Monday, August 11, 2014

A Letter

At the risk of upsetting some of our readers, I'm posting this. This is my half of an exchange between historians. I don't think there are any surprises here. Mr. Schulz is a Witness; I am sympathetic but not one. That's not news here. But we get an occasional personal question. This should answer what is usually asked. Feel free to rant. I won't be angry.


My mother was Austrian born and came to the US with her parents at the start of WW II. (I'm a late in life child.) They were Catholic. My dad is American born but his grandfather was a German. He was raised Lutheran, but does not seem to have ever taken religion seriously. He is a scientist, still actively writing in his extreme old age though otherwise retired. My mother met the Witnesses when I was ten and was baptized when I was twelve.

The Catholic Church was repellant, and mom thought she’d found something better.  I attended meetings with her until I was of age. It seemed the proper thing to do. From the start I read all the Witness literature I could borrow. It was intriguing. But I asked how they knew what the modern application of Scripture was: They found modern fulfillments for parts of the Bible that do not seem prophetic. The answer was, “They don’t know. They only believe.”

To my mother’s great distress and my father’s irritation (he discounted religion and saw it as a waste) I read widely from other religions. I am independent. For a while I associated with an Abrahamic Faith congregation. They are, as most of that fellowship is, Socinian. We parted ways agreeably and I sometimes still attend. I occasionally attend Witness meetings. My writing partner is a Witness. I am not one and was never baptized as one.

Most of my base beliefs are similar to or the same as Witness basic doctrine. But I reject the tinge of Christian Mysticism that colors their doctrines especially the extra Biblical sense of divine appointment and the prophetic scheme that takes them into fanciful and shifting prophetic applications. I am, however, very sympathetic to Witnesses and other millennialists. I continue to read widely of the literature and have accumulated a large collection of it. Some of it is excellent.

An unexplored influence is that of the German expositors from the 17th Century onward. While I know that German influence returned in the 1960s with someone closely reading Lang’s Commentary (which I own and find very useful) and was evident in the 1950s with Watchtower writers dependent on Kiel and Delitzsch and Franz in regular conversation with someone he considered an adept Jewish scholar. But in the 19th Century Russell was influenced second hand by German writers through Seiss and others who quoted them and referenced them. It is almost impossible to point to specifics. Russell didn’t read or speak German, though some of his associates did.

There was an English translation of Lang’s massive commentary (many authors under his editorship.), and Russell quoted from it once, in November 1907. Though there is the one quotation, I believe the influence of the work is more extensive than that. I haven’t pursued this yet. It’s more suitable for our third book, should we write it.

My personal opinion of Lang’s Commentary is that it should still be read. I’ve read it entire and returned to it several times. If I have a serious question, that’s where I start.

I hope you find Nelson Barbour: The Millennium’s Forgotten Prophet helpful. There is one error in the book. We misidentify his grandfather as his father, misled by a newspaper article. His father’s name was David.

If you’re interested, here is a photo of part of my research library: 


top photo

4 comments:

jerome said...

I don't see any problem in your honestly nailing your colors to the wall so to speak.

But how about a MODERN photograph of your research library!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

it's about the same. books mostly in the same order. what you mean, i think, is a wider view.

Maybe someday.

roberto said...

Sha'el (Rachael) is one of the most adorable person I have ever known. Furthermore she, Bruce and Jerome are my primary (I should say the unique) source of the Watch Tower History. There's nothing better.

JimSpace said...

Thank you for sharing your background in such detail. I myself have been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for years, and I have some comments that you may be interested in entertaining.

You said: “From the start I read all the Witness literature I could borrow. It was intriguing. But I asked how they knew what the modern application of Scripture was: They found modern fulfillments for parts of the Bible that do not seem prophetic. The answer was, “They don’t know. They only believe.””

I am not familiar with the situation you describe, nor have I received that answer of “don’t know, just believe.” I am however familiar with modern applications of Bible principles, and the basis for these applications are carefully explained.

“I read widely from other religions. I am independent. For a while I associated with an Abrahamic Faith congregation. They are, as most of that fellowship is, Socinian. We parted ways agreeably and I sometimes still attend.”

I read from other religions too. Did you part ways with the Abrahamic Faith due to their Socinian denial of Jesus’ prehumen existence?

“Most of my base beliefs are similar to or the same as Witness basic doctrine. But I reject the tinge of Christian Mysticism that colors their doctrines especially the extra Biblical sense of divine appointment and the prophetic scheme that takes them into fanciful and shifting prophetic applications.”
By “tinge of Christian Mysticism” do you mean being used as “God’s organization” and “being led by holy spirit” claims?

“My personal opinion of Lang’s Commentary is that it should still be read. I’ve read it entire and returned to it several times. If I have a serious question, that’s where I start.”

You read all 63 volumes of Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures? Do you have it digitally like on Logos? https://www.logos.com/product/5759/langes-commentary-on-the-holy-scriptures
I have Richard C. H. Lenski’s commentary on 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John and Jude. There are many references to Lenski in Witness publications, but that specific one I needed for my research.