Charles Taze Russell, also known as C.T. Russell and Pastor Russell. (1852-1916 AD)
C. T. Russell was born in the United States, in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, on February 16, 1852. Although brought up as a Presbyterian, Russell eventually joined the Congregational Church because he preferred its views. In 1879 Russell married Maria Frances Ackley.
Russell is best known as the founder of the International Bible Students Association as well as the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania. He began publishing the religious magazine Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, now published as The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom in July 1879.
Among those that would influence Russell's understanding of the Bible were Second Adventist Jonas Wendell, George W. Stetson, George Storrs (publisher of the magazine Bible Examiner), and Nelson H. Barbour.
Russell was an assistant editor of the religious magazine Herald of the Morning, published in collaboration with Barbour, for a year and a half when Barbour wrote an article in August 1878 that would signal the beginning of the end of their partnership. After several months of publishing articles expressing conflicting viewpoints on the topic Russell withdrew from the partnership.
- In an article entitled "The Atonement", Barbour held out his belief that Christ died for us but rejected the concept that Christ died instead of us. Russell, on the other hand, firmly believed that by his death, Christ paid the penalty of sin for Adam's offspring.
Writings and Other Works
In addition to Zion's Watch Tower, Russell wrote six volumes originally known as Millennial Dawn but later renamed as Studies in the Scriptures. These volumes contained what Russell believed to be Bible truth.
- 1886 - Volume I: The Plan of the Ages (later known as The Divine Plan of the Ages)
- 1889 - Volume II: The Time is at Hand
- 1891 - Volume III: Thy Kingdom Come
- 1897 - Volume IV: The Battle of Armageddon (originally The Day of Vengeance)
- 1899 - Volume V: The At-one-ment Between God and Man
- 1904 - Volume VI: The New Creation
- Russell did not survive to write an intended seventh volume of this series.
Beginning in January 1914, a program of motion pictures and color slides synchronized with sound recordings, the Photo-Drama of Creation was presented to audiences in North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. The promotional posters proclaimed that the program would harmonize science, history and the Bible. The colored slides covered topics from the creation of mankind, Tyndale's translating the New Testament, Armageddon and the Millennium based on Isaiah 11:6.
Debates and Controversy
Because of the unorthodoxy of the religious teachings he presented, C.T. Russell was a frequent focus of criticism by members of other religious groups. In 1903, Russell agreed to a series of debates with Dr. E. L. Eaton, a minister at a New York Methodist Episcopal church on the topic hell and life after death. In the final debate, Eaton affirmed the doctrine that the wicked are punished with eternal torments and sufferings. Russell vigorously denied the teaching of hell-fire, having previously espoused a belief that the dead are unconscious while in the grave and that vast multitudes were awaiting a resurrection. From 1905-1907, Russell toured the United States and Canada conducting a series of lectures entitled "To Hell and Back".
During his lifetime, critics of C.T. Russell accused him of being a Freemason, becoming wealthy by selling his books and "Miracle Wheat," being immoral and cruel to his wife, lying under oath and being a cult leader and false prophet.
Following his death, a division occurred within the religious movement he had founded. One group, associated with those that had legal control of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society and its legal entities, followed the second president, J.F. Rutherford and are known today as Jehovah's Witnesses. The other group, known simply as Bible Students, continue to provide access to Russell's writings via reprints and web-sites dedicated to Russell. Bible Students object to the claim of Jehovah's Witnesses that Russell was the founder of their religious movement.