In 1958, in the Ambassador College Publication The Proof of the Bible, Herbert W. Armstrong thundered authoritatively “Here is how you can disprove the Bible and the very existence of God-if there is no God, and IF the Bible is not inspired! Just go over and build a small city on the site of New Tyre …. Now there is nothing to prevent them [skeptics] from building a city there on the site of New Tyre, except that the Bible they scoff at says they CAN’T!” (p. 20, emphasis Herbert W. Armstrong’s.)
Today, as HWA says, skeptics and atheists are unable to build a city on the site of New Tyre-but not because some mysterious, unseen hand grabs them by a lock of their hair and throws them into the sea every time they try. They are unable to build a city there because the city of Sur (population 15,000) has been resting unobtrusively on the precise location of ancient Tyre since 1766 (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. X, p. 620). In fact, when HWA himself visited Tyre in 1973, he was forced to admit that “there were quite a number of new high-rise buildings [there]. But, no more are to be built-and by government order, the new structures are to be dismantled and carted off” (The Plain Truth, Jan. 1974, p. 17). But the very fact that modern Sur exists on the site of ancient Tyre-whether these high-rise buildings had been erected or not-means, according to HWA, that the Bible has been disproved and that God must cease to exist.
Now God is not about to commit suicide to make HWA’s fallacious reporting look good. HWA is just going to have to suffer the consequences of his foot-in-mouth disease.
Herbert W. Armstrong’s Fallacies Concerning Tyre. HWA came to his erroneous conclusions because his research into Tyre’s history was careless and faulty and his biblical exegesis was inaccurate. If he hadn’t tried to force his interpretation of Ezekiel 26 to fit the historical records, he would not have made such a blunder.
He read in Ezekiel 26 that Tyre’s walls would be broken down and its stones, timber, and soil cast into the sea (vs. 12). He read that Tyre would became a bare rock (vs. 14) and would no longer be inhabited (vs. 19-21). But the historical account said no such thing. What was he to do? He noticed that the people of New Tyre had constructed a sea wall that had reclaimed some land from the sea, so he falsely concluded all of New Tyre was built in this lowland area. Hence he confidently wrote that “Alexander the Great, after demolishing the buildings of New Tyre, demolished this huge sea wall which had reclaimed the lowland space on which the actual city of New Tyre had been built…. God turned the ocean upon the city, and the deep waters cover it to this very day. New Tyre has remained from that day to this like the top of a rock!” (p. 19.)
What History Says. Herbert W. Armstrong did not succeed in reconciling Ezekiel’s prophecy about Tyre with the historical record. History states that Alexander scraped most of Old Tyre into the sea, but much of New (insular) Tyre, though burned in the siege, was left intact. Rather than destroy the city completely, Alexander peopled it with new colonists and appointed a new king over Tyre. The city revived so rapidly that 18 years later it had the strength to hold out for 15 months against one of Alexander’s former generals (Nina Jidejian, Tyre Through the Ages, Beirut, 1969, pp. 80-81).
History further declares that in the Roman period Tyre’s “population overflowed its bounds and occupied a strip of the opposite mainland including the ancient Palaetyrus” (Encyclopaedia Biblica, p. 5, 226).
HWA tries futilely to assert that the complete site of ancient insular Tyre was inundated by the sea when Alexander demolished the sea wall that had reclaimed some lowland space and that the subsequent revivals of Tyre were not built on the actual site of New Tyre. Some have noticed the remains of a wall and a few columns just offshore from modern Sur and felt perhaps a sunken city lay beneath the blue waters of the Mediterranean, but aerial photography and diving observations by a French team in 1934-36 showed beyond doubt that the walls were the breakwater of the Egyptian harbor, not a section of a submerged city. There is simply no submerged city lying off the shores of insular Tyre.
Both Roman Tyre and modern Sur are located on top of the site of the biblical Tyre. Notice what S. W. Matthews, writing in National Geographic, Aug. 1974, p. 165, stated: “…today the Phoenicians’ Tyre lies buried beneath these paving stones and columns of a Roman metropolis. Only a small dig reaches down to the lost world of the Phoenicians.” And where do the Roman ruins lie? They lie under the city of Sur and to the south of it.
