After Russell died in , leadership passed to the charismatic and volatile Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who expanded the fledgling sect into an organized international movement. Upon Rutherford's death in , the more bureaucratic Nathan Homer Knorr took over. He further developed the Witnesses's publishing enterprise and instituted a series of international and regional assemblies.
Like other Adventist groups, Jehovah's Witnesses emphasize the apocalyptic sections of the Bible, particularly the books of Daniel and Revelations. They worship Jehovah the term comes from the name for God in the Jewish Bible and believe in universal atonement through the crucifiction; in an Arian Christology—the nontrinitarian belief that Christ was an archangel who chose to become a human; and in the imminence of the millennium. In that golden age, they believe, , elected will share in Christ's rule as citizens of a messianic kingdom based in Jerusalem.
According to Russell, the movement had reached , converts by although, because of apostasy [abandoning one's faith], no one could know the absolute number of spiritually baptized saints. The numerical limit of saved converts has necessitated a unique doctrine in which there are two "classes" of Witnesses: the , elected, and others who may escape destruction and achieve limited rewards provided they join the Witnesses during their lifetimes.
Today, this tightly organized movement engages in widespread evangelism. Their principal activities include Bible study, door-to-door witnessing, and the publication and sale of religious literature. In the United States , Jehovah's Witnesses have attracted legal controversy due to their claim of exemption from military service, which is based on their commitment to fight in no battle except Armageddon; their proselytizing activities; their rejection of blood transfusions; and their refusal to pledge allegiance to the American flag Witnesses pledge obedience to Jehovah alone.
Popular animosity notwithstanding, the courts have consistently affirmed their right to dissent. Despite increasing defections, the Jehovah's Witnesses estimate their membership to be nearly one million in the United States and approximately six million worldwide, with international membership concentrated in Latin America and Africa. Conkin, Paul K. American Originals: Homemade Varieties of Christianity.
Harrison, Barbara Grizzuti. New York : Simon and Schuster, Newton, Merlin Owen. Supreme Court, — Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, Peters, Shawn Calvin. Judging Jehovah's Witnesses. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. September 22, Retrieved September 22, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
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A popular millenarian Christian religious group that grew out of the ministry of Pastor Charles Taze Russell in the late nineteenth century. It is also known by reference to its corporate entity, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Its members have become a common sight in many countries as they go from door to door preaching their message and distributing their literature, especially the Watchtower magazine. Originally known as Bible Students, the group adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses in The Witnesses have, like many Christian churches, shown a marked aversion to Spiritualism and other occult phenomena.
Very early in the group's history Russell attacked Spiritualism which he called Spiritism , and periodically over the years the organization has published booklets and numerous articles warning members to eschew any association with the occult.
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The Witnesses' primary biblical doctrinal handbook, Make Sure of All Things, Hold Fast to What Is Fine , includes an assemblage of texts believed to refute Spiritualism as well as a separate set dealing with reincarnation. Bergman, Jerry. New York : Garland Publishing, Can the Living Talk with the Dead? A Clear Explanation of Spiritism.
Brooklyn, N. Russell, Charles Taze. What Say the Scriptures about Spiritism? Watchtower: Official Site of the Jehovah's Witnesses. March 27, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian group originating in the United States at the end of the 19th cent.
The Witnesses believe that the event has already commenced; they also believe the battle of Armageddon is imminent and that it will be followed by a millennial period when repentant sinners will have a second chance for salvation. The Witnesses base their teaching on the Bible.
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World
They have no churches but meet in buildings that are always named Kingdom Hall. There are no official ministers because all Jehovah's Witnesses are considered ministers of the gospel. Their views are circulated in the Watchtower, Awake!
Since their beginning, the Witnesses have been the subject of harassment virtually everywhere that they have been active. Regarding governments as the work of Satan, the Witnesses refuse to bear arms in war or participate in the affairs of government. Their refusal to salute the flag brought about a controversy that resulted in a decision in their favor by the U. Supreme Court in The Witnesses insist upon a rigid moral code and refuse blood transfusions. Before , Jehovah's Witnesses were called Russellites; abroad the movement is usually known as the International Bible Students Association.
Active in almost every country in the world, the group has more than 1 million members in the United States. See studies by W. Whalen , W. Stevenson , J. Bergman , and M. Penton Jehovah 's witnesses.
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An exclusive millennialist sect developed out of Charles Russell's International Bible Students Association founded in Pittsburgh , , now world-wide. Date setting and prophecy have lessened, but they refuse any association with other denominations and regard civil authorities and secular governments as allies of Satan. Baptized by immersion, witnesses insist on high moral probity, oppose blood transfusions on scriptural grounds, write and publish prolifically chief periodicals: The Watchtower and Awake!
Jehovah 's Witnesses. A sect derived from Charles Taze Russell — , emphasizing biblical literalism and the imminent coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus is not God but the son of God, the first of his creations. Jehovah's Witnesses engage in persistent door-to-door proselytizing, endeavouring to sell The Watchtower , in which the movement's interpretation of world events is contained. The sect believes in the imminent end of the world for all except its own members. They hold to the theory of a theocratic kingdom, membership of which cannot be reconciled with allegiance to any country.
They deny most of the fundamental Christian doctrines. The sect is active worldwide.
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Like other sectarian Protestant groups founded in the later nineteenth century, they claim to restore Christianity to its original doctrines and practices. The organization adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses in to emphasize the belief that the most accurate translation of the personal name of God in the Hebrew Scriptures is "Jehovah" Ps.
They fulfill the responsibility to witness by distributing literature, leading Bible studies, attending congregational meetings, and maintaining separation from secular culture. In matters of faith and practice, Jehovah's Witnesses submit to the theocratic authority of the Watchtower Society. Central to Watchtower teaching is the belief that Jesus Christ will soon rule as king over the earth from heaven in fulfillment of prophecies. In the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon, Christ will destroy all human governments and establish the millennial kingdom of God. The vision of a perfect world order, in which people of all ethnic origins live in peace and justice in an earth restored to pristine condition, attracts followers across the globe.
In , Jehovah's Witnesses reported an active membership of over six million people in countries. Jehovah's Witnesses trace the origin of their movement to Charles Taze Russell — , who was raised in the Presbyterian tradition but became dissatisfied with Calvinist doctrines of original sin , everlasting punishment of unbelievers, and predestination. He was attracted to the Adventist teaching that Christ had returned in as an invisible presence, inaugurating a forty-year period of gathering true Christians. In he organized his readers, who met in small congregations of Bible students, into the Zion Watch Tower and Tract Society, and he began holding annual conventions in Russell traveled extensively, giving lectures on Bible prophecy and holding audiences spellbound with his dramatic oratory and charismatic presence.
His followers, known popularly as "Russellites," gave him the honorary title of "Pastor. Russell wrote prolifically, including a six-volume series of books called Millennial Dawn — In a pattern that continued into the twenty-first century, his students, called "publishers," distributed literature door-to-door, sometimes using phonographs and dioramas. Russell taught that the "presence" of Christ would begin to dawn with the end of Gentile domination over Israel prophesied in Lk. In Russell established operations in Brooklyn, New York , in a complex of buildings called Bethel, where Jehovah's Witnesses still serve as volunteers.
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Russell's personal life was marked by controversies. He based some of his biblical interpretations on analyses of the Great Pyramid, he was committed to Zionism as a necessary condition for the fulfillment of prophecy, and he was accused of fraud in a commercial venture. His contentious divorce from Maria Ackley Russell arose from conflicts over her authority in the organization, resulting in her removal as associate editor of the Watch Tower the original two-word spelling of the organization's journal.
While Watchtower historians claim she was motivated by "her own desire for personal prominence" Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom , , p. The specific problem, according to the Watchtower Society, was that Maria "sought to secure for herself a stronger voice in directing what would appear in the Watch Tower " and resisted the editorial policy that required Charles's approval of the entire contents of every issue Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom , , p.
Maria and Charles separated in In Maria published a tract with allegations of immoral conduct by Charles and initiated divorce proceedings, which were completed in Witnesses teach that a wife should respect and obey her husband as head of the family, whether he is a Christian or not Eph. In that light, Maria serves for Jehovah's Witnesses as a cautionary example of a rebellious wife and a woman exceeding her authority as prescribed in the Bible. According to Watchtower Society interpretations of the New Testament texts, women are excluded from serving as overseers elders and ministerial servants deacons in Kingdom Halls, and from holding offices in the Watchtower Society.
Russell's death created a crisis of leadership that was resolved by the election of Joseph Franklin Rutherford — as president of the Watch Tower Society. Because Rutherford had trained as a legal apprentice and served occasionally on the circuit court, he was known as "Judge. His forceful advocacy of refusal of military service led to his imprisonment in , along with seven other directors of the Watch Tower Society, under the Sedition Act.
They won release on appeal, but many members suffered harassment for their antigovernment teachings.
Accusations of lack of patriotism, as well as disappointment in the failure of the kingdom to arrive after the end of the war, discouraged many. Rutherford responded by strengthening the efficiency and discipline of the organization. He introduced a monthly "service sheet" to record in detail the activities of members, increased the construction of Kingdom Halls, and began publishing a new monthly magazine called The Golden Age later, Awake! Rutherford wrote extensively, revising many of Russell's views.
He identified "Babylon the Great" of Revelation 17 with the League of Nations in alliance with the Roman Catholic Church and predicted the return of biblical patriarchs, for whom he built a mansion in San Diego. In Rutherford declared that membership of the "anointed class" of , Witnesses called to reign with Christ in heaven Rv. Between the world wars Rutherford led Jehovah's Witnesses through a series of court battles over freedom of speech and press, right of assembly, and distribution of literature.
His death from colon cancer in began the transition from charismatic to institutional authority.