How Anglo-Israelism Entered Seventh-day Churches of God
(A History of the Doctrine from John Wilson to Joseph W. Tkach)
by Ralph Orr
Christians insist that the Bible is an authoritative witness in matters of faith, doctrine and ethics. However, this high view of Scripture has not produced doctrinal unity, and Christian interpretation of Scripture continues to be far from inerrant. Consequently, Christians hold a plethora of views over exactly what the Bible says.
Such diversity is largely a hermeneutical problem. How does one and how should one read the biblical text? Can one know what that text said to its first audience? Is that relevant to what the text should say to people today? Does a text ever say more than its author(s) intended? Can or should a text apply beyond its authorial intention? These are not simply the concerns of theologians, but of all for whom texts are a vital part of life.
The Christian church has produced many insightful interpreters of Scripture. It has also had its share of dilettantes whose nonsensical interpretations have sometimes caused great harm. Probably, the same has been true for all text-oriented professions. Notice the modern debates about the original meaning and present significance of the United States Constitution.
Of all the Bible’s varied literature, perhaps the most likely to be misinterpreted are its prophetic and apocalyptic passages. In America, most everyone has heard of people who claimed that the Bible predicted Jesus would return on a specific date. Such prophets assured everyone they were teaching the plain truths of Scripture.
Why do many Christians fall into this trap? Why have many confidently believed that they understood the Bible’s prophecies better than anyone else — that they alone figured out the day of the Lord’s return? Why also are many Christians drawn to the siren call of date-setting when the Bible sets no dates?
Christians long to be with Jesus and have the world set right. Such hope is sewn up with the return of the Lord. Such hope is good, yet needs to be tempered with wisdom.
Christian apologetics and evangelism can also head in wrong directions. Because Christians believe biblical prophecy points to the divine inspiration of Scripture, the prophetic books of the Bible are often used in their apologetics and evangelism. Yet some Christians, in their zeal to “prove” the Bible, misread the Bible. Such mishandling may bring more shame than converts.
Biblical understanding is corrupted further when its interpreters do not consider the multifaceted nature of biblical literature. While it is not difficult to grasp the moral messages of the biblical prophets, understanding many other facets of their messages requires a better-than-casual approach to each text. Exegesis benefits from an appreciation of the intricacies of the biblical languages and modes of expression. It requires consideration of the prophets’ literary genres, and it demands an awareness of a text’s original circumstances. Wise interpreters pay close attention to linguistic, literary, historical, cultural and canonical contexts. Unfortunately, too many Christians have read the Bible according to the literary and cultural standards of their own day, without considering that the Bible at its core is a collection of ancient Semitic and Greco-Roman texts. In some circles, people have a quickness to reject and ridicule informed scholarship that should have otherwise tempered their opinions.
Christians — clergy and laity alike — commonly share the fears, prejudices and political leanings prevalent in their social circles. Therefore, wise Christians consider that they may unconsciously read these attitudes into the Bible, especially into its prophecies. When this happens, instead of seeing the biblically prophesied future, Christians only see distorted reflections of themselves.
Unfortunately, the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible’s prophetic books is not encouraging. Misinterpretation has been rampant. Disappointment from failed prophetic doctrines all too common.
The Worldwide Church of God arose in such an environment. Highly influenced by both Adventist and Dispensationalist views of prophecy, it was quick to make specific pronouncements about nations it believed were mentioned in biblical prophecy. Date-setting was endemic. That it was founded during the Great Depression, at the time of the Dust Bowl, the rise of Fascism and Communism, Japanese expansionism and the modernist-fundamentalist controversies of the 1930s did not help. The end-times surely seemed to be here.
Overarching all of this was Anglo-Israelism, the belief that the Anglo-Saxon peoples are descendants of the “lost” tribes of Israel. How all this came to be is the subject of this paper. As such, it provides a case study in how a variety of factors, unchecked by sound scholarship and reason, can create interpretive errors on a grand scale affecting many lives. It also illustrates how current events can seem to support such interpretive errors, especially when such errors appear to explain social and political trends. Believers thus ignore contrary evidence. Finally, it provides a cautionary story for all Christians who may naively assume that they cannot fall for such tall tales. This history suggests otherwise.
The story of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) cannot be told without Herbert W. Armstrong, its apostle and prophet-like founder. For whatever reasons individuals aligned themselves with the WCG, its story up until 1986 is primarily the story of one man. Armstrong held absolute sway in the church. He determined all doctrine and any administrative matter with which he wanted to be concerned. Because Anglo-Israelism was an intimate part of his being, it was an important plank of the church.
Today the WCG no longer teaches Anglo-Israelism. Surprisingly, it has renounced Armstrong’s unique blend of teachings. What once was a sect, even a cult, on the fringes of Christianity, is now officially orthodox. However drastic the changes, a few in the WCG continue to respect Armstrong as the man through whom God brought them to salvation in Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, as this paper will show, that was not how Armstrong viewed his primary work.
The revolution of official WCG teachings occurred because its leaders believed Armstrong’s writings to be no less subject to investigation than mine or yours. They believed the church should ask of his teachings the same searching questions it should ask of anyone’s teachings. With that approach it was perhaps inevitable that they should ask, What aspects of Armstrong’s prophetic teachings were sound and what were unsound? Did culture and personal prejudice ever influence his teachings more than the Bible influenced them.
Armstrong wrote so much on biblical prophecy that this paper cannot cover it all. This study focuses, therefore, on the doctrine that shaped his entire thinking and ministry more than any other — Anglo-Israelism. How did that doctrine enter the WCG?
Herbert Armstrong Tests the Church of God (Seventh Day)
According to his autobiography, early in his conversion Armstrong believed that the Church of God (Seventh Day), a small Adventist sect, understood the Bible better than any other group. Therefore, in his mind it was the primary candidate for being God’s one true church. Yet how could such a weak minuscule group be God’s one and only church?
God’s church, he reasoned, should be willing to confess error and change. While Armstrong did not expect to find God’s church perfect in knowledge, he did expect to find it willing to grow in knowledge. Consequently, before he would become a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day), he decided to test its willingness to change.
As this paper will show, the above story is both idealized and sanitized. In his earliest years, Armstrong was quite open to accepting a wide range of Protestants as true servants of God. Only later did his concept of the church narrow down to those who kept the seventh-day Sabbath and had the name Church of God. His later recollections of these early events were shaped by these later conclusions.
His test of the Church of God (Seventh Day) assumed three things. First, that doctrine and a willingness to accept “new truth” were signposts of God’s work. Second, that a test of a church’s leader would be a sufficient test of the entire church. Third, that after less than two years as a Christian he understood the Bible well enough to administer such a test. Apparently it never occurred to him to ask the Church of God to test him. It was the Church of God (Seventh Day), not he, that was on trial.
His first test dealt with a minor difference over how to understand Matthew 28:1, one of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. The second test was greater. It dealt with biblical prophecies Armstrong thought were for the end-time House of Israel.
Prophecy had played an important role in converting Armstrong. When his wife, through the influence of members of the Church of God (Seventh Day), began to observe Saturday as the Sabbath, Armstrong became incensed. He plunged into a religious study that produced a temporary faith crisis. As he struggled over his faith he “realized that the place to start was to prove whether God exists and whether the Holy Bible is his revelation.” But how to do this? Though he studied several subjects, it was ultimately his investigation of Bible prophecy that led him to believe in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.
He concluded that “in every instance (except in prophecies about a time yet future), [biblical prophecy] had come to pass precisely as written!” (The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong [Pasadena, California: Worldwide Church of God, 1986], vol. 1, 296–7). It is no surprise, then, that prophecy continued to play an important role in his thinking and in his test of the Church of God (Seventh Day).
Like many fundamentalist Christians, the Church of God (Seventh Day) believed that numerous Old Testament prophecies about Israel had yet to be fulfilled. Their general Adventist perspective taught that God would eventually fulfill these prophecies among the Jews.
Armstrong thought otherwise. He believed Anglo-Israelism — the doctrine that the Anglo-Saxons of the United States and Britain were the true descendants of the House of Israel, while the Jews descended from Israel’s other division, the House of Judah — provided the key to understanding the Prophets. He concluded that instead of applying the House of Israel prophecies to the Jews, one should apply them to the United States and the British Commonwealth.
As we will prove later, Armstrong’s second test of the Church of God was a detailed presentation of his Anglo-Israelite views and by implication the special role Armstrong believed God had given him to be a prophet to the world. If the Church of God (Seventh Day) accepted what he had to say, Armstrong believed that would prove they were who they said they were, the Church of God. They would also become the first group to recognize his prophetic calling.
To this end, Armstrong shipped to A.N. Dugger, a leading reformist in the sect and the editor of the church’s paper, his thick Anglo-Israelite manuscript. After reading it,
Dugger appeared to accept its teachings. Yet he was unwilling to proclaim it. He wrote to Armstrong:<div align=”right”></div>
I am returning from the Arkansas conference… and have just finished the manuscript on the Third Angel’s Message and British Israel…. You have put much work on this and I am impressed to write you now while the matter is fresh on my mind…. I have seen no work near its equal in clearness and completeness. You surely are right, and while I cannot use it in the paper at the present you may be sure that your labor has surely not been in vain…. There is a purpose in your having gone into this matter so deeply… and you will hear more from these truths and the light herein revealed later. (A. N. Dugger to Herbert W Armstrong, 28 July 1929, The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, 1967 ed., 406)1
Dugger’s response deeply disappointed Armstrong.
Did this Church accept and proclaim this vital new truth — the key that unlocks the doors to all prophecy? Here was the key to understanding of one third of the whole Bible. But this Church refused then to accept it or preach it or publish it… though their leader frankly confessed it was truth and a revelation from God!
Yet here was the Church which appeared to have more truth, and less error than any other…. Truly, this was bewildering! (ibid., 346)
Armstrong could not understand why Dugger treated Anglo-Israelism casually. In Armstrong’s eyes, Anglo-Israelism powerfully improved the preaching of the gospel.
Armstrong’s bewilderment was compounded further by his already-formed deep conviction that God had commissioned only him to shout an Anglo-Israelite warning to the world. He saw himself as an end-time prophet preparing the way for the Lord. (How he came to this conviction, we will examine later). Though not directly expressed in his Autobiography, Armstrong believed as early as January 1929 that the rejection of Anglo-Israelism was tantamount to rejecting him as God’s special messenger.
But was Anglo-Israelism “new truth” — or had the Church of God heard it before?
The Origins of Anglo-Israelism
Anglo-Israelism did not originate with Armstrong. Some claim John Sadler as its father, who in 1649 speculated in Rights to the Kingdom that the English were descendants of Israel’s lost tribes.
Supposedly, in 1723 a Dr. Abade of Amsterdam wrote, “Unless the ten tribes have flown into the air…they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles.”2 Another version of this story calls him Dean Abbadie of Kilaloe, Ireland. The quotation in this version of the story is also different: “Unless the ten lost tribes of Israel are flown into the air…they must be those ten Gothic tribes, that entered Europe in the fifth century…and founded the ten nations of modern Europe.” The quotation is supposed to have been published in his book Triomphe de la Religion.3 That there exists two
versions of this story, which spell Abade’s name two different ways and place him in two different countries casts doubts on its authenticity.
A.B. Grimaldi is the source of the second of these two stories. An unabashed turn-of-the-century Anglo-Israelite, he made no attempt to distinguish between various Anglo-Israelite speculations. He uncritically classified anyone who identified Britain as Israel with teaching that we know today as Anglo-Israelism. Yet modern Anglo-Israelism can differ significantly with other views that seem on the surface to be the same.
Grimaldi claimed I.H. Frere as an early Anglo-Israelite. His book The Prophecies of David, Esdras, and John was said to have been published in 1815. In 1816, Reverend B. Murphy is said to have published Proofs That Israelites Came From Egypt Into Ireland. Murphy’s second book, Advocate of Israel and the Isle of Erin was published in 1817. However, despite these early-19th-century works, Grimaldi identified the first author to advocate modern Anglo-Israelism as Ralph Wedgwood. His The Book of Remembrance was published in 1841. Grimaldi said it was a two-volume work, the only copy of which was alleged to be in the British Library.4
Other scholars believe Anglo-Israelism began with Richard Brothers, a Canadian madman. Around 1800 Brothers both amused and irritated the upper echelons of English society. Troubled by visions, Brothers claimed to be God’s prophet called to warn London of its impending doom. Armageddon was coming. Of all the centers of evil and corruption, Parliament was singled out for God’s special wrath. He identified it as the beast of Revelation to which God gave the number 666.
