|Main Classification:||Millenarian, Restorationist|
|Founder:||Charles Taze Russell (founded Bible Student movement)|
|Founded Date:||1876: Bible Students founded|
1931: Named Jehovah's witnesses
|Founded Place:||Pennsylvania and New York, USA|
|Parent:||Millerite and Adventist movements|
|Separations:||See Jehovah's Witnesses|
|Footnotes:||Statistics from 2009 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses|
Jehovah's Witnesses is a restorationist, millenarian Christian religious movement.  Sociologists of religion have classified the group as an Adventist sect.  The group emerged from the Bible Student Movement, founded in the late 19th century by Charles Taze Russell. It underwent significant organizational changes between 1917 and the 1940s, having its authority structure centralized and its preaching methods brought under greater regimentation.  The religion today claims an active worldwide membership of approximately 7 million people.
They are most well-known for their door-to-door preaching, and for their refusal of military service and blood transfusions. The religion's stance of conscientious objection to military service has brought it into conflict with governments that conscript citizens for military service,  and activities of Jehovah's Witnesses have subsequently been banned in some countries.  Jehovah's Witnesses have had a major influence on US constitutional law concerning civil liberties and conscientious objection to military service.
Since 1876, adherents have believed that they are living in the last days of the present world order. In the years leading up to 1914, 1925 and 1975, the religion's publications expressed strong expectations that Armageddon would occur in those years, resulting in surges in membership and subsequent defections.
Jehovah's Witnesses consider the Bible as the supreme authority for their teachings and practices. Their belief system diverges greatly from traditional Christian theology, which has caused several major Christian denominations to denounce the group as either a cult or heretical sect. Medical ethicists have criticized Jehovah's Witnesses as an authoritarian group for coercing members to reject blood transfusions.  Former adherents have claimed that the religion demands unquestioning obedience from members, with the consequence of expulsion and shunning facing any who act in disagreement with its doctrines. 
See also: History of Jehovah's Witnesses.
See also: Development of Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine.
From the early 1870s, Charles Taze Russell studied the Bible with a group of Millerist Adventists, including George Storrs and George Stetson, and from 1874, Russell jointly edited a religious journal, Herald of the Morning. In July 1879, Russell began leading a Bible study group and publishing the magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence,  highlighting his interpretations of biblical chronology, with particular attention to his belief that the world was in "the last days". In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to disseminate tracts, papers, doctrinal treatises and Bibles; three years later, on December 15, 1884, Russell became the president of the Society when it was legally incorporated in Pennsylvania.
Watch Tower supporters gathered as autonomous congregations to study the Bible and Russell's writings. Russell firmly rejected as "wholly unnecessary" the concept of a formal organization for his followers, and declared that his group had no record of its members' names, no creeds, and no sectarian name. The group became known as "Bible Students". Russell died on October 31, 1916, and control of the Watch Tower magazine was temporarily passed to an Editorial Committee as outlined in Russell's will, with an Executive Committee in control of the Society.
In January 1917, Joseph Franklin Rutherford was elected the next president of the Watch Tower Society. A power struggle developed between Rutherford and the Society's Board of Directors, who objected to his style of leadership.  On July 17, 1917, Rutherford dismissed four of the directors, claiming they had not been legally elected.  He then announced the release of The Finished Mystery as the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures; the book was described as "a posthumous publication ... of Charles Taze Russell", but was actually written by two other Bible Students. Controversy erupted over Rutherford's actions, and many Bible Students left to form various splinter groups. Eight years later, following a dispute over a proposed article, Rutherford dismissed the Watch Towers Editorial Committee, giving him full control of the organization and material published in the magazine.
The Finished Mystery strongly criticised Catholic and Protestant clergy and Christian involvement in war. Citing this book, the United States federal government indicted Rutherford and the new board of directors for violation of the Espionage Act on May 7, 1918. They were found guilty and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. In March 1919, the judgment against them was reversed and they were released from prison; the charges were later dropped.   Patriotic fervor during World War I fueled persecution of the Bible Students in both America and Europe, including mob violence and tarring and feathering.
Rutherford continued to tighten and centralize organizational control of the Bible Students, with the Brooklyn headquarters appointing a "director" in each congregation in 1919, and a year later requiring all congregation members who participated in the preaching work to report their preaching activity weekly. On July 26, 1931, the name Jehovah's witnesses was adopted by resolution at a convention in Columbus, Ohio, based on the American Standard Version's rendering of Isaiah 43:10: "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah". In 1932, Rutherford eliminated the system of selecting elders by congregational vote. In 1938, he introduced a "theocratic" or "God-ruled" organizational system, under which, all appointments in congregations worldwide are made from the Brooklyn headquarters.
