A vehement disagreement over the New York Times bestseller “The Harbinger,” which also has been made into the No. 1 faith film in the country, “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,” has been elevated to a new level with the release of a detractor’s book.
David James, co-founder and executive director of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity, has written several times of his disagreements with “The Harbinger.”
“Many have accepted Cahn’s message as being genuinely from God,” reads an explanation of his book on his website. “However, David James has clearly demonstrated that ‘The Harbinger ‘falls far short of meeting the biblical requirements for such a message from God, being based on the mishandling of Scripture, faulty theology, misleading statements, the selective use of historical facts and unsupported speculation.”
Meanwhile, “The Harbinger” author Jonathan Cahn has issued a point-by-point rebuttal of James’ concerns.
“For the record,” Cahn writes, “D. James and I would both call each other brothers, as we have, and we would agree on the basic doctrines of our faith, even on an overall eschatological framework. We would also agree on the call and need for repentance in general and to America specifically. I believe him to be a sincere brother. I don’t fault his motives. Unfortunately, sometimes the pursuit of some (not all) ‘discernment’ ministers, or those who believe they are called to find or correct error in the body, can itself [be] misguided, extreme, and even subject to the very same errors that are ostensibly being opposed. This is unfortunately the case in D. James’ latest critique.”
But the release of “The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?” by James presents a new conflict: a book cover that mimics the original “Harbinger.”
The type faces are similar, the word “Harbinger” is similarly squeezed in the middle and the arrangement of the authors’ names is similar. Even the image of New York City is similar.
Asked about the similarities, Woodley Auguste, a spokesman for Cahn’s publisher, Charisma Media, told WND there would be no comment on the issue at this time.
“We stand behind the message of Jonathan Cahn’s New York Times bestselling book, ‘The Harbinger,’ but have no comment at this time,” he wrote in an email to WND.
WND had asked whether the company planned to do anything regarding the similarities.
Neither could Cahn comment immediately on the issue.
James told WND the design crew at The Berean Call did the design work.
“They chose different elements,” he said. “There is some similarity, but there are some significant differences.”
Asked whether the cover might deceive customers, he said, “We would want them to be able to see the differences between the two. … You obviously could compare them.”
If customers are misled? “I would hope not,” he said. “That wasn’t our intention there.”
In an email message, he said, “We certainly have no desire for anyone to be confused and buy my book by mistake when they intend to buy ‘The Harbinger.’ We do not believe there will be any confusion as the ‘Fact or Fiction?’ part of the title is quite distinct and stands out very clearly.”
Jonathan Cahn wrote “The Harbinger” to call America to repent and turn to God, as well as to warn the nation that it is in danger of coming under the judgment of God if it fails to do so. This is a legitimate and very important message. He also rightly recognized that the danger faced by the nation is ultimately a personal spiritual matter for each American.
This message could have been communicated in any number of ways, including through a fictional novel. … The real problem arises from the way he has inappropriately handled the Word of God, from the many instances of speculation concerning the interpretation of historical events, and from the many overstatements and misleading statements he has made in order to make his case for an ancient mystery hidden in Isaiah 9:10.
Unfortunately, “The Harbinger” is a distraction from properly understanding the Word of God, particularly prophecy, and so can legitimately be characterized as dangerous. … Believers run the risk of embracing a misguided view of Scripture and a distorted view of history, while unbelievers will likely end up either skeptical or confused or both.
Cahn’s response to to James?
The book is a national best-seller but also has been “endorsed, recommended, praised and championed by born again, Bible-believing ministers, pastors, ministry leaders, Bible teachers, Bible scholars, Christian authors, Christian seminary professors, etc., throughout the body of Messiah. Its endorsements have crossed both denominational and doctrinal lines within the body, from Baptist to Nazarene, fundamentalist to charismatic, etc. It has been read by Christian scholars, whose expertise in the key passages which concern ‘The Harbinger,’ Old Testament hermeneutics, biblical Hebrew, etc., I would think D. James would admit go well beyond his own. And they’ve endorsed it as being not only biblically sound, but one of the most important books they’ve ever read.”
“Beyond any article or debate concerning ‘The Harbinger,’ beyond anything D. James would say or I, the issues, the response, the stakes involved, and the level of importance involved, are critical enough to warrant the reader to read the book for him or herself. Anything less is hearsay.”
