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Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses Paperback – August 9, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


'A well-written, clear and fascinating study.'

(James A. Beverley Toronto School of Theology)

'Penton's unique position - a well-travelled, fourth-generation member who served in various capacities - makes him a reliable informant. He aptly gives insight into major doctrines, past and recent prophetic speculation, the authority structure of the Witness organization, and the harshness of the total ban upon those who attempt open discussion of any differing exegetical view.'

(Christianity Today)

'All in all, this is an excellent book and required reading for those interested in Jehovah's Witnesses. Penton's special perspective provides a scholarly inside look at a fascinating and persistent example of modern millenarianism.'

(Timothy P. Weber American Historical Review)

'Penton, a fourth generation Witness with an impeccable academic background, sets forth a detailed and damning outline of the movement and, in particular, those who run the world wide organization.'

(Grant MacGillivray Halifax Daily News)

'M. James Penton offers us one of the few comprehensive accounts of a sectarian tradition that remains an enigma to scholars of modern religion.'

(Robert C. Fuller The Journal of Religion)

'This is not a vindictive slamming of the Witness organization by a raving ex-member, but a carefully written, well-documented critical analysis by a scholar with the special insight that only a former insider could give.'

(Dwayne Janke Lethbridge Herald)

About the Author

M. James Penton is a professor emeritus of history and religious studies at the University of Lethbridge.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division; 2nd edition (August 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802079733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802079732
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Professor (emer.) Jim Penton grew up a Jehovah's Witness, and remained a well-known apologist for the controversial movement even as a professional historian. His earlier (published) study of the movement's unkind treatment by Quebec's authorities is from this period. Eventually, however, he was disfellowshipped from the movement after raising certain criticisms, along with a significant number of other members of the congregation in his hometown Lethbridge.
Dr. Penton's combination of personal insight and professional distance has produced a milestone product that simply cannot be overlooked by any serious student of the sect. The book has three sections: History; Concepts and Doctrine; and Organization and Community.
Penton looks at the history of the movement from the 1870s, its doctrinal changes, its leader figures and the sect's countless predictions of the end of the world. His insight into the inner workings is especially evident when he describes the current organizational structure and the sociological makeup of the Witnesses. The bibliography is extensive, and Penton even includes a somewhat subjective but very valuable evaluation of the sources available.
This book is certainly critical of the Witnesses in many respects, but not as much as many evangelical JW critics would hope. It kills many popular myths about the sect, and criticizes inaccurate or unfounded claims made by the group's religious opponents as much as it criticizes the sect's own -- often horribly inaccurate and unreliable -- history versions.

This reviewer is also a former member of the sect, and is a graduate student of History of Religions at the University of Bergen, Norway.
Note:Searching the Net for articles by James Penton will reveal a number of interesting writings about the JWs that comes highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is the second of the books that describe the inner-workings of Watchtower and the society of the "witness" community. I also found this publication very informative. Penton breaks down his work into two parts: HISTORY and DOCTRINE and THEOLOGY. This reading is helpful because it helps the reader understand that this movement once was very small and adhered to many of the traditional belief systems of it's founder; Charles Taze Russell and his association with other adventist religious groups. Apocolypse... also helps readers understand the four management systems and changes undergone by four different leaders, which are mentioned in great detail in the pages. PART TWO, helps readers understand the organizational structure of both "Watchtower" and the "witness" community. Readers also learn the doctrine and it's comparison to other doctrines. Apocalypse... is laced with interesting historic anecdotes and illustrations of the organization's viewpoint of traditional society outside itself. I recommend reading this publication if you are a student of mind control organizations. I give this a definite five star rating.
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Format: Paperback
Few people in the world have as firm a grasp on Jehovah's Witnesses/Bible Student history as does M. James Penton. His book is a rich source of not only references to original documents but also penetrating insights into the significance of the statements made. His additional material in the new edition brings the book basically up to date, though he would have to produce new editions yearly to keep up with a religion that changes its position as frequently as does the Jehovah's Witnesses.
For example, Penton refers to the recently softened stance on higher education as an indication that the movement may change its (as Harold Bloom puts it in _The American Religion_) "anti-mind," or anti-intellectual, position. Unfortunately, "the faithful and discreet slave" (whose authority Penton rightly indentifies as being central to the theology of Jehovah's Witnesses and comparable to the Catholic doctrine of the magisterium, though one could argue that the real core of the religion lies in generally materialistic fantasies about the post-Apocalyptic Millenium after everyone but the Jehovah's Witnesses are dead) has changed its mind again. Four year colleges have returned to being evil, though technical schools are permitted since the Society still wants its members to have jobs so that they can perpetuate their lifestyle at Bethel and since technical schools don't tend to provide the philosophical, psychological, and religious training needed to penetrate the Jehovah's Witnesses' self-contradictory and anti-human theology.
Nonetheless, after reading Penton's book, one ought to be prepared to comprehend any "new light" Jehovah's Witnesses come up with. Since the book covers a relatively large period of time, there are naturally places where Penton could have gone into more depth.
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Format: Paperback
I have read many history books of the WT: 1975 yearbook, "Proclaimers" book, Marley Cole's books, "Evocative Religion", as well as from anti-WT authors like Martin. Penton has endeavored to produce a straightforward account of the major actors in the WT movement. JW's whom I know were open-minded enough to have read this book recognize its historical accuracy, but often resent the fact that it shows too much of the fraile, human,and naive side of the Watchtower's principal players. Why? Because to do so weakens their faith in the organization, that it is THE sole organization on earth directed by Jehovah. Penton has done admirable job of treating the main figures and events very matter-of-factly, but I think he sometimes bends over backwards in a few places in defending C.T. Russell.
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