Brothers increased his comic infamy by claiming direct descent from King David, through the apostle James, the brother of Jesus. God told him, Brothers said, that he was the “nephew of the Almighty.” As prophet, Brothers claimed to have received a revelation that the English people were racially Israelites.
Brothers reasoned that since he was a descendant of King David and the English were Israelites, only he had the right to be king of England. George III disagreed. He had Brothers convicted of treason and sent to an asylum.
Brothers used Scripture to justify his claims. Yet ultimately the “revelation” that England was Israel did not come from the Bible. It came from his madness.
Brothers died insane in 1824. Before his death, his caretakers released him, thinking him to be harmless. From his release until his death, a handful of his disciples provided for his needs. They continued publishing his ideas until 1850, 26 years after his death.5
In the waning years of Brothers’ cult, modern Anglo-Israelism became popularized through the writings of John Wilson. This is where the story really begins. Wilson based his theories on his interpretation of Scripture, not on a madman’s dreams. While there are similarities between what Wilson and Brothers taught, there are many significant differences. To date, no one has produced a single passage from Wilson that was clearly influenced by Brothers, this despite the fact that Brother’s cult and Wilson’s writings overlapped. In fact, if Grimaldi’s research is correct, it suggests that people other than Brothers are the more likely candidates for having influenced Wilson. Did these earlier writers actually exist? If they did, did they have ties either to Brothers or to Wilson? At the present we cannot say. In any case, though Wilson may not be the originator of modern Anglo-Israelism, he should be remembered for popularizing the belief.6
Wilson published his exposition of Anglo-Israelism, titled Our Israelitish Origin, in 1840. The public’s demand for copies resulted in several editions, in both England and America. The American edition came out in 1850. According to a handwritten note in a copy of this edition, the then widely-known George Storrs read and recommended it.7 If this notation is correct, Storrs is one of the earliest American Anglo-Israelites.
To understand the significance of Storrs to our story, we need to quickly review the history of the Millerite movement and the origins of the Seventh-day Adventist church. As students of American church history know, Millerism, the parent of Adventism, was like Anglo-Israelism in that both grew out of a fascination with biblical prophecy. Because both arose at about the same time, it was inevitable that students of both movements would read the works of each other.
Millerites believed that Jesus would return sometime in the period of 1843-45. Believers should warn others and prepare themselves for the coming Judgment. The movement began with William Miller, a poor and reluctant Baptist preacher from rural New York state. Miller’s message was almost ignored by the public until Joshua Himes accepted it. Himes used his extensive advertising and publishing skills to spread the word.
Millerites first proclaimed the autumn of 1843, then the spring and later the autumn of 1844, as God’s appointed time. When their predictions failed, their humiliation became known as the Great Disappointment.
Millerism had penetrated Great Britain by 1840, the same year Our Israelitish Origin was published. There the Disappointment delayed a year because many British Millerites thought 1845, not 1844, was the expected year. In Britain, converts to Millerism usually came from smaller, prophetically-oriented churches on the fringes of British Christianity. These believers generally took a literalistic approach to Scripture. Often their prophetic views were bookish, lacking any social impact. By 1845, British Millerism had attracted offshoots of the Anglo-Israelite movement.8
In America, Miller encouraged his followers to read British books on biblical prophecy. It seems there was some communication between American Millerites and various British prophecy buffs. Thus, Millerism helped set the stage for the introduction of Anglo-Israelism into the United States. That would explain how George Storrs, a former Millerite, came to recommend Our Israelitish Origins. It may also be one reason why the book sold so well in this country.
Before Anglo-Israelism reached America’s shores, the Great Disappointment had led to the collapse of Millerism and the discrediting of its leaders. Most Millerites returned to their former churches. Those who did not, because they continued preaching Jesus’ imminent second advent, became known as Adventists. At first, their numbers included only a handful of seventh-day Sabbatarians.
After the Great Disappointment, George Storrs continued working for the Adventist cause. Storrs’ most important contribution to Adventism came the day he started teaching that the dead were unconscious. Storrs believed the dead are not in heaven, nor are they in hell. They are asleep in their graves. People, he said, do not have immortal souls. They must be given eternal life through Jesus Christ at the resurrection of the saints.
Storrs discovered this doctrine while riding in a railroad car. He literally picked it up off the floor, where he had found a tract on the subject written by an independent Sunday-keeping preacher. Storrs popularized the teaching among Adventists. “Soul-sleep” thus became an identifying tenet of most Adventist sects.
Although many Adventists opposed sect-formation — on the grounds that churches immediately became Babylonian when formally organized — most Adventists came to see organization as better than no organization. Thus, groups began to coalesce around sets of doctrines that distinguished them from other groups. Their differences often revolved around the Sabbath, the nature of the millennium, the state of the dead, church government and the prophetess Ellen G. White. Her teachings led directly to the founding of the largest of these new groups, the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Coalescence among Adventists continued until the 1920s, a period of about 80 years. In this century the tendency has been to divide rather than to coalescence. Since the First World War, dozens of offshoots have sprung from these parent groups.
Storrs was a part of the coalescence. In 1863 he helped found the smallest of the Adventist bodies, the Sunday-observing Life and Advent Union. In 1964 the Life and Advent Union merged with the larger Advent Christian Church. Although the Life and Advent Union represented an extremely small branch of Adventism, Storrs’ influence far exceeded its meager numbers. Every branch of Adventism, including the Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of God (Seventh Day), Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God owe their doctrines of conditional immortality to him.9
Because of Storrs’ widespread influence, a recommendation by him of Our Israelitish Origins would have spread Anglo-Israelism among American Adventists. One can be reasonably certain that if George Storrs recommended a book, then others would have read it.
One who may have followed Storrs’ alleged recommendation was the evangelist R.V. Lyon. As far as we can tell, Lyon never claimed that Anglo-Saxons were Israelites. Yet what he wrote about Israel in prophecy, and coming as they do after the popularity of Our Israelitish Origin, strongly suggest Anglo-Israelite influence.
Lyon has been misidentified as a Church of God (Seventh Day) minister.10 The confusion arises because Lyon, though not a Sabbath keeper, had influence within the Church of God (Seventh Day). Ordained a Baptist preacher, Lyon left the Baptists to become a Millerite. After the Great Disappointment he settled in a group that later joined with other groups to form the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith). The denomination has since changed its name to the Church of God General Conference. Some of its congregations continue to use the older name.11 The church taught conditional immortality, an earthly kingdom of God and, most important for our discussion, Israel’s restoration to Palestine.
So strongly did this group emphasize their belief in Israel’s restoration, that they have also been known as the Restoration Church of God.12 While restorationism creates a receptive atmosphere for Anglo-Israelism, we know of no one from among the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith) who was Anglo-Israelite. Lyon came close. As we will see, it is but a short step from Lyon’s restorationism to classic Anglo-Israelism.
The shortness of the step is evident in Lyon’s conviction that the Jews do not represent all of end-time Israel. In his writings, Lyon emphasized the biblical story of how Israel divided into two nations, Judah and Israel. Each suffered its own captivity. Only Judah returned from its captivity. These are the Jews of today. The rest of Israel supposedly continued to exist separate from the Jews, but having lost their identity to all but God. Though mingled among the nations, God miraculously has preserved them as a distinct people. This premise is the classic basis of Anglo-Israelism and is what suggests that Lyon was influenced by such thought.
Lyon believed Ezekiel 37:15–28 to be an important restorationist prophecy. It speaks of the reunification of Judah and Israel, and how they are again to be ruled by one king — David. In interpreting this passage, Lyon applied both a literalist and a typological hermeneutic. He seemed unaware of his inconsistency. First we will review his typological explanation. In his booklet The Scattering and Restoration of Israel, Lyon explained that the “David” of Ezekiel 37 was actually Jesus.13 His explanation is in line with much Christian thought, for many Christians have long considered David a type of Jesus.
Consider Ezekiel’s broader message, wherein a primary theme is Israel’s violation of the old covenant (16:8, 59–62; 17:13–19). Ezekiel testified to their commandment breaking and defilement of the temple. Long before Ezekiel’s day, sin lay behind the northern tribes’ rebellion against the Davidic monarchy and the subsequent bifurcation of the nation. Eventually, Babylon invaded Judah, taking away many captives. God called Ezekiel to proclaim to his fellow Israelite captives the final collapse of Judah, the destruction of the temple and the apparent end of Davidic rule.
Accompanying Ezekiel’s message of doom is one of hope. In chapter 20 Ezekiel proclaims God as Israel’s king (20:33). As savior, God will deliver them from their tribulation. He will bring them within the bond of the covenant (v. 37). The nation will revive within this renewed relationship (vv. 40-44). In chapter 37 Ezekiel prophesies that God will revive Israel, a people described as dead dry bones lying in an open field. God will place his spirit within them, giving them life (Ezekiel 37:13–4).
Ezekiel 37:15–27 builds on and expands this theme. Ezekiel explains that their king and savior — who in chapter 20 is God — will dwell in their midst (v. 27). He will then make a new covenant with them (v. 26). Israel will again be God’s people (v. 27). Unlike the old covenant that they violated, the new covenant will be everlasting.
Other Old Testament prophets spoke of a David, and a son of David, who would lead Israel with righteousness (Isaiah 11:1–3; 9:6–7, 16:5; Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15). Christians saw this fulfilled in Jesus. In the New Testament Jesus is the new David/Solomon (Revelation 5:5; 22:16). Not only is Jesus a literal descendant of David (Matthew 1; John 7:42; 2 Timothy 2:8), but also in him are the Davidic promises fulfilled. He is the one to sit on David’s throne (Luke 1:32). His kingdom is the kingdom of David (Mark 11:10). With the founding of the church, God raises David’s tabernacle (Acts 15:13–19). As the antitype of Solomon, Jesus is the Son of David (Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30–31; 21:19; 15). The Psalms, the church believes, point to David as the type and Jesus as the antitype (Acts 2:25, 34; 4:25; 13:33, 35). Hebrews applies scriptures to Jesus that originally referred to Solomon (Hebrews 1:5; 2 Samuel 7:13–14). It is Jesus who fulfills God’s promise that David would never lack an heir (Acts 13:34–36). The New Testament does not look to a resurrected David, for it has a resurrected Christ (Acts 2:25–36; 13:34–37).
As the Messianic type, the original David had reunited the tribes (2 Samuel 5:1–5). Thus, Ezekiel 37 looks typologically to a then-future “David” who will bring a greater reunity. “David” is to reign over Israel when God establishes his new covenant with them. The Christian belief that the new covenant is here suggests that in some sense “David” reigns.
Lyon, having started typologically, then applied a literalist hermeneutic to every other part of Ezekiel 37. So, although David was understood typologically, the reunification of Israel that David would bring about was thought to be literal. Lyon did not explain how he justified his inconsistency.
Lyon further reasoned that Ezekiel 37 would be fulfilled during the Millennium, a future time when Jesus would reign over the earth for 1000 years. Lyon thus rejected the idea that Israel’s reunification would occur typologically in new Israel, the church.
In his discussion, Lyon ignored the early chapters of Ezekiel, which speak of Israelites and Jews as already dwelling together (see Ezekiel chapters 3-4, 8-11). Missing also was Jesus’ claim that the Jews were “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). For Jesus, “House of Israel” and “Jews” were synonymous. Finally, Lyon did not discuss the New Testament’s witness that God has already made the new covenant with spiritual Israel — the church (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:6). Lyon argued that the church must look beyond the Jews to find Israel today. Yet to the question, Where is Israel today? Lyon offered no answer. Lyon cuddled up to Anglo-Israelism, but apparently did not embrace it.
So why mention him? Lyon is important because he had influence far beyond what became the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith). By the American Civil War, Lyon was evangelizing in widely separated areas of the Great Lakes region of both the United States and Canada. Additionally, for 30 years until his death in 1891, Lyon sent his free literature to anyone who requested it. He had readers throughout Northern America. Though not widely known among the general public, Lyon and his prophetic doctrines were known and welcomed among Adventists who later formed the Church of God (Seventh Day).
Throughout the latter 1800s and early 1900s, there were many contacts between restorationists such as R.V. Lyon and ministers of what became the Church of God (Seventh Day).14 While doctrines about the Sabbath were different, both groups had much in common, including a fascination with Israel. While it was not until 1874 that elements of the future Church of God (Seventh-Day) published Lyon’s prophetic viewpoints, his influence was indirectly felt earlier than that, through the person of R.W. Reed.
