Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ghosts of End Times Present: Grant Jeffrey


From the September 2009 E-Block. The Ticker will return next week, as I have a conference to attend the next two days. NOTE: A couple of the links below no longer function.

**

Grant Jeffrey has something in common with the Skeptical writer G. A. Wells, and it isn't that he believes Jesus did not exist. Rather, it seems that it can be said of Jeffrey's books, as it is said of Wells': "If you've read one, you've read them all." 

Six of Jeffrey's books were read for this study; though they spanned from 1994 to 2008, I found in each book elements that were repeated in all six - sometimes using the same words verbatim; sometimes even twice in the same book. As a result, our analysis of Jeffrey will be relatively short - for it is like reviewing just one book, in many ways. 

It will also be short for another reason: The bulk of these books consist of one of three things:
  • Reporting of the contents of the Bible
  • Simple recitation of a standard dispensational interpretation (with little exegesis or argument)
  • Extended recitations of statistics and factoids, pressed into the service of indicating that the end will soon come
To be sure, each of the six books has some variation of focus, as follows:

  • Prince of Darkness (1994) [PD] - here Jeffrey made significantly more predictions than he did in later books...most of which ended up in failure. We may perhaps commend him for refusing to engage this sort of prognostication in later books, save that:
  • Final Warning (1996) [FW] - the focus here is on what Jeffrey supposed would be an imminent financial crisis - and like Hagee's recent book, it is padded with a great deal of financial advice (prefaced by warnings that you need to see a financial advisor for the best advice and the publisher isn't responsible if you follow what the book says and get in a hole because of it).
  • Armageddon: Earth's Last Days (1997) [AE] - a general exposition
  • The Next World War (2006) [NWW] - a focus on Islam
  • The New Temple and the Second Coming (2007) [NT] - a focus on the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple
  • Countdown to the Apocalypse (2008) [CA] - a general exposition
Yet, again, despite the differing emphases, each of these books contains the same material - again, sometimes verbatim.

Now of course we have seen this before in other writers of this genre, including Hagee and even Walvoord. The distinctive with Jeffrey is that he is much more cautious than Hagee but rather less cautious than Walvoord in attempting to predict what's coming next (aside from what he did in PD). Jeffrey's approach is much more general as a whole: "Bad things are happening. This is a sign of the end!"

And does he think that end is soon? Reading chronologically, we find a bit of an oddity at first:

PD1: Jeffrey says that the Antichrist is working behind the scenes right now (1994). This suggests that he expects the Tribulation within the next 30-40 years.

FW9: But here, in 1996, Jeffrey says that Jesus "may not return for 100 years"; but soon we will see the "greatest economic collapse in history".

AE229: And yet again, in 1997, Jeffrey says that thirty years of study leads him to the conclusion that there is "overwhelming evidence" that we will see "the return of Jesus Christ in our lifetime."

Really? What changed in just a year, or three? The contradiction raised here is that in 1994, in his 27th year of study, Jeffrey was convinced that we were 30-40 years from the end. Then in 1996, his 29th year of study, he thought it possible we'd have to wait as much as 100 years. But in his 30th year of study, 1997, the evidence is now (again) "overwhelming" that Jesus will return in our lifetimes (30-70 years)?

Oddly, at AE210 Jeffrey also says: "...we must always recognize that God is sovereign and may choose to delay His appointed judgment of the world." But this caution statement stands out for being unique. The cover of NT says: "The Prophecy that Points to Christ's Return in Your Generation" (repeated within at 3). CA21 says that end times events "will occur during our generation" and CA143 says they "will almost certainly take place in our generation."

One can only wonder why 1996 was different, though no answer leaves the reader undisturbed by a question of Jeffrey's integrity as a reporter.

The good news is that because Jeffrey generally avoided prognostication, he has less than Lindsey and Hagee to regret on this account. But he does fall victim to a typical problem of the popular dispensationalists, and that is poor research and documentation.

