Did Herbert Armstrong (pictured below) deliberately hide his sources of information so he could claim that God revealed doctrines to him directly, and that he did not get his teachings from men? Did he base his claim to be an apostle on assertions that he did not get his teachings from men? How many, if any, teachings did he actually get from the writings of other men?
This site examines that question objectively, using verifiable facts, without either bashing or glorifying Herbert Armstrong.
Armstrong Plagiarism Research (APR) is not a church and is not affiliated with or supported by any church.
Main Links On This Page
Armstrong's most read and most effective book was The United States and Britain in Prophecy. This book teaches that the white English-speaking peoples (primarily the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) descended from ten lost tribes of ancient Israel. This belief is called Anglo-Israelism or British-Israelism.
Armstrong was not the first to write about British-Israelism. Did Armstrong get this teaching from his own bible studies, or, as some have claimed, did he get it from earlier writers, such as J.H. Allen? If he did get it from others, did he give proper credit to his sources? Did he actually try to hide his sources?
What about allegations that he plagiarized material word-for-word on British-Israelism as well as other subjects? Is there evidence of word-for-word plagiarism?
Did he get most of his teachings from existing sources but then claim he did not?
Main Links On This Page
In 1902 John Harden Allen wrote Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. Years later, Armstrong produced The United States and Britain in Prophecy which covers the same subject. Armstrong's book does not give credit to Allen's book or to other Anglo-Israel literature for the ideas or statements made in The United States and Britain in Prophecy. There is no bibliography.
There is no disputing which of these two men wrote first. According to Armstrong's autobiography, Armstrong had no interest in the bible until 1926 and he was not baptized until 1927. Armstrong's bible research did not begin until about a quarter century after Allen's book was written.
Some who have read The United States and Britain in Prophecy are only dimly aware of the existence of other writings on the same topic and have no realization of the extent to which Armstrong could have obtained information from other sources.
This web site is written primarily for those who are familiar with The United States and Britain in Prophecy but not with Allen's book on the same subject. However, anyone who reads this site can probably follow the main points even if they have not read either book. We present here a "side-by-side" comparison of excerpts from the two books so that readers can judge for themselves.
We also present side-by-side comparisons of some other writings of Herbert Armstrong to earlier works that bear a striking resemblance to his.
Although we link to external sites and store here material we have not written we do not necessarily agree with the material written by others. We provide this information because (i) we believe it is important to cite our sources whether we agree with them or not, and (ii) these papers and sites we link to contain related material which will be of interest to some readers.
Many, if not most, research papers and web sites contain factual errors, logical errors, or both. We advise the reader to carefully examine the material presented here and in any links or related documents.
Having said that, we do present here original source materials (e.g. the books by Allen and Armstrong) in their entirety. Comparing these materials should be sufficient to resolve the main question of whether there was any plagiarism.
Main Links On This Page
Allen's book was written in three parts. Below are the chapter headings from Allen's book. To someone familiar with Armstrong's book, it is immediately clear that many of the same topics are covered. This does not prove plagiarism, but it helps to explain why the charge of plagiarism has been raised because just the chapter titles alone suggest that Armstrong could easily have gotten much of his information from Allen rather than from divine inspiration and his own research.
PART FIRST: The Birthright; Or, The Promise Of Many Nations To Abraham.
|II.||Race Versus Grace|
|III.||The Sceptre and The Birthright|
|IV.||Jacob's Seed Divided Into Two Kingdoms|
|V.||All Israelites Are Not Jews|
|VI.||The Broken Brotherhood|
|VII.||Ephraim-Samaria -- Israel's Idolatry|
|VIII.||Samaria-Israel Cast Out And Cast Off|
|IX.||The Jews Go To Babylon And Return|
|XI.||Joseph-Israel -- (Continued)|
PART SECOND: The Sceptre; Or, The Promise Of A Perpetuated House, Throne, And Kingdom To David.
|I.||The Sceptre And The Davidic Covenant|
|II.||Jeremiah's Call And Commission|
|III.||The Tearing Down And Rooting Out|
|IV.||Vindication Of The Personal Promises Of Jeremiah|
|V.||A Royal Remnant That Escapes|
|VI.||The Prince Of The Scarlet Thread|
|VII.||The "Prince Of The Scarlet Thread" And "The Royal Remnant" United|
PART THIRD: The Veil Lifted From Abrahamic Nations.
|I.||Lost Israel And The First Overturn Located|
|II.||Jacob's Pillow-Pillar Stone|
|III.||The Other Overturns|
|IV.||Dan -- The Serpent's Trail|
|V.||Israel In The Isles|
|VI.||A Few More Identities|
|VII.||A Study In "Scarlet"|
|VIII.||Egypt-Israelitish And Anglo-Saxon Emblems|
|IX.||The Two-Fold Aspect Of Prophetic Israel|
|X.||The Coming Exodus|
Now here are the chapter headings from Armstrong's book.
|1.||The Lost Master Key Has Been Found|
|2.||Prophecies Closed Until Now!|
|3.||National Greatness Promised Israel--Yet the Jews Never Received it--Why?|
|4.||The Separation of the Birthright and the Scepter|
|5.||The Davidic Covenant|
|6.||Children of Israel Become Two Nations|
|7.||Jeremiah's Mysterious Commission|
|8.||The Mysterious Breech|
|9.||Israel's New Land|
|10.||Birthright Withheld 2,520 Years!|
|11.||Why Israel Lost Identity|
|12.||The Birthright--at Its Zenith--and Now!|
|13.||And Now What? The Prophecies for the Immediate Future|
|14.||What's Prophesied to Happen, Now--to America and Britain|
There are too many sub-headings in Armstrong's book to list them all, so I list here a few that are similar to those used by Allen. This is not meant to suggest that he necessarily copied these headings, but to show that many of the points covered in the two books are the same.
|Dual Promises to Abraham||Chapter 3|
|Not Fulfilled in Jews||Chapter 3|
|A Nation and a Company of Nations||Chapter 3|
|Race, Not Grace||Chapter 4|
|Birthright Never Given to the Jews||Chapter 4|
|What the Birthright Conferred||Chapter 4|
|Birthright Never Given to the Jews||Chapter 4|
|The Birthright Denied to Ishmael||Chapter 4|
|Esau Sells the Birthright||Chapter 4|
|Israel Divided Into Two Nations||Chapter 6|
|Israel At War With The Jews||Chapter 6|
|Israel Driven out and Lost||Chapter 6|
|Israel, not Judah, Lost||Chapter 6|
|Israel Never Returned||Chapter 6|
|Tearing Down the Throne||Chapter 7|
|Jeremiah Escapes||Chapter 7|
|The Three Overturns||Chapter 8|
|Dan a Serpent's Trail||Chapter 9|
|They Turn to Idolatry||Chapter 10|
Main Links On This Page
Plagiarism is the charge, but where is the evidence? What constitutes evidence of plagiarism? In order to prove or disprove the claim that a writer copied from an earlier work, there are several types of evidence to consider.
The evidence can be grouped into several categories which we list here.
First, we look at the different categories, then we jump right in and look at the evidence by comparing some quotes from these two books.
Definitions of plagiarism
There seems to be much misunderstanding of just what plagiarism is. Some people think of plagiarism as direct word-for-word copying. That is the most blatant form of plagiarism, but certainly not the only kind. Plagiarism also includes copying ideas without giving credit to the person whose ideas were copied. I.e. passing off someone else's work as one's own.
In Nov 2009, dict.org gave the following definitions for "plagiarism":
Also in Nov 2009, a search on "plagiarism" at dictionary.com brought up the following:
After examining the evidence on this site, the reader can decide if some of the statements in Armstrong's work were a "close imitation" of Allen's language or thoughts, and therefore if those statements might constitute plagiarism.
How to use this site
We will compare "side-by-side" some statements made by the two authors and discuss the similarities.
First, a comment about emphasis used in quotes we take from the books. On this web page, all use of italics and small caps are just as they appeared in the original books, but underlining has been added in order to draw attention to various words and phrases.
Both books can be found on this site in their entirety in an easily searchable format so that the reader can check any of the quotes from either book. These books were copied from other web sites; we did not type them in ourselves. Please notify us if there are any errors. In order to be sure of the accuracy of these quotes we recommend checking them with a physical (non-electronic) copy of the books using the same editions that we use here. We do not recommend the Philadelphia Church of God's version of Armstrong's book because the PCG has been known to quietly make critical edits to Armstrong's material and then deceitfully republish the edited versions as if they were Armstrong's original unadulterated words. Comparing reliable copies of the original books will help the reader decide if similar wording is evidence of plagiarism.
1. Some word-for-word similarities of the two books
Direct copying with only minor alterations is pretty much a rock-solid proof of plagiarism. If both works contain the same statements nearly word-for-word, it is essentially proven that the second work was copied from the first.
See for example, the section on this web page called "Places in Ireland Named After Dan".
2. Reuse of specific examples
Many different examples can be used to illustrate a point. Therefore, if two different writers used the same distinct or unusual examples, one has to wonder why.