Reed was a member of the Sabbath-observing Church of Christ at Marion, Iowa.15 In those years, the congregations that later formed the Church of God (Seventh Day) acted independently of each other. In the mid-1860s members of the Marion congregation revived the defunct Hope of Israel, which later became The Bible Advocate. The paper was a local production supported by private contributions from around the country. Reed was instrumental in the paper’s revival.
Like Lyon, Reed believed there was more to national Israel than the Jews. In 1868 he wrote an article for The Hope of Israel explaining this position.16 A comparison between Reed’s 1868 articles and Lyon’s earlier 1861 tract, The Scattering and Restoration of Israel, clearly shows the influence of Lyon on Reed. In every point Reed
followed Lyon’s arguments. The influence is obvious. And just like Lyon, Reed left the question unanswered: If a non-Jewish Israel still exists, where is it?
In the following years, the Marion church paper failed financially two more times. Even changing its name to The Advent and Sabbath Advocate did not increase its appeal to Sabbatarian Adventists. Its salvation came in March 1874 when Jacob Brinkerhoff spent all his savings to keep it going.
Jacob Brinkerhoff Confronts Anglo-Israelism
Brinkerhoff assumed sole editorial responsibility for the paper, shortening its name to The Sabbath Advocate. He continued its previous policy of publishing opposing views on a variety of biblical subjects. Yet his openness had limits. He allowed nothing that questioned the observance of the Sabbath, an earthly kingdom of God or that supported the Seventh-day Adventist church and Ellen G. White. The Iowa brethren supported the paper and viewed it as a church rather than a private publication.
Shortly after taking over the paper, Brinkerhoff reprinted Lyon’s tract about Israel. Though the question, Where are the lost tribes? remained unanswered, it was not long before some Sabbatarian Adventists thought they knew the answer. In 1884 the paper reported that a Brother Ellsworth believed in Anglo-Israelism and had converted several to it. This is the earliest known statement unambiguously showing that some Sabbatarian Adventists had accepted Anglo-Israelism, though as we pointed out earlier, the belief had entered the Millerite movement in England before 1845.
Brinkerhoff became concerned with this report. He wrote an article in response that ridiculed Anglo-Israelism.17 Six months later he published a second, more lengthy refutation.18 However, the issue would not die. Just two issues after this refutation, in early 1885, Brinkerhoff reprinted an article from the otherwise unknown Bible Banner.19 Though not relevant to the article’s main theme, it nevertheless casually commented that England was Israel. Brinkerhoff responded by remarking that the idea lacked any supporting evidence.20
We do not hear of Anglo-Israelism in any Church of God (Seventh Day) publication for several decades. One should not assume, however, that the idea was purged from the group. Christians often hold beliefs different from those held by church hierarchies, and it is always difficult to trace the history of such beliefs when they never reach publication. We can only note when they occasionally pop up.
Considering that the prophetic future of Israel remained a hot topic within the Church of God (Seventh Day), it would not be surprising to see Anglo-Israelism appearing once again. And so it was. According to later testimony, Merritt Dickinson accepted the doctrine in 1900. The Dickinson family had spent three years in Jerusalem, after which they settled in Oklahoma. It was while in Oklahoma that Dickinson became an Anglo-Israelite.
Dickinson and Dugger Discuss Anglo-Israelism
A Dickinson family tradition says that in 1912 Merritt Dickinson and Andrew Dugger discussed Anglo-Israelism. (This is the same Dugger that later corresponded with Armstrong.) Dugger allegedly commented, “You can preach about that [Anglo-Israelism] if you want to, and there may be some truth to it; but you can’t get anywhere with the people.”21
Andrew’s father had been an Advent Christian minister before accepting the Sabbath. Afterwards, the older A.F. Dugger helped to create the first General Conference of the Church of God (Adventist). The sect was now organized on a national level. It is this group that later became the Church of God (Seventh Day). In 1884, Dugger’s father was elected to become the General Conference’s first vice-president and in that position established the sect’s first Sabbath school department. He was also a contributing editor to the church’s paper, which had been purchased from Brinkerhoff. In 1905 the conference elected the elder Dugger to be the paper’s managing editor.22
In 1906 Andrew Dugger became an elder. Although he had not completed college, he was a school teacher, and allegedly he was the most educated Church of God (Seventh Day) minister of his day. Eight years later he assumed the editorship of the church paper, a position he held for two eventful decades. By now the paper was known as The Bible Advocate.
The Seven-Times Theory
World War I began the year A.N. Dugger became editor of The Bible Advocate. Years before, Dugger’s father had believed that a great war would break out sometime between 1912 and 1914. Dugger later explained that his father’s belief sprung from his interpretation of Leviticus 26:27–8.23 In the King James Version that prophecy reads “And if ye will…walk contrary unto me [the Lord]; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins” (Leviticus 26:27–28).
As modern translations make clear, the words seven times mean sevenfold. In other words, the prophesied curses on ancient Israel would be in intensity seven times more than their sins. A.F. Dugger misunderstood seven times as seven periods of time.
How did the older Dugger apply this misunderstanding about “times” to arrive at the remarkably accurate conclusion that a great war would break out between 1912 and 1914? The process he followed is complicated. First, he followed a common Adventist assumption that one prophetic “time” equals one year. Thus seven “times” are said to equal seven years. Making another assumption that a prophetic year has 360 days, A.F. Dugger then multiplied seven years by 360. The result was 2,520 days. He then applied the assumption that each day represented one year. In effect, he had turned the years into days, then back into years again. The seven times became seven years, then 2,520 days, then 2,520 years. After all this math, the older Dugger concluded he had discovered how long God was cursing the Jews.
Even if one accepts that all these numeric gymnastics are valid, for Christians this line of reasoning has another significant problem. Leviticus 26 says God imposed the curses for violation of the old covenant (Leviticus 26:2, 9, 15, 25). It adds that the covenant relationship would be reestablished on national repentance, not upon the passing of a certain time span (verses 40–42). Such was also the message of the Prophets (e.g., Isaiah 24:4–5; Jeremiah 11:10; 22:8–9; Ezekiel 16:8, 59–62, Daniel 11:30, 32; Hosea 8:1).
Further, for Leviticus 26 to have any modern application requires the continued validity of the old covenant. That God prophesied the end of the old covenant and the establishment of a new — an event fulfilled in Christ — seems not to have affected A.F. Dugger’s prophetic teaching (cf. Zechariah 11:10; Hosea 2:18–20; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 7:22, 8:6–13). Hebrews 8:13 says that the old covenant was obsolete, was growing old, and was about to disappear. Yet fundamental to A.F. Dugger’s exegesis, is the imposition of the old covenant blessings and cursings on modern peoples.
A.F. Dugger did understand that Leviticus’ curses began to climax with Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem. He went wrong in attempting to figure out when and why they would end. To begin solving this nonpuzzle, A.F. Dugger incorrectly dated Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem to 606 B.C. He next calculated 2,520 years forward and came to A.D. 1914. He thus concluded that in 1914, God would remove the ancient curse that had long blocked the restoration of the Jewish state. Further, A.F. Dugger believed that the coming of the Jewish state would end what Jesus called the “times of the Gentiles.” In Luke’s version of the Olivet prophesy, Jesus said “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24, KJV). With their passing, Dugger believed Jesus’ return could not be far behind.
Although the First World War began in 1914 and produced the Balfour Declaration that led to a Jewish state, it is no confirmation that A.F. Dugger was right. He misinterpreted Leviticus 26, misdated the first siege of Jerusalem and miscalculated by two years the end of the nonexistent 2,520-year curse.24
Misinterpretations of Scripture, no matter how many events are claimed in their support, are misinterpretations still. To rely on such misinterpretations is to set oneself up for a spiritual crisis. No mathematical scheme, no historic or current event, can make them correct.
A.F. Dugger did not originate the seven-times theory. The now forgotten but once popular British evangelical H. Grattan Guinness may have been the first to propose it.25 Guinness’ first book, The Approaching End of the Age, was originally published in 1878. Extremely popular, it went through 13 editions between 1878 and 1897. After his death, E.H. Horne produced in 1918 a revised and abridged edition of this most popular of Guinness’ books. People were still buying his books into the 1930s.
Of the 2,520 years, Guinness wrote, “This is inferred from Scripture rather than distinctly stated in it.”26 Having admitted this, however, Guinness proceeded to detail an elaborately complex prophetic scheme. Though once popular, his date-setting probably doomed him to obscurity. It was Guinness who interpreted the 2,520 years as “the times of the Gentiles.” In his second book, Light for the Last Days, Guinness elaborated. He dedicated four chapters to the seven “times” idea.27 Amazingly, Guinness proposed not one time span of 2,520 years, but many. These spans ended in 1884, 1889, 1893, 1898, 1906, 1915, 1917, 1923 and 1933–4.28 Of all these, 1917 was the most important.
The year is…doubly indicated as a final crisis date, in which the “Seven Times” run out….There can be no question that those who live to see this year 1917 will have reached one of the most important, perhaps the most momentous, of these terminal years of crisis. (Light for the Last Days, 253, 255)
In Britain, Guinness was a much sought-after evangelical speaker on biblical prophecy.29 His fame spread to America, where many read his books. Apparently A.F. Dugger was among them, for Richard Nickels reports that in the 1890s Dugger published some of Guinness’ prophetic ideas in the Advocate.30 The trail of the 2,520-year-curse theory begins with the evangelical Guinness, goes through the Adventist Dugger, to become an important part of early 20th-century Church of God teaching.
There may have also been another influence. An independent Sunday-observing Adventist named Jonas Wendell had claimed Jesus would return in 1874. After that date passed, Wendell replaced it with 1914.31 He too calculated 2,520 years to get there. Wendell’s scheme came before Guinness’ and was based not on Leviticus but on Daniel.32
The King James Version of Daniel 4 says that Nebuchadnezzar would be insane for seven “times.” Wendell saw this as a type of the “time of the Gentiles.” In other words, Nebuchadnezzar’s seven times of insanity, thought to be 2,520 days long, was assumed to be a typological prediction of the 2,520 years divinely allotted for the “time of the Gentiles.”
One of Wendell’s personal converts, Charles Taze Russell, soon started his own movement. The Russelites, as they were known by their detractors, have since evolved into the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As did the older Dugger, they count the “time of the Gentiles” from Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem. Like the older Dugger, they also incorrectly date that siege, but unlike him date it at 607 B.C. From this erroneous date, they calculate to 1914. Just as World War I confirmed to the Church of God
(Seventh Day) that it properly understood prophecy, so it does for many Jehovah’s Witnesses.
World War I also seemed to support Anglo-Israelism. Anglo-Israelites would claim that Israel, represented by the British Empire, had liberated Jerusalem from the Muslim Turks. The “time of the Gentiles” had ended. Beginning with the Balfour Declaration, the English “Israelites” would give Jerusalem to their brothers, the Jews.
G.G. Rupert’s Unique Anglo-Israelism
Besides the earlier mentioned Dickinson, another Oklahoma Sabbath keeper who embraced his own unique form of Anglo-Israelism was G.G. Rupert. Rupert had been a Seventh-day Adventist missionary to South America and a regional conference leader in the United States. After leaving the Seventh-day Adventists, Rupert associated himself with the Church of God (Seventh Day).
Rupert’s unique version of Anglo-Israelism rejected the racial descent theory and replaced it with one of spiritual descent. Spiritual Judah, he said, was the Greek Orthodox Church. He identified spiritual Israel as the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant churches he labeled Ephraim, the leading tribe in Israel. America was also Ephraim because it was a Protestant stronghold. Rupert then ignored the contextual evidence that the book of Hosea was written to eighth-century B.C. Israel, and instead claimed its intended audience was Protestant America.
The Bible Advocate Publishes Anglo-Israelite Articles
In 1915, A.N. Dugger printed advertisements in The Bible Advocate for Rupert’s most famous book, The Yellow Peril. Though Rupert advertised in The Bible Advocate, he apparently never joined the Church of God (Seventh Day). He had his own following that probably developed through the readership of his own newspaper, The Remnant of Israel. After his death in the early 1920s, his wife continued Rupert’s work. She had to close the paper in 1929. Seventy years later, a small remnant of his disciples remain.33
Despite Rupert’s contacts with the Church of God (Seventh Day), no firm evidence exists that proves Rupert to be the source for either Dickinson’s or Armstrong’s Anglo-Israelism. Rupert’s Anglo-Israelism was not their Anglo-Israelism.
