Wednesday, May 28, 2014

another bit from chap 2


            The timing and nature of the Lord’s Evening Meal became an issue between the annual celebrations of 1880 and 1881. G. M. Myers faulted Russell and others for the memorial dates they advocated. We discuss this in more detail later in this chapter. Others objected too. Russell discussed this in the May 1881 Zion’s Watch Tower:

A number of letters received seem to indicate that the occasion was very generally celebrated among the scattered “twos and threes” “of this way.” We presume that it was celebrated in about twenty places. All who wrote expressed the feeling of solemnity and appropriateness, attaching to the celebration on the anniversary, rather than at any other time. One or two brethren questioned the date announced – suggesting that by the almanac it would fall on the 12th instead of the 14th of April. To these we reply that the calendars in most almanacs are arranged upon astronomical calculations and are seldom exactly in harmony with the Jewish methods, which seem to be based on the eyesight. Some almanacs publish the Jewish calendar, and we used it in ascertaining when the “14th day of the first month,” Jewish time, would come. The moon is used to symbolize The Law or Jewish nation, which reached its full at the time of Jesus' presence, but began to wane when he gave them up and died. The moon was at its full on the 14th of April and began to wane; this seems to agree with the Jewish calendars and therefore we observed that time.  

One sister wrote expressing disapproval, and asks, Why not go back to the Law in everything as well as in keeping the Passover? Our sister is in haste; we did not suggest the observance of the Passover as instituted by The Law, but the observance of “The Lord's Supper” instead of it. Nor did we suggest this as a law, believing that “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4, and 7:6). But who will say that we may not celebrate the death of our Lamb on the anniversary, for, “as often as ye do this, ye do show forth the Lord's death.” 

            Most of those who transitioned from being Bible Examiner readers to Watch Tower readers were familiar with Russell’s reasoning, though not necessarily agreeing with it. 

Position of Women 

            The propriety of women preachers seems not to have been discussed by the Allegheny believers before 1876. Advent Christians allowed women preachers. Others did not. The question came to Russell in early 1881. Someone asked him to “please explain 1 Cor. 14:34. Let the women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be under obedience as also saith the law.” Russell answered: 

It is not for us to say why, when God gives no reasons. Neither can we tell why Jesus sent none of the noble and good women who believed on him to preach, when he sent first the twelve and then the seventy before his face. However, much may be said of good accomplished by women in the temperance cause, etc., we nevertheless believe that this scripture has never been disregarded with impunity. We believe woman to be a type of the church, and man the type of Christ the head of the church, and we might draw the lesson that we, the spouse of Christ, are not to dispute or instruct in the church, but listen to the voice of our Head – give ear to his word.       

            His answer did not quiet the issue, and it was raised again in May 1881. Russell was confronted with this question: 

Bro. Russell: How do you interpret Phil. 4:3. "I entreat thee with me in the gospel...whose names are in the book of life." And Acts 1:14: "All continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women." And 1 Cor. 11:5: "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth (teaches)?" 

            Russell’s reply probably disappointed Advent Christian and Life and Advent Union adherents who approved of women evangelists, but he took a more liberal position than many in that era. He said: 

We understand these scriptures to teach, that women did a work in the apostles' days which was approved and appreciated by them and by the Lord. Yet we believe that women usually spoke only at the smaller gatherings, and that when Paul said "Let the women keep silence in the [congregations,] he probably had reference to the public gatherings, at which it was the custom to have more or less of a debate. In these public debatings, Paul thought a woman's voice would be out of place, and this is the opinion of most thinking men and women to-day, though we think that it has by many been carried to an extreme, forbidding them to pray or teach on any occasion, even in more private assemblies of Christians, and this we regard as an error. 

God has arranged that the man and woman are representative of Christ and his Bride the church, and this rule by which the husband is the head of the wife is always maintained in scriptures. (Though there are exceptions to the rule in nature.) And probably this is one reason, that men have always been given the more active and public work of the ministry and women more the work of assisting and more private teaching, yet equally as acceptable to God. So Christ is the active agent in carrying out his own plan. He is the great minister of all, and we as His church do a lesser part and yet an acceptable part, well pleasing to God.

            Issues surrounding women’s rights and responsibilities would persist, fueled by the woman’s suffrage movement, and by Russell’s distorted view of marriage. Russell believed the phrase “and the two will become one flesh” meant that the woman’s personality was subsumed into her husband’s. While we consider this issue in chapter [#], most of this discussion is more appropriate to the third book in this series. All we need notice now is that this issue persisted; that it was aggravated by a less than Biblical view of women and by attitudes common in the era. Even Russell noted this, though we think unintentionally, when he wrote: “This is the opinion of most thinking men and women to-day, though we think that it has by many been carried to an extreme” Russell’s comment reveals a conflicted view of authority. Thinking men and women among his contemporaries were persuasive authority when they agreed with him. They were not when they held a contrary opinion. 


            George Storrs believed the Anglo-Israelite theory. We discussed it in volume one, which you should review. Despite a modern denial by a one-time Abrahamic Faith writer, the belief that the “lost tribes” of Israel were Anglo-Saxon peoples was pervasive among One Faith/Age-to-Come believers, so it isn’t surprising that the issue came Russell’s way. Citing verses from Galatians and Romans, Russell observed: “Abraham was the father of two seeds, the children of the flesh [twelve tribes of Israel] and the children of promise, [faith], of which two seeds Ishmael and Isaac were types.” The promises belong only to the spiritual seed, “the children of promise.” So it didn’t matter if the English, the Germans, and Americans were somewhere under the skin Israelites: 

We know not whether the people of these United States and of England are the natural, fleshly descendants of Israel or not. It could make no difference as regards the spiritual “prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.” If they are, and were made to know it, the effect of those earthly promises would probably be to blind them to the spiritual prize as it did the others, 1800 years ago. If they are of the natural seed, they will receive grand blessings in the coming age, after the spiritual seed has been exalted to glory and power; as it is written. “They shall obtain mercy (God's promised blessings) through your mercy” (through the spiritual seed.) – Rom. 11:31.

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