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Twelve Tribes : The Commonwealth of Israel


Church Review
Theology: 2/5
Mission: 2/5
Community: 2/5
Worship: 2/5

Summary: The Twelve Tribes of Israel believes they are the only ‘true’ disciples of Christ. All other Christians are no different than atheists, Buddhists or Muslims. In order for a person to be saved, they need to move into one of their communities, give up all their possessions to the community as well as agree (with no room for differing opinions) to their interpretation of scripture. We see this as legalism, works-based faith and as an error to the Christian faith.

Sadly, what caused the Twelve Tribes to ‘react’ to this extreme is true. They see that most Christians today are unwilling to live out the faith as Christ called them to. This faith includes love for neighbor, self-sacrifice and service to a common goal in the Kingdom of God.

Too much legalism and extreme interpretations for us to recommend anyone join the group.

11 Responses to “Twelve Tribes : The Commonwealth of Israel”

  1. humbly Says:

    Used to live there.
    High Authority Control Group.
    A Cult.

  2. Chezikah Says:

    The Food Co-Op and the Hate Group
    Published in Artvoice Magazine on October 20, 2005. Written by Michael Niman.

    It seems wholesome enough, looking at the loaves of fresh locally baked organic whole grain bread lined up at the Lexington Food Co-op – each one bearing the homey label of Hamburg’s Common Ground Bakery. An actual visit to the bakery reinforces this bucolic image. There you’ll find a small shop with smiling friendly bakers and the lofting aroma of fresh bread. What’s not readily apparent is that shoppers on four continents are simultaneously walking into Common Ground Bakeries and experiencing the same illusion of a small independent community bake shop. In actuality, however, what they’re walking into is the local franchise of a growing multinational organization, The Twelve Tribes, dedicated to spreading a reactionary racist, anti-Semitic, sexist homophobic ideology.

    The press started paying attention to Twelve Tribes around five years ago when their Common Ground bakeries entered into the concert/events catering business, showing up at music festivals in Europe and Australia as well as stateside venues such as Buffalo’s Elmwood Festival of the Arts (where they were subsequently banned). Along with their tasty snacks and sandwiches, came leaflets, booklets and a recruiting spiel.

    At Britain’s Glastonbury Festival in 2000, they caught the attention of The Guardian after disseminating pamphlets describing Jews as a “cursed” people, and magazines arguing in favor of racial segregation. A year later at Australia’s Woodford festival, Australia’s Courier Mail cited the group’s reclusive leader, Elbert Eugene Spriggs, as claiming “It is horrible that someone would rise up to abolish slavery—what a wonderful opportunity that blacks could be brought over here [the U.S.] as slaves.”

    The Boston Herald reports that the group teaches their home schooled children a doctrine of white racial superiority. They go on to cite Spriggs, who argues that submission to whites “is the only provision by which [blacks] will be saved,” and that the civil rights movement brought “disorder to the established social order.” Spriggs defends slavery as the natural order, explaining that “if the slaves were mistreated it was the fault of the slaves.” The antebellum south, he argues, maintained a proper social order—where black slaves “had respect for people. They got along well because they were submissive.”

    The Twelve Tribes follow up Spriggs’ quotes by advocating for racial segregation both in their publications and on their website. In a piece entitled “Multicultural Madness,” for example, they tell the story of a “rich young yuppie” living in an integrated neighborhood. “From one side of his house,” they write, “comes the throbbing bass of his neighbor’s stereo as they gather out back for some reggae.” On the other side, the mud people are “laughing raucously over the grating syncopation of something called rap” [italics in original]. The piece goes on to explain, “Let’s face it. It is just not reasonable to expect people to live contentedly alongside of others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural.” People, they explain, have an “instinctive desire to live with those of like mind, to congregate in neighborhoods with those of the same race and ethnic origin.” This, they claim, is because we have a “natural loathing of perverse and immoral people.”

