Monday, October 19, 2009

Another True History?

Upon completing my study of Herman Hoeh’s “True History of the True Church”, 1959 edition, I saw that the study was so long the best way to get the information out was to write a small post summarizing what I’d found. What I had found was disturbingly similar to another study that I had done earlier about Herbert Armstrong’s 1960 booklet “Who Is the Beast.” I thought it would be good to summarize that earlier study here in the same way I did for “True History”.
A little background if you’re interested… I had already done a post on “Who Is the Beast” earlier this year. That post came from an incomplete review of the booklet by that name. I had always wanted to do a full review of the booklet, but I had never been able to bear it. Finally, by the grace of God, I found the fortitude to finish what I’d started and I completed a full study of “Who Is the Beast.” You may write to me and request a copy. (I hope to soon have them shared out online so you can just go pluck one for your own.) This post that I do now simply breaks up the highlights from that full study into easy to digest chunks.

“It [The Roman Empire] absorbed all others [Greece, Persia, & Babylon], occupied all their territory, was greater and stronger than all.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.6

Rome did not occupy all of the territory of the three previous empires (Greece, Persia, and Babylon). None of the first three empires occupied territory in Europe, where the majority of Rome was. Nor did they span across northern Africa as Rome did. They spread out far into east where Rome did not go, down the Euphrates where Rome was not, and even into India where Rome could not go. The only areas that overlapped all of the 4 empires lies within the western Middle East – (roughly this would include) eastern Egypt around the Nile, northern Arabia, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and sections of southern and eastern Turkey.

This statement is false. One could make an argument that the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman I came far closer to this than Rome ever did.

“The Roman empire in Northern Africa was overrun by the Vandals, who sacked Rome in 455.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.9

This is horn #1.
“Overrun” is a bit of an exaggeration, I’d say. They rose up while the Roman Empire was occupied with fighting for its life against Attila the Hun. Attila was the real destroyer here. In 455, invited to Rome by the widow of Emperor Valentinian III to save her hide from the new Emperor Maximus, the Vandals found themselves in a position to walk right into Rome, unhindered, to sack it for two weeks. Afterwards they spent most of their time, much like the Vikings, looting coastal cities. The Vandals, who were not Roman, nor conquered Western Rome, nor administered the wound to the beast (according to HWA), nor remained on the Italian peninsula in 476 AD (when the wound was supposedly delivered), were part of a Roman beast?
They, as the "first horn", weren’t the first to invade, either. They were the fourth barbarian group to attempt an attack on Rome in 100 years. Of note are the Visigoths (meaning Western Goths - not to be confused with the Vandals) who invaded in 408-410. These Goths went on to remove Britain, Spain, and France from Roman control by 423. This is years before the Vandal invasion in 455. And this is completely ignored! Why then aren’t the Visigoths counted as a horn? They did an awful lot more than the Vandals did. Attila the Hun decimated everything he touched, overran the Romans at every turn, and invaded Italy in 452 only to turn back suddenly for no known reason. All of this is ignored. What else is ignored? Where is mention of the Angles, Saxons, Franks, Lombards, and Bergundians? Missing!

This claim is true! But what this claim implies, that the Vandals were the first major group to wound Western Rome, is false. The Vandals did little real and lasting damage to Rome, especially when compared to the Goths or the Huns. HWA clearly cherry picked this group because they were in Rome, and he focuses on Rome for the sole purpose of discrediting the Pope.

“Then in 476 Odoacer set up his government at Rome, called the HERULI.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.9

This is horn #2.
Odoacer (aka. Odovacar, aka Otto) of the Heruli did not set up his government at Rome, he set up his government at Ravenna. As a side note, he drove the Vandals from Sicily.

This claim is false.

“But it [Odoacer’s Heruli government] did not heal the deadly wound, for this was a government IN Rome. It was not a ROMAN government, but one of foreign barbarians.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.9-10

It’s a Roman horn, but it isn’t Roman in any way? How is it a Roman horn, again?
Now pay close attention. Odoacer voluntarily renounced any title of Emperor that he gained by defeating the West and made peace with Eastern Rome by recognizing the rule of Emperor Zeno. Odoacer submitted to Zeno to prevent trouble from the East. Zeno then made him Patrician of the Western Empire - in other words, Odoacer was an official of the Eastern Roman government.

