Aug. 13, by request, in absence of the pastor, he led the prayer and conference meeting, and much edified all present by his unusual fervency in prayer, exhortation, and singing. "What a friend we have in Jesus" was the last hymn he ever sung with us. On Thursday the 14th, he went to the Sabbath School picnic in most excellent spirits, and seemed to be very happy in the Lord. When time for adjournment arrived, he got out his horse to return home, but seeing a lad in trouble from a fickly horse, he went to his assistance, where he overtaxed his physical strength, and returned to his own buggy quite exhausted. But he got in and took the lines from his niece, to start home, but immediately loosened his hold, dropped them, and fell over backward in his seat, dead. He gave but two slight gasps for breath, and all was over. "He had shed his last tear, and fought his last battle, his warfare was over, and life's agonies ended."

On Saturday, Aug. 16th, at 2 P.M. his funeral was numerously attended at our chapel, when all the clergy of our village came to observe his obsequies, sympathize with his bereaved family, and participate in the services of the occasion. The writer endeavored to impart instruction to eager listeners, and comfort for mourners by discoursing from Psalm 27:13014. Medical opinion is divided between apoplexy and heart disease as cause of death.

Edenboro, Pa.

West Meriden Conn. Oct. 1, 1873


When the report reached us that our dearly beloved and highly esteemed brother in the Lord and in the ministry of the gospel of the kingdom of God immediately near, had fallen asleep, we could hardly believe it true.

When, however, that report was so confirmed as that we could not doubt its correctness, we were made sad beyond the power of language to express. We saw Bro. Wendell for the first time at the Fairport camp meeting. That meeting was our last, but during the few days we were with him at that meeting, we learned to esteem him very highly as a genial, kind spirited man, and to love him as a devoted, faithful Christian. He was an earnest lover of the appearing of our Great King, and was therefore deeply interested in those prophecies which treat especially of his glorious advent.

By a thorough and prayerful study of those prophecies he became fully convinced that our Lord will return to earth this present year, 1873; and, as many of our dear brethren know, sent out a synopsis of his faith in this great truth in a printed essay, broadcast through the land. He fell asleep ere the great consummation day had dawned, but in full confidence that all the beloved of our Father will enter on an endless existence before this present year shall end.

It has seemed strange to us that so good a man, so faithful and efficient a minister, should be cut down by the fell destroyer in the midst of his usefulness, and at a time when his labors are so much needed. But God's providences are inscrutable, and there must be some good reason, understood by the infinitely wise disposer of all events, why he suffered the shaft of death to strike down one so noble, so good, and so useful in the church. While our hearts are bleeding in this great bereavement, we are comforted in the knowledge that he has fulfilled a noble mission, and if he is called to lay off his armor a little sooner than his peers, it is because his work being better done he is more thoroughly ripened for the great harvest day. We shall see him in a few weeks, beyond the reach of death, at the appearing of our great Life giver, when she shall come to bestow immortality on all the good, both dead and living. God grant we may all be ready. May our loving Father give abundant grace to comfort the hearts of our dear brother's deeply afflicted family, and enable them to be all prepared to meet the loved and lost one where

"Death enters not, and not one sigh

E'er ladens zephyrs wing;

Unfading immortality

Is stamped on everything."


Elder Jonas Wendell (December 25, 1815 - August 14, 1873) of Edenboro, Pennsylvania, was a zealous Adventist preacher following in the spirit of William Miller. Following the "Great Disappointment" Wendell experienced periods of weak faith, as did many Adventists. He eventually recovered his faith after renewing his study of Bible chronology (historic and prophetic) and began to preach extensively throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, the Virginias, and New England. By the late 1860s he had been studying the chronology of the Bible, and was encouraged by conclusions showing Christ's return would occur in either 1868 or 1873/4. In 1870 Wendell published his views in the booklet entitled The Present Truth, or Meat in Due Season concluding that the Second Advent was sure to occur in 1873. Unknown to him, attendance at one of his presentations [in 1869] restored Charles Taze Russell's faith in the Bible as the true word of God, leading to Russell's ministry. - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Russell Debates Eaton (1903) & White (1908)

Since Brother Russell was so widely known and spoke to large audiences on many occasions, you may wonder what it was like to listen to him. “How different from the ordinary preacher!” exclaims C. B. Tvedt, adding: “No oratory, no emotionalism. No begging to hit the sawdust trail. There was something far more effective and powerful than all of these put together! That was the simple,quiet, confident expounding of the Word of God—letting one scripture unlock another one until it became, as it were, a powerful magnet. In this way Brother Russell held his audience in rapt attention.” Ralph H. Leffler says that before giving a discourse Brother Russell made several graceful bows to the audience. When speaking, he usually stood on the open platform and would walk about, using his arms freely in gesturing. “He never used notes . . . but always spoke freely from the heart,” according to Brother Leffler, who continues: “His voice was not loud, but it had peculiar carrying power. Without ever using sound amplifying equipment (there was none in those days), he could be heard and understood by large audiences, holding them as if spellbound for one, two and sometimes three hours at a time.”

Yet, the man was not important. The message was, and Bible truth was being declared to multitudes. There were many capable Christians proclaiming the good news in those days, and some persons heard their words with appreciation. Opponents were numerous, of course, and they sometimes sought to promote their unscriptural views in public debate with Jehovah’s servants.

In what later appeared to be an attempt by the Pittsburgh ministerial alliance to discredit C. T. Russell’s scholarship and Biblical views, on March 10, 1903, Dr. E. L. Eaton, minister of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, challenged Russell to a six-day debate. During each session of this debate, held that autumn in Allegheny’s Carnegie Hall, on the whole Russell came off victorious. Among other things, he Scripturally maintained that the souls of the dead are unconscious while their bodies are in the grave and that the object of both Christ’s second coming and the millennium is the blessing of all the families of the earth. Russell also made a very strong Biblical denial of the hellfire doctrine. Reportedly, one clergyman approached him after the last session of the debate and said: “I am glad to see you turn the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Interestingly, after this debate many members of
Eaton’s congregation became Bible Students.

Another significant debate took place on February 23-28, 1908, at Cincinnati, Ohio, between C. T. Russell and L. S. White of the “Disciple” denomination. Thousands attended. Russell courageously upheld such Scriptural teachings as the unconscious state of the dead between death and resurrection, and Biblically maintained that Christ’s second coming will precede the millennium and that the object of both is the blessing of all families of the earth. Hazelle and Helen Krull were present and tell us: “Beauty and harmony of truth and fine Scriptural arguments on each subject of debate stood out in stark contrast to the confusing teachings of men. At one point ‘Elder White,’ spokesman and debater for the opposing views, in desperation said that he was reminded of a sign over a blacksmith shop reading ‘All kinds of twisting and turning done here.’ But, to the honest truth seeker, was a demonstration of ‘handling the word of the truth aright’ [on the part of Russell; 2 Tim. 2:15], with resultant harmony.” The Krull sisters recall that Jehovah blessed Brother Russell with His spirit to present the truth ably, and they term the event “a triumph of truth over error.”

J. F. Rutherford accepted a Baptist debate challenge in behalf of the Watch Tower Society against J. H. Troy. It took place in April 1915 at the Trinity Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, before an audience of 12,000 (with an estimated 10,000 being turned away for lack of space) during the four nights of the debate. Rutherford was victorious in courageously defending Bible truth.

In the twelve years following the Eaton-Russell debate, other debating challenges were accepted by God’s servants, though the opponents, perhaps out of fear, usually called off the engagements. C. T. Russell himself did not favor debates, for he was aware of their disadvantages for Christians. In The Watch Tower of May 1, 1915, he pointed out, among other things, that ‘those who are of the truth are bound by the Golden Rule and their presentation must be along absolutely fair lines, whereas their opponents seem to have no restrictions or restraints.’ “Any kind of argument,” wrote Russell, “regardless of the context, regardless of the Golden Rule, regardless of everything, is considered permissible.” He also stated: “So far as the Editor is concerned, he has no desire for further debates. He does not favor debating, believing that it rarely accomplishes good and often arouses anger, malice, bitterness, etc., in both speakers and hearers. Rather he sets before those who desire to hear it, orally and in print, the message of the Lord’s Word and leaves to opponents such presentations of the error as they see fit to make and find opportunity to exploit.—Hebrews 4:12.”

Bible discourses themselves afforded better opportunities to present Scriptural truths, and C. T. Russell often spoke to large audiences. During the years of 1905 to 1907, for instance, he toured the United States and Canada by special train or car and conducted a series of one-day conventions. His public lecture then was “To Hell and Back.” Delivered before packed houses in nearly every large city in both countries, this discourse featured a humorous, imaginary trip to hell and back. Louise Cosby recalls that Russell agreed to give this lecture in Lynchburg, Virginia, and she says: “My father had big posters made advertising this lecture and got permission to place them on the front of the streetcars. This was quite amusing and people asked, If this car takes us to hell, will it bring us back?”

Bible lectures also were featured during C. T. Russell’s trips abroad. In 1903 he had made a second journey to Europe, speaking to audiences in various cities. Then, from December 1911 to March 1912, Russell, as chairman of a seven-man committee, made a round-the-world tour, traveling to Hawaii, Japan, China, through southern Asia into Africa, on to Europe and back to New York. A study of Christendom’s foreign missions was undertaken and many lectures were given, thus spreading seeds of truth that, in time, brought into fruitful activity groups of anointed Christians in far-flung areas of the earth. Besides this worldwide tour, however, C. T. Russell journeyed to Europe regularly and traveled extensively throughout North America on “convention tour” special trains, accompanied by many fellow workers.

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

On March 10, 1903, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh ministerial alliance, Dr. E. L. Eaton, minister of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, formally offered to C. T. Russell a six-day debate on agreed Biblical subjects. (Later it appeared that this was a subtle attempt on the part of the associated clergy publicly to discredit Russell’s scholarship and teaching.) Within two days Russell in good faith accepted the offer, and the debates were finally held in the fall at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall before packed-out audiences.

(1) Sunday afternoon, October 18, Eaton debated affirmatively, that the Bible teaches that divine grace for salvation has been exercised since man’s fall and that there will be no probation after death. Russell Scripturally denied. (2) Tuesday evening, October 20, Russell affirmed that the Bible clearly teaches that the souls of the dead are unconscious while their bodies are in the grave. Eaton denied. (3) Thursday evening, October 22, Eaton affirmed that the Bible teaches that all of the saved will become spirit creatures, and after the General Judgment will enter heaven. Russell denied. (4) Tuesday evening, October 27, Russell, affirming that the Bible teaches that only the “saints” of this Gospel age will share in the “First Resurrection,” also held that vast multitudes will be saved in and by the subsequent resurrection. Eaton denied. (5) Thursday, October 29, Russell affirmed that the Bible teaches that the object of both the second coming of Christ and the Millennium is the blessing of all the families of earth. Eaton denied. (6) Lastly, on Sunday, November 1, with Eaton affirming that the Bible teaches that the divine penalty for sin eventually to be inflicted upon the incorrigible, will consist of inconceivably great sufferings, eternal in duration, Russell vigorously denied this hell-fire doctrine.

Interesting side lights: During the debates several of the local clergy were on the platform with Dr. Eaton to give him textual and moral support, while Russell, alone, stood his ground as a sort of Daniel in a lions’ den. On the whole, Russell came off victorious for each of the six debates and especially the last one, on “hell.” It is reported that one of the attending clergymen, acknowledging that victory, came up to Russell after the last debate, saying, “I am glad to see you turn the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Soon after this exposure of the false doctrines of the “Babylonish” church systems quite a number of Eaton’s Methodist congregation became Bible students. Other debate challenges were accepted, but at the last minute the opposition would get afraid and call off the engagements. However, within twelve years after the Eaton-Russell debates of 1903 two other major duels between Watch Tower Society representatives and leading religious groups did take place. L. S. White of the Disciples denomination engaged with Russell for six debates February 23-28, 1908, at Cincinnati, Ohio, attended by thousands, to observe easy victory again for Russell. The Baptists’ challenge for a debate series in Los Angeles, California, was undertaken by J. F. Rutherford on behalf of the Watch Tower Society against Rev. J. H. Troy. This was before a total audience of 12,000 (an estimated ten thousand being turned away) for four nights in April, 1915, at the Trinity Auditorium. This too turned out to be a signal victory for the Watch Tower Society’s spokesman standing in defense of Bible truth.

- 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS


Clergy Call for Public Debate

As the circulation of C. T. Russell’s writings quickly escalated into tens of millions of copies in many languages, the Catholic and Protestant clergy could not easily ignore what he was saying. Angered by the exposure of their teachings as unscriptural, and frustrated by the loss of members, many of the clergy used their pulpits to denounce Russell’s writings. They commanded their flocks not to accept literature distributed by the Bible Students. A number of them sought to induce public officials to put a stop to this work. In some places in the United States—among them Tampa, Florida; Rock Island, Illinois; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Scranton, Pennsylvania—they supervised public burning of books written by Russell.

Some of the clergy felt the need to destroy Russell’s influence by exposing him in public debate. Near the headquarters of his activity, a group of clergymen endorsed as their spokesman Dr. E. L. Eaton, pastor of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. In 1903 he proposed a public debate, and Brother Russell accepted the invitation.

Six propositions were set forth, as follows: Brother Russell affirmed, but Dr. Eaton denied, that the souls of the dead are unconscious; that the “second coming” of Christ precedes the Millennium and that the purpose of both his “second coming” and the Millennium is the blessing of all the families of the earth; also that only the saints of the “Gospel age” share in the first resurrection but that vast multitudes will have opportunity for salvation by the subsequent resurrection. Dr. Eaton affirmed, but Brother Russell denied, that there would be no probation after death for anyone; that all who are saved will enter heaven; and that the incorrigibly wicked will be subjected to eternal suffering. A series of six debates on these propositions were held, each debate before a packed house at Carnegie Hall in Allegheny in 1903.

What was behind that challenge to debate? Viewing the matter from a historical perspective, Albert Vandenberg later wrote: “The debates were conducted with a minister from a different Protestant denomination acting as the moderator during each discussion. In addition, ministers from various area churches sat on the speaker’s platform with the Reverend Eaton, allegedly to provide him with textual and moral support. . . . That even an unofficial alliance of Protestant clergymen could be formed signified that they feared Russell’s potential to convert members of their denominations.”—“Charles Taze Russell: Pittsburgh Prophet, 1879-1909,” published in The
Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, January 1986, p. 14.

Such debates were relatively few. They did not yield the results that the alliance of clergymen desired. Some of Dr. Eaton’s own congregation, impressed by what they heard during the series of debates in 1903, left his church and chose to associate with the Bible Students. Even a clergyman who was present acknowledged that Russell had ‘turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.’ Nevertheless, Brother Russell himself felt that the cause of truth could be better served by use of time and effort for activities other than debates.

The clergy did not give up their attack. When Brother Russell spoke in Dublin, Ireland, and Otley, Yorkshire, England, they planted men in the audience to shout objections and false charges against Russell personally. Brother Russell deftly handled those situations, always relying on the Bible as authority for his replies.

Protestant clergymen, regardless of denomination, were associated in what is known as the Evangelical Alliance. Their representatives in many lands agitated against Russell and those who distributed his literature. In Texas (U.S.A.), as an example, the Bible Students found that every preacher, even in the smallest towns and rural districts, was equipped with the same set of false charges against Russell and the same distortions of what he taught.

However, these attacks against Russell sometimes had results that the clergy did not anticipate. In New Brunswick, Canada, when a preacher used his pulpit for a derogatory sermon about Russell, there was a man in the audience who had personally read literature written by Brother Russell. He was disgusted when the preacher resorted to deliberate falsehoods. About the middle of the sermon, the man stood up, took his wife by the hand, and called to his seven daughters who sang in the choir: “Come on, girls, we are going home.” All nine walked out, and the minister watched as the man who had built the church and was the financial mainstay of the congregation departed. The congregation soon fell apart, and the preacher left.

