From its origins in nineteenth century Adventism until the present day, the Watch Tower Society has become one of the best known but least understood new religious movements. Resisting the tendency to define the movement in terms of the negative, this volume offers an empathetic account of the Jehovah's Witnesses, without defending or seeking to refute their beliefs. George Chryssides critically examines the historical and theological bases of the organization's teachings and practices, and discusses the changes and continuities which have defined it. The book provides a valuable resource for scholars of new religious movements and contemporary religion.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Researching Jehovah’s Witnesses; Origins; Russell; Rutherford; Opposition; Organisation; The Bible; Ethics and lifestyle; Worship and rites of passage; Prophecy; Problems and prospects; Index.
George D. Chryssides is a Visiting Fellow at York St John University, and was previously Head of Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. He has published extensively in scholarly journals and has authored and edited several books including The Path of Buddhism (1988), The Advent of Sun Myung Moon (1991), The Elements of Unitarianism (1998), Exploring New Religions (1999), A Reader in New Religious Movements (co-edited with Margaret Z. Wilkins, 2006), Historical Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses (2008), Christianity Today (2010), Heaven's Gate (2011), Christians in the Twenty-First Century (with Margaret Z. Wilkins, 2011), Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements (2nd edn 2012), The Study of Religion (with Ron Geaves, 2nd edn 2013), and The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements (with Benjamin E. Zeller, 2014).
"Well-researched studies of Jehovah’s Witnesses are few and far between. Using a wealth of newly available information, George Chryssides offers a fresh perspective on the Watchtower movement’s development from its 19th century origins to the era of globalisation. His careful account of the collision between Theocracy, the Internet, environmentalism, the sexual revolution, liberalism and accusations of sexual abuse is intriguing and highly readable."
- James A. Beckford, University of Warwick, UK
"I have been waiting for a book like this for a long time. George Chryssides has written a real fine piece of scholarship about the Jehovah´s Witnesses. The book is comprehensive, scientific, interesting, and easy to follow. I recommend it to students and scholars alike."
- Liselotte Frisk, Dalarna University, Sweden
"This is a book that gives us a wealth of information about one of the best-known, yet relatively unknown, of the many minority religions that have spread throughout the globe over the past century and a half. Professor Chryssides takes us from the origins of the Jehovah’s Witnesses right up to the present day, indicating the changes that have taken place along the way. We learn about the Witnesses’ beliefs and practices, some of the more controversial of these (refusal of blood transfusions, proselytising, and conscientious objection) being discussed in a critical, yet always empathetic, manner. Particularly masterful is the way Chryssides guides us through the maze of dates and prophecies that have given rise to confusion not only for the outsider but also for many of the Witnesses themselves. Written with admirable clarity, the book provides absorbing material for a wide range of readers."
- Eileen Barker, Inform, UK
"Jehovah’s Witnesses is a remarkable feat in both scope and depth of analysis. In clear and fluent prose, Chryssides explains continuity and change in the Watch Tower Society, exploring everything from its nineteenth century origins and modern rites of passage to its complex eschatology and twenty-first century challenges. With this book Chryssides cements his reputation as one of the world’s leading scholars of the organisation."
- Zoe Knox, University of Leicester, UK
"Finally, in this long-awaited book, George Chryssides sums up in one volume decades of activities as the leading European expert on Jehovah’s Witnesses. He analyses their historical roots, and discusses significant recent changes in the Watch Tower organisation. A seminal book, which will define the field of the scholarly study of Jehovah’s Witnesses for years to come."
- Massimo Introvigne, Pontifical Salesian University, Torino, Italy and Managing Director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions)
"Finally - an empathetic but non-partisan history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in sociological perspective. Chryssides challenges many of our deeply held misconceptions about this fascinating "old/new" religious movement."
- Susan Palmer, McGill University, Canada
"This is a much needed update on developments within and surrounding the Jehovah’s Witnesses by one of the leading scholars who has done serious research on the Witnesses. (...) Overall, this is a valuable addition to the literature on the Witnesses and on minority religions in general as they grapple with how to maintain
themselves in current times. Chryssides has done a commendable job of pulling together a tremendous amount of material and also making good use of his excellent ties with Witness congregations. His book will, I believe, stand the test of time and become a much-cited source for future scholars."
- James T. Richardson, University of Nevada, Reno