Friday, November 11, 2016

Benjamin Wilson and the Christadelphians

I think some of you forgot this paragraph from Separate Identity:

Christadelphian Connections

            A number of writers postulate a Christadelphian connection. Among more modern writers one finds repeated references to Benjamin Wilson as a Christadelphian. Russell, they say, got his ideas from Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott, and Wilson was a Christadelphian. This is a fable. Wilson, son of an Oxford professor of Greek and an immigrant to North America, was associated first with the Campbellites. He was attracted to John Thomas’ teachings but he and Thomas quickly parted company. Thomas was bitter and vituperative. Newell Bond addressed the issue in a letter to Thomas dated October 29, 1866, pointing to Thomas’ “sarcasm and [the] sport made of others who have believed and obeyed the same Gospel.” Such “go not very far with candid, thinking men as arguments in defense of the truth,” Bond wrote. Thomas’ reply was that Wilson was “of that class I am commanded to avoid.” He called Wilson a “rabid politician” and one of “the world’s own.” “I repudiate in toto the idea of such having like precious faith with the Apostles.” Thomas did not see Wilson as a Christadelphian. Wilson repudiated the association. Not at all ashamed of his repeated ad hominem attacks, Thomas published the letters for all to read.[1]

[1]               N. Bond and J. Thomas: Important Correspondence Between a Member of the Self-Styled “Church of God,” Cleveland, Ohio, and John Thomas, M. D., Christadelphian Association, Detroit, Michigan, 1867. Wilson repudiated Christadelphian connections in an interview with J. Bohnet published in the April 4, 1916, issue of The Saint Paul, Minnesota, Enterprise.

A recent comment on a review of Separate Identity has queried the statement in that book that Benjamin Wilson of the Diaglott was NOT a Christadelphian. In the April 4, 1916 issue of the St Paul Enterprise newspaper, on the front page, Bible Student J Adam Bohnet described one of several visits he made on Wilson, where the question was asked outright - are you a Christadelphian? Wilson replied that he was not a member of any organized religion. His whole background as one of the strands in the Church of God/One Faith movement was against organization and long before this interview he had accused the Christadelphians and Thomas of being sectarian. (For details see Biographical Encyclopedia Chronicling the History of the Church of God Abrahamic Faith, page 293).

The article from the St Paul Enterprise is posted below. I have omitted the middle section which is mainly a theological debate on Wilson's and CTR's differing views on the ransom.


Andrew Martin said...

This is great! Clarifies two things for me personally:

WT publication "Theocratic Aid to Kingdom Publishers" (1945) (sort of a forerunner, in part, to "Qualified to Be Ministers"/"Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook"/ "Benefit From Theocratic Ministry Education" -- to "Lamp"/"Organization"/"Organized" books -- to "All Scripture Is Inspired" - PART 2 only -- and to "What Has Religion Done For Mankind"/"Mankind's Search For God" ... stated the following on page 261:

"Benjamin Wilson, a Christadelphian, published a translation of the Greek Scriptures in 1864, in New York, and designated his work The Emphatic Diaglott."

Apparently whoever wrote that passage was unaware of John A. Bohnet's interview that you posted. Over the decades, that kind of disconnect between current writers and those who wrote previously seems to have haunted WT, especially in cases such as the Greber translation debacle. Thankfully, in this age of computerized archives, that kind of problem can be minimized.

OK, Wilson not being a Christadelphian is one issue clarified. The other is the apparently false report that he claimed he never would have produced the Diaglott is he had known Russell would use it. Apparently that story got wide circulation, because it was repeated to me by an "Old Timer" (from 1908) about 40 years ago! I've heard a similar story told about Steven T. Byington's "The Bible In Living English" - that his heirs said they never would have allowed WT to publish it, etc. ...

Probably has about as much veracity to it as the canard about John Denver throwing Witnesses out of his concerts - or the smurf doll that ran down the aisle of a Kingdom Hall.

Honestly, how is it that people SWALLOW these things?!?! But as we all know ...

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” - a saying which seems more likely to have originated with Charles Spurgeon than with Mark Twain or Winston Churchill.

Thanks, Jerome, for sharing this rare document!

Andrew Martin said...

Just another thought - it's amusing to me to read that Benjamin Wilson referred to himself as a "Resurrectionist" - since that was a common term for grave robbers who provided illegal cadavers for medical schools! (Doctor Robinson in Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer" was an example)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I think it probable that the aged Wilson said, "Restitutionist" , a common name for his belief system.

jerome said...

Newer readers of this blog might like to read an article published a few years ago on Wilson's Diaglott, which covers some of the incorrect statements made over the years about it. The article also discusses how Zion's Watch Tower Society became the publisher.