    The group, however, still purports not to be racist, arguing that segregation is part of God’s natural order, in essence blasphemously passing the racist ball to God. They’re not racist, you see, they just worship a racist god. Whenever communities question Twelve Tribes businesses about racism, the group parades John Stringer, an African-American, to personally counter the charges. Stringer, who they shuffle from city to city and pimp on their website, argues that “our race is becoming increasingly known for its self-destructive behavior.” According to Stringer, blacks are responsible for their history of subjection. “The only way to save our race,” he explains, “is that we would submit to reason and responsibility, just as all the other minorities who are thriving.” This simplistic and ahistorical rationale fits right in with the enlightened racism often espoused in liberal circles, while obfuscating persistent institutional racism and supporting racist stereotypes. This is obvious to people who actually listen to Stringer, instead of just looking at him. In actuality, Stringer needed to submit to more than “reason” and “responsibility.” The Boston Herald again cites Twelve Tribes leader Elbert Spriggs, who explains that blacks “must come to [the Twelve Tribes] with the attitude to be a servant.”

    Twelve Tribes members, sort of like wiggers, dismiss charges of racism, explaining that they can’t possibly be racist since they sing black spiritual songs in their homes. Likewise, the group claims that charges of anti-Sem itism are also false, because they sing Israeli folk songs, give themselves Hebrew names, and have a purported Jewish person traveling the country saying so. Their Jew, Shalom Israel, as it turns out, isn’t Jewish.

    All Jews, they argue, are born “cursed.” According to the group, Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus and hence “called down the guilt of his murder on themselves and their children.” They argue away the fact that today’s Christianity and Islam both descend from the Judaism of Christ’s time, explaining that the curse of the Jews is cancelled by renouncing one’s Jewishness. “For Jews who follow our master, however,” they write, “these curses are removed.” This, they argue, is why they aren’t anti-Semitic—because they will help any Jew who is willing to renounce their culture, history and beliefs. If the Jew ceases to be a Jew, they are welcome among the Twelve Tribes. Likewise, African-Americans willing to blame themselves for their own historic oppression are also welcome among the Twelve Tribes.

    While individual blacks and Jews can earn the right to work wage-free in a Common Ground bakery by renouncing their people and struggles, women have no such option. They will always be women, who, according to the Twelve Tribes, were created solely “to be a friend and a helper for man.” Sort of like a dog. They explain that women have two basic purposes: “to be a wife and a mother.” As a mother, a woman is supposed to raise her children as directed “according to her husband’s heart.” Any additional or alternative life goals, or failure to “submit” to a husband’s “loving” demands, goes against “God’s proper order.”

    They lament that, “Sadly enough today though, many women strive to be something ‘better.’” “Woman,” they explain, “is not meant to rule over man.” Hence, according to the group’s website, “they strive to be what they are not. They want careers, or money, or whatever they think will give them identity and fulfillment…” A true woman, however, they argue, “doesn’t need to become ‘greater’ than she was created to be.” Interestingly enough, one of the things it seems the Twelve Tribes believe that women were created to do, is bake bread for long hours without receiving a paycheck. This natural order seems to have bestowed upon the Twelve Tribes a competitive advantage over other organic whole grain bakeries who still have to dole out Caesar’s image to their heathen workforces.

    Child Abuse
    The Twelve Tribes has come under repeated fire for child labor violations in many of their factories and businesses. In one celebrated case, their Common Sense Natural Soap & Body Care division lost a lucrative contract manufacturing Estee Lauder’s Origins line after Estee Lauder found children working in their factory. The Twelve Tribes call the charges “false, unfounded and slanderous,” claiming the 14 year old boys were simply helping their fathers at work. In similar incidents, the New York Department of Labor busted the group for using child labor in a Palenville candle factory and the Sundance mail order catalog cancelled a contract with the group’s Common Sense Furniture division after the Coxsackie, New York furniture factory became the subject of a child labor controversy.

    The Twelve Tribes claim that it is beneficial for children to help their parents work instead of, they explain, “wasting their free time on empty amusements and dissipation, which leads only to bad behavior.” The group seems obsessed with “bad behavior,” writing off entire “countries like Scandinavia” [sic] as plagued with the malady. Their response to bad behavior on the part of their children, however they define it, is for the adults to indulge themselves in bad behavior of their own, whipping kids with a reed-tipped device they call “the rod.” On their website they explain that “To discipline your children is tantamount to loving them…it shows the child they are loved and cared about.”

    Children who have escaped from Twelve Tribes compounds, along with adult ex-members, talk of abuse, not love. Noah Jones, for example, left the group’s flagship compound in Island Pond Vermont at the age of 22. In an interview with Burlington’s ABC TV affiliate (WVNY), Jones claimed “They spanked me from my feet to my neck, all the way. I was black and blue, basically head to toe.” He recalls being beaten with the rod and locked in basements as a child and later, when he got older, he says he was beaten with a two-by-four.