He said the message is straightforward:
God is able to bring judgment and warn a nation of that judgment, and it is His nature to both warn and call back. He is also sovereign and able to send warning using whatever means, consistent with His nature, that He chooses. This would most certainly include giving warning by using the same patterns of warning and judgment as revealed in the Bible. There is nothing here that is anything less than biblical and nothing other than that which has been attested to in orthodox faith throughout the ages. It is, on the contrary, the argument to the contrary that has no biblical grounding.
Cahn also recently answered critics of his decision to speak to a wide range of media outlets regarding the book and its thesis.
“With the success of ‘The Harbinger’ and ‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment’ movie, I’ve appeared on many interviews programs, well over a hundred in a short time,” Cahn wrote. “I’ve been asked what I think about some in the body, specifically some ‘discernment’ ministers who preach that many such interview programs should be off limits for believers.”
Cahn’s response: “It comes down to this: If a believer appears on an interview program, whether Christian or secular, whether with a controversial or ‘questionable’ host or not, does this mean that the one being interviewed is necessarily in agreement with the person, the program or the station conducting the interview? And does it mean that one is necessarily in agreement with other guests who have appeared or may appear on the host’s program?
“The answer is, in a nutshell is very simple: Absolutely not,” he continues. “When Billy Graham appeared on ‘The Tonight Show,’ did it mean that he was endorsing the views or lifestyle or the divorces of Johnny Carson? Or did it mean that Johnny Carson was endorsing the views or Christian lifestyle of Billy Graham? When Jerry Falwell appeared on ’60 Minutes,’ did that mean he was endorsing the views of Mike Wallace or CBS News – or that they were endorsing him? Of course not. No such understanding exists that a person being interviewed is in any way in agreement with the person or platform or program or organization responsible for doing the interviewing, whether Christian or secular – much less in agreement with the other guests who may have appeared or who may appear on that person’s broadcast.”
Joseph Farah, producer of “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” and founder of WND, chalks up the relentless criticisms to two factors.
“Cahn is a new-found celebrity in Christian circles, and I detect a certain degree of envy from others,” he said. “In addition, I strongly believe some of the critics believe they will get noticed by going after a high-profile Christian book and movie and the man behind it. Both of those motives are sinful by definition. They are trying to hold Jonathan Cahn to a standard no one in history – Christian or secular – has ever been held to since Jesus Himself was accused by the Pharisees of supping with sinners and tax collectors.”
Since its release in March, the film treatment of Cahn’s message in the No. 1 bestselling Christian book of 2012, “The Harbinger,” has been the bestselling faith movie or TV show in the country. It has held the No. 1 position on the Amazon charts for 20 straight weeks, as well as remaining among the top five or six documentaries of any kind during that same period.
“It’s a remarkable story you won’t read in the Hollywood Reporter or Variety, or, I’m afraid, in any Christian publications, either, for that matter,” said Farah. “For whatever reason, the success of ‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment’ is still a well-guarded secret surrounded by multimillion-dollar productions and film distribution deals. And it’s getting bigger every day.”
What’s the compelling subject matter that has driven the sales?
The movie, like the book, suggests America is being chastened by God for turning away from His ways with striking and eerie parallels to the way ancient Israel was judged.
Both the book and the movie show the uncanny parallels between events prior to the dispersion of Israel and events taking place in the U.S. today. In fact, the events continue to unfold even after the release of the book and movie. But the book and the movie tell the story in very different ways.
“The Harbinger” is listed officially as a work of fiction, because of the narrative format, including fictional characters. “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” is a documentary chronicle of real events – most of which Americans have no idea ever took place.
The events have all taken place since Sept. 11, 2001, and they all connect to one obscure verse in the Bible – Isaiah 9:10.
“The ancient vow begins with these words: ‘The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with hewn stone,’” explains Cahn. “The vow declares Israel’s defiance of God, in the face of a devastating strike on the land. The hewn stone, which begins the rebuilding, symbolizes the nation’s intention to come back stronger than before. The book then reveals the parallel to proclamations by Barack Obama in his first State of the Union message, then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle the day after 9/11 to a joint session of Congress and former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards on the third anniversary of 9/11.”
Cahn also reveals in “The Harbinger” and “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” something that readers and viewers universally find astonishing – that New York’s Ground Zero actually represents more than the former financial center of the country. It is the exact place at which America was first consecrated to God in prayer by the country’s new leaders.
