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New book about the early history of Jehovah's Witnesses


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A friend has recommended me this book:

 

"A Separate Identity: Organizational Identity Among Readers of Zion's Watch Tower: 1870-1887. Volume 1". This is the first part of a two-volume study, covering from 1870 to 1879.

 

I haven't read it yet, I just ordered a copy yesterday. These are my friend's comments:

 

It's a work written by two historians (one who is a Witness, and the other who is not). It's not a religious book, nor an attack on Jehovah's Witnesses, neither an apology, just a serious and detailed historical research.

 

The book begins with a detailed description of American history, society and mentality during the last third of the 19th century, as well as a biography with everything that is known of Russell until 1870, including some new details that had never been published before.

 

Besides Russell, this work gives also an unprecedented attention to all the other characters that had an important role in the early development of Bible Students, such as George Storrs and George Stetson. It documents Russell's collaboration with Barbour until their breakup in 1878.

 

The work is completed with an appendix dealing with the alleged link between Russell and freemasonry, and another one including all the articles of the Russell-Barbour controversy. The whole book is enriched with a good number of pictures, many of them unpublished until now, and a huge amount of footnotes.

 

The second volume is in preparation without a publishing date yet.

 

This book can be purchased here.

 

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Carlos,

 

  Tom in Michigan also passed this along to me. But right now I have so much reading material, even as interesting

as that sounds, I'm going to have to put it off until later when I get back up to speed. I still have the information you

gave me reference to  cover. some addition information Tom passed on to me. And I just received a book I ordered

from Stoops Manufactoring entitled " Chronicles of the Unholy Fathers ". It appears to be a very comprehensive treat-

ment of the Papacy and especially their claim to infallibility. Have you seen it or read it. It appears to be very well

researched and documented. The author is R. W. Roland. Since the book itself gave no details about him, I went

online to see what I could find. Not much. amazon and one other book stores online carry it. But they want $50.00 and

$60.00 respectively for it. Bro. Stoops by contrast only asks $16.00. Clearly he must be asking only a little above

wholesale price for it, if that So that is what I have on my plate right now, including trying to keep up with all the meetings,

the forum, daily text, and what now is happening with the first assembly going on this week end. It's enough to make

your head spin. Let me know what you learn from " A Separate Indentity ". that may help me determine whether it is

worth getting a copy for myself. and if you haven't read "Unholy Fathers", I will do the same. Take care Carlos.

 

                                                                                                                                                          GStorrs46

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I too would probably enjoy reading this book, but we are so busy with extraneous reading at the moment.  My wife is reading the Proclaimers book, I am reading Marley Cole's book on Jehovah's Witnesses (and then Faith On The March is lined up) and we are reading a book by P.G.Wodehouse for some 'light relief'.

When you factor in the amount of reading we do for meetings too, it makes for a lot of eyework!

 

Maybe later when I get a bit clearer I'll have another look.  Thanks for the info about it, though.  That is appreciated very much.

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  • 3 months later...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'm fascinated by the Beth-Sarim house and hope it is covered.
How strong their faith was then! To imagine that Noah and Moses would be living in San Diego one day.
It seems far fetched now that the light has got brighter, but I so admire their 'get up and go' attitude!

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Thanks for the recommendation. I'm fascinated by the Beth-Sarim house and hope it is covered.

How strong their faith was then! To imagine that Noah and Moses would be living in San Diego one day.

It seems far fetched now that the light has got brighter, but I so admire their 'get up and go' attitude!

Hi Bill. I am afraid the Beth-Sarim episode will not be explained in this work, since it only covers the period from 1870 to 1879, that is, the very early developement of the organization and it historical context.

Regarding your comment, I agree that they had a very strong faith even though some of their ideas may sound a bit ridiculous today. However, we still expect the "ancient worthies", as they said, to be resurrected and live among us. And who knows where they will choose to build their homes? The brothers in the twenties expected the resurrection to happen immediately, but so do we. :) The main difference is probably the order of events: they expected the resurrection of the princes before Armageddon, while we know it will be in the new system.

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  • 10 months later...

