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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pastor Russell vs "Rev." J. J. Ross

One of the earliest congregations of Jehovah’s people to be established in Canada was the one at Hamilton, Ontario. That strong, very active congregation naturally had the disapproval of the clergy. Not having any Biblical defense against the forceful thrusts of the truth, the clerics resorted to personal invective. They lashed out in a seemingly desperate attempt to destroy one man—C. T. Russell.

A clergyman who used this approach at Hamilton was a bombastic Baptist preacher named J. J. Ross. In 1912, he wrote a scurrilous pamphlet in which he made many false accusations against Russell. Acting on the advice of his legal counselor, J. F. Rutherford, Brother Russell laid a criminal charge of defamatory libel against Ross. As the complainant, Russell attended the trial to give evidence, and he submitted to a long cross-examination of roughly five hours. After the trial, his Baptist opponent falsely charged that Russell had committed perjury when asked about his knowledge of Greek. This “perjury” charge was published in Ross’ second pamphlet attacking Russell. In it the cleric misquoted what had been said in court, giving the cross-examiner’s question and Russell’s reply as follows:

Q. “Do you know the Greek?”

A. “Oh, yes.”

By omitting the word “alphabet” from this question, Ross sought to establish an exact contradiction with a later question and answer:

Q. “Are you familiar with the Greek language?”

A. “No.”

What really happened is clear from the official record (Police Court of the City of Hamilton, Ontario, March 17, 1913). It shows that C. T. Russell did not commit perjury. The cross-examination (by George Lynch-Staunton, K. C.) went as follows, according to the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada, by M. James Penton:

“Question: ‘You don’t profess, then, to be schooled in the Latin language?’

Answer: ‘No, Sir.’

Question: ‘Or in Greek?’

Answer: ‘No, Sir.’”

After this, Russell was asked if he knew individual Greek letters, and he said that he “might make a mistake of some of them.” According to the book just cited, shortly thereafter “Lynch-Staunton asked Russell the question: ‘Are you familiar with the Greek language?’ Russell’s reply was an emphatic ‘No.’”

So, there was no question about matters. C. T. Russell had not committed perjury as Ross falsely charged after the trial. The case itself later went before a grand jury, which declined to return a bill of indictment. So, the case never went on for trial before the Supreme Court of Ontario. Under legal practice in Ontario, only the crown attorney is allowed to speak before the grand jury. We do not know how the case was presented to it or what caused that body to reject it. No decision ever was rendered on the merits of the case. In his subsequent writings, Ross treated this inconclusive result as though he had won a great victory. He and others apparently chose to forget that Russell was not the man on trial.


Despite the hatred of Christendom’s clergy, Jehovah’s people remained undisturbed. In 1923 they held a series of conventions, and these were very successful gatherings. For instance, about 1,000 persons attended the convention in Victoria, British Columbia, and some 4,500 were present for the one in Vancouver. This series of assemblies covered the larger centers of the West before moving on to the week-long gathering at Toronto. There the audience numbered around 1,200, with about half of the delegates coming from the United States.

Over 200 delegates traveled with C. T. Russell from one convention to another. One press report announced the arrival of the special convention train in Edmonton, Alberta, and then said:
“When asked about the charge that he is a ‘no hell’ preacher, Pastor Russell replied:

“‘There is no minister in the world that preaches more hell than I do, but the hell that I preach is the hell of the Bible and not the hell of the fire, brimstone, pitchfork and sandpaper-slide variety. The hell of the Bible is a most reasonable interpretation of the original Greek and Hebrew terms—Hades and Sheol—which means the death state, the tomb.’”

Concerning the later 1913 Toronto assembly, The Watch Tower said: “Some attended this convention largely because they perceived that an evil spirit of slander and misrepresentation was for some reason endeavoring to do injury to a religious work. Satan and his blinded and misguided servants overdo in their endeavors to injure the Lord’s cause. Sometimes the Lord overrules the wrath of man for his own praise and for the forwarding of the truth. As for instance, in the case of a man who, being told that Pastor Russell was Antichrist, went to see what Antichrist might look like. Hearing the joyful message of the Gospel, his heart was captured and now he rejoices.”

