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Charles Taze Russell

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Title: Charles Taze Russell  
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Subject: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Jehovah's Witnesses, Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses, Bible Student movement, Studies in the Scriptures
Collection: 1852 Births, 1916 Deaths, American Christian Pacifists, American Christian Religious Leaders, American Christian Zionists, American Jehovah's Witnesses, American People of Scottish Descent, Apocalypticists, Bible Student Movement, Former Congregationalists, Former Presbyterians, Founders of New Religious Movements, Haberdashers, Premillennialism, Pyramidology, Religious Leaders from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Watch Tower Society Presidents
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Charles Taze Russell

Charles Taze Russell
Russell in 1911.
Born (1852-02-16)February 16, 1852
Allegheny, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 31, 1916(1916-10-31) (aged 64)
Pampa, Texas, U.S.
Spouse(s) Maria Frances Ackley
Parent(s) Joseph Lytel Russell
Ann Eliza Birney
A simplified chart of historical developments of major groups within Bible Students

Charles Taze Russell (February 16, 1852 – October 31, 1916), or Pastor Russell, was an American prominent early 20th century Christian restorationist minister from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, and founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement,[1][2] from which Jehovah's Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged after his death.

Beginning in July 1879 he began publishing a monthly religious journal, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. The journal is now published by Jehovah's Witnesses on a semi-monthly basis under the name, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom. In 1881 he co-founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society with William Henry Conley as president and in 1884 the corporation was officially registered, with Russell as president. Russell wrote many articles, books, tracts, pamphlets and sermons, totaling approximately 50,000 printed pages. From 1886 to 1904, he published a six-volume Bible study series originally entitled Millennial Dawn, later renamed Studies in the Scriptures, nearly 20 million copies of which were printed and distributed around the world in several languages during his lifetime.[3] (A seventh volume was commissioned by his successor as society president, Joseph Rutherford, and published in 1917.) The Watch Tower Society ceased publication of Russell's writings in 1927,[4] though his books are still published by several independent groups.

Russell was a charismatic figure, but claimed no special revelation or vision for his teachings and no special authority on his own behalf.[5] He stated that he did not seek to found a new denomination, but instead intended merely to gather together those who were seeking the truth of God's Word "during this harvest time".[6][7][8] He wrote that the "clear unfolding of truth" within his teachings was due to "the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out."[9] He viewed himself—and all other Christians anointed with the Holy Spirit—as "God's mouthpiece" and an ambassador of Christ.[9] Later in his career he accepted without protest that many Bible Students viewed him as the "faithful and wise servant" of Matthew 24:45,[10] and was described by the Watch Tower after his death as having been made "ruler of all the Lord's goods".[10]

After Russell's death, a crisis arose surrounding Rutherford's leadership of the society, culminating in a movement-wide schism. As many as three-quarters of the approximately 50,000[11] Bible Students who had been associating in 1917 had left by 1931, resulting in the formation of several groups that retained variations on the name Bible Students. Those who maintained fellowship with the Watch Tower Society adopted the name Jehovah's witnesses in 1931, while those who severed ties with the Society formed their own groups including the Pastoral Bible Institute in 1918, the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement in 1919, and the Dawn Bible Students Association in 1929.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage 2
  • Ministry 3
    • Beginnings 3.1
    • Split with Barbour 3.2
    • Watch Tower Society 3.3
    • Publications 3.4
      • Studies in the Scriptures 3.4.1
      • Photo Drama of Creation 3.4.2
  • Theology and teachings 4
  • Death 5
  • Legacy 6
  • Controversies 7
    • Leadership style 7.1
    • Allegation of immoral conduct 7.2
    • 'Miracle Wheat' 7.3
    • Qualifications 7.4
    • Use of Masonic symbolism 7.5
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Charles Taze Russell was born to Scotch-Irish parents,[12] immigrant Joseph Lytel Russell (d. December 17, 1897) and Ann Eliza Birney (d. January 25, 1861), on February 16, 1852 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Russell was the second of five children, and was one of only two to survive into adulthood. His mother died when he was 9 years old.[13]

The Russells lived in Philadelphia, as well as Allegheny, before moving to Pittsburgh, where they became members of the Presbyterian Church. In his early teens, Charles' father made him partner of his Pittsburgh haberdashery store. By age twelve, Russell was writing business contracts for customers and given charge of some of his father's other clothing stores.[14] At age thirteen, Russell left the Presbyterian Church to join the Congregational Church. In his youth he was known to chalk Bible verses on fence boards and city sidewalks to draw attention to the punishment of hell awaiting the unfaithful in an attempt to convert unbelievers.[15]

At age sixteen, a discussion with a childhood friend on faults perceived in Christianity (such as contradictions in creeds, along with medieval traditions) led Russell to question his faith. He then investigated various other religions, but concluded that they did not provide the answers he was seeking.[16] In 1870, at age eighteen, he attended a presentation by Adventist minister Jonas Wendell. During his presentation Wendell outlined his belief that 1873 or 1874 would be the date for Christ's Second Coming. He later stated that although he did not entirely agree with the arguments presented by Wendell, the presentation was sufficient to inspire within him a renewed zeal and re-establish his belief that the Bible is the word of God.[17]


