chapter  2
24 Pages

Origins

Accounts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses typically begin with founder-leader Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), since it is frequently assumed that Watch Tower theology was Russell’s own invention. Walter Martin, whose Kingdom of the Cults is probably the best-known piece of countercult writing, describes him as ‘one colossally egotistical and unschooled haberdasher’,1 describing his ideas as a ‘hoax’. Concerning the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 1914 date (the year of Christ’s presence – oen mistakenly believed to mark the world’s end), he writes: ‘How they arrived at this arbitrary date no one can reasonably or chronologically ascertain …’ .2 Such comments betray a woeful ignorance of the tradition in which Russell and his Bible Students fall. Whether or not one agrees with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the founder-leaders did not invent their way of understanding endtimes, or their method of setting dates for key events in human history. Although the ideas of the Watch Tower Society may not nd support in the present day mainstream theological seminaries, they draw on a number of ideas that were current in Adventist circles in nineteenth-century Britain and America.