At the Toronto convention, some opposers went so far as to come on the grounds with a large banner on which there appeared, disparaging matter including the prominent wording ‘Russellism, Millennial Dawnism, Doctrine of Devils.” But the police made them move on. According to the Toronto News (of July 25, 1913), during that week “the activities of the Toronto anti-Russellites” had not been confined only to that city, for the newspaper said: “Anti-Russell literature has been sent all over the world to different secretaries of that movement, according to Mr. Philip Sidersky of Baltimore, a member of the National Federation of Gospel Missions.” But the News carried a headline indicating that the Bible Students were “not disturbed” by the antics of opposers.

- 1979 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, pp. 93-4, WTB&TS


I am quite familiar with the slanderous screed issued by Rev. J. J. Ross. In Canada they have just two laws governing libel. Under the one the falsifier may be punished by the assessment of damages and money. Under the other, criminal libel, he is subject to imprisonment. I entered suit against Rev. Ross under the criminal act, at the advice of my attorneys, because, as he has no property, a suit for damages would not intimidate him nor stop him. The lower Court found him 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. I could still bring my action for financial damages, but it would be costly to me and impotent as respects Rev. Ross. He, however, is having troubles of his own. Since he began to attack me, he has split two Baptist Congregations--one in Toronto, the other in Hamilton. The last heard of him, he was in London, Ont., and again in trouble with his congregation. A lying spirit is sure to be a boomerang.

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. To be able to spell out a few Greek words is of no earthly value. Nor is it necessary longer to study these languages, in order to have knowledge of the Bible. Our Presbyterian friends have gotten out at great cost Young's Analytical Hebrew, Chaldaic, Greek and English Lexicon Concordance, which anyone may procure. And our Methodist friends have issued a similar work-- Strong's Analytical Concordance and Lexicon. And there is a still older one entitled Englishman's Hebrew, Chaldaic, Greek and English Lexicon and Concordance. Additionally, Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon is a standard authority. The prices of these are not beyond the reach of the average man. By these works scholarly information respecting the original text of the Bible is obtainable. I have all four of these works and have used them faithfully. Very few college professors, even, would risk to give a critical translation of any text of Scripture without consulting these very works of reference, which are standard. To merely learn to read the Greek and Hebrew without a six years' course in their grammars is more likely to hinder than to help in Bible study; far better take the acknowledged scholarship to which I have referred.

Additionally I remind you of the many translations of the Bible now extant--all of them very good. I have all of these and find them useful in comparison in the study of any text--one sometimes giving a thought which another may not. The other day, for curiosity's sake, I counted Bibles in different translations, etc., in my study and found that I have thirty-two.

- 1914 Watchtower, September 15, page 286


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 1/9/2010


In June 1912 Reverend J.J. Ross, pastor of the James Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario, published the pamphlet, Some facts about the Self-Styled 'Pastor' Charles T. Russell, denouncing Russell, his qualifications as a minister, and his moral example as a Pastor. Russell promptly sued Ross for "defamatory libel". During the examination on March 17 1913, Russell admitted that at most he had attended school only seven years of his life at the public school, and that he had left school when he was about fourteen years of age. As Counselor Staunton pressed him further, Russell admitted that he knew nothing about Latin and Hebrew, and that he had never taken a course in philosophy or systematic theology, and had never attended schools of higher learning. The Hamilton and Toronto Newspapers reported the claims made by Ross, but made no charges of misconduct on the part of Russell, and instead criticized Ross for his personal behavior and unprofessional demeanor.[64][65] In answer to Ross's accusations, Russell stated through various printed and public sources that he never claimed knowledge of the Greek language, merely the alphabet. He believed that his ordination was "of God" according to the 'biblical pattern', not requiring any denominational approval, and that his annual election as "Pastor" by over 1,200 congregations worldwide constituted him as "ordained", or chosen, to be a minister of the gospel.