However, Armstrong did become familiar with Rupert’s work. Copies of Rupert’s publications were alleged to be seen among Armstrong’s possessions after his death. Similarities exist between festivals inspired by the Old Testament that Rupert observed and those kept by Armstrong. Yet an examination of Armstrong’s correspondence for the late 1920s proves that his Anglo-Israelite beliefs came from another direction.
Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright.
In 1917 A.A. Beauchamp issued his first edition of the Anglo-Israelite classic, J.H. Allen’s Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright. Though not of the Church of God, Allen greatly affected that sect. As we have mentioned, Merritt Dickinson was the first Church of God (Seventh Day) minister to preach Anglo-Israelism. He claimed that he accepted the doctrine around the year 1900, and that he discussed it with A.N. Dugger in 1912. A few years after that, Dickinson read Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright.34
Dickinson’s Anglo-Israelism received a favorable hearing. In 1919, he advocated his views in several articles published in The Bible Advocate. The Church of God even distributed one of them — “The Final Gathering of the Children of Israel” — as a booklet. So we have proof that Dugger was familiar with Anglo-Israelism at least ten years before Armstrong sent Dugger his manuscript.
The Great Pyramid
Through the years, bizarre beliefs have sometimes become attached to Anglo-Israelism. Among the oddest has been pyramidology. Pyramidologists claim that if one correctly interprets the measurements of the inner tunnels of the Great Pyramid of Giza one can know the future. Since both allegedly foretold the future, pyramidologists believed that one could use the Great Pyramid to help interpret Bible prophecies. More specifically, the Great Pyramid allegedly provided a key for the dating of when certain events would occur. Sadly, this quackery found its way into the Church of God (Seventh Day). (Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science provides an excellent critique of this belief.)
In spring 1927 The Bible Advocate published two articles that advocated pyramidology. The articles claimed that the Great Pyramid proved that the Great Tribulation would start on May 29, 1928.35 Here too, we find a tie-in with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their founder, Charles Taze Russell, believed in pyramidology. He used it to supplement the Scriptures in predicting Christ’s return. After Russell’s death, Judge Rutherford took over their organization. Rutherford did not care for pyramidology and moved the main body of Witnesses to reject it. This led to splits within their church.
[In 1928] Rutherford…openly condemned resorting to non-biblical sources in the attempt to discover the will and plan of God. He specifically mentioned the Great Pyramid as an example. This provoked violent criticism from older members of the movement who had grown up under Russell’s teaching and many of them withdrew. (Charles S. Braden, These Also Believe [New York: Macmillan, 1949], 362. See also Edward Charles Gruss, Apostles of Denial [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], 61–2)
Armstrong and the Great Pyramid
The pyramidology article in the Bible Advocate did not go unnoticed. Herbert Armstrong was captivated by its claims. To learn more, he wrote to its author in care of The Bible Advocate. The Advocate forwarded his letter to Reverend Lincoln McConnell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Saint Petersburg, Florida. Reverend McConnell responded to Armstrong’s inquiry on June 3, 1927. His letter set in motion a chain of events more momentous than either Armstrong or Reverend McConnell could imagine.
Yes, there are many strictly scientific proofs that The Great Pyramid is more than a mere tomb these days, and I advise you, if you want the REAL THING in the way of proof to send to the A.A. Beauchamp Pub. Co., 603 Boyston Street, Boston., Mass. and get Davidson’s great book on The Great Pyramid…. Then you will have plenty to occupy your time for months to come and will also have the most recent as well as the most scientific work ever written on the subject….
The most recent book on The Great Pyramid and a much easier one to read if you want this, is by “Discipulus,” and can be had of the same people…. Its special value lies in the fact that it connects Pyramid truth with “British”-Israel truth in a fine way. (Reverend Lincoln McConnell to Herbert W. Armstrong, 3 June 1927, Herbert W. Armstrong Papers collection [HWAP]), #867).
To emphasize his point, McConnell added,
I must say that if you really want to KNOW your Bible you will have to get the books on “Anglo-Israel”…. You will never know the real truth the BOOK is teaching without this key. This sounds radical perhaps, but you will see when you study it that it’s simple truth.
Armstrong took the challenge. As was his custom whenever studying a biblical subject, he went to Portland, Oregon’s public library. The library’s collection held several Anglo-Israel titles, including W.H. Poole’s Anglo-Israel or the Saxon Race, Samuel Albert Brown’s The House of Israel or the Anglo-Saxon, and the 1917 edition of J.H. Allen’s Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright.36
When Armstrong began his studies, the Pacific Northwest was already an Anglo-Israelite stronghold, which explains why the library held so many Anglo-Israelite titles. Perhaps Portland’s most prominent advocate of Anglo-Israelism was Reuben H. Sawyer, the pastor of Portland’s East Side Christian Church. An accomplished speaker and published Anglo-Israelite writer, Sawyer’s Anglo-Israelite activities became so demanding that to meet them he left the pastorate in 1921. For the next 16 years he lectured throughout the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. Largely through Sawyer’s efforts, Portland’s Anglo-Israel Research Society met twice monthly, had a lecture bureau and a bookstore.37 Before Armstrong ever went on the radio, Oregon already had a successful Anglo-Israelite preacher who traveled internationally.
To the extent that a movement as diffuse as British-Israelism had an inner circle, Reuben Sawyer was in it. In 1919–20 he was instrumental in the establishment of the movement’s umbrella organization, the British-Israel World Federation. He helped draft the federation’s constitution and attended the first federation congress in London in 1920 (as did J.H. Allen). At the congress, Sawyer gave three addresses and presided over a session. He also spoke to large British-Israel conferences in England. When the head of the federation. Herbert Garrison, journeyed to Canada in 1929, Reuben Sawyer was on hand in Toronto to greet him, and he appears on the list of the federation’s vice-patrons with the likes of the Marchioness Dowager of Headfort and Admiral Sir Richard H. Pierse. (Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right, 23)
Not surprisingly, the rise of Anglo-Israelite beliefs in Oregon paralleled the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. Here too, Sawyer was deeply involved.
The Oregon Klan occupied Sawyer from 1921 until 1924. His first task was to make the Klan acceptable to the general community by packaging its nativist politics in soothing rhetoric. He introduced the Klan to Portland with an address before six thousand people at the Municipal Auditorium on December 22, 1921…. He spoke in a similar vein the following year in Eugene, where he appeared on a stage decorated with a sword, Bible, flag, and image of a burning cross. When he lectured again in Portland, fifteen hundred people had to be turned away from a packed hall guarded by robed Klansmen. (Ibid., 24–5)
Sawyer’s embrace of the Klan helped to lay the seeds of what later became an anti-Semitic branch of Anglo-Israelism known as Christian Identity. We are reminded that not all Anglo-Israelites have taken this path by the fact that the centers of Klan activity, Portland and Eugene, also became fruitful soil for Armstrong’s seemingly pro-Semitic Anglo-Israelism. That there were overlapping influences between the groups seems likely.
When Armstrong began his Anglo-Israelite studies in the Portland library, he took some time to familiarize himself with its and other Anglo-Israelite works. Then, taking the advice of McConnell, he wrote to Beauchamp asking for more information on both Anglo-Israelism and on the Great Pyramid.
I have heard that the most recent book on the Great Pyramids is one by “Discipulus,” published by you. I know nothing about this book, but if it is authoritative, giving accurate and reliable measurements of the interior passages as well as other measurements, I want it.
I have seen the works by Smyth, and have read The Miracle in Stone by Seiss. If this book is equally authoritative and dependable, but giving more recent data and information, you may send it to me at once, C.O.D.
What do you regard as the most authoritative and dependable book on the Anglo-Israel theory? I have seen many on this subject which I could not regard as at all reliable. One book which I have read, Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright, by Allen, appears to be more reliable than others I have seen. (Armstrong to A.A. Beauchamp Publishing Co., 28 March 1928)
Armstrong’s letter reveals a familiarity with the more famous pyramidology works. He has read Seiss’ The Miracle in Stone and seen the works of Charles Piazzi Smyth. Of these, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid by Smyth has historically been the most influential pyramidology book.
Our Inheritance is a classic of its kind. Few books illustrate so beautifully the ease with which an intelligent man, passionately convinced of a theory, can manipulate his subject matter in such a way as to make it conform to previously held opinions. (Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science [New York: Dover, 1957], 176)
Equally popular, if not as influential, was Miracle in Stone. It underwent 14 editions. Armstrong had read them both. As we have seen, Armstrong did not write Beauchamp merely to ask about pyramidology. He also asked for an opinion about Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright, which by then he had read. Armstrong seemed unaware that Beauchamp was the publisher of Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright. For him to ask Beauchamp for an opinion as to its validity is like asking the pope if one should be Catholic.
In reply, Beauchamp commented about both pyramidology and Anglo-Israelism. As to “Discipulus’” pyramidology book, he said it was
very good and up to date. Much of the information is based on a book by Davidson entitled The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message. It…is one of the most remarkable and most interesting things that I ever read on the subject after Smyth’s great work….
I am sending you…a series of articles by Davidson…. They confirm in every respect the noble work done by Piazzi Smyth and for which he suffered scorn and ridicule.
Then he added,
You ask my opinion as to the most dependable book on the Israel theory? I have always thought myself that Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright was the best book. (A.A. Beauchamp to Armstrong, 5 April 1928, HWAP, #874).
Beauchamp, publisher of Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright, enclosed with his letter a 12-page catalogue of all his publications. It would be fascinating to know what was in that catalogue and if Armstrong ordered anything from it. It might be particularly insightful to know if Armstrong subscribed to Beauchamp’s magazine The New Watchman, (1922–?), originally called The Watchman of Israel, (1918-1922). As we will see, the idea of being an end-time watchman to modern Israel became an important part of Armstrong’s ministry. Did he pick up this theme from Beauchamp?38
Beauchamp was an interesting character. Before his correspondence with Armstrong he had converted to a now-defunct offshoot of Christian Science called the Church of Integration. His publishing house became the principal means by which the Church of Integration grew. Through his influence, Anglo-Israelism became the central perspective of the sect, while its prophetess, Annie C. Bill, became increasingly fascinated with pyramidology.39
By the time Armstrong wrote to Beauchamp, he had already corresponded about Anglo-Israelism with his friends the Runcorns. In a lengthy letter to them he mentioned that he and his wife were nearly convinced of Anglo-Israelism’s truthfulness, but they had yet to make a final decision. Nevertheless, he felt confident enough to speculate that God never intended the Sabbath to be for Gentiles, but for one race only — Israel. “In that case, the Sabbath, not being intended for the rest of the world, was not part of the Gospel of Christ, nor of the Apostles.” He also wondered if modern racial Israel, to inherit their Abrahamic blessings again, must become Sabbatarian besides becoming Christian. “But, unless they accept, also the Sabbath, they are not recognized in the sight of God as of Israel, subject to those special and higher blessings — higher than salvation — an additional reward.”40
The union of Anglo-Israelism with Sabbatarianism later became an important part of Armstrong’s preaching on these subjects. The union he created between these two doctrines explains much of his future work. He commented,
Now as my mind works on this subject, it appears thus: The theory is that England and the U.S. are descendants of Joseph. The Jews are the descendants of Judah, and possibly also of Benjamin and Levi. If we have them located, then where are the other eight tribes? Why, why not right here in the U.S., mixed, thru immigration and inter-marriage between different races? They would all be of the white race. We have married and intermarried with other white races, but not with Negroes, Japs, or Chinese, or Indians….
Now if my theory is worth anything, it is this: Salvation is for all the world who will come to Jesus and accept it, regardless of race. But the special blessings, many of which I believe are to pertain to the next world,
promised Israel, are for that one blood race alone. (Armstrong to Mr. and Mrs. Runcorn, 28 February 1928, HWAP, #807, 4–5)
Shortly after writing this letter, Armstrong was convinced. In spring 1928 he wrote to Dugger, telling him of his plans to write several manuscripts about both Anglo-Israelism and evolution. Dugger replied, “Your manuscripts…will be read with pleasure” (Dugger to Armstrong, 20 April 1928, HWAP, #871). The door was now open for Armstrong to advocate Anglo-Israelism within the Church of God.
