January 3, 2013
An Initial Inquiry1
The New Testament Recovery Version is Living Stream Ministry's flagship product. About half-a-million free copies have been distributed by Bibles for America, an LSM affiliate. LSM's Recovery Version is the ultimate study Bible, the "900-pound gorilla" in its class, boasting2 "over 9,000 extensive footnotes." The notes dwarf the biblical text.3 We are told,4 "Witness Lee wrote the footnotes, based on over 50 years of his studying the Bible and the best Christian writings throughout the centuries." LSM declares they are the5 "crystallization...of the divine revelation ...attained in the past 2,000 years." LSM's Ron Kangas, says,6 "The footnotes in the Recovery Version...are all-inclusive...Every positive element of vision in the Scriptures is included."
Despite being "all-inclusive" and based on "the best Christian writings," explicit references to Bible expositors and Christian scholars are rare in the Recovery Version. Only fifty footnotes-- one-half of one percent--refer to Bible scholars or authors of "the best Christian writings." Everything else is presented as Witness Lee's own composition.7 W. Lee was a gifted minister, yet, by his own admission,8 he was not a trained theologian nor a scholar in biblical languages. "We did not study Greek," W. Lee acknowledged,9 but relied instead on secondary sources; "we had dictionaries, lexicons, and concordances to help us," he continued. No doubt "helpers" assisted W. Lee with the Recovery Version and other publications. Yet there is little evidence these helpers ever conducted original research on the Biblical text or its languages. Evidently, for the most part, both W. Lee and LSM's editorial section relied on others' primary research. Yet often, one looks in vain for references to primary sources in the Recovery Version. The same conundrum characterizes LSM's other publications. This raises important questions about integrity in writing and publishing--has other scholars' work been appropriated and integrated into LSM's Recovery Version? If so, has it been adequately recognized and documented? More generally, do LSM's publications--the Recovery Version, Life-studies, etc--incorporate the work of others beyond what their citations acknowledge? Has LSM engaged in plagiarism?
"Plagiarism is the practice, whether intentional or not, of using someone else's words or ideas and presenting them as your own."10 It is an act of fraud or literary theft, perpetrated by presenting others' ideas or words as one's own without crediting the source. Statements, like "we stand on the shoulders of others" are inadequate. "Using someone else's exact words without using quotes and attribution is plagiarism. Paraphrasing someone else's words without... attribution is [also] plagiarism," says Hartford Professor Burt.11 Changing the original wording doesn't prevent plagiarism. Writers are warned,12 "If you have retained the essential idea of an original source, and have not cited it, then no matter how drastically you may have altered its context or presentation, you have still plagiarized." Analyzing and synthesizing others' work, then presenting ones own summary (with references) would not constitute plagiarism.
Plagiarism differs from copyright infringement. The latter involves the unauthorized use of material protected by copyright.13 The former is concerned with false claims of authorship. Hence works not covered by copyright can still be plagiarized if they are reproduced (perhaps with modifications) without attributing the original source. An obvious solution is quoting primary sources verbatim, with reference citations. Plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty and fraud.14 Offenders are subject to censure. In other fields (e.g., journalism), plagiarism is considered a breach of professional ethics.
W. Lee's Aversion to Christianity's Writings
Witness Lee attributed every interpretation in his Recovery Version to his mentor, Watchman Nee and through him to previous expositors. "The Recovery Version actually is not my version because my understanding of the Bible depends absolutely on Watchman Nee's interpretation. Furthermore, Brother Nee's interpretation depended upon the proper interpretations of all the saints in the past nineteen centuries," he declared.15 Specific references to W. Nee are rare.
