(This originally appeared in the Fall 1999 edition of the MCOI Journal)
We are heading into the Christmas season again, and you know what that means, some Jehovah’s Witness (JW) is certain to show up on your doorstep and hand you a Watchtower or Awake! magazine,* scolding “Christendom” — that’s you, Bub — for celebrating Christmas despite the fact the holiday has “pagan origins.” Before being guilted into giving up this most glorious season of holiness and fun, please consider that almost everything in our culture today has “pagan origins.” For example, we have a pagan calendar. But, do you really worship the god Thor on “Thorsday” or Woden on “Wodensday?” Probably not. I know I don’t. Wedding rings are of “pagan origin,” yet JWs wear them just as you might. So do not allow yourself to be judged in these areas. Christ has set you free from that pagan mess, so you can live everyday with Him in mind, and enjoy life with your friends and family. The Apostle Paul says it best in Romans chapter 14, verses 4-6,
“Who are you to judge the servant of another? … One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man he fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord ” (NASB)
But I’d like you also to consider something else: Does it seem strange to you that the average JW knows all about the pagan origins of every holiday in which you like to participate, but he has no clue about the pagan origins of his own religion?
The founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS).† Charles Taze Russell, was a religious eclectic. Webster’s Dictionary defines an “eclectic” as a person who selects from different systems, doctrines or sources. That’s exactly what Russell did He rejected the Christian faith of his fathers and collected doctrines and beliefs from various pagan systems and wacko scientific theories that were making the rounds in late 19th-century America. He spliced these together with selected Bible texts and Second Adventist teachings to form the new religion of Russellism.
The Second Adventist Connection
From the Second Adventists, of which he was one, he borrowed the “invisible presence” doctrine (among other false teachings) which they had developed in response to a failed prophecy. Jesus didn’t show up visibly as was predicted for 1874; ergo, He did return in 1874, but He was invisible. ZION’S Watchtower, October 1881, p289,
When 1874 came and there was no outward sign of Jesus in the literal clouds and in a fleshly form, there was a general re-examination of all the arguments upon which the ‘Midnight Cry’ was made And when no fault or flaw could be found, it led to the critical examination of the Scriptures which seem to bear on the manner of Christ’s coming, and it was soon discovered that the expectation of Jesus in the flesh at the second advent [sic] was the mistake.
Other doctrines which Russell “borrowed’ from the Adventists were “the remnant” teaching, much of his chronological understanding, and the labeling of Christendom (excepting themselves!) as the evil Babylon. He also adopted their penchant for making false prophecies and then claimed, as they did, these predictions had been fulfilled figuratively when they did not come to pass literally.
From quack science, he adopted phrenology (among other wacky ideas) which is the belief that the shape of one’s skull can indicate one’s character and desire to worship God.
“The drawing power which the almighty exercises over humanity is in different degrees Some have a strong desire to worship God, others have a weak desire, and others have no desire at all. This difference is due to the shape of the brain. Mankind are born with differences in this respect.” The Watch Tower, March 15, 1913, p84.
Russell’s character, it turns out, was impeccable He had a good head, so it was said:
“A dear brother who is a phrenologist, speaking of brother Russell, said the Lord knew perfectly well when he picked out that head, that there was not one iota of self-love in his make-up ” 1911 Convention Report, p281.
Russell found his gospel in the Zodiac, of all places, and determined that God’s throne room was in the star system of the Pleiades.
“Our solar system of planets is also found to be revolving together around some other great center the group Pleiades. And the reasonable suggestion has been made that the center may be in the heavens, the highest heaven, the throne of God.” ZION’S WATCH TOWER, May 15, 1895, p121.
“No nation has ever claimed the invention of the Zodiac, though doubtless they would have been glad to have the honor had they invented it … The higher critics of today, though denying the inspiration of the scriptures [sic], admit that there is a close and strange agreement between the Bible and the Zodiac. If then, we find the divine plan written in these constellations, realizing that men could not have written a Plan that they did not even understand, it would be only reasonable to ascribe its origin to God … Indeed, the same Bible which points to the Great Pyramid, points also to the heavens as declaring the wonderful Plan of Salvation.” 1914 International Bible Students Souvenir Convention Report, p252.
God’s Stone Witness
Also from the pagans. Russell adopted pyramidology. Page 17 of Thy Kingdom Come, the third volume in Russell’s series of Studies in the Scriptures, reads as follows:
THE TESTIMONY OF GOD’S STONE WITNESS AND PROPHET, THE GREAT PYRAMID IN EGYPT. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE GREAT PYRAMID — WHY OF SPECIAL INTEREST TO CHRISTIANS — THE GREAT PYRAMID A STOREHOUSE OF TRUTH — SCIENTIFIC HISTORIC AND PROPHETIC — BIBLE ALLUSIONS TO IT …
Then on page 362 of the same book, Russell says of “God’s Stone Witness,”
‘Its wonderful correspondencies [sic] with the Bible leave no room for doubt that the same divine inspirer of the prophets and apostles inspired this Witness’ also.”