On March 13, 1879, Russell married Maria Frances Ackley (; 1850–1938) after a few months' acquaintance.[18] The couple separated in 1897. Russell blamed the marriage breakup on disagreements over Maria Russell's insistence for a greater editorial role in Zion's Watch Tower magazine,[19] though a later court judgment noted that he had labelled the marriage "a mistake" three years before the dispute over her editorial ambitions had arisen.[20] Maria Russell filed a suit for legal separation in the Court of Common Pleas at Pittsburgh in June 1903 and three years later filed for divorce under the claim of mental cruelty.[21] She was granted a divorce from bed and board, with alimony, in 1908.[22] Maria Russell died at the age of 88 in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 12, 1938 from complications related to Hodgkin's disease.[23]



About 1870, Russell and his father established a group with a number of acquaintances to undertake an analytical study of the Bible and the origins of Christian doctrine, creed, and tradition. The group, strongly influenced by the writings of

Preceded by
William Henry Conley
President of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society
December 15, 1884–October 31, 1916
Succeeded by
Joseph F. Rutherford
  • Official website of Jehovah's Witnesses
  • Pastor Russell website
  • Faith on the March, A. H. Macmillan, (1957)
  • obituary issueZion's Watch TowerBiography of Charles Taze Russell from , December 1, 1916
  • International Bible Students Souvenir Convention Report for 1916, "Pastor Russell Passes Through the Gates of Glory", Chicago, 1917
  • Laodicean Messenger (1923) Chicago: The Bible Students Book Store; Memoirs of the Life of Charles Taze Russell.
  • Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence subscribers 1879 Pittsburgh, Pa; Herald of the MorningMessage to , July 1, 1879, Supplement
  • , Watch Tower Bible and Tract SocietyThe Messenger of Laodicea, 1919
  • Pyramid at Russell's Grave
  • North Side: People: Charles Taze Russell – information page at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s website.
  • CT Russell Database – Database of Russell's writings
  • Russell's Last Will & Testament
  • OnlineStudies in the Scriptures
  • Studies in the Scriptures from
  • St. Paul Enterprise Nov 7, 14, 21 and 28, 1916 articles "Regarding the Death and Burial of, and Memorial Services for, Pastor Russell"
  • Chapter II. Organizational Beginnings: (1873–1912) Charles Taze Russell from Barbara G. Harrison's Visions of Glory: A History and a Memory of Jehovah’s Witnesses, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1978. See also chapters IV and VI.
  • Works of Charles Taze Russell and their effect upon Religion in America 1974 Bob Chastain, Master's Thesis

