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How are Bible Students connected to the Early Watchtower?

Who are the Bible Students? Where do they come from? These are questions frequently asked by those who seek to identify this movement and its origins. This special issue of The Herald is an expansion of an earlier edition and is meant to answer these queries.

Seeking to place the Bible Student movement in a historical context, these articles trace developments in the Christian world from the Reformation to the events of the nineteenth century which led to the formation of a small group of sincere Christians who are pleased to associate under the generic term of “Bible Students.”

The opening article, The Reformation and Martin Luther, tracks the advancement of Protestantism from 1517 to 1799. The Midnight Cry picks up the theme in the formation of the Second Adventist movement, focusing primarily on the growth of interest in the return of Jesus Christ aroused by William Miller.

Heroes of Our Faith outlines the rebirth of doctrinal viewpoints largely lost since the days of the Early Church. Those elements of belief that formed an integral part of the framework of the Bible Student movement are emphasized.

The direct origin of the Bible Students is an outgrowth of the ministry of Pastor Charles Taze Russell, the beginning of which is the subject of A New Wine Bottle. The crucial impact of his remarkable ministry is covered in The Harvest Movement. Turmoil and confusion reigned within the fellowship after the death of its founder; this difficult transition is chronicled in The Troubled Years covering the period from late 1916 through 1918 and the immediate aftermath. The events since 1918 are summarized in the treatise Regathering.

His Pulpit Was the World shows the world-wide outreach of the man who was called “the world’s most ubiquitous preacher” by his contemporaries, and gives a sketch of the Bible Student movement throughout the world. The concluding article, A Delightful Inheritance, notes the effect of this history and what it bodes for the future of the Bible Student movement.

History, at best, is incomplete and subjective, but the editors of The Herald hope this sincere attempt to record the origin and development of the Bible Student movement will be helpful to our readers.

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7 comments to How are Bible Students connected to the Early Watchtower?

  • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

    The writer Joe is unaware that Charles Russell wad deceased at the writing of this book. And ad John got in political affairs, so did Rutherford and got arrested for it.

  • Cazenovi (Bible Student)

    Peter – I hope you or any of your associates can help me understand what happened in 1930’s with the Bible Students. I am trying to understand the history and chronology. Particularly from the “Witness Bulletin #3 and #5”.


    Agape in Christ,

  • Stanley L

    There are rumors among the Witnesses and one statement I once saw attributed online to him indicate that he possibly attended some JW meetings at one point before starting his own church. I knew an older Witness who knew several from the congregation he may have attended who remembered him going to. However, that is still in the realm of rumors. I know a brother who used to be in the WWCOG and broke away from them when they embraced the Trinity doctrine, I’ll see if he can knows anything about it.

  • Bob

    You can take a look at this web site, seems to have alot of material, available in Deutsch if that helps.

  • Poul Bregninge, Kærlodden 27, 2760 Måløv, Denmark
    Tel.: 0045 – 44 98 36 60 / Mobile: 0045 – 6127 8495

    March 18, 2011

    Dear Recipient,
    I am working on a book on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A critival one. But I have a small problem: is “Worldwide Church of God” (Herbert W. Armstrong) in any way connected with the Bible Students, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have mentioned them as one of the offshoots from 1914-1916? I don’t think so, it must be an error. But I don’t remember where from I have this information! But I only want to know. My book is not particularly about the Bible Students or their descendant, but especially about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Is critical.
    Furthermore: Ar you willing to answer questions from me if I have some in the coming months? I am just for the moment finishing my book.
    Sincerely, Poul Bregninge,
    Author of two books about the JW. One from 1966 and a new one from 2006: Dommedag må vente (Judgment Day Must Wait). Publisher GYLDENDAL, Denmark.

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Paul – I asked some brothers you question and I received two responses. I hope this helps.

      Jeff Mezera says:
      They are not connected in any way to any of the Bible Student groups that I know. As far as I can tell (I have a book on their history at home), they came out of the second advent movement as well. Br. David Stoikes and his wife used to attend their meetings in the 1960’s. He told me that when they went to their headquarters once to visit, he saw that they had Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures there.

      Jim Parkinson says the following:
      A number of us have wondered about the background of Herbert W. Armstrong. We have heard that a Bible Student in North Carolina remembered some Bible Student meetings there attended by a then-young Billy Graham. But I have heard of no such rumors about HWA.
      HWA had some things in common with Bible Students and the early Watch Tower, with JW’s, with Seventh-Day Adventists, with “mainstream” Christianity, etc.
      Bible Students (and early WT).
      Similarities: Humans have no immortal souls; they are souls, and immortality is a hope of the Christian conditional upon obedience to God and Christ. There will be no eternal torture; second death is annihilation. Jesus is the son of God, not part of God. If Jesus being the son of David does not make him David, how would being the son of God make him God? Scripture trumps theology.
      Major differences with HWA: Jesus died once for all; therefore all will benefit. Bible Students, to the extent they are organized, are organized from the bottom up. There is no organization which one can, or must, join to be saved, because Christ died once for ALL. In many ecclesias, Scripture questions are encouraged. No permission is required for someone to attend meetings. The Law was good, but its ceremonies are not for Christians. Tithing is not urged or preached. Jews are to return to Israel, not “British Israelites.”

      Jehovah’s Witnesses.
      Other similarities: You must join us to be saved (just a different “us”).
      Other differences: The Governing Body (de facto) trumps both Scripture and theology. There is no significance to Israel’s return today.

      Seventh Day Adventists.
      Other similarities: The Law is incumbent on Christians today, although salvation is through Jesus Christ. You must join us to be saved.
      Other differences: God is a Trinity (insisted upon in recent decades).

      “Mainstream” Christianity.
      Other similarities: You must join [one of] us to be saved.
      Other differences: God is a Trinity; you must believe it to be saved.

      Tentative conclusion: Herbert W. Armstrong probably had literature from all of the above, whether as a youth he met with any. But today there have been over a hundred seventy divisions of his movement.

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