Jehovahs Witnesses 2439

controversies within the American Adventist
movement, which had predicted the end of the
world for the year 1844 based on numerol
ogical speculations drawn from the Bible. After
1844, Adventists divided into several competing
groups. Those who renounced any further date
setting eventually became the Seventh Day
Adventists, a large international denomination.
Some of those who would still calculate prophe
tic dates focused their hopes on the year 1874,
and constituted a loosely organized movement.
After the new disappointment, the young Rus
sell emerged as one of the leaders of those who
had placed their hopes in 1874. Russell both
predicted the end of the world as we know it
for the year 1914 and shifted his focus on teach
ings other than prophetical date setting.
In 1878, Russell separated himself from
other factions of the movement and started
editing a magazine, Zions Watch Tower and
Herald of Christs Presence, which is still pub
lished today as The Watchtower. Russells fol
lowers were known simply as Bible Students,
but in 1884 the preacher formally established
an organization known as the Zions Watch
Tower Society, later the Watch Tower Bible
and Tract Society. Russells ideas involved the
denial of Trinity ( Jesus Christ was regarded as
Gods first creature). He also preached condi
tionalism, a rejection of the traditional view of
the immortality of the soul. These doctrines
would later seem highly heterodox to mainline
Christians. In the late nineteenth century, how
ever, they were shared by quite a few preach
ers. Russells notable success (almost all his
books sold millions of copies) did not come so
much from the alleged revolutionary character
of his teachings as from the fact that they were
perceived as being in continuity with, if not
part of, mainline Christianity. This confirmed
to later social science that new religious move
ments, in order to gain a large following, should
exhibit only a moderate discontinuity with
respect to mainline religion.
The prophetic failure of 1914 did not stop
the movements progress. The Bible Students,
however, were radical Christian pacifists, who
adamantly refused to be drafted and to fight in
war. In several countries they were arrested in
significant numbers. In this climate, the elec
tion as president of the Watch Tower Society
of Joseph Franklin Rutherford (18691942) was
not welcome by everybody, and several schis
matic groups separated from the mainline
movement, although all these splinter organiza
tions remained quite small.
Not only did Rutherford promote specula
tions about a new date for the end of the world,
1925, he also transformed the loose network of
Russells times into a strongly centralized orga
nization, changing its name in 1931 into the
current one of Jehovahs Witnesses. With a
peculiar and abrasive populist rhetoric, Ruther
ford consistently attacked organized religion,
politics, and big business as rackets and cor
rupt monopolies up to no good. Although
Rutherford would be later criticized for his early
and, in retrospect, nave attempt in 1933 to
contact the Nazi regime and present a positive
image of the German Jehovahs Witnesses, such
contacts quickly failed and the Witnesses were
severely persecuted in Nazi Germany, as in
Fascist Italy and Communist Russia. Several
hundred died in Nazi concentration camps.
Nathan Homer Knorr (190577) succeeded
Rutherford in 1942. Again, the transition from
one president to the next took place during
a world war. The 115,000 active Witnesses,
still committed to radical pacifism, were again
experiencing difficult times in most countries of
the world. Presiding over the Witnesses in an
era that was now suspicious of charismatic lea
dership, Knorr struggled to depersonalize the
movements hierarchy and almost consciously
organized a sustained routinization of charisma
within the group. Articles in the Witnesses
magazines and books were now published anon
ymously, concluding a process initiated during
the Rutherford era. Although still emphasizing
the Witnesses as the only authorized organiza
tion representing the Lords true church in the
world, the style became less abrasive than it had
been during the Rutherford administration.
Missionary endeavors, now much more system
atically organized, became the top priority.
At Knorrs death in 1977, the movement had
grown to more than 2 million publishers (i.e.,
Witnesses engaged in the active field service
of proselytization, mostly conducted by system
atically visiting all homes in a given neighbor
hood) and more than 5 million participants to
the memorial of the Lords Supper, the only
yearly liturgy of the movement. This differ
ence emphasizes the problem in assessing the