Wild, Undocumented Claims

Like Lindsey and Hagee, Jeffrey is prone to making a number of extravagant claims and providing absolutely no documentation for them. On this count, in fact, Jeffrey is the worst of the Ghosts of End Times Present, often making successive pages of undocumented claims. This is not to say that some or all of these claims may not be true, but the degree of their extravagance requires far more than Jeffrey's "because I said so" as support, especially since he is not a credentialed scholar. (He is a financial planner and has degrees from Louisiana Baptist University, an unaccredited college.)

Among the claims made of this sort:

CA185: Israel has developed "high-energy plasma beam weapons that will revolutionize warfare."

AE 277-8: The rebuilt tourism city of Babylon is built on top of an "underground lake of asphalt and oil" which points to the source of its final conflagration in Revelation.

AE119: Jeffrey reports that Russian military hardware is partially constructed of a material called lignostone, a wooden composite that can be burned. This he notes in support of an interpretation of Ezekiel in which Israel will burn the supplies of Russian invaders for seven years. Unfortunately, there seems to be no evidence of weapons applications at the product website for lignostone (see here) and I have found no other documentation for this claim either. (See an interesting discussion here.)

PD283: Saddam Hussein was a covert Satanist.

In addition, Like Hagee, Jeffrey too often relies on unnamed "reliable sources" or meetings with unnamed persons as verification of some claim or another:

NT 19 "...reliable sources in Israel have told me that over the last century,
millions of dollars have been set aside in wills and trusts by Jews who want to help finance the Temple reconstruction."

NT 76 "A few years ago several knowledgeable Israeli friends who love archaeology revealed an astonishing discovery that has not yet been publicized."

All of this might be excused if Jeffrey's record as a researcher could be given a good rating. Unfortunately, I have found all too often that where Jeffrey's facts can be checked, he often gets things badly wrong, or else accepts the claims of various sources uncritically. In addition, Jeffrey shows very little critical professionalism in the handling or use of source material. Let's look at examples of each.

Just Plain Wrong

Jeffrey reports several unacceptable fringe ideas which leave open many questions about his credibility as a researcher.

FW242: Jeffrey accepts the fantastic conspiracy theory that Pope John Paul I was poisoned. (See on this an item by Sandra Miesel, co-author of The DaVinci Hoax, here.)

PD20: Jeffrey claims that Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome, which is false: He only legalized it. Christianity did not become the state religion until decades later.

PD22, 245: Jeffrey defends heretical groups like the Waldenses and Cathars as orthodox. His source is a book of church history written in 1826.

PD51: Jeffrey appeals to the "Pseudo-Titus epistle" as an "early Church manuscript." In fact, this document is only testified as coming from a Latin manuscript of the 8th century.

PD300: Jeffrey reports that the Inquisition killed 40 million people. As we have noted, the Spanish version alone executed only 2000 people over several hundred years.

Not the Whole Story

In some instances, when I checked Jeffrey's source material, I found that he failed to tell the whole story, or reported incorrectly.

CA19: "Several nations now have access to a genetic weapon that kills victims selectively, based on their ethnicity."

Jeffrey offers a reference link to this article. But when we check it, we find that it actually says:
Scientists have warned that recent advances in biological research could eventually lead to the creation of a new type of biological arsenal capable of targeting a specific group of human beings with common genetic characteristics, as may be the case with certain ethnic groups.
In other words, this "genetic weapon" was entirely hypothetical at the time; "several nations" did not "have access" to it.

NT 125-6: "Scientists have found a special variation of the Y chromosome that is shared by Jews descended from this priestly subtribe (the Cohens)." In NT this was insufficiently documented. But in AE149 the name of a scientist was given, which allowed me to check into these claims. It seems there is some truth to the matter; research was definitely done (see here for a summary). But it was also questioned by other researchers (see here for an example) and continues to be debated. It is far from as settled an issue as Jeffrey makes it out to be.

NT105: Jeffrey refers to the founding of a new Jewish Sanhedrin in 2004, as evidence that Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. But he does not mention that this body has not been recognized by the state of Israel as an authoritative body.