    Jones was ushered to freedom by a sort of underground railroad that, according to WVNY, has “helped dozens of teenagers and children” to escape Twelve Tribes abuse. One of the ‘conductors,’ speaking to WVNY, explained “The anger of these kids coming out is amazing. They’ve been hit by so many people that they can’t even count …”

    Zeb Wiseman, another escapee, told The Boston Herald that when his mother received no medical care when was sick with cancer. When she subsequently died, they told him his mother’s death was an example of how God punishes sinners. Wiseman claims that he was then shuffled between Twelve Tribes communities and beaten daily from the time he was five until he was fifteen. Among his sins, according to Wiseman, was listening to “outside music.” He also claims that his schooling stopped when he was 13 and that he began working when he was ten years old. As a rule, Twelve Tribes children do not receive high school diplomas, and they are forbidden to apply for GED degrees or to attend college. This lack of education hinders escapees in their search for work. Essentially, the organization is breeding its own free labor force.

    The Guardian quotes a 24-year old Jewish woman attending the Glastonbury Music Festival as being “shocked on two counts.” “First,” she explained, she was shocked “that they [Common Ground] were there at all, and secondly, that no one else seemed to care.” It’s this apathy—this gross willingness to silently acquiesce to the presence of a hate group, that is truly appalling. But it’s also enlightening.

    The Twelve Tribes is building its empire by feeding on the resources of some of the world’s most progressive communities, specifically because they are also apathetic and self-indulgent enough to support even those organizations who are ideologically opposed to their very presence. Hence, we see the Twelve Tribes prospering, for example, with a restaurant on Ithaca, New York’s signature Commons, despite that city’s history for progressive politics. And we see them opening up on the fringes of alternative and activist communities across New England—often finding a distribution network for their products among food co-ops and hip health food stores. Here in Buffalo, the newly expanded Lexington Food Co-op is The Twelve Tribes largest independent bread retailer, with Common Ground bread dominating their shelves.

    The aforementioned concertgoer explained to The Guardian that “People forget there is no such thing as a benign racist, no matter how tasty his vegetarian couscous.” This is the problem. The bread is good. And the Common Ground people seem friendly enough. Peace Studies scholar and anthropologist Robert Knox Dentan writes: “The impoverishment and polarization of U.S. politics means that we expect our enemies to be all-evil, but they’re not.” Dentan goes on to explain that “Heinrich Himmler famously loved dogs and children. There’s a chilling photo of him hugging a little Jewish boy as the kid was waiting for the train to Auschwitz. The Twelve Tribes,” Dentan surmises, “would be nice to that little boy too, as long as he converted to their brand of Christianity. They’re not, most of them, mean people.” According to Dentan, “fascism isn’t going to come to the US in the form of goose stepping Stormtroopers (SWAT teams aside). It’s certainly going to depend on the help of extreme religious groups like the Tribes.”

    The Co-op’s Response to Hate
    The analogy is frightening. Three weeks after I shared with the Lexington Co-op management and board the data which I subsequently used in this article, I received an official response signed by their store manager and a member of their board. It started out reading, “The Co-op takes it very seriously that one of our primary, longstanding local producers is being labeled a ‘hate group.’” On the next line, however, they write “We have never found Common Ground or its members to be anything but friendly and warm to our customers and staff.” No doubt this is true. But by all accounts Osama bin Laden is also very personable, soft-spoken and has gentle eyes.

    Yes, the Common Ground bakers in Hamburg act “friendly and warm.” But their money is supporting a white supremacist empire. Their leader, Eugene Spriggs, is cited in The Boston Herald as lamenting the end of slavery and celebrating the assassination of Martin Luther King. Money spent at the Lexington Co-op on Common Ground breads goes directly to supporting Spriggs’ group’s multinational business and real estate investments—including a new “mega development project” the group is currently putting the finishing touches on in Tampa, Florida. As self-indulgent liberals continue to buy tasty loafs of bread from “nice” bakers, they continue to fund a growing economic empire that targets vulnerable minorities around the world.