About the same time he approached the Church of God (Seventh Day) about publishing his Anglo-Israelite and antievolution views, he was also approaching A.A. Beauchamp with the same idea. To Beauchamp he wrote,
I wonder if there is not a real need, as well as a ready market, for a new book on the Anglo-Israel subject?…. I have read very little, as yet, of the book by Discipulus. However, judging from what little I have had an opportunity to read, I do not believe this book as sound and authoritative as the one by Allen. (Armstrong to Beauchamp, 4 May 1928, HWAP, #873, 1–2).
For historians and literary critics, Armstrong’s following comments are most enlightening.
The book I have in mind would follow, in great measure, the line of thought and proof offered by Allen. I would endeavor to keep it as dependable and as sound in its arguments as Allen’s. But the ground covered by Allen would be covered in boiled-down form, condensed where possible…. The book would be written, moreover, in an entirely different style….
If you believe there is a need and a market for such a book, and you would care to consider the possibility of undertaking to publish it, then I should like to go into the matter further and in more detail with you. (Ibid., 2–3, emphasis mine)
Armstrong also told Beauchamp that he had an offer to publish his antievolution book (an apparent reference to his correspondence with A.N. Dugger). “But [I] am afraid the publishing house in question is not equipped to turn out as up-to-date and attractive a job as I feel will be necessary.”
Beauchamp’s reply came quickly.
Your letter of May 4 at hand. In reply will say that I am quite sure that I would not be interested in publishing the book on evolution and as for the one on Israel I would not offer a great deal of encouragement. There have been three or four books on that subject brought out the last year, and I am now at work on the manuscript of one by the author of Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright, which I expect to publish some time during the fall. (Beauchamp to Armstrong, 9 May 1928, HWAP, #5044).41
With this rebuff, Armstrong’s only encouragement came from A.N. Dugger. As Armstrong prepared his manuscript, he continued to learn all he could about Anglo-Israelism. Elder A.H. Stith informed him that S.S. Davison of Fairview, Oklahoma, had some Anglo-Israelite tracts written by Alfuc Davison that Armstrong could obtain by writing to him.42 The Davisons had been Church of God ministers for several generations. (Alfuc is probably Alpheus Davison.)
Davison’s Anglo-Israelite views were known within the Church of God (Seventh Day) and clearly came before Armstrong’s. Whether Davison had influenced Merritt Dickinson or vice-versa is unknown. Davison’s response to Armstrong, if any, has not survived.
By January 1929 Armstrong had begun writing his manuscript. He was getting ready to put the Church of God to the test. On January 1 he wrote Dugger to remind him of his project. In his letter Armstrong presented Anglo-Israelism with a new twist, a twist he hoped would make his book more attractive to Dugger. He claimed that Anglo-Israelism, as he presented it, shed new light on a longstanding Church of God doctrine, the Third Angel’s Message. Dugger replied that he would welcome any new information Armstrong could provide about the Message.43
The Third Angel’s Message
What is the Third Angel’s Message? The Third Angel’s Message is an old Adventist teaching based on a misunderstanding of Revelation 14. It has played an important role in shaping both Seventh-day Adventist and Church of God (Seventh Day) ideas of their mission. The passage in question reads:
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth…. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God. (Revelation 14:6–10)
The Church of God (Seventh Day) believed these messages referred to their work. They explained Revelation 14 in this manner,
There is no question; but, after a thorough consideration is given all texts concerned, that the First Angel’s Message embraces the proclamation of the everlasting gospel in the apostolic age, which continues to the end. The Second Angel’s Message includes the great Protestant reformation which illuminated the earth with light and was a direct cry against the corruption of Babylon, while the Third Angel’s Message sounds forth the final warning to the world, taking with it all accompanying light as yet unrevealed, preparing a people who will worship God “in spirit and in truth.”… The Church of God is the body of people called to carry forth this wonderful work. (A.N. Dugger, The Bible Home Instructor [Jerusalem, Israel: Mt. Zion Press, 1982 reprint of an earlier Church of God publication], 338, 335)
The Church of God (Seventh Day) taught that the commandments — especially the Sabbath command — were associated with that final warning.
Again the Third Angel’s Message has for its creed “The commandments of God and the testimonies of Jesus”…. It is the remnant church that holds to the commandments of God and the testimonies of Jesus…. The commandments of God and the testimonies of Jesus and no other testimonies form the creed of the last message….
Everyone knows that the Catholic church…observes Sunday today…. It was one of the doctrines, with many others, that they forced upon the world under penalty of death, and Sunday stands out prominently in this age as a sign to the world of their past greatness. It is a memorial of the dark ages when they ruled the world, and by taking away the Sabbath of God, which was declared to be His memorial forever, and putting in its place Sunday, they have exalted themselves above God, usurping a place not divinely given, and as the Third Angel’s Message advances the matter is being squarely put before the people of the whole world, Which will they obey, the pope of Rome or the God of heaven? (The Third Angel’s Message [Stanberry, Missouri: Church of God Publishing House, 1925], 10–11, 20. See also Nickels, 199, 216)
The Adventist movement gave birth to the doctrine of the Third Angel’s Message following the Great Disappointment. It brought solace to Sabbatarian Adventists attempting to cope with their humiliation. The Third Angel of Revelation was delivering its message, they believed, and because of it, faithful Adventists had become Sabbath keepers. When the Sabbatarian Adventist movement split into various camps, the doctrine of the Third Angel’s Message followed its divisions.44
In the 1920s the Church of God (Seventh Day) preached the Third Angel’s Message with vigor. Recent events convinced them that the Great Tribulation was about to come. In 1928, Armstrong also believed in the Third Angel’s Message. He wrote:
These men [the original apostles], carrying the FIRST Angel’s Message,
had the faith to perform miracles of healing. These miracles…greatly aided in winning lost souls to Christ….
Then, glance for a moment, at the men whom God raised up to carry the Second Angel’s Message out to the world. Luther, Calvin, Wesley. Men who were filled with this wonderful power. Men who were heard around the world! Men who shook the world with their message and won millions to the side of Protestantism, out of the darkness and spiritual chaos of Roman Catholicism.
Now let us look frankly to the results being achieved by those who claim to be carrying the Third and last Angel’s Message. The prophecy says this Third Angel’s Message shall go forth “with a LOUD shout.”…
The average man and woman today is not aware of the fact the Message has been going forth…. Most folks, it is true, are passively aware that there has been some agitation over the Saturday-Sunday question. But the question has not gotten actively into their consciousness….
The Third Message is no more unpopular than were the First and the Second. And we are blessed with facilities for spreading the message which never were so much as dreamed of in the days of the First and Second Messages. (Herbert W. Armstrong, “Have We Tarried for the Power to Carry the Third Angel’s Message?,” The Bible Advocate, 16 October 1928, 1)
Later Armstrong would come to renounce the doctrine of the Third Angel’s Message, but in 1928 he united it with Anglo-Israelism. To understand why he united those ideas, realize that Armstrong took Anglo-Israelism to its logical conclusion. Previous Anglo-Israelites emphasized God’s blessings to Israel. Nobody said anything about the curses. Armstrong noticed the curses. He realized that to be consistent, an Anglo-Israelite needed to preach them as well. In Ezekiel, God foretold Israel’s defeat and enslavement.
Armstrong failed to see that Ezekiel was written to Israel in anticipation of Jerusalem’s fall in 587 B.C. Beginning from an Anglo-Israelite world view, he saw Ezekiel’s references to the House of Israel, not as evidence of an Israelite presence in Judah, but as proof that Ezekiel was for the lost tribes. Ezekiel was, he believed, not for the Jews but for Israel. Therefore, although Ezekiel clearly spoke of the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple, Armstrong concluded that Ezekiel’s message was not about those historic events. He insisted on an Anglo-Israelite interpretation. From this faulty premise he reasoned that God intended Ezekiel’s book to be a warning to end-time Israel.
Because Armstrong believed the Anglo-Saxons to be the remnants of the House of Israel, he believed the message of Ezekiel was a warning for the United States and British Commonwealth.
Armstrong noticed something else as well. He noticed the reasons God cursed Israel. In Ezekiel, listed prominently among those reasons was Sabbath-breaking (Ezekiel 20 and 22). It was then a simple step for Armstrong to merge Anglo-Israelism with the Sabbatarianism of the Third Angel’s Message.
The manuscript Armstrong wrote was more than 260 pages long. He called it, What is the Third Angel’s Message? By February 1929 Dugger had received its first few chapters. We are fortunate in that most of the original manuscript has survived.45
Despite what Armstrong would claim, it is difficult to understand Armstrong’s mailing the manuscript to Dugger just as a test of the Church of God (Seventh Day). This is because Burt Marrs, not Dugger, was then the president of the General Conference. If Armstrong were simply testing the church, he should have mailed his manuscript to Marrs. Perhaps they could have brought up the subject at the next conference meeting. But the mailing was more than a test. Armstrong was looking for a publisher, and Dugger was responsible for the church’s press.
A Special Calling
By the time he began mailing his Third Angel’s manuscript to Dugger, Armstrong had become convinced that God had given him a special calling. In a letter to G.A. Hobbs written in February 1929 he claimed “I was made to see clearly that I have been given a commission to get this warning message out with the loud shout to the world” (Armstrong to Brother Hobbs, 6 February 1929, HWAP, #850, emphasis mine).
How was Armstrong “made to see” that his God-given commission was to shout the Third Angel’s Message to the world? The answer is a “mysterious woman.” Working almost full-time to complete What Is the Third Angel’s Message?, Armstrong became totally absorbed in his writing. Though his family was suffering severely from his lack of employment, nothing else mattered as much as completing that book. Though this was before the Great Depression, Armstrong described these months as a time of economic “desperation.”
We had reached another crisis of hunger and desperate need. Again I prayed earnestly for God to either send us some money or provide a way for me to earn it.46
As his children went hungry, he spent most of his time writing. In his letter to Hobbs, he confesses, “I am writing for Bro. Dugger about the ‘Third Angel’s Message’…. I have spent all the time I had for writing on that.”47 Spending time writing and studying did not put food on the table. In his desperation he prayed.
An hour or two later, a strange woman knocked on our front door. Mrs. Armstrong opened the door. There was something mysterious about the woman’s appearance. Who was she? She did not introduce herself. She gave no inkling of her identity.
“If your husband isn’t too proud to do it,” she said in a low, quiet voice, “there are two truckloads of wood he can throw in at this address.”… The mysterious woman walked quickly away and disappeared…. We were totally perplexed as to the identity of this strange woman. How did she know we were in such desperate need? Who was she? We never knew….
No matter who this mysterious woman was, I knew God sent her! And I realized instantly that God was answering my prayer his way, and not mine. I knew he was giving me a test to see whether I could accept a humiliating job. (The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, 1973 edition, 330–31)
In writing to Hobbs about this incident, Armstrong commented,
We simply reached the end of the rope about a week ago, and I decided the time had come to fast and pray until I received a definite answer from the Lord. I received it. Will explain how when I see you, but the answer was to go ahead with this work as hard as I can and trust the Lord to take care of us. All our immediate needs have been taken care of. In fact, we were out of wood, and it came to our front door from a most unexpected source even while I was yet praying for it. I was made to see clearly that I have been given a commission to get this warning message out with the loud shout to the world. The true, full message never has been carried at all, much less with the shout. I don’t see how I am to do it. The Lord will open the way, and I must simply trust him and look to him for guidance. The means will be provided and the way opened, I am sure. (Armstrong to Brother Hobbs, 6 February 1929, HWAP, #850)
As one can see from his letter, Armstrong believed that the manner in which God provided for his family also proved that in writing The Third Angel’s Message he was doing God’s will, even if his family had been going hungry. He saw the “mysterious woman” as a sign that God had commissioned him, above all other humans on earth, to proclaim that message worldwide. Not even the original apostles had been given such a task. “It never has been carried at all.”48
Armstrong had seen no vision. He dreamt no dream. He heard no voice. There was only the woman at the door with an offer for him to stack wood. Yet, whose prayers had God answered? Armstrong’s? His wife’s? His children’s? All of the above? To those who were hungry it does not matter. That offer to chop wood kept the Armstrongs from starving and enabled Herbert Armstrong to continue to write. That was all it took to
convince him that he had a unique calling — a God-ordained commission to shout the Third Angel’s Message to the world.