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^ Parkinson, James The Bible Student Movement in the Days of CT Russell, 1975
  3. ^
  4. ^ WTB&TS, "God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached" (1973) page 347
  5. ^
  6. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, Sept. 15, 1895, pg 216: "Beware of "organization." It is wholly unnecessary. The Bible rules will be the only rules you will need. Do not seek to bind others' consciences, and do not permit others to bind yours."
  7. ^ Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 4 The Battle of Armageddon, 1897, pp 157–159
  8. ^ Daschke, Dereck and W. Michael Ashcraft, eds. New Religious Movements. New York: New York UP, 2005. Print.
  9. ^ a b Zion's Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, p. 229.
  10. ^ a b Watch Tower, March 1, 1923, pages 68 and 71.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p. 17
  14. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993, p. 42
  15. ^ Overland Monthly February 1917 pg 129: "Up to the age of fifteen ... his favorite teacher was Spurgeon, because, as he said, "he peppered it hot," his claim being that if one believed a thing he should tell it with all his might. So at the age of fifteen he used to go about the city of Pittsburg on Saturday evenings with a piece of chalk writing on the fence boards and telling the people not to fail to attend church on Sunday, so that they might escape the terrible hell in which he so firmly believed."
  16. ^ The Bible Student Movement in the Days of CT Russell, 1975, p. A–1
  17. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, June 1, 1916 p. 170: "Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, it was sufficient, under God, to reestablish my wavering faith in the Divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the Apostles and the Prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for the leading; for although Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth."
  18. ^ Pittsburgh Gazette, March 14, 1879
  19. ^
  20. ^ Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Visions of Glory - A History and Memory of Jehovah's Witnesses, Simon & Schuster, 1978, chapter 2.
  21. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada: Champions of Freedom of Speech and Worship by M. James Penton, Macmillan of Canada, 1976, page 313, "Mrs. Russell obtained her "divorce", or separation, on grounds of mental cruelty"
  22. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, p. 642
  23. ^ St. Petersburg Times, March 14, 1938.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, June 1, 1916 pp. 170–175
  28. ^ Herald of the Morning, July 1878 p.5
  29. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, p. 230
  30. ^ The Bible Student Movement in the Days of CT Russell, 1975, pp A–2
  31. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, pp. 18–19
  32. ^ Message to Herald of the Morning subscribers, Zion's Watch Tower, July 1, 1879, Supplement
  33. ^ Rochester Union and Advertiser, October 5, 1895, p. 12
  34. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, June 1, 1916 p. 171
  35. ^ 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 42
  36. ^ a b Biography of Pastor Russell, Divine Plan of the Ages, 1918, p. 6
  37. ^ Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, 1915
  38. ^ Overland Monthly, January 1917 p. 128
  39. ^ Watch Tower, December 1, 1916 p. 357
  40. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, September 1881 p. 5
  41. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, September 1881 p. 5: "As we were reaching Christians in the cities with the pamphlets, we sent the papers only with weekly and monthly journals, and hope thus to have reached many Christians in country districts. We sent out in this way over 400,000 copies. Thus you see that from an apparently small beginning, the tract work has spread to the immense proportions of 1,200,000 copies, or about 200,000,000 pages in four months, or about eight times as much (in number) as were distributed by the American Tract Society in the last year."
  42. ^ Overland Monthly, January 1910 p. 130: "As a writer, Mr. Russell's books have enjoyed a larger circulation than any English work... Of his work entitled "Studies in the Scriptures," the average output is two thousand three hundred copies for each working day. We regret the records of 1909 are not yet complete, but in 1908 seven hundred and twenty-eight thousand, four hundred and seventy-four volumes were sold. Since publication, three million five hundred and thirty-four thousand volumes have been circulated. Last year, in addition to these there were three hundred and eight million pages of his tracts circulated. In all literature the Bible is about the only book that has had a larger circulation... In the literature of the world, the order would probably be as follows: The Bible, the Chinese Almanac, the "Studies in the Scriptures," "Don Quixote," "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Hubbard's "Message to Garcia.""
  43. ^ The Continent, McCormick Publishing Company, vol. 43, no. 40, October 3, 1912 p. 1354
  44. ^ Millennial Dawnism: The Annihilation of Jesus Christ by I.M. Haldeman, 1913; "Pastor" Russell's Position and Credentials by J.H. Burridge; Some Facts about the self-styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell by J.J. Ross, 1912
  45. ^
  46. ^ American Movie Classics, "Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones'..."1914", Retrieved 2009-04-15
  47. ^ IMDB article "Photo-Drama of Creation (1914), Retrieved 2009-04-15
  48. ^ "Timeline of Influential Milestones...1910s", American Movie Classics, retrieved 2009-04-15 Archived January 10, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  49. ^ "Society Uses Many Means to Expand Preaching", Centennial of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 1884–1984, page 24, "The Photo-Drama presented the explanation of Bible truth from the time of creation, the fall into sin, the promises of God to redeem man and His dealings through history until the millennial restitution. It is believed to have been viewed by more than 9,000,000 people throughout North America and Europe, as well as many others in places around the world. It took two years and $300,000 to complete the project, many of the scenes being hand colored. Yet admission was free and no collections were taken."
  50. ^ "United States of America", 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 59
  51. ^ The Warning Work (1909–1914)", The Watchtower, March 1, 1955, page 143
  52. ^
  53. ^ 'Zion's Watch Tower' in the following issues: September 1883 page 8; September 1886 page 1; August 1896 page 189; May 1903 page 131; January 1913 page 11
  54. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Gale Group, 2001, Vol. 1, p. 829.
  55. ^ a b
  56. ^
  57. ^ Some early sources cited his death as November 1st.
  58. ^ St. Paul Enterprise, November 14, 1916 p. 3 column 3, "The fact is he did not die of heart trouble, but of an inflammation of the bladder, and while writing you on Brother Bohnet’s desk I could not fail to see on the burial permit that the cause of death was given as ‘Cystitis’."
  59. ^
  60. ^ "The Jehovah's Witnesses", Extraordinary groups by W. W. Zellner, William M. Kephart, ©2000, page 338, "On October 31, 1916, the stormy life of Charles Russell came to an end. While on a nationwide lecture tour, he died unexpectedly of heart failure in a Pullman car near Pampa, Texas." Online
  61. ^ New York Times, November 1, 1916, as cited by A.H. Macmillan, Faith on the March, 1957, page 62, "October 31: Charles Taze Russell, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and known all over the country as "Pastor Russell," died from heart disease at 2:30 o'clock this afternoon on an Atchison, Topeka Santa Fe train, en route from Los Angeles to New York."
  62. ^ St. Paul Enterprise November 14, 1916, pg 1 col 2: "Is it any wonder he died a score of years ahead of his natural time? His father looked younger at 84 than did the son at 64."
  63. ^ Pictures from Russell's Gravesite Archived April 19, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  64. ^ a b Pyramid. Retrieved 2009-5-4.