    In their letter, the Co-op management goes on to explain that they will look into the allegations presented here, writing, “Our plan is to research the available information in greater detail and within context. We will share this information and consult with spiritual and moral leaders from the community, member-owners, Common Ground themselves, and other co-ops. We will then make a decision on how to proceed.”
    Companies such as Estee Lauder and LL Bean, which are not particularly progressive, figured this out long ago and stopped carrying Twelve Tribes products. There is no context in which such hate speech is acceptable. And it shouldn’t take consultation with a “spiritual” or “moral leader” to figure this out.

  3. Chunky Monkey Says:

    Can community members make decisions for themselves?

    1. Led by Elbert Eugene Spriggs who claims to be an “Apostle” and “the prophet Elijah.” Spriggs says of himself, “I must begin by saying that the only authority I have to be called an apostle is my fruit. Of course authority comes from God, but is recognized by men according to its fruit its practicality”. (Apostolic Role) He also says, “This is why Elijah must come to raise up the age old foundation, restore the church to the Israel of YHWH. The Roman, Greek and Protestant are completely off the foundation (Apostasy, Apostate Israel Today).

    2. Elbert Spriggs also claims a “direct pipeline to God”, and that he is a special messenger with a unique revelation! “Yoneq (Spriggs) expressed how there have been several things which our Father has spoken to him which have kept us on course.” (Letter from Yoceph to Jonathan and Caleb). And in another teaching Spriggs says, “This is a word to all true disciples. Our Father revealed to me that we were to observe the Sabbath - the day He made, not Sunday.” (Observing The Sabbath).

    3. Only Elbert Spriggs is allowed to give original teaching, and his writings are the final authority within the communities. Elbert Eugene Spriggs has no real accountability.

    4. Community members must obey the teachings of Spriggs or risk shunning or excommunication. “Everything we hear in the teachings we are required to obey.” (Repentance 4/2/91). “If an elder questioned Spriggs’ teachings he could lose his place of authority. Dissenting elders were also talked about in the apostolic workers Meetings.” Michael Painter, Former Member

    5. Every person must submit to the elders who are in submission to the leader (Spriggs). Demand absolute obedience.

    6. Inhibits critical thinking so that a “group think” predominates. Followers give up the right to make value judgments of their own. (They cannot reason). Behavior Control

    7. There is intense control over community members in the areas of dress, and the regulation of where one lives. “When we are in the Body we have no independent action or movement. AWM 6/12/88) “When God commands us, if we stop to consider the matter to see if there is sufficient reason for us to do it, then we are still living according to the flesh. If the elders say, you need to move to…’ and you say, ‘what is the reason for that? I’m doing fine here, etc., no matter how good you may do in the flesh, you cannot go past that rebellion” Reasoning 11/I 8/90

    A. All men must wear their hair in short ponytails with a long, trimmed beard. All women wear long dresses, skirts or “Sus” pants. Women also have long hair. Unity with the “church” is heavily stressed, usually to the point where it becomes the chief doctrine. Unity is considered to be more important than “Doctrine”. (Behavior Control)

    B. Food restrictions are also tightly regulated. This is not only in regards to what a member can eat but even his enjoyment of food and how fast he eats. “Lev 11:46…A LAW NEVER CHANGES…There will always be clean and unclean beast, birds, fish. The law for us is to eat what is EATABLE. ALL FOOD IS CLEAN. We must distinguish the unclean and the clean - between the animal that is food and the animal that is not food… (Priesthood Distinguish Between the clean and Unclean). “If it is not a need it is an act of the flesh - like eating when you don’t need to. Eating for pleasure is greed. No one who does this will enter the Kingdom, also no one who eats fast- even when you are alone - will enter the kingdom… If we eat hurriedly it means we don’t know God or our brothers and sisters.’

    C. Twelve tribes’ members live communally where their movement, thoughts and actions are monitored.
    8 Emotion control is also practiced within the communities, narrowing a person’s emotional responses. The gray areas of life are slowly eliminated, and everything progressively becomes black and white. This manipulation and narrowing of emotions occurs in three ways. –Bob. Pardon NEIRR

    9. The Twelve Tribes Community practices brutal information control. Community members are not permitted to read newspapers, books or listen to the radio. This causes the individual member to become highly dependent on the group.