This incident, above all others, defines the remaining 57 years of Armstrong’s life. Uncertain how he would fulfill such a commission, he must have wondered if the Church of God (Seventh Day) would provide the means. Inadvertently, Dugger encouraged Armstrong in these opinions. After receiving the first few chapters of Armstrong’s book, Dugger wrote,
I presume you think I am very neglectful of duty in not answering your letter before this, but it was a long while before your manuscript reached me on the Third Angel’s Message….
I feel that we are entering into a new era for the message and that it is going to take on new life. In fact the time for the message is now here which I have long contended it would be when the events of the last few weeks came to pass. (Dugger to Armstrong, 26 February 1929, HWAP, #830. A photograph of this letter appears in Vol. 1 of the 1986 ed. of the Autobiography)
Excited, Armstrong shared his self-image with others. To Lt. Col. Mackendrick (author of The Destiny of Britain and America), he wrote,
I am writing you for two reasons: I am going to point out what I believe to be a slight error in your argument…. and I feel that a great message based on this Israel truth has been revealed to me which must be powerfully broadcasted to the whole world without delay. (Armstrong to Mackendrick, 4 March 1929, HWAP, #848).
In this letter, Armstrong stated plainly that his understanding of Anglo-Israelism came not simply as a result of study, but of revelation. He felt this revelation “must be powerfully broadcasted [sic] to the whole world without delay.” If this had been a divine revelation, then who could argue with it?
By 1929 the word broadcast had come to refer to radio. So, two years before his ordination, Armstrong already envisioned a worldwide radio ministry, the primary purpose of which was to preach not the gospel of salvation (the so-called First Angel’s Message), but an Anglo-Israelite message that Armstrong called the Third Angel’s Message. Later, as his ministry expanded, he saw its success as God’s affirmation that Herbert Armstrong was indeed God’s end-time prophet.
A few weeks after writing Mackendrick, Armstrong informed Dugger that he was sending him ten more chapters of What Is the Third Angel’s Message? He promised that four more would soon follow. Eventually, he produced 20 chapters.49 Subsequent letters show he planned to write even more. The manuscript in the Herbert W. Armstrong Papers collection contains most of this work. By July 1929 Dugger had finished reading most of Armstrong’s chapters. It was then that he wrote, “You surely are right.”50
What separates this doctrine from the others that Armstrong investigated is its extra-biblical nature. The Sabbath, baptism and creation are all biblical subjects he investigated early. These words are found in Scripture. But United States and Britain are words not in Scripture. Anglo-Israelism may appear biblical to some people, but it is actually unbiblical.
In studying Anglo-Israelism, Armstrong’s methodology differed from what he had earlier applied to the subject of baptism. With baptism, he investigated many different opinions before reaching a decision. Yet where has he commented on how he studied Anglo-Israelism in the same manner? He said so little on how he came to this conviction that some have thought the doctrine originated with him. Because he often said that God revealed this truth to him, it is not difficult to see how someone might reach the conclusion that Anglo-Israelism originated with him. Placing this doctrine in the realm of divine revelation also made it more difficult for many of his followers to question it.
In arriving at his prophetic doctrines, Armstrong seems to have assumed an overall literalistic hermeneutic, influenced by Dispensationalist and Adventist perspectives. He never questioned whether these perspectives were valid, or if valid, whether they were always valid.51
As time went on, Armstrong eagerly waited for Dugger’s response. Would Dugger and the church acknowledge the truth — acknowledge not only Anglo-Israelism, but that Armstrong was the one to whom God had revealed the truth? Would they recognize his commission to proclaim the Third Angel’s Message? Would they pass the test that Armstrong felt they had to pass?
As I showed earlier, Dugger promoted Anglo-Israelism a decade before he heard of Armstrong. What Armstrong uniquely did was link Anglo-Israelism with the Third Angel’s Message. Dugger must have found such a presentation enticing. No wonder he responded, “You surely are right.” Yet in the end, Dugger decided that he would not include Anglo-Israelism in the church’s publications. Still, he encouraged Armstrong with the words,
There is a purpose in your having gone into this matter so deeply right at this time which it is not difficult for me to fully see through, and you will hear more from these truths and the light herein revealed later. (Dugger to Armstrong, 28 July 1929. Also see note 1.)
Dugger knew that trouble was brewing in the church, so he may have hoped for a more convenient time to spread Armstrong’s views. Yet Armstrong concluded that Dugger would preach only those truths he found convenient. Undeterred, Armstrong continued to write. By early 1930 he began circulating the text of his book among those expressing an interest.52 We will now take the time to highlight some points in his original manuscript that Armstrong did not include in his later work, The United States and Britain in Prophecy.53
What Is the Third Angel’s Message? Examined
The title of the original manuscript, What Is the Third Angel’s Message?, highlights the context in which Armstrong believed Anglo-Israelism should be presented. As he proceeded through his treatise, Armstrong discussed the development of the Abrahamic covenant as God renewed it among Abraham’s descendants. This discussion eventually brought him to the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, the grandsons of Israel. He wrote,
If you are wondering what all this early history of the beginnings of Israel has to do with the Sabbath, the Mark of the Beast, the call to “Come out of her, my people,” and the Third Angel’s Message, you will see, I am sure, before we are finished. The connection is very, very vital. (What Is the Third Angel’s Message?, 43).
The influence of J.H. Allen is evident in the general presentation of Armstrong’s argument. Armstrong acknowledged that influence on pages 109 and 112, when he quoted Allen in support of the idea that Ephraim is in the British Isles.54
In chapter 12, Armstrong combined the Guinness/Dugger seven-times theory with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ seven-times theory. (See above for a discussion of these theories.) However, where Dugger and the Jehovah’s Witnesses had claimed 1914 as the terminus of the “seven times,” Armstrong followed Guinness in claiming 1917 as its end.55 Dugger saw the date as the time God would remove his curse from the Jews. Armstrong saw it as the time England would begin to repossess her rightful property. Armstrong viewed General Allenby’s capture of Jerusalem as “clinching proof that Ephraim today resides in the British Isles.”56 He confidently predicted that because Palestine belonged to Ephraim and not the Jews, “The Zionist movement is doomed to failure.”57
Numerology also played an important role in his thinking, especially the number 19. He incorrectly noted a 19-year period from Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem till its final fall. On that basis Armstrong then predicted a 19-year period from 1917 until 1936. It would be around 1936 that God would deliver
all the Promised Land to Ephraim-Israel, or Great Britain — a date 2,520 years from 585 B.C. … Many different prophecies fix the date in the same year, 1936, and this coincides exactly with the Great Pyramid date…. In this connection, it must be especially emphasized that I do not say 1936 is the date of our Lord’s return. In fact, were it not definitely ordained that no man may know the day or the hour of that even, I should be inclined to expect it before 1936 — perhaps as early as the spring of 1933. But we do not know when that shall be. What we do know is that the balance of Palestine, including the land of the North of Jerusalem — formerly Samaria, now called Syria — is definitely destined to fall into the hands of Great Britain in the year of 1936. (Ibid., 120–21)
All of this was but a prelude to Armageddon.
If Armageddon must be the battle which accomplished the delivery of this territory, then we say Armageddon must be fought in the year 1936. And well may it prove to be so. We know Russia is secretly allied with Turkey and Germany, lusting for a war of revenge against Britain, swearing to take Palestine from Great Britain at all costs. We expect Mussolini to be in some manner prominently identified, and he expects to be ready with many millions of armed men and so many airplanes their shadow will hide the sun over all Italian soil, by 1935. The recent alliance between Mussolini and the Pope may well have startling significance bearing on these very events. (Ibid., 121)
A few pages later, Armstrong again introduced pyramidology. In explaining Matthew 21:42–45 (where Jesus spoke of the stone that the builders rejected), Armstrong stated,
The Great Pyramid is here referred to and used as a symbol of the nation Israel. It is significant that the corner-stone, which is the top stone of the Pyramid, is MISSING, as if it had been rejected by its builders. (Ibid., 138B)
Of course, he offered no proof for this extraordinary claim. Somehow the distant similarity(?) between Jesus’ comments about a missing cornerstone and the reality of an uncapped pyramid was all the proof needed to show that Jesus had the Great Pyramid in mind.
He even said that the samurai, “or white Japanese” were Israelites (ibid., 138D). Again, he offered no proof. Was it their “whiteness,” their aristocracy or both that made them Israelites?
Armstrong emphatically declared “Deny this and you deny God’s power to keep his word, or else you must deny the divine inspiration of the Bible altogether” (ibid., 140). When it came to Anglo-Israelism, there was no room for disagreement. In his mind, to deny his conclusions was to deny the Word of God.
What difference does it make? Unless we know our identity as Israel, we cannot understand the mighty personal warning which the Almighty has published in every English Bible to every individual Israelite….
Just as surely as it was given to God’s holy prophets to foretell 2,500 years ago that in the year 1917 A.D. the Army and Air forces of the British throne should take Jerusalem…so he has revealed thru those same prophets what is yet to take place before all things are fulfilled….
These things could never be understood except thru a knowledge of Israel’s twentieth-century identity. For instance, the book of Ezekiel is addressed primarily to the United States and Great Britain, and to those of our present generation. In it are recorded events destined to take place within the NEXT SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS. (Ibid., 146D–146E, emphasis his).
Armstrong’s transformation of Ezekiel into a warning for America is unique in all Anglo-Israelism. It may be the one significant addition he made to the belief. As such, it became an effective tool in calling people to repentance and to the Sabbath. Hence the connection with the Third Angel’s Message.
In making the Ezekiel connection, Armstrong repeated the error made by many prophecy expositors. He ignored Ezekiel’s plain words, which identified to whom he was writing and about when God would fulfill his prophecies. Training in proper hermeneutical tools would have been helpful. He again repeated the error with the Minor Prophets.
Many of these so-called “Minor” Prophets contain a most solemn personal, individual warning to every one of us — a part, if you please, of “the Third Angel’s Message,” — which has never been understood or preached. (Ibid., 146F)
In Armstrong’s version of the end-time cataclysm, communists and civil-right workers allied themselves with Satan against Israel.
Russia, too, is destined to play a tremendous part in theses closing days…. Russian is gaining control in China. She hopes to gain it in Japan, by fomenting race-prejudice against White, or Western, or, if you please, Israelitish, power, dominance and civilization…. She is now bending Herculean efforts to foment unrest among the populous and ignorant Negroes of our South, painting herself as their champion against what she tells them is the tyranny and oppression of our country. (Ibid., 146G–146H)
Of course, beginning with the Russian Revolution of 1917, communism was an increasing threat to the West. Its international popularity grew because it promised the oppressed and poor utopian justice, through the collapse of capitalism and its replacement by a socialist state. Many conservative Christians, not just Armstrong, saw communism as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. They read the present into the text.58
Having concluded that God intended Ezekiel for modern America, Armstrong in much of the remaining text of What Is the Third Angel’s Message? attempted to show that America should keep the Sabbath. God’s ancient judgment on Israel for breaking the covenant became transformed into a condemnation of America for breaking the Ten Commandments.
After dispensing with America, What Is the Third Angel’s Message? discussed the Millennium. During the Millennium, Armstrong believed, God would enforce the keeping of the Ten Commandments. For Armstrong, Christ was lawgiver, teacher and enforcer. God’s promised new covenant was for those who obey. In the midst of his lengthy discussion of God’s law and the Millennium, Armstrong gave faith and grace only six lines.59 So short, a reader could easily miss them.
<div align=”right”> Armstrong dedicated chapter 15 to the Sabbath. Here he focused on an important part of his Sabbatarian theology. He explained that Exodus 16 gave a separate Sabbath covenant as a sign between God and his people Israel. That Israel was God’s people he understood in terms of their race, not in terms of their having entered a covenant with God. He believed that even if God had abolished the old Mosaic covenant, the alleged Sabbath covenant remained. He failed to realize that the Sabbath was a sign of Israel’s sanctification and was, therefore, an intimate part of the old covenant. The end of the old covenant removed the basis of Israel’s sanctification and therefore eliminated the need for the Sabbath sign.
Starting from a faulty premise, Armstrong Christianized the Sabbath, making it a sign between God and obedient Christians, whether Jew or Gentile. He called it “the final test of obedience” (ibid., 176).
Much of the remainder of What Is the Third Angel’s Message continues along this line. In typical Adventist emphasis, the Third Angel’s Message focuses on the Fourth Commandment.