Apart from Watchman Nee, LSM-publications contain strikingly few specific references to other Bible scholars, expositors and teachers and even fewer recommendations. Witness Lee's recommendation of Andrew Murray's book, "The Spirit of Christ" is one of the rare exceptions.16 This may reflect W. Lee's disdain for Christianity. He is on record declaring17 "Catholicism is demonic, and Protestantism is without Christ. They teach Christ's name, but He is not there." He also asserts that18 "Christianity today is stranded on the sands of superstition, superficiality, and lukewarm theology." "Today's theological writings hold the Lord back from going on...they are old," W. Lee declared.19 Given these sweeping denunciations, perhaps it is not surprising that his published writings make no (positive) reference to contemporary Bible--commentators or theological scholars.20
Witness Lee also warned of the "risks" of studying older writings.21 Only a handful of expositors and scholars from previous generations are explicitly referenced; most of these date back to the nineteenth century or earlier. The Recovery Version's notes refer to Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922) eighteen times, Dean Henry Alford (1810-1871) fifteen times, and John N. Darby (1800- 1882) thirteen times. In addition, Bengel, Conybeare, and Wuest are cited a couple of times.22 Together these citations comprise a mere fifty footnotes, out of a grand total of 9,000. Some notable Bible expositors and scholars from previous generations--Lightfoot, Moule, A. T. Robertson, Westcott, W. E. Vine, F. F. Bruce, for example--are conspicuously absent from citations in LSM's Recovery Version and Life-study series.
The question arises--have the contributions of these expositors and other writers been adequately recognized? Has their work been integrated into and reproduced in LSM's publications beyond what is explicitly acknowledged? This possibility is suggested by Witness Lee's own comments; he says,23 "When I was writing the notes for the book of Luke...I used Dean Alford very much." Yet W. Lee's notes on Luke's gospel contain only two brief references24 to Alford. These don't seem to match the statement, "I used Dean Alford very much." A full investigation is beyond the scope of this study; instead we report results from an initial inquiry. For convenience we focus on the use and attribution of Marvin Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, the source cited most frequently in LSM's New Testament (Recovery Version). Among numerous LSM-publications we focus on their New Testament, Life-studies and the Conclusion of the New Testament.
To illustrate LSM's inadequate attribution, consider the phrase "Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22). The Recovery Version note explains, "A rabbinical phrase, equivalent to being with Abraham in Paradise." [RcV., Luke 16:221]. This is not presented as a quote; neither is any source referenced. Yet Vincent has exactly the same sentence.25 This suggests "copy and paste plagiarism," with Vincent as the source. The Life-study confirms this by citing him.26 But even this citation is inadequate--it is less than full disclosure. It doesn't indicate this is a direct quote from Vincent. Our inquiry suggests that cases of citations being included in some LSM-publications and omitted elsewhere are rare. Usually the situation is more serious--primary sources are not cited either in the Recovery Version, Life-studies, or Conclusion series. The following examples illustrate our findings.
Examples of LSM's Plagiarism
Example 1: Jesus called a "Nazarene," Matthew 2:233
Matthew 2:23 tells us Jesus grew up in Nazareth, fulfilling the word of "the prophets...He shall be called a Nazarene." Concerning this the Recovery Version's note includes the following:
The word prophets, in plural, indicates that this is not a particular prophecy but a summary of the significance of several prophecies, such as the one in Psalm 22:6-7....[Jesus] grew up in a despised town. All this made Him a Nazarene, a Branch--not a lofty branch of a stately tree, but a seemingly insignificant twig from the stump of Jesse. [RcV. Matt. 2:23,3 emphasis added. Reproduced in W. Lee, Conclusion of the New Testament, Message #27, p. 294 and Message #266, point 6]
Now compare this with Marvin R. Vincent's comments on this verse in his Word Studies in the New Testament:
The prophets. Note the plural, as indicating not any one prediction in particular, but a summary of the import of several prophetic statements as Ps. xxii 6, 8...Jesus grew up at Nazareth...being despised. He was not a lofty branch of a stately tree...but an insignificant sprout from the roots of Jesse... [M. R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 22, emphasis added]
Striking similarities exist between the highlighted sections of these two quotes. The Recovery Version's note is not an exact copy of Vincent, nevertheless the correlation is high. (Note that the correspondence needn't be perfect to qualify as plagiarism.) Both identify "the prophets" with a composite of several prophetic statements, rather than one specific prophet's prediction. Both cite Psalm 22 as an illustration. Both employ the particular phrase, "not a lofty branch of a stately tree"--a phrase not typical of W. Lee. Each contrasts this with a "(seemingly) insignificant twig (sprout) from the stump (roots) of Jesse." The assertion that these two quotes are totally independent is beyond the bounds of reasonable possibility; the deduction that the pronounced resemblance reflects dependence is much more plausible. The exact reproduction of Vincent's unique utterance is convincing evidence.27 Objective evaluators would infer that LSM has appropriated and incorporated Vincent's work without ascription. We conclude that parts of LSM's note are a close imitation, a paraphrase of Vincent's writing.28 However, he is not cited. This same paragraph also appears twice in W. Lee's Conclusion of the New Testament.29 In all these occurrences Vincent is never referenced. Let's call this what it is--this is plagiarism.
