Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HWA and Pyramidology

Pyramidology is the belief that the Pyramids of Egypt was not built by the Egyptians but by biblical figures who encoded prophetic messages within its construction. The creation of the pyramids were attributed to several Biblical personages such as "Noah, Enoch and Job." (Michael Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, p. 12.) Assuming that the Pyramids were created by Biblical personages this lead to the idea that the Pyramids were created to deliver Biblical truth. HWA was influenced by this doctrine. He did not embrace the belief that the Great Pyramid bore a message from God relating to prophecy, but he still believed that it was created by Job.

Pyramidology originated from one John Taylor (1781-1864) who became convinced that the Great Pyramid could not have been made by the Egyptians but must have been made by Israelites. This idea then passed to Charles Piazzi Smith (1819-1900). As a vessel of divine revelation the Great Pyramid was interpreted as giving clues to what will happen in the future. He used the measurements of the Great Pyramid to claim that Christ would return in 1882, then at other points from 1892 to 1911.

Famously Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witness, another religious movement often cited as an influence on HWA, also used such Pyramidological concepts for his own theories and used them to produce his 1914 date for Armageddon. Some of the writings advancing this theory may be seen here. Ironically the Watchtower Society today denounces Pyramidology as Satanic and yet they still use the date that Pyramidology helped to give them.

Such Pyramidological beliefs was long familiar to teachers of British-Israelism and have been inherited by their Armstrongite and virulently racist Identity descendants. Observe what this article on Identity belief has to say in regards to their beliefs concerning the origin of the Great Pyramid. "Identity teachers of today such as Pastor Arnold Murray maintain that the Great Pyramid was built by the Israelites and is a second revelation of God." (p. 4.)

HWA was long familiar with Pyramidology. Indeed it was while studying Pyramidology that he discovered the doctrine of British-Israelism. The truth may be seen in Ralph Orr's article, under the heading "Armstrong and the Great Pyramid." HWA sent a letter to Lincoln McConnell, a pastor in Florida wishing to learn more about Pyramidology. This pastor then told HWA that he needed to understand British-Israelism. "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." Reading these words one is reminded how HWA would hail British-Israelism as the "master key" to understanding Biblical prophecy. He even stole that line from Lincoln McConnell.

If there is any believer of HWA's doctrines who believes that Ralph Orr is just making this up as part of an evil conspiracy to discredit HWA, let that person read HWA's personal in the August 1969, Good News, p. 4: "a minister in Florida I had contacted by mail, wrote saying that unless I knew of the identity of of the United States and the British as the Birthright people of Israel -- heading the so-called "Lost Ten Tribes," I was IGNORANT!" HWA then claims he only believed that which he found in the Bible to hide the truth that he just picked and chose whatever doctrine appealed to him. But this statement proves that HWA found the lost identity of Israel from a minister in Florida and not from the Bible. It was not a new revelation from God. He find it while studying Pyramidology.

Pyramidology's influence on HWA may be seen in some of his unpublished writings as Ralph Orr shows. It is of interest to note that many British-Israelites were attracted to this doctrine.

Ever wondered why HWA said Jesus Christ would return in 1936? One part of the answer is to found in the doctrine of Pyramidology. HWA was copying David Davidson, an author on Pyramidology who predicted a time of trouble for the British order from May 29, 1928 to September 16, 1936 (Barkun, p. 86).

HWA also referred to Pyramidology in his June-July, 1934 issue of The Plain Truth as may be seen with these words. "And for Great Pyramid students, a point in this connection will be of interest. 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." These are the same dates David Davidson produced. (Plain Truth, June-July, 1934, p. 5. Also see Ralph Orr's article, heading "Armstrong's Developing Work.")

Armstrongism would also come to accept the belief that a Biblical personage created the Great Pyramid. They settled on Job. HWA gave some small alluring tidbit of this belief in one of his booklets. "There is the implication here that Job had directed the building of some very great ediface—such as the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt." (HWA, Did God Create a Devil?, 1973, p. 6.)

This belief is given a more concrete form by Herman Hoeh. In his article Who Built the Great Pyramid?, published in the May 1964, Plain Truth, Hoeh taught that Job is to be identified with Cheops and thus was the builder of the Great Pyramid. Furthermore it was taught that Job was a son of Issachar. Here Hoeh, speaking for the organization, crucially denies that the measurements of the Great Pyramid contain prophetic significance. This position caused Armstrongism's adoption of Pyramidology to be relatively muted compared to those who believed that the Pyramids contained a prophetic significance.
I have beside me now the works of David Davidson, Adam Rutherford, and others. Each tries to build a chronology for the future by measuring the dimensions of the Great Pyramid with the "pyramid inch." Dr. Meredith and I saw the little stone protrusion in the Pyramid which these people contend is the key to the revelation of the pyramid. But they have no way to know whether this little protrusion should measure the pyramid and determine chronology, or whether it was for some other purpose.