I was wondering if this book might be mentioned on here but i assumed not. So I did a google and ran into this book on here. It would be the likes of you to post something like this. So you've had the book for a year now, Carlos, what do you think of it? You've not updated us on it!!!

 

I just found out about the book after reading an article by a religious freedom organization that listed the book in it references. So I checked out the website.

 

i really liked Charles Taze Russell: His Life and Times: The Man, the Millennium and the Message by Fredrick Zydek. I highly recommend it. In fact i was able to respond to some Youtube posts because of this book and a little extra research on my own when I was checking the references.

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Ahem, I am sorry to say I didn't read the book yet apart from the first few pages. :innocent:  Not that it was not interesting, I just got entangled with other readings, and since this book is paper only and rather big to carry it with me, I forgot about it.

 

I have to resume it.

 

Sorry that I wasn't of much help.

Edited by carlos
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Ahem, I am sorry to say I didn't read the book yet apart from the first few pages. :innocent:  Not that it was not interesting, I just got entangled with other readings, and since this book is paper only and rather big to carry it with me, I forgot about it.

 

I have to resume it.

 

Sorry that I wasn't of much help.

 

Well if you don't mind, perhaps you can pick a few perhaps controversial topics--questions about his being a mason, how he handles critics of JWs etc to see if it is really fair. If the author is JW and not a former JW then maybe he won't be too biased against us. I've read all too often where a topic could go one of two ways and the authors for the sake of being sensational choose the most scandalous story.  If something is true, it is true. But if there is a basis for benefit of the doubt on a sensitive topic, then that should not be turned into more than what it is.  If you could take a brief look at some topics, i'd appreciate it.

 

I simply don't want to buy a book to make an enemy of God's people wealthy so they can be embolden to produce more crap against us. Yes, i know it is supposed to be "secular" and neither apologetic or apostate.... I've heard those lines before.  Also newspapers and public accounts don't always tell the whole truth.  Even when a person says something, you can never read their minds and know what they meant. Basically Russell is dead. He can't defend himself. Getting to know a man and what is more likely than not makes a world of difference. I've you've ever read anything thing at all apostate, even with the points they bring out, you typically know enough about how the organization works to tell when something is probably not true because we know the organization.  So its important that you know the character of the person. Russell was not Joseph Smith, he wasn't involved in a much scams before God spoke to him and helped in "translation" "Reformed" hieroglyphics through a chat with the aid of a "seer" stone.  From what I've heard, before that hat had a "prophetic" mission, it was used in several other con games.  I don't think anything like this can be said of Charles Taze Russell whom the Bible says sold all he had to buy a field with the pearl of high value.  :-)  lol

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One of the reasons I've been skeptical about this book aside from not knowing that it contains is 1) the way the video is produced and the questions it asks even though it doesn't say much of anything.  2) A commentary on Amazon.

 

Here is what a supposed JW said about the book:

 

 

The standard Watchtower mythology, which is still perpetuated to this day, is shown to be wholly inadequate to even begin to describe what he and his associates when through as they developed this new identity. The portrait that this book paints of Russell makes him appear much more human and vulnerable than anyone has perhaps ever expected. We can now begin to see Russell the man, rather than Russell the saint, unilaterally rediscovering lost truth.

As a Witness myself, I now find myself disappointed by the usual Watchtower approach to Russell, and anxious to learn more. The authors speak of a second volume to their work, taking events 15 or more years into the future. This volume dismantles the myth of Russell laboring nearly alone to bring back apostolic Christianity. I wonder what the next volume will say about the other extreme, the one in which Russell is portrayed as a con man, a heretic, or worse.

Buy it and read it!

 

What "WITNESS" would make statements like this in public--especially the last sentence!

 

Does the Watchtower promote the "mythology" that Russell worked alone??? I think it is quite the contrary!  I've never gotten that impression! They have always listed, at least since I've been paying attention, a list of people who influenced Russell. I thought they were perhaps not exactly honest about some of the Adventist beliefs because there are some very similar ones and perhaps some millerite influence which we never talk about. But according to this author, the Baptist William Miller had no real connections with Russell and is mistaken!  The author also dispels any idea that Jehovah's Witnesses are an Adventist offshoot!  These facts confirm the teachings of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society! At least in this area, it is not just a white-washed JW "mythology" or want-it-to-be truth!

