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Monday, June 27, 2011

Charles T. Russell and "Pyramid Chronology"

Pyramid Chronology

Opposers of Jehovah's Witnesses occasionally cite Charles T. Russell's interest in "Pyramid Chronology" as another one of their attempts to discredit the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In order to address this subject properly, a brief look at the history of the subject and the broad general perception at that time would be beneficial. 

In 1859, an "eminently respectable Nottinghamshire Victorian" (Moffett quote) and respected London publisher, John Taylor, published his book, The Great Pyramid: Why Was It Built? And Who Built It?.

Taylor was also an earnest student of mathematics who had spent many long hours examining and analyzing the most accurate and detailed measurements then available for the Great Pyramid: Howard Vyse's survey in 3 volumes - Operations Carried On At The Pyramids Of Giza.

Taylor's eight-volume work claimed the Great Pyramid had been built through the inspiration of the God of the Bible. The various measurements of that pyramid were, he said, God-inspired messages to His people.

Then Dr. Charles Piazzi Smyth took over. He was

"a fellow of the Royal Society, Britain's august high command of the sciences, [and] his father, Admiral William Henry Smyth, had been one before him. At the time the younger Smyth encountered Taylor's theories, he was both professor of astronomy at Edinburgh University and Astronomer Royal of Scotland." - Moffett.

Inspired by Taylor's studies, Smyth launched into a fresh analysis of Howard Vyse's figures. His calculations and conclusions startled the world: not only was Taylor correct, he declared, but there were many new revelations to be found!

From 1864 until 1890 (at least) Piazzi Smyth was the greatest authority on the revelations of the Great Pyramid measurements. This respected scientist sincerely believed and taught, among other things, that the various measurements in and on the Pyramid were put there through inspiration from God by its Hebrew builders to encourage and inform God's modern people.

Many later studies by others came up with slightly different measurements and different interpretations, but Piazzi Smyth's were certainly the most impressive from the standpoint of scholastic authority, scientific sincerity, and world-wide endorsements. "As late as 1932," Moffett tells us, "there were still those ready to take up the cudgel for the Astronomer Royal." Others, however, also became popular in this field.

"The heyday of pyramidology was to dawn in 1924, with the publication of The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message. This was primarily the work of an English structural engineer named David Davidson." - Moffett.

Many intelligent, knowledgeable people around the world were convinced that the Great Pyramid had been divinely constructed to reveal Biblical truths. True, there was some argument as to which of the many different measurements being reported were the proper measurements. And there were various interpretations as to what each measurement actually represented. And there were a number of stuffy "curmudgeons" who still wouldn't be convinced by what seemed to be overwhelming statistical proof. But "Pyramid Fever" ran high, nevertheless.

And in 1890 the respected Dr. Piazzi Smyth was the Pyramid Chronology expert!

So, when C. T. Russell began examining Dr. Smyth's work and comparing it to his own attempts at chronology based on the Bible alone, it is no wonder he became very excited at what appeared to be an exact proportional match between the lengths of various consecutive measurements in the Pyramid and the lengths of consecutive time periods in his own Bible chronology.
As a result, in 1890, Russell's "Pyramid" calculations and their interpretation by him were forwarded to Piazzi Smyth in England. Smyth heartily endorsed them in his Dec. 21, 1890 letter which was reproduced in Studies in the Scriptures when Russell published his Great Pyramid testimony. - see pp. 311-312, Thy Kingdom Come.

As Russell tells us in that very same work which Piazzi Smyth had reviewed and praised:

"The first work of importance on the subject, proving that the Great Pyramid possessed scientific features, was by Mr. John Taylor, of England, A.D. 1859, since which time the attention of many able minds has been given to the further study of the testimony of this wonderful `Witness;' especially since Prof. Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland ... gave to the world the remarkable facts of its construction and measurements, and his conclusions therefrom. To his scholarly and scientific work, `Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid,' we are mainly indebted for the data made use of in this chapter....

"A few years after Prof. Smyth's return, came the suggestion that the Great Pyramid is Jehovah's`Witness,' and that it is as important a witness to divine truth as to natural science .... The suggestion came from a young Scotsman, Robert Menzies, who, when studying the scientific teachings of the Great Pyramid, discovered that prophetic and chronological teachings co-exist in it.

"Soon it became apparent that the object of its construction was to provide in it a record of the divine plan of salvation, no less than the record of divine wisdom relating to astronomical, chronological, geometrical, and other important truths." - pp. 319-320, Thy Kingdom Come, Studies in the Scriptures.

Later confirmation for Russell's "pyramid chronology" came from Dr. John Edgar, M.A., B.So., M.B., C.M., F.F.P.S.G., of Glasgow, Scotland, who, with his brother Morton, visited the Great Pyramid in 1909 to critically test Russell's interpretations.

"Their verdict, after a most elaborate investigation, was a thorough endorsement of Pastor Russell's interpretation" - p. 4953 [bound volume], Jan. 1, 1912 WT.

However, it must be noted that it was extremely difficult to determine exactly where to start (or end) many of the measurements in the Great Pyramid, and more and more differing measurements began to be made and promoted as Smyth's theories became more and more popular. It is even claimed that Smyth himself had used two different measurements for one of the passages - WT, p. 3451, Nov. 1, 1904, letters from readers.

Also, as Moffett, in his book debunking the various pyramidology theories, points out:

"if you took enough measurements and chose selectively, it would be possible to prove virtually anything." - p. 38, Secrets of the Pyramids Revealed.


I have no doubt that Taylor, Prof. Piazzi Smyth, and C. T. Russell (and thousands of others) were sincere, religious men who truly believed their interpretations of the Pyramid measurements. They were victims of statistical coincidences and multiple variables: it all honestly appeared to be mathematically precise proof - inescapably certain!

Although convinced of the accuracy of his pyramid chronology interpretations, Russell, nevertheless, considered it as merely corroborating the testimony of the Bible. It was "for a sign and a witness unto the Lord of Hosts." He wrote: "IF this, indeed, prove to be a Bible in stone; IF it be a record of the secret plans of the Great Architect of the universe, displaying his foreknowledge and wisdom; it should and will be in full accord with his written word." - pp. 317, 326, 341, Thy Kingdom Come.

Nevertheless, we must finally conclude, as with some other date interpretations, that Russell was incorrect. This does not make him a False Prophet. He was no more (or less) than what he continually proclaimed himself to be: a mere imperfect man striving (with the aid of God's Spirit) for the truth. That his imperfect flesh did not always allow him perfect accord with the Holy Spirit should come as no surprise. Otherwise we would be treating him as an Inspired Prophet and regarding his every word as "Scripture" (which, as we know, he strongly opposed). Instead, he is merely a brother, a fellow servant.

Related Article:

The Watchtower and the Great Pyramid, then and now (Pastor Russell)
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