Example 2: "Gehenna of Fire," Matthew 5:228
Our second example, also from Matthew, concerns the phrase, "Gehenna of Fire," (Matt. 5:20). The Recovery Version note contains the following:
Gehenna, valley of Henna, is equivalent to the Hebrew Ge Hinnom, valley of Hinnom...it is a deep valley near Jerusalem and was the refuse-place of the city, where all kinds of filth and the bodies of criminals were cast for burning. Because of its continual fire, it became the symbol of the place of eternal punishment, the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). [RcV. Matthew 5:22,8 emphasis added. Also reproduced in Life-study of Matthew, Message #17, p. 220, Conclusion of the NT, Message #99, p. 1069,]
Concerning this topic, M. R. Vincent writes,
The word Gehenna...is the Greek representative of the Hebrew Ge-Hinnom, or Valley of Hinnom, a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem...it became the common refuse-place of the city, into which the bodies of criminals, carcasses of animals, and all sorts of filth were cast. From its depth and narrowness, and its fire and ascending smoke, it became the symbol of the place of the future punishment of the wicked. [Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 40, emphasis added]
Again, note the resemblance between the highlighted portions. Both writings use the same six phrases as they relate Gehenna to the "valley of Hinnon," "the refuse-place of the city," Jerusalem, where "all kinds (sorts) of filth" and "the bodies of criminals" "were cast," the fire of which "became the symbol of the place of the future (eternal) punishment." Although some words vary and the sequence of phrases differs, the Recovery Version employs six phrases which are virtually identical to Vincent; it copies the sentence structure and embodies the thought of Vincent's Word Studies, yet without giving credit. LSM could have quoted Vincent directly, attributing the quote to its author. This also applies to the Matthew Life-study and the Conclusion of the NT, where this paragraph is duplicated; Vincent is not cited there either.
Example 3: The Prodigal Son ate "carob pods," Luke 15:161
The third example is the "carob pods" the Prodigal ate in the parable. The Recovery Version says,
The carob is an evergreen tree. Its pod...was used...to feed animals and destitute persons. An interesting rabbinical saying is that "when the Israelites are reduced to carob pods, then they repent." A tradition says that John the Baptist fed on carob pods in the wilderness; hence they are called "St. John's bread." [RcV., Luke 15:16,1 emphasis added. Also in Life-study of Luke, Message #34, p. 293]
The corresponding section of Vincent's Word Studies says,
Carob pods...It is also called Saint John's bread, from a tradition that the Baptist fed upon its fruit in the wilderness. Edersheim quotes a Jewish saying, "When Israel is reduced to the carob-tree, they become repentant." [Vincent, Word Studies in the N.T., vol. 1, pp. 386-7, emphasis added]
The two sources present the same three pieces of information about carob pods.  Tradition says John the Baptist ate carob pods in the wilderness,  hence it's called Saint John's bread, and  a Jewish rabbinical says, "when the Israelites are reduced to carob pods, then they repent."30 The sequence of the three points differs, yet their content is essentially the same. If LSM's note was the product of primary research, independent of Vincent, the vocabulary and syntax would be significantly different. It is not. This suggests LSM has paraphrased Vincent's Word Studies; yet they don't cite him. They could have quoted Vincent verbatim, referencing him as the author, or indicated they had paraphrased his work.
