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American evangelist William Miller predicted that Christ would return in 1844. When that second coming failed to materialize, many believers drifted away in the "Great Disappointment." Others kept Adventist aspirations alive through new interpretations of doctrine.


The movement of Jehovah's Witnesses emerged in part because of key doctrinal disagreements with similar Adventist groups, all of which were deeply influenced by the pre-millennialism of the mid-19th century.


Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) established the Witnesses circa 1870 in Pennsylvania, and the second president, Joseph F. Rutherford (1869-1942), gave the group much of its present administrative structure.

Sacred Texts

The Watch Tower Society publishes its own translation of original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek biblical texts. It is known as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, or NWT.

Historical Perspectives

Scholarship on the Jehovah's Witnesses has at times depicted the movement as marginal or cult-like, with scholars at times aggressively attempting to "correct" the "errors" of the Witnesses. Several important studies have avoided such biases.