(Investigator  154,  2014 January)

A Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses is in preparation on the Internet at:  http://sites.google.com/site/jwdictionary/

The entries for each letter of the alphabet currently appear as attachments in pdf format in two columns. All the entries are still provisional, subject to change or correction.

Below is a chronological outline of JW history as currently (2014) attached to the Google website:


1843-1845 William Miller (1781-1849) attracts about 100,000 followers by predicting Christ's second coming for 1843. After disconfirmation this is revised to 1844. The movement then disintegrates but in 1845 survivors start to re-organize and are called “Second Adventists”. Over the next decades they organize into many sects.
1852 Birth of Charles Taze Russell who grows up in Allegheny (near Pittsburgh) in Pennsylvania.
1869 C T Russell's faith, after a brief period as a skeptic, is rejuvenated by Jonas Wendel a preacher of the Advent Christian Church.
[The Advent Christian Church, founded in 1861, is one of the many groups that organized from the Second Adventists.]
1869-1872 Russell attends meetings led by George Storrs (1796-1879) and George Stetson (1814-1879) and may have been baptized at this time.
[Storrs was a prominent figure in the Millerite movement and a founder of the Life and Advent Union (1863) which is another Second Adventist sect. Stetson was a minister of the Advent Christian Church.]
1872/1873 William Henry Conley (1840-1897) a wealthy businessman and his wife Sarah, and C T Russell and his father and sister, start a new study group.
1876 Russell is elected "pastor" of the Russell/Conley Bible class. The group unites with a larger sect of Second Adventists led by Nelson H Barbour and John H Paton. 
[Barbour had experienced the disappointment of 1844 and lost his faith, but became a believer again in 1859.]
1877 Three Worlds, a book by N H Barbour and C T Russell, is published. These two prophets at this stage believe and preach that the "living saints" would ascend to heaven in 1878.
1877 The Object and Manner of Our Lord's Return, a booklet by C T Russell, is published.
1879 Russell and Barbour split up over doctrinal disputes.

First edition of Zion's Watch Tower appears with a printing of 6000.

Russell gets married to Maria F Ackley (1850-1938).
1881 Russell and Paton split up. The latter had postponed the ascent of the "living saints" to 1914 (Russell had predicted 1881) and also preached universal salvation which Russell called heresy.

Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society is founded as an unincorporated association with its three officers selected on the basis of $10 shares:
W H ConleyPresident ($3,500)
Joseph L Russell Vice-president ($1,000)
Charles T Russell Secretary-Treasurer ($500)

Extensive distribution of free tracts starts. In Britain boys are hired to give out 300,000 copies of Food for Thinking Christians outside churches.

1884 Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society is legally incorporated in Pennsylvania with C T Russell its president.
The name is changed in 1896 to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS).
1886 The first of Russell's six-volumes on theology and prophecy gets published: Studies in the Scriptures Volume 1 The Divine Plan of the Ages.

Russell's followers believe that Jesus returned invisibly in 1874, God's Kingdom began in heaven in 1878, the "time of the end" is 115 years from 1799-1914, and world peace under the rule of Bible heroes raised from the dead would start in 1914.
1889 The Russell cult holds its first assembly or convention, April 14-18. The venue is their “Meeting Room” or “hall” at 101 Federal Street, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. The attendance is 225 from 12 states and Canada with 22 baptized.

Bible House in Allegheny is built and becomes Russell's headquarters. It includes a printery, accommodation for staff, and a hall with seating for 200.
1891 Russell takes his first trip to Europe.
1893 A convention in Chicago is attended by 360 with 70 baptized.
1894 Russell establishes the "pilgrim" program under which travelling representatives of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society visit congregations to strengthen their allegiance to Russell.

A major split occurs in the sect because Russell's increasing control and demands are viewed as "Pope-like power".
The conflict coincides with Rose Ball, Russell's "foster daughter", being appointed as one of the seven directors of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society.
1897 Russell's wife leaves the sect over doctrinal disputes and Russell's intimacies with Rose Ball resulting in negative publicity and court battles over the next dozen years. Their marriage according to Russell was "celibate for 18 years".
1900 The first foreign branch office of the WBTS is opened in London, England, by Ernest C Henninges and his wife Rose Ball Henninges.
1902 A WBTS office in Germany is opened.
1903 Ernest and Rose Henninges open a branch office in Melbourne, Australia.
1904 The sixth volume of Studies in the Scriptures is published.

Convention Reports begin; the first ones are unofficial and done with typewriters.