NWW22: Jeffrey appeals to the Apocalypse of Peter, an apocryphal document dated between 100-135 AD, for support of the idea of a "rebirth of Israel." What he fails to report is that the passage he refers to comes from the Ethiopic version of the Apocalypse, which was written in the 7th-8th century. (Some argue that it derives from earlier text, but this needs to be argued, and Jeffrey needs to be up front about the textual data.)

Uncritical Sourcework

We have mentioned more than once the matter of supposed mineral wealth in the Dead Sea that is supposed to send the Russian military alliance scurrying into Israel bent on conquest. It seems we now know who first came up with the idea.

At NT172-3, Jeffrey refers to this Dead Sea wealth, and appeals to a 1950 book, The Shadow of Coming Events by Harry Rimmer. Rimmer himself was far from qualified to report such things, and was also a source of other non-credible reports such as the idea that scientists had discovered Joshua's "missing day" (see here for that).

Finding about Rimmer also led me to discover the current disposition of this alleged mineral wealth. It seems Israel is indeed making some money off of it these days - selling cosmetics. (On this see Paul Boyer's When Time Shall be no More, 163).

NWW150: Jeffrey relies frequently on Jewish material for interpretation within his prophetic paradigm, but he is frequently not critical about these sources. He appeals to an oral tradition recorded in "the Vilna Gaon, a Jewish commentary" to support the idea of a Russian invasion. But he fails to report that this commentary was written by Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, who lived from 1720-1797. It takes a lot of arguing to suppose that an oral tradition could have been so well preserved for more than a thousand years, as I know from my study of that subject (reported in Trusting the New Testament).

In FW76, Jeffrey appeals to the Zohar, an "ancient Jewish commentary." It is nothing of the sort; it is a forgery (see here) that is an untrustworthy source. Other sources, like the Pirke Eliezer, are likewise of questionable provenance, and Jeffrey wrongly refers to Jarchi and Aben Ezra as "ancient Jewish sages." This is false, as the former lived from 1040-1105 (he is better known as "Rashi") while the latter lived from 1093-1167.

If I may venture a guess: It seems that Jeffrey learned to rely on sources like these from commentaries written in the 1800s, which make similar appeals. If this is so, then Jeffrey is being particularly irresponsible in not seeking to be sure his understandings are fully informed.

FW21: For defending the authenticity of Daniel, Jeffrey can find no better source that Pusey's commentary written in 1863. At FW32 he uses an 1884 source to report an archaeological discovery. This is the sort of thing Acharya S does: Why not validate these amazing findings with a more recent source?

FW168f, 314: For several claims, Jeffrey relies on the testimony of Don McAlvany, a "friend" of his who publishes a text called the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor. Among the claims used from this "excellent monthly intelligence journal": Russia is planning on using a "seismic bomb" to trigger earthquakes.

But who is McAlvany? As far as can be found, he has no expertise in military or intelligence matters, and is mainly employed in matters of investments, and he has expertise in the management of precious metals. His own website says he has a "background in undercover intelligence work" but offers no specifics. One can only wonder why Jeffrey cannot find a more official source for validation of claims like the use of "seismic bombs." As it stands, I place as much confidence right now in this as I would in a Skeptic who used The Skeptical Review as a source.

These things led me to have serious questions about Jeffrey's credibility when it came to things I was not expert in. Jeffrey may be right about other matters, but his reportage of such wild ideas as the Inquisition killing 40 million people (!) does not lend itself well to establishing credibility.

The Prophetic Picture

As noted, Jeffrey offers the standard dispensational paradigm; and as in past articles, we will highlight a few particulars.

Everywhere a Sign: As with the other "Ghosts," Jeffrey has a constant finger in the wind for events that can be "read out" in favor of the end coming soon. The Y2K crisis was apparently one of these, although we did not obtain a copy of his book The Millennium Meltdown, in which he apparently used that crisis. In CA165, 167, Jeffrey appeals to things like climate change, smart cards, and the VeriChip ID as signs of the end times; that's a major sign, but there are minor signs to be found even in TV violence (AE60).

The only major excess I found was AE252, where Jeffrey tries to argue that the increase in recorded earthquakes is not due to "better reporting." In his words: "An earthquake of 6.5 is so destructive that historical records have always recorded these major killer quakes."