For example, consider the section on this page, "Not All Americans are Californians".
3. Reuse of distinct expressions
Reuse of distinct (or "unique") expressions might be evidence of plagiarism.
Consider for example, "Race Versus Grace". Is this a distinct expression?
4. Repeating errors or dubious points
Human beings make plenty of mistakes, but God does not. If we accept that God can reveal truth but not error, any errors in the United States and Britain in Prophecy must have been put there by Herbert Armstrong, not God. If those errors are very similar to errors made by other Anglo-Israel writers, the error was either repeated independently or copied from some other writer(s). If the error is an easy one to make it could have been made independently. If not, it was likely copied from the earlier source.
This is like when two students sitting next to each other put down the same wrong answer on test. One must ask if the wrong answer is a common error or a unlikely one.
This could apply to historical errors, translation errors, or interpretation errors. If Armstrong repeated the same historical errors or bible mistranslations as others, then it is doubtful that he arrived at that information independently.
Consider for example, the section, "North and West or Northwest?"
Main Links On This Page
Because our time is limited, we put together just a small list, but a much longer list of potentially plagiarized material could be compiled, and allegedly has been by Dave Medici (as we discuss later).
We recommend simply reading these from first to last, but the reader can click on any one of the topics in this list to jump to that topic (section). Each section compares what Allen and Armstrong said on a given topic.
Allen: That Dan's leap landed him in Ireland is evident, for in that island we find to this day Dans-Lough, Dan-Sower, Dan-Monism, Dun-dalke, Dun-drum, Don-egal Bay and Don-e-gal City, with Dun-glow and Lon-don-derry just north of them. But there is also Din-gle, Dun-garven and Duns-more, which means 'More Dan's.' And, really, there are so many more that we have no space for them, except to mention Dangan Castle, where the Duke of Wellington was born, and to say that Dunn in the Irish language means just what Dan means in the Hebrew, i.e., a judge. (Part III, Chapter IV).
Armstrong: And in Ireland we find they left these 'waymarks': Dans-Laugh, Dan-Sower, Dun-dalk, Dun-drum, Don-egal Bay, Don-egal City, Dun-gloe, Din-gle, Dunsmor (meaning 'more Dans'). Moreover, the name Dunn in the Irish language means the same as Dan in the Hebrew: judge." (1980 edition, p. 124, chapter 9 Israel's New Land, section Dan a Serpent's Trail).
Comment: These two quotations are very similar. According to Allen there are so many examples of locations in Ireland named after the biblical tribe of Dan that there is not enough space in his book to list them all, yet Armstrong used the same examples as Allen. Armstrong even listed those places in the same order. If the names were in alphabetical order one might suppose that each author ordered them independently, but they are not, so how is it that the two lists are so similar in terms of the names used and the order in which those names are given? All nine locations Armstrong used were also used by Allen, and in the same order. And there are other similarities in these two short quotes. Did Armstrong simply copy this from Allen by dropping out a few of the examples and rewording it slightly?
Is it possible that the words could be so similar if Armstrong did not copy from Allen? An alternative explanation one might suggest in such a case is that God himself inspired the second writer using the same words that the first writer used. But why would God do such a thing? Why would God make it look like one of his servants copied from an earlier work without giving credit to the first writer? By doing so, wouldn't he be making one of his own servants look like a plagiarist?
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: Had Jacob trusted God, he would have placed him in possession of the birthright in a perfectly honorable way; but he, in distrust, took matters into his own hands, and gained possession of it by wicked conniving. (Part I, Chapter III).
Armstrong: Had Jacob trusted the Eternal instead of taking this into his own hands in a wrong way, the birthright would have come to him more honorably. (1980 edition, p. 48, chapter 4, section The Lesson For Us).
Comment: Armstrong's statement is nearly word-for-word the same. The very next sentence in each book follows.
Allen: It was because of this that he had more trouble to secure the blessing of God upon his possession of this inheritance than had his predecessors, and though he wrestled for it with the angel all the night long, he did not secure it until he had first confessed his name -- which was expressive of his character -- to be Jacob, i.e., supplanter. (ibid).
Armstrong: Under the circumstances, Jacob, which name means "supplanter," had far more difficulty securing God's blessing upon the precious possession than his predecessors. But after years of trial and test-after finally wrestling all night with the angel (Genesis 32:24-29)-after confessing his name as "supplanter" ... (ibid).
Comment: Is this just two different writers explaining the same thing in their own words? We leave that for the reader to decide. Even if so, the remarkably detailed similarity of thought is striking. Once again, we continue in each book exactly where we left off.
Allen: Then it was that God bestowed the blessing, took away that reproachful name, and gave him a new and unstained one, even Israel: the meaning of which is: "As a prince thou hast prevailed with God." (see Genesis 32:28) (ibid).
Armstrong: ...-God bestowed His blessing upon Jacob, took away his reproachful name, and gave him a new, untainted name, Israel-which means "prevailer," or "overcomer with God." (ibid).
Comment: The two quotes are nearly word-for-word the same.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: About 585 B. C. a 'notable man,' an 'important personage,' a patriarch, a saint, an essentially important someone, according to their various ways of putting it, came to Ulster, the most northern province of Ireland, accompanied by a princess, the daughter of an eastern king, and that in company with them was one Simon Brach, Breck, Brack, Barech, Berach, as it is differently spelled; and that this royal party brought with them many remarkable things. Among these was the harp, an ark and the wonderful stone called Liafail, or stone of destiny, of which we shall have much to say hereafter. (Part III, Chapter I).
Armstrong: Then, in 569 B.C. (date of Jeremiah's transplanting), an elderly, white-haired patriarch, sometimes referred to as a 'saint,' came to Ireland. With him was the princess daughter of an eastern king and a companion called 'Simon Brach,' spelled in different histories as Breck, Berech, Brach, or Berach. The princess had a Hebrew name Tephi-a pet name-her full name being Tea-Tephi. Modern literature of those who recognize our national identity has confused this Tea-Tephi, a daughter of Zedekiah, with an earlier Tea, a daughter of Ith, who lived in the days of David. This royal party included the son of the king of Ireland who had been in Jerusalem at the time of the siege. There he had become acquainted with Tea-Tephi. He married her shortly after 585-when the city fell. Their young son, now about 12 years of age, accompanied them to Ireland. Besides the royal family, Jeremiah brought with them some remarkable things, including a harp, an ark, and a wonderful stone called 'lia-fail,' or 'stone of destiny.' (1980 edition, p. 125, chapter 9 Israel's New Land, section Ancient Annals of Ireland).
Comment: Armstrong and Allen don't agree exactly on the dates but note that the wording is remarkably similar. For example the order in which they list the princess, eastern king, and Simon Brach, and then the order in which they list the harp, ark, and stone. There are some other similarities in the wording, a few of which have been underlined. Mere coincidence?
Note that Armstrong does acknowledge here the existence of other "literature of those who recognize our national identity" but he does not name names, indicate how much they knew, or tell the reader how much information, if any, he got from them. In other words, does not actually acknowledge a debt to these other writers either as sources of information for his book or for when he first learned about the subject.
If someone can show where Armstrong gave credit to other writers, please let us know.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: Understand us: we do not say that the Jews are not Israelites; they belong to the posterity of Jacob, who was called Israel; hence they are all Israelites. But the great bulk of Israelites are not the Jews, just as the great bulk of Americans are not Californians, and yet all Californians are Americans; also, as in writing the history of America we must of necessity write the history of California, because California is a part of America; but we could write a history of California without writing a history of America. (Part I, Chapter V).
Armstrong: Jews are Israelites, just as Californians are Americans. But most Israelites are not Jews, just as most Americans are not Californians. The Jews are the house of Judah only, a part of the Israelites. (1980 edition, p. 81, chapter 6 Children of Israel Become Two Nations, section House of Israel Not Jews).
Comment: Both authors use the relationship of Californians to Americans to illustrate the relationship of Jews to Israelites (i.e. the tribe of Judah was only one of the 12 tribes of Israel). Rather than repeat Allan's example, Armstrong could have used many examples other than the American-Californian one. He could have used any one of 49 other U.S. states. What are the odds of independently choosing the same state? About one in 50? The odds get even lower if we consider that he could have used a state-city comparison (e.g. all people from Dallas are Texans, but not all Texans are from Dallas), a continent-country comparison (all Italians are Europeans, but not all Europeans are Italians), a racial comparison (all Chinese are Asians, but not all Asians are Chinese) or some other illustration (e.g. a hawk is a bird but not all birds are hawks).
Now here is what Armstrong wrote in an earlier version.
Armstrong: Jews are Israelites just as Oregonians are Americans. But MOST Israelites, are not Jews, just as most Americans are not Oregonians. The Jews are the House of Judah only! A PART of the Israelites. (United States in Prophecy, 1945).
Comment: Note that the 1945 version uses Oregon instead of California. Since Armstrong started his work in Oregon and later moved it to California, this would be a logical explanation for using these states. It's also possible that prior to 1945 he copied Allen's idea and changed the state name to Oregon to hide his (alleged) plagiarism, then changed it back to California after he moved there, having forgotten by that time that Allen used California.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: This brings us to the question of race versus grace ... (Part I, Chapter II).