Example 4: "Present necessity," 1 Cor. 7:261
Concerning Paul's use of this phrase, the Recovery Version says,
The Greek word for present may mean also that the presence of a certain thing foreshadows and inaugurates something to come. Here the present necessity, or distress, indicates that more anguish is to come, as prophesied by the Lord in Matt. 24:8, 19, 21. [RcV., 1 Cor. 7:261 emphasis added. Also Life-study of 1 Corinthians Message #41, p. 364 & Message #43, p. 382]
Now, compare this to M. R. Vincent's comments,
present may also express something which is not simply present, but the presence of which foreshadows and inaugurates something to come. Hence it may be rendered impending or setting in. [Vincent, Word Studies in the N.T., vol. 3, p. 220, emphasis added]
Again, objective observers would conclude that LSM has paraphrased Vincent's commentary. Vincent's particular phrase, "foreshadows and inaugurates something to come" is replicated in the Recovery Version. This phraseology is not typical of W. Lee. Again Vincent is not cited as the source either in the Recovery Version or the Life-study. To avoid the charge of plagiarism LSM ought to have quoted Vincent directly and cited him as the author, or indicated they had paraphrased his writing.
Example 5: "He made the universe (ages)," Hebrews 1:25
The Recovery Version explains why the Greek word for "ages (aeons)" is rendered "universe":
Universe: "Lit. ages. The ages is a Jewish expression that means the universe. Ages here does not refer to the matter of time but to creation (the universe) unfolded in time through successive ages." [W. Lee, RcV., Hebrews 1:2,5 emphasis added.]
Regarding this Marvin Vincent says,
Ages "does not mean times...but creation unfolded in time through successive aeons" (ages) [Vincent Word Studies in the N.T., vol. 4, p. 381]
The two quotations match. Both concur that, in this context, "ages" does not mean times, but "creation unfolded in time through successive ages (aeons)." Given the close resemblance, we ask--Who is quoting from whom? Obviously the Recovery Version is quoting Vincent's 1887 Word Studies, rather than vice versa. Yet there are no quotation marks nor any reference to Vincent (or any other scholar) as the source. The striking similarity suggests Vincent's work has been appropriated without attribution.
Example 6: "Eternal salvation," Hebrews 5:93
The Recovery Version says,
Not everlasting salvation but eternal salvation, of which all the effects, benefits, and issues are of an eternal nature, transcending the conditions and limitations of time. [W. Lee, RcV., Hebrews 5:9,3 emphasis added]
Now let's evaluate this against Vincent's Word Studies:
Not everlasting salvation, but a salvation of which all the conditions, attainments, privileges, and rewards transcend the conditions and limitations of time. [Vincent, Word Studies in the N.T., vol. 4, p. 436]
Both commentaries reject the translation "everlasting salvation" as inadequate; both propose a salvation with characteristics transcending "the conditions and limitations of time." That particular phrase only occurs once in the Recovery Version's 9,000 footnotes--in Heb. 5:93 where it echoes Vincent's phraseology. There are slight differences; the Recovery Version uses the terms, "effects, benefits, and issues," where Vincent employs the words, "conditions, attainments, privileges, and rewards." Yet the sentence structure and meaning are clearly the same. Changing a few words is not sufficient; an unattributed paraphrase of another's writing is still plagiarism.31 LSM's note incorporates Vincent's thought and terminology without quoting or citing the source. To be ethical LSM should have quoted Vincent verbatim and credited him as author or indicted they had paraphrased him. As it now stands, objective observers will conclude LSM has appropriated Vincent's commentary, yet without giving credit.
