Monday, March 26, 2012

Another "Close Examination" of Russell's Writings

Some time ago one wrote a claim to have "closely examined" Charles Taze Russell's Studies in the Scriptures; nevertheless, to whatever extent the Studies on the Scriptures were examined, it is lacking in giving the full story behind what was going on in the days of Russell. The title of the blog was "A Close Reading of "Studies in Scripture" by Charles Taze Russell." We examined the claims presented several years ago, but the blog has since been removed. We did not present documentation in our replies, but rather we presented links to where we have documented research related to the claims, which links we are updating at the time of this edit (2/2021). The author did provide a few quotes from Russell; nevertheless, even a "close examination" of the Studies in the Scriptures would fall short of expressing Russell's conclusions between the years 1904 up to 1914, since Russell never updated his Studies to reflect what he had been saying from 1904 to 1914. One should recognize that in 1904 Russell reversed his former conclusion that 1914 would see the end of the time of trouble; in 1904 he came to realize that the end of the Gentile Times was to see the beginning, not the end, of the time of trouble.
The Beginning of the Time of Trouble - Quotes From Russell
1904 and Russell's Changes to the Studies in the Scriptures

It was claimed that Russell started the started the "International Bible Students Association" in 1872 and that this is the "pre-1930 name of the organization now known as Jehovah's Witnesses." We are not sure where this date 1872 is coming from, nor what is thought to have happened in 1872 that would mean that Russell started the "International Bible Students Association". Possibly 1872 is given because some appear to think that in that year Brother Russell began a Bible class in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Actually, the Bible class was stated around 1869 or 1870. There have been some who have falsely reported that the book, "The Three Worlds" was published in 1872. Actually, this book was not published until 1877. It was written, not by Russell, but Nelson Barbour; Russell provided the funds for the book to be published.
Pastor Russell Histories

On the other hand, it is misleading to say that what Russell started is the "the organization now known as Jehovah's Witnesses". Russell started no organization such as the Jehovah's Witnesses; indeed, he preached against calling any "outward organization" the only true church. The Bible Students' movement that developed due to work of Russell, however, did NOT take the name "Jehovah's Witnesses". By 1928, as a whole (represented by the majority), the Bible Students movement rejected Rutherford's new organization, and never became members of his "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization.
For documentation related to above, see:
C. T. Russell: Authority and Organization
Russell and the JWs

The "Backpack" author then presented a quote from Russell from the book "The Time is At Hand". The author calls this quote a prophecy, whereas in reality Russell disclaimed that he was a prophet, or that any of his conclusions regarding his study of the Bible prophecies were to be considered "prophecy."
Did Russell Claim to be a Prophet?
Did Russell Claim Infallibilty?

The quote of the 1911 edition from the bottom of page 76 extending to the top of page 77, however, basically related Russell's view before 1904; although Russell made a few changes in the 1905 and 1915 editions to reflect his new view that he adopted in 1904, he never attempted a total overhaul of the Studies in the Scriptures to reflect that change. A change was made, either in the 1914 or 1915 edition, that brought page 77 into harmony with Russell's change of view that he expressed in the year 1904. At any rate, what he stated was not a prophecy, and he had continuously advised his readers not take what he stated as prophecy, or infallible, etc. He was only presenting "Studies in the Scriptures" that included studies of prophecies in the Scriptures.
Was Charles Taze Russell a Prophet?
Russell and 1914

Despite the gross changes that Rutherford and later JW leaders have made, many Bible Students continue to hold to the basic position that Russell stated in 1904, that 1914 was to see the beginning of the time of trouble, and that the time of trouble would last for some time after 1914; this writer believes we have been in the time of trouble ever since 1914 and may still be in it for many decades, until the nations have learned their lesson. Russell, however, did not believe in the kind of "Armageddon" that the Jehovah's Witnesses preach; indeed, what he preached, that Armageddon was to be a chastisement to peoples of the nations, was almost the opposite of the "join us or you may be eternally destroyed" message that the JWs preach.
The JW Organization, Armageddon, 1914, and Russell

The writer of article seemed to be under the assumption that Russell was expecting Jesus to make a visible return in 1914. Russell never spoke of Jesus as returning in 1914 at all. In 1876 -- about two years after 1874 -- Russell accepted Barbour's conclusion that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874.

Please note, however, Russell stated that he had no interest in the Adventists' dates until 1876. Before that date he had set no time for Christ to return.

Russell died in 1916 still with the belief that Jesus had returned invisibly in 1874; he was never expecting Jesus to return in the flesh in 1914. Thus, the article is a little misleading on the way it presents this matter; this may be due to what some of the JW publications have stated that presents a false history about what Russell taught. Again, many Bible Students, myself included, still believe that Jesus did return in 1874.
JW Claims and Russell's Expectations Regarding 1914

Russell's acceptance, in 1876, that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874, was not when Russell came understand that Christ would return in the spirit, not in his former flesh. Russell, somewhere around 1872, came to believe that Jesus has sacrificed his flesh forever; Russell realized that Jesus did not take back that which he sacrificed, but that he was raised a spirit being. Thus, from around 1872, Russell was not expecting to literally see Jesus return in his former body of flesh, although he did accept that Jesus may eventually make his presence known in ways that could be seen.