...a question of Race, and not of Grace. (Part I, Chapter II).
However, there is both an election of race and an election of grace, ..... the election of grace.... regarding the attitude of a certain part of the elect race toward the election of grace ... Here we find two elections, i.e., the election of race and the election of grace. (Part I, Chapter II).
Armstrong: They miss the fact that God gave Abraham promises of physical race as well as spiritual grace. (1980 edition, p. 23, chapter 3 National Greatness Promised Israel, section Dual Promises To Abraham).
Armstrong: This is speaking of race, not grace. (1980 edition, p. 24).
Comment: Armstrong used the catchy phrase "race not grace". Was that a mere coincidence or did Armstrong copy this phrase from Allen? "Race Versus Grace" was the title of the second chapter in Allen's book.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: ...the Lord causes the prophet to make proclamation: 'Behold, these shall come from far off, and lo, these from the north and from the west.' (Isaiah 49:12). In the Hebrew there is no compound word for northwest as we use it; hence the expression north and west. (Part III, Chapter I).
Armstrong: God says: 'Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim' (Isaiah 49:12). In the Hebrew, the language in which this was originally inspired, there is no word for 'northwest,' but this term is designated by the phrase, 'the north and the west.' It means, literally, the northwest! (1980 edition, p. 117, chapter 9 Israel's New Land, section Lost Israel Located).
Perhaps Isaiah did mean northwest, but most likely he just meant some would come from the north and others from the west. After, all, he did say, "from the north and from the west" rather than "from the north and west".
If there is no Hebrew word for northwest, then Isaiah would have to use the words for north and west to indicate northwest. But he would also have to use the very same words if he meant to indicate both directions, some from the north and some from the west. How then does Armstrong (or Allen) know that northwest is the real intent, rather than some from the north and others from the west?
If northwest is the real intent, why didn't the translators recognize that? Let's look at this verse in a few different translations, noting that none of these translations says "northwest". Although perhaps no such term existed in Hebrew, it does in English, so if that was the meaning, why didn't the translators use it?
(1) "... some from the north, some from the west, ..." (New International Version).
(2) "... these will come from the north and from the west ... " (New American Standard Version).
(3) "Behold, these shall come from afar--and, behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Sinim (China)." (Amplified Bible).
(4) "... from the north and the west ... " (New King James Version).
(5) "Then my people will return from distant lands in the north and the west and from the city of Syene." (Contemporary English Version).
(6) "Lo, these shall come from far; and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim." (American Standard Version).
(7) "Look: These coming from far countries, and those, out of the north, These streaming in from the west, and those from all the way down the Nile!" (The Message).
(8) "Look, people are coming to me from far away, from the north and from the west, from Aswan in southern Egypt." (New Century Version).
(9) "Behold, these shall come from afar; and behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim." (Darby Translation).
(10) "Lo, these from afar come in, And lo, these from the north, and from the sea, And these from the land of Sinim." (Young's Literal Translation).
(11) "Lo, these shall come from afar, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene." (Revised Standard Version).
(12) "Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim." (King James).
The Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) translated into English by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton reads, "Behold, these shall come from far: and these from the north and the west, and others from the land of the Persians." If the problem has to do with the Hebrew to English translation, why does even the Greek, when translated into English, not say "northwest" either?
Armstrong's enthusiastic assertion that "It means, literally, the northwest!" seems to be without any basis. If the reader can find a reputable translation that says "northwest" please let us know and we will cite it here.
If Allen and Armstrong are right, it seems curious that the all-powerful God did not ensure that the Hebrew is more clear on such an important point.
By the way, if this scripture is telling us where to find the ten tribes, why does it say some will come from Sinim, which is sometimes translated China, Egypt, or Persia? Is this another mistake in the use of this verse?
If these translations are correct, Allen and Armstrong both made the same mistake (or mistakes). Did Armstrong make the same mistake independently, or did he copy the idea from Allen (or some other writer of British-Israelism)?
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: Thus we see that the first time the word Jews is used in the history of the Abrahamic race is at a time when the Jews and Israel were at war with each other. (Part I, Chapter V).
Armstrong: The first place in Scripture where the name 'Jew' appears, the Jews were at war against Israel! (1980 edition, p. 79, chapter 6 Children of Israel Become Two Nations, section Israel at War with the Jews).
Comment: This is a vital point in the Anglo-Israelite view of the world, but not one that needed to be revealed anew to Armstrong.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: The fact that Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, who were the final inheritors of the Birthright, were half-blood Egyptians is that which made it necessary for Jacob to adopt them and make them fully his own, as Reuben and Simeon were his, before he could confer upon them the covenant Birthright. (Part I, Chapter V).
Armstrong: Thus did Jacob adopt Joseph's two sons, making them, legally, his own sons. This, no doubt, was done because they were half-blooded Egyptians. Israel made them his own adopted sons, so the birthright could be passed on to them. (1980 edition, pp. 51-52, Chapter 4 The Separation of the Birthright and the Sceptre, section Birthright to Joseph's Sons).
Comment: Allen wrote of many such details before Armstrong.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: We have brought you through this group of words to show that ish in Hebrew means a man. Now take the Hebrew word which is translated covenant, which in its original form has no vowel, but which in its Anglicized form retains the vowel i to preserve the y sound, and we have Brith, which joined with ish is Brith-ish, and means 'A covenant man.' Today the BRITISH people, or men of the covenant, are called Britons, and are dwelling in the British Isles!!! (Part III, Chapter V).
Armstrong: The house of Israel is the covenant people. The Hebrew word for 'covenant' is beriyth, or berith. ...
The Hebrew for 'man' is iysh, or ish. ... In the original Hebrew language vowels were never given in the spelling. So, omitting the vowel 'e' from berith, but retaining the 'I' in its anglicized form to preserve the 'y' sound, we have the anglicized Hebrew word for covenant, brith.
... the Hebrew word for 'covenant' would be pronounced, in its anglicized form, as brit.
And the word for 'covenant man,' or 'covenant people,' would therefore be simply 'brit-ish.' And so, is it mere coincidence that the true covenant people today are called the 'British'? And they reside in the 'British Isles'! (1980 edition, p. 119-120, chapter 9 Israel's New Land, section Britain's Hebrew Names).
Comment: How would Armstrong have known these linguistic details unless he got them from Allen or some other proponent of British-Israelism? He was not a linguist and he did not know Hebrew, so how did he find this out? Does it make more sense to believe that he came up with details like this through divine revelation, or from an existing body of Anglo-Israelite literature that was put together over the decades by various bible students, some of whom had studied Hebrew? If he got it from others, why didn't he cite his sources to support his conclusions? Was he trying to hide his sources?
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: ...the crown which was worn by the sovereigns of that hitherto unaccounted-for kingdom in Ireland had twelve points. (Part III, Chapter I).
Armstrong: Another interesting fact is that the crown worn by the kings of the line of Herremon and the other sovereigns of ancient Ireland had twelve points! (1980 edition, p. 126, chapter 9, section Ancient Annals of Ireland).
Comment: First, where did Armstrong get this information? He was not a historian.
Second, we could ask if this point is really relevant? Could the 12 points on the crown be unrelated to Israel's 12 tribes? There are other things that are grouped by the dozen. There are 12 signs of the Zodiac. There are 12 months in the year. There are 12 animals associated with the 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar. There are 12 days of Christmas. There were 12 original apostles. And if Ireland was one of the ten lost tribes, shouldn't the crown have ten points? Or since Ireland represented only one tribe, should it have just one point?
Does it seem suspicious that both authors were aware of the same obscure point from history, and that they both tried to use it to make a dubious connection with the 12 tribes of Israel?
On this site we take no position on the question of whether Ireland or any other modern nation is descended from the ten tribes. We are not trying to prove or disprove British-Israelism. The point is that if both authors use sound arguments they could have arrived at them from independent research. But if they both used some of the same flimsy or false arguments then it suggests ideas might have been copied.
In school, if two students hand in essays on the same topic and make the same points using the same weak or wrong explanations, it suggests that they collaborated in producing the essays. This is especially so if the wrong explanations are based on obscure points that few people would know about. So we believe that the question of plagiarism can be raised, but we leave it to the reader to decide whether the connection between the 12 points on the throne and the 12 tribes is a strong one and whether it is based on an obscure historical point.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: Simply to show the fact that there is in Biblical history that which is styled the Sceptre, and also that there is a something which is designated as the Birthright, we quote the following: 'The Sceptre shall not depart from Judah, etc.' Gen. 49:10. 'For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him comes the chief ruler [prince]; but the Birthright is Joseph's,' 1 Chron. 5:2. (Part I, Chapter III).
Armstrong: Let us understand the meaning of the terms:
'Birthright: native right or privilege'-Standard Dictionary; 'any right acquired by birth'-Webster's. A birthright is something which is one's right, by birth. It has nothing to do with grace, which is unmerited pardon and a free gift which is not one's right. It has to do with race, not grace. Birthright possessions are customarily passed down from father to eldest son.
'Scepter: kingly office; royal power; badge of command or sovereignty'-Standard Dictionary. The promised kingly line culminates in Christ, and involves grace to all. (1980 edition, pp. 35-6, chapter 4, The Separation of the Birthright and the Sceptre, section Race, Not Grace) .
Comment: Allen knew about the birthright and the scepter before Armstrong did.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: ... the King James' translation, reads as follows: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way." (Genesis 49:17). But a better translation is as follows: "Dan shall be a serpent's trail." A few points in the history of the children of Dan will show us how they became a serpent's trail.
Armstrong: In Genesis 49:17, Jacob, foretelling what should befall each of the tribes, says: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way." Another translation of the original Hebrew is: "Dan shall be a serpent's trail." It is a significant fact that the tribe of Dan, one of the Ten Tribes, named every place they went after their father Dan. (1980, Chapter 9, section "Dan a serpent's trail", p. 121).
Comment: This alternative translation of Gen 49:17 appears to be an error by both authors. If it is an error, one has to wonder if it was plagiarized.
But why does this seem to be an error?
The question is whether Dan is a serpent, which sits in or next to the trail, or whether he is a serpent's trail. Allen and Armstrong assert the latter.
The first argument that Dan is actually a serpent rather than a trail, is the context, which both authors left out. Let's read the entire verse: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward." (King James Translation). Note that a serpent can bite the horse heels, but a trail cannot because a trail, of course, has no teeth.
The second argument that Dan is a serpent rather than a trail is that quite a few translations agree with the King James. We don't know of any that don't. Please let us know if you can find a translation that actually says Dan is a trail rather than a serpent.
Here are a few other translations.
(1) "Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider tumbles backward." (New International Version).
(2) "Dan is only a small snake in the grass, a lethal serpent in ambush by the road, When he strikes a horse in the heel, and brings its huge rider crashing down." (The Message).
(3) "Dan is a serpent by the way, An adder by the path, Which is biting the horse's heels, And its rider falleth backward." (Young's Literal Translation).
We could quote more examples, but suffice it to say that the following translations all agree with those we already quoted: New American Standard Bible, Amplified Bible, New Living Translation, English Standard Version, Contemporary English Version, New King James Version, Darby Translation, American Standard Version, and the New International Reader's Version.
To say, as Allen does, that calling Dan a trail is "a better translation" seems to be unfounded. It might not be a translation of the Hebrew at all. It could even be a distortion of scripture to support British-Israelism. If so, did both these authors distort the same scripture in the same way independently?
Whether the tribe of Dan actually went to Ireland and set up a trail along the way, we don't know. But to use this verse to support that position, is in our view, without any basis.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: One of the first national characteristics mentioned in prophecy concerning Isaac's seed is, that they shall possess the gates of those that hate them. Gates are entrances. National gates are now called "ports." Since the acquisition of the Sandwich Isles, Porto Rico and the Philippines by the United States, the Saxons control nearly all the national gateways of the world. (Part III, Chapter IX).
Armstrong: Read again the prophetic promises of Genesis 22:17.
To Abraham God said: "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies."
And again, the inspired prophetic parting blessing upon Rebekah, leaving her family to become the wife of Isaac: "And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them" (Gen. 24:60).
Earlier we quoted the correct Fenton translation: "... and your race shall possess the gates [plural] of its enemies." As explained there, the "gates" of enemy nations are the strategic SEA GATES of entrance to or exit from these nations. (1980, Chapter 12, pp. 188-9).
Comment: There are some doubts about the correctness of this interpretation. The first is whether it should be singular "gate" or plural, "gates". The next is whether "gate" is the correct translation, since other translations of the same word are "city" (or "cities") and "court" (or "courts").
Armstrong asserts that the Fenton translation, which uses the plural, "gates" in Gen 22:17, is the correct translation. But even the Fenton translation uses the singular in Gen 24:60, which it translates as "... they gave Rebekka their blessing, and said to her; You are our sister. Increase to thousands, and may your descendants possess the gate of their enemies".
The New American Standard Bible, uses "gate" (singular) in Gen 22:17, as does the King James, the Amplified Bible, the English Standard Version, New King James Version, Young's Literal Translation, Darby Translation, and the American Standard Version.
Even if "gates" is taken to be plural, it is doubtful whether it refers to sea gates as Allen and Armstrong claim.
The New International Version says, "Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies...". The New Living Translation also uses cities: "Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies."
Clarke's commentary says, "Instead of gate the Septuagint have, cities; but as there is a very near resemblance between, cities, and, gates, the latter might have been the original reading in the Septuagint, though none of the [manuscripts] now acknowledge it. By the gates may be meant all the strength, whether troops, counsels, or fortified cities of their enemies."
In ancient times many cities were walled and had gates. When a city was overrun the gates were broken and the invading troops came through. This would be a logical reason for the connection between the terms gates and cities. To break through the gates was to take possession of the city.
So it appears that we have an uncertain translation used by both authors, which, if incorrect, might be evidence of copying the wrong idea.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: ... we find that the far-off home of Ephraim-Israel is in, not an island, but "the isles," i.e., a group of islands. Thus Ephraim, also, is located in the sea, in the isles afar off. The prophet Isaiah, in the forty-ninth chapter, addresses these same people, saying: "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people from afar ... Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will [still in the future] be glorified." (Isaiah 49:1, 3). (Part III Chapter I).
Armstrong: The same 49th chapter of Isaiah begins with this: "Listen, O isles, unto me." The people addressed, Israel, are called "O isles" in the first verse and "O Israel" in the third verse. (1980, Chapter 9, p. 117).
Comment: Both authors claim that the British Isles are the "isles" referred to here. To come to this conclusion they assert that "Israel" in verse three refers to the "isles" in verse one. However, a careful reading of this passage makes it clear, in our view, that it has been badly misinterpreted or deliberately twisted.
First, note that "isles" are sometimes translated coastlands, so this passage is not necessarily referring to any islands at all.
Second, these verses picture Israel (referred to as "me") in this passage as speaking TO these isles (referred to as "you"). Therefore, the isles (or coastlands) here cannot be Israel. There are two different groups of people addressed. Israel on the one hand, and the coastlands on the other hand.
Here are the first three verses in their entirety in a modern translation. The portion that Allen left out by use of ellipsis (...) is inside square brackets. Notice carefully the use of "you" (the coastlands) and "me" (Israel).
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. [The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me,] "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." (English Standard Version, emphasis added).
When we see this passage presented in its entirety, it should be clear that the meaning is not the same as that given to it by Allen and Armstrong. By leaving out the material in the middle they changed the meaning. This leads us to wonder what these authors were thinking and why they only quoted selected parts of this passage.
Here is the same passage from the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament) translated into English by Sir Lancelot Brenton. Note that here the people of the "islands" are actually called "Gentiles". Also notice again the use of "ye" (gentiles) and "me" (Israel).
 Hearken to me, ye islands; and attend, ye Gentiles; after a long time it shall come to pass, saith the Lord: from my mother's womb he has called my name:  and he has made my mouth as a sharp sword, and he has hid me under the shadow of his hand; he has made me as a choice shaft, and he has hid me in his quiver;  and said to me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, and in thee I will be glorified.
Both authors also use Isa 41:1,8 in a similar way, repeating the same error of identifying the people of the isles (verse one) with Israel (verse eight) and leaving out material in between that shows two different peoples are actually referred to.
Armstrong: Again: "Keep silence before me, O islands ... thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen" (Isa. 41:1,8). (1980, p. 117-119).
Comment: Did Armstrong copy this faulty interpretation from Allen, or did he research this independently? We leave the reader to ponder that question.
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: When Jehovah confirmed his promise to David concerning the perpetuity of his kingdom, throne, sceptre and house, and took oath by his holiness that he would not lie to him, he said: "I will set his hand [scepter] in the sea." (Psalm 89:25). (Part III, Chapter I)
Armstrong: When the Eternal swore to David that He would perpetuate his throne, He said: "I will set his hand [sceptre] also in the sea" (Ps. 89:25). The throne is to be "set," planted, "in the sea." (1980, p. 116).
Comment: Not only are these two statements similar in wording, but the interpretation is doubtful for at least two reasons.
First, the complete verse actually says "I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers". Since British-Israelism holds that the throne of David is in London England, we ask: if we are to interpret this verse to give us the location of that throne, why is there is only one river flowing through that city?
Second, there are other translations of this verse which make the meaning more clear. Let's look at some of them.
New Living Translation: "I will extend his rule over the sea, his dominion over the rivers."
Holman Christian Standard Bible: "I will extend his power to the sea, and his right hand to the rivers."
Amplified Bible: "I will set his hand in control also on the ... Sea, and his right hand on the rivers ...."
Contemporary English Version: "I will let him rule the lands across the rivers and seas."
Today's New International Version: "I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers."
We conclude that this verse refers to the extent of David's power (either to, over, or across, the sea and rivers) rather than to the location of his throne on an island in the sea. It certainly does not say "throne" or "scepter" in this verse and it does not mention an island or islands. We regard the Allen-Armstrong interpretation to be at best, subjective and dubious. We believe that God would not expect us to accept such uncertain "evidence", since God is not the author of confusion (I Cor 14:33) and he requires that Christians "prove all things" (I Thess 5:21).
Back to List of Quotes
Allen: Is it any wonder that skepticism is rampant, both in the church and out of it, since the common error of Christendom is to regard the Jews as the whole house of Israel? Is it any wonder that Tom Paine lost his soul while following the beaten path of this fallacy? For he did give the Bible up as a myth, and boldly states in his writings that he was led into infidelity because he saw that the Jews did not and never could verify the promises concerning Israel. (Part I, Chapter V).
Armstrong: Here is the enigma of the ages! Is this a divine promise unkept? Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll lost faith in God and rejected the Bible because they believed these national promises were never fulfilled. (1980 edition, Chapter 3, p. 34).
Armstrong: Can one wonder that men like Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll lost faith in the Bible? They saw these unconditional promises, but they could not see how they had been kept. (1980 edition, Chapter 5, p. 66)
Comment: Both authors refer to the same example: Thomas Paine. Is that just a coincidence? There must have been other famous skeptics. On the other hand, Paine was indeed one of the most famous.
More importantly, while we don't claim to be experts on Tom Paine, it is clear from his writings that he had many quarrels with the bible that were not related in any way to British-Israelism. So why do Allen and Armstrong present British-Israelism as the answer to Tom Paine's bible skepticism? We wonder if either of them actually read Tom Paine, and if one of them just copied this notion from the other.
Back to List of Quotes
Main Links On This Page
Did Armstrong have the time and expertise to produce the work?
Remember that the book The United States and Britain in Prophecy is only a summary of all the research that would have had to be done to produce the book. To put together all the information summarized in the book Armstrong would have had to do a lot of bible and historical research. He would have had to research a great deal of ancient history and put it together with many bible passages. He would have had to sort out a lot of truth from error. This would have been a very time consuming task even if inspired by God through the process. It is our understanding that Armstrong first wrote about British-Israelism shortly after his conversion. He was not a historian and at that time his knowledge of the bible was quite limited. Yet we find that he apparently waded through numerous bible prophecies and forgotten historical documents in what must have been record time. It was long before the Internet age so he would likely have had to travel to find obscure records such as the ancient annals of Ireland. He would have had to find all this information, read and digest volumes of information, analyze it, evaluate it, distill it, and summarize it. He had to do all this without using a computer to find any information. He had to do all this without using any modern bible research tools (modern bible dictionaries, modern translations, software tools, on-line concordances, etc). In the mean time he had a family to feed and perhaps also a church ministry to take care of. And perhaps he was also researching a lot of other doctrines at the same time.
How did he do all this so fast? Did he simply "copy" it?
Anyone who thinks this can be done quickly should try the following exercise which is very simple in comparison: Without using the Internet or consulting any existing Anglo-Israel literature, attempt to verify every detail of every historical claim presented in the book by looking up those details in the original documents.
This "little" exercise does not require the reader to do any original research, come up with any original ideas, sort out truth from error, or seek out any new bible proof. Just try to verify the historical claims.
Just making this small web site was time consuming. And "all" I had to do was to get just two books (Armstrong's book and Allen's book), compare them, think about it, and write up my thoughts. I also discussed this topic with a few others to get their input. I got the books off of the Internet so although I had to reformat them, I didn't have to type them in and I and didn't have to leave the comfort of my home. I already knew how to make a web site so there was no time spent learning that.
But did Armstrong actually try to pass it off as his own work?
Some of Armstrong's followers who believe that Armstrong got information from Allen insist that he did no real harm. Several explanations have been offered for this viewpoint.
The definitions of plagiarism (found earlier on this web page) show that plagiarism involves not just using someone else's words or ideas but also trying to pass it off as one's own work. Copying words or ideas from others is not plagiarism as long as one gives credit to the original author. Therefore, if Armstrong gave proper credit, then he did not plagiarize.
Did the rules of citing sources change?
Some say the rules of plagiarism were different when Armstrong first wrote his book, that it was not customary at the time to give credit to other writers. But Armstrong's last revision of his book was published in 1980, and at that time giving credit was a very well established custom. Yet even at this late date there was no mention of Allen in the book.
But didn't Armstrong give credit to Allen outside the book?
If someone can prove he gave credit to Allen please let me know and I will cite it here on this site. But even if he did give credit to Allen privately, that is not giving proper credit. Armstrong does not mention Allen in his book which is the proper place to mention him if he used Allen's ideas.
But didn't everyone know about Allen anyway?
Some say that Allen was widely known about in the Worldwide Church of God, so Armstrong wasn't hiding anything. But Armstrong mailed his book to about five million people outside that church. Presumably, very few of them would have known about Allen. And even many of those in the church would not have realized how much of what Armstrong wrote on the subject was already known. Some people who were in that church for decades are quite surprised when they learn how much Allen already knew. Those who did know about Allen, didn't seem to get that information from Armstrong.
Did Armstrong actually claim God revealed it to him?
Some say Armstrong was not trying to pass his book off as revelation from God to him personally. They say he was just writing about the subject.
However, he claimed he was Elijah prophesied to come and restore "all things" (lost doctrines) to the church. He also said British-Israelism was one of the truths he restored.
Also, please note the following statements from The United States and Britain in Prophecy.
Armstrong said he was doing the work of God:
God has said, IN YOUR BIBLE, that He would get the warning to His people Ephraim-BRITAIN. [1980, p. 225, last chapter, section God Said It!...].
Some day, people will wake up to realize this is the Work of God! [1980, p. 226].
This book has given the WARNING from God and His Word. [1980, p. 228].
By God's direction and authority, I have laid the truth before you! (1980, p. 229, last chapter, section You Can Escape ...).
He said he was the servant of God who had the secret of the lost ten tribes:
Yet the best minds in the world are in total ignorance of the unprecedented cataclysm that is about to strike. And why have these prophecies not been understood or believed? Because the vital KEY that unlocks prophecy to our understanding had been lost. That key is the identity of the United States and the British peoples in biblical prophecy.
That key has been found! We present it to those whose unprejudiced eyes are willing to see.
The events prophesied to strike the American and British peoples in the next few years are SURE!
God says: "Surely the Lord Eternal will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). ... [1980, p. xii, Introduction, section, Best Minds -- Total Ignorance]
Consider this last quote. Aside from the fact that Armstrong was off in his timing, since more than a "few years" have passed since he wrote this, he again implies that God is using him (and his church) to do the work of getting this message out. In other words, he says he is the servant of God leading this effort. And by calling this doctrine the lost vital key, and then quoting Amos 3:7 about God revealing his "secret" to his servants, he creates the impression that this secret was revealed to him. He quoted Amos 3:7 again later (1980, p. 225, last chapter, section God Said It!...).
In the next excerpt Armstrong excludes the possibility that Allen could have known about the lost ten tribes. Although he does not mention Allen by name, he excludes Allen in two different ways.
First, Armstrong seems to deny the existence of any Anglo-Israelite literature prior to 1950 by asserting that prophecy was sealed until "the latter half of the twentieth century" (p. 8) which would be from 1950 to 2000. According to the Wikipedia article J.H. Allen, Allen died in 1930. Clearly, Allen couldn't have known about British-Israelism if it was not revealed until 20 or more years after he died.
Of course, Allen did know about these prophecies, so it is simply untrue that the prophecies could not be known until after 1950. If Armstrong did read Allen's book, he should have known that wasn't true.
(The Jewish Encyclopedia traces the theory of British-Israelism back to 1822. See here.)
The second way that Armstrong excludes Allen, is that he asserts that only those who keep the ten commandments (which would of course include the seventh-day Sabbath) can understand these prophecies. Wikipedia says Allen was a Methodist minister who was associated with the Church of God (Holiness). I don't know what that church taught in Allen's day, but if Allen was not a Sabbath-keeper and part of what Armstrong called the true church, this would also exclude Allen as a possible recipient of revelation from God.
Once again, if Armstrong did read Allen's book, he should have know that those outside "the true church" could indeed understand these prophecies. (Which implies that revelation was given to someone outside the true church, or British-Israelism is not revelation.)
Even if Allen were a part of the true church, Armstrong taught that truth was lost until the Philadelphia era, which did not begin until about 1930. Allen wrote in 1902 which was during the end of what Armstrong called the Sardis era when the true church had become virtually dead and was receiving no revelation from God.
Here is the excerpt:
The plain truth is, these prophecies were written for our people of our time, and for no previous people or time. They pertain to world conditions of today, and could not have been understood until today.
One of the very pivotal books of prophecy is the book of Daniel. ...
At the very close of his book, Daniel wrote: "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end ... and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Dan. 12:8-10).
So the prophecies of Daniel were CLOSED, sealed, locked up until now! But today we are living in "the time of the end." Today the "wise" do understand! But who are "the wise"? Only those who fear and obey God--and who have the master key to unlock the locked-up prophecies. God says: "The fear of the Eternal is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Ps. 111:10). And even most professing "Christians" [like John H. Allen?] refuse utterly to do that. No wonder they [people like Allen?] can't understand.
And don't forget, the specific key that unlocks these closed doors of prophecy is the definite knowledge of the true identity of the American and British nations as they are mentioned in these prophecies.
Stop a moment and think. If the prophecies Daniel wrote could not be understood by him; if they were "closed up and sealed till the time of the end" -- till the latter half of the twentieth century [after 1950] -- as the angel said and as Daniel wrote, then they were closed to the ancient Israelites of that day; they contained no message for Daniel's time [or for anyone prior to 1950]. (1980 edition, pp. 7-8).
So, to recap, we have the following:
(1) Armstrong said that this doctrine was the lost key, i.e. a secret unknown to the world at large.
(2) Armstrong said that God reveals his secrets to his servants.
(3) He taught many times that ministers outside the WCG (which Armstrong founded) were the ministers of Satan, not the servants of God. Obviously, God would not reveal anything to a minister of Satan. Logically, this would include J.H. Allen who was a minister outside Armstrong's Church of God circle.
(4) Armstrong said he was God's servant and that he (and his organization which he totally controlled) alone were doing the work of God and that he had laid this information before the reader.
(5) He said the prophecies were closed, which implies they had to be revealed (opened up) with the key, which he had.
(6) He said the prophecies were closed until 1950 (or later), which is after John Allen died.
(7) Nowhere in the book does he mention Allen.
And so, we ask: Did Armstrong take credit for the work of others, conceal his sources, and deliberately create the impression that God revealed this "secret knowledge" to him personally?
But why would he do it?
If Armstrong plagiarized, why?
Because he did not give proper credit to Allen, one gets the impression that he wanted people to believe that God revealed this doctrine to him directly. Herbert Armstrong's writing style shows he certainly knew how to remove doubt and make his views clear. He was also pretty thorough. Why then did he not clarify this important matter by pointing out Allen's role? Did he do it so that he could pass himself off as a great servant of God to whom God revealed secrets?
Having the "lost key" of British-Israelism enhanced Armstrong's claim to be doing the work of God. He told people that if they wanted to serve God they had to support his work and his alone. He told people that if they did not support his work they would suffer horribly.
Those in the true Body of Christ shall be taken to a place of SAFETY, until this Tribulation be over (Rev. 3:10-11, applying to those faithful in GOD'S WORK now going to the world; Rev. 12:14; Isa. 26:20). [p. 228]
So there is a possible motive. If he could make himself out to be one who had revelation from God, this would have allowed him to receive money to support his work and enhance his personal prestige, financial power, and control over his followers.
Does it matter where Armstrong got the teaching as long as it is true?
On this site we remain neutral on the subject of whether the British-Israelism doctrine really is true. The reader is encouraged to look at both sides of that issue objectively before deciding one way or the other.
Some Armstrong followers who believe Armstrong did copy from Allen without giving him credit, still attempt to justify his actions. In Christian theology, the ends do not justify the means, so Christians should question these justifications. Plagiarism is either wrong or it is not. If it is wrong for you and I, it was wrong for Herbert Armstrong.
Nevertheless, let's examine some of these arguments.
One attempt at justification is the claim that the writers of the books of the bible did not give credit to their sources either.
We respond to this as follows:
a) Since God knows all things, there was no need for these writers to have any other source. They could have received all their information from him without the aid of human sources.
b) If they got information from other human sources and tried to pass it off as revelation directly from God to them, wouldn't they be considered false prophets or false apostles?
c) It does not apply because Armstrong was not writing holy scripture.
d) This argument could be used to justify just about any plagiarism.
Another attempt at justification is that hiding Allen as the source would supposedly prevent people from being influenced by erroneous beliefs that Allen held. This explanation treats the reader like a child who cannot think for himself and needs to be "protected" by being kept in the dark and told only what Armstrong wanted him to know. Further, any false doctrines Allen had could have been refuted using the bible, and many of them probably already were refuted in Armstrong's other writings, which were quite extensive.
If we accept these arguments we must give license to all preachers to plagiarize at will from other preachers. Not only is that unacceptable, but even the Armstrong supporter should shudder at this prospect. There would be nothing to prevent some preacher from rewriting all of Armstrong's teachings, claiming God revealed it to him, calling himself an apostle, and starting a new church on that basis. Of course, some believe that is precisely what Armstrong did, but that he got his doctrines from more than one source.
The plagiarism laws (or principles), if followed, would help protect the public from imposters who claim revelation from God. So why do some Armstrong followers regard these laws (or principles) lightly? If Armstrong did plagiarize, did he actually break the law? Are those who continue to publish his book today breaking the law?
The bible prohibits both theft and deception. Plagiarism is considered both. Would God use a plagiarist to do his work? Many of God's true servants sinned, but they either repented or fell away. Did Armstrong ever repent of this sin and acknowledge his sources or did he continue to hide them? He certainly had lots of time to "come clean" but even the last edition of the book (written in 1980) contains no mention of Allen.
If he plagiarized one book, maybe he plagiarized other material as well. This is a fair question that warrants investigation. A surprising number of doctrines "unique" to the WCG were actually held by one or another organization previously.
If Armstrong copied ideas from others and then claimed he got them from God, does that make him a spiritual fraud? Armstrong's claim to be an apostle is largely based on his claim that God revealed truth to him. If God did not actually reveal truth to him, it would make Armstrong a false apostle.
If Armstrong plagiarized his book, those who continue to print his book or ride his coattails are promulgating a deception on the public and on their own church members.
In any case, it should be clear that it does matter where he got the information.
Nobody's perfect, so is this really a big issue?
The United States and Britain in Prophecy did more to build up Armstrong's ministry and bring members into the Worldwide Church of God than any other book. Armstrong's World Tomorrow broadcast and his Plain Truth magazine were, to a large degree, used to spread his view of prophecy, and the key that unlocked that prophecy (as Armstrong saw it) was Anglo-Israelism. Church members saw it as their solemn responsibility to warn the nations of "modern Israel" that, unless they repent and turn to God, they would be attacked and destroyed by a united Europe. Church members believed that God raised up Armstrong to trumpet this warning.
But if the church of God really got this teaching from Allen rather than by revelation from God, then it might be just another erroneous human teaching. If Armstrong really got the teaching from Allen and not from God, one might want to review the whole doctrine to see if it was really correct.
And, if God didn't actually reveal things to Armstrong, then perhaps he was not really doing the work of God, and so then the church was not commissioned to preach this warning after all. Herbert Armstrong taught that his work was the work of God in the end-time. Would God build his work around a teaching that was plagiarized? Would he build his work around a man who plagiarized the works of others?
Or perhaps they were warning the wrong nations (if Anglo-Israelism is not true). If that is the case, then Europe probably won't attack the English-speaking peoples after all.
Further, if Armstrong was not up-front enough to say where he really got the information, was he really honest? What else might he have been hiding?
And finally, some who believe Armstrong was getting revelation from God might not have come to that conclusion if they knew how much of his information was already known about. Shouldn't these people have the right to make up their own mind based on all available information? According to research by Craig White, a surprising amount of Armstrong's other doctrines were already known before he "restored" them. White says Armstrong's sources were the Church of God Seventh Day (the "Sardis Era" people), Seventh Day Adventists, Greenberry G. Rupert (who taught the holy days), John Harden Allen, Ethelbert Bullinger, Charles T. Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses), the Scofield bible, and others. See here for more information and decide for yourself.
Can Armstrong's claim of authorship be proven?
Those who believe that God revealed British-Israelism to Armstrong have to take Armstrong's word for it. Would God expect his followers to take one man's word for it? Would he do this even in spite of what would normally be considered clear evidence to the contrary? Would this be putting faith in a man? Would it be consistent with the bible command to "prove all things" (I Thess 5:21)? Herbert Armstrong made many statements in his autobiography that are impossible to either prove or disprove. Some of these claims (such as his wife's dream that God would use them for a special purpose) are used as proof that God was using him in a special way.
Did Armstrong plagiarize most of his doctrines from others?
Several sources claim to have traced many of Armstrong's doctrines to earlier sources. If (i) he did obtain doctrines from others, and if (ii) he passed them off as revelation directly from God, then he plagiarized those doctrines. We discuss this in more detail here. Were most of the WCG's doctrines plagiarized?
Is it fair to question Armstrong after his death?
Someone wrote in to ask us why we didn't discuss this with Mr Armstrong when he was alive. The answer is that, at that time, we had not seen Allen's book and we were not aware of how much the two books had in common. Even if we had known, we didn't have personal access to Mr Armstrong; few people did.
This person also said, "I see no point in bringing things of this sort up well after the death of the person, who then is unable to defend himself...".
Some people must have asked Mr Armstrong about this when he was alive and so he probably had plenty of time to go on the record and defend himself before he died. He could have and should have done so when he was alive. If he did not, it's not our fault but his. If he did not defend himself, perhaps he had little or no defense. If anyone can show us where he discussed this, please let us know and we will post it here on this site. Also, Armstrong still has tens of thousands of followers who are free to defend him, and we look forward to hearing more of their views.