Russell believed and taught that the measurement of a passageway in the Great Pyramid in Giza gave mankind the date (1874) for “the beginning of the period of trouble “
“Measuring down the ‘Entrance Passage’ from that point, to find the distance to the entrance of the Pit,’ representing the great trouble and destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown with power, we find it to be 3416 inches, symbolizing 3416 years from the above date, B.C. 1542. This calculation shows A.D. 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble …” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, Thy Kingdom Come, 1901 ed., p342).
Interestingly, in the seven short years between 1901 and 1908, the pyramid’s “Entrance Passage” grew 41 inches longer to accommodate a necessary change in Russell’s dating system! The 1908 edition reads like this:
“Measuring down the ‘Entrance Passage’ from that point, to find the distance to the entrance of the ‘Pit,1 representing the great trouble and destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown with power, we find it to be 3457 inches, symbolizing 3457 years from the above date, B.C. 1542. This calculation shows A D 1915 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble …” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, Thy Kingdom Come, 1908 ed.. p342).
Now we know why the Egyptians built their pyramids out in the desert they needed growing room! I’m thinking that, if they keep growing at this rate, they’re going to need more land! Of course, if the “Pinocchio syndrome” has any factual basis, it may have been Russell’s nose (and not the Great Pyramid) that was growing in those years.
The Blind Corroborating the Blind
In the July 15, 1894 ZION’S WATCH TOWER, p226. Russell explains that he could not change his prediction that 1914 “is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble ” After all, 1914 was “God’s date.” he asserted, and not his. Okey dokey, but how do we know 1914 was “God’s date ” and not Russell’s? Well, as Russell explained on the same page (226), the Great Pyramid in Egypt shows its “corroboration of the dates and other teachings of the Bible” Amazing! And of course, the Zodiac undoubtedly corroborated the pyramid … and the cited 1914 Convention Report informed readers that “there is a close and strange agreement between the Bible and the Zodiac”… so we come full circle. And, dear friends, it’s quite possible the Wizard of Oz put his stamp of approval on the entire mess, although Russell didn’t specifically make that claim to my knowledge. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating — if Russell was not a pagan, we shall have to apologize to King Tut! Well, to make a long story short, 1914 turned out not to be “the end of the time of trouble,” and neither did the battle of Armageddon end in A.D 1914, as Russell had confidently prophesied. Nuts! Nevertheless, Russell died on October 31, 1916. .. still convinced the end of the age was right around the corner. And of course, all these decades later, it still is!
The WTBTS’ Enduring Monument
Despite these disappointments. Russell and his followers were so captivated by pyramidology that, today, Russell lies not 25-feet away from a 7-foot-tall replica of an Egyptian pyramid. It stands in mute testimony to the pagan origins of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. I call it “Charlie’s pyramid,” although actually, of course, it is not Charlie’s pyramid at all, since it was erected in 1919 and Charles Russell was dead several years by then. I’ve gone twice to Russell’s gravesite and pyramid — once in 1992, and again this year on my way to the “Witnesses Now For Jesus” convention that is held annually in Pennsylvania.
Rosemont United Cemetery is located on the north side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is not exclusively a Watchtower Society cemetery, but many of the anointed “gods” (the anointed were thought to be one big happy 144,001-member “god family” along with Jesus Christ1) besides Russell are buried there. It is just off of Rte. 19 (Perryville Ave.) on Cemetery Lane located across the road from the Catholic Northside Cemetery. The pyramid looms large and dominates the landscape. It has the Society’s name on one side of it, as well as the supposedly “pagan” cross and crown symbol the Society used at the time. There is an open Bible engraved on each side, as well, with some names etched into the rock “pages,” though time has all but erased or made unreadable most of the names etched thereon.
Proclaimers of Half Truths and Outright Fibs
I noted with amused interest that, although the bogus history book Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (published by the WTBTS in 1993) shows Russell’s headstone on page 64, only the headstone is shown — with none of the surrounding area. In fact, JWs to whom I have talked about the cemetery pyramid have accused me of lying about it, because the picture of Russell ‘s headstone in the Proclaimers book does not show the pyramid looming large just behind it. So the Watchtower Society would have you believe, my dears. Don’t be fooled by that book. It does NOT tell the whole truth about anything.
