The Facts on Jehovah’s Witnesses (Harvest House, 1988), pp. 4-5
Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are the leaders, and how have the Watchtower Society’s presidents shaped the organization?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religious sect begun by Charles Taze Russell in the 1870’s. In formulating their beliefs, Russell drew on the teachings of such sects as Seventh-Day Adventism and Christadelphianism, plus his own interpretation of the Bible.* Through aggressive, door-to-door proselytizing and authoritarian leadership, the group has grown from a small number of Bible students to about 2.5 million members in over 200 countries and territories.*
The leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a group of men who head an organization called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, or simply the Watchtower Society, in Brooklyn, New York. This small group wields absolute spiritual authority over the 2.5 million members. The Society is headed by a president who rules for life. To date, it has had four presidents, each of whom has left his unique mark on the Society’s religion.
Each president has governed with absolute power. As a result, his period of rule has been marked by his unique personality and Bible interpretation. Thus there have been four distinct “periods” of the Society: 1) the period of Charles Taze Russell (1872-1916); 2) the period of “Judge” Joseph F. Rutherford (1917-1942); 3) the period of Nathan H. Knorr (1942-1977); 4) the period of Frederick W. Franz (1977-present).
[Examining] … these four periods…reveals the surprising fact that each president has interpreted the Bible differently from or even in contradiction of the others. Examining the writings of these men plainly shows that the claim of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that God is the author of all of the Society’s doctrines is absurd.
*For documentation, see The Facts on Jehovah’s Witnesses.