But would Armstrong have refrained from questioning dead people? For example, the popes and other religious leaders he didn't agree with? If he questioned dead people, then we can also question him even though he is dead.
If we can't question dead people we can't question Nimrod or the prophet Muhammad.
Do the people who think it's not fair to question Herbert Armstrong now that he's dead refrain from questioning dead popes, dead protestant leaders, or other dead public figures that they don't agree with?
Those who question the fairness of looking into a man's actions after he is dead should also question the fairness of using a man's work after he is dead. John H. Allen died in 1930, before Armstrong wrote his book. Who is defending J.H. Allen? Would it be fair to Allen if Armstrong used some of Allen's work and passed it off as his own when Allen was no longer around to defend his copyright? If Armstrong did plagiarize Allen's work, there was an injustice done to Allen and to those readers who were led into thinking it was revelation that Armstrong got directly from God. Are some of Armstrong's defenders perpetuating those injustices by trying to sweep the issue under the carpet?
What harm can come from trying to set the record straight on this web site?
The person went on to say, "It is all very easy to criticize someone who cannot answer back, I think that the people who do this need to re-think where they learned all their bible knowledge in the first place."
This argument can be used both ways: one could say that it's also very easy to plagiarize someone's ideas after they are dead.
Further, even if British-Israelism is true, this doctrine (and others) might not have come from Armstrong as this person seems to assume. Maybe it came from people like Allen. If so, those who got Anglo-Israelism from Armstrong's book should ask themselves if they actually got it from Armstrong, or merely through Armstrong. If the original source for Armstrong's material was Allen, they really got most of it from Allen.
Those who think Armstrong's doubters have it "easy" should remember that asking skeptical questions put one at risk of being put out of Armstrong's church. And since Armstrong controlled the pulpits and had a large publishing and broadcast organization, he could overwhelm most other voices with a flood of information. Before the Internet made it affordable for individuals and small groups to get their message out, it would have been nearly impossible for most skeptics to get very far no matter how valid the questions they raised. So questioning Armstrong wasn't always easy. On the contrary, questions could have been easily suppressed.
Doesn't this subject create division? Isn't it better not to talk about it?
Some have written to us to say that we should not talk about the subject of plagiarism because it causes division. But we do not believe that information creates division. Division is caused by error, which can come from a refusal to accept information or a failure to question, investigate or examine the issues.
For example, many churches are divided because they have different beliefs. If they corrected their errors they would no longer be divided. So error causes division, not information. An open discussion should lead to more truth, which should result in less division.
We believe that the proper way to unity is through truth. If someone can show that our facts are wrong please let us know. Silencing the discussion is not the answer.
We question the motives of those who use "creating division" as an excuse to suppress information. Why don't they want people to see this site?
Rom 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (NKJV).
Why don't you publish your name(s) on this site?
The reason for that is simple: possible employer discrimination. A second reason is that it really shouldn't matter who we are. The material on this site can be judged based on the facts presented.
What are your sources of information?
We don't want to be accused of plagiarism ourselves, so we will make it clear that we were not the first to point out similarities between the two books.
While surfing the Internet in 2009 we read something at www.bible.ca which compared a few short quotes from the two books. One of the comparisons (which we discuss in the section "Not All Americans are Californians") sparked our investigation into this subject in earnest. We found the two books on the Internet and started comparing them. Later we obtained a short document on this from Grace Communion International (www.wcg.org) which is the new name for the Worldwide Church of God, which has repudiated almost everything their founder Herbert Armstrong taught including Anglo-Israelism. We received from GCI a Word document comparing the two books. This document can be found here.
Where can I research British-Israelism?
To readers interested in this topic we strongly recommend reading both sides thoroughly before coming to any conclusions. The Wikipedia article British Israelism contains links to a number of sites which discuss the topic.
Main Links On This Page
(1) The Books on Anglo-Israelism
Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright by John Harden Allen, 1902, 1917 (Searchable).
The United States and Britain in Prophecy by Herbert W. Armstrong, 1980 (Searchable)
At this next link you can find the 1980 edition of Armstrong's book, which we have been using, with the page numbers preserved.
Armstrong literature including The United States and Britain in Prophecy 1980 (PDF format).
(2) Karl Beyersdorfer versus Norman Edwards
A Living Church of God pastor's views on the plagiarism question and Norm Edwards' response:
Beyersdorfer: Most early [Wordwide Church of God] ministers had a copy of Joseph's Birthright, Judah's Sceptre. Most read it, or parts of it. The implication that we were ignorant is shallow. We knew, we simply viewed it in a different light. We knew some of his [Armstrong's] work was plagiarism, but did not think of it as a horrible moral or legal issue.
Karl Beyersdorfer Letter (and a Response) by Beyersdorfer and Edwards, 1999.
(3) Gary Rethford versus Red Fox
The Philadelphia Church of God (current copyright holders of Armstrong's book), responds to allegations of plagiarism.
Rethford: ...no indication of any kind exists to show that Herbert W. Armstrong plagiarized any information from J.H. Allen, or anyone else!
Herbert W. Armstrong--Not Guilty! by Gary Rethford, 2003.
A blogger responds to Gary Rethford and the PCG:
HWA "Plagiarized" or "Copied" -- Which? by "Red Fox", 2009.
(4) Dave Medici
Dave Medici's comparison of the books by Allen and Armstrong. This comparison uses the 1967 edition of Armstrong's book, available in PDF format here.
Medici: While it might be possible that one or two of the previous 57 points could be attributed to coincidence, it is unbelievable that all of the parallels of arguments and the numerous exact wordings could be coincidence. The conclusion I reach, as I think the reader shall also reach, is that significant portions of Armstrong's work were taken from Allen's work. Armstrong follows Allen's arrangement of material, development of argument and, occasionally, even Allen's wording.
Did Herbert Armstrong Plagiarize J.H. Allen's Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright in The US&BC in Prophecy? by Dave Medici, February, 1996.
The original source for Medici's article can be found here
(5) Joe Tkach versus Stephen Flurry
The new head of Armstrong's church has this to say on the issue:
Tkach: In fact, it is no secret that Herbert Armstrong's The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy was copied from a book titled Judah's Scepter and Joseph's Birthright by J. H. Allen. It is possible to run down almost the entire list of "new truths" supposedly revealed to Mr. Armstrong and point out where he got them and what preceded them. (Transformed by Truth, by Joseph Tkach Jr., Chapter 7).
Comment: See this comment on the WCG site here
Stephen Flurry, the son of the new copyright owner, weighs in on the topic in his book Raising the Ruins, in the section Credentials (Part 4):
Flurry: But if you actually take the time to examine the two books, you will find that they are entirely different. Yes, entirely.
Flurry: And it's not like Mr. Armstrong tried to conceal the fact that he read Allen's book ... But it would be a "bald-faced lie" for anyone to say it was copied, Mr. Armstrong said.
Flurry: While it is true that Mr. Armstrong read Judah's Scepter and Joseph's Birthright, along with other books about the "Anglo-Israel" theory, he did not copy those works. Joe [Tkach] Jr. made that dishonest claim without any supportive evidence whatsoever, simply because he dislikes Mr. Armstrong and doesn't agree with the book ...
Comment: For a long version of this excerpt from Raising the Ruins and our comments on it, see here.
Stephen Flurry's book can be read on the Philadelphia Church of God site. See the subheading Herbert Armstrong and J.H. Allen.
(6) David Ben-Ariel
A pro-Armstrong blogger defends Armstrong here.
(7) Robert Thiel
Robert Thiel of the Living Church of God defends Armstrong here.
(8) Jeff Booth
In an article published in The Journal: News of the Churches of God, a former WCG minister, Jeff Booth, stated that Mr Armstrong fired him when he questioned Mr Armstrong about getting doctrines from the Church of God (Seventh Day) and J.H. Allen. Booth said Armstrong denied getting doctrines from either source. Read an excerpt from that article here.
(9) Did Armstrong Admit To Reading Allen's Book?
Even some of Armstrong's most ardent followers (or so they claim) report that Armstrong read Allen's book before he wrote his own book on the same subject. Some even say he admitted this himself. A collection of such claims can be found here.
Main Links On This Page
I. The Proof of the Bible.
Did Armstrong plagiarize from parts of Prophecy Speaks by a Seventh Day Adventist when he wrote The Proof of the Bible? The two booklets contain many differences. However, there are important similarities in content, order of presentation, and wording. Here are a few excerpts.
Rowell: Tyre grew in importance until she was mistress of the sea as was Babylon of the land. She was the commercial centre of the world. Carthage, the rival of Rome, was only a colony of Tyre—Tyre, the beautiful, the rich, ...
Armstrong: That city was the mistress of the seas—of the whole world; it was the commercial center of the world. It was beautiful, rich, and stable.
Rowell: A dollar each from the unbelievers in England and America would be sufficient to rebuild Tyre...
Armstrong: Just go over and build a small city on the site of New Tyre. A collection of a dollar each from all of the American skeptics alone would be ample.