At an international convention held at Cedar Point, in September 1922, a new emphasis was made on house-to-house preaching. Significant changes in doctrine were made under Rutherford's leadership, including the 1918 announcement that Jewish patriarchs (such as Abraham and Isaac) would be resurrected in 1925, marking the beginning of Christ's thousand-year reign, accompanied by an earthly paradise.  The failed expectations for 1925, coupled with other doctrinal changes, resulted in a dramatic reduction in attendance at their yearly Memorial, from 90,434 in 1925 to 17,380 in 1928.  By 1933, the timing of the beginning of Christ's presence (Greek: parousía), his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days", were each moved to 1914.    From 1935, converts to the movement were generally identified as those who, if worthy, would survive Armageddon and live on a paradise earth. Membership before this time was generally composed of those who believed they would be resurrected to live in heaven to rule over the earth with Christ.
As their interpretations of Scripture continued to develop, Witnesses were told that saluting the flag or standing for the national anthem are forms of idolatry. They were also told to refuse alternative service provided for conscientious objectors. (Objection to alternative civilian service was maintained until 1996, when it was deemed a 'conscience matter'.    They consider the soul and body to be the living being that expires. Their hope for life after death involves being resurrected by God, either with a new body on earth after Armageddon, or to heaven for the limited number of 144,000.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the entire Bible (following the Protestant canon, hence excluding the deuterocanonical books) is the inspired word of God and accurate in regard to history and prophecy, although they assert that the Bible also uses symbolism, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism.  Jehovah's Witnesses reject the term "fundamentalist" as a description of the religion's beliefs.   The leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses claims to be the sole visible channel of Jehovah and asserts that the Bible cannot be understood without its assistance.
Jehovah's Witnesses reject the idea that Jesus died on a cross, and instead teach that he died on a single wooden stake, asserting that the Koiné Greek word σταυρος refers to a single upright post. They view the cross to be of pagan origins and an object of idol worship. Some Jehovah's Witnesses have been persecuted or killed for not bowing down to or kissing a cross. 
See main article: Beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses are perhaps best known for their efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world. They do this mainly by visiting people from house to house.  Free home Bible studies are offered to people who show interest in their beliefs, which they present with the aid of their publications, such as The Watchtower. Literature is published in many languages through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications, with a small selection available in over 440 languages. They believe that their preaching work is a form of humanitarian effort by helping people apply Biblical principles to improve their lives, and that their preaching work gives people hope for the future.   Witnesses are instructed to devote as much time as possible to preaching activities, and are required to provide a monthly report to their congregation on their 'witnessing' activity.
Their view of morality reflects conservative Christian values. All sexual relations outside of marriage are grounds for expulsion (disfellowshipping) if the accused is not deemed repentant. Abortion is considered murder.
The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is encouraged to solicit his wife's thoughts and feelings, as well as those of his children. Marriages are required to be monogamous. Divorce is permissible only for adultery. If a divorce is obtained for any other reason, remarriage is considered adultery (if the previous spouse is still alive). Abuse and willful non-support of one's family are considered grounds for separation.
See main article: Jehovah's Witnesses and congregational discipline. Jehovah's Witnesses employ a form of excommunication, which they have uniquely termed "disfellowshipping", where a member is considered unrepentant of committing a "serious sin". Members are not allowed to speak to individuals who are disfellowshipped, with the exception of parents of disfellowshipped minors still living in the family home. The intended purpose of disfellowshipping is to keep the congregation free from immoral influence and to shame wrong-doers into repentance.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible condemns the mixing of religions on the basis that there can only be one truth from God.  They believe that only their religion represents true Christianity, and that all other religions fail to meet all the requirements set by God and will be destroyed. They are opposed to 'councils' that unite or combine different religions.
Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are observed, however holidays such as Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Christmas are not celebrated, as Jehovah's Witnesses believe these customs come from ancient pagan religions. Observances such as Independence Day and other national holidays are not observed by Jehovah's Witnesses because they believe these could compromise their neutrality. Birthday parties and celebrations are also avoided as days that lead to feelings of "self-importance", and are proscribed based on their interpretation of Genesis 40:20-22 and Mark 6:21-27. According to Watchtower publications, birthdays are pagan in origin and were not celebrated by early Christians.
