Did He Read It?

Copyright © 2010 A.P.R.


Here is a collection of statements (or allegations, depending on which perspective is taken), from those who claim to know, that Herbert Armstrong did or did not get information from J.H. Allen's book. (December 2011 update: we have now added HWA's own comments on this, in point 6 below).

1. The Global Church News

The following quote was (reportedly) taken from the Global Church News.

In the late 1920s, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong became acquainted with Allen's book and subsequently incorporated some of Allen's ideas in a book which he later published. ... On numerous occasions, Mr. Armstrong freely acknowledged his indebtedness to Allen for having clearly explained the biblical identity of the Anglo-American peoples—ideas which later helped inspire him to write his own 300-page paper on 'Anglo-Israelism'. (Emphasis mine).

Note that Armstrong reputedly "acknowledged his indebtedness to Allen" which means he not only read the book, but got information or ideas (or both) from it.

The above quote was taken from the article by Dave Medici which is posted in full elsewhere on this site. Medici says he got the quote from the Jan-Feb 1996 issue of the Global Church News in a text box on page 11 from an unnamed author. I assume that the Global Church News is (or was) a publication of the Global Church of God which was established by Rod Meredith who was ordained an evangelist by Herbert Armstrong.

As we discuss elsewhere, the proper place to credit Allen would have been in the book. Otherwise few of the five million readers could have known where Armstrong got the material, especially since Armstrong said he got it by revelation from God. This is a vital point.

We would like to see if Rod Meredith or his new church (he now leads the Living Church of God) can produce the "numerous" statements Armstrong supposedly made admitting he was indebted to Allen.

2. Stephen Flurry, Philadelphia Church of God

Flurry writes,

And it's not like Mr. Armstrong tried to conceal the fact that he read Allen's book when studying the subject of ancient Israel's migration into Europe. He said, "It's true that I had read one or two other writings and that book of J.H. Allen on the truth about the lost 10 tribes."

Of course, being an ardert Armstrong follower (at least on the surface), Flurry claims Armstrong did not "conceal the fact that he read Allen's book". As we discuss elsewhere, that statement, for the most part, is simply not true.

How many people even heard Armstrong admit he read the book? Rethford (below) uses this same quote, which he says is from a 1980 bible study given by Armstrong. These bible studies were recorded on tape, and some of them were sent out to Worldwide Church of God ministers to be played at mid-week bible studies. People outside the WCG did not hear them. Also, not all these tapes were played in all congregations; sometimes the minister prepared the bible study himself or played some other tape. Furthermore, most WCG members did not even attend these bible studies (though some who did not attend did hear the tapes later at home). WCG membership peaked at 150,000 (including children), which works out to only 3% of the people who received the book.

Still quoting Armstrong, Flurry says,

"I examined this so-called Anglo-Israel theory," he continued. "But I checked it very carefully with the Bible, and I only believed what I saw in the Bible. I didn't believe and I threw out a lot of what they had."

From the book, Raising the Ruins by Stephen Flurry.

3. Jeff Booth

Here is a quote from an interview of Mr Booth reported in The Journal. Here Armstrong reportedly denied learning anything from J.H. Allen.

"I [Mr. Booth] said, 'Well, Mr. Armstrong, did you not learn your understanding about the identity of Israel from J.H. Allen?'"

Mr. Allen was a Methodist preacher who early in the 20th century wrote a book espousing British-Israelism.

"Mr. Armstrong again got quite angry and informed me that, no, he did not learn anything about Israel from J.H. Allen."

Mr. Booth pressed the point: "Mr. Armstrong, I read J.H. Allen's book, Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright, and then I immediately reread your United States & British Commonwealth in Prophecy, and I saw whole sections that were nearly identical in the two books. J.H. Allen's book was written in 1917, and yours was written in the 1960s.

"Since clearly entire sections are nearly word for word, I have to assume that's where you got the information. I don't see a problem with learning from others, but shouldn't they be given their due?"

At that point Mr. Armstrong fired Mr. Booth as an employee of the Worldwide Church of God.

From The Journal: News of the Churches of God, Sept. 30, 2000.