Example 7: "Elements of the world," Col. 2:83
The Recovery Version explains the phrase "elements of the world" as follows:
Here it refers to the rudimentary teachings of both Jews and Gentiles, consisting of ritualistic observances regarding the eating of meats, drinking, washings, asceticism, and other matters. [RcV., Col. 2:8,3 Reproduced in the Life-study of Colossians, Message 21, p. 175, emphasis added]
Concerning this expression M. R. Vincent says,
Rudimentary teachings as in Heb. v.12; applicable alike to Jewish and to Gentile teaching. Ceremonialism--meats, drinks, washings, Essenic asceticism, pagan symbolic mysteries and initiatory rites--all belong to a rudimentary moral stage. [Vincent, Word Studies in the N.T., vol. 3, p. 486, emphasis added]
The two quotes are a close match. Both refer to "rudimentary teachings" of both Jews and Gentiles. The Recovery Version's term, "ritualistic observances," is a synonym for Vincent's "ceremonialism." The first four examples listed by Vincent, ("meats, drinks, washings, Essenic asceticism") are duplicated in the Recovery Version's enumeration--"eating of meats, drinking, washings, asceticism," although the latter's list is truncated ("pagan mysteries and initiatory rites" became "and other matters"). Yet Vincent is not referenced on this point; he ought to be.32
Example 8: "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," Col. 2:93
Concerning this important expression the Recovery Version includes the following:
This points to the physical body that Christ put on in His humanity, indicating that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ as One who has a human body. Before Christ's incarnation, the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him as the eternal Word, but not bodily. From the time that Christ became incarnate, clothed with a human body, the fullness of the Godhead began to dwell in Him in a bodily way; and in His glorified body (Phil. 3:21) now and forever it dwells. [W. Lee, RcV., Col. 3:9,3 Also reproduced in Life-study of Colossians, Message #18, p. 152 and Conclusion of the NT, Message #8, p. 80. Emphasis added]
The final clause--"in His glorified body now and forever it dwells"--is unique and not a phrasing typical of Witness Lee. Among the Recovery Version's 9,000 notes this clause occurs only once--in Colossians 2:93. On the same point, M. R. Vincent previously wrote,
The fullness of the Godhead...dwells in Him as one having a human body...The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in His person from His birth to His ascension. He carried His human body with Him into heaven, and in His glorified body now and ever dwells the fullness of the Godhead. [Vincent, Word Studies in the NT, vol. 3, p. 487]
Both quotes interpret the adverb, "bodily," as "One who has (having) a human body." Moreover, the Recovery Version's "in His glorified body now and forever it [the fullness of the Godhead] dwells" closely resembles Vincent's unique phrase, "in His glorified body now and ever dwells the fullness of the Godhead." The leading explanation is that LSM has integrated Vincent's unique phraseology into the Recovery Version, yet without ascription.
Further examples echoing Vincent's Word Studies could be enumerated. For example, the description of Christ's constraining love as "shutting up to one line and purpose, as in a narrow, walled road," (RcV., 2 Cor. 5:142) originates with Vincent, who uses this exact phraseology.33 These further examples are reported in Appendix B.
The cases documented above are sufficient to establish that LSM's reliance on M. R. Vincent's Word Studies in the Recovery Version goes significantly beyond the eighteen cases which are explicitly cited. LSM has appropriated and integrated Vincent's work, yet without ascription. In some cases LSM quotes Vincent verbatim, yet without quotation marks or citation. Other times they paraphrase him, also without attribution. This is plagiarism. Marvin Vincent's work is being misrepresented as Witness Lee's own composition in LSM-publications.
LSM's Appropriation from Other Expositors--Vine & Scofield
The examples enumerated above document LSM's use of M. R. Vincent's Word Studies without attribution. Here we illustrate their incorporation (without citation) of other scholars' work, namely that of W. E. Vine and C. I. Scofield.
William E. Vine (1873--1949) was affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren; he authored a widely-used, four-volume Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1st ed. 1939). LSM's Recovery Version does not cite Vine. However, he is referenced a few times in The Conclusion of the New Testament.34 There are indications that he ought to be referenced more often and that LSM has incorporated his work without attribution. Consider, for example, LSM's explanation of God as the "Architect and Maker" of the heavenly New Jerusalem (Heb. 11:10):
An Example from Vine--"Architect and Builder (Maker)," Hebrews 11:10
Witness Lee's Conclusion of the New Testament contains the following exposition:
The Greek word rendered `Architect' in Hebrews 11:10 is technites, an artificer, one who does a thing by rules of art; hence an architect. The Greek word translated `Maker' is demiourgos and literally means one who works for the people. In general usage it came to denote a builder or maker. In Hebrews 11:10 both technites and demiourgos are used of God. The former speaks of God as the Architect, the Designer of the New Jerusalem; the latter as the actual Maker or Framer of the city. [W. Lee, The Conclusion of the NT, #6, p. 56, emphasis added]
This exposition contains three components--the meaning of the Greek words rendered "architect" and "maker (builder)" and their use in Heb. 11:10. Let's examine each in turn, comparing LSM's exposition with W. E. Vine's.
