Frederick William Franz

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Frederick William Franz
BornSeptember 12, 1893
DiedDecember 22, 1992 (aged 99)
Known forPresident of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
RelativesRaymond Franz (nephew)

Frederick William Franz (September 12, 1893 – December 22, 1992) was an American religious leader who served as president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the legal entity used to administer the work of Jehovah's Witnesses. He had previously served as vice president of the same corporation from 1945 until 1977 when he replaced Nathan H. Knorr as president. He was also a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, which assumed over-all control of all Jehovah's Witness corporations in 1976.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Franz was born on September 12, 1893, in Covington, Kentucky.[2][3] He was baptized in the Lutheran Church, but attended Catholic services as a child as a matter of convenience, before later attending the Presbyterian Church.[4]

He graduated from Woodward High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1911 and attended the University of Cincinnati, where he studied liberal arts and biblical Greek,[1][5] with the intention of becoming a Presbyterian preacher.[4] He knew German and could read Latin, Greek and in later years self-taught Spanish, Portuguese, French and Hebrew.[5][6]


His association with the Bible Students began after he read some of the literature of Charles Taze Russell. He was baptized as a Bible Student on either November 30, 1913,[7] or, in Franz's own account, April 5, 1914.[8]

In 1920, he joined the Watch Tower headquarters staff in Brooklyn, New York,[4] and in 1926 became a member of the editorial staff as a Bible researcher and writer for the society's publications. Upon the death of Watch Tower president Joseph Rutherford, Franz became head of the editorial department, and in 1945 he replaced Hayden C. Covington as vice-president of the Watch Tower Society.[9] Franz was the society's leading theologian[10] and has been named as a leading figure in the preparation of the Witnesses' New World Translation of the Bible.[11][12] His nephew and fellow Governing Body member Raymond Franz resigned from the Governing Body and was subsequently disfellowshipped in 1982 during F. W. Franz's presidency.[13]

Franz continued to contribute to Watch Tower Society literature until his death in 1992 at the age of 99.[14][15] He was succeeded as president of the Watch Tower Society by Milton G. Henschel.

Role in eschatology[edit]

In 2010, the Watch Tower Society asserted that the "generation" of 1914—regarded by Jehovah's Witnesses as the last generation before the battle of Armageddon—includes persons whose lives "overlap" with "the anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914."[16] In 2015, Franz was cited as an example of one of the last members of the "anointed" alive in 1914, suggesting that the "generation" would include any individuals "anointed" up until his death in 1992 at the earliest.[17]


  1. ^ a b Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1993, page 111.
  2. ^ Paul, William E. (July 11, 2015). English Language Bible Translators. McFarland. p. 85. ISBN 9781476610238.
  3. ^ Hillerbrand, Hans J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Protestantism: 4-volume Set. Routledge. p. 895. ISBN 9781135960285.
  4. ^ a b c "Looking Back Over 93 Years of Living", The Watchtower, May 1, 1987, page 22-30.
  5. ^ a b Penton, M. James (1997). Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses (2nd ed.). University of Toronto Press. p. 174. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3.
  6. ^ Chryssides, George (2016). "Chapter 7: The Bible". Jehovah's Witnesses: Continuity and Change. Ashgate publishing. Raymond Franz claims that only his uncle [Frederick Franz] had a reasonable knowledge of Greek ... but apparently he self taught himself Hebrew. ... the committee nonetheless succeeded in producing an independent translation of the Bible, which is quite a remarkable achievement.
  7. ^ "Rewarded With the Crown of Life", The Watchtower, March 15, 1993, pages 31, 32.
  8. ^ "Looking Back Over 93 Years of Living", The Watchtower", May 1, 1987, page 25
  9. ^ Walsh vs Honorable James Latham, Court of Session Scotland, 1954, examination of Frederick Franz pp. 5-6
  10. ^ Rogerson, Alan (1969). Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of Jehovah's Witnesses. Constable & Co, London. p. 66. ISBN 009-455940-6.
  11. ^ Michael Marlowe editor, The New World Translation, published online by Bible Research
  12. ^ Wills, Tony (2006), A People For His Name, Lulu Enterprises, p. 253, ISBN 978-1-4303-0100-4
  13. ^ "Witness Under Prosecution", Time, February 22, 1982.
  14. ^ Obituary, The New York Times, December 24, 1992.
  15. ^ Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael, eds. (2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 70. ISBN 9780275987121.
  16. ^ "Holy spirit's role in the outworking of Jehovah's purposes". The Watchtower: 10. April 15, 2010.
  17. ^ "Close to the End of This System of Things". Watch Tower Society.
Preceded by President of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
June 22, 1977 – December 22, 1992
Succeeded by