See main article: Jehovah's Witnesses and governments. Jehovah's Witnesses believe their allegiance belongs to God's Kingdom, which is viewed as an actual, heavenly government. They refrain from saluting the flag of any country or singing nationalistic songs, as they believe that these acts are contrary to biblical principles. The political neutrality of Jehovah's Witnesses is also expressed by their refusal to participate in military service - even when it is compulsory - and by their detachment from secular politics. However, they believe that they owe secular authorities their obedience. Members are expected to obey all laws of their native governments, so long as these do not violate their interpretations of scripture.  They are instructed to pay all taxes levied by the country in which they reside, considering the government to be solely responsible for how they are used. 
See main article: Jehovah's Witnesses and blood transfusions. Jehovah's Witnesses are opposed to blood transfusions, based on their understanding of how the Bible says blood should be treated. In 1961, accepting a blood transfusion became grounds for expulsion from the religion. They do not accept the threat of death as sufficient to dissuade them from rejecting blood transfusions for themselves or their children. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible prohibits blood transfusions based on their interpretation of Acts 15:28-29.
Jehovah's Witnesses are not permitted to accept red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma, though they may accept fractions made from these components at their own discretion.  The Watchtower Society provides members with Power of Attorney documents to indicate which optional fractions they accept, with preformatted wording prohibiting major components.  If a fraction "makes up a significant portion of that component" or "carries out the key function of a primary component", it may be objectionable to some but is permissible.
The Witnesses engage in aid work after large natural disasters, though this is secondary to their preaching effort. They claim they use large sums of donated money in the affected areas to rebuild communities and provide aid. The focus of relief efforts is primarily on rebuilding Kingdom Halls and helping fellow members, but they also claim to provide assistance to non-members in need near the area in which they are working.  Relief work has included that provided to Hutu and Tutsi victims during the Rwandan genocide, to Congo refugees, and after Hurricane Katrina in the United States of America.
Their most important annual event is the commemoration of Jesus' death on behalf of mankind, referred to as the Memorial or the Lord's Evening Meal. It is held after sundown on the day corresponding to the date of the Hebrew Passover (Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar). This is usually in March or April on the first full moon after the spring equinox. The event is open to anyone, and invitations are given out in communities about a month before. Over 17 million people attended the Memorial worldwide in 2007.
During the event, unleavened bread and wine, emblems symbolizing Jesus' perfect body and shed blood, are passed to each person in attendance. Only those members who profess to be of the anointed 144,000 partake of the emblems. They believe that those who partake unworthily of the emblems will be judged by Jehovah.
See main article: Demographics of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses have an active presence in most countries, though they do not form a large part of the population of any country. As of February 2008, Jehovah's Witnesses have an average of 7.2 million members actively involved in preaching. In 2007, these reports indicated a total of over 1.3 billion hours. Since the mid-1990s, the number of peak publishers has increased from 4.5 million to 7.2 million, though there has been a decline in growth rates, from over 8% per annum in the mid 1970s, to 5% per annum in the mid 1990s, to about 2% - 3% per annum since 1999. The official published membership statistics only include those who have reported preaching activity, and do not include 'inactive' and disfellowshipped members, and any who have either not been involved in preaching or have not submitted reports. In the United States, about one-third of children among Jehovah’s Witnesses still identify themselves with the religion as adults.
See main article: List of Jehovah's Witnesses publications. The publishing arm of Jehovah's Witnesses, known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, engages in extensive publishing work, with the production of books, brochures, and other media. The most widespread are:
See main article: Controversies regarding Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses have attracted controversy over issues surrounding their Bible translation, doctrines, their handling of sexual abuse cases and what is claimed to be coercion of members.
The Watchtower Society's New World Translation of the Bible has attracted criticism over the credentials of its translators, its insertion of the name "Jehovah" 237 times in the New Testament without evidence that the name existed in the original Greek manuscripts, and the translation of certain texts which may be biased towards specific Witness practices and doctrines.
The Watchtower Society has been accused of making false predictions and issuing self-aggrandizing statements.  Watchtower publications since the 1870s have issued numerous predictions based on Biblical chronology, many of them surrounding the dates 1914, 1925 and 1975. None of these predictions has been fulfilled. It has also been accused of making false claims to act as a prophet in making predictions about the future.  Its publications have made the explicit claim that God has used Jehovah's Witnesses as a prophet  and urged members of the religion to place unwavering trust in those predictions, but has condemned others for making false predictions about the future.
