“Bible Students” vs. Jehovah’s Witnesses

“Bible Students” vs. Jehovah’s Witnesses?

QUESTION:

I was wondering if you could help me to understand the differences between followers of Charles T. Russell who call themselves “Bible Students”, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I recently had some interaction with someone who informed me that Russell would have never approved of the organization started by Judge Rutherford, or his “good news of bad tidings”, that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach today. I didn’t realize there was a that much of a difference in their beliefs.

ANSWER:

The Bible Students are an interesting group. I attended a few of their meetings as I was coming out of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and found them to be very likable people, though they suffer from many of the same errors as Jehovah’s Witnesses. When it comes to major doctrines, they are pretty much on the same page as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe that Jesus is a created being, that the dead are unconscious, that salvation involves a combination of faith and works and can be lost, etc. For that reason, I can’t endorse their teachings or recommend them as a source of biblical knowledge.

The Bible Students left the Watchtower group over a period of time, and various groups were formed. There’s a pretty good run-down of the history of the Bible Students and how they split from Jehovah’s Witnesses at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_Student_movement.

Some of the main areas of difference:

  • Bible Students do not believe in a centralized organization. Russell was opposed to a strong organization, and the concept as it exists today among Jehovah’s Witnesses was introduced by Judge Rutherford after Russell’s death.
  • Bible Students believe that most of the prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel are actually to be fulfilled on literal Israel. Russell was a strong Zionist. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God has abandoned fleshly Israel in favor of the anointed JW class, which they view as “spiritual Israel.”
  • Many of the peculiar doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses were introduced in later times; therefore Bible Students have no problem with celebrating birthdays and holidays, voting, saluting the flag or accepting blood transfusions.
  • The main bodies of Bible Students still hold to Russell’s “pyramid” teaching, which stated that the Great Pyramid in Egypt had been commissioned by God as a means of preserving chronology. The pyramid calculations were one of the major lines of reasoning that led Russell to peg 1914 as the date for the end of the world. 
  • Most Bible Students still adhere to Russell’s end-time chronology (though obviously they have to modify his teaching that Armageddon would come in 1914). There are significant differences between this chronology and the revised version now embraced by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A good site to help you explore the differences is http://kingdomherald.com/category/jehovahs-witnesses/. This is a Bible Student site that is aimed at reaching out to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please note that I don’t support the teachings of the Bible Students that are promoted at that site, but recommend it only as a resource for understanding the differences between the two groups.