Russell's sermons start to appear in newspapers.
1909 Russell relocates his headquarters to Brooklyn, New York.

The Peoples Pulpit Association is founded in New York to meet legal requirements and in 1956 becomes the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc.

Zion's Watch Tower is renamed The Watch Tower.
1912 Russell with a committee of his followers make a westward around-the-world voyage to report on missionary work among the heathen and to fulfil Matthew 24:14. 
1914 The International Bible Students Association (Britain) is founded.

The Photo Drama of Creation begins to be screened and over several years attracts millions of viewers.

Russell's sermons are published in 2000 newspapers
1915 It becomes obvious that the "time of the end" is not ending in 1914/1915 in worldwide revolution followed by paradise on Earth as Russell had predicted. Many leave the sect and the number of newspapers printing Russell's sermons plummets.
1916 Russell dies in October.

1917 "Judge" Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942) becomes president of the WBTS.

The publication of The Finished Mystery causes strife and hundreds leave the sect and begin to establish separate Bible Students groups.
1918 In March Rutherford delivers the sermon Millions Now Living Will Never Die.

Rutherford and other leaders are sentenced in June to 20 years under the Espionage Act and imprisoned in Atlanta Penitentiary.

The cult loses 20% of its members due to disputes over the legitimacy of Rutherford's presidency and because predictions in The Finished Mystery are already proving false. Public tract distribution drastically declines but almost 4000 members worldwide (in the US about 750) remain active.
1919 Rutherford and the other leaders are released from prison in March.

A convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in September stimulates renewed enthusiasm and emphasises house to house work which in the following years is made increasingly mandatory.

The first edition of The Golden Age magazine is published. (Replaced by Consolation in 1937 and Awake! in 1946.)
1920 The WBTS commences printing operations in Brooklyn.

Rutherford in his book Millions Now Living Will Never Die predicts the resurrection of the "ancient worthies" for 1925. The publication of this book supposedly fulfils Matthew 24:14.

Rutherford requires his followers to turn in weekly report slips of their door to door activity.
1920-1922 Terms such as "witnesses", "witnessing", "service work" and "service worker" start to enter regular use.

In 1922 another convention is held at Cedar Point, Ohio, where Rutherford declares: "Advertise the King and the Kingdom". That year about 9000 followers report "service work" i.e. their door-to-door activity.
1922-1928 Annual conventions are held. At each convention Rutherford announces a "resolution" which is distributed in printed form (up to 50 million copies).
In 1930 the seven resolutions are interpreted as the "seven last plagues" of Revelation 15-16. (Light, Volume II,  pp 20-38, 57-67)
1924 In February the WBTS's radio station, WBBR on Staten Island, New York, begins broadcasting.
1925 The doctrine that God's Kingdom was set up in heaven in 1914 is taught for the first time. This makes defunct God's heavenly kingdom of 1878 which is no longer taught.
1926 In 1926 Brooklyn headquarters celebrates Christmas for the last time — henceforth Christmas is considered a pagan celebration.
1926-1930 The cult loses about 3/4 of its attendance due to failed prophecy and increasing pressure on everyone to go door to door and report their activity.
In 1928 about 24,000 on average report their service work.
1929 Beth Sarim ("House of Princes") is built in California to advertise the imminent takeover of the world by Abraham, Samson, Daniel and other Old Testament heroes which is expected in the 1930s.
1930/1931 Christ's "second presence" is transferred from 1874 to 1914.
1931 The name "Jehovah's witnesses" (JWs) is adopted.

The Watch Tower is changed to The Watchtower.

Door to door "witnesses" number near 50,000.

1931-1932 Prophecies of Israel's literal restoration which Rutherford had reaffirmed in Comfort for the Jews (1925) and Life (1929) are discarded and reinterpreted as fulfilled in JWs and their Organization.
1932 Rutherford abolishes Russell's arrangement of each congregation electing its elders.
1934 JWs start to use portable record players to play short sermons by Rutherford at doors and in public places.
1935 Until 1935 all JWs expect to go to heaven at death, or by miraculous physical ascent. In 1935 a new "harvest" is announced, that of a "great multitude" or "great crowd" who will get eternal life on Earth but have to first join JWs.

