What Are Bible Students?
Bible Students are Christians interested in the study of
God's Word for the promotion of true knowledge.
Where are the Bible Students Located?
Bible Students can be found in all walks of life and in
every land and country.
What is the origin of the Bible Students?
Students Association was formed in the 1860s, in Alleghney, Pa. A group of
Christians under the eldership of Pastor Charles Taze Russell, who helped form a Bible
study group to unearth the hidden mysteries of the Word of God.
Isn't Charles Taze Russell the Founder of the
That is a misconception. Pastor Russell was the
organizer of the International Bible Students Association. It was this
loosely formed association that helped published the [Zion's] Watch Tower and
Herald of Christ's Presence journal, and the [Zion's] Watch Tower Society.
This Society was an organizer of Bible Student
conventions and other activities, but it did not dictate any creeds or rules to the
After Pastor Russell's death, The Watch Tower Bible and
Tract Society began to rise as a hierarchy over the once independent congregations. Many
refused to surrender their Christian liberty and here started the work of separation. As
early as 1917 this exodus from the Society began, and those who appreciated the wonderful
harmony of the Bible as taught by Pastor Russell are today known as Associated Bible
By 1930, the Society no longer resembled that of its
former self. Many Bible Students abandoned the Society, and by 1931, the name
"Jehovah's Witnesses" was adopted by the new leadership to differentiate between
the Society's Bible Students and those independent of the Society.
What are the doctrinal differences between the two
groups, if any?
There are some similarities between the two groups.
Both believe in two salvations, an earthly and a heavenly. Both believe in the
Kingdom of God as the means of bringing about true peace on earth. Both deny the existence
of a place of fiery torment and deny the Trinity doctrine. Apart from these similarties,
the two groups are world's apart.
The following doctrines are an example as to how Bible
Students still retain the basic teachings of Pastor Russell in contrast with
"Jehovah's Witnesses," who do not.
BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell was led to believe
in a future probation because millions have died and continue to die without hearing the
Gospel. Of those that do hear, uncertainty and confusion exists in their minds because
Christianity of today is burdened with contradictory beliefs and teachings.
JW'S: "Jehovah's Witnesses" see no
further probation for any of the present generation who do not subscribe to their
teachings - which means that a large percentage of the world's population is to perish
eternally in Armageddon. In this respect their views are less generous than most
established Churches. They not only see no hope for those who live today, who do not
subscribe to their teachings, but they entertain no hope for a large percentage of the
millions who have gone into the grave since the creation of man. For example, JW'S believe
that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. have perished eternally, with no hope for a
BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to the
Scriptures, such as Ezek.16:55, where it declares that these are all going to return to
their "former estate." And our Lord, in Matt. 10:15, confirms this thought when
he said, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of
judgment than for that city"- (speaking of the Jews). Thus our Lord pointed forward
to a day of judgment for those people who died centuries ago. And again it says, in Acts
17:31 that, "He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in
JW'S: "Jehovah's Witnesses" deny that
Adam will ever have a resurrection, while the Scriptures plainly state that Jesus Christ
tasted death "for every man." Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.
BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to these
scriptures and many others such as 1 Cor. 15:22 - "As in Adam all die, even so in
Christ shall all be made alive." Also Hosea 13:14 - "I will ransom them from the
power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be they plagues; O
grave, I will be thy destruction."
Pastor Russell taught, according to the Scriptures, that
now is "the day of salvation" for those who are to be the Bride of Christ, the
Little Flock; and that another day - a day of salvation is awaiting mankind in general, in
the Millennial Age - "the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by
the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
One of the main teachings of Pastor Russell was that all
would be enlightened with a knowledge of God's Truth before they are placed on trial and
judged for their final destiny. For the majority of mankind this would be when they are
raised from the dead at the time of the general resurrection. Their final judgment would
be based on their conduct while enlightened, not while in ignorance. This teaching
separated Bible Students from all other religious groups. Now it separates them from
"Jehovah's Witnesses" as well. This view broke with the concept of salvation
current in his day. At that time nearly all evangelists taught a literal hell of torment
for those who did not accept Christ in this life. They felt hell-fire threats were
necessary to restrain evil and, if need be, to bring salvation by fear. Many theologians
have since broadened their concept of salvation beyond this life, but "Jehovah's
Witnesses" hold strongly to the position that those who reject their message are
Contrary to our Lord's Word, every "Jehovah's
Witness" becomes a missionary of life or death, using the fear of eternal destruction
or second death as their final appeal.
The Jewish People: Israel, and the Jewish people, present
another major difference between Pastor Russell and the JW's. After applying the
Scripture, "Ye are my witnesses saith Jehovah" (Isa. 43:12) to themselves,
"Jehovah's Witnesses" declare that the Jewish people have no special role in the
Divine Plan since the death of Jesus. On the contrary, Pastor Russell taught that the
Jewish people and nation have a leading role in the Divine Plan for man, and accordingly
during the year 1910 he spoke to vast Jewish audiences, comforting them according to the
Scripture, Isa. 40:2 - "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her
warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the
Lord's hand double for all her sins." He encouraged them not to join the various
churches of today but to wait for the fulfillment of the many Old Testament promises that
they would be blessed as a nation.
While they were yet a scattered and dispersed people, he
said, upon the basis of these promises, that they would be regathered to Palestine and
established as an independent nation. Time has proven this to be so. Although denied by
"Jehovah's Witnesses," Bible Students today teach that the new state of Israel
emerged in Divine Providence and is a precursor to the fulfillment of God's promise to
that nation that, - "Lo the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the
captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return
to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." (Jer. 30:3)
And again, Jer.24:6, 7, says, - "I will set mine
eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them
and not pull them down; and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give them
a heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their
God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart."
And a further promise in Jer. 31:27-34 was that, -
"Like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to destroy and to afflict; so will
I watch over them to build and to plant, saith the Lord... and I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I
made with their fathers in that day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the
land of Egypt; which my covenant they break... but this shall be the covenant that I will
make... I will put my Law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts... and they
shall be my people... I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no
From these facts it can be seen that Pastor Charles Taze
Russell was neither in principle nor in spirit, the founder of "Jehovah's
How are Bible Students governed?
The Bible Students are autonomous. Meaning they are
self-governing. The ecclesia [congregation] itself elects it's own officers [i.e.
elders, deacons, etc.] and committees [i.e. witness, comfort, convention] to help the
class run as smoothly as possible. There are no paid clergy and no collections are
taken during the meetings.
How are the services organized?
The congregation itself determines what is to be studied,
the elected elders [those spiritually mature-minded] conduct the meetings in an orderly
How is the work financed?
The work is financed by voluntary contributions of it's
members. Bible Students for over one hundred years have prided themselves on the
motto: SEATS FREE - NO COLLECTIONS.
Where do Bible Students meet and have their services?
Unlike the more established churches, the Bible Students
meet in individual homes and rented halls, depending on the size of the congregation.
We do not own our own church buildings, as this affords us the opportunity to direct
our monetary resources in spreading God's Word.
Do Bible Students preach/witness? And if so,
BIble Students, individually and congregationally, have
the liberty to witness in whatever fashion is suitable to them. We realise that their are
many different avenue to witness, thus what may suit one class or individual, may not suit
another. Thus we leave it to each consecrated member and class to determine what best
suits their environment. That said, let it be known that we take advantage of every avenue
open to us, this would include going door to door, tracting in the neighborhood, public
showings, advertisments in newspaper, magazines and billboards, county fairbooths, etc.
What are public showings?
Publics showings are shown in rented halls. They
can be in the form of a public discourse on a timely Bible topic, or they can be in the
form of a movie or slide presentation.
Do Bible Students publish any literature?
Yes. The Association as a whole and as individual
congregations have published throughout the years volumeously. The six volumes of Studies
in the Scriptures by the late Pastor Charles Taze Russell are still republished today.
Along with many other older and current writings, reflecting over 100 years of
Are there any Bible Student publishing houses?
Yes. There are quite a few throughout the United
States and Europe. Some have come and gone in recent years. There are also
individual congregations and Bible Students who published independent of each other.
These publication however are used and distributed by the association worldwide,
regardless of who publishes them.
Are there any Bible Student Journals and Magazine in
Most congregations publish a monthly newsletter,
distributed to those they come in contact with through their independent witness work.
However there are several journals and newsletters published for the general public
and the association.
How many Bible Students are there?
Since Bible Students do not take roll-call, that is a
difficult question to answer. Bible Students can be seen in all four corners of the
earth, some are isolated, and others have abundant association.
Since the congregations are autonomous, are all Bible
Students in agreement, doctrinally? Just how closely are the Bible Students in
harmony? Do you still hold to the doctrinal teachings as espoused by Charles Taze
To say that all Bible Students think alike would be to
undermine the freedom in Christ we share. Most Bible Students accept the teachings of
Scriptures as set forth in the Studies in the Scriptures as being doctrinally sound
and supported by God's Word. However since Pastor Russell never claimed
infallibility, it is safe to say that some of his thoughts are opened to interpretation.
However, these interpretations, do not take away from The Divine Plan of the
Ages, as espoused by Pastor Russell.
It is safe to say there are those, individually and as publishing houses who have taken liberty with the Plan of
Salvation as espoused by Pastor Russell.