Chris G. said...

Fantastic info Jerome, I'm sure this isnt the last time this topic or incorrect thought will need to be debunked but it's a start. I can see why it would have been thought he was a Christadelphian. Is it known anywhere whether or not he made this claim in his younger days? or is that simply unknown?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fascinating articles Jerome.

This interests me although I admit to knowing nothing on the subject other than what can be read on Wikipedia, which may or may not be correct. Am I missing something here or is there a problem with the last paragraph of the St Paul Enterprise newspaper letter?

It mentions a report which had circulated suggesting that Benjamin Wilson had said he would "never have written the Diaglott could he have known beforehand that Mr Russell would secure its control or use it so extensively"

If Jerome is right in saying elsewhere that Wilson died in 1900 and that the WTS gained copyright in 1902, we can say for sure that Wilson could not have made such a statement. If so, the unsubstantiated report must have been made by an opposer speculating, rightly or wrongly on what Wilson's opinion might have been along the lines of "if he were alive today he would have ..."

It is equally puzzling that Bohnet should state that Wilson denied ever having made such a statement since, if the date of his death and the copyright date are correct, neither the original conversation or, indeed, the denial could ever have taken place.

Again I ask, am I missing something here? It will not be the first time, if so!

Son of Ton

jerome said...

For Chris - The Christadelphians as a organized body came into existence during the American Civil War, when a name was needed in 1864 to register as conscientious objectors. Wilson and Thomas were already going different ways by this time, and in the quote from the Biographical Encyclopedia, Wilson was to call Thomas and his Christadelphians "sectarian". I think the problem is that "outsiders" couldn't be bothered to distinguish between Thomasism, Dowieism, and Wilson's strand of Abrahamic Faith (and no doubt others) and just lumped them all together as "Christadelphians" - probably to all parties' annoyance at the time. And the idea stuck - hence the incorrect quotes in earlier literature of the Watchtower Society, who were probably just repeating incorrect information from whatever was the 1940s version of Wikipedia! But Wilson would never have called himself a Christadelphian,

jerome said...

For Son of Ton

You are right that the last paragraph doesn’t make complete sense. Bohnet was writing about events from 24 years before, so could have grafted onto his account subsequent events and misquoted Wilson. However, since the conversation was about getting Wilson to deny statements that others had put in his mouth, it is worth noting that ZWT started selling the Diaglott from the January 1880 issue, quoting prices that considerably undercut other sellers like the Restitution paper, for which Wilson wrote. So at the time of the interview, it was well known to everyone in that "world" that CTR was one of the main distributors of the Diaglott. That might explain where the conversation was coming from.

ramblinwaymore said...

Excellent research as always Jerome. I've always been fascinated with John Bohnet since I first came across his photo in the Proclaimer's book. Fortunately he and William Abbott had a good relationship and he's featured regularly in the Enterprise. Thank you for allowing us a small peek.

jerome said...

I too am very interested in John Adam Bohnet. An article on him will eventually appear on this blog.

roberto said...

Benjamin Wilson e i Cristadelfiani

Un certo numero di scrittori hanno ipotizzato una legame con i Cristadelfiani. Fra gli scrittori moderni si possono trovare ripetuti riferimenti a Benjamin Wilson come a un Cristadelfiano. Russell, affermano, trasse le sue idee dalla Emphatic Diaglott, e Wilson era un Cristadelfiano. Questa è una favola. Wilson, figlio di un professore universitario di greco di Oxford ed emigrato in Nord America, inizialmente si associò ai Campbelliti. Fu attirato dagli insegnamenti del fondatore dei Cristadelfiani John Thomas (1805-1871), ma i due si separarono presto. Thomas fu rude e ingiurioso. Newell Bond portò all’attenzione la cosa in una lettera a Thomas datata 29 ottobre 1866 puntando il dito contro il suo “sarcasmo e il prendersi gioco di altri che hanno creduto e ubbidito allo stesso vangelo.” Questo “non va a braccetto con l’essere uomini ragionevoli che portano argomenti in difesa della verità,” scrisse Bond. Thomas rispose che Wilson era “di quelle persone che mi è comandato di evitare.” Chiamò Wilson “politicante rabbioso” e “uno del mondo.” “Ripudio in toto l’idea che costui possa avere la preziosa fede degli Apostoli.” Thomas non considerava Wilson un Cristadelfiano. Wilson ripudiò l’associazione. Per niente pentito dei suoi attacchi ad hominem, Thomas pubblicò le sue lettere in modo che tutti potessero leggerle. [1]

[1] per la nota in calce vedi l’articolo in inglese