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

Additional Reading:


Although the Lord's providence did seem to open up the way for the "Eaton-Russell Debate" and later, for the "White-Russell Debate," and through these Debates led the way on to the publication of the Sermons in hundreds of newspapers throughout the world, nevertheless the Editor is not, and never was, much of a believer in the advantages of debating. The Debates mentioned were valuable chiefly as entering-wedges for the newspaper work. On the surface, it might at first appear as though a debate would be an excellent method of presenting the Truth to the public. Let it not, however, be forgotten that it is also an excellent method of presenting the error to the public. While it is true that Truth is mighty and will prevail, nevertheless "the god of this world" has blinded the eyes of men for eighteen centuries so thoroughly that remarkably few even yet see the beauty and force of the great Divine Plan of Salvation as presented by Jesus and the Apostles. On the contrary, the great mass of mankind have had thoroughly drilled into them heathen philosophy--carefully concocted theories and superstitions--and these are well riveted and fastened from childhood's hour.

An audience hearing a debate have the same difficulty that a jury has when hearing the opposing attorneys discussing the merits of a case. Each speaker has certain talent and ability, and each makes a certain amount of impression. It is the same with the general readers when these debates go before them. Those who have the Truth will enjoy the presentation of it, while those who have been schooled and prejudiced in favor of the error from childhood will rejoice in its presentation.

Added to this is the fact that the debates in general are in the nature of a war of words, the disputants each seeking to undo the other's arguments and to prove his own. In such a war of words the Truth is at a disadvantage. Why, do you ask? We answer, Because those who are of the Truth are bound by the Golden Rule, not only in its letter, but also in its spirit; and their presentations of the Truth must be along absolutely fair lines that take in the context and the spirit thereof. On the other hand, our opponents seem to have no restrictions nor restraints. Any kind of argument, regardless of the context, regardless of the Golden Rule, regardless of everything, is considered permissible. Indeed they do not even stop to consider such a trifling (?) matter as the Golden Rule or to exact allegiance to the letter and spirit of the inspired Word. Thus our opponents always have the advantage, not because they are intellectually brighter, but because they can and do use means to bamboozle the minds of the hearers and readers. This the advocates of the Truth dare not do-- have not the desire to do, so surely as they have the Spirit of Christ.

So far as the Editor is concerned, he has no desire for further debates. He does not favor debating, believing that it rarely accomplishes good and often arouses anger, malice, bitterness, etc., in both speakers and hearers. Rather he sets before those who desire to hear it, orally and in print, the Message of the Lord's Word and leaves to opponents such presentations of the error as they see fit to make and find opportunity to exploit.--`Hebrews 4:12`.

This should not be understood to mean that the Editor would never again engage in a public debate, but merely that in order to induce him to debate, his opponent would need to be a person of so great prominence as to bring the matter to the attention of everybody. Only such a consideration would be a proper offset to the wide presentation of error thus accomplished. Otherwise we prefer merely to present the Truth as the Lord opens the way and to leave the presentation of error and its circulation entirely in the hands of others.

- May 1st, 1915 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Friday, October 16, 2009

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?

JESUS CHRIST was accused of being a drunkard, a glutton, a Sabbath breaker, a false witness, a blasphemer of God, and a messenger of Satan. He was also accused of being subversive.—Matthew 9:34; 11:19; 12:24; 26:65; John 8:13; 9:16; 19:12.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples were likewise the target of serious accusations. One group of first-century Christians were dragged to the city rulers by people crying out: ‘These men have overturned the inhabited earth.’ (Acts 17:6) On another occasion the apostle Paul and his companion Silas were taken to the authorities and charged with greatly disturbing the city of Philippi.—Acts 16:20.

Paul was later accused of being a “pestilent fellow and stirring up seditions among all the Jews throughout the inhabited earth” and of trying “to profane the temple.” (Acts 24:5, 6) The principal men of the Jews in Rome accurately described the situation of Jesus’ followers when they acknowledged: “For truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22.

Evidently, this new group established by Jesus Christ was considered by some to be a religious group with radical views and practices that clashed with what was accepted in those days as normal social behavior. Undoubtedly, many today would have considered the Christians a destructive cult. The accusers were often prominent and respected members of the community, and this seems to have added weight to the allegations. Many believed the accusations against Jesus and his disciples. Yet, as you probably know, every one of these charges was false! The fact that people said these things did not make them true.

What about today? Would it be accurate to refer to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious group with radical views and practices that clash with what is accepted as normal social behavior? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult?

What the Evidence Shows

A government official of the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, explained: “Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented to us as some kind of underground sect sitting in the darkness and slaughtering children and killing themselves.” However, the people of Russia have recently become better acquainted with the true nature of the Witnesses. After working with Jehovah’s Witnesses in connection with an international convention, the same official observed: “Now I see normal, smiling people, even better than many people I know. They are peaceful and calm, and they love one another very much.” He added: “I really do not understand why people tell such lies about them.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold ritualistic meetings, nor is their worship cloaked in secrecy. Non-Witness author Julia Mitchell Corbett notes: “When they meet, usually more than once a week, in Kingdom Halls (their meeting sites are not called churches), most of their time is spent in Bible study and discussion.” Their meeting places are clearly marked with a sign. The meetings are open, and the general public is invited to attend. Unannounced guests are more than welcome.

The “Witnesses have earned the reputation of being honest, courteous, and industrious,” adds Corbett in her book Religion in America. Many who are not Witnesses readily acknowledge that there is nothing freakish or bizarre about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their conduct does not clash with what is accepted as normal social behavior. The New Encyclopædia Britannica accurately states that the Witnesses “insist upon a high moral code in personal conduct.”

The director of news and special projects for a television station in the United States wrote to Jehovah’s Witnesses in response to a biased report about the Witnesses on the TV news show 60 Minutes. He said: “If more people lived the way your faith does, this nation wouldn’t be in the shape it is in. I am one newsman who knows that your organization is founded on love and a strong faith in the Creator. I want you to know that not all News people are as biased.”

A Well-Known Religion

Is it fair to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a small fringe religious group? In a sense, Jehovah’s Witnesses are few in number compared to some religions. However, recall what Jesus said: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matthew 7:13, 14.

At any rate, the Witnesses are far from being a small fringe cult. In the spring of 1993, more than 11 million (18.7 million in 2010) people attended the Witnesses’ Memorial of Christ’s death. But more important than their number are their moral character and exemplary behavior, which have brought them worldwide commendation. Undoubtedly this has been a factor in countries that have given them official recognition as a known, bona fide religion.

Outstanding is a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. It declared that the Witnesses should enjoy freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and that they have the right to speak about their faith and teach it to others. This would hardly be the case if Jehovah’s Witnesses were known to use deceptive and unethical techniques to recruit members or if they used manipulative methods to control the minds of their followers.

Multitudes around the world are well acquainted with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of the millions of non-Witnesses who are studying the Bible with the Witnesses or who have studied with them at one time or another, we ask, Were there any attempts to brainwash you? Did the Witnesses employ mind-control techniques on you? “No” would doubtless be your frank response. Obviously, if these methods had been used, there would be an overwhelming number of victims in contradiction to any argument in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Absorbed in Humanity”

Cult members often isolate themselves from family, friends, and even society in general. Is that the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses? “I do not belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses,” wrote a newsman in the Czech Republic. Yet he added: “It is obvious that they [Jehovah’s Witnesses] have tremendous moral strength. . . . They recognize governmental authorities but believe that only God’s Kingdom is capable of solving all human problems. But watch it—they are not fanatics. They are people who are absorbed in humanity.”

And they do not live in communes, isolating themselves from relatives and others. Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that it is their Scriptural responsibility to love and care for their families. They live and work with people of all races and religions. When disasters strike, they are quick to respond with relief supplies and other humanitarian assistance.

More important, they are engaged in an educational program that has no comparison. How many religions have an organized system to pay personal visits to every individual in their community? Jehovah’s Witnesses do this in more than 200 lands and in more than 200 languages! Clearly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are “absorbed in humanity.”

Strict Adherence to the Bible

Additional Reading:

Admittedly, the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are different from those provided by the churches. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the almighty God and that Jesus is his Son, not part of a triune deity. Their faith is anchored in the belief that God’s Kingdom alone can bring relief to suffering humanity. They warn people of the imminent destruction of this corrupt system of things. They preach about God’s promise of an earthly paradise for obedient mankind. They do not venerate the cross. They do not celebrate Christmas. They believe that the soul is mortal and that there is no hellfire. They will not eat blood, nor will they accept blood transfusions. They abstain from involvement in politics and participation in warfare. Have you ever asked yourself why the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are so different?

A Massachusetts newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, explains that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “strict interpretation of the Bible forbids many activities others take for granted . . . , all in an effort to follow the example of first-century Christians and the word of the Bible.” The Encyclopedia of Religion agrees that “all that they believe is based on the Bible. They ‘proof text’ (that is, supply a biblical citation to support) almost every statement of faith, taking for granted the authority of the Bible, which entirely supplants tradition.” The book Religion in America states: “The group has never wavered from its focus on Bible study, and its teachings are supported by an elaborate system of references to scripture.”

Who Is Their Leader?

Additional Reading:

It is precisely because of this close adherence to Bible teachings that the veneration and idolization of human leaders so characteristic of cults today is not to be found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. They reject the concept of a clergy-laity distinction. The Encyclopedia of Religion aptly states about Jehovah’s Witnesses: “A clergy class and distinctive titles are prohibited.”

They follow Jesus Christ as their Leader and as Head of the Christian congregation. It was Jesus who said: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ.”—Matthew 23:8-12.

It is clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses are as far from being a cult as Jesus was from being a glutton and a drunkard. Admittedly, not everyone who was influenced by the false reports about Jesus and his disciples fell into the trap of slandering him. Some may simply have been misinformed. If you have questions about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs, why not get to know them better? The doors to their Kingdom Halls are wide open to all who seek truth.

You can also benefit from their careful search for accurate Bible knowledge and learn how to worship God in harmony with Jesus’ words: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.”—John 4:23.

- Feb., 15, 1994 Watchtower - Published by the WTB&TS,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Trinity—Is It Taught in the Bible?

“The Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. . . . So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God.”

IN THESE words the Athanasian Creed describes the central doctrine of Christendom—the Trinity. If you are a church member, Catholic or Protestant, you might be told that this is the most important teaching that you are to believe in. But can you explain the doctrine? Some of the best minds in Christendom have confessed their inability to understand the Trinity.

Why, then, do they believe it? Is it because the Bible teaches the doctrine? The late Anglican bishop John Robinson gave a thought-provoking answer to this question in his best-selling book Honest to God. He wrote:

“In practice popular preaching and teaching presents a supranaturalistic view of Christ which cannot be substantiated from the New Testament. It says simply that Jesus was God, in such a way that the terms ‘Christ’ and ‘God’ are interchangeable. But nowhere in Biblical usage is this so. The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus is the Son of God; but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that.”

John Robinson was a controversial figure in the Anglican Church. Nevertheless, was he correct in saying that the “New Testament” nowhere says that “Jesus was God, simply like that”?

What the Bible Does Say

Some may answer that question by quoting the verse that commences John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, King James Version) Does that not contradict what the Anglican bishop said? Not really. As John Robinson doubtless knew, some modern translators disagree with the King James Version’s rendering of that text. Why? Because in the expression “the Word was God” in the original Greek, the word for “God” does not have the definite article “the.” In the earlier expression “the Word was with God,” the word for “God” is definite, that is, it does have the definite article. This makes it unlikely that the two words have the same significance.

Hence, some translations bring out the qualitative aspect in their translations. For example, some render the expression “the Word was divine.” (An American Translation, Schonfield) Moffatt renders it “the Logos was divine.” However, indicating that “divine” would not be the most appropriate rendering here, John Robinson and the British textual critic Sir Frederick Kenyon both pointed out that if that was what John wanted to emphasize, he could have used the Greek word for “divine,” thei′os. The New World Translation, correctly viewing the word “God” as indefinite, as well as bringing out the qualitative aspect indicated by the Greek structure, uses the indefinite article in English: “The Word was a god.”

Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, comments on this approach: “A possible translation . . . would be, ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted.” However, The New English Bible does not render the verse that way. Rather, John 1:1 in that version reads: “When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was.” Why did the translation committee not choose the simpler rendering? Professor Dodd answers: “The reason why it is inacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole.”—Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, Volume 28, January 1977.

The Plain Sense of Scripture

Would we say that the idea that Jesus was a god and not the same as God the Creator is contrary to Johannine (that is, the apostle John’s) thought, as well as Christian thought as a whole? Let us examine some Bible texts that refer to Jesus and to God, and we will see what some commentators who lived before the Athanasian Creed was formulated thought about those texts.

“I and the Father are one.”—JOHN 10:30.

Novatian (c. 200-258 C.E.) commented: “Since He said ‘one’ thing,[] let the heretics understand that He did not say ‘one’ person. For one placed in the neuter, intimates the social concord, not the personal unity. . . . Moreover, that He says one, has reference to the agreement, and to the identity of judgment, and to the loving association itself, as reasonably the Father and Son are one in agreement, in love, and in affection.”—Treatise Concerning the Trinity, chapter 27.

“The Father is greater than I am.”—JOHN 14:28.

Irenaeus (c. 130-200 C.E.): “We may learn through Him [Christ] that the Father is above all things. For ‘the Father,’ says He, ‘is greater than I.’ The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge.”—Against Heresies, Book II, chapter 28.8.

“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—JOHN 17:3.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 C.E.): “To know the eternal God, the giver of what is eternal, and by knowledge and comprehension to possess God, who is first, and highest, and one, and good. . . . He then who would live the true life is enjoined first to know Him ‘whom no one knows, except the Son reveal (Him).’ (Matt. 11:27) Next is to be learned the greatness of the Saviour after Him.”—Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? VII, VIII.

“One God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all.”—EPHESIANS 4:6.

Irenaeus: “And thus one God the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ.”—Against Heresies, Book V, chapter 18.2.

These early writers clearly understood these verses to describe the Father as supreme, over everything and everyone including Jesus Christ. Their comments give no hint that they believed in a Trinity.

The Holy Spirit Reveals All Truth

Jesus promised his disciples that after his death and resurrection, the holy spirit would be given to them as a helper. He promised: “When that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, . . . and he will declare to you the things coming.”—John 14:16, 17; 15:26; 16:13.

After Jesus’ death, that promise was fulfilled. The Bible records how new doctrines were revealed or clarified to the Christian congregation through the help of the holy spirit. These new teachings were written down in the books that later became the second part of the Bible, the Christian Greek Scriptures, or “New Testament.” In this flood of new light, is there ever any revelation of the existence of a Trinity? No. The holy spirit reveals something very different about God and Jesus.

For example, at Pentecost 33 C.E., after holy spirit came upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem, the apostle Peter witnessed to the crowd outside about Jesus. Did he speak about a Trinity? Consider some of his statements, and judge for yourself: “Jesus . . . , a man publicly shown by God to you through powerful works and portents and signs that God did through him in your midst.” “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.” “God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:22, 32, 36) Far from teaching a Trinity, these expressions by the spirit-filled Peter highlight Jesus’ subordination to his Father, that he is an instrument for the fulfillment of God’s will.

Soon after, another faithful Christian spoke about Jesus. Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin to answer accusations. Instead, Stephen turned the situation around, charging that his accusers were like their rebellious ancestors. Finally, the record says: “He, being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand, and he said: ‘Look! I behold the heavens opened up and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.’” (Acts 7:55, 56) Why did the holy spirit reveal Jesus to be simply the “Son of man” standing at God’s right hand and not part of a godhead equal with his Father? Clearly, Stephen had no concept of a Trinity.

When Peter carried the good news about Jesus to Cornelius, there was a further opportunity to reveal the Trinity doctrine. What happened? Peter explained that Jesus is “Lord of all.” But he went on to explain that this lordship came from a higher source. Jesus was “the One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” After Jesus’ resurrection, his Father “granted him [gave him permission] to become manifest” to his followers. And the holy spirit? It does appear in this conversation but not as the third person of a Trinity. Rather, “God anointed [Jesus] with holy spirit and power.” Thus, the holy spirit, far from being a person, is shown to be something impersonal, like the “power” also mentioned in that verse. (Acts 10:36, 38, 40, 42) Check the Bible carefully, and you will find further evidence that the holy spirit is not a personality but an active force that can fill people, impel them, cause them to be aglow, and be poured out upon them.

Finally, the apostle Paul had a fine opportunity to explain the Trinity—if it had been true doctrine—when he was preaching to the Athenians. In his talk, he referred to their altar “To an Unknown God” and said: “What you are unknowingly giving godly devotion to, this I am publishing to you.” Did he publish a Trinity? No. He described the “God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth.” But what of Jesus? “[God] has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17:23, 24, 31) No hint of a Trinity there!

In fact, Paul explained something about God’s purposes that makes it impossible that Jesus and his Father are equal parts of a Trinity. He wrote: “God ‘subjected all things under his [Jesus’] feet.’ But when he says that ‘all things have been subjected,’ it is evident that it is with the exception of the one who subjected all things to him. But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28) Thus, God will still be over all, including Jesus.

Is the Trinity taught in the Bible, then? No. John Robinson was right. It is not in the Bible, nor is it a part of “Christian thought.” Do you view this as important to your worship? You should. Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) If we take our worship of God seriously, it is vital that we know him as he really is, as he has revealed himself to us. Only then can we truly say that we are among the “true worshipers” who “worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.

- Oct. 15, 1993 Watchtower, WTB&TS

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.

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Historians hold that Babylon fell to Cyrus’ army in October 539 B.C.E. Nabonidus was then king, but his son Belshazzar was coruler of Babylon. Some scholars have worked out a list of the Neo-Babylonian kings and the length of their reigns, from the last year of Nabonidus back to Nebuchadnezzar’s father Nabopolassar.

According to that Neo-Babylonian chronology, Crown-prince Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.E. (Jeremiah 46:1, 2) After Nabopolassar died Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to assume the throne. His first regnal year began the following spring (604 B.C.E.).

The Bible reports that the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in his 18th regnal year (19th when accession year is included). (Jeremiah 52:5, 12, 13, 29) Thus if one accepted the above Neo-Babylonian chronology, the desolation of Jerusalem would have been in the year 587/6 B.C.E. But on what is this secular chronology based and how does it compare with the chronology of the Bible?

Some major lines of evidence for this secular chronology are:

Ptolemy’s Canon: Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek astronomer who lived in the second century C.E. His Canon, or list of kings, was connected with a work on astronomy that he produced. Most modern historians accept Ptolemy’s information about the Neo-Babylonian kings and the length of their reigns (though Ptolemy does omit the reign of Labashi-Marduk). Evidently Ptolemy based his historical information on sources dating from the Seleucid period, which began more than 250 years after Cyrus captured Babylon. It thus is not surprising that Ptolemy’s figures agree with those of Berossus, a Babylonian priest of the Seleucid period.

Nabonidus Harran Stele (NABON H 1, B): This contemporary stele, or pillar with an inscription, was discovered in 1956. It mentions the reigns of the Neo-Babylonian kings Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, Neriglissar. The figures given for these three agree with those from Ptolemy’s Canon.

VAT 4956: This is a cuneiform tablet that provides astronomical information datable to 568 B.C.E. It says that the observations were from Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year. This would correspond to the chronology that places his 18th regnal year in 587/6 B.C.E. However, this tablet is admittedly a copy made in the third century B.C.E. so it is possible that its historical information is simply that which was accepted in the Seleucid period.

Business tablets: Thousands of contemporary Neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablets have been found that record simple business transactions, stating the year of the Babylonian king when the transaction occurred. Tablets of this sort have been found for all the years of reign for the known Neo-Babylonian kings in the accepted chronology of the period.

From a secular viewpoint, such lines of evidence might seem to establish the Neo-Babylonian chronology with Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year (and the destruction of Jerusalem) in 587/6 B.C.E. However, no historian can deny the possibility that the present picture of Babylonian history might be misleading or in error. It is known, for example, that ancient priests and kings sometimes altered records for their own purposes. Or, even if the discovered evidence is accurate, it might be misinterpreted by modern scholars or be incomplete so that yet undiscovered material could drastically alter the chronology of the period.

Evidently realizing such facts, Professor Edward F. Campbell, Jr., introduced a chart, which included Neo-Babylonian chronology, with the caution: "It goes without saying that these lists are provisional. The more one studies the intricacies of the chronological problems in the ancient Near East, the less he is inclined to think of any presentation as final. For this reason, the term circa [about] could be used even more liberally than it is."—The Bible and the Ancient Near East (1965 ed.), p. 281.

Christians who believe the Bible have time and again found that its words stand the test of much criticism and have been proved accurate and reliable. They recognize that as the inspired Word of God it can be used as a measuring rod in evaluating secular history and views. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) For instance, though the Bible spoke of Belshazzar as ruler of Babylon, for centuries scholars were confused about him because no secular documents were available as to his existence, identity or position. Finally, however, archaeologists discovered secular records that confirmed the Bible. Yes, the Bible’s internal harmony and the care exercised by its writers, even in matters of chronology, recommends it so strongly to the Christian that he places its authority above that of the ever-changing opinions of secular historians.

But how does the Bible help us to determine when Jerusalem was destroyed, and how does this compare to secular chronology?

The prophet Jeremiah predicted that the Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem and make the city and land a desolation. (Jeremiah 25:8, 9) He added: "And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (Jeremiah 25:11) The 70 years expired when Cyrus the Great, in his first year, released the Jews and they returned to their homeland. (2 Chronicles 36:17-23) We believe that the most direct reading of Jeremiah 25:11 and other texts is that the 70 years would date from when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and left the land of Judah desolate.—Jeremiah 52:12-15, 24-27; 36:29-31.

Yet those who rely primarily on secular information for the chronology of that period realize that if Jerusalem were destroyed in 587/6 B.C.E. certainly it was not 70 years until Babylon was conquered and Cyrus let the Jews return to their homeland. In an attempt to harmonize matters, they claim that Jeremiah’s prophecy began to be fulfilled in 605 B.C.E. Later writers quote Berossus as saying that after the battle of Carchemish Nebuchadnezzar extended Babylonian influence into all Syria-Palestine and, when returning to Babylon (in his accession year, 605 B.C.E.), he took Jewish captives into exile. Thus they figure the 70 years as a period of servitude to Babylon beginning in 605 B.C.E. That would mean that the 70-year period would expire in 535 B.C.E.

But there are a number of major problems with this interpretation:

Though Berossus claims that Nebuchadnezzar took Jewish captives in his accession year, there are no cuneiform documents supporting this. More significantly, Jeremiah 52:28-30 carefully reports that Nebuchadnezzar took Jews captive in his seventh year, his 18th year and his 23rd year, not his accession year. Also, Jewish historian Josephus states that in the year of the battle of Carchemish Nebuchadnezzar conquered all of Syria-Palestine "excepting Judea," thus contradicting Berossus and conflicting with the claim that 70 years of Jewish servitude began in Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year.—Antiquities of the Jews X, vi, 1.

Furthermore, Josephus elsewhere describes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and then says that "all Judea and Jerusalem, and the temple, continued to be a desert for seventy years." (Antiquities of the Jews X, ix, 7) He pointedly states that "our city was desolate during the interval of seventy years, until the days of Cyrus." (Against Apion I, 19) This agrees with 2 Chronicles 36:21 and Daniel 9:2 that the foretold 70 years were 70 years of full desolation for the land. Second-century (C.E.) writer Theophilus of Antioch also shows that the 70 years commenced with the destruction of the temple after Zedekiah had reigned 11 years.—See also 2 Kings 24:18–25:21.

But the Bible itself provides even more telling evidence against the claim that the 70 years began in 605 B.C.E. and that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587/6 B.C.E. As mentioned, if we were to count from 605 B.C.E., the 70 years would reach down to 535 B.C.E. However, the inspired Bible writer Ezra reported that the 70 years ran until "the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia," who issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. (Ezra 1:1-4; 2 Chronicles 36:21-23) Historians accept that Cyrus conquered Babylon in October 539 B.C.E. and that Cyrus’ first regnal year began in the spring of 538 B.C.E. If Cyrus’ decree came late in his first regnal year, the Jews could easily be back in their homeland by the seventh month (Tishri) as Ezra 3:1 says; this would be October 537 B.C.E.

However, there is no reasonable way of stretching Cyrus’ first year from 538 down to 535 B.C.E. Some who have tried to explain away the problem have in a strained manner claimed that in speaking of "the first year of Cyrus" Ezra and Daniel were using some peculiar Jewish viewpoint that differed from the official count of Cyrus’ reign. But that cannot be sustained, for both a non-Jewish governor and a document from the Persian archives agree that the decree occurred in Cyrus’ first year, even as the Bible writers carefully and specifically reported.—Ezra 5:6, 13; 6:1-3; Daniel 1:21; 9:1-3.

Jehovah’s "good word" is bound up with the foretold 70-year period, for God said:

"This is what Jehovah has said, ‘In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.’" (Jeremiah 29:10)

Daniel relied on that word, trusting that the 70 years were not a ‘round number’ but an exact figure that could be counted on. (Daniel 9:1, 2) And that proved to be so.

Similarly, we are willing to be guided primarily by God’s Word rather than by a chronology that is based principally on secular evidence or that disagrees with the Scriptures. It seems evident that the easiest and most direct understanding of the various Biblical statements is that the 70 years began with the complete desolation of Judah after Jerusalem was destroyed. (Jeremiah 25:8-11; 2 Chronicles 36:20-23; Daniel 9:2) Hence, counting back 70 years from when the Jews returned to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., we arrive at 607 B.C.E. for the date when Nebuchadnezzar, in his 18th regnal year, destroyed Jerusalem, removed Zedekiah from the throne and brought to an end the Judean line of kings on a throne in earthly Jerusalem.—Ezekiel 21:19-27

"Let Your Kingdom Come," pp. 186-9
Copyright © 1981 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

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