    10. The community claims a special exalted status for itself. “We are the light and the hope of the world. We are the only ones who can reclaim this earth for its Maker. We are the only ones whose lives of love and pure devotion, like a bride for her groom, can bring heaven to earth all other attempts to do so are not merely futile, they are evil..”

    11. Members are encouraged (strongly) to break ties with family and friends and society. The Community becomes a replacement family and society.
    Restricts the ability to leave the group.

  4. KD Says:

    Well, I was discussing this TT’s teaching with a Christian man, who happens to be the grandson of a freed slave, who later became a pastor. He quickly pointed me to the clearly gross error and misinterpretation of the supporting scriptures the TT’s use, which are the same ones as the slave owners of the old south used. I was very surprised that I hadn’t noticed this obvious and glaring error before. I also felt foolish that I missed it. IT IS SO OBVIOUS!

    Here it is:

    After Ham went in to Noah’s tent (when Noah was drunk) and saw his father’s nakedness, exposing Noah to shame, Noah sobered up the next day and pronounced a curse, BUT IT WASN’T ON HAM!!! IT WAS ON CANAAN!!!!

    The curse was not on Black people, because Canaan wasn’t black! Canaan was the father of the Canaanites (Amorites, Jebusites, etc.), whom Joshua had displaced fulfilling the curse, that Canaan would serve Shem (Israel).

    DOH! Cush, Ham’s OTHER SON was the one who settled in Ethiopia and is therefore considered to be the father of the black race, not Ham, whom the TT’s say is the father of black people, who are under the curse!! The curse was not on Cush or Ham but on Canaan!!

    SO…. This teaching is clearly errant and heretical (besides being downright racist), because it appeals to scripture that is simply read incorrectly! Hmmm… maybe someone should tell them this, because it is kind of an Emperor’s New Clothes type thing. They are so clearly wrong and need to know it. Does this mean that they can be wrong and fallible in their interpretations of other scriptures? YOU BET!

  5. Chezikah Says:

    Spriggs’ Position
    Who does Spriggs claim to be?


    We are Yoneq new sprout. We are Yoneq’s most precious possession. We are the validity of his apostleship. We stand in his place. We are the new sprout organically related to one another. We must practice his words.
    -Apostolic Workers Meeting 6/13/88

    Yoneq is the anointing everyone refers to.
    -Former member

    We must see that it is Yoneq’s spirit holding our community together. If we resist then it is hard to function in community. Resistance makes life miserable. Subtle rebellion disables Yoneq from functioning as an apostle. If we pick apart our leaders it makes it hard to rule. The work will go forward with cooperation. But if you resist authority the work ceases. We must be loyal to Yoneq and his anointing.
    -Apostolic Workers Meeting 6/13/88

    Only one of millions of sperm made it to the egg to make me! The exact combination of genes that made me were one of millions of possibilities. The odds are so against me having been made just like I am, I am truly unique. If I never come to Colossians 1:18 I will not fulfill the purpose that I was created for. There is no other reason for me to be on this planet.

    Our safeguarding - our umbrella of protection - is our loyalty to the anointing…

    The Lord has really gifted Gene Spriggs. He functions as an apostle of the church and we respect him deeply.
    -Judy Nunley current member

    My three dear brothers and friends. I am writing this to you by way of commission by our apostle… I know all of you are filled with the life that Yoneq has lavished on you. We are beginning to have this life revive our faint and weakened souls as his coming has been a most waited for and treasured event.

    It grieves me that I was not connected or attached to Yoneq.. Dullness prompted me to call you, when Yoneq should have been the one I sought wisdom from.. All this stuff about Ayal’s baptism came about without Yoneq’s approval or knowledge…! Ayal will be restored by a ruling government who are attached and connected to Yoneq. For weeks my heart has been grieved at my lack of loyalty to Yoneq.
    -Letter Sent to Deshe 2/8/94

    Spriggs’ control is in every place where he has established a community. His control is the one common denominator that marks every community. James Howell Former member

    If there are any opinions contrary to the anointing then we are a potential hazard to the body..
    -Receiving the Anointing

    Elbert Eugene Spriggs controls everything in the community. Nothing happens unless it comes directly from him.
    -Michael Painter Former member

  6. Chunky Monkey Says:

    There is a new web site where the teachings of Elbert Eugene Spriggs (the apostle) are posted in their entirety. This is an educational site. the address is

