One has responded to our finding that Russell was not the founder of the JWs, and several assertions have been made that are misleading, to say the least.
The claim is evidently that since Russell was the principal founder of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and since the JWs are now using that legal entity as their "legal instrument", that this is supposed to mean that Charles Taze Russell was actually the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization. Of course, in reality, the legal instrument as Russell envisioned it, was not designed to be the legal instrument of an organization such as the "Jehovah's Witnesses." As he designed the Society, it was a legal entity for coordinating communication among the Bible Students and as a service organization.
When Russell died, Rutherford through deceit and legal trickery, gained control of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and almost immediately began to use that legal entity as a means of slowly producing his JW organization. As a result many of the Bible Students rejected Rutherford's new ideas, and thus indirectly stopped supporting the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. At first, the vast majority of the earlier Bible Students did not fully realize what was happening, or simply believed that the matter would correct itself in time. Thus, as reported, on the jwfaq.blogspot.com site, about 20% of the Bible Students stopped supporting Rutherford in 1917. This does not mean, as the Watch Tower leaders later stated, that they left "Jehovah's organization". That which the JWs mistakenly call "Jehovah's organization" did not exist in 1917, although Rutherford had already begun to implement ideas as a basis for such an organization. What is not stated, however, is that in the years that followed, many more of the Bible Students either voluntarily stopped supporting Rutherford, or else they found themselves disfellowshiped by Rutherford's representatives for not accepting Rutherford's new teachings. Thus, according to the Watchtower's own published statements, more than seventy-five percent of the earlier Bible Students had stopped supporting the Society. Nevertheless, there were thousands who had become associated with the Watch Tower after 1914, who evidently were never fully appreciative of the scriptural testimony concerning the local church organization, nor even in the central teaching of the "ransom for all." These, along with some of the earlier Bible Students, became the followers of Rutherford, and could not actually be called "Russell's followers" as is done on one of the sites.
Russell, however, was a non-sectarian, and he was not the founder of any religion; he did not believe in such an organization as Rutherford later formed after Russell died. Rutherford, in fact, rejected the core teachings of Russell, and replaced them with his own teachings. Rutherford, not Russell, was the one who set up an authoritative organization. Rutherford evidently realized that the core teaching of the "ransom for all" would not be an effective doctrine to sustain an organization such as he envisioned, and thus he dropped that teaching to make it a ransom for some, but not all, and he adopted a teaching of eternal destruction for almost all who disagreed with him, something Russell never thought to do. Russell was certainly not the founder of that which he did not believe in.
The fact that Russell and his associates started the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society does not mean that Russell was responsible for what happened afterwards, anymore than Jesus, in instituting his church can be held responsible for others who came after to him who sought to lord it over the church, and sought to kill others who disagreed with them. That organization came into being after Russell died. At the protest of thousands of Bible Students all over the world, Rutherford, after Russell's death, proceeded to form his organization, and began to teach almost the opposite of what Russell taught concerning the atonement. Over the next 15 years, most of the earlier Bible Students no longer supported Rutheford's new organization, so that the Bible Students movement, as a whole, continued to exist separate from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
The name of the Bible Students movement itself was not changed in 1931 to "Jehovah's Witnesses", but Rutherford had the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" adopted by his organization in order to distinguish his organization from the Bible Students who continued their own work separate from the WTB&TS. This is admitted in the resolution that was printed in The Watchtower, September 15, 1931, page 279, in that the name of "Jehovah's Witnesses" was being adopted because "shortly following the death of Charles T. Russell a division arose between those associated with him in such work, resulting in a number of such withdrawing from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and who have since refused to cooperate with said Society and its work and who decline to concur in the truth as published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in The Watch Tower and the other recent publications of the said above-named corporations, end have opposed and do now oppose the work of said Society in declaring the present message of God’s kingdom and the day of the vengeance of our God against all parts of Satan’s organization; and said opposing ones have formed themselves into divers and numerous companies and have taken and now bear such names as, to wit, 'Bible Students, ' 'Associated Bible Students,' 'Russellites teaching the truth as expounded by Pastor Russell,' 'Stand-Fasters,' and like names, all of which tends to cause confusion and misunderstanding." Although I doubt that most 'Bible Students' today would agree that the statement is totally accurate, it does point out that the "Bible Students" were separate from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and that this is the reason for the "new name."
The name "International Bible Students Association" is the name of a legal entity in England; that name was never changed, and the legal entity still has that name to this day. The Bible Students movement itself continues to this day separate from the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. Brother Russell did use the term "International Bible Students" as well as "International Bible Students Association" to describe the Bible Students movement. Thus, the term was used with two different meanings, one as referring to the legal entity by that name, and the other regarding the Bible Students movement as a whole. However, he also spoke of the conference in Jerusalem that is spoken of in Acts 2:16-18 as the first I.B.S.A. convention.
|From the Book, Photo Drama of Creation|
Today, however, Bible Students rarely use "International Bible Students Association" to describe themselves, evidently because many would confuse such an expression with the legal entity that still bears that name. The phrase "International Bible Students", however, is used in reference to an international convention, not as a "name" for the movement, but simply because the convention of Bible Students is international in scope. Some Bible Students have recently put a site called "International Bible Students Association", but this is obviously not the legal entity in London that is of the same name.
This above was originally published in Aprit of 2009; it has been edited several times since. Republished in September of 2014.
Links to other pages regarding Russell and the founder of the JWs.
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The following numbers represent links to sites that contain some kind of false representation that Russell was the "founder" of the Jehovah's Witnesses. We do not necessarily agree with anything that appears those sites; indeed, many of these sites are filled with false misrepresentations of Russell and/or of what Russell taught and believed. See the left sidebar for pages and categories for research concerning the various false accusations that are often presented concerning Charles Taze Russell.