A Fractured Fairy Tale
The most interesting aspect of this WTBTS pyramid to me, however, is how it shows the entire history of the Society to be a carefully constructed lie. You see, this pyramid was erected by the WTBTS in 1919, just when Jesus was supposedly appointing the WTBTS over all his belongings. You know the story …
The “Baloneyish” Captivity
Once upon a time, Jesus “returned” in 1914 in a highly convenient, invisible fashion (after having supposedly returned in 1874, also invisibly). On His return. He supposedly found a faithful servant on earth — the “anointed remnant” of the WTBTS. He promptly (and inexplicably, I might add — if the slave was faithful, why punish him?) sent this “faithful slave” into “Babylonish captivity” to be “cleansed” of his pagan practices etc. Pagan practices? Like what?
“There were many false doctrines and practices that had not yet been cleaned out of the organization … With considerable misunderstanding, they had accepted earthly political governments as the ‘superior authorities’ that God had ordained according to Romans 13:1 …” (Jehovah ‘s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p91)
Isn’t that what they believe NOW? Perhaps they are about to be shipped off to Babylon again! But let’s continue …
“… many were putting emphasis on so-called character development’ … and there was considerable creature worship in the organization. Furthermore, such pagan holidays as Christmas were being celebrated, and even the symbol of the cross was used as a sign of Christian devotion … although the name of Jehovah was used from time to time, it was held in the background … Organizationally, the Witnesses were still practicing the democratic style of local congregation government… it was a time of everyone’s doing what was considered right in his own eyes …” (Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p91).
About this era, the WATCHTOWER of May 1, 1989 on p4, offers this whitewash,
“In the early part of our 20* century prior to 1919, the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, had to be released from a form of spiritual captivity to the ideas and practices of false religion Although having rejected such false teachings as the Trinity and the immortal soul, they were still tainted by Babylonish practices … some were exalting creatures, indulging in a personality cult that focused on Charles T. Russell…”
Some were exalting creatures? Oh my dears — all the Bible Students were worshipping Pastor Russell including that great “stamper-outer” of creature worship — second President Joseph “Judge” Rutherford! It wasn’t until 1927 that Rutherford got sick and tired of Russell getting all the glory and “rooted out” Russell worship.2 Russell’s “character development” teaching was not repudiated until 19273, and the democratic election of elders was not outlawed until 1932.4 And what of the other so-called pagan practices like celebrating Christmas, displaying the cross, and neglecting to sanctify Jehovah’s name? Christmas was celebrated until 1926.5 Jehovah’s name was not “sanctified” by the Bible Students until 19296 (many years after their supposed “release”) and the cross was prominently displayed on every WATCHTOWER magazine until 1931!7 And, as we have already pointed out, the WTBTS currently teaches the “superior authorities” of Romans 13 are the earthly governments. So the question begs to be asked — of what exactly was the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society cleansed?
But that aside — I don’t see that “Babylonish captivity” stuff anywhere in the favored Matthew 24 text, do you? Jesus’ parable in Matthew 24 teaches pretty straightforwardly that Jesus would return to find a faithful “faithful servant,” and reward him. But the WTBTS is not one to let the facts get in the way of a good story! So, according to the talc, the unfaithful faithful slave was released from Babylonish captivity after their “purification” by trial, was again inspected by Jesus in 1919, and given new duties and great privileges In fact, they are pretty much the bosses of the world right now—the big cheese, God’s only channel of communication. In short, they are IT. Modest, too.
The 1959 book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose speaks of the anointed slave’s release from Babylon on p91,
“Now from the year 1919 a glorious new outlook presented itself. These dedicated servants began to recognize their mistakes and make a public confession of their wrongdoing in their effort to be restored to his favor, which they realized had temporarily been lost. They repented of their former course, expressed the desire to change their ways and prayed for Jehovah’s forgiveness.”
Yep, and what was the first thing they did after having been allegedly “cleansed” from paganism and released in 1919? They built this humungous pagan pyramid in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania! But let’s allow the Society to speak for itself… Here is a VERY interesting item to read, taken from the Bible Students Convention Report of January 1919 …
“AT THE GRAVE
On Monday, a party of about 150 was conducted by Brother Bohnet to the grave of Brother Russell. Upon a hillside, sloping towards the south, we joined hands around the grave and sang: ‘Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.’
Our last lingering look upon the scene recalled the peaceful manner of our Pastor’s ‘passing beyond the vail.’ Brother Rutherford’s words came to mind: ‘I am glad this prison experience was reserved for us, rather than for our dear Brother Russell.’
We visited the marble works and there watched the workmen slowly but surely chisel out the monument to be erected as a memorial to the Society The Watchtower Society burial lots in Rosemont United Cemeteries, five miles due north of Pittsburgh City, contain ample grave space for all the members of the Bethel family, and the pilgrims and their wives — in all more than 275 adult graves. In the exact center of the Bethel lot will be erected diagonally the Pyramid Shape Monument as designed by Brother Bohnet, and accepted by Brother Russell as the most fitting emblem for an enduring monument on the Society’s burial space. The size of this structure is nine feet across the base, and its apex stone is exactly seven feet above the ground surface level.