 

The book mentions that it will disturb everyone.  The anti-JWs, the Bible Student groups, and JWs. The introductory chapter where the main author presents what the reader should expect is found in full, NOT on Amazon.com, but on LULU.com. You can read the whole introduction there. Click the word preview at the bottom of the picture.

 

In this intro, he doesn't mention who he is refuting. But if you are fairly up-to-date you can figure out who some of these people are!  I think he mentions and seems to slight a little, Fredrick Zydek's biography of Russell.  I really like that book so i hope it withstands the author's scrutiny.  He mentions Danny Hazard it seems--the Internet troll! But maybe there is another out there that I'm not as much familiar with. There are a few. But Danny stands out.  He says someone is writing a competing book and doesn't like his book because it undermines his central thesis.  He even mentions a very adept writer who he says writes anonymously who worries that this book may call into question his religion as something other than Truth!  This is obviously someone from the headquarters--even without the last statement about "Truth." Who is an adept writer who writes anonymously and yet is known? How did he know him? Given our religion's attitude about anonymity its not hard to guess who this is. The statement about TRUTH is more a help to outsiders than to JWs.  But given that statement, for me it is confirmed!  This last part at least confirms that the WT is aware of this book and may have cooperated in some ways help him find the materials he needed. Hopefully sufficient information was provided to refute some attacks against claims the FDS has always maintained.  But the information comes from numerous sources. The modern Bible Student movements are NOT our friends. So while they may have some good material that upholds the positive view of Russell, not all of it will be favorable towards JWs. I found it funny those he knocked--especially the Wikipedia sources!

 

His intro does seem to answer some of my questions--but i'm not sure in practice.  He says he doesn't not question motive very much. He provides the evidence and allows the reader to decide. His view as a historian is the 19th century view, i think he said or the 18th. I can't remember. That view he explains only provides narratives that are easily verified rather than eisegesis. He said he cannot avoid questioning motive, but he tries to stick close to the facts. So we will see.

 

The only thing i saw that disturbed me so far in the intro was his depiction of the 1800s as being similar to the last days and describing why many thought the Advent was near.  This seems to undermine what we've taught. However, our teachings on this topic, i think are also consistent with what I've read in history books as well--namely that a DIFFERENT WORLD emerged in 1914. In fact in college, my history book started this modern era with 1914 as the pivotal year!  So there is a marked distinction as noted by many writers. So what he means here regarding the 1800s is hard to reconcile at this point. There is NO QUESTION that in the industrial age there was much havoc!  If one reads the Grapes of Wrath, which is about the Great Depression of the 1930s, one gets an understanding of what cities were like. If one has read anything about the Industrial Revolution, one also gets an idea of how chaotic city life was like.  To say "These are the last days" when only a minority of people were slowly moving into the cities, would be an exaggeration if one only focused on these accounts!  Rural life may have been hard, but most people did not live in cities in these days. They were just starting to move there!  THere were no standards and the wealthy often took advantage of the poor!  Under these conditions the situation was obviously messy. People's arms were cut off by machines.  People were deprived of pay and an honest wage! There was no overtime, labor laws, and people survived at the whims of their employers! But this was city life--not rural society!

 

I did like the fact he addressed those people back then as not less intelligent than we are now. He stated that they were just different with a different focus. So this will be interesting. He said we should not look at them from 21th century lens which is want many people especially unintelligent bloggers and youtubers do when reporting their critiques--especially of Russell--without historical perspective. Many of these issues can be easily explained away because some of those guys are idiots. Like one guy claimed that Russell was racist when he explained why the Bible Students should not waste their publications on black church groups! He said they could not read and that the books should be better spent on people who can appreciate what is written there. He did say that they could be placed with blacks with discretion!  Is that all that horrifying? I don't think so. Russell in his writtings about race can easily be seen as heart in hands for the plight of black people. THere is much that is overlooked in the very accounts where Russell is quoted. If he were racist he would not be sympathetic at all. But he is obviously is. Regarding this issue about blacks.... As I was saying, history has to be considered!  Russell wrote between 1879 to 1916 in WT publications. Well the civil war was over in about 1865 just years before Russell started writing. Most blacks lived in the South. Blacks were forbidden to read in the South and as we all know there were grave consequences for reading or writing! If a person's parents can't read, how will the children learn? What schools were available? Even if schools existed most were going to be for Whites, and they were segregated! So there would be much fewer teachers who would be equipped or WILLING to teach black children IF unless they were black themselves. Blacks also had to make a living. So they were not in school, they were working in the fields to help thier families!

