Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Setting things straight

            A seminar on Jehovah’s Witnesses was held April last in Antwerp, sponsored by CESNUR. It drew colleagues and friends. I have five children and other responsibilities which explains why, though I was invited, I did not attend.
            Separate Identity, our book, drew some comment, some positive and some negative. Not everyone will like what they read regardless of who wrote it. Some won’t like the writing style. Some will reject conclusions that differ from their own. The criticism to which I object is the claim we do not cite opposition writers. This is false on its face. And it reflects a lack of understanding of the nature of original research. Original historical research is not based on secondary sources. It is based on original sources. These are memoirs by event participants, contemporary documents and articles in contemporary periodicals. Few opposition writers represent original sources. Reliance on them is an affectation derived from the writing style of sociologists. It is not, nor should it be, part of a historian’s kit, except when their statements are challenged or a shared conclusion is referenced.
            Contrary to the claim made by a conference attender, we reference opposition writers at least twenty-two times. Some of these are former adherents; some are not. Some claimed academic credentials but are truly polemicists. One in the final edition of his book met a high academic standard but is still an opposition writer.
            Why anyone would trash our book, no matter how politely, with this false claim puzzles me. Herewith is the list of opposition writers we cite in footnotes and text:
1. R Bowman and A. Gomes – page 81; 2. G. Burns – page 256. 3. W. T Conner – page 178; 4. C. C. Cook – page 178; 5. J. V. Coombs – page 51; 6. R. W. Coon – page 51; 7. M. D. Curry, Jr. – page 175; 8. C. G. Falkner – page 306; 9. W. Gavin – page 232; 10. D. Graham – page 60; 11. E. Gruss – pages 210, 329, 332; 12. J. Haughlen – page 234; 13. C. O. Johnson and J. Penton – page 168; 14. Morris and Kross – page 232; 15. A. T. Rogerson – page 179; 16. J. J. Ross – page 51; 17. T. T. Shields – Page 314; 18. F. Springmeir – page 193; 19. E. Young – page 51.
            With the exception of Wikipedia nonsense, we felt no need to footnote controversialist web pages of little to no worth. We stand by that decision. None of them are original source material. In those few cases where original source material is reproduced online, we cite it in the usual way.
            There may be more examples but my memory suggests only three: On page 185, footnote 12 we cite Lottie F. Warner’s diary which is found online; on page 203 we cited Early Lives of Andrew and Lydia Ann Beeman, reproduced online; on page 257 we cite a Davies family memoir also found online. These are original sources.


roberto said...

Stupid people that love to be stupid people.

Anonymous said...

I have always found the Cesnur scholars to be a fair minded group of individuals with a healthy tolerance for religious adherents whose ideas may differ from their own perspective. Like all individuals however, they suffer from imperfection. Just like myself, they are inclined, on occasion, to make assumptions which may or may not be right. Perhaps this is an example, or maybe it was a comment from a misinformed attender?

You are right, nonetheless, in correcting the error. In my own very limit sphere of interest I am often amused (and sometimes very annoyed) when a renowned scholar makes a wrong assumption about Bible Student or Witness practice or belief. If left uncorrected, too often this becomes repeated as 'Gospel' by later writers who run with it, creating straw men who they then set about demolishing. (I have a classic instance in mind, but will spare you the details.) As is the case in all areas of historical research, those that rely on assumptions rather checking the earliest available sources usually end up, sooner or later, with egg on their face!

Son of Ton

Donald Jacobs said...

I don't know who you mean when you said some tried to trash your book. Certainly not me since I spoke up in support of it!

I did not say you didn't cite "opposition writers", I said you didn't cite "apostate" sources. Apologetic JW books of course counter opposition authors like Robert M Bowman Jr. all the time, that's one of their main features. Bowman was never a JW and is not an apostate. Similarly while Gruss and Rogerson were brought up as JWs (as far as I am aware) they say they never joined the religion themselves. So they wouldn't meet the definition of apostate either.

I was talking about the general tendency of JW apologetic books to avoid engaging apostate authors like Penton, Jonsson, and Franz even where highly relevant to the discussion. In your long list I only see one footnote to Penton and Jonsson that counters that observation. I am sorry I missed it. Maybe there are others.

I had a good impression of your book and that is what I tried to convey. That it partly serves the function of defending JWs is not a demerit in my view.

All the best and I wish you success in your project.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

We don't defend Witnesses. Their doctrine is differs in many respects from Russell's. We don't defend Russell either.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Haughlen was a Witness. Burns was a Witness. Falkner was a Witness.

Miquel Angel Plaza-Navas said...

I think it was a positive thing that your books were mentioned at that congress. I myself mention them several times (like Donald and one or two more persons). Mention your books in a place where several scholars (english and french, do not forget french people) were present was really a novelty. I do not remember great critics to your books, but always there are different opinions about what has been written. French scholars do not knew your books... now several of them have the opportunity to read them and, of course, to criticise them.
I prefer to center on the positive aspects.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I wonder what in Penton or Franz is relevant to the period we're writing about. We cite Penton again in vol 2. when we consider the first work in Canada.

J. Phillip Arnold, Ph.D. said...

I found A Separate Identify to be extremely helpful in the study of the origins of the Bible Students and Russell's doctrinal development. I especially like the way this circle of Bible truth seekers is related to other similar circles of seekers during this same time period. Connections are discussed with such groups as Christadelphians, Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), Church of God Seventh Day, Advent Christian Church, as well as their leading figures who may over time moved from one circle to another. The references to the publications of these people during this time period is illuminating. It reminds one of the current use of the internet where various views of represented and participants of various groups read and comment on various "lists".

I will continue to recommend this excellent work to those who are researching these circles of Bible truth seekers.

J. Phillip Arnold, Ph.D.
The Reunion Institute
Houston, TX.