Even if one has accurately measured the pyramid, how are they going to know which point means which year? Davidson starts with a certain point in the Pyramid and calls it the day of the crucifixion -- -Friday, April 7, 30 A.D. Since that date is proved wrong by the Bible [based on HWA's Wednesday Crucifixion doctrine], all his chronology is in error.

Another takes the same point and calls it the date of the crucifixion, Friday, April 3, 33 A.D. Since that date may be proved wrong, too, his chronology errs.

He also speculated that it marked the border of the land of Goshen with Egypt and that in the future "it might be again dedicated in the future as a pillar or monument of witness to what the Eternal -- the Amen -- will do in delivering Egypt from the revived Roman Empire." He further expanded on this topic in his Compendium of World History.

Curiously Hoeh mentions David Davidson and Adam Rutherford yet makes no mention of Charles Taze Russell. Was the Radio Church of God trying to hide their readers from researching the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses?

This pyramidological belief again appears in PCG's From the Beginning booklet, on page 42: "Tradition and history indicate that Job built the great pyramid. He was a splendid architect." The unsuspecting reader will be unaware that Gerald Flurry is actually referring to this tradition of Pyramidology rather than actual tradition and history. That booklet has been discussed on this blog earlier.

Thus we can see that HWA was influenced by Pyramidology and although this particular belief would be relatively weakened within Armstrongism by denying any prophetic significance of the Great Pyramid this belief played a crucial role in HWA's development of his eclectic worldview.


  1. The Ambassador College library in Pasadena was filled with numerous pyramidology books. Including antique books by Piazzi Smith. I know, because silly me had never heard of the topic and was fascinated by the books when I found them. I even did a frigging term paper on it and got an A! The library and Herb's basement also contained lot's of JW books.

  2. Really. Well that just proves the point many have been making. HWA was a syncretist.

    "The library and Herb's basement also contained lot's of JW books." What more proof do we need? How else are we supposed to explain we he got his terrible doctrine of death that medicine is somehow wrong. The JWs taught that vaccinations were evil from 1921-1952.

    HWA certainly did not invent it himself. In AR67 the following was stated: "Virtually every doctrine that was once claimed to be unique to Armstrongism was actually lifted from some other denomination. (One exception is the "born again equals spiritually conceived" doctrine which Armstrong apparently devised himself.)"

    Even that exceptional doctrine was not original as this idea was taught in some parts of COG7 but, as far as I know, they came to reject that position and no longer teach it.

    I remember in one LCG booklet I read Meredith condemned "cafeteria religion" (syncretism). Just picking and choosing whatever suits you. And yet their spiritual idol was just as guilty as those Meredith condemned.

  3. To say that Charles Taze Russell used Pyramidology to produce the date 1914 for Armageddon might be misleading in three ways. First, the basis for the 1914 is the Bible, not Pyramidology. Second, Russell expected that the "time of trouble" was to begin in 1914, which trouble would lead to the final battle of Armageddon. While in his earlier years, Russell seemed to present the idea that the Armageddon struggle would be over in 1914, in his later years, yet long before 1914, he plainly stated that he no longer was expecting this. He certainly was not expecting "Armageddon" in the sense that the JWs speak of Armageddon. And third, Russell's concept of Armageddon being totally different from what JWs belief concerning Armageddon, to speak of "Armageddon" without such clarification can lead one to think that Russell believed that in 1914, all of a sudden most of the world's population would be gone and that only "Bible Students" would be left. Russell believed no such thing. Russell did not believe that the Armageddon struggle would be over in an instant, or that all of sudden in 1914 that battle would be fought and God's Kingdom would be suddenly everywhere on earth. He looked upon Armageddon as a period of time when the various peoples, the armies of the world, would be in conflict (alleged human rights, socialism, capitalism, etc.), assembling for a final conflict --battle -- that would end in such great tribulation, that unless God stepped in to stop matters, no flesh would be saved. Russell did not believe, as the JWs do, that Jehovah will eternally destroy thousands, perhaps millions, or even billions, of "unbelieving" men, women and children in the Armageddon struggle.