  65. ^ Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave, William J. Schnell, Baker, Grand Rapids, 1956, as cited by Alan Rogerson, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1969, page 52. Rogerson notes that it is not clear exactly how many Bible Students left. Joseph Rutherford wrote in 1934 that "of the great multitude that left the world to follow Jesus Christ only a few are now in God's organization".
  66. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune October 30, 1949 pg 18: "Pastor Russell died In 1916. In the 33 years since, the methods of this sect have deviated completely from those of Pastor Russell and his manner of teaching."
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^ Attendance at the annual Memorial (statistics were published each year in the Watch Tower) shows the growth in the period before 1925. 1919: 17,961, 1922: 32,661, 1923: 42,000, 1924: 62,696, 1925: 90,434. 1926 marked the first decrease: 89,278. There are no published statistics from 1929–1934. In 1935, Memorial attendance was 63,146.
  70. ^ Watch Tower, February 1927
  71. ^ Watch Tower, November 1928
  72. ^ Great Pyramid Passages, by John and Morton Edgar, Forward, 1928 edition
  73. ^ Bible Student's Radio Echo, February 1929 p. 8
  74. ^ When Pastor Russell Died, pp. 26-30
  75. ^ A Conspiracy Exposed and Harvest Siftings, April 25, 1894
  76. ^ The Bible Student Movement in the Days of CT Russell, 1975, pp P–1 to P–4
  77. ^ J.F. Rutherford, A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, 1915, pg 17
  78. ^ Zion's Watch Tower July 15, 1906 pg 221: "The next day the husband [Mr. Russell] took the witness stand and swore that he had never used the language (and never had heard of it before) ... and that only an idiotic person would make such an uncomplimentary remark about himself."
  79. ^ J.F. Rutherford, A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, 1915, pp 18-20
  80. ^ The Washington Post May 4, 1906 pg 6, "The Rev. Jellyfish Russell"
  81. ^ J. Parkinson The Bible Student Movement in the Days of CT Russell, 1975, pg 45
  82. ^ J.F. Rutherford, A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, 1915, pg 20
  83. ^ Russell v Washington Post Company Opinion of the Court, May 5, 1908: "We think the defense of privilege is not applicable to the article published by the defendant. The article is unquestionably libelous ... It is not confined to comment and criticism on his acts as a public man or his public life, but, so far as this record discloses, falsely asserts that he has committed certain acts of an immoral nature in his private life."
  84. ^ Deaths in the District of Melbourne, in Victoria. Registered by Arthur Fegan. Certificate #13463
  85. ^ The Bible Student Movement in the Days of C.T. Russell, 3rd edition, Notes
  86. ^ The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "Miracle Wheat Scandal," January 22, 1913, 2; "Testimony on Wheat," January 23, 1913, 3; "Financial Statements Proving Russell's Absolute Control," by Secretary-Treasurer Van Amberg, January 25, 1913, 16; "Government Experts Testify on 'Miracle Wheat' and Ascertain Its Ordinariness," January 27, 1913, 3; "Prosecution and Defense Closing Arguments," January 28, 1913, 2; "Russell Loses Libel Suit,” January 29, 1913, 16 (available on microfilm)
  87. ^ A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, 1915, pp. 29–30
  88. ^ "United States of America", 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 71
  89. ^ Some facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell (of Millennial Dawn Fame), 1912, pp. 1-3: "By thousands he is believed to be a religious fakir of the worst type... Years ago he gave himself the title of "Pastor" ... By "The Brooklyn Daily Eagle" he stands charged with ... having his name sensationally connected with those of numerous other women ... with publishing himself as giving addresses to great crowds in important places where he has not spoken at all ... with being illegally connected with lead, asphalt and turpentine companies, with selling or causing to be sold "Miracle Wheat" at $60 a bushel, with influencing the sick and dying to make their wills in his favor ... He is an eccentric individual and judging from his advertisements of himself, many do not think him normal, and some are persuaded that he is self-deceived."
  90. ^ RG 22-329-0-6742 Record of Indictment: The King v. John Jacob Ross - Defamatory Libel, In the Supreme Court of Ontario, High Court Division and in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery in and for the County of Wentworth, pp. 1,5
  91. ^ The King v. John Jacob Ross, cross-examination by King's Counselor George Lynch-Staunton, March 17, 1913, section II, p. 6
  92. ^ The King v. John Jacob Ross, cross-examination by King's Counselor George Lynch-Staunton, March 17, 1913, section II, p. 4
  93. ^
  94. ^ The Hamilton Spectator, Dec. 9, 1912; also Feb. 7, and March 17,18,22 1913
  95. ^ The Toronto Globe, March 18, 1913
  96. ^ The Watch Tower, October 15, 1914, p. 286: "The lower Court found him [Ross] guilty of libel. But when the case went to the second Judge he called up an English precedent, in which it was held that criminal libel would only operate in a case where the jury felt sure that there was danger of rioting or violence. As there was no danger that myself or friends would resort to rioting, the case was thrown out."
  97. ^ A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, p. 31
  98. ^ Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled 'Pastor' Charles T. Russell, pp. 18-23
  99. ^ The Watch Tower, October 15, 1914, p. 286: "As respects my education in Greek and Hebrew: Not only do I not claim very special knowledge of either language, but I claim that not one minister in a thousand is either a Hebrew or a Greek scholar."
  100. ^ The Watch Tower, October 15, 1914, p. 287
  101. ^ The Watch Tower, December 1, 1915 p. 358–360
  102. ^ "Preaching Publicly and From House to House", Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993, WTB&TS, page 560
  103. ^ The Watch Tower, October 15, 1914, p. 287: "What is the secret of the opposition and slander that is being raised up against me and against all who, like me, are Bible students? It is malice, hatred, envy, strife, on the part of those who are still hugging the nonsense of the Dark Ages and neglecting true Bible study. They see that their influence is waning. But they have not yet awakened to the true situation. They think that I am responsible for their smaller congregations and small collections. But not so. The real difficulty for them is that the people are becoming more intelligent and can no longer be driven with the crack of a merely man-made whip of fear."
  104. ^ Springmeier, Fritz. : A preliminary investigation.The Watchtower & The Masons Portland, Or.: the author, 1990. .
  105. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, Dec 1, 1911 pp. 443–444
  106. ^ Masonic. Retrieved 2009-5-4.
  107. ^ Russell and The Great Pyramid. Retrieved 2009-5-6.
  108. ^ 3pyramidology Retrieved 2009-5-4.
  109. ^ ec. 3, Anti-masonry Frequently Asked QuestionsS. The cross and crown symbol does not appear on his gravestone in the Rosemont United Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — it appears on a memorial erected some years later." Retrieved 2009-5-29.
  110. ^ Masonic Emblem and Logo Collection. Retrieved 2009-5-29.
  111. ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon "Was Charles Taze Russell a freemason?" Retrieved 2013-2-17.
  112. ^ 'Charles Taze Russell' Biography published by Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. Retrieved 2013-2-17.
  113. ^ Sermon title: "The Temple of God", Convention Report Sermons pages 359–365, "But now I am talking about this great order of masonry of which Jesus is the Grand Master. This Order is to be entered in a peculiar way. There are certain conditions, the low gate, the narrow way, the difficult path. Although I have never been a Mason, I have heard that in Masonry they have something which very closely illustrates all of this." 6MB download
  114. ^
  115. ^ Zion's Watch Tower, June 1895, p. 143
  116. ^ The New Creation, pages 580–581
  117. ^ "Anti-masonry Frequently Asked Questions", from the web-site of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. Retrieved on January 21, 2008.