 

In this context these "racist" statements were just expressions of Russell's sense of urgency and pragmatism! It has nothing to do with racist views or lack of empathy for black americans.

 

I am black by the way. My grandparents were black. My grandmother was born in 1918. My grandfather was born 1906. My grandfather had a previous wife and children. My grandmother, his second wife, taught him how to read! My grandfather had a 3rd grade education, from what I've been told and my grandmother had a 6th grade education. My grandfather died in 1979. My grandmother died in 1988.  It is not hard to believe at least that even by 1950 there were still large populations of blacks who could not read not to mention something like 1879 to 1916! Context matters!

 

So far, I'm interested in the book, but still hesitant!  I'm interested because I love history. I like to explore different lands and cultures during different times. It will give me greater appreciate for our spiritual heritage! I will be able to talk about and possibly refute more foolishness I encounter about JW history--something i could not do in high school when some guys pulled up stuff off the internet about JWs that only God knew anything about!  I feel it will make me better well-read and put WT history in greater prospective! I hesitate because i don't know what I will find--how much our opponents are telling the truth.  They rarely are but it is still a fear. You always run into something you don't like and you have to balance and struggle with.  I did NOT in the book above that i like. Zydek's book was fantastic and I only read it after reading several positive JW reviews.

 

The only JW i know how HAS the book, has not read it!  I'm not going to call any names! And after a year hasn't said anything about it. See his posts above.

 

Best wishes guys. This post is long enough. I hope it is helpful to anyone interested. I'll wait the someone's comments and then decide the buy the book if he ever digs it out of his closet!

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Ahem, I am sorry to say I didn't read the book yet apart from the first few pages. :innocent:  Not that it was not interesting, I just got entangled with other readings, and since this book is paper only and rather big to carry it with me, I forgot about it.

 

I have to resume it.

 

Sorry that I wasn't of much help.

 

 

Well hurry up already! You sit in an archive office all day! You don't do  half the work you didn't do at your last job.

 

Don't shoot me!

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The author references Little Women, a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), as a book that will help a modern reader to understand what life was like during the time Russell was writing. The author said to read it.

 

You can get this book for Free on Amazon Kindle. You can also get it as an audio book format. The book is 280 pages long!  If i have time i may just listen to the audio book along with my Kindle. This will certainly give more context to the story at least and will help me revive some history i learned in school.

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Ok, yet another update on that referenced book Little Women. It looks like the book can be about 640 pages long. The Kindle book is a little more expensive if you get a good copy. THe free versions had lots of formatting issues and table of content issues according to the reviews.

 

THis version got a lot of good reviews. http://www.amazon.com/Little-Women-Louisa-May-Alcott/dp/0674059719/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1437634986&sr=8-6&keywords=Louisa+alcott+little+women

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In this context these "racist" statements were just expressions of Russell's sense of urgency and pragmatism! It has nothing to do with racist views or lack of empathy for black americans.

 

Jacob, I think your example is really good. I see how Russell's comment could be viewed as racist and very offensive by many today without knowing the context. But he actually was just being reasonable: It is a waste indeed to leave books to those who cannot read.

 

Today we would use videos or the "Listen to God" brochure with people who cannot read, and if they show interest we would offer them free literacy classes. But those materials were not available at the time, and neither there were enough human resources to teach millions of people to read.

 

I'm trying to contact the author and ask if there's a digital version. That would make it much easier than carrying that huge book with me everywhere.

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  • 2 years later...

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