“When judgment came to Israel, the calamity returned the people’s attention to the place where the nation had been consecrated to God – the Temple Mount,” says Cahn. “God was calling the nation back to Himself. What about 9/11? Could there be, in the American calamity, as well, a mystery of return? Could there be a prophetic message hidden in the place where it happened? There is a place where America was consecrated to God in prayer. It is also a place linked to a prophetic warning given on that same day – uttered by the nation’s first president – now coming to pass.”
In 1789, newly inaugurated President George Washington gave a prophetic warning at Federal Hall in New York City. He declared that America’s prosperity and protection were dependent upon its adherence to God. Later, the political leaders of the young nation gathered at St. Paul’s Chapel to commit the nation’s future to God’s purposes. That chapel is located at Ground Zero and miraculously survived 9/11 virtually unscathed.
Cahn, pastor of the Jerusalem Center-Beth Israel Congregation in Wayne, N.J., says America is uncannily re-enacting ancient Israel’s behavior prior to its judgment and eventual fall. He found a sympathetic ear for his message in WND founder Farah, who produced “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” as a follow-up to “The Harbinger.”
“I had a chance to hear Jonathan Cahn’s message last fall,” said Farah. “Then I had an opportunity to read an early manuscript of ‘The Harbinger’ before it was released in January. I was determined to produce this video documentary, ‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,’ because I believe its message is the most important one for Americans at this moment in history. In fact, I believe this project may be the most important one of my life. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”
The key to decoding the harbingers, Cahn says, is found in understanding the seemingly innocuous words of Isaiah 9:10 (King James Version), what they meant to Israel and how the history seems to be repeating itself in America today: “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: The sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”
These words were first uttered by leaders in Israel in response to a limited strike by Assyria on the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali – an attack the prophet makes clear is actually part of a limited judgment by God against apostasy. It wasn’t meant to destroy the nation but to awaken it, according to most commentaries.
However, says Cahn, Israel didn’t take the cue. Instead, the response from the people in Isaiah 9:10 is one of defiance. The brick buildings were toppled, but they vowed to build bigger and better. The little sycamore trees may have been uprooted, but they vowed to plant bigger and better cedars in their place.
God, speaking through Isaiah, explains what will happen as a result of their pride and arrogance and failure to heed the harbinger: Bigger and more potent attacks will follow. Because neither the northern kingdom of Israel nor the southern kingdom of Judah truly repents, the first is eventually swept away by Assyrian invaders and the latter is carried off into captivity by the Babylonians for 70 years.
But what does this have to do with the United States of America – particularly what the U.S. experienced on 9/11 and since? Cahn has found some eerie parallels.
“In the aftermath of the attack, the nation was stunned,” said Cahn. “Everyone was trying to make sense of what had happened – this unprecedented attack on America. The very next day, Sept. 12, then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle presented America’s response to the world. And what did he say?”
Daschle said: “America will emerge from this tragedy as we have emerged from all adversity – united and strong. Nothing … nothing can replace the losses of those who have suffered. I know there is only the smallest measure of inspiration that can be taken from this devastation. But there is a passage in the Bible from Isaiah that speaks to all of us at times like this.”
Incredibly, he then went on to read Isaiah 9:10.
“Daschle has no idea what he is doing here,” explains Cahn. “He thinks he’s offering comforting words to a grief-stricken people, but he is actually embracing the spiritually defiant and arrogant words of the children of Israel, proclaiming the ancient and ominous vow of the leaders of that nation. He doesn’t realize it, but he is actually inviting more judgment on the nation.”
It might be of some significance that Daschle, one of the most powerful men in the nation when he spoke those words, later fell into disgrace – to the point where he couldn’t even serve in Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
That might have been the end of the story – if no other top leader in the nation uttered those strange and obscure words after 9/11. But that’s not the case.
On the third anniversary of the attack, Sept. 11, 2004, another powerful U.S. senator running for vice president that year and who would famously run for the presidency four years later, gave a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus.
This time, John Edwards’ entire speech was built on a foundation of Isaiah 9:10.
“Today, on this day of remembrance and mourning, we have the Lord’s Word to get us through,” he said. He then read Isaiah 9:10. He went on to talk about how America was doing just that – rebuilding with hewn stone and planting cedars.
In “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,” viewers get to see these remarkable, largely forgotten or overlooked speeches, which directly link the events of 9/11 and the events referred to in Isaiah 9:10.
See the highlights: