Did Herbert Armstrong Plagiarize J.H. Allen’s Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright in The US&BC in Prophecy?
An evaluation by Dave Medici, February, 1996
What Is Plagiarism?
First, I wish to restate the definition of plagiarism from Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th edition, page 1035:
Plagiarism: The act of appropriating the literary composition of another, or parts or passages of his writings, or the ideas or language of the same, and passing them off as the product of one’s own mind. To be liable for plagiarism it is not necessary to exactly duplicate another’s literary work, it being sufficient if unfair use of such work is made by lifting of substantial portion thereof, but even an exact counterpart of another’s work does not constitute plagiarism if such counterpart was arrived at independently.
Please reread that definition. Since I am in the publishing industry (employed by the world’s third largest publisher of textbooks), that is the definition I had in mind when I made this analysis of Armstrong’s work.
How to Prove Plagiarism
To demonstrate that Herbert plagiarized J. H. Allen’s "Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright" in writing his book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy (hereafter US&BC), I must demonstrate:
(1) that HWA never cited Allen as a source;
(2) that HWA had knowledge of Allen’s book and thus did not arrive at his opinions independently;
(3) that parts, passages or the language of Allen’s work is duplicated by HWA even if not quoted verbatim (the popular conception of plagiarism).
In regard to point (1), an examination of the US&BC. Allen is nowhere mentioned as a source.
It is not enough for an author to orally reveal a source for a significant portion of his own book. The acknowledgment must accompany the author’s book so that his readers are informed of the source. Since a book may enjoy a printing of thousands or even millions of copies, and since an author could in no way orally reveal his source to that many people, it is immediately apparent why the source must be referenced in the author’s own book. The US&BC enjoyed a distribution of several million copies (15 million if I remember correctly). If HWA had orally informed every member of the WCG of his use of Allen that would only amount to 1% of his reading public. Point (1) is proved.
As to point (2), please consult the Jan-Feb 1996 issue of the Global Church News. In the text box on page 11, an unnamed author writes:
In the late 1920s, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong became acquainted with Allen’s book and subsequently incorporated some of Allen’s ideas in a book which he later published. It is, however, quite untrue that Mr. Armstrong in any way plagiarized material from Allen’s book. I possess copies of Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright, as well as various versions of Mr. Armstrong’s U.S. and Britain in Prophecy. But I have never seen so much as a single instance in any of the numerous versions of Mr. Armstrong’s work that plagiarized even one sentence from Allen’s book. On numerous occasions, Mr. Armstrong freely acknowledged his indebtedness to Allen for having clearly explained the biblical identity of the Anglo-American peoples—ideas which later helped inspire him to write his own 300-page paper on ‘Anglo-Israelism’.
Therefore, HWA did have prior knowledge of Allen’s book before he wrote the US&BC and one cannot argue that HWA arrived at his ideas independent of Allen. Point (2) is proved.
Incidentally, we shall see that the writer of the above quote obviously has not examined Armstrong and Allen closely, for if he did he would not have written "I have never seen so much as a single instance in any of the numerous version of Mr. Armstrong’s work that plagiarized even one sentence from Allen’s book." We shall find that statement to be entirely untrue and quite unfortunate.
As to point (3), consider the following: According to the legal definition of plagiarism provided at the beginning of this post, plagiarism consists of an unfair use of a substantial portion another’s work, even if not exactly duplicated, passing another’s work off as one’s own. How do we determine if indeed an author used a substantial portion of another’s work when there is no exact duplication of text?
I put that question to the legal department of the publisher for whom I work.
They replied that in such a case plagiarism is proved by demonstrating that the work in question evidences a remarkable similarity to another work’s arrangement of material, development of argument, proofs adduced and, if possible, use of peculiar phraseology. The arrangement of material is considered not at the level of the entire book but at the level of a section or subsection. Since there are innumerable ways to present a subject, and it is assumed that different authors will naturally have different modes of presentation, the development of the argument is examined to determine if one author’s argument proceeds substantially as another’s. Examination of proofs adduced to support an argument proceeds along similar lines. The nature of the subject must be considered when examining development of argument and proof’s adduced, for discussions of hard science (mathematics, physics, chemistry) will, by their very nature, proceed similarly; such is not the case with soft sciences or philosophy.
As to peculiar phraseology, I was told that only significant words are examined. Where an author is found to have used an uncommon word or phrase, and where that word or phrase can be shown to be within a section of text whose arrangement and development of argument are substantially that of another author, it is considered to be presumptive evidence of ‘prior knowledge’ and hence plagiarism.
A final point made by the legal department was this: plagiarism is proved by the cumulative weight of evidence, not by the individual proofs adduced.
That is, it could be remotely possible that two authors coincidentally demonstrate similarity in a handful of expressions, ideas or presentations, but as the number of coincidences grow so does the likelihood of plagiarism.
It is very important for the reader to keep in the forefront of his mind the definition of legal plagiarism and the criteria for its determination as the reader progresses through this post. The reader will not see the plagiarism if the reader loses sight of what plagiarism is and how to recognize it.
Text Used in Analysis
For my texts I am using the 1967 edition of the US&BC and the 19th edition of Allen’s 1917 work (available from Destiny Publishers, Merrimac, Massachusetts). I am comfortable using the 1967 edition for two reasons: (1) it was one of the most widely circulated editions and is still in the possession of many members and (2) it is an edition which I read and immediately saw the remarkable similarity to Allen’s book.
I have also read editions of the US&BC subsequent to the 1967 edition.
So that the reader may prove the plagiarism for himself, I shall adhere to the following notation: References will cite the author (HWA: Herbert W. Armstrong, JHA: J. H. Allen), page and paragraph upon the indicated page, including paragraphs carried over from a preceding page. Hence,
HWA 57:3 means Armstrong’s 1967 US&BC, page 57, paragraph 3 as one counts whole or partial paragraphs from the top of page 57.
In some instances I will cite section or chapter headings, such as HWA 22 ‘How much land? / What size nations’.
I cannot state too emphatically that for the reader to fully appreciate the evidence brought forward below he must read Armstrong and then read Allen. The few notes I will provide with the references will not convey to the reader’s mind the evidence of plagiarism as dramatically as will the reading.
I will proceed now to examine Armstrong and Allen’s books. I will work methodically through Armstrong, referencing Allen, and the reader should note that as we move through Armstrong we also move naturally through the relevant sections in Allen. Watch how the page numbers for each author advance forward in all cases with but a few exceptions. When reading Armstrong, we will find the same subject presented in Allen, albeit with perhaps more detail. We will see that as Armstrong is writing US&BC he is reading Allen. It will be quite evident.
To begin with, I would point out that Armstrong’s illustrated book runs for roughly 212 pages, whereas Allen’s non-illustrated book runs for roughly 377 pages. Hence we can immediately deduce that whether or not there is plagiarism Armstrong will omit quite a lot of Allen’s material, and where there is an identity of subject Armstrong’s work will exhibit considerable compression. Thus, we should not expect to find long excerpts from Allen. By the same token, however, such compression will render the similarities between Armstrong and Allen that much more conspicuous.
(1) HWA 3:1-3, 4:1-2, 6-7 = JHA 79:1
Armstrong and Allen cite Israel identity as a ‘key’ to correct understanding of the Scripture. Armstrong writes that prophecy is ‘closed’ without it, and Allen writes the Scripture is ‘shut’ to one’s understanding.
(2) HWA 20:5-6 = JHA chapter 2
Armstrong’s famous ‘race vs. grace’ or ‘race and grace’ concept is taken directly from Allen, who more fully develops the idea.
(3) HWA 22 ‘How much land?—What size nations??’ = JHA 23:2–24:1
Armstrong argues that Israel would spread around the world, eventually becoming ‘heir of the world,’ 30:2. Allen argues that the bounds of the nations were set from the foundation of the world according to God’s foreknowledge of Israel’s multitudinous size, and that Israel was fated to embrace the entire world.
(4) HWA chapter 4 = JHA chapter 3
Armstrong and Allen devote a chapter to distinguishing between the Scepter and Birthright promises.
(5) HWA 35:11
Armstrong’s famous ‘all Jews are Israelites, most Israelites are not Jews.’
See (27) below.
(6) HWA 39-41 = JHA 28:4–29:2, 37:2-3
Armstrong discusses the promises in relation to Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob. Allen discusses the promises in relation to Abraham, Isaac, Esau and Jacob, omitting mention of Ishmael.
(7) HWA 45:3 = JHA 41:2
Armstrong and Allen discuss the meaning of the name Israel.
(8) HWA 45:5ff = JHA 41:3–42:3
The rejection of Rueben.
(9) HWA 48:8 = JHA 43:4
Armstrong: "At the time of Jacob’s death, he and his sons were living in Egypt."
Allen: "At the time of Jacob’s death, all Israel was in Egypt living in the land of Goshen."
As we move through Armstrong this pattern will repeat; Armstrong will follow Allen’s argument and proofs, and then quote directly from Allen. This demonstrates that as Armstrong was writing, he was reading Allen.
(10) HWA 49:2ff = JHA 43:4-44:1
Armstrong: "It was reported to Joseph that Jacob, his father, was ill. He took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, sons of an Egyptian mother, and hastened to the dying patriarch’s bedside."
Allen: "When it was reported to Joseph that his father was dying, he took with him his two sons, and hastened to the bedside of the dying patriarch."
(11) HWA 49:5 = JHA 44:1
Armstrong quotes Genesis 48:2-4; Allen references it.
(12) HWA 49:9 = JHA 44:2
Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons
(13) HWA 49:9–52:1 = JHA 44:3
Ephraim is put before Manasseh. Armstrong writes ‘supernatural guidance,’ whereas Allen writes ‘Holy Ghost.’ Coincidence? The Scripture makes no mention of supernatural guidance by the Holy Ghost—it is Jacob that does the guiding. Armstrong borrowed from Allen.
(14) HWA 52:3-10 = JHA 45:2–46:1
Jacob says, ‘Bless the lads,’ guiding his hands wittingly by crossing them.
Note that Armstrong and Allen labor upon the detailed actions of both Joseph and Jacob. Armstrong and Allen take great pains to point out these actions.
Armstrong refers to the blessing as being ‘jointly’ received; Allen says the blessing is ‘collective.’ Same thought.
(15) HWA 53:11 = JHA 46:1
Armstrong and Allen: "collective blessings".
(16) HWA 53:12 = JHA 46:2
Armstrong: "But at this juncture Joseph noticed that Jacob’s right hand was not resting upon the head of the firstborn. He endeavored to remove it."
Notice Allen: "At this juncture Joseph noticed that Jacob’s right hand was not resting on Manasseh’s head, and he wanted to remove it..."
(17) HWA 56:1 = JHA 46:6
Armstrong and Allen both say: "separate blessings".
(18) HWA 57:3 = JHA 47:3
Armstrong: "While still in the spirit of prophecy, Jacob called his twelve sons together to tell them what their posterity should become in the last days."
Allen: "While the spirit of prophecy was still upon Jacob, he called all his sons together to tell them what their posterity should become in the last days."
US&BC Chapter 6
(19) HWA 76:1–79:4 = JHA 49:1–55:3
Armstrong and Allen relate the story of what preceded the rupture between Israel and Judah.
(20) HWA 78:5 = JHA 54:1
Armstrong and Allen call Jeroboam northern Israel’s "spokesman".
(21) HWA 79:2 = JHA 55:1
Armstrong: "The challenge to the royal family was, ‘Now see to thine own house!’"
Allen: "The challenge to the royal family was, ‘Now see to thy own house!’"
(22) HWA 79:3-4 = JHA 55:3
Israel rebels from David; God says, ‘This is of Me.’ Armstrong compresses Allen.
(23) HWA 79:5-6 = JHA 56:2
Armstrong and Allen emphasize the distinction between ‘House of Israel’ and ‘House of Judah.’
(24) HWA 79:5-82:2 = JHA 56:3–61:1
Armstrong and Allen labor to emphasize that Israel and Judah are separate and distinct.
(25) HWA 82:2-83:9 = JHA 62:1–78:2
Armstrong and Allen labor to emphasize that Israel and Judah are separate and distinct, and both authors bring forth the different names by which each kingdom was known.
