Monday, December 27, 2010

HWA, Pyramidiology and British Israelism

A new web site is in the works regarding the Armstrongite doctrinal myth that has been perpetuated by many of the 700 some splinter groups of WCG over the decades.  It is a theory that was around for decades before Herbert ever discovered it.

During the late 1800's there was a profound interest in the Great Pyramid which also spawned numerous other groups into trying to prove events in world history according to the mathematical measurements laid out in the design on the Great Pyramid.  According to Herb's interpretation of the Bible, Job was the one who built the Great Pyramid.  Because Job built the Great Pyramid then it naturally had to be God inspired.

HWA got a lot of his information from Charles Piazzi Smyth books.  The old Ambassador library in Pasadena had numerous books about pyramidology.  It had many of Smyth's original books from 1870 (which goes to show how incredibly out of date the library was).  Some of these books had HWA's scribblings in the margins.

This was also a period of time that saw a resurgence in British Israelism.  Great Britain was ruling the world.  Nations were being converted to Christianity and the Empire was riding high.  Of course this had to have a reason behind it. God was behind it all.   British Israelism reached it's zenith during this time too.

Scores and scores of books were published in the late 1800's and early 1900's trying to prove this concept. By the time Herb came onto the scene these books were well established in public libraries here and in England.  When Herb began his mind shattering six month study of the Bible, he would have had full access to these books.  It is no coincidence that the college library had these books, nor that his personal library and his safe in his basement  contained many of these books.

There were also books by Ezra Taft Russeell  in Herb's collection.  Russell was another splinter cult of the Millerites and SDA's.  It is also no coincidence that all various splinter cults of Miller (SDA, JW's, Armstrongism) all had many of the same beliefs.

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

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. 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


Black Ops Mikey said...

The website is still half-baked and won't be ready until Spring -- it is only an outline and needs to be fleshed out.

Byker Bob said...

Thanks for making this information available to your readers.

I believe that many people just take for granted that British Israelism is truth, simply because it came from HWA whom they believe to be "God's Apostle". However, if one is bold enough to test the theory, one discovers that it is absolutely preposterous, and for many reasons.

There is another similar conspiratorial theory, also a lynchpin of the classic WCG package of doctrines that is equally ridiculous. Most WCG members whom I ever met did not take the time to read any of the history or authors from the early centuries of Christianity, but if they had, they would immediately have known beyond the shadow of a doubt that Simon Magus did not start the Roman Catholic Church! The Armstrong ministry treated the Antenicene Fathers as having been Catholic. However, the New Testament, and the writings of the A.N Fathers firmly documents the fact this was a lineage which began with the students of the original apostles. As a group,they destroyed as many of the original writings of Simon Magus as they could find, and wrote volumes against the evils of heretical gnosticism. Irenaeus was particularly vigilant about stamping out heresies!

Armstrongism generally produced some very bad or questionable research, and is not to be trusted by anyone with a high regard for truth. Rather than following an evidentiary trail, and allowing that to come to logical conclusion, their pattern was to lift select passages from authors and history which tended to prop up their doctrines, disregarding others which plainly conflicted. Independent second and third opinions and resources should always be consulted, and proper context observed!


NO2HWA said...

Armstrongism has for decades used The Two Babylon's by Hislop as their second Bible. They have also used Ralph Woodward's Babylon Mystery Religion.

Woodrow renounced his previous book and came out with a book called The Babylon Connection where he admits he published unfounded information, some of it based upon Herbert's teachings.

He also goes into Hislop's book pointing out the many mistakes in it.

NO2HWA said...

BB, you wrote:
"Armstrongism generally produced some very bad or questionable research,..."

There never has bee critical research done in Armstrongism. Rational and critical thinking and research have never been part of the church (COG) throughout the last 80 some years.

Critical thought and thinking would lead men and women to really examine HWA's writings. Instead all research done in Armstrongism start's with HWA as the founding basis and then tries to move from there proof-texting all the way.

If they did that they would quickly discover that the Word was not hidden for 1,900 years but was very much alive and well. It was never hidden, it was never lost, it was never a mystery.

A good over all history of the church can be found in Justo Gonzalez's book, The History of Christianity.

His other series of books, equally as good is, The History of Christian Thought. It get's into those men you talked about.

Byker Bob said...

Hey, I'll have to check those out. Several months ago, we had a guest speaker at our church who has also written a book on Christian history. If anyone did anything to get people into studying their own Bibles for themselves, we'd certainly need to consider Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and other "subversives" who translated the Bible into English (and other languages), and spawned the Reformation. WCG, although barely recognizeable as such, actually has its roots among the Seventh Day Baptists, one of the early Protestant groups.

I think there is a reason the ACOG splinters appear to have been spewed from the mouth of God, and their message muted. It would be very easy to envision a loving God wanting to make sure that racism was not a part of the end time gospel message. British Israelism is worse than human racism, because it actually attributes racism to God Himself! God was never a racist. He was set against large groups of people who were involved in paganism, and evil false worship. That had nothing to do with ethnic makeup or skin pigmentation! Too bad HWA couldn't break things down into basic components, and get things right!


Anonymous said...

I was talking with a young Mormon collegue a few weeks ago asking about the belief that the Native Americans were all that is left of the Lamanites etc of the Book of Mormon.

I asked him if he knew that DNA testing now proves Native Americans come from Siberia and crossed the Bering Sea landbridge from there to the Americas.

oops...he said that the Church was beginning to take the story as an allegory. Allegory is another word for "oops we goofed" as far as I can tell. Of course DNA testing invaladates the very popular notion in the 1800's that the Moundbuilders were the Lost Tribes of Israel etc.

What baloney

I had my DNA taken back 100,000 years to my African (as are all human origins) origins in the Eastern part of the Continent. The testing traces my DNA markers up from there , across the Red Sea into Yemen, up into Iran and Iraq, the Himalayans and Uzbekastan etc and up into the Russian Steppes, turning left about 35,000 years ago into Europe. Cool stuff

I feel older now. :)