LSM's Conclusion says, "The Greek word rendered `Architect' in Hebrews 11:10 is technites, an artificer, one who does a thing by rules of art; hence an architect." Now compare this with W. E. Vine, who says, "Technites, an artificer, one who does a thing by rules of art..." [W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of NT Words, vol. I, p. 157, emphasis added] Notice that the highlighted 12-word definition of the Greek term technites is identical in both cases. Both use "artificer," an archaic term. Vine is being quoted, yet without quotation marks or attribution.
LSM's Conclusion says, "The Greek word translated `Maker' is demiourgos and literally means one who works for the people. In general usage it came to denote a builder or maker." Compare this with W. E. Vine, who says,35 "Demiougos, lit., one who works for the people...[it] came to denote, in general usage, a builder or maker, and is used of God as the Maker of the Heavenly City, Heb. 11:10." [W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. III, p. 31, emphasis added] Again the highlighted portions match almost perfectly. LSM has copied Vine.
3. In Hebrews 11:10
The Conclusion says, "In Hebrews 11:10 both technites and demiourgos are used of God. The former speaks of God as the Architect, the Designer of the New Jerusalem; the latter as the actual Maker or Framer of the city." The corresponding section in W. E. Vine says, "...Heb. 11:10. In that passage the first word of the two, technites, denotes an architect, designer, the second, demiougos, is the actual framer." [W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. III, p. 31] The key terms architect-designer vs. actual framer (maker) are identical. Notice both expositions introduce the term "framer" at the same point.
Taking these three components together, the close resemblance suggests LSM's exposition does not present their own primary research into the etymology of the Greek words, nor have they synthesized multiple primary sources. Rather, the near-perfect correspondence suggests LSM's writers have merely paraphrased W. E. Vine's published work, yet without any citation or attribution, thereby presenting it as their own original composition. They have not given credit where credit is due. Paraphrasing without ascription is a recognized form of plagiarism. Journal editor, Michael Grossberg calls this36 a "more subtle and perhaps more pernicious [form of plagiarism] than simply expropriating the exact wording of another author without attribution."
An Example from Scofield's Reference Bible
Cyrus I. Scofield (1843--1921) was an American Bible teacher. His annotated Reference Bible, first published in 1909, had wide circulation, popularizing Plymouth Brethren views. The notes in Scofield's study Bible incorporate John N. Darby's dispensational theology, including the premillennial rapture of the saints. W. Lee spent seven years among the Plymouth Brethren. On occasion he expressed, in a general way, a qualified appreciation for their teaching. The LSM's Recovery Version cites Darby's writings and his New Translation thirteen times.37 Nevertheless, there are indications LSM's dependence on Darby, Scofield and other Brethren writers exceeds what is acknowledged. Consider, for example, W. Lee's explanation of "Gog and Magog":
The Identity of "Gog & Magog," Rev. 20:81
According to Revelation, after the 1,000-year kingdom, the nations, Gog and Magog gather for battle at Armageddon. Concerning this the Recovery Version says,
Gog and Magog, according to Ezek. 38:2-3 and 39:1-2, must be Russia. Ezekiel 38:2 (ASV) indicates that Gog and Magog are of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, which correspond with Russia, Moscow, and Tobolsk. Ezekiel 39:2 (ASV) refers to these places as `the uttermost parts of the north.'... [RcV. Rev. 20:81 Reproduced in Life-study of Revelation, Message #57, p. 662, emphasis added]
The central point identifies "Gog and Magog" (based on Ezekiel 38 & 39) with the northern country of Russia and its cities, Moscow, and Tobolsk. Does this identification derive from original research conducted by Witness Lee or LSM's editorial section? Probably not; the most likely source is the Plymouth Brethren. On this point, the Scofield Reference Bible has:
