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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

False charges about Pastor Russell

Are the charges in a tract against Jehovah’s witnesses true that the Society’s first president was immoral, profiteered from selling some mysteriously named wheat at $65 a bushel, and committed perjury when asked in court if he could read Greek?—C. W., North Carolina.

No. They were deliberate falsehoods. No immoral action was ever proved against the Watchtower Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell. In a suit for separate maintenance Mrs. Russell’s attorney said, “We make no charge of adultery”; and Mrs. Russell, who went to all ends to discredit her husband (her main objection was that he would not let her control the Watchtower magazine’s policy), specifically said she did not accuse him of immorality. When critics who did not know him thought they could take portions of the trial and malign his good name, he swore: “I never was guilty of immorality toward any person. . . . Further, I have never desired to do so.” Those who knew him personally highly respected his integrity. J. F. Rutherford, one who was sufficiently convinced of the importance of the Christian work Brother Russell did to likewise devote his life and funds to it, and who succeeded Russell as the Society’s president, said at Russell’s funeral: “Truly it can be said that Pastor Russell’s character was and is without blemish.”

The facts about “Miracle Wheat” are equally perverted. Brother Russell was interested in anything related to the Scriptural prediction that the desert would blossom as a rose and the earth yield her increase. So, when the public press reported a new and unusual strain of wheat, called “Miracle Wheat” by its original grower, Brother Russell reported this in The Watchtower, along with a government report on it. Some Watchtower readers contacted the grower, who was in no way connected with the Watchtower Society, and purchased some of the wheat. When theirs produced seed they offered it as a contribution to the Society. The original grower sold the seed at $1.25 a pound, so they suggested their contribution be priced at $1.00, and all the money received be given to the Society. The Society made no claim for the wheat on its own knowledge, though it won several State Fair grand prizes before it wore itself out. Brother Russell neither named it nor profited from it; the money went as a donation into Christian missionary work. When others criticized this sale, all who had contributed were told that if they were dissatisfied their money would be returned, and the money was held for a year for this purpose. Not a single person requested it back. The only critics were those who had no real knowledge of the matter, which was purely a donation sale for the benefit of the Society—as open and aboveboard as a church cake sale.

Additional Reading:

The “perjury” charge was not made in court, but in a tract written later by an irresponsible slanderer against whom Brother Russell had brought a libel case. The official record of the case in question (Police Court of the City of Hamilton, Ontario, March 17, 1913) says: “Q. You don’t profess, then, to be schooled in the Latin language? A. No, sir. Q. Or in Greek? A. No, sir.” After this he was asked if he knew individual Greek letters, and it was over this that the question of his knowledge of Greek arose. This false “perjury” claim has been repeated by many who never went to this Canadian city to check this old court record to see if they are spreading truth or a lie. Not only has the question they “quote” been reworded, but Brother Russell had specifically said that he did not know Greek.

Additional Reading:

The extent to which critics will deliberately falsify such quotations is shown in another tract that says Jehovah’s witnesses deny the ransom and tries to support this with a quotation from Volume 5, page 127, of the Studies in the Scriptures: “Jesus’ suffering would not pay the debt of sin.” Here is what the book actually says: “True, the wages of sin was not suffering, but death; and hence suffering on our Lord’s part would not alone pay the wages of sin for us: it was absolutely necessary that he should ‘taste death for every man.’” The book says exactly the opposite of what the tract claims it says.

With such lies and perverted facts the critics condemn themselves. They would not like to be classed with the ultramodernists who accuse Jesus of being illegitimate, but they stoop equally low regarding other men whose lives were spent unselfishly in God’s service.

- The Watchtower, May 15, 1953, p. 319, WTB&TS


My husband possesses a book, The Chaos of Cults, by Jan Karel Van Baalen, and, on pages 218, 219, that book states regarding Pastor Russell: ‘His boldness was so extraordinary that he calmly announced in the opening pages of his Studies in the Scriptures that it would be better to leave the Bible unread but read his comments than to omit the latter but read the Bible.’ My question is, did Pastor Russell really state or have written such a statement in the book or books Studies in the Scriptures?—E. N., United States.

In view of the reputation enjoyed by the Bible Students in Pastor Russell’s day and that being enjoyed by the witnesses of Jehovah in our day for knowing their Bibles, which reputation is justly deserved, there must be something wrong with what Van Baalen says in his book. There is.