Why didn’t the apostle Paul, sent to the Gentiles, more openly and definitely teach observance of the seventh day? Why have the eyes of such great men of God as Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Moody, Finney, Cartwright, et al., been blinded to this truth? Why did not the Holy Spirit lead these men into this truth, when they unquestionably were men filled with the Holy Spirit? (Ibid., 196)
Why indeed, especially if the Sabbath, as Armstrong claimed, was “the final test of obedience?” The answer, he said, had to do with Israel.
Israel was blinded in part, until the end of the times of the Gentiles (1917-1936)…and in the case of those individuals who repented, and returned to the true God, and accepted salvation, God winked at this blindness….
That is why Dwight L. Moody was blinded to the Sabbath truth! That is why Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and all these great latter-day men of God were blinded to this truth!
Israel was blinded to it until the fullness of the Times of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25), because God did not desire the House of Israel to be identified or known by the world until then.
This too disposes with that question: What about my parents and grandparents…who knew nothing about the Sabbath? Were they saved? The answer is now plain…. If these people had accepted Jesus Christ and his sacrifice…if they were willingly obedient to God so far as they had light or knowledge to be obedient, then God winked at their blindness in part. They were not held responsible for that which they did not know. (ibid., 209–10)
Since we have already shown that Armstrong believed the Time of the Gentiles ended in 1917, it seems likely that he also believed 1917 was the year that the Sabbath became a “final test of obedience.” That such a “final test” was unknown to Jesus and the New Testament church did not alter his conclusion. It might be interesting to know whether the coincidental 1917 publication of Allen’s Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright fit into this thinking. However, we have no comments from Armstrong on this matter. Armstrong downplayed Allen’s work while emphasizing his own.
Before the conclusion of his manuscript, Armstrong told his readers that his Third Angel’s Message must be shouted to the world. “Any movement prior to 1917, therefore, was premature, and bound to be more or less in error, so far as proclaiming this truth is concerned” (ibid., 210). Keep in mind that he believed God had revealed only to him Anglo-Israelism’s connection to the Third Angel’s Message. He believed that God had commissioned only him to broadcast this message worldwide — this less than two years after his baptism. Through What Is the Third Angel’s Message?, articles in The Bible Advocate and personal correspondence, Armstrong was already preaching to whoever would listen, two years before his official ordination. Chapter 21 concludes,
We are ready to explain it, the true Third Angel’s Message — the last, final warning Message which God is going to shout to a complacent, tradition-loving, self-seeking world before the falling of the Seven Last Plagues and the re-opening of the final terrible War Tribulation which is destined to culminate in the Battle of Armageddon in the year 1936 — this true Third Angel’s Message is, after all, just one more last and final warning from Almighty God….
In these closing chapters, God has placed this final eleventh-hour warning in his word. And in these closing chapters we shall examine this very definite, specific, last-minute warning, just as the Bible has it, for this very present generation. (ibid., 237–8)
Notice, Armstrong said that this manuscript was not simply his idea. He proclaimed it as God’s “final eleventh-hour warning.” It was God, not Armstrong, who supposedly placed this warning in this manuscript.
In the closing pages of the book, Armstrong again transformed the Third Angel’s Message. It had become a kingdom message.
This third and last stage of the Gospel is, simply, the gospel of the kingdom. It is this gospel which is to be preached to all the world just before the “end” comes. It is a warning not to worship the beast or the image of the beast, nor to have his mark, and it has something to do with keeping the commands of God. (ibid., 245)
While Armstrong would eventually drop the term Third Angel’s Message from his vocabulary, and de-emphasize Revelation 14, such changes were cosmetic. The underlying message remained the same. Furthermore, for Armstrong the gospel of God’s grace became of secondary importance. The important message for today, Armstrong felt, was that we obey God’s law.
Just as the tendencies of the times required, in the apostles’ day, that the grace aspect of the gospel be stressed, so now the tendencies of the times require that the obedience aspect be stressed. (Ibid.)
Is this the New Testament perspective? Or does the New Testament view grace as always of primary importance? Armstrong’s confession that grace was for the apostolic age shows us the clear answer. At this point in his ministry, he seemed to know that his message differed from that of the New Testament.
In 1931, the handful of people comprising the Oregon Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) ordained Armstrong into the ministry. For the Oregon church, it was a time of increasing division and disenchantment with its national leadership. The world had entered the Great Depression, and nations were converting to the dark faiths of fascism and communism. People talked of another World War.
Armstrong’s Developing Work
Two years later, in 1933, the Oregon Conference supported one of Armstrong’s evangelistic campaigns near Eugene, Oregon. That campaign led to the establishing of the independent Eugene congregation. This congregation became the parent of the Worldwide Church of God.
As the Church of God (Seventh Day) General Conference split apart, Armstrong received an opportunity to begin a radio ministry. As we have seen, since at least 1929 he had believed that God had commissioned him specifically to broadcast the Third Angel’s/Anglo-Israel/kingdom message to the world. With the assistance of the Oregon members, his internationally known work began. An advertising man by background, he wanted to give his listeners more than a weekly radio program. For them, he created The Plain Truth magazine.
The Plain Truth never mentioned the Third Angel’s Message by name. By this time, Armstrong may no longer have accepted Adventist views on this doctrine. Yet the teaching was there — he just framed it in other terms. The emphasis, besides Anglo-Israelism, became the coming kingdom of God. Everything he said got back to the kingdom or Israel or the Ten Commandments. Everything he did, he understood in terms of his assumed commission.
Early issues of The Plain Truth echoed these themes. “The Times of the Gentiles correspond with the Times of Judah’s national punishment.”60 These Times of the Gentiles, he explained, had begun to taper off since 1917, but would continue until 1936. He taught that 1936 marked the “End of the Age.” Coming soon were the heavenly signs and the Day of the Lord. The Great Tribulation, he said, had already started! It began in 1928. He based that assumption, not on the Bible, but upon the Great Pyramid theory.
And for Great Pyramid students,…the present depression, or tribulation, is there symbolized as occupying the entire low passage continuing from May 29, 1928, when the tribulation struck Europe, until September 1936. (Herbert W. Armstrong, “What is Going to Happen,” The Plain Truth, June–July 1934, 5)
With the world in the midst of the Great Depression, many American Christian fundamentalists found it easy to believe the Great Tribulation had begun. Thus, Armstrong was certain that only the coming of Jesus would end the Depression. Before then, the world would plunge into its last war.
When Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, Armstrong cried, “He is marching to Armageddon!”61 At first, Armstrong thought Mussolini would destroy the United States. Then in 1940, he commented that he might have been wrong. He said that it now appeared that Hitler would do the United States in.62
Throughout the war, his message remained the same. Fascism would conquer America. Naturally, he continued to feel divinely commissioned to warn America. Toward that goal, in September 1942, he published the first edition of The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Missing was any mention of the seven-times theory as it related to the Jews. Armstrong probably still believed in the previous interpretation, but in the booklet he wrote that the “seven times” of punishment applied to the lost tribes of Israel. For them, he said the seven times spanned the period from 718 B.C. (the incorrect date of Samaria’s conquest) until A.D. 1803 (the date of the Louisiana Purchase). Still, the earlier interpretation continued to affect his thinking. He firmly believed that the Times of the Gentiles was over, and that the world was in the Great Tribulation.
Whenever the war news appeared favorable, Armstrong simply discounted it. He saw all news through the lens of his prophetic viewpoint and his belief in his own unique commission. In early 1944 he wrote to his contributors:
This time is a time of great suspense. Apparently the Allied forces are not prepared, yet, to launch the much-advertised invasion of Hitler’s Europe…. We have made but the slightest little dents in the Jap defenses in the Pacific, and at the present rate (played up dramatically in news headlines and broadcasts as if actually we’re winning the war) it will take us about twenty years, and more resources than we possess, to take enough of these island defenses to smash thru to the central objective and WIN….
The prophecies of Almighty GOD tell us bluntly that WE ARE GOING TO LOSE — unless our people will REPENT and turn to ALMIGHTY GOD in real earnest, and in FAITH — trusting HIM to deliver us! And instead of doing that, we are trusting in the enthusiastic and exaggerated news reports, believing we are WINNING, and meantime as a nation OUR SINS ARE INCREASING AT A TOBOGGAN-SLIDE RATE!
God has called me to the special mission of WARNING THIS NATION. But I cannot do it alone…. You are one of my co-workers, and I am depending upon you to remain steadfastly back of me, with your earnest believing PRAYERS, as well as the material help you are sending. We must never let up…. This business of SHOUTING and THUNDERING out this warning on which our destiny as a nation depends. (Herbert W. Armstrong, co-worker letter dated, based on its content, to early 1944. Emphasis is his. For those familiar with Armstrong’s preaching style, notice the emphasis on shouting.)
The success of his work further convinced Armstrong that his self-perceptions were correct and his work righteous. How else could one explain his success if God were not behind it? He felt that God backed his prophetic opinions and stood behind him. He believed that he spoke with the authority of God.
As the war drew to its obvious close, Armstrong’s message changed. He dropped all insistence that the war would lead to America’s destruction. Gone was the cry that the Tribulation had already begun. Yet the substance of the message did not change. The Third Angel was present, only transformed.
Despite what our senses told us, the Allies had not defeated Germany. The Nazis had gone underground. Next time, Europe would unite under an evil fascist-papal alliance. It would conquer, subjugate and depopulate the United States. The church had to warn the Anglo-Saxon nations about God’s wrath. The church had to call them to repentance and urge them to keep God’s Sabbath and holy days. The church also must
tell the world the good news beyond: God was sending Jesus Christ to set up his kingdom.
Following the war, Armstrong established Ambassador College to train ministers for the church. These young men went out, visited people on baptizing tours and established congregations. Through their influence, many lives changed for the better. Yet the prophetic speculations continued. The ministry created various blueprints in attempts to figure out the date of Jesus’ return. All prophetic schemata failed.
The Worldwide Church of God Today
In 1986 Armstrong died. Shortly before his death he published Mystery of the Ages, a book in which he summarized his major beliefs. In it he stated that the Bible was a coded book, “not intended to be understood until our day in this latter half of the twentieth century.”63 God had used him, he claimed, to decode the Bible through Mystery of the Ages. In an unmistakable reference to himself, he declared that Isaiah’s famous prophecy about “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness [Isaiah 40:3],” was being fulfilled.64 John the Baptist only typified Malachi’s prophesied Elijah-to-come, he said. The more important fulfillment was the end-time messenger. Armstrong saw himself fulfilling that role.65
The idea that God had specially commissioned him to “shout” the Third Angel’s Message to the whole world had grown bigger through the years. Though the phrase “the Third Angel’s Message” had long since dropped from his vocabulary, the basic belief that God had given him a unique commission remained. That he continued to see his mission linked to Anglo-Israelism is evident from reading Mystery of the Ages.
In chapter five, Armstrong hearkened back to The United States and Britain in Prophecy, a book he said he wrote “more than 50 years ago.”66 The chapter summarized much of what was in that book, quoting it extensively. In Mystery of the Ages, Armstrong continued claiming that unless the Anglo-Saxon peoples repented of their sins, Old Testament prophecies foretold their horrible conquest by a united Europe. After America’s conquest, he thought the next thing to happen would by the crushing of Europe by “communist hordes.”67 Thus, America’s sins would soon usher in the Great Tribulation.
Before his death, Armstrong appointed Joseph W. Tkach as his successor. In June 1988 Tkach withdrew Mystery of the Ages from circulation. In early 1991 he informed the ministry of his plans to review and perhaps update The United States and Britain in Prophecy. He solicited their comments. All mention of Anglo-Israelism disappeared from Worldwide Church of God publications. Then, in July 1995, the church announced in the Pastor General’s Report that Anglo-Israelism lacked any credible evidence and that the church would no longer teach it. A study paper followed to the ministry, giving detailed reasons why this was so.
The church had come to realize that Anglo-Israelism had distracted it from the God-given commission to preach Jesus and the salvation that came through faith in him.
Armstrong always urged the ministry to be faithful to the Bible. He never claimed that he wrote infallible scripture. He never claimed that he understood all biblical truth. Yet he did claim to have a special understanding of Bible prophecies, and he did function as a prophet. Often he sounded more like an Old Testament prophet than a New Testament apostle. He called himself the watchman of Israel. He said he was the Elijah to
come. How was that different from being a prophet? For those who still believe his claims, his failed predictions pose a dilemma.
Today we know that many varied influences shaped Armstrong’s prophetic teachings. Despite what he believed, not everything he taught came from the Bible. Many things he taught were the products of his life and times. Are we any different today?