The Watchtower Society claims that Jehovah's Witnesses alone practise true Christianity and that the religion's Governing Body is the sole "channel" of communication between God and man.  It has claimed God used "invisible deputies" and "invisible angels" to pass his "messages" to the Watchtower.  The Watchtower Society has claimed the Bible cannot be properly understood "without Jehovah's visible organization in mind" and warned that individual interpretation of the Bible is dangerous and foolish.
The Watchtower Society has substantially altered doctrines since its inception and abandoned core teachings, many involving Bible chronology, it had earlier claimed as beyond question.   
Former Governing Body member Raymond Franz claims the religion's emphasis on its "theocratic" organization is designed to exercise control over every aspect of the lives of Jehovah's Witnesses and condition them to think it is wrong for them to question statements by the Watchtower Society. Watchtower literature warns against the "dangers" and "infection" of "independent thinking", such as questioning the counsel it provides. Franz claims that the Watchtower Society's firm discouragement of members to read criticism of the organization  or scriptural material published by other religions  creates a form of mental isolation that has been cited as an element of mind control. Constant urging to devote increasing amounts of time to door-to-door preaching has been described as coercive pressure. Medical and legal commentators have also noted cases of Witness medical patients being coerced to obey the religion's ban on blood transfusions. 
See main article: Jehovah's Witnesses and child sex abuse. Critics such as Silentlambs have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of employing organizational policies that make the reporting of sexual abuse difficult for members and some victims of sexual abuse have asserted that when reporting abuse they were ordered to maintain silence to avoid embarrassment to both the accused and the organization. 
In 2008 Barbara Anderson, a former member of the Watchtower writing department, published Secrets of Pedophilia in an American Religion - Jehovah's Witnesses in Crisis,  which contains a commentary and 5000 pages of court documents from 12 court record depositories in four US states. These court documents are the result of 12 lawsuits that Jehovah’s Witnesses were involved with since 1999, although many more lawsuits were settled out of court in the past decades.
. Raymond Franz. In Search of Christian Freedom. Commentary Press. 2007. Atlanta. 754. 0-914675-17-6.
See also: Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Nathan Knorr was named the third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society following Rutherford's death in January 1942. Knorr instituted major new training programs - the Theocratic Ministry School for all congregation members, and the Gilead School for missionaries. He also organized large-scale conventions, which attraced as many as 253,000 Witnesses to sports stadiums in the US, Canada and Germany, and began a campaign of real estate acquisition in Brooklyn to expand the organisation's world headquarters. He commissioned a new translation of the Bible, which was released progressively from 1950 before being published as the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in 1961. Knorr's vice-president, Frederick William Franz, became the religion's leading theologian, and helped shape the further development of explicit rules of conduct among members, with a greater emphasis on disfellowshipping as a disciplinary measure.
From 1938 to 1955 the Witnesses launched a series of cases in the US Supreme Court to defend their right to worship and proselytize, winning 36 out of 45 cases.
From 1966, Witness publications began using their interpretations of biblical chronology to heighten anticipation of Christ's thousand-year millennial reign beginning in late 1975.   Focus on 1975 was intensified with talks given at conventions; in 1974 a Watchtower Society publication commended Witnesses who had sold homes and property to devote themselves to preaching in the "short time" remaining. The number of baptisms soared, from about 59,000 in 1966 to more than 297,000 in 1974, but membership declined after expectations for the year were proved wrong.    In 1980, the Watchtower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding 1975.
The offices of elder and ministerial servant were restored to Witness congregations in 1972, with appointments being made from headquarters. In a major organizational overhaul in 1976, the power of the Watchtower Society president was diminished, with authority for doctrinal and organizational decisions passed to the religion's Governing Body. Reflecting these organizational changes, publications of Jehovah's Witnesses began using the capitalized name, Jehovah's Witnesses. Prior to this, witnesses was consistently uncapitalized, except in headings and when quoting external sources. Presidents since Knorr's death in 1977 have been Frederick Franz (1977-1992), Milton Henschel (1992-2000) and Don A. Adams (2000-).
See also: Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses are organized under a hierarchical arrangement, which their leadership calls a "theocratic government", reflecting their belief that it is God's organization on earth.