This claim is technically incorrect. “The wound” is purely a matter of speculation and “the healing of the wound” is also purely a matter of speculation. One can claim it starts or ends whenever one wants it to. I would prefer such a claim be built on more accurate information.

“These three kingdoms [Vandals, Heruli, & Ostrogoths], sweeping into the Roman territory, filled the period known in history as the ‘transition age.’ (See Myers' Ancient History, page 571.) That is, a TRANSITION between the wound and the healing.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.10

They are part of what Myers calls “The Transition Age”, but they do not by any means fill that period. Myers lists the “Transition Age” as being from 476 - 800 AD! The Vandals, the first of these three, came in 455 A.D. That is 21 years before the start of the “Transition Age”. The Ostrogoths, the last of these three, were conquered in 554 A.D. That is 246 years before the end of this age. That is longer than the time the United States has been a nation!
It was NOT a “transition” from wound to healing.

Herbert Armstrong grossly misquotes his source. This isn’t even remotely accurate. How could he have read Myers and not known this? He could not. Then why did he do it? Maybe it was because the word “transition” was too tempting to leave off. Maybe he thought you’d never check. Maybe he never read his source; maybe Herman Hoeh did the research and this booklet was slapped together from a bunch of old material and deemed “true”. I don’t know.

“Now Daniel saw a ‘little horn’ coming up AMONG these ten, before whom these first three were ‘plucked up by the roots.’”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.10

Let’s define two terms according to Herbert Armstrong’s understanding. “Little Horn” = the Pope. “First three” = Vandals, Heruli, & Ostrogoths.
With those definitions in mind, four things here are incredibly important.
First, the little horn [Pope] is to come up among the other 10 (not after the first three) – in their presence. The Pope as the Bishop of Rome preceded these people by a couple hundred years according to Catholic history, and over two thousand years according to Alexander Hyslop’s teachings which HWA promoted as gospel. The Pope didn’t come up among a single one of these horns here mentioned, let alone all ten, so he cannot be the little horn.
Second, the Vandals, Heruli, and Ostrogoths could not be the first three horns. According to Herbert Armstrong’s own words in this very booklet, they aren’t Roman. If they aren’t Roman horns then they aren’t part of a Roman beast, and therefore they don’t count!!
Thirdly, the “little horn” is in no way fundamentally different than the other ten. It is a horn. By Herbert Armstrong’s own definition in this very booklet, a horn is a king, not a church – just like the rest. He even goes out of his way at the start of this booklet to deny the beast is Catholic. This horn just comes up among the other 10 is the only difference.
Fourth, did anyone consider it WASN’T the papacy who plucked up the Vandals, the Herulii, or the Ostrogoths? But actually the Vandals plucked themselves up (the Pope let them into Rome), the Herulii were plucked up by the Ostrogoths upon request by the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno, and the Ostrogoths were plucked up by Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian – not the Pope. The Pope wasn’t in the slightest bit involved!

This claim is a speculative butchering of prophecy. I do not mean to say the Bible is false, but how HWA interprets it is convoluted. His dependence on Alexander Hyslop’s teachings drives him to find a way to fit the Pope in as the little horn – and by extension, the beast – thus he twists his earlier statements into a Gordian Knot.
It is my opinion that the Visigoths (along with the other missing peoples) were not chosen as a horn because they were not in Rome and there was no plausible way to tie them to the Pope. Even though at first glance this booklet is about prophetic history, the real purpose is to display the Pope as evil.