64. ^ The Hamilton Spectator, Dec. 9, 1912; also Feb. 7, and March 17,18,22 1913
65. ^ The Toronto Globe, March 18, 1913

Also See:

The Ross Libel

Rev. J. J. Ross, of Hamilton, Ontario, published a libelous pamphlet against Pastor Russell. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Ross. He evaded the officer for some time and even failed to keep his appointment at his church to prevent the officer from taking him into custody. Finally, he was taken before George E. Jelfs, Police Magistrate, on the charge of criminal libel. Upon a hearing he was committed for trial. Upon motion, the Superior Court quashed the commitment because of a technical error the proceedings. Ross was again taken before the Magistrate.

When the case came on for hearing the second time Pastor Russell, who was a necessary witness, was away on an extended trip in Panama and other parts of the South, filling appointments previously made, and had no notice of the date of hearing. Ross and his counsel tried to make it appear that Pastor Russell was evading the trial. As soon as Pastor Russell returned to Brooklyn and heard that he was wanted he immediately notified the Magistrate that he was ready to come to Canada. He did go and gave his testimony. Again the Magistrate committed Ross to appear before the high court to answer an indictment to be preferred by the Grand Jury. When the case came on in that court the Judge of the court in charging the Grand Jury relative to its duties, among other things, said to the jury: "Unless the jury finds that this alleged libel would cause a breach of the public peace in Canada then no indictment should be returned, but the parties should resort to civil suit for damages." The jury returned "no bill," and it is manifest that they could not have done otherwise under this charge of the Court, for the reason that Pastor Russell lived in Brooklyn, New York, and Rev. Ross lived in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and it would be physically impossible for the libel to cause a breach of the public peace when the parties were so far apart.

Thus it will be seen that the issues were never tried and never determined. Pastor Russell did not resort to civil action for damages, for the reason that he was advised that such an action would be useless, since Ross is irresponsible financially and could not be compelled by such a proceeding to publish a retraction.


Additional Reading:

Also See:

Rev. Ross published another pamphlet against Pastor Russell which for unmitigated falsehoods and misrepresentations of facts certainly has not an equal. Selecting here and there isolated paragraphs from the court records, he twisted them, added to, misrepresented and made them appear entirely different from their true meaning.

This could not have been accidental on his part. For instance, among other things, he charges: "He (Pastor Russell) sought to evade payment fixed by the court by fleeing from one State to another, making it necessary for his wife to get an extradition order, which she did, and which led to the condemnation of the cunning pastor by a third court, and the increase of the alimony."

Rev. Ross probably did not know that extradition proceedings cannot be resorted to enforce a money judgment. No "extradition order" was made, nor were there any extradition proceedings. But probably Rev. Ross thought the people would believe his statement, even though false, because he is recognized as a Minister.

Upon the hearing of the question of alimony, the Court adjudged that Mrs. Russell should receive from her husband the sum of $100 per month. This order was made March 4, 1908. The amount of alimony was never increased.

In the forepart of the winter of 1908 arrangements were made to transfer the main office of the Bible Society’s work to Brooklyn, New York, for the reasons heretofore stated. Some time was required to accomplish this work, but the removal, which was open and aboveboard, was completed in March, 1909. The Pittsburgh papers made mention of the removal. Pastor Russell remained in Pittsburgh until everything was removed that was to be removed, himself being the last one of the office force to leave Pittsburgh. No attempt was made to interfere with the removal, as indeed there could not have been any successful attempt.

In December, 1908, Mrs. Russell filed certain suits to set aside the transfer of property made by her husband to the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, and to enforce the payment of alimony.

Prior thereto, at a hearing of the testimony on the alimony branch of the separation case, Pastor Russell had testified that before the organization of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, both he and his wife having consecrated their all to be used in the religious work in which they were engaged in serving the Lord, it was agreed between them that all of his property should be turned over to the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, FOR THAT PURPOSE. The property was his and he had the right to do with it as he pleased. That after their separation, acting in good faith and in harmony with their said agreement, he had transferred his property to said Society, and that he had not the means with which to pay the amount of alimony allowed by the Court. The personal property had already been exhausted by the Society, and the real estate was incumbered.