The term "publisher" is introduced to refer to all who go door to door.
1933-1945 JWs are banned in Germany and (for differing periods) in about 40 countries.
1941 Number of "publishers" passes 100,000.
1942 Rutherford dies. Nathan Homer Knorr (1905-1977) becomes Watchtower Society president.
1943 Gilead Missionary School commences.
The United States Supreme Court rules in favour of JWs in 20 of 24 cases.
1943-1944 Training in congregations is introduced to make JWs effective "ministers".
1944 The "Governing Body" is identified as the seven "directors" of the Pennsylvania Corporation. All Governing Body members have to also be members of the "remnant" (i.e. the remnant of the 144,000 who go to heaven when they die). Hayden C Covington resigns as vice president because he is not of this "heavenly class" and is replaced by Frederick W Franz. (1893-1992) In practice two men are in charge, Knorr and Franz.

The WBTS Charter is amended so that shareholding voters who annually re-elect the directors of the WBTS and whose votes are proportional to their donations are from now on limited to one vote each. In 1971 Franz interprets this amendment as fulfilment of Daniel 8:14. 
1945 The interpretation that the days of creation were each 7000 years long is published in The Watchtower (February15). This doctrine implies that Armageddon and paradise on Earth will occur 6000 years after Adam & Eve sinned. With Adam’s creation date calculated as 4028 BCE this suggests the 1970s.
1946 Awake! replaces Consolation.

Let God Be True is published and becomes the textbook for "home bible studies" with the public until 1968.
1948 Beth Sarim the "House of Princes" is sold.
1950 Opposition to blood transfusion, hinted at in 1944, is now an established doctrine and deaths from blood loss occur.

The New World Translation of the New Testament is released in English.
1952 The "this generation" statement of Jesus (Matthew 24) is clearly linked to the people who experienced World War I and were old enough to understand current events, of whom many would live to see Armageddon.

The previous interpretation of Jesus' statement started the last generation in 1878! And previous to that the last generation began in 1799!
1952 The doctrine of vaccinations being "against the law of Jehovah", taught since the 1920s, is discarded.
1953 The peak number of publishers for the year is over 500,000.

Renewed emphasis on training for house to house ministry.

1946, 1950,
1953, 1958,
1963, 1969,
International Conventions with many attendance figures above 100,000. The largest is in New York in 1958 with an attendance of 253,900.
1959 The Kingdom Ministry School for training congregation overseers and travelling “circuit servants” commences in South Lansing, New York.
1961 The New World Translation, the entire Bible in one volume, is published in English.
1963 Over 1,000,000 publishers.

New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures released in six more languages.
1965 JWs acquire an "Assembly Hall" in New York, the first of many assembly halls around the world.
1966 Strong hints are published in the book Life Everlasting... (pp 28-30) that Armageddon would occur in 1975. The reasoning is that the days of creation including the seventh day i.e. God's "day of rest" are each 7000 years long. The final 1000 years of God's 7000-year rest would be the post-Armageddon millennium of peace and paradise on Earth. With creation completed in 4026 BCE this implies 1975, but the unknown length of time Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden makes 1975 approximate.
1967-1980 JWs oppose organ transplants which are said to be "unscriptural" and equivalent to "cannibalism". [In the 1970s a few JWs reportedly chose blindness over a cornea transplant.)
1968 The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life is released along with the announcement that home "Bible studies" with the public should now be limited to six months unless they are "making progress". The pocket-size "Truth" book eventually reaches a printing of 108 million in 117 languages.

The Watchtower on page 271 strongly implies that Armageddon would occur in the mid 1970s.
The booklet The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years is released at the Peace on Earth International Conventions.
1971 The book The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah—How? forecasts the "day of Jehovah" i.e. Armageddon "within our twentieth century". (p. 216) JWs still anticipate Armageddon around 1975 but 2000 is the theoretically most distant possible date.

The Governing Body is increased from seven to eleven with chairmanship "rotated" i.e. to be changed annually. It is still only a theoretical Governing Body since Knorr and Franz still make important decisions.
1972 The one-man overseer arrangement in JW congregations is changed to oversight by a "body of elders".
1973 A new WBTS printery at Wallkill (about 150km north of Brooklyn) goes into operation and eventually replaces printing at Brooklyn as part of a world-wide WBTS program to decentralize.

Opposition to smoking cigarettes is enforced and smoker-publishers are given six months to stop the habit.
1974 Over 2,000,000 publishers. 
The annual Memorial (commemorating Christ's death) attracts 4,550,000 worldwide.
1975/1976 The Governing Body forces Knorr and Franz to share power and organizes itself into six committees.
Decisions on doctrine and policy is henceforth made by 2/3 majority vote.

1976 Circulation of The Watchtower passes 10,000,000 but then declines due to the false predictions for the mid 1970s. It passes 10,000,000 again in 1983.