“Prior to 554, Justinian had written a letter to the pope, acknowledging his supremacy in the West.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.19

This statement comes with no footnote to tell us where he gets this information. From 537-555, Vigilius held the office of Pope. This must be the Pope referred to.
According to New Advent online Catholic encyclopedia article 15427b on Pope Vigilius, Vigilius was an Italian noble by birth and therefore deserving honor in the West. He was made the papal representative in Constantinople. While in Constantinople, he became involved in political intrigues with Empress Theodora. A controversy boiled for decades over a religious group known as the Monophysites, and both Theodora (who greatly favored them) and Justinian (who greatly disfavored them but wanted to keep the peace) wanted to win them over. In return for his promise of aid, Theodora gave Vigilius a great sum of money (700 pounds of gold) and letters authorizing him to be the next Pope.
Perhaps this is the letter HWA referred to.

Not exactly what HWA makes it sound like, is it? This claim is deceptively misleading. They gave Vigilius the papacy, not the civil rule. Justinian wanted the Pope to be the ecclesiastical leader, but Justinisn himself was the supreme ruler of both civil and ecclesiastical matters.

Let us briefly discuss the Holy Roman Empire. We will need it to go on.
About the nature of the empire, it was a very loose succession of mainly German kings who passed down rule in succession to their relatives. About the empire’s territory, it shifted to and fro mainly in German lands which were outside of the Roman Empire. At times it included some of southern France and chunks of Italy. It was not really an empire at all; it was more of a confederation. About the empire’s beginning, the start of this “empire” is something scholars debate. There is no solid time to say “HERE is where it started.” The agreed-upon start is when Otto I was crowned in 962 AD. Otto started the dynasty. About the name of the empire, it was not called “Roman Empire” until after 1,000 AD, it was not called “Holy” until after 1100 AD, and it was not called the “Holy Roman Empire” until after 1200 AD. Its full name became the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation. About its end, we should know that Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor and he abdicated the title on August 6, 1806 in an attempt to prevent war with Napoleon. Napoleon was never a Holy Roman Emperor.
Yet HWA plays on our lack of historical understanding to lead us to believe that this empire was one cohesive and all powerful unit dominating the Western Roman territories from the day it sprang out of Justinian, finished and complete, to its final day under Napoleon in 1814. This is utterly not so! It approaches the point of being deceptively not so.

“Power was given to this beast [Holy Roman Empire], once healed, to ‘CONTINUE FORTY AND TWO MONTHS’ … Thus, the healed beast is to continue 1260 years.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.10

Does he mean ‘continue and then come to an end’? Because that isn’t what happened. If we add 1260 years to the year 554 A.D. we will get 1814 A.D, but the Holy Roman Empire started in 962 and ended in 1806, which is 844 years not 1,260. If we count 1,260 years from 962 A.D., we reach the year 2222. And, as we all know, Garibaldi/Mussolini/Hitler were considered the ninth horn, and we have one final “resurrection” yet to go. That’s quite a gap! There is no end in sight.
Or, did he mean ‘continue uninterrupted’? Because that isn’t what happened either. Justinian’s “Imperial Restoration” touted as the “healing of the wound” only lasted 3 grand years after Justinian’s death – ie, 568 A.D. Then there was a gap of hundreds of years until Charlemagne was crowned in 800 A.D. His Frankish Carolingian Empire really only lasted until 888 AD. (I thought the French were Israelite according to HWA, Reuben to be specific, and the Beast was "Gentile". Do Charlemagne and Napoleon even count?) Then there was another 74 year gap until 962 A.D. when what eventually became known as the Holy Roman Empire was first formed by Otto I. There were multiple gaps during the Holy Roman Empire. That ended in 1806. There was another decades-long gap until the time when Garibaldi unified Italy in 1870. Another decades-long gap lasted until Mussolini and Hitler came on the scene in the 1930’s. Another gap has lasted ever since. All of these huge gaps somewhat blow this theory out of the water.
Now, please note, in Herman Hoeh’s “True History of the True Church” 1959 edition – one year before this booklet - the interpretation of the 1,260 years is not the same as we see here:
“As a result of the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), the great false Church commenced 1260 years of Tribulation (Rev. 12: 6) with full force.”
-Herman Hoeh, “True History of the True Church” 1959, p.19
Now we must ask ourselves, precisely how many different interpretations of the 1,260 years is one church allowed to have?

This claim is complete bunk. Armstrong gets the dates wrong. His theory is full of generations-long gaps. His interpretation of the 1,260 years is one thing in one booklet, and another thing entirely in another booklet.