The organization is headed by the Governing Body, based in the Watchtower Society's Brooklyn, New York headquarters - an all-male group that varies in size, but since 2005 has comprised nine members, all of whom profess to be of the "anointed" class with a hope of heavenly life.  There is no election for membership, with new members selected by the existing body. The Governing Body is described as the "spokesman" for God's "Faithful and Discreet Slave class" (the approximately 10,000 remaining "anointed" Jehovah's Witnesses), and is said to provide "spiritual food" for Witnesses worldwide on behalf of the "Faithful and Discreet Slave". In practice it seeks neither advice nor approval from any "anointed" Witnesses other than high-ranking members at Brooklyn Bethel when formulating policy and doctrines or when producing material for publications and conventions.
The Governing Body directs several committees that are responsible for various administrative functions, including publishing, assembly programmes and evangelizing activity. The committees oversee operations of Watchtower Society branch offices around the world, from which, District and Circuit Overseers are appointed to supervise congregations within their jurisdictions.
Witnesses have no formal clergy-laity division. Congregations are served by a body of appointed male elders and ministerial servants. Elders maintain general responsibility for congregational governance, setting meeting times, selecting speakers and conducting meetings, directing the public preaching work, and creating "judicial committees" to investigate and decide disciplinary action for cases that are seen as breaching scriptural or organizational laws. Elders are appointed by the Society after recommendation from the local body of elders. Ministerial servants - appointed in a similar fashion to elders - fulfil clerical and attendant duties, but may also teach and conduct meetings.
See main article: Beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses. Unless explicitly stated, statements in this section reflect the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Doctrinal positions on the Bible are gained by what Witness publications describe as "progressive revelation". The term is undefined in Watchtower literature, but commonly taken to mean the application of reason and study as well as the undefined guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Watchtower has also suggested the organization has received direct, latter-day revelations. Rutherford spoke of spiritual "lightning flashes in the temple", and the Society claims its doctrine of the "great crowd" and "other sheep" were "revealed" to Rutherford in 1935. Witness literature has also described sudden changes in doctrines as "flashes of light" given by God through his holy spirit.   A 1930 publication claimed God used "invisible deputies" and "invisible angels" to pass his "messages" to the Watchtower. 
Emphasis is given to the use of God's Biblical name, the Tetragrammaton, and in English they prefer to use the name, Jehovah. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the only true God, the Creator of all things, and give him the title "Universal Sovereign". They believe that all worship should be directed toward him. Jehovah's Witnesses see mankind as participants in a challenge involving the competing claims of Jehovah and Satan to universal sovereignty.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus was created by Jehovah, and that Jehovah then created everything else by means of Jesus. While on Earth as a human, Jesus performed miracles, but he does not perform them now. Jesus served as a ransom sacrifice to pay for the sins of mankind. They believe that Jesus died on a single upright torture stake rather than the traditional cross. They believe that references in the Bible to the Archangel Michael, Apollyon and Abaddon, and the Word also refer to Jesus.  
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Satan is the invisible ruler of the world. He was at one time a perfect son of God but developed feelings of self-importance and craved worship that belonged to God. Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to obey him rather than God, raising the issue of who can rightfully claim to be sovereign of the universe. Satan misleads people on Earth, and he and the demons are the reason for pain and suffering. In October 1914, Satan and his demons were cast down to earth from heaven and the end times began.
Publications of Jehovah's Witnesses have stated that only Jehovah and Jesus determine who will survive Armageddon, but that only those serving Jehovah have any "Scriptural hope" of survival. Jesus' death was necessary to atone for the sin brought into the world by Adam and created the possibility of everlasting life for humans. 144,000 anointed Christians will receive immortal life in heaven as co-rulers with Christ over the rest of humanity during the Millennial Reign. God's kingdom was established in heaven with Jesus Christ as king in 1914. During the war of Armageddon the wicked will be destroyed. The survivors and those who will be resurrected will form a new earthly society ruled by a heavenly government. The majority of Jehovah's Witnesses expect to live in a renewed paradise on Earth. They believe that after Armageddon, most humans who have died will be resurrected, and will be granted a period of one thousand years to demonstrate their obedience to God.  People who were executed by God's judgement, such as during the Flood, at Sodom and Gomorrah, or at Armageddon, will not be resurrected.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that death is a state of non-existence with no consciousness. They do not believe in any Hell of fiery torment. Hades and Sheol are understood to refer to the condition of death, termed common grave.. July 15. 2005. 2008-09-14.
. Raymond Franz. Crisis of Conscience. Commentary Press. 2007. 56. 0-914675-23-0.
. Raymond Franz. In Search of Christian Freedom. Commentary Press. 2007. 494–505. 0-914675-17-6.