Branch offices henceforth to be run by three-man committees instead of one branch overseer.
1977 Knorr dies. F W Franz becomes president.

The Pioneer Service School is introduced for additional training of "pioneers" (i.e. fulltime door-to-door goers).
1977-1980 JWs decline due to false prophecies for the mid-1970s but regain their previous numbers in 1980.
From 1973 to 1981 about 500,000 publishers beyond the usual attrition rate leave JWs.
1980 Organ transplants and organ donations are made a matter of conscience and are no longer “cannibalism” or “against the Scriptures”.

Raymond Franz, nephew of F W Franz, resigns from the Governing Body and in 1981 is disfellowshipped. He subsequently authors Crisis of Conscience (1983) and In Search of Christian Freedom (1991).
1970s-1980s Numerous building works including printeries, branch offices and assembly halls in dozens of countries distract publishers from failed hopes, renews their commitment, promotes pride in "God's organization", and prepares for renewed growth.
1985 Over 3,000,000 publishers. Memorial attendance — 7,792,000.
1987 Beginning of the Ministerial Training School for additional training of congregation “ministerial servants”. The first class is held in Pennsylvania.
1989 The break-up of the "Communist King of the North" means the failure of another set of prophecies (in the book Your Will 1958). Nevertheless JWs hold large conventions in Poland and expand over Eastern Europe.
1990 Over 4,000,000 publishers.
Memorial attendance is 9,950,000.
1991 The Watchtower circulation passes 15,000,000.
1992 Death of F W Franz. 

The fifth WBTS president is Milton Henschel (1920-2003).

The first International Congress of “True Faith Jehovah’s Witnesses” takes place in Romania, possibly the biggest organized split from WBTS control since the 1920s.
1993 Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom replaces Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose as the movement's history book.
1995 Publishers number 5,200,000.
Memorial attendance is 13,147,000

The doctrine that "this generation" which saw 1914 would live to see Armageddon, and taught as "the Creator's promise" and "Jehovah's prophetic word", is changed by redefining the word "generation".
1997 The Watchtower circulation passes 20,000,000.

The official website of the WBTS goes online.
2000 Publishers number over 6,000,000.
Memorial attendance is 14,872,000.

Governing Body members who are also members of the Board of Directors of the Watch Tower Society resign from the latter position. For the first time the Governing Body and Board of Directors are distinct groups. Commentators speculate that the reason for this change is to avoid WBTS legal liability for Governing Body decisions.
With Henschel's resignation Don Adams (b.1925) becomes the 6th president of the Pennsylvania Corporation.
The prophecy of "within our twentieth century" fails.

1999-2002 Despite over 1.1 billion hours of preaching per year the JW increase-rates are the lowest since 1979.
2001-2002 Child sexual abuse among JWs and an alleged secret WBTS list of 20,000 JW pedophiles receives media attention. New Governing Body policy, introduced in mid 2002, prevents JW child molesters going door to door alone and permits JW victims of abuse to contact the police without JW elders hindering them.
2003-2010 Publishers increase slowly since each baptism now requires on average almost 5000 hours of preaching.

Regular news reports appear of the WBTS making payments to victims of JW child sexual abuse.

"Generation" is redefined again and now means two overlapping generations: "the anointed [i.e. remnant of the 144,000] who were on hand...in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation."
2004 The WBTS sells its 14-story building at 360 Furman Street, Brooklyn, for $205 million. This begins a program to sell about 30 properties in Brooklyn and relocate the entire JW Brooklyn headquarters.

WBTS printing operations in Brooklyn cease.
2006 Awake! magazine becomes a 16-page monthly publication.
2006-2007 The WBTS sells more of its Brooklyn real-estate:
  • 67 Livingston Street, a 26-story tower, for $19 million (2006)
  • 89 Hicks Street for $14 million (2006)
  • 169 Columbia Heights, a 12-story building, for $50 million (2007).


The Watchtower is published in two separate editions, one for the public and the other for JWs.

Publishers number 7,124,000.
Memorial attendance is 17,791,000.


Leopold Engleitner, an Austrian JW and the oldest known survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, dies aged 107 and is probably the very last JW of “the generation that will not pass away".

The WBTS receives planning board approval to build its new World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses on a 250-acre site in Warwick, a rural area about 70km north west of Brooklyn.

Five of six WBTS buildings up for sale in the “Dumbo” area of Brooklyn sell for $375 million to Jared Kushner a real-estate developer. (“Dumbo” is an acronym for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”). With this sale the WBTS's Brooklyn sell-off passes $1000 million.