“’So CLOSED,’ says West’s Modern History, page 377, ‘A GOVERNMENT THAT DATED FROM AUGUSTUS CAESAR.’”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.10

Surely, Willis Mason West does not intend this statement to be taken literally, as to say that he believed the Holy Roman Empire was literally an unabridged continuation of the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. This is more of a symbolic statement. Read his book and you will see that for yourself. But true to form, HWA misquotes West in a few different ways.
West, in “Modern History: Europe, from Charlemagne to the present time”, p. 377, actually says, “Nearly all these German states, too, except Austria and Prussia, were leagued in the ‘Confederation of the Rhine,’ under Napoleon as ‘Protector.’ Of course the formation of this League amounted to a dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire; and in 1806, Francis II [of Austria; the last Holy Roman Emperor] laid down the venerable title [of Holy Roman Emperor]. So closed a government that dated from Augustus Caesar.”

This claim is misleading. Take the information in this claim with that of the preceding claim. West refers to Francis II of Austria, not Napoleon I of France. West refers to 1806 as the end of the Holy Roman Empire, not 1814. And West infers the beginning of this government was with Augustus Caesar in 27 BC, not Justinian in 554 AD.

-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.23

This claim comes directly from an old copy of the Plain Truth. We have whole swaths of material in this booklet copied almost verbatim from HWA’s oldest material. Read the April-May 1940 edition of the Plain Truth magazine for more.
The gist of what HWA is saying comes from page 9, where he says this:
“Yes, CHURCH GOVERNMENT is the ‘IMAGE’ of the ‘BEAST.’ When people speak of ‘MY Church,’ they mean their organized denomination.”
-Herbert Armstrong, Good News Magazine, April-May, 1940
In other words, all organized, hierarchical church governments were the image of the beast.
This idea grew from a statement HWA made one year earlier, in 1939:
“There is not single HINT in the NEW TESTAMENT of any Church BOARD with authority to rule, to govern, to decide doctrine, or to handle tithes and church finances (the whole church). In a later number we shall devote an article to explaining Acts 15, which certainly sets no such example.”
-Herbert Armstrong, Good News magazine, Feb. 1939
You will note that this entire belief is utterly undone later on in HWA’s life. There is no real difference in what Pope Leo I did and what HWA did. HWA is reported to have said that government is the one thing the Catholic Church got right.
One would retort that the Worldwide Church of God was not a state. Let’s see what Stanley Raider had to say about that.
The following is a snippet of transcript from a televised interview Stanley Rader did with Mike Wallace on the "60 Minutes" program back in 1979:
[Wallace] "Are you suggesting that Herbert Armstrong is a head of state?"
[Rader] "Exactly. Exactly. And..."
[Wallace] "And you're the Secretary of State?"
[Rader] "You got it. By God you got it, Mike. That's it! That's the whole key. This is a state and we are representatives of God, and I am Mr. Armstrong's Secretary of State."
-Stanley Rader, “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Wallace, starting at time stamp 8 minutes 29 seconds.
You can download the audio file in .mp3 format from the Painful Truth website. Look at the bottom of the page for "".

This claim is purely HWA’s own opinion. Is it the “image of the beast”? You decide. At one time in HWA’s life, when he was trying to legitimize his split from the COG7, he says yes! At another time, when he wanted to cement his personal control over the Worldwide Church of God, he says no! But while he was saying no, he was clubbing the Catholic Church for doing what he was also doing.

“But this church became a MOTHER, and DAUGHTER CHURCHES came out of her…”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Who is the Beast?” 1960, p.24

As time drew on, HWA became more and more like the Catholic Church he so demonized. So, according to his very own definition, he conformed to the image of the beast.
And now his “mother church,” the Worldwide Church of God, has born countless “daughter churches” of its own. They have been splintering off since the doctrinal changes of 1972. To this day they continue to split and divide as they fight amongst each other over who is the one true church.

This claim is completely hypocritical.