Rowell: Every year, every day, every minute that Tyre has remained in utter ruin it has disproved the emphatic declaration of sceptics ...
Armstrong: Every year, EVERY DAY, yes, EVERY HOUR that site of New Tyre remains a desolate top of the rock for spreading of fishermen's nets—every hour that it remains uninhabited, and no city is built there, it is SHOUTING the PROOF of divine revelation of the Bible to skeptics.
Rowell: When Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel lived, Egypt was then so ancient that she boasted a longer unbroken line of kings than did any other nation. To Ezekiel the settling of Egypt was as ancient as the beginning of the Christian religion is to us. The prophets of his day, 600 B. C., knew Egypt as the granary of the world, eminent in science, in the arts, in luxury and magnificence, a leader of civilization. For many centuries these artificial mountains, the justly famed pyramids of Egypt, had stood as proud sentinels of a proud country of many splendours.
Armstrong: The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel lived some 600 years before Christ. Egypt was then already very ancient. It was the leader of civilization, of the world at that time. It was far advanced in science, and arts, luxury and magnificence. It was the granary of the world with its rich Nile valley. The mightiest buildings on earth—the pyramids—were there.
Comment: As we understand it, the Worldwide Church of God disavowed The Proof of the Bible while Armstrong was still alive, not because of plagiarism issues, but because they decided the booklet was wrong. The Armstrong booklet is still being distributed by the Philadelphia Church of God, an offshoot of the WCG, which bought the copyright to it from the WCG. We present here both booklets in their entirety, side-by-side.
Rowell (1933) and Armstrong (1958) side-by-side on the same web page for easier comparisons.
Prophecy Speaks by Earle Albert Rowell, 1933 (PDF).
Prophecy Speaks by Earle Albert Rowell, 1933 (HTML).
The Proof of the Bible by Herbert W. Armstrong, 1958 (HTML).
Another comparison of the Rowell and Armstrong booklets on prophecy:
Herbert W. Armstrong Disproves the Bible! and Who Wrote The Proof of the BIBLE? by Tony Badillo.
II. Has Time Been Lost?
Did Armstrong plagiarize the booklet Has Time Been Lost? from the Church of God, Seventh Day (COG7)? A former Worldwide Church of God minister says so.
Edwards: The two booklets are word-for-word identical in about half of the places.
Has Time Been Lost? & Found by Norman S. Edwards.
Armstrong republished the booklet several times, so just how close his booklet is to the COG7 booklet might depend on which version is compared. There might also be more than one COG7 version. Anyway, here are some excerpts from the versions that we have:
Church of God Seventh Day: To all these questions there are definite answers and many lines of POSITIVE PROOF! God's Word says, "Prove all things...". Let us investigate and find the truth (p. 3).
Armstrong: To all these questions, there is a definite answer--and many lines of POSITIVE PROOF! God's Word says "Prove all things." Let us banish all prejudice. Let us throw out preconceived or past opinions. Let us investigate and find the TRUTH.
Church of God Seventh Day: The Jew is the miracle of all history--and the Jew is another proof that we have not lost the Sabbath. Ask any orthodox Jew today if he has lost his Sabbath. Why, such an idea would be nonsense to him. He is not in doubt! (Has Time Been Lost? undated, early 1900's?, p. 14).
Armstrong: The Jewish people are the miracle of all history--and they are another proof that we have not lost the Sabbath. Ask any orthodox Jew today if HE has lost His Sabbath. Why, such an idea would be nonsense to him. He is not in doubt! (Has Time Been Lost? 1972).
The two Has Time Been Lost? booklets (COG7 and HWA) side-by-side on the same web page for easier comparisons.
Has Time Been Lost? produced by the Church of God, Seventh Day (HTML version). We do not have an exact date for this publication, but according to Norm Edwards, it was published in one form or another as early as 1925.
Images of the actual COG7 booklet (identical to our HTML version) can be seen here. The cover page (page 1) is here, followed by pages 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14.
Has Time Been Lost? 1952, 1968, 1970, 1972, by Herbert Armstrong (HTML).
III. Craig White's Booklet -- purports to show where Armstrong got many doctrines.
Perhaps the most comprehensive source discussing where Armstrong could have gotten many doctrines is the PDF file by Craig White here. We leave it to the reader to make up his own mind whether Armstrong plagiarized these works or not. Before reading White's booklet, be aware that White does not know what plagiarism is so he incorrectly exonerates Armstrong of plagiarism. I.e. on page 5 of version 2.4 of his booklet, White says:
I recall in a 1980 Bible study when Mr Armstrong publicly stated that he had read Allen's work on Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. And having read Allen's work, I cannot fathom where the supposed plagiarism may be found. Rather, it served more of an outline or template for his book The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. Given that the writing style was radically different to Allen's; many conclusions were different; and that he emphasized the Sabbath, plagiarism cannot be pinned on him at all.
Actually, if Allen's book served as an outline for Armstrong's book, that is plagiarism. Differences in writing style, conclusions, emphasis, etc, have nothing to do with it.
IV. Ambassador Report and Paul Benware
Perhaps one of the earliest sources exposing where Mr Armstrong probably got some of his doctrines is here.
V. The Empirical Self
Did Herbert Armstrong plagiarize the "empirical self" concept from the psychologist William James? See here.
VI. Very Old List of Church of God Seventh Day Literature
On the very last page of COG7's old Has Time Been Lost? booklet there is a list of other COG7 booklet offerings. Some of these sound very similar to Worldwide Church of God doctrinal subjects. The list can be seen here.
VII. Did Armstrong Plagiarize Parts of "The Missing Dimension in Sex" and "All About Water Baptism"?
Someone wrote to us to say HWA plagiarized Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living by H.W. Long, M.D., published in 1919, when he wrote The Missing Dimension in Sex. I started reading Long's book but did not have time to get very far so I have no idea if the allegation is accurate. This person also said that early editions of The Missing Dimension in Sex credit many people but the later edition credits only Herbert Armstrong. Again, I do not know if that is accurate. The Missing Dimension in Sex was originally called God Speaks Out on the New Morality.
Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living is available on the Web here. If anyone has time to read this book and reread The Missing Dimension in Sex please let me know. Be sure to copy down any passages that look like they were plagiarized so I can check them with a computer search. I don't have time to read the books.
This same person reported seeing a pamphlet about baptism from a Baptist church that "bore a strong resemblance to" Armstrong's booklet, All About Water Baptism. Again, I have no way to confirm this since I don't have enough information to follow it up. I mention this only so that if any reader knows about or comes across such an old Baptist booklet, they can (please) let me know. Finding the plagiarized (if any) passages for us would be even better.
VIII. Servant's News
The plagiarism question has been discussed in several editions of Servant's News. These are November 1998, May/June 1999, and July/August 1999.
The following image is placed here in support of "Everyone Draw Muhammad" and free speech. We refuse to be cowed into submission by those who threaten free speech.
The bible says it is OK to burn evil books. So why do "Christian" pastors and the media in the "Christian" world defame and despise those who burn the Koran?
"Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Acts 19:19).
Is your minister afraid to burn a koran? What's his unbiblical faithless excuse for ignoring Acts 19?
According to the Bible, what was the result?
"So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." (v. 20).
Either he believes that or he doesn't.
A burning Koran.
Information on Islam.
www.wikiislam.com — Debunks Islam.
www.jihadwatch.org — News, commentary, analysis, books.
www.geertwilders.nl — The Geert Wilders Trial—The legal battle for free speech.
Did this site help you? Are you willing to help others? We could use some help to make this site better! Anyone who can volunteer some time would be appreciated. The only skills needed are reading, keyboarding, and using email.
If you have any comments on this web site, please write and let us know. We welcome information such as:
Please state whether or not you want your comment and your name posted on the Internet. We might or might not post your comments on this site in the future, depending on whether we have time for that and whether we have your permission. Instead of using your full name (you might not want someone like your employer to see it) you can use just your first name and a description of yourself that only some people will recognize, such as "My name is Joe and I was in the XYZ Church of God in Timbuktu from 1980 to 1990." Alternatively, you can use a pen name.
To contact Armstrong Plagiarism Research, write to a.p.research.1 at our gmail account (i.e. @gmail.com).
More To Come?
We might add more information on this topic so please check back every few months.
This site first appeared on the Web in January 2010. In December 2011 I decided to start listing significant updates here so readers can find new material quicker.
December 2011: Added article discussing evidence that Armstrong copied the idea of the empirical self from psychologist William James and then implied he originated it himself. See here.
December 2011: Added audio of Armstrong admitting he read the book by John Allen. See here.
December 2011: Added links to three editions of Servant's News that discuss the plagiarism question.
February 2012: Added donate button.
Some of the ideas on this site are original ideas of mine, but many of them are not. Thanks to all those who contributed. Thanks to Pam at www.isitso.org for the images of the Church of God Seventh Day booklet Has Time Been Lost. I would also like to thank those who have examined this subject before me. This would include Dave Medici, Paul Benware, Norman Edwards, and others.
All rights reserved © Armstrong Plagiarism Research™ 2010-2012.