In the first place, let it be noted that the two disciples on the way to Emmaus were Bible readers and yet did not understand why God had allowed Jesus to be put to death. The scribes and Pharisees read God’s Word continually and yet failed to appreciate that Jesus was their Messiah. The Ethiopian official that Philip met was reading the prophecy of Isaiah but did not understand what he was reading. Obviously, merely reading the Bible is not enough; we need help to understand it. That is why God provided apostles, prophets, missionaries, shepherds and teachers.—Luke 24:25-27, 32; John 5:39; Acts 8:30, 31; Eph. 4:11-15, NW.

As for the statement made by Van Baalen, neither it nor anything even remotely similar ever appeared in any of the six Scripture Studies, which were written primarily for the public. But, some six years after writing his sixth volume, Pastor Russell did write, in The Watchtower, which at that time was an organization journal, something in the September 15, 1910, issue under the heading “Is the Reading of ‘Scripture Studies’ Bible Study?” Apparently it is this that Van Baalen distorted. What was written there, however, can be readily appreciated in the light of the foregoing Scriptural examples. We quote from this article as follows:

“We all know people who have spent days and weeks and years in study of the Bible and have learned little or nothing. . . . It is a great deal like hunting or fishing. Some people go hunting every year, and though they do a lot of hunting, it is no sure indication of how much they get. Some do a lot of fishing, but do not get many fish. Bible study is very much the same. It is not the amount of time we spend in poring over a passage, but the amount of information we secure from the Bible.

“The six volumes of Scripture Studies are not intended to supplant the Bible. There are various methods to be pursued in the study of the Bible and these aids to Bible study are in such a form that they, of themselves, contain the important elements of the Bible as well as the comments or elucidations of those Bible statements, on exactly the same principle that our Lord and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament, and then gave elucidations of those Old Testament passages.” - Additional Reading:

Far from discrediting the Bible as the basis for one’s faith, the article goes on to say: “In reading [the Scripture Studies] the first time, and perhaps the second time, and before we would accept anything as being our own personal faith and conviction, we should say, ‘I will not take it because these studies say so; I wish to see what the Bible says.’ And so we would study the Scriptures in the light of these Scripture Studies; we would prove every point, or disprove it, as the case might be. We would be satisfied with nothing less than a thorough investigation of the Bible from this standpoint.”

And from under the heading “‘Scripture Studies’ Not a Substitute for the Bible,’ we further quote: “This is not, therefore, putting the Scripture Studies as a substitute for the Bible, because so far as substituting for the Bible, the Studies, on the contrary, continually refer to the Bible; and if one has any doubt as to a reference or if one’s recollection should lapse in any degree, one should refresh his memory, and, in fact, should see that his every thought is in harmony with the Bible—not merely in accord with the Scripture Studies, but in accord with the Bible.”

The particular point distorted by Van Baalen is as follows:

"Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years—if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references, and not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.”

Obviously, if reading the Bible by itself did not give one a correct understanding of what one read, as the foregoing Scriptural examples as well as modern experience clearly show, then by one’s merely reading the Bible by the page and neglecting the aids that help one to understand it would result in his losing an understanding of what he read. And especially is this true in view of the prophetic promise that “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Prov. 4:18, RS) And bringing this ever-increasing light to the attention of all sincere students of the Bible is the anointed Christian group that serves as the “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew 24:45-47, NW.

Clearly then, in view of all the foregoing, Mr. Van Baalen is guilty of willfully bearing false witness against his neighbor when he claims that Pastor Russell was so bold that he ‘calmly announced in the opening pages of his Studies in the Scriptures that it would be better to leave the Bible unread but read his comments than to omit the latter but read the Bible.’

- The Watchtower, July 1, 1957, pp. 414-5, WTB&TS

Additional Reading: Also See:


What was Pastor Russell's views regarding his writings; As we have been to some extent, by the grace of God, used in the ministry of the gospel, it may not be out of place to say here what we have frequently said in private, and previously in these columns,--namely, that while we appreciate the love, sympathy, confidence and fellowship of fellow-servants and of the entire household of faith, we want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings; nor do we wish to be called Reverend or Rabbi. Nor do we wish that any should be called by our name. The name of him who died for all--the name Christian--is quite sufficient to designate the spiritual sons of God, the true brethren of Christ; and whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil, of carnality, and tends toward more of the same. Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible, or on a par with the holy Scriptures. The most we claim or have ever claimed for our teachings is, that they are what we believe to be harmonious interpretations of the divine Word, in harmony with the spirit of the truth. And we still urge, as in the past, that each reader study the subjects we present in the light of the Scriptures, proving all things by the Scriptures, accepting what they see to be thus approved, and rejecting all else. It is to this end, to enable the student to trace the subject in the divinely inspired Record, that we so freely intersperse both quotations and citations of the Scriptures upon which to build. - Charles Taze Russell, December 15, 1896