Multiple critics, including Nathan Rivera, Jeremy Bergen, and John Collins allege that William Branham plagiarized the works of Clarence Larkin. Larkin was a prominent minister and promoter of dispensationalism in the generation before Bro. Branham. Larkin died in 1924. In this article we want to examine the truth of this alleged plagarism.
Twisted definition of plagarism
The critics take a twisted definition of plagiarism to advance their theory. First let’s see what the dictionary says.
plagarism: the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.Webster Dictionary
Critics are either unaware or ignoring the fact that Bro. Branham had openly told his audiences that he indeed read from Larkin’s materials and incorporated portions into this own messages. Bro. Branham adapted some of Larkin’s teachings. Larkin is not the only author Bro. Branham also read and adapted elements of their teachings. Uriah Smith was also a major influence on Bro. Branham’s end-time teachings.
What did Bro. Branham say?
This has been a week of tremendous study. Yesterday all day I hardly moved from the room, trying to study. And it’s something in the last time, a-many of the old-timers here, that I taught, I just said, “In here belongs the seventy weeks of Daniel,” but I did not try to attack it to explain it. But this time, by the grace of God, I have taken upon myself to try to ask grace before God that I might bring it to the people. And in here I’m finding things that I do not know one thing about. And then I… I’ve been reading Dr. Larkin’s book, Dr. Smith’s book, Dr. Scofield’s notes, different commentaries from men everywhere, and yet I cannot put theirs together to make it come out right. [DWB: Their works were not in harmony with each other.] See? So this week I’m planning on… Been visiting the library in Kentucky on some of the ancient astronomy of the calendars and times, and picking up from the libraries and so forth all the ancient books that I can, and to–what little I can do, and having my trust solemnly in Jesus Christ to reveal it to me, because I do not want it to say, “I know this, and I know that.” He knows my heart; He’s listening at me. But I want it that I might enlighten His people. Therefore, I believe that He will give it to me. [DWB: The revelation of which author had the correct viewpoint] I do not know as yet, but I’m trusting Him for next Sunday, ’cause that’ll be the tremendous part, as next Sunday to know and place those seventy of weeks. Each one has a different place. And when you do, you go to running them on through; they don’t come out right; they don’t register up right. It can’t. And therefore, I–I may not be able to have it right, but I’m going to trust the Lord for it.GABRIEL’S.INSTRUCT.TO.DANIEL JEFF.IN DA 1-44 61-0730M
Bro. Branham made it abundantly clear he had been reading the books of many men, trying to compare their teachings and determine which one had the correct understanding. Larkin, Scofield, Smith, and other men had varying interpretations on the Week of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Bro. Branham was investigating them.
Simple analysis will show Bro. Branham utilized Larkin’s dates for calculating the start of the 70 weeks, but he used Smith’s formula for calculating the length of the 70 weeks. Bro. Branham’s belief in this area is primarily a synthesis of the teachings of Larkin and Smith. In other topics, like the capstone ministry and the church ages, Bro. Branham agreed more with Larkin, and less with Smith. Overall, Larkin had the greatest influence on Bro. Branham’s dispensationalist teachings.
This is not uncommon. Elements of Larkin’s dispenensational teachings have found broad acceptance in Charismatic Christianity, and rarely is he directly credited as the source of the teachings.
Bro. Branham plainly states that his views were enlightened by Clarence Larkin.
I’m very grateful to Dr. Larkin of his views. I’m grateful to all these great scholars for their views on this. And in reading them, it enlightens me much that I can find places that looks right. But to get the views that I–I thought that I would like to explain.SEVENTY.WEEKS.OF.DANIEL JEFF.IN DA 89-141 61-0806
Bro. Branham even notes he studied Larkin’s book in connection with the sermon on the Church Ages.
If you don’t have The Seven Church Ages on tape, it would be good if you listened to them; and soon they’ll be in book form. Then just leaving it at that and presuming that after while we’d preach on the Seals, not knowing what the Seals was. I had my own idea, as every minister does, of reading, maybe what other men had said, and believing as much as I–possible with them on the things that they had drawed up, their conclusion. I’d read the book of Mr. Smith, Uriah Smith, which is the Adventist teacher, and I’d read his–his thoughts on it. And I’d read Mr. Larkin; I’d read oh, so many different ones of their commentaries on this.July 19, 1964, The Feast of the Trumpets
How can William Branham be guilty of plagarism when he openly acknowledged his sources? Is it merely because he does not include footnotes and bibliographies at the end of his sermons that critics raise this allegation? Followers of Bro. Branham’s teachings know he borrowed from Larkin, because he told us he did. I don’t know in what universe this constitutes plagiarism, but not in this one.