That the primary reference is to the northern (European) powers, headed up by Russia, all agree. The whole passage should be read in connection with Zech. 12:1-4; 14:1-9; Matt. 24:14-30; Rev. 14:14-20; 19:17-21, "Gog" is the prince, "Magog," his land. The reference to Meshech and Tubal (Moscow and Tobolsk) is a clear mark of identification. Russia and the northern powers have been the latest persecutors of dispersed Israel, and it is congruous both with divine justice and with the covenants... [The Scofield Reference Bible (1917) Notes on Ezekiel 38:2 "Gog", emphasis added]
Notice that the 1917 Scofield Reference Bible's essential points--identifying Gog and Magog as northern powers, headed by Russia with Moscow and Tobolsk (former capital of Siberia)--match the Recovery Version's interpretation. Yet, LSM identifies neither Scofield, nor John N. Darby, nor any other Plymouth Brethren writers as the source of this interpretation. This ascription is lacking in both LSM's Recovery Version and the Life-study of Revelation.
This article is about integrity--integrity in Christian writing and publishing. Secular authors and publishers are expected to adhere to a code of ethics. Christian authors and publishers should apply a higher standard (Matt. 5:20). Plagiarism violates this ethical code. It takes on various forms. These include38 "using someone else's exact words without using quotes and attribution." It may also entail38 "paraphrasing someone else's words without...attribution," or using another author's unique phrases and utterance without acknowledgment.39
Only fifty of the Recovery Version's 9,000 footnotes--one-half of one percent--cite other writers. This "Initial Inquiry" documents multiple instances in which LSM publications have duplicated and paraphrased other scholars' writing without ascription. In particular, in twenty-six instances LSM has appropriated and integrated Marvin R. Vincent's work into its Recovery Version notes, Life-studies, and Conclusion of the New Testament messages, without attribution. In some cases LSM quotes Vincent verbatim, yet without quotation marks or citations. In other instances they paraphrase him, also without ascription. Both are forms of plagiarism. Marvin R. Vincent's work is being misrepresented as W. Lee's own composition. Other scholars' writings--e.g., like W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and C. I. Scofield's Reference Bible --have also been used without assigning credit.40
Perhaps a few isolated cases could be assigned to coincidence--LSM's writers just happened to use utterance identical to previous expositors. However, we have presented twenty-six examples where LSM quoted, paraphrased, or distinctly echoed Vincent's Word Studies, yet without ascription. Such cases are so numerous they cannot be attributed to chance. The magnitude of the problem suggests this is a systematic pattern in LSM publications. What is the significance of these findings?
Some observers will seek to discount these results. They may retort that such cases represent a small percentage of the Recovery Version's 9,000 notes, that LSM's publications are derived from W. Lee's spoken messages,41 that the points appropriated from others are minor42 and these older publications (Vincent, Vine, Scofield, etc.) are no longer copyright-protected. They may also assert that Witness Lee was not familiar with the "western concept" of plagiarism. Let's briefly respond to these points.
This "Initial Inquiry" sought to establish that plagiarism occurred; it has not determined its extent. We focused on one writer--M. R. Vincent. The examples reported here may turn out to be just the "tip of the iceberg;" further study is needed. In the interim, perhaps those dismissing this issue as minor should consider Witness Lee's principle, that,43 "In knowing a person we should not look at the big matters but at the small matters." W. Lee applied this principle to Austin-Sparks' periodical, A Witness and a Testimony and concluded43 "that there must still be some distance between him [Sparks] and us." Applying the same principle to LSM's publications, the "small matter" of plagiarism may also provide important insights.
Copyright has expired on older publications by Alford, Darby, Vincent, etc. Hence duplication doesn't violate copyright laws. Nevertheless the issue of plagiarism44