Indeed? What came to mind at once from this was Glenn Miller's words here:
The earthquake occurred in 464 bc, and was pivotal in the breakup on the Delian League in Greece. This league was composed of some 200 city-states, united again the Persian invasion threat of Darius. The League was not as unified as the Athenians would have hoped, and a major earthquake was instrumental in inciting the Messenians to revolt against Sparta, and in stopping the "Lakedaimonians" from intervening in assistance for the Tracians. This earthquake--adequate to throw governments into disarray to the point of being vulnerable to revolt and adequate to prevent large-scale military intervention/response--would have been experienced by between 20,000 and 100,000 people. This would have encompassed numerous city-states and a wide variety of people. So, how many observers wrote down anything (that is preserved and meets Robby's critera) about this event? None. How do we even know about this event? From a single mention in Thucydides (c.460-400 b.c.). He was born four years after the event, and probably interviewed people in the area for the information that later showed up in his History of the Peloponnesian War. In I.100 he simply makes a general comment about the military intervention, that it was "prevented by the occurrence of an earthquake"--nothing more, nothing less.
Jeffrey does not document his claim that killer quakes are "always recorded" - it seems rather that this is a contrivance to maintain the fiction that better reporting is not the reason for more quakes being noted.

The Ten Nations: Jeffrey believes that the ten nation confederation will come out of the Roman Empire, with the European Union as the likely source. In CA59, Jeffrey notes that there are 27 nations in the EU but does not explain how this will get to 10. In FW85, however, Jeffrey suggested that there would be perhaps 10 EU nations in a sort of "inner circle" or top tier of the EU. The solution is ingenious - and as contrived as any other for explaining why the data does not fit.

Predictions: Jeffrey as a whole avoids making predictions about specific elements of the future, beyond what he finds in the Bible. The exception is Prince of Darkness (1994), where he made a number of specific prognostications:

PD63, 86: 2000 AD is the planned target date for one world government by New World Order/New Age groups.

PD110: The US and Canada will participate in a one world currency by 1997

PD154: There will be a huge depression in the late 1990s.

PD159: By 1997, the entire US budget will be for paying interest on national debt.

Did Jeffrey "learn his lesson" and so not offer so much in the way of forecasts in later books? Perhaps. If so, it is all for the better.

Textual Clues. For the most part, Jeffrey handles the Biblical text responsibly within the dispensational paradigm, avoiding outrageous acts of exegesis. I did find a couple of exceptions:

PD136: Rev. 12:12-13 is interpreted to mean that the antichrist may use an underwater nuclear device to create tidal wave to drown the Jews.

NWW 131-2, AE 253: Matthew 24:9-10 is wrongly applied to Jews rather than Christians.

But perhaps Jeffrey's crowning claim is to have discovered proof that the early church taught a "pre-Tribulation rapture" - in contrast to some commentators who say this is an invention of John Darby, a commentator of the 1800s. Jeffrey and other dispensational commentators now appeal to the text of Pseudo-Ephraem as evidence that a pre-Trib rapture was early - or at least, held by one person.

It should be noted that Jeffrey offers contradictory information on this text. In CA he dates it to 373 AD, but in FW472 he notes that others date it to the 6th century, which seems to be the view demanded by the evidence. Jeffrey does waver a bit saying that he thinks the 6th century text was "derived from an original Ephraem manuscript" written earlier, but this is mere presumption.
Even so, either date would precede Darby substantially, so it is worthwhile to check this text:
For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.
The word "taken" is what Jeffrey supposes refers to a Rapture, but this is hardly specific in terms of the mechanism used to "take" believers. It also does not specify their destination. It could fit a Rapture - but it might not.

In conclusion, I think it fair to say that Jeffrey will be a good source for me to consider when I more fully analyze the issue of eschatology in a forthcoming Buildings Block book. But he shares nevertheless some of their same pointed flaws.

1 comment:

  1. I read on his website that Grant Jeffrey died earlier this year. About seven months ago I believe.

    ReplyDelete