It appears that many of Ezekiel’s statements in chapter 26 were more poetic than literal. Certainly ancient Tyre’s might has vanished, the city has been devastated by armies that covered the city like the waves of the sea, and the original inhabitants are no more. Perhaps Isaiah 23: 13-18 coupled with Ezekiel 26 indicates that Tyre would be destroyed only temporarily or perhaps the prophecies of Ezekiel 26 remain yet to he fulfilled. But in any case the statements of Ezekiel 26 were never intended as “proof scriptures” for the existence of God.
HWA’s Fallacies Concerning Babylon. Not only did HWA make himself look like a fool with his specious statements about Tyre, but he put his foot into his Mouth again when he attempted to explain the prophecies against Babylon. He quoted Isaiah 13:19-22 which describes a Babylon that “shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Isaiah further states that at an unspecified time in the future Babylon shall not be inhabited nor shall Arabs pitch their tents there, but wild beasts shall lie there. Based on these dire pronouncements, HWA dogmatically asserted that Babylon “is absolutely uninhabited today.” He further added that “Babylon, like Tyre, defies the skeptic to rebuild its site. God declares, through the pages of the Bible, that it CANNOT be done!” (p. 38.)
HWA even mentions how he made a cursory visit to the site of Babylon, talked with the caretaker of the museum there, and came away satisfied that the prophecy had been fulfilled. Again, however, his sloppy research proved to be his undoing.
It was brought to the attention of AC’s theologians that Herbert W. Armstrong’s statements about Babylon were incorrect for several reasons: (1) Three villages exist inside the central walls of the ancient city. (2) A military camp sits inside the central walls. (3) A modern hotel stands next to the museum with a permanent staff of at least 18. (4) Some Arabs do pitch their tents in Babylon. (5) A few businessmen from the nearby city of Hilla have permanent homes in Babylon. (6) The area has many domesticated animals, but no wild ones.
The Booklet Killed. When the ministers at AC realized the extent of the errors in The Proof of the Bible concerning Tyre and Babylon, they decided the booklet had to go and gingerly notified Herbert W. Armstrong through an unsigned memo written by David Jon Hill. HWA exploded, as expected, but was mollified when assured that it wasn’t his fault but the fault of the Seventh-day Adventists’ book Prophecy Speaks, from which much of HWA’s booklet was purportedly derived.
So on Oct. 31, 1972, Hill wrote in an interoffice memo: “The booklet ‘Proof of the Bible’ has been killed by HWA. Please destroy existing stock.” But the remaining booklets were not destroyed. Orlin Grabbe, former AC instructor in Old Testament Survey, explained why in a widely circulated letter: “50,000 copies still on hand were still sent out, because having recently advertised the booklet, it was decided it would be unwise to disappoint and thus antagonize the customers! (Obviously, a great regard for truth, huh?)” In fact an editorial staff member was told by the pastor of one of the Worldwide Church of God’s European churches that the booklet should continue to be sent out with all its errors because it did such a good job bringing people into the Worldwide Church of God. One wonders if God is getting so desperate to get members that he has to resort to deception!
Can a Few Prophecies Prove the Bible Is Inspired? Now The Proof of the Bible lies discredited and buried, but does this prevent Herbert W. Armstrong from boasting how he “proved the Bible”? Oh no! Has Herbert W. Armstrong told the Worldwide Church of God membership of the booklet’s fallacies or made a retraction? Of course not! That would tarnish the image of infallibility he has so carefully cultivated. Meanwhile many Worldwide Church of God members go on smugly but ignorantly feeling they alone, of all Christians, have literally proved that every word of the Bible is inspired. Neither Herbert W. Armstrong nor they ever stopped long enough to ask themselves a simple question: Can one prove the accuracy and validity of every event and statement in the Bible simply by showing that five or six prophecies in the Bible have come to pass?
The answer should be obvious. Plainly it was asinine in the first place to even think that one could prove the whole Bible simply by showing a few prophecies out of hundreds came to pass. It’s a shame such nonsense as The Proof of the Bible was ever published by Ambassador College end pawned off as inspired truth!