In June 1913, during his transcontinental speaking tour, Russell gave a discourse in a Masonic hall in San Francisco, where he stated: "Although I have never been a Mason ... Something I do seems to be the same as Masons do, I don't know what it is; but they often give me all kinds of grips and I give them back, then I tell them I don't know anything about it except just a few grips that have come to me naturally."[113] Throughout his ministry he stated that he believed Christian identity is incompatible with Freemasonry,[114] and that Freemasonry, Knights of Pythias, Theosophy, and other such groups are "grievous evils" and "unclean".[115][116] A Freemasonry website states: "Russell was not a Freemason. Neither the symbols found in the Watchtower nor the cross and crown symbol are exclusively Masonic."[117]

and the symbols used are not exclusive to Masonry but pre-date the fraternity. [112][111] Despite these claims, the Grand Lodge officially stated that Russell was not a Freemason,[110][109] symbol, although this remains disputed.Cross and Crown because of its shape and its use of the [108][107][106][64] Some critics also claim that the pyramid near Russell's gravesite is Masonic,[105] originated from his understanding of Malachi 4:2, which denotes a sun with wings, as a symbol that Christ's millennial Kingdom had begun to emerge.winged solar-disk series a winged solar disk was stamped on the front cover, a symbol that is also associated with Freemasonry. However, Russell's use of the Studies in the Scriptures Some have claimed that various symbols Russell employed in his published literature are Masonic in nature, and that such associations implied he engaged in occult activity. In later editions of the [104].Freemasonry Several decades after his death, it was alleged that Russell had links with

Use of Masonic symbolism

In June 1912 Rev. J. J. Ross (1871–1935), Pastor of the James Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario, published and widely distributed a four-page leaflet entitled, Some facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell (of Millennial Dawn Fame), alleging that Russell was involved in questionable business practices, had defrauded his estranged wife, and denounced his qualifications, legitimacy and moral example as a Pastor.[89] Russell in turn sued Ross for defamatory libel on December 2, 1912.[90] After several delays the case came before Police Court Magistrate G. F. Jelfs on March 17, 1913. During cross-examination Russell stated that he had attended public school for only seven years having left when he was about fourteen years of age after which he received instruction through private tutors.[91] He responded that he was versed in Latin terms "to an extent" but did not know Hebrew or Greek, that he had never been ordained by any bishop or minister, and had never attended a theological seminary or any schools of higher learning.[92][93] The Hamilton and Toronto Ontario newspapers reported the claims made by Ross and provided a brief outline of the court proceedings, but made no reference to misconduct on the part of Russell, and criticized Ross for having fled Ontario when summoned and not being present during any of the court proceedings.[94][95] On April 1, 1913 the High Court of Ontario returned a verdict of "No Bill" ruling that Russell was not entitled to damages because the libel was not likely to result in any violence within Canada.[96][97] Following the libel case Ross published an expanded edition of 48-pages entitled Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell (of Millennial Dawn Fame). In this work Ross claimed that during the proceedings on March 17, 1913 Russell had repeatedly lied under oath by affirming that he was ordained but then denying the same when cross-examined, by affirming that he knew the Greek language, but when shown by Counselor Staunton an extract from the New Testament in Greek by Westcott & Hort he was unable to recognize it, and that he had not been divorced from his wife, but retracted the statement under cross-examination.[98] In response to Ross's accusations, Russell stated through various printed and public sources that he had never claimed knowledge of the Greek language, merely the alphabet[99] and that early Christians were also criticized by the religious authorities for being unlearned and ignorant.[100] He believed that his ordination was "of God" according to the biblical pattern, not requiring any denominational approval or theological training indicating that his annual election as "Pastor" by over 500 congregations worldwide constituted him as properly ordained.[101][102] Russell contended that Ross and others were attacking him because they were unable to answer his theological arguments preferring instead to resort to slander and character assassination.[103]


