HWA, British Israelism and Pyramidology
Anglo-Israelism and Pyramidology
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. Therefore, they believe that the Great Pyramid was inspired by God to help interpret biblical prophecy. Sad to say, this quackery found its way into parts of 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, 1928.1 http://baonline.org/
The founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, also 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. He didn't 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).
Herbert Armstrong and the Great Pyramid
The pyramidology articles in the Bible Advocate did not go unnoticed. One reader who became especially interested was Herbert Armstrong. Wanting to learn more, he wrote to the author in care of The Bible Advocate. The Advocate forwarded his letter to Reverend Lincoln McConnell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, Florida. Reverend McConnell responded to Mr. Armstrong's inquiry on June 3, 1927. His letter set in motion a chain of events more momentous than either Mr. 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.
Herbert Armstrong took the challenge. As was his custom whenever studying a biblical subject, he went to the Portland, Oregon public library, which held several Anglo-Israel titles, including J.H. Allen's Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright.2 Then, taking the advice of McConnell, he wrote to Beauchamp asking for more information on both Anglo-Israelism and on the Great Pyramid. He wrote:
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. (Armstrong to A.A. Beauchamp Publishing Co., 28 March 1928)
Mr. Armstrong's letter reveals a familiarity with the more famous pyramidology works. He has read Seiss' The Miracle in Stone, a popular book that underwent 14 editions. Mr. Armstrong also mentioned Charles Piazzi Smyth, who wrote the influential book called Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid.3 In reply, Beauchamp commented, saying that the "Discipulus"' pyramidology book 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. (A.A. Beauchamp to Armstrong, 5 April 1928, HWAP, #874).
Beauchamp was an interesting character. Before his correspondence with Mr. 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.4
Pyramidology in Mr. Armstrong's Writings
Mr. Armstrong's original manuscript, What Is the Third Angel's Message?, referred at one point to the pyramids. In explaining Matthew 21:42-45, where Jesus spoke of the stone that the builders rejected, Mr. 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. (page 138B)
This is an extraordinary claim, but Mr. Armstrong offered no proof that Jesus had the Great Pyramid in mind. Somehow the distant similarity between Jesus' comments about a missing cornerstone and the reality of an uncapped pyramid was all the evidence needed.
He also referred to pyramidology in an early magazine. In 1934, in the Great Depression, he said that the Great Tribulation had already started! It began in 1928. He based that idea, 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," PT, June-July 1934, 5)
With the world in the midst of the Great Depression, it was easy to believe the Tribulation had begun. Mr. Armstrong was certain that only Jesus Christ's return would end the Depression. When Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, Herbert Armstrong cried, "He is marching to Armageddon!"5
1 The Bible Advocate, 1 March and 3 May 1927.
2 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 Mr. 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.
3 "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)
4 J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions, 4th ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993), 669.
5 Herbert W. Armstrong, PT, July, 1935, 5.
by Ralph Orr
Copyright 1996 Worldwide Church of God