- Russell, Charles Taze
- (185 2-1916)founder of the Jehovah's WitnessesCharles Taze Russell was born on February 15, 1852, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Raised in the Congregational Church, he withdrew in 1869 when his minister could not resolve his religious doubts. In 1876, after reading a magazine published by Adventist Nelson Barbour (1822-1906), he became convinced that the end of the age was imminent and that humanity was then in a transition period called the harvest time. He himself decided that the end of the Gentile times would come in 1914. The following year he paid to publish Barbour's book, Three Worlds and the Plan of Redemption, which lays out a chronology of the end-time, and released his own booklet, The Object and Manner of the Lord's Return.In 1878, Russell discovered what he believed was a basic flaw in his thinking. He decided that the Greek word parousia, commonly translated as coming, really means presence. He concluded that Christ had become present in 1874. This and other issues led to his break with Barbour and the other Adventists, and in 1879 he published the first issue of Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. Two years later, he founded the Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society as a corporate home for his ministry, which consisted largely of writing, publishing, and distributing his books. The writings present his restatement of traditional Christian teachings, especially his view of Christian history and the future. The first book of his six-volume magnum opus, the Millennial Dawn series, appeared in 1886.Russell slowly built support. In 1900, a branch office was established in London to develop European distribution of the literature. In 1908, he moved his headquarters from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn, New York. By then he was a well-known, if controversial, Bible teacher, with a weekly newspaper column in hundreds of newspapers around the world. His writings were being translated into an increasing number of languages.In 1914, when World War I broke out, many believed it signaled the end of Gentile times as Russell had predicted. Many were disappointed when the war ended without the dramatic changes they expected. After Russell's death on October 31, 1916, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942) won a power struggle for control. He eventually reorganized the movement and in 1931 renamed it Jehovah's Witnesses.Especially among conservative Protestants, Russell is criticized for his many departures from traditional Christian and Protestant affirmations including the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Russell accepted the view of Jesus Christ as a divine being less exalted than God, originally propounded by the fourth-century heretic Arius (c. 250-c. 336). Russell helped popularize the notion that those who did not accept Christ would be destroyed, rather than remaining alive in hell as many Protestants believe.Further reading:■ Jerry Bergman, Jehovah's Witnesses and Kindred Groups: A Historical Compendium and Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1884)■ David Horowitz, Pastor Charles Taze Russell: An Early American Christian Zionist (New York: Philosophical Library, 1986)■ M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, 2nd ed. (Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1997)■ Charles Taze Russell, The Divine Plan of the Ages. Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 1 (1886; reprint, Rutherford, N.J.: Dawn Bible Students Association, n.d.); , Pastor Russell's Sermons. A Choice Collection of His Most Important Discourses on All Phases of Christian Doctrine and Practice (Brooklyn, N.Y.: International Bible Students Association, 1917).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.