Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our First Amazon Review


E. Jones  

Verified Purchase

This review is from: A Separate Identity: Organizational Identity Among Readers of Zion's Watch Tower: 1870-1887 (Paperback)

This is the first thoroughly researched and comprehensive history of the Jehovah's Witnesses early years. Other histories of the early days of the Jehovah's Witnesses spend just a few paragraphs or pages on the years 1870 - 1879, which are the years covered (in 380 pages!) in this volume one of a planned two volume work. And those histories are all mostly based on a single Watch Tower article of May 1890 (reprinted in 1894 and 1906) and maybe some thoughts from A. H. Macmillan's book Faith on the March. Neither of which were meant to be in-depth works. But there is much more to that history and this book goes a long way in filling the historical gaps that exist because of reliance on those two earlier works.

The authors of this work, Schulz and de Vienne, have done a remarkable job in producing the first history of this period based on original research made to fit an academic standard. They not only tell what they know but how they know it by means of a 189,000 word text with 1,700 footnotes and 102 photos and illustrations. So their work is verifiable. As the authors point out the problem with other histories of this period is that they present much that is not verifiable or ignore others who played a significant role during this period and concentrate on Charles Taze Russell to the exclusion of the numerous others who had a share in Jehovah's Witnesses history and the evolution of Watch Tower readers into a distinct religion.

The authors acknowledge Russell as a prime mover in the movement that developed. But while Russell did influence others he was also influenced by others. So while C. T. Russell is a focus of this history he is not the only focus. You will find here numerous biographies of those who Russell interacted with, showing exactly how they influenced his beliefs, that you will not find in any other Witness history. There are also biographical bits of information about Russell and others that had been scattered throughout Watch Tower and Bible Student publications that have been brought together here, in one place, for the first time. Also, as part of the authors original research you will find information obtained from letters, articles, and newspaper interviews that Russell and others wrote and gave, some before the Watch Tower magazine even came into existence. Joseph Lytle Russell, Ann Eliza Russell, Age-to-Come/One faith believers, Y.M.C.A., George Darby Clowes, George Washington Stetson, George Storrs, William Henry Conley, Margaret (Russell) Land, Henry Dunn, and Joseph Seiss are just some of names that are given the full treatment instead of just being barely or not at all mentioned in other Witness histories. In particular if you thought you knew who George Stetson and George Storrs were and the full impact they had on Russell from other Witness histories you will find out you were wrong. Four chapters are devoted to the relationship between C. T. Russell, Nelson Horatio Barbour, and John Henry Paton. What they did, who they spoke to, what they believed and preached and what others wrote and said about them from their meeting in 1876 till the breakup in 1879.

This is history written to an academic standard which means that it is verifiable and it sticks to the facts. So the authors don't try to prove that Russell and those associated with him were led by God, as Russell's friends believe, or that he was a religious apostate, as his enemies believe. This is not a book about the truthfulness of Witness theology. It's history without religious commentary. Since this is the first of its kind history the authors, also, when appropriate point out significant inaccuracies or unverifiable statements in other Witness histories. This is a book about the history of a group of certain individuals, who they were, what they did, what they said, and what they believed according to available records and how this all led to the formation of a distinct religious group.

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