It rests upon a concrete foundation five feet deep and heavily reinforced with barbed wire, the work of Brother Bohnet, who would not entrust this important task to anyone else, so we are assured that the job was well done. The brother gave a full description of the securing of the rock material at the time he piloted the conventionists to the cemetery and urged us to help ourselves to souvenir chips in the shop of the granite worker nearby…
Each slope of the pyramid will face one of the large lots, and on each of these slopes is cut in four-inch embossment a Teacher’s Bible, on the pages of which will appear the names of the ones buried there. The burial space for Brother Rutherford was indicated and his name, like that of Brother Russell, will be at the top of opposite Bible pages A Bible space is being set apart for the Pilgrims — all in one lot of forty eight grave space[s], so all their names will appear on the same Bible.
Above the Bibles are spaces for inscriptions in full, W.T.B & T.S., I B S.A., ‘Dead with Christ’, ‘Risen with Christ’, etc. And above these the Cross and Crown and Wreath, and the whole capped with the apex stone, highly polished — its shape of course being pyramidal.
Within the structure, incased [sic] in a block of granite, will be a sealed metal box in which is a complete set of Karatol Scripture Studies, the Memorial Tower, and one of every tract, photographs of Pastor Russell, a copy of the Society’s charter, and many other things to interest the people who at some future date may open the pyramid and find them.
It is expected the monument will be in place before the next Decoration Day Any truth people desiring a chip of the stone may send postage enough to carry a piece about the size of an egg, with enough additional to pay the Society for the trouble of having it wrapped for the mail” (Souvenir Report of the Bible Students Convention. Pittsburgh, PA. 1/2-5/1919, p7.)
Well, there it is from the horse’s mouth! I think what the Society itself wrote about the most fitting emblem for the Society’s enduring monument is far superior (and more humorous, too) than anything I could say about it! I must admit to succumbing to a fair amount of restrained hilarity just typing their momentous words on the subject.
I am sincerely most grateful for the great care taken in the construction of the Society’s enduring monument, without which it might not have endured long enough for me to have gotten such a charming video tape of it.
I also note the irony of the fact that the “interested people from the future” are people such as myself — and not JWs — for whose benefit these things were undoubtedly preserved. These early “anointed” (members of the elite 144,000 “slave class”) actually preserved their early teachings in a carefully sealed metal box that was itself encased in a granite block, as if they expected these “truths’ to REMAIN TRUE! But alas, WTBTS “truth” has moved on to keep up with the times, leaving Russell’s outdated teachings hermetically sealed in a pyramidal pagan vault.
I have to wonder how many of the “anointed” sent in their postage for their “pyramid relic,” and wonder how many of these blessed relics may still be packed away in the attics of these old faithful Bible Students.
It is also interesting that, although in 1919, Rutherford had evidently planned to be buried near this enduring monument in Pennsylvania, he was instead buried on the grounds of the very beautiful Beth Sarim in California (which is yet another enduring monument to the false teachings and false prophetic ideas of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society)
So, if by chance a Jehovah’s Witness stops by in December and wants to speak to you about “pagan origins,” perhaps you could show them these pictures of Charlie s Pyramid, and kindly, ask them what they know about the pagan origins of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
Yes, kindly. Our motivation in discussing this topic with the JW at the door is not “to get even with him” because the Society has slammed us, but to open his eyes to the deceptive and hypocritical nature of the Society. He needs to be weaned from the idolatrous devotion he has to that cultic religious organization. Until he can look at the Bible without his ”Watchtower glasses,” he will be blind to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and unwilling to receive the free gift of forgiveness and salvation the Father graciously offers him in Jesus.
Love to all,
* The WATCHTOWER and Awake! magazines are the two bi-monthly publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (also known as Jehovah’s Witnesses) which, among other things, keeps people informed about the alleged Pagan practices of other religions.
† The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the government (or clergy) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
© 2015, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
- According to ZION’S WATCH TOWER, December 1881, p301: “Our high calling is so great, so much above the comprehension of men, that they feel that we are guilty of blasphemy when we speak of being ‘new creatures’—not any longer human, but partakers of the divine nature.’ …Now we appear like men, and all die naturally, but in the resurrection, we shall rise in our true character as Gods” ↩
- God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached, 1973, p347 ↩
- WATCHTOWER, June 15, 1927. p184 ↩
- Proclaimers of Gods Kingdom, 1993, p213 ↩
- Proclaimers of Gods Kingdom, p200 ↩
- Proclaimers of Gods Kingdom, p124 ↩
- Proclaimers of Gods Kingdom, p200 ↩