Gentile Ministries: Scholarship, a Lost Cause?

In view of the fact that some of our BRI’s talmidim (students) are great fans of the prophetic writings of Steve Rider, Willard Cantelon and the late, infamous Herbert W. Armstrong (judging from the number of books, tracts and booklets that continue to turn up on our doorstep promoting all three sources), we would like to demonstrate briefly the lack of scholarship contained in some of these works.

Cantelon, for one, notes concerning the ancient city of Babylon:

“Of all the cities that should have remained, Babylon should still be in existence…[Yet]…travellers report that Babylon is totally without habitation even by Bedouins. Some say that superstitions among Arabs prevent them from pitching their tents there, and the soil is such it will not produce suitable pastures for the flocks of the shepherds” (New Money or None? 1979, 221).

Similarly, regarding Tyre, he writes:

“When Alexander the Great came, long after Ezekiel had uttered [his prophetic words] he broke down the walls and towers, exactly as predicted, and scraped the rubble into the sea. The rocks on which the city had been built were left so completely bare, the fishermen used the site as a place to spread their nets. It remains this way still today” (220).

Not to be left out, concerning “New Tyre” Armstrong wrote,

“Alexander the Great, after demolishing the buildings of New Tyre, demolished this huge sea wall which had reclaimed the lowland space on which the actual city of New Tyre had been built…God turned the ocean upon the city, and the deep waters cover it to this very day. New Tyre has remained from that day to this like the top of a rock!”

Armstrong had claimed on numerous occasions that the existence of God would be disproved were the city of Babylon again to be rebuilt or even inhabited (The Proof of the Bible, 38). The present lecturer has in his possession a copy of an early Seventh-day Adventist publication entitled Prophecy Speaks from which much of HWA’s booklet seems to be derived. It certainly makes similar claims.

Let us consider the facts about Babylon and Tyre’s present situation.

  • Babylon was never suddenly destroyed by any invasion as was prophesied in Isa 13.19

  • When it is destroyed it will be in the Day of the Lord (Isa 13.6)

  • Babylon, dominated by Edomites, is the last nation to drink of the cup of God’s wrath according to Jer 25 and Isa 34. This puts the literal fulfilment of the prophecy of Babylon’s fall to be yet future.

  • Contrary to Jer 51.26 the bricks and stones of the ancient city have been utilised in other building projects.

  • Israel has not yet entered into God’s rest, as she was supposed to do immediately upon the eclipse of the city of Babylon (Isa 14).

  • Jer 51 and Rev 18 use similar language. The prophecies of Revelation, concerning Babylon at least, are yet to be fulfilled.

  • Zechariah stated that wickedness and commerce were to flourish in Babylon (Zech 5.5-11).

  • There are no wild animals in the vicinity of Babylon, but plenty of domesticated animals wander through the area.

  • A military camp is established within the central walls of Babylon.

  • Inside the original walls of Babylon are now situated three fairly-sized villages.

  • Arabs do pitch their tents on the site.

  • Businessmen from the nearby city of Hilla are known to have permanent homes in Babylon.

  • A modern hotel with a staff of at least 18 sits squat next to a museum in the middle of the city.

  • The Iraqi government, and others, are presently restoring the ancient city.

And of Tyre:

  • Tyre was never completely destroyed by Alexander or by anyone else. 18 years subsequent to the original partial destruction by the Macedonian, the city had been restored to the point of being able to hold out against one of Alexander’s former generals. The city of Sur with a population of 15,000 rests secure on the very site of ancient Tyre and has since it was built in 1766.

Says Willard Cantelon of himself: “In my youth I was absorbed by history” (Money Master of the World, 1976, 69). Well, I don’t know what history books he read, but they didn’t teach him much! It’s a pity these “theological masterminds” have spent their time reading what religionists write of history rather than history. Further, Cantelon bores us with this little momento of his sincerity, and his past.

“You have been a student of prophecy for a long time, dad.”

“Most of my life.”

“Does it ever disturb you when some suggest conflicting things under the name of prophecy?”

“Not too much…When men follow the rules of study, and this is essential…they speak the same thing” (Money Master, 100).

Perhaps after perusing our sixteen points concerning Babylon and Tyre, some honest religious historians and theologians (and they must exist, somewhere) will rewrite their tomes or perhaps care to answer each of the above sixteen points in detail.