On March 22, 1911, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published articles accusing Russell of gaining profit from a strain of wheat named "Miracle Wheat" by its alleged discoverer, K.B. Stoner of Fincastle, Virginia, which Russell sold for $60 per bushel, far above the average cost of wheat at the time. Throughout 1912 and 1913, the Eagle continued to report on Russell's alleged fraud. Russell sued the Eagle for libel, but lost. A government expert investigated the "Miracle Wheat" and said it "was low in the Government tests". Prior to entering the court, the Eagle declared that "at the trial it will show that "Pastor" Russell's religious cult is nothing more than a money-making scheme."[86] Russell defended himself publicly, and in writing, claiming that the wheat was donated to the Watch Tower Society, and although sold for $1 per pound, Mr. Stoner routinely sold it for a $1.25 per pound. Russell claimed to have no financial connection to the wheat, and that no one claimed a refund despite such an offer for up to a year later for any who were dissatisfied with their purchase.[87] In 1975, the Watch Tower Society stated that gross receipts from the "Miracle Wheat" fundraiser totaled "about $1800" (current value $46,000), of which "Russell himself did not get a penny". It also said that "the Society itself made no claim for the wheat on its own knowledge and the money received went as a donation into Christian missionary work."[88]

'Miracle Wheat'

Rose Ball Henninges died November 22, 1950 at the age of 81 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, having for several years been an author for The People's Paper and remained associated with the Bible Students in Australia until her death.[84][85]

The Washington Post[80] and the Mission Friend of Chicago reprinted the "jellyfish" story while also accusing Russell of immoral conduct. Russell sued the papers for libel; the jury decided in his favor, awarding him one dollar. Following an appeal, Russell received a cash settlement of $15,000 (current value $394,000) plus court costs, and an agreement that the two papers publish his weekly syndicated sermons as well as a retraction defending his character.[81][82][83]

During the trial Mrs. Russell's attorney alleged that in 1894 Mr. Russell had engaged in "improper intimacy" with Rose Ball, by then a 25-year-old woman whom the Russells had previously cared for as a foster daughter after claiming to be an orphan. Mrs. Russell alleged that Ball had told her Mr. Russell claimed to be an amorous "jellyfish floating around" to different women until someone responded to his advances. Mr. Russell denied the accusations and stated that he had never used such terminology to describe himself.[78] When the judge asked Mrs. Russell if she was accusing her husband of adultery, she replied, "No".[79]

In 1897 Russell's wife, Maria, left him after a disagreement over the management of Zion's Watch Tower magazine. She believed that, as his wife, she should have equal control over its administration and equal privilege in writing articles, preaching, and traveling abroad as his representative.[77] In 1903 she filed for legal separation on the grounds of mental cruelty, because of what she considered to be forced celibacy and frequent cold, indifferent treatment. The separation was granted in 1906, with Russell charged to pay alimony.

Allegation of immoral conduct

As early as 1892, Russell's views and management style were strongly criticized by certain individuals associated with his ministry. In 1893 a paper was written and circulated to Bible Students in Pittsburgh by associates Otto van Zech, Elmer Bryan, J.B. Adamson, S.G. Rogers, Paul Koetitz, and others. It accused Russell of being a dictatorial leader, a shrewd businessman who appeared eager to collect funds from the selling of the Millennial Dawn books, that he had cheated one of them out of financial gains, and that he issued thousands of Millennial Dawn books under a female pseudonym. A booklet entitled A Conspiracy Exposed and Harvest Siftings was written by Russell and issued as an extra to the April 1894 Zion's Watch Tower magazine in order to preempt attempts to have their views circulated to a wider audience of Bible Students. Russell printed copies of letters he had received from these former associates in order to show that their claims were false, and that those involved 'were guided by Satan in an attempt to subvert his work' as a "minister of the gospel".[75][76]

Leadership style


Those remaining supportive of Rutherford adopted the new name "Jehovah's witnesses" in 1931, and changed the keyword of their magazine from "Watch Tower" to "The Watchtower". Many of the most prominent Bible Students who had ceased association with the changing Watch Tower Society attempted a regathering of disaffected Bible Students in October 1929 by holding the First Annual Bible Students Reunion Convention in the old Pittsburgh "Bible House" long used by Russell.[73] These conventions were held yearly, but the process of regathering took nearly twenty years.[74]

[72][71] as having been built under God's direction.Great Pyramid and support of the [70] some of which began to appear in material printed by the Watch Tower Society as early as 1917. Many Bible Students were disaffected by Rutherford's rejection of Russell's views regarding his role in the restoration of the "truth"[69][68][67] In January 1917,


