History – Preface to Bible Student History

Bible Student History

Preface to Bible Student History

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.—1 Peter 3:15

Who are you? What church do you attend? To what denomination do you belong? When these questions are asked they are not easy to answer. Bible Students are not easy to categorize.

When Alex Halley wrote his classical Roots and that became a television sensation, it started a trend of looking for one’s historical origins. Since this issue completes 75 years of publishing THE HERALD, it seems appropriate to do the same.

The Bible Student movement began about a hundred twenty years ago with the activity of Charles Taze Russell. Understanding the unique religious atmosphere of that time is essential to comprehending the whys and wherefores of a new movement.

This supplement to the Diamond Anniversary of THE HERALD will attempt to address this issue—placing the Bible Student movement in its historical context, both the broad scale setting of the entire Christian church and the narrower focus of the second advent movement.

Our regular feature, a verse by verse Bible Study, leads off this section. Entitled In the Beginning, it traces the very inception of the Christian church as it looks at each verse in the first chapter of Acts.

In Contending for the Faith we will note how controversy has always been an integral part of church history. Without question, the Bible can be a difficult book to understand. Sincere Christians have debated and fought mightily in their search for an accurate interpretation. They have not always agreed. Four of these great disputes are chronicled in this article—the nature of God, the authority of the priesthood, justification by faith, and the question of election and free grace.

Philosophy and religion have walked side by side. Man’s political struggle for justice has paralleled and interacted with his search for a more equitable religion. Tracing this tendency, particularly as it set the scene for religion in the close of the last century, is the object of the article The Decline of Faith.

More directly impacting the Bible Student movement was the interest in the second advent in the middle of the nineteenth century, centering around the activities of William Miller, anticipating the return of Jesus Christ in 1844. The relationship between the Miller movement and that of the Bible Students is chronicled in the articleThe Midnight Cry.

Zeroing in on the origins of the Bible Students are two articles. A New Wine Bottledeals with the birth pangs that accompanied the establishment of the new movement, while In The Time of Harvest takes a broader view of the entire ministry of Pastor Russell.

The Bible Student movement was revolutionary in its time. It was made the more so by the benign and benevolent leadership of Pastor Russell. The marked contrast between his leadership and the strong, dictatorial policies of his successor, Joseph Rutherford, was a cause of much confusion and dismay. Seeking peace and direction from the bewildering conditions, the Bible Students began to splinter into various groupings. One of these was the Pastoral Bible Institute, publisher of this journal. The origins of this group are traced in the article The Pastoral Bible Institute.

The past is merely prologue. Where do we go from here? How we build upon our origins is largely up to us. In the closing article of this series, the author looks at the future and seeks to chart a direction for the Christian to follow.

As in the regular issues of the magazine, we are including a Question Box feature. Customarily Bible Students call themselves truth people or speak about being in the truth. To many this sounds egotistical. This question is discussed in this column.

With this preview we submit the following articles for your consideration, and invite your comments.