What did Bro. Branham’s contemporaries say?
Bro. Branham was not hiding the fact that he received his understanding through Clarence Larkins, in fact he was endorsing Larkin and sharing his books. Junior Jackson wrote the following:
[Bro. Branham] had a book that he let me look at: The book was published by a name I was familiar with, the name Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truths. He put in there all about the pyramid. He used to believe years ago, as different scientists from all over the world had studied the pyramids, that practically every arithmetic figure is represented in the angles of this pyramid, geometry, trigonometry, whatever you want to call it. As I listened to this [sermon given by Bro. Branham] I believed it, because he let me have the book to read. I want those that are Spoken Word people to know, I read the book, how Clarence Larkin brought it all out, that the Bible was supposed to have been embedded in the pyramid.Raymond Jackson, Jr – The Contender, Vol 36 No 7
This is evidence that Bro. Branham had let those around him know he based some of his thoughts on Larkin’s book, and was making no effort to conceal or hide it. In fact, he shared Larkin’s books with others to show them the source of his teaching.
Throughout the scripture, we find examples of men quoting the old testatment, without providing any citation as to who they were quoting. If Paul failed to attribute a saying to the prophet Isaiah, was that plagarism? If Peter failed to attribute a saying to King David, was that plagarism? If the Apostle John failed to attribute a saying to Solomen, was that plagarism? Of course not! Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, and whatsoever is true should be attributed to him!
The extent to which Clarance Larkin brought understanding of the gospel, he was not himself the true author of it, in biblical terms. He was merely expressing the teachings of the bible as he was led by the Holy Spirit. Larkin states as much in the forward of his own book:
Do the critics believe Christ is not the author of the gospel? Why is attributing the source of the truth to Christ not adequate?
Did Clarance Larkin plagiarize Charles Taze Russell?
The critics are not very diligent in their research, and actually show their own lack of knowledge of church history. The teaching of the church ages did not begin with Clarence Larkin. Larkin’s teachings on the subject, published in the 1919, were actually building upon earlier teachings on the same topic which had been developed by Charles Taze Russell beginning in the 1870s and published in his 1886 book The Finished Mystery. Larkin himself claims no originality to his own book:
The only Author the writer [Larkin] has sought to follow is the Author of the Book, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the writer lays no claim to originality.Clarence Larkin, The Book of Revelation, p. x, 1919
It is quite clear that Bro. Branham was fully aware of this. (Bro. Branham indicates his clear knowledge of Russell’s teachings in his 1957 sermon 57-0925 – Questions And Answers On Hebrews #1, paragraph 41, wherein he references Charles Russell’s failed prediction of the coming of lord. Those who knew Bro. Branham are also aware that he did receive and read material from Russell’s followers, and he made such references in multiple sermons.)
While Larkin did not incorporate the teaching of “church age messengers” in his book, the original teaching on the topic by Russel did include “messengers”. Russell included both the apostle Paul and Martin Luther among his messengers. Russell, at the time, did not make any speculation about who the Laodiciean messenger was. Multiple Christian groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe Russell was the Laodicean Age messenger, though Russell never claimed to be so. The title was given to Russel after his death by some followers of his teachings.
The real problem here is that elements of the Branham movement never taught their congregations the truth about these topics, and even ignore Bro. Branham’s own statements indicating the sources he studied and God used to reveal the knowledge of the Church Ages to him. Then, having never been told the truth, some people are shocked and dismayed when they discover these teachings did not originate with Bro. Branham. Why did you ever believe they did? Because someone misled you to think so, and that person was not Bro. Branham.
I’d read the book of Mr. Smith, Uriah Smith, which is the Adventist teacher, and I’d read his–his thoughts on it. And I’d read Mr. Larkin; I’d read oh, so many different ones of their commentaries on this….William Branham, July 19, 1964, The Feast of the Trumpets