Russell's health had become increasingly poor in the last three years leading up to his death. During his final ministerial tour of the western and southwestern United States he became increasingly ill with cystitis,[55] but ignored advice to abandon the tour. He suffered severe chills during his last week, and at times had to be held in position in bed to prevent suffocation. He was forced to deliver some of his Bible discourses sitting in a chair, and on a few occasions his voice was so weak as to be barely audible.[56] Russell died on October 31, 1916 at age 64 near Pampa, Texas, while returning to Brooklyn by train.[55][57][58][59][60][61] An associate of Russell's stated that at age 64 his body was more worn out than that of his father who died at age 89.[62] He was buried in Rosemont United Cemetery, Pittsburgh. The gravesite (vide coordinates above) is marked by a headstone, nearby stands a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) pyramid memorial erected by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1921.[63][64]

Russell's tombstone in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pyramid memorial near Russell's gravesite in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


  • Hell. He maintained that there was a heavenly resurrection of 144,000 righteous, as well as a "great multitude", but believed that the remainder of mankind slept in death, awaiting an earthly resurrection, rather than experiencing torment in a literal Hell.
  • The Trinity. Russell believed in the divinity of Christ, but differed from orthodoxy by teaching Jesus had received that divinity as a gift from the Father, after dying on the cross. He also taught that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but the manifestation of God's power.
  • Christ's Second Coming. Russell believed that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874, and that he had been ruling from the heavens since that date. He predicted that a period known as the "Gentile Times" would end in 1914, and that Christ would take power of Earth's affairs at that time. He interpreted the outbreak of World War I as the beginning of Armageddon, which he viewed to be both a gradual deterioration of civilized society, and a climactic multi-national attack on a restored Israel accompanied by worldwide anarchy.
  • Pyramidology. Following views first taught by Christian writers such as John Taylor, Charles Piazzi Smyth and Joseph Seiss, he believed the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by the Hebrews (associated to the Hyksos) under God’s direction, but to be understood only in our day. He adopted and used Seiss's phrase referring to it as "the Bible in stone". He believed that certain biblical texts, including Isaiah 19:19–20 and others, prophesied a future understanding of the Great Pyramid and adopted the view that the various ascending and descending passages represented the fall of man, the provision of the Mosaic Law, the death of Christ, the exultation of the saints in heaven, etc. Calculations were made using the pattern of an inch per year. Dates such as 1874, 1914, and 1948 were purported to have been found through the study of this monument.[52]
  • Christian Zionism. Expanding upon an idea suggested by Nelson Barbour, Russell taught as early as 1879 that God's favor had been restored to Jews as the result of a prophetic "double" which had ended in 1878 (favor from Jacob to Jesus, then disfavor from Jesus until 1878). In 1910, he conducted a meeting at the New York Hippodrome Theatre, with thousands of Jews attending. Jews and Christians alike were shocked by his teaching that Jews should not convert to Christianity. Russell believed that the land of Palestine belonged exclusively to the Jewish race, that God was now calling them back to their land, and that they would be the center of earthly leadership under God's Kingdom. Early in Russell's ministry, he speculated that the Jews would possibly flock to Palestine and form their own nation by the year 1910. Shortly before his death, he utilized the Jewish press to stress that 1914 prophetically marked the time when Gentile nations no longer had earthly authority with the result that all Jews were, from that time onward, permitted and guided by God to gather to Palestine and boldly reclaim the land for themselves.
  • Climate change. In writings as early as 1883 (and through to the end of his life) Russell repeatedly expressed the view that the world's climate would gradually but significantly change as a prelude to the re-establishment of Eden-like conditions. These changes, he said, would include the gradual melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice caps, and the general warming of the earth.[53]
  • Spiritualism and the occult. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology notes that Russell's supporters, along with other Christian churches have "shown a marked aversion to Spiritualism and other occult phenomena. Very early in the group’s history Russell attacked Spiritualism (which he called Spiritism)".[54]
The Chart of the Ages

Following his analytical examination of the Bible, Russell and other Bible Students came to believe that Christian creeds and traditions were harmful errors, believing they had restored Christianity to the purity held in the first century. Such views and conclusions were viewed as heresy by many Church leaders and scholars in his day. Russell agreed with other Protestants on the primacy of the Bible, and justification by faith alone, but thought that errors had been introduced in interpretation. Russell agreed with many 19th century Protestants, including Millerites, in the concept of a Great Apostasy that began in the first century AD. He also agreed with many other contemporary Protestants in belief in the imminent Second Coming of Christ, and Armageddon. Some of the areas in which his Scriptural interpretations differed from those of Catholics, and many Protestants, include the following:

Theology and teachings

[51][50][49] Russell directed the production of a worldwide roadshow presentation entitled

Photo Drama of Creation

The delayed publication of the seventh volume became a source of great anticipation and mystery among Bible Students. Following Russell's death in 1916, a seventh volume entitled The Finished Mystery was published in 1917, which was advertised as his "posthumous work". This seventh volume was a detailed interpretation of the Joseph Rutherford, by then the new president of the Watch Tower Society.[45]

  • The Plan of the Ages – later renamed The Divine Plan of the Ages (1886)
  • The Time is at Hand (1889)
  • Thy Kingdom Come (1891)
  • The Day of Vengeance – later renamed The Battle of Armageddon (1897)
  • The At-one-ment Between God and Men (1899)
  • The New Creation (1904)

