It is being claimed that the religious group now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses was started by Charles Taze Russell

There are lots of people who think the Jehovah’s Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell, but that is not true.

It is a pity that the religious organisation of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society states that it would be founded by that preacher who was at the roots of the American branch of Bible Students. Their and others their statement that Charles Taze Russell would have founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses is false because Charles Taze Russell did not believe in such a sectarian authoritarian organisation as the Jehovah”s Witnesses. He actively preached against such authoritarian sectarianism.

Often we find authors of articles who write

The JW of Charles Taze Russell following multitude …. {Jesus: The Word Of God (What does it betoken?) Part 1}

as if the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) would have been created by Charles Taze Russell.

In a similar way, it is regularly falsely claimed that the Bible Students evolved from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were allegedly founded by Charles Taze Russell. Already long before Mr. Russell was born, all over the world one could find different Bible Students, mostly in Europe. Many of those researchers of the Bible were even prosecuted or had to live in isolation or hiding, because of the danger of prosecution because their teaching was not conformed with the Trinitarian Christians. Those Bible Students their teachings did not correspond to the Trinitarian Christians’ doctrines and were mostly very small groups dispersed all over Europe.

MC cevenes.jpg
Location in the Massif Central

In the 16° Century there were bigger Bible Students groups living in the regions of what is now France and Belgium. The cultural region and range of mountains in south-central France, the Cévennes, on the south-east edge of the Massif Central, covering parts of the départements of Ardèche, Gard, Hérault and Lozère, was a very good region to go in hiding. (In 2016 the Languedoc-Roussillon région was joined with the région of Midi-Pyrénées to form the new administrative entity of Occitanie.) Some of the groups residing around Mons (Bergen) and Antwerp (Antwerpen), in what is now Belgium, worked on Bible translations which were printed in secret and smuggled to other countries.

Map of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, with insets of Amsterdam and Brussels (c. 1900), from the 10th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.
Map of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, with insets of Amsterdam and Brussels (c. 1900), from the 10th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. – Map of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

When the coastal region of northwestern Europe, the Low Countries and  Netherlands were split up and Belgium declared independence, for example, the Belgian Bible Students came into being in 1830.

In America it was European Bible Students who as pioneers went preaching and by their work Russell came in contact with the English Bible Student John Thomas and other Thomasites (later Christadelphians).

Charles Taze Russell

Charles Taze Russell, born in 1852, had left both Presbyterianism and Congregationalism because he could not reconcile the idea of an eternal hell with God’s mercy. What he heard from John Thomas who did not regard hell as a place of damnation and torture did address him. William Miller had introduced him to the idea that the Bible could be used to predict God’s plan of salvation, especially as the plan related to the ‘end of the world’, (better) the ‘latter days‘ or ‘end times‘.
With the help of tutors, Russell managed to master the use of Hebrew and Greek dictionaries to study the Bible, and he formed his first Bible classes in 1872.

Russell, who dedicated his life and his fortune to preaching Christ’s millennial reign, started a Bible journal in 1879 he later called The Watch Tower. One of the main reasons for starting the Watch Tower magazine was to combat the false teaching of the annihilation of “unsaved people.” (While many Adventists were teaching the annihilation of unsaved people, Russell rejected that teaching, and proclaimed the “ransom for all” saves everyone who is dying in Adam. — John 12:47,48; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 1 Timothy 2:5,6.)

In 1884 Russell founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, which became an extensive publishing business. That original legal entity was virtually destroyed within a few months after Russell died. Joseph Franklin Rutherford, through deceit, had a new by-laws passed, and through legal trickery gained control of the legal entity, and used the legal entity to create a new organisation, which he later named “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869–1942), also known as Judge Rutherford, the second president of the incorporated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. He is the man behind the schism of Bible Students of America and the organization and doctrinal development of Jehovah’s Witnesses,

The JW organisation slowly formed by Joseph Rutherford after Russell died; the Bible Student movement as a whole did not become part of that organisation. Indeed, the American Bible Students movement that had been associated with Russell, as a whole (represented by the majority), rejected Rutherford’s new organisation, and continued their activities without Rutherford or his new organisation. Therefore, it is misleading to say that Russell started what is now the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Russell also taught a “Good News” that is almost the opposite of that Rutherford introduced, and which still serves as a basis for Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “Good News” to this day. When Rutherford introduced his new “good news”, he several times misrepresented what Russell taught on the “ransom for all,” setting up one strawman argument after another, and then knocking down the strawman. Many of these “strawman” arguments still appear in the Watchtower publications to this day.

By 1928, the majority of the American Bible Students had rejected Rutherford’s new organisation and refused to accept that organisation; in effect, they were never members of such an organisation as Rutherford created. It is because the Bible Students as a whole, represented by the majority, had rejected his new organisation, that Rutherford named his new organisation “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

Nevertheless, since Russell really did preach “glad tiding of great joy for all the people,” as opposed to the bad tiding of eternal destruction for all people who reject the JW organisation, again it would be misleading to say that Russell started such sectarianism.

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Preceding

Non-religious opposing religious people

From those preaching the Gospel and Baptism in Jesus name

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Additional reading

  1. Dave Norris and his writings on the Belgian Bible Students
  2. Charles Taze Russell and what he started
  3. Around C.T.Russell
  4. Focus on Charles Taze Russell
  5. Russell and his beliefs
  6. Russell himself never claimed to be a prophet.
  7. Charles Taze Russell never claimed to have found a new religion, or a new church.
  8. Was Russell and Rutherford “Illuminati”?
  9. Biblestudents & T.C.Russell (Our world)Biblestudents & T.C.Russell (Some view on the world)
  10. Biblestudents and Russelism
  11. Jesse Hemery and the The Goshen Fellowship
  12. About the Bible Students
  13. Bible Societies
  14. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) main groups that broke away
  15. Confrontation by people telling lies to force others to avoid the targetted groups
  16. Jehovah’s Witnesses Circuit Assembly and a Pillar to freedom
  17. Looking at older articles series over Russell on the previous Bible-scholar Association
  18. Concerning some writers of our series on prophecy #1 Dr. John Thomas
  19. Misunderstandings concerning C.T. Russell
  20. To remove the whitewash of the Jehovah Witnesses as being the only true Bible Students and Bible Researchers

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Related

  1. Ep. 4 – Jehovah’s Witnesses
  2. Watchtower: A Look At Jehovah’s Witnesses
  3. False Prophets Prophesying Falsely
  4. Hostile Witnesses: How The Enemies Of The Church Prove Christianity

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