(26) HWA 83:6 = JHA 67:6–69:3
Armstrong and Allen emphasize that the two kingdoms are referred to sometimes by their respective capitols.
(27) HWA 82:5 = JHA 71:2
Armstrong: "Jews are Israelites, just as Californians are Americans. But MOST Israelites are not Jews, just as most Americans are not Californians."
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 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..."
This similarity is important for I cannot recall any other British-Israel author making the analogy between Jew-Israelite and Californian-American (although my memory may err) before Allen. Allen borrowed this idea from Rev. W. H. Poole who wrote in his 1880’s Anglo-Israel; or the Saxon Race Proved to be the Lost Tribes of Israel in Nine Lectures the following: "All Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews, just as all Englishmen are Britons but not all Britons are Englishmen." Allen Americanized Poole.
(28) HWA 94:7 = JHA 164:3
Armstrong and Allen point out that Jeremiah was one of only three men the Scripture declares to have been sanctified before their births.
(29) HWA 94:8-95:2 = JHA 165:3-6
Armstrong and Allen describe Jeremiah’s calling.
(30) HWA 95:3 = JHA 166:1
Armstrong and Allen state that Jeremiah was placed over "nations".
(31) HWA 95:6–96:7 = JHA 166:2–167:1
Armstrong and Allen state that it is "well known" that Jeremiah was used to pull down the Davidic throne and replant it in Israel.
(32) HWA 100:5-9 = JHA 190:3–191:1
Armstrong and Allen relate that Jeremiah was freed from prison and went to Mizpah. Notice: "Where did he go?"
(33) HWA 100:10 = JHA 191:2
Armstrong: "Now this Gedeliah..."
Allen: "This Gedeliah..."
(34) HWA 100:10–101:1 = JHA 191:2–193:1
Armstrong and Allen relate the assassination of Gedeliah and the carrying away of the people of Mizpah by Ishmael. Special note is made of Jeremiah and the king’s daughters.
(35) HWA 101:5–102:5 = JHA 193:4–195:2
Armstrong and Allen relate Johanan’s flight to Egypt.
(36) HWA 102:6 = JHA 195:3
Armstrong and Allen relate how Baruch’s life is safeguarded by God.
(37) HWA 102:9 = JHA 197:4
Armstrong and Allen refer to the daughters of Zedekiah as "royal material."
(38) HWA 112:1 = JHA 223:3
Armstrong and Allen relate that Israel was to abide many days without a king.
(39) HWA 112:2 = JHA 223:2
Armstrong and Allen quote the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:10 saying, "Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them..."
(40) HWA 113:4 = JHA 225:3
Armstrong and Allen refer to Hosea 12:1, "Ephraim... follows after an east wind."
(41) HWA 113:5 = JHA 226:2
Armstrong and Allen quote Psalm 89:25
(42) HWA 114:4 = JHA 227:1-2
Armstrong and Allen refer to Isaiah 49:3, 6, 12
(43) HWA 114:7 = JHA 226:3
Armstrong and Allen refer to Isaiah 49:1-3.
(44) HWA 114:8 = JHA 226:2
Armstrong and Allen refer to Jeremiah 31:9.
(45) HWA 114:9 = JHA 227:3
Armstrong and Allen refer to Isaiah 41:1.
(46) HWA 116 "Dan A Serpent’s Trail" = JHA 250 "Dan—The Serpent’s Trail"
Armstrong and Allen use a similar chapter/section heading
(47) HWA 116:9 = JHA 250:2
Armstrong and Allen quote Genesis 49:17
(48) HWA 117:2 = JHA 250:3
Armstrong and Allen discuss Dan’s allotted territory in Palestine
(49) HWA 117:2 = JHA 260:2
Armstrong and Allen mention how Dan took Mahaneh-dan.
(50) HWA 117:3 = JHA 260:3
Armstrong and Allen mention how 600 Danites took Laish and called it Dan.
(51) HWA 118:34 = JHA 263:3
Armstrong and Allen give lists of Dan-type place names.