4. Gary Rethford, Philadelphia Church of God

According to Rethford, there is a 1980 bible study tape of Mr Armstrong (discussing the subject of Galations 5 and 6) in which Armstrong addressed the plagiarism charge. Rethford quotes Armstrong as saying,

"It's true that I had read one or two other writings, and that book of J.H. Allen on the truth about the lost Ten Tribes..."

From the Nov-Dec 2003 Royal Vision, pp. 18-20, a publication of the Philadelphia Church of God. A reprint of this article is available on this site.

In passing, note that Mr. Rethford also states, "... no one accused him of plagiarism to his face!" Unless Rethford was constantly at Armstrong's side, we don't see how Rethford has any way of knowing that is true. Did he just make that up out of thin air? In any case, Jeff Booth reports that he did bring this up with Armstrong personally (and got fired for it).

5. Ralph Orr of Grace Communion International

Though we deplore the way the WCG was deceived by new leaders after Armstrong's death, all organizations have some truth. Therefore, despite the source, it seems worthwhile to quote from the following paper, which seems to be well-researched.

According to Ralph Orr of Grace Communion International (the new name for the transformed Worldwide Church of God), Armstrong actually quoted J.H. Allen directly in Armstrong's manuscript What is the Third Angel's Message? Orr says this manuscript became the basis for Armstrong's later books on Anglo-Israelism. Here are some remarks taken from Orr's paper, "How Anglo-Israelism Entered Seventh-day Churches of God":

The manuscript Armstrong wrote was more than 260 pages long. He called it, What is the Third Angel's Message? By February 1929 Dugger [of the Church of God Seventh Day] had received its first few chapters. We are fortunate in that most of the original manuscript has survived. [Orr, p. 26 in .doc file].

By 1929 ... two years before his ordination, Armstrong already envisioned a worldwide radio ministry, the primary purpose of which was to preach not the gospel of salvation (the so-called First Angel's Message), but an Anglo-Israelite message that Armstrong called the Third Angel's Message. [Orr, p. 29 of .doc file].

Armstrong's dependence on Allen is more evident in his later work, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. Though Allen is never mentioned in that text, the book so tightly follows Allen that the plagiarism is obvious. [Orr, endnote 54].

Armstrong's first direct quote of Allen in What is the Third Angel's Message? is from page 227 of Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright: "It is a well-known fact that the history of no country on the face of the earth has so puzzled historians as that of Ireland." Armstrong's second quotation, "It is unmistakably recorded in British history that the earliest settlers in Wales and southern England were called Simonii," is found in Allen on page 275. Allen frequently used phrases such as "It is a well-known fact," and "It is unmistakably recorded" to lend an air of authority to his work. [Orr, endnote 54].

The reader can find Orr's paper here (.doc file) or obtain it by request directly from Grace Communion International.

6. Audio of Herbert Armstrong Himself

In this 1980 Bible study Armstrong discusses how he received his doctrines. We hear Armstrong in his own voice admitting he read the book by Allen.

From about the 4 minute mark to the 19 minute mark we hear Armstrong explain his view of how he got doctrines from other men without actually getting doctrines from other men. He says that other religious leaders on earth got their doctrines from men, but he got his from the bible. He admits reading literature from Allen, Methodists, Baptists, the Seventh Day Adventists, etc, but he checked the doctrines with the bible, and therefore, in his view, did not get them from men. If someone says Herbert Armstrong got his doctrines from men, it's a "bald-faced lie" (at 4:48 on the audio).

Did I hear the audio right or is it my ageing ears? The audio is not of the greatest quality. Mr Armstrong seems to be discussing some guy who says Armstrong got British-Israelism and other doctrines from men. Armstrong says the guy just assumes that because everyone else gets their doctrines from men. On the other hand, Mr Armstrong calls the guy a bald-faced liar for claiming Armstrong got his doctrines from men. So, which is it? Is the guy just making a logical but wrong (?) assumption, or is he a liar? How is the guy supposed to know Armstrong is different (?) from other preachers who all got their doctrines from men? It is a sin to accuse people falsely. Is Armstrong making a false accusation by calling the guy a bald-faced liar? Is he even being consistent here?

I do not wish to accuse Mr Armstrong unfairly. I think he made enough mistakes that there is no need to do so even if I wanted to. Listen to the tape and see if I got it right.

To hear the audio file (MP3 format), click here.