The Backpack author stated:
Brother Russell set forth 1914 as the date when all things will be restored and God’s rule  on earth will begin.
As pointed out before, this was Russell's earlier view on this matter, but in 1904, Russell no longer held to his view. Instead of expecting peace and all things to be restored in 1914, Russell stated in 1909 regarding what he was expecting for 1914:
We do not expect universal peace to immediately ensue because Christ is styled the Prince of Peace. On the contrary, to our understanding the collapse of the nations will be through a fierce strife, “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation,” in which “there shall be no peace to him that goeth out, nor to him that cometh in,” because God will set every man’s hand against his neighbor. Our belief is that the warfare between capital and labor, emperors and peoples, will be short, sharp, decisive, and bring untold calamity upon all concerned. If people could only discern it, they would avoid it, but their eyes are holden; they see not, neither do they understand. All the parties to the conflict are plunging into it, each intent on gaining its point, and each oblivious to its own best interests. — “Times of the Gentiles”, The National Labor Tribune, July 11, 1909.
Again, one needs to understand that Russell was not prophesying, nor was he saying "This is what Jehovah (Yahweh) has said to me to say to you", etc. Nor was Russell speaking as a member of any JW governing body. Nor was he demanding that all Christians had to accept his conclusions or else they may be eternally destroyed as the JWs teach. Indeed, many of the Bible Students in Russell's days had different conclusions from Russell on several things. Russell even presented some of those conclusions in the pages of the Watch Tower, even though he himself did not agree with them. This is quite a bit different from the sectarianism of the JW organization and its leadership.

Russell was expecting that there would be a manifestation of God's kingdom being set up in Israel; this did not take place as he was expecting, and thus he admitted that he was wrong in this expectation. Although before 1914 had arrived he stated that there was no scripture that directly states that the ending of the Gentiles Times would see the church changed from flesh to spirit beings, he did believe that there grounds for expecting such; he admitted later that he was wrong in this expectation. Russell never, however, admitted that he was wrong in expecting that the time of trouble was to begin in 1914, and he died in 1916 still holding to that belief.

The Backpack author claims to be closely examining Russell's Studies in the Scriptures, but states something that let's us know that he does not actually know what Russell did teach. A quote is made from "The Time is At Hand":
"the worldly and overcharged ones, the full ones, will not discern either the prophecies or the signs of the times fulfilling them, until the harvest is past and the summer of special favor is ended.”
And then the Backpack author states:
In other words, they won’t know the truth until it’s too late and it will be their own fault.
The way this is stated appears to be assuming that Russell taught the same thing that the JWs preach, that is, if effect, 'you must believe what we say or else it will be too late, because you will be eternally destroyed in Armageddon.' But that is almost the opposite of what Russell taught, since Russell taught that it was simply not yet the "due time" for the worldly and overcharged ones to understand. Russell never said that because they do not at this time understand, that they when they do understand, it will be too late for them to benefit from that understanding. For the overcharged Christian, and worldly-minded Christian, though he be consecrated to God, such are to some extent, still like babes in Christ; Russell was not consigning them to some eternal doom because of their unbelief, for he believed that they would still be raised in the resurrection.  These simply lose out on the call that for which they were called to. After the harvest, Russell believed that these still receive a reward in the kingdom, but they do not receive the reward of joint-heirship with Christ.

Additionally, Russell believed that if they were not consecrated, but tares, false Christians, he still was not consigning to them to some eternal doom, for he believed that they would be blessed by God's kingdom in the age to come, after Satan is no longer around to deceive them. After the harvest, the special favor of attaining the reward of joint-heirship with Jesus will be gone, but then the favor of a different kind than is given now will be given to those unconsecrated who are now 'the worldly and overcharged ones"', that may receive the blessings of the God's kingdom without the blinding influence of Satan, and learn the ways of Jehovah at that time. -- Isaiah 2:2-4.

Nor was he, as the JWs often do, laying down a rule by which we could determine whether one is a member of the joint-heirs are not. Elsewhere, he stated many times that it is not for any of us while yet in the flesh to try to make such a determination.

The Backpack author cites several scriptures that Russell gave, although I am not certain that the Backpack author understands what Russell taught on those scriptures. Below we give links that provide more links to Russell's works regarding the scriptures given:

Psalm 2:9

Daniel 2:34

 Romans 11:25

Revelation 2:27^Revelation^2^27

We do not believe that author the "Backpack" blog was intentionally trying to misrepresent Russell; much of what he stated appears to be similar to what others have stated, and to a great extent we believe was done in ignorance of what Russell actually taught.

Please note that in defending Russell, we are not saying that we agree with all he said or did. We do believe that he had the basic concept of the atonement and many other things correct, although we believe he had to some errors in the details.

Above was originally published 3/26/2012; updated and republished 2/2021.