Allen’s list: Armstrong’s list:
This list of place names is very important for it clearly demonstrates that Armstrong was copying out of Allen. Notice that the lists differ only in what Armstrong omits! This is quite important, for the argument that both authors are making is that Europe and the British Isles are literally filled with Dan-type place names which mark the movement of the tribe of Dan. Yet Armstrong does not add any new Dan-type place name to his list despite the alleged abundance from which to choose.
(52) HWA 117:8 = JHA 266:1
Armstrong and Allen discuss the Tuatha de Danaan.
(53) HWA 117:8–118:1 = JHA 266:4–267:2
More Dan-type place names.
Allen’s list: Armstrong’s list:
Dan Laugh Dans-Lough
San Sower Dan Sower
Dan dalke Dan Dalke
Dun drum Dun drum
Don-egal Bay Don-egal Bay
Don-egal City Don-egal City
Again, Armstrong only subtracts from the list—does not add any new names in spite of the declared abundance. Note also that both authors relate that Duns-more means ‘More Dans’ without explaining the meaning of any other Dan placename.
(54) HWA 118:1 = JHA 267:1
Armstrong and Allen relate that Dunn in Irish means judge, just as Dan in Hebrew means judge.
(55) HWA 118:5 = JHA 267:2
More Dan-type place names.
Allen’s list: Armstrong’s list:
See comment for (51) and (53).
(56) HWA 121:1 = JHA 228:4
In relating how Jeremiah came to Ireland, both authors give the different names by which Baruch is known in various histories.
Armstrong: "Simon Brach, Breck, Berech, Brach, Berach"
Allen: "Simon Brach, Breck, Brack, Barech, Berach"
(57) HWA 121:3 = JHA 228:4
Armstrong: "Jeremiah brought with them some remarkable things, including a harp, an ark, and a wonderful stone called ‘lia-fail’ or ‘stone of destiny.’"
Allen: "This royal party brought with them many remarkable things. Among these was the harp, an ark, and the wonderful stone called Lia-fail, or stone of destiny..."
I must admit that at this point in the analysis I thoroughly lost interest in continuing. 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. Armstrong omits most of the historical material in Allen.
But is this plagiarism? Former member of The Beatles, George Harrison, was sued for plagiarism because his song My Sweet Lord closely resembled the much earlier song He’s So Fine. To determine if Harrison plagiarized the earlier song, My Sweet Lord was compared to other songs that appeared to sound like He’s So Fine. It was determined that although there may have been a surface similarity, the underlying musical forms were substantially different for the other songs, and only Harrison’s song demonstrated such a close affinity to He’s So Fine. The composer prevailed against Harrison.
Therefore, to settle the question as to Armstrong’s plagiarism of Allen, in addition to the material presented above we must ask ourselves one final question: Does any other British-Israel writing demonstrate as close a relationship with Allen as does Armstrong? I have about 30 British-Israel books in my private library, and I have read an additional 50 or so other works at various libraries around the country. I have never found one book that demonstrates such a remarkable similarity to Allen as does Armstrong. I challenge anyone to find another British-Israel book that so closely resembles Allen.
In my opinion, point (3), from the beginning of this article, is proved. The only honest conclusion is that Armstrong plagiarized Allen.
What Does It Matter?
Now for the obvious question: does the plagiarism matter?
My answer is, "no". Armstrong’s plagiarism does not diminish the truth of what he wrote. It does not affect our responsibility to that truth. It does not alter our work. It does not change the fact, in my opinion, that God used him to restore many vital truths to His Church.
Did Armstrong intentionally plagiarize? Yes. Armstrong may have had a limited formal education, but it is inconceivable that a man who was capable of running his own advertising business, and who later ran a $200-million-a-year church, was too dull to know what he was doing. Mr. Armstrong was quite intelligent and very capable.
Moreover, we are all familiar with his "six-month, intensive, day and night study" at the Portland library while he was trying to disprove several doctrines. Surely during that six month study he encountered things known as footnotes and bibliographies. But perhaps citing sources was not as critical then as now, someone will argue. That is simply not true—literary conventions regarding recognition of another’s work and appropriate citation have not changed that dramatically in 60 years, and if they had Armstrong had opportunity to properly cite Allen with each new edition of the US&BC. &
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