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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two Pastors Who Appreciated Russell's Writings

IN 1891, Charles Taze Russell, who did outstanding work among true Christian worshipers of Jehovah, visited Europe for the first time. According to some reports, during a stopover in Pinerolo, Italy, Russell met Professor Daniele Rivoire, a former pastor of a religious group called the Waldenses. Although Rivoire remained closely associated with the Waldenses after he left the ministry, he kept an open mind and read many publications that C. T. Russell wrote.

In 1903, Rivoire translated Russell’s book The Divine Plan of the Ages into Italian and had it printed at his own expense. This was well before an official Italian edition was published. In the book’s foreword, Rivoire wrote: “We place this first Italian edition under the Lord’s protection. May he bless it so that, in spite of its imperfections, it may contribute to magnify his most holy name and encourage his Italian-speaking children to greater devotion. May the hearts of all those who, by reading this book, appreciate the depth of riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God’s plan and love, be grateful to God himself, by whose grace publication of this work has been made possible.”

Rivoire also began translating Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence into Italian. This magazine, an early form of The Watchtower, appeared as a quarterly edition in 1903. Even though Professor Rivoire never became a Bible Student, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called, he showed much interest in spreading the Bible’s message as explained in the publications of the Bible Students.

“It Seemed as Though Scales Fell From My Eyes”

Another Waldensian pastor who esteemed Russell’s publications was Giuseppe Banchetti. Giuseppe’s father, who had converted from Catholicism, gave him a Waldensian education. In 1894, Giuseppe became a pastor and ministered to various Waldensian communities in Apulia and Abruzzi and on the islands of Elba and Sicily.

The authorized Italian edition of Russell’s Divine Plan of the Ages was published in 1905. Banchetti wrote an enthusiastic review of the book. It appeared in the Protestant periodical La Rivista Cristiana. “For us,” wrote Banchetti, Russell’s book “is the most illuminated and sure guide that any Christian may find to undertake a profitable and blessed study of Holy Scripture . . . As soon as I read it, it seemed as though scales fell from my eyes, that the way to God was straighter and easier. Even apparent contradictions for the most part disappeared. Doctrines once difficult appeared simple and perfectly acceptable. Things hitherto incomprehensible became clear. The admirable plan of the world’s salvation in Christ appeared before me with such awesome simplicity as to induce me to exclaim with the Apostle: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”—Romans 11:33.

As observed in 1925 by Remigio Cuminetti, Banchetti showed “much sympathy” for the work of the Bible Students and was “fully convinced” of the doctrines as explained by them. In his own way, Banchetti also sought to make such doctrines known.

It is evident from Banchetti’s writings that, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, he believed that there would be an earthly resurrection, as taught in the Scriptures. He also agreed with the Bible Students when he explained that the year in which Jesus died had been fixed and revealed by God in Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks. (Daniel 9:24-27) More than once, and in open disagreement with the teachings of his church, he held that the Memorial of Jesus Christ’s death should be observed just one time each year, “the exact day on which the anniversary falls.” (Luke 22:19, 20) He rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution, and he affirmed that true Christians should not engage in secular war.—Isaiah 2:4.

On one occasion, Banchetti was discussing Russell’s writings with a man named J. Campbell Wall. In answer to Wall’s criticisms, Banchetti said: “I am certain that if you read Russell’s six volumes, you would experience a vigorous and deep joy, and you would thank me with emotion. I do not parade doctrine; but I read those books eleven years ago, and I thank God every day for putting before me such light and such consolation by means of a work that is entirely and solidly founded on the Holy Scriptures.”

“Listen, Listen, Listen”

It is significant that these two Waldensian pastors—Daniele Rivoire and Giuseppe Banchetti—expressed appreciation for the way Russell explained the Bible. Banchetti wrote: “I say that none of us Evangelicals, not even our pastors or theology professors, nobody knows everything. Nay, we have many, many other things to learn. . . . [We should] . . . stay and listen, not thinking we know it all, and not rejecting what is offered for our examination. Rather, listen, listen, listen.”

Every year, thousands listen to the Kingdom message as brought to their homes by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Open-minded people everywhere who thirst for Bible truths are responding to Jesus’ invitation: “Come be my follower.”—Mark 10:17-21; Revelation 22:17.


Named after Pierre Vaudès, or Peter Waldo, a 12th-century merchant of Lyons, France. Waldo was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for his beliefs. For additional information on the Waldenses, see the article “The Waldenses—From Heresy to Protestantism” in The Watchtower of March 15, 2002.

Ref: 2002 Watchtower, 4/15, page 28 - 29, WTB&TS


Peter Waldo

Life and work

Specific details of his life are largely unknown. The sources mention that he was a merchant from Lyon. However, inspired after hearing the story of St. Alexius, in around 1160 he began living a radical Christian life and gave his real estate to his wife, and the remainder of his belongings he distributed as alms to the poor.

Waldo also began to preach and teach on the streets, based on his ideas of simplicity and poverty, notably that "No man can serve two masters, God and mammon." By 1170 he had gathered a number of followers and they started to be called the Poor of Lyon, the Poor of Lombardy, or the Poor of God. They were also referred to as the Waldensians (or Waldenses), after their leader. They were distinct from the Albigensians or Cathars.

The Waldensian movement was characterised from the beginning by lay preaching, voluntary poverty and sticking to the "Word of God", the Bible. Peter Waldo commissioned a cleric from Lyons around 1180 to translate the Bible, or parts of it, into the vernacular, the Arpitan (Franco-Provençal) language.

In 1179, Waldo and one of his disciples went to Rome. They were welcomed by Pope Alexander III, and by the Roman Curia. They had to explain their faith before a panel of three clergymen, including items which were then debated within the Church, as the universal priesthood, the gospel in the vulgar tongue, and the issue of self-imposed poverty. But Waldo and his friend were not taken seriously. The meeting therefore resolved nothing, and Waldo’s and his followers’ ideas, initially regarded with suspicion, were condemned at the Third Lateran Council in the same year, though the leaders of the movement had not been yet excommunicated.

Driven away from Lyon, Waldo and his followers settled in the high valleys of Piedmont, and in France, in the Luberon. Finally, Waldo was excommunicated by Pope Lucius III during the synod held at Verona in 1184, and the doctrine of the Poor of Lyon was again condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and regarded as heresy. The Roman Catholic Church began to persecute the Waldensians, and many were tried and sentenced to death in various European countries during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. The sect persisted by fleeing to the Alps and hiding there. Centuries after his death, the Waldensian denomination joined the Genevan or Reformed branch of the Protestant Reformation.

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 1/14/2010