In closing…
Once again, this information I have laid out here is not speculation. It is a matter of historical fact. In one place Armstrong quotes an author or makes a claim, and I have checked that quote or claim, and in the vast majority of instances his information was simply not correct. Some were not just incorrect, but grossly so. In some cases he left very important facts out that change the meaning of his statements entirely.
And once again, some of the examples are so blatant, so egregious, that there is no possible way they were not deliberate, premeditated, and done with intent to deceive.
This establishes a pattern. Two different works from two different men at the same time, both resulting in the same forms of misinformation and misquotation. This only adds weight to my opinion that I have no choice but to look at every work from these two compatriots with the highest degree of skepticism.

I look at these things and I think about I Timothy 4; it puts a whole new spin on things:
(I TIM. 4: 1-5) 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith [HWA started his own faith that was contrary to all others], giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons [changing the gospel and condemning all Christendom], 2 speaking lies [misquotes, misinformation, etc] in hypocrisy [bashing the Pope while doing the same], having their own conscience seared with a hot iron [living in mansions while others went without; visiting doctors while others were forbidden to, etc], 3 forbidding to marry [anyone not of your own race, or not in the WCG], and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth [meats laws, white bread, white sugar, etc]. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Am I saying I Timothy 4 was written about HWA? Of course not. It's just something to think about.
Current members of a COG, loved by God, please take both of these posts to heart. Ask these questions to yourselves: Have I actually proved? Am I really interested in the truth? Am I only following what I follow because I just accepted it? Could it be that there are more works just as flawed as these, that have not been checked? What does the truth have to fear from fact checking? Can the things I believe stand up to some scrutiny?

May God, in the manner of the noble Berean, lead you to His truth.


PurpleHymnal said...

Like the cigarette ad said, "You've come a long way baby!" I remember the precursor we had to this discussion, two years ago, where I (probably futilely) tried to rack my brain and ransack the Internet for historical facts to refute the annual Feast film indoctrination. (Unfortunately my knowledge of history is still absolutely abysmal.)

I'm glad you took it one step further, and thoroughly debunked it for yourself!

xHWA said...

Awwwwwww shucks... *blush*

xHWA said...

"You've come a long way baby!"

Thank you. I take that as a deep compliment. I hope it was for the better. What a difference a year makes!

"I remember the precursor we had to this discussion, two years ago"

Thanks for mentioning that, PH. I had forgotten. We sure have had some great conversations over those 2 years.

Also, since you remember that we were talking about this general sort of thing 2 years ago, it lends credence to what I said at the beginning of my post that I've been plunking away at this for some time.

Not that anyone's interested, but...
When I think wayyyy back to when I first started wanting to go deeper into this booklet, I would say it was after a series of conversations I had with some friends at the Feast of Tabernacles in 2002. We noticed a few inconsistencies, but it didn't go much farther than a few small thoughts. Since then I've wanted to complete this review. 7 years and several attempts later, I've finally done it.

7 years? huh Whadda ya know. Perhaps that's a sign that I am the end-time Shadrach. Or maybe I am the symbolic pomegranate.

"I'm glad you took it one step further, and thoroughly debunked it for yourself!"

Thanks again! You're most kind.

Now, if only a certain group of people *wink, wink* would debunk it for themselves. Even though I am glad if there is any value in my review, there's something to be said about doing the work yourself.

Byker Bob said...

I'd like to encourage you to continue this excellent work, and to publish it far and wide!

The basic fact that all need to realize about the Armstrong movement is that they consistently presented a lying witness. Even if the beliefs had happened to be correct, and even if God had literally chosen them, the message would have been totally flawed. It's also not too much of a leap to realize that if they were not above doing this with history, they could also have used much sleight of hand in their usage and application of Scripture. Eighteen Restored Truths? Hah!

I like your reference to the Ottoman Empire. People forget that there are two legs to the beast of prophecy. HWA totally missed out on the greater significance of the Arabs in end time scenarios. We were always told that Europe would turn on us, but he attributed this to the activities of the Roman Catholic Church, not the Islamification of Europe!


xHWA said...

Thanks Bob. Encouragement is always appreciated.

xHWA said...

Here is a link to the full text of the study from which this post was derived: