Appendix B: A Synopsis of the History of Jehovah's Witnesses
In the 1870ís a group of people began to meet to study the Bible in Pennsylvania. They called themselves Bible Students. Charles Taze Russell began to lead the group, though he had no formal training as a minister, and did not know Hebrew or Greek. In 1879 Russell published the first "Watchtower and Herald of Christís Kingdom." This became a monthly issue, and attracted a fair following. Soon he authored a series of six books entitled "Studies in the Scriptures."
Russell taught that Satan was currently blinding the eyes of non-believers to the truth, and that God would not judge a blind man for not being able to see. So, God would bring all people into a thousand-year judgement day where they would be judged without reference to what they had done before. Everyone who had ever died would be resurrected to share in this thousand year judgement day.
Russell also thought he had discovered the details of Godís timetable, and could predict when the judgement day would begin: 1914. When 1914 came and went, he adjusted his teaching to say that the "second coming" did, in fact, occur in 1914, but that it was an invisible "presence".
Russell died in 1916 and although he requested that a board of directors take over his work, the position was usurped by Franklin Rutherford, a lawyer who styled himself a "judge". Rutherford soon issued a seventh volume of "Studies in the Scriptures." In this book, "The Finished Mystery," he flatly stated that God intended to destroy all other religions. Many were shocked at this about-face from what Russell had taught, and left. Splinter groups such as the "Dawnites" and "Laymenís Home Missionary Movement" formed.
Rutherford began a hate campaign against governments and other religions (particularly the Catholic faith which he attacked with bitter sarcasm). He gave greater emphasis to proselytizing, and had his members play phonograph recordings of himself door-to-door. In 1918 he was imprisoned for sedition due to what he had written in "The Finished Mystery" about the government. Later he saw in this imprisonment the fulfillment of a scene in Revelation where "two witnesses" are killed by the wild beast and resurrected three and a half days later.
In 1931 Rutherford renamed the Bible Students "Jehovahís Witnesses" (Isaiah 43:10).
In 1935 Rutherford realized that membership in his organization was swelling, and no longer accorded well with the idea that only 144,000 were chosen to go to heaven. He then came up with the interpretation of the "Great Crowd" of Revelation being an unnumbered earthly class. He called these the "other sheep" and the "Great Crowd." Much of his writing from that time forward was concerned with pointing out these two classes throughout the Bible.
Rutherford defined most of what Jehovahís Witnesses believe to this day. He forbade blood transfusions, the observance of Christmas, and developed reporting of time and disfellowshipping.
Rutherford is reputed to have been an alcoholic with an aggressive personality. He purchased a mansion in San Diego to hold in trust for King David (who would presumably take up residence after being resurrected). At the time, Rutherford believed the "ancient worthies" would be resurrected prior to the mass of mankind following Armageddon. In the meantime, Rutherford lived there himself. After his death the mansion was sold.
In 1942 Rutherford died. Nathan Knorr took over as president. During his administration the New World Translation of the Bible was produced (mostly by Frederick Franz). The feeling of hatred towards other religions was toned down somewhat, but disfellowshippings became rampant. When Knorr died, Franz took over.
Franzís nephew, Raymond Franz, who had served on the writing committee, left the Witnesses over a doctrinal dispute. Having conducted research for the book Aid to Bible Understanding, Raymond discovered that a key to the Witness chronology (the date of the destruction of Jerusalem) was incorrect, and threw all Witness dates out of kilter. When he brought this up to the rest of the governing body, they did nothing to change their theology in accordance with the facts.