Russell devoted nearly a tenth of his fortune, along with contributed funds, in publishing and distributing Food for Thinking Christians in 1881. In the same year followed The Tabernacle and its Teachings and Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices. In 1886, after reportedly not making back most of the money spent publishing these three titles, he began publication of what was intended to be a seven-volume series. The volumes were collectively called Millennial Dawn, later renamed Studies in the Scriptures to clarify that they were not novels. Russell published six volumes in the series:

Studies in the Scriptures

Russell, however, had many critics and was often labeled a heretic.[44]

In 1910 the secular journal Overland Monthly calculated that by 1909 Russell's writings had become the most distributed privately produced English-language works in the United States, and that the entire corpus of his works were the third most circulated on earth, after the Bible and the Chinese Almanac.[42] In 1912 The Continent, a Presbyterian journal, stated that in North America his writings had achieved a greater circulation "than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America."[43]

In 1903, newspapers began publishing his written sermons. These newspaper sermons were syndicated worldwide in as many as 4,000 newspapers, eventually reaching an estimated readership of some 15 million in the United States and Canada.[36]

In 1881, he published his first prominent work entitled Food for Thinking Christians. The 162-page "pamphlet" was published using donated funds amounting to approximately $40,000 (current value $977,517).[38] It had a circulation of nearly 1.5 million copies over a period of four months distributed throughout the United States, Canada and Great Britain by various channels.[39][40] During the same year he published Tabernacle and its Teachings which was quickly expanded and reissued as Tabernacle Shadows of the "Better Sacrifices" outlining his interpretation of the various animal sacrifices and Tabernacle ceremonies instituted by Moses. Russell claimed that the distribution of these works and other tracts by the Watch Tower Society during 1881 exceeded by eight times that of the American Tract Society for the year 1880.[41]

With the formation of the Watch Tower Society, Russell's ministry intensified. His Bible study group had grown to hundreds of local members, with followers throughout New England, the Virginias, Ohio, and elsewhere, who annually re-elected him "Pastor", and commonly referred to him as "Pastor Russell". Congregations that eventually formed in other nations also followed this tradition.[36][37]


In 1908, Russell transferred the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society to its current location in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1881, he founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society, with William Henry Conley as president and Russell as secretary-treasurer, for the purpose of disseminating tracts, papers, doctrinal treatises and Bibles. All materials were printed and bound by Russell's privately owned Tower Publishing Company for an agreed price,[35] then distributed by "colporteurs" (persons who travel to sell or publicize Bibles, religious tracts, etc.). The Society was incorporated in 1884, with Russell as president, and in 1886 its name was changed to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Watch Tower Society

Confused by what was perceived to be an error in calculation, Russell re-examined the doctrine to see if he could determine whether it had biblical origins or was simply Christian tradition. He concluded that it was Christian tradition and so he began teaching, through the pages of the Herald, what he believed to have discovered on the subject. Barbour, embarrassed by the failure of their expectations, rejected Russell's explanation and a debate ensued in successive issues of the journal from early 1878 to mid-1879. In a matter of months, Barbour's embarrassment led to a recanting of some of the views he and Russell had previously shared, including any reliance upon prophetic chronology. Their disagreements turned into a debate over Christ's ransom, resulting in a split between the two. Russell removed his financial support and started his own journal, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, with the first issue published in July 1879. Barbour formed The Church of the Strangers that same year, continuing to publish Herald of the Morning.[32][33][34]

While talking with Russell about the events of 1878, I told him that Pittsburgh papers had reported he was on the Sixth Street bridge dressed in a white robe on the night of the Memorial of Christ's death, expecting to be taken to heaven together with many others. I asked him, "Is that correct?" Russell laughed heartily and said: "I was in bed that night between 10:30 and 11:00 P.M. However, some of the more radical ones might have been there, but I was not. Neither did I expect to be taken to heaven at that time, for I felt there was much work to be done preaching the Kingdom message to the peoples of the earth before the church would be taken away.
— , 1957, page 27Faith on the MarchA.H. Macmillan,
: A.H. Macmillan When 1878 arrived, failure of the expected rapture of the saints brought great disappointment for Barbour and Russell, and their associates and readers. According to one of Russell's associates,

Split with Barbour

Among the teachings Barbour introduced to Russell was the view that Christians who had died would be raised in April 1878.[28] Russell, who had previously rejected prophetic chronology, was moved to devote his life to what he was convinced were now the last two years before the invisible, spiritual return of Christ. He sold his five clothing stores for approximately $300,000 (current value $6,644,000). With Russell's encouragement and financial backing, Barbour wrote an outline of their views in Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World, published in 1877. A text Russell had previously written, entitled The Object and Manner of our Lord's Return, was published concurrently through the offices of the Herald of the Morning.[29] Russell was eager to lead a Christian revival and called two separate meetings of Christian leaders in Pittsburgh. Russell's ideas, particularly stressing the imminence of the rapture and the second advent of Christ, were rejected both times.[30][31]

Around January 1876 Russell received a copy of Nelson Barbour's Herald of the Morning in the mail. Russell telegraphed Barbour to set up a meeting. The first response was a visit by Barbour and John Henry Paton in Allegheny in March 1876 at Russell's expense to hear their arguments, and compare the conclusions that each side had made in their studies. Russell sponsored a speech by Barbour in St. George's Hall, Philadelphia in August 1876 and attended other lectures by Barbour.


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