Jehovah's Witnesses

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In 1870, Charles Taze Russell and others formed an independent group to study the Bible.[11][12] In 1877 Russell jointly edited a religious journal, Herald of the Morning, with Nelson H. Barbour. The pair co-wrote Three Worlds, in which they taught that Christ had returned in 1874[13] and that 1914 would mark the end of a 2520-year period called "the Gentile Times".[14] In July 1879, after separating from Barbour, Russell began publishing the magazine Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence,[15] highlighting his interpretations of biblical chronology, with particular attention to the belief that the world was in "the last days" and that a new age was imminent.[16] In 1889, Russell taught that "the 'battle of the great day of God Almighty' ... is already commenced" and would culminate with the overthrow of all political rulership in 1914, at the end of "the Gentile Times".[17]

From 1879 Watch Tower supporters gathered as autonomous congregations to study the Bible and Russell's writings, including his six-volume series, Studies in the Scriptures. Russell established Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society in 1881, which was incorporated in 1884 as a "business convenience" to distribute tracts and Bibles.[18] Russell died in October 1916 while on a preaching campaign.[19]

Reorganization (1917–1942)

In January 1917, the Watch Tower Society's legal representative, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, was elected as its next president. His election was disputed, triggering a major turnover of members over the next decade.[20][21] Rutherford centralized organizational control of the Watch Tower Society. In 1919 the Brooklyn headquarters appointed a director in each congregation, and a year later all members were instructed to report their preaching activity weekly.[22] He released The Finished Mystery as the seventh volume of Russell's Studies in the Scriptures, which strongly criticized Catholic and Protestant clergy and Christian involvement in war.[23] As a result, Watch Tower Society directors were jailed for sedition under the Espionage Act in 1918 and members were subjected to mob violence; charges against the directors were dropped in 1920.[24]

By mid-1919, about one in seven Bible Students had left rather than accepted Rutherford's leadership.[25] At an international convention held at Cedar Point, Ohio, in September 1922, a new emphasis was made on house-to-house preaching.[26] Significant changes in doctrine were made under Rutherford's leadership, including the 1918 announcement that Jewish patriarchs (such as Abraham and Isaac) would be resurrected in 1925, marking the beginning of Christ's thousand-year reign.[27][28] Many members became dissatisfied with Rutherford's leadership, resulting in the formation of various Bible Student groups independent of the Watch Tower Society.[29] William Schnell, author and former Witness, has claimed that three quarters of the Bible Students who had been associating in 1921 had left by 1931.[30][31]

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