The ministry of the Jesus Christ, to be credible, must use the Scriptures correctly. If it does nothing more than show us how not to teach the Bible, a proper understanding of the sad history of Anglo-Israelism can help. To echo Paul, “Let God be true, and every man a liar…. ‘So that you may be proved right in your words and prevail in your judging’” (Romans 3:4, NIV). All who think they have cornered biblical truth have not. They have fallen into error. To avoid this error, Christians need to subject their doctrines to informed critiques. So too, this history.
1 A photograph of this letter appears in both the 1967 and 1973 editions of Armstrong’s Autobiography. It is not in the 1986 two-volume edition. Nor does the HWA Personal Papers Catalog by Date list it.
2 Melton J. Gordon, Encyclopedia of American Religions (Wilmington, North Carolina: McGrath Publishing Co., 1978), 447.
3 A.B. Grimaldi, “History of the Rediscovery of Israel,” The Watchman of Israel, July 1919 (vol. 1, no. 9), 195.
4 Grimaldi, “History of the Rediscovery of Israel,” The Watchman of Israel, July 1919 [vol. 1, no. 9], 193–6).
|5 Cecil Roth, The Nephew of the Almighty (London: Edward Goldston Ltd., 1933).6 How much weight should we give to Grimaldi’s account? The problem with Grimaldi is that he tried too hard to give Anglo-Israelism credibility by “proving” it was not a recent innovation. In so doing he uncritically lumps Brothers and Wilson together as fellow Anglo-Israelites. He makes no mention of Brothers insanity, nor the extremes to which Brothers’ insanity took him. That Grimaldi gives one of two versions of the Abade story further weakens his credibility.|
7 John Wilson, Our Israelites Origins, 1st American ed., 1850, Millerites and Early Adventists (University Microfilms), Section 3, Reel 15, part 24.
8 Louis Billington, “The Millerite Adventists in Great Britain, 1840-1850,” The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century, Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler eds., 2nd ed. (Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1993), 59, 66.
9 The Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered an Adventist sect because their founder Charles Taze Russell was a disciple of the Adventists Jonas Wendell and Nelson H. Barbour, from whom he learned the conditional state of the dead.
10 A. N. Dugger and C. O. Dodd, A History of the True Religion (Jerusalem, Israel: 1968), 296. Prior to 1923, the Church of God (Seventh Day) was called the Church of God (Adventist). Despite the name change, the 1926 U.S. census continued to call the Church by its older name. The older name clearly identifies its origin among the Adventist movement. For the sake of clarity I have used the current name, Church of God (Seventh Day) throughout the article. However, those doing historic research on this sect, should be aware of the variety of names the local congregations of this sect have been known by throughout its formative period from 1863-1923. See note 15.
11 Another much smaller sect, claiming to uphold the original teachings of the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), also retains the older name. This leads to some confusion, of which researchers should be aware. Much ill feeling exists among the smaller group for the larger.
12 Restorationism should not be confused with the modern Christian Reconstructionist movement, which seeks to order America’s government along the lines of the old covenant. Christian Reconstructionism is post-millennial while restorationism is pre-millennial.
13 R.V. Lyon, The Scattering and Restoration of Israel, Thomas G. Newman publisher (Seneca Falls, New York: 1861), 31, 33, 34. This tract explains Lyon’s basic teachings on prophetic Israel. Many of his tracts can be found in the Jenks Memorial Collection in the library of Aurora College in Aurora, Illinois.
|14 Richard C. Nickels, A History of the Seventh Day Church of God (Portland: Giving and Sharing, 1973), 252–4, 248–9.15 Up until the 1880s, congregations that later became the Church of God (Seventh Day) called themselves by several names. The Church of Christ probably was the most common name used, while the names The Church of God and the Church of the Firstborn can also be found.
16 The Hope of Israel, 28 January and 5 May 1868.
17 The Advent and Sabbath Advocate, 9 December 1884.
18 The Advent and Sabbath Advocate, 5 May 1885.
19 Perhaps The Bible Banner of 1884 was another independent Church of God periodical. A 1905 offshoot of the Church of God (Seventh Day) published a paper using that name, yet there is no indication the two periodicals were related. Through the years, various churches have titled their periodicals The Bible Banner. A recent search on the Internet turned up two such publications, neither of which were the ones mentioned above. The list probably does not end with them.
20 The Advent and Sabbath Advocate, 19 May 1885.
21 Nickels, 251.
22 During A.F. Dugger’s association with the Church paper, it underwent several name changes. Originally called The Hope of Israel, it later became the Advent and Sabbath Advocate then the Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Advent. Not until late 1900 was it decided to call the paper The Bible Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom. That has since been shortened to the simpler Bible Advocate.
23 Nickels, 153–4. Nickels sources are tracts published by A.N. Dugger from Jerusalem sometime between Dugger’s move there in the early 1950s and 1975. See also “The Chastisement of the Jewish People,” The Bible Home Instructor. My copy of The Bible Home Instructor is a 1982 reprint with a few edits to bring it up to date. It deletes most of the original illustrations. (Reprint by George L. Johnson, Decatur, Michigan.)
24 Nebuchadnezzar’s siege began in 605 B.C., not 606 (Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1983], 183–5). 2,520 years later is not A.D. 1914, but 1916. (One must add 1 to the sum when crossing from B.C. to A.D. dates.) Dugger was off by two years.
25 Richard Nickels incorrectly identified Guinness as Australian (Nickels, 153).
26 H. Grattan Guinness, The Approaching End of the Age, E. H. Horne editor and reviser (London: Morgan and Scott Ltd, 1918), 257–258.
27 Dr. and Mrs. H. Grattan Guinness, Light for the Last Days, edited and revised by E. P. Cachemaille (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott Ltd., 1934). Not quite as popular as his first book, it still underwent seven editions prior to 1893.
28 Ibid., 244.
29 Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1978), 147.
30 Nickels, 153.
31 J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions, 4th ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993), 119.
32 Edmond Charles Gruss, Apostles of Denial (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1978), 173.
33 Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups, 6th ed. (Fairview, Oklahoma: The Bible Sabbath Association, 1986), 138.
34 Nickels, 250.
35 The Bible Advocate, 1 March and 3 May 1927.
36 When I visited the main Portland library in the 1980s it had three separate catalogues. The newest was its computerized catalogue, another was the card catalogue that the computerized system had replaced, and the third was an even older card catalogue that apparently dated from the time of Armstrong’s studies. That older catalogue was stored on the second floor. It had several Anglo-Israelite titles not found in the newer catalogues, including the 1917 edition of Allen’s work.
37 Barkun, Michael, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, revised ed. (The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1997), 22–3.
38 As far as we know, only one copy of one volume of Beauchamp’s magazine has survived. Volume I (November 1918 through October 1919) of The Watchman of Israel, is preserved in the library of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. The Watchman took as its theme the poem ‘The Call of Judah” that drew its imagery from Isaiah 21:11 (“Watchman, what of the night?”) and the star of Bethlehem. The poem interpreted the star as the sign of the promised “day of Israel.” The watchman was the one who proclaimed the meaning of the stars to a darkened world.
J.H. Allen wrote the lead article of the first issue. Another article, presumably by Beauchamp, began a series on the Great Pyramid. Among the books advertised were the two works by Guinness mentioned earlier in this paper.
39 J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions, 4th ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993), 669.
40 Armstrong to Mr. and Mrs. Runcorn, 28 February 1928, HWAP, #807, 3, 5.
41 Beauchamp published another edition of Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright in 1930.
42 Armstrong to S.S. Davison, 26 September 1928, HWAP, #808.
43 Armstrong to Dugger, 1 January 1929, HWAP, #828. Dugger to Armstrong, 22 January 1929, HWAP, #849.
44 P. Gerhard Damsteegt, Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977), 135–46.
45 The surviving manuscript shows evidence that it has been edited. Pages 1–19[a] have been typed on a different, obviously newer typewriter, than the rest of the manuscript. The book title for these pages is The Real Truth About Israel. Based on a comparison of the manuscript with other writings of Armstrong from the late 1920s, it is my judgment that the surviving first 19 pages represent a rewriting of the original text. Pages 19[b] onward have been typed on a much poorer quality typewriter. The themes of these pages are those with which Armstrong concerned himself in the late ‘20s. The title of the book for this older section is What is the Third Angel’s Message? The entire manuscript, as it now exists in its rewritten form, is document 8850 of the Herbert W. Armstrong Papers [HWAP] collection of the Worldwide Church of God. Correspondence that shed light on the development of the manuscript include documents 828, 829, 849, 850, 884, 931, 2559. Many addition letters of Armstrong’s from 1929 deal with Anglo-Israelism and its relationship to the Third Angel’s Message. [Since first writing this footnote the original
19 pages of Armstrong’s manuscript have been discovered among uncatalogued papers of the Herbert W. Armstrong Papers collection confirming the general observations made above.].
46 The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong (Pasadena, California: Ambassador College, 1973 ed.), 330.
47 Does he mean “I have spent all my available time writing,” or “What time I had available, I have used for writing.” Either understanding is grammatically possible. But note the context of his comments.
48 Within the Worldwide Church of God, some came to believe that this woman must have been an angel, yet Armstrong never made such a claim. A careful reading of the context shows her to have been mysterious only because they did not know who she was or how she came to know their need. The wood he stacked was at the “mysterious” woman’s house and it was she who paid Armstrong. Despite this, the Armstrong’s never learned her name.
49 Armstrong to Dugger, 19 April 1929, HWAP, #842.
50 Dugger to Armstrong, 28 July 1929. For additional bibliographic information please see note 1.
51 That Armstrong was influenced by a dispensationalist hermeneutic is evident from his approach to Daniel and Revelation, as well as his respect for the Scofield Reference Bible, the dispensationalist commentary. Using classic dispensationalist language, he wrote in What Is the Third Angel’s Message, page 147, “this present age, or dispensation” is called “the Church, or Gospel Dispensation.” His Adventist influences have already been addressed.
52 Armstrong to Mr. and Mrs. Gross, 18 January 1930, HWAP, #806. Armstrong to Ballenger, 9 August 1930, HWAP, #931. The Grosses apparently were the Pentecostal family through whom he learned to trust God for healing.
53 See note for comments on the surviving text of What Is the Third Angel’s Message?
54 Armstrong’s dependence on Allen is more evident in his later work, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. Though Allen is never mentioned in that text, the book so tightly follows Allen that the plagiarism is obvious.
Armstrong’s first direct quote of Allen in What is the Third Angel’s Message? is from page 227 of Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright: “It is a well-known fact that the history of no country on the face of the earth has so puzzled historians as that of Ireland.” Armstrong’s second quotation, “It is unmistakably recorded in British history that the earliest settlers in Wales and southern England were called Simonii,” is found in Allen on
page 275. Allen frequently used phrases such as “It is a well-known fact,” and “It is unmistakably recorded” to lend an air of authority to his work.
Armstrong uncritically points to Allen as the authority who tells us that Simonii is the plural of Simeon. Armstrong’s lack of any training in lexicography, etymology, linguistics and historiography made him vulnerable to unfounded conclusions that appeared to support Anglo-Israelism. Training in sound linguistic and hermeneutical principles would have made him a bit more cautious.
55 To arrive at 1917, Armstrong incorrectly dated the fall of Jerusalem to 585 B.C., though he was aware that 587 was the more widely accepted date. See Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1983] for a scholarly discussion of how Jerusalem’s fall can accurately be dated.
56 What Is the Third Angel’s Message?, 120.
58 For an excellent survey of this phenomenon in American evangelicalism read Paul Boyer’s When Time Shall Be No More (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap/Harvard, 1992). It helps one see how Armstrong’s prophetic views where in line with their social-historical context.
59 Ibid., 165.
60 Herbert W. Armstrong, “What is Going to Happen,” The Plain Truth, June–July 1934, 4.
61 Herbert W. Armstrong, The Plain Truth, July, 1935, 5.
62 The Plain Truth, August–September 1940, 2.
63 Mystery of the Ages (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1985), xi.
64 Ibid., 9.
65 Ibid., 10.
66 Ibid., 161. In saying this he placed the date for the first writing of The United States and Britain in Prophecy as pre-1935. Actually, it was written later. As we have shown, The United States and Britain in Prophecy was built upon an earlier manuscript, What Is the Third Angel’s Message? It is to that manuscript he must refer.
67 Ibid., 195.
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