  7. Chunky Monkey Says:

    This article addresses the fact that “Yoneq” is not a linguist and his ability to interpret the Bible is the same as a plumber’s ability to set up nuclear fusion. He just has NO expertise in the original languages what-so-ever (other than the elusive “anointing”). Then he has the audacity to send people to the Lake of Fire for questioning his interpretations and credentials. A true Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    “The things I want to speak to you about are things that have been misunderstood for at least 1900 years. That is because the Bible is written in a way that assumes you already know what it is talking about…But for 1900 years it has been misunderstood. The Apostles back then would travel from village to village, from house to house and teach these things verbally. and (sic) then they would write a letter and confirm some things they had already spoken about — they did not explain it all again in the letters because it was understood. But this understanding has been lost. People in Christianity do not have it. Peter said that in his letters some things are hard to understand by the untaught — they have been taught by the wrong people.” Elbert Spriggs, More On The First And Second Death, 11/19/89, p.21

    It must be stated in the very beginning of this section that we have never personally met with or spoken to “Yoneq,” Elbert Eugene Spriggs, Jr. This is not the result of lack of desire or effort on our part, and has been very disappointing to us. We have made repeated requests to meet with him. After all, he is the “apostle” of the group, and it is his own teachings that indicate what the group truly teaches and believes. This is also the first of any comprehensive analysis of The Twelve Tribes. It would seem that the “apostle” would find it important enough to meet with “these outsiders” to correct any misperceptions on their part. In a letter sent to Nicki Cruz by Eddie Wiseman (second in authority under Spriggs), dated 2/8/95, Mr. Wiseman writes:

    “In fact we tried on several occasions to get with you after my wife and I initially contacted you in Kansas City. We wanted to discuss who we are and what we believe with you but you didn’t seem to have time to meet with us. Elbert Spriggs and Jose Rodrigez came to one of your crusade meetings in south Florida to see you, but your schedule was too busy.”

    It is our feeling, also, that Mr. Spriggs has missed a golden opportunity to “set the record straight.”

    One question to ask in evaluating any group that claims to have the truth is, “Where does your authority come from?” This question may arise in regards to their rituals, practices, or beliefs that deviate from an historical, orthodox understanding of Scripture. To truly understand The Twelve Tribes “Yoneq,” Elbert Eugene Spriggs, founder and “apostle,” has to be understood in terms of the position, stature and authority he holds within the group. We were continuously told that he was only “one amongst many leaders” in the Tribes, however ex-members and hundreds of his own teachings (that are disseminated worldwide to all the Tribes) give a far different picture. These teachings are their “inner doctrine,” and are not for public consumption.2 No one else in the Tribes is able to give original teachings, the teachings of others are merely a rehash of what Spriggs has already taught. This is because it is believed that he is an “apostle” and has the authority similar to that of Paul. This divine authority is demonstrated by the fact that he has brought the Twelve Tribes into existence.3 There are other “apostolic workers” in the group but they clearly do not carry the same weight/authority that Spriggs does. The following quotes clearly reveal his position and authority. These are just a very few of the many that could be quoted. Taken in the total context of his teachings they create a very clear picture.

    Sole Leadership

    “Ha-Emeq (Marsha Spriggs - rp): When Yoneq (Spriggs) was talking it reminded me of my first love, my first faith. I remembered how I came out of the world. There was no community like now. Just follow Yoneq.” Breaking of Bread, Sus, 2/24/90, p.5.

    “The day when I heard that you would come in a few weeks, I was crying out so much. I didn’t know how to continue - I was really finished. But when we heard you were coming, that gave me strength to go on. I can’t wait until you arrive - I long for you so much…I appreciate you so much.” Letter to Yoneq and Ha-Emeq from Shua, (a member of The Twelve Tribes) 6/94.

    “My three dear brothers and friends. I am writing this to you by way of commission by our apostle…I know that all of you there are filled with the life that Yoneq has lavished on you. We are beginning to have this life revive our faint and weakened souls as his coming has been a most waited for and treasured event.” Defensiveness, Letter Given to Three Brothers by an Unnamed Sister, undated, p.1.

    These are not private communications, but are disseminated to the teachers within The Twelve Tribes throughout all their locales.4 These statements are also very similar to those found in other groups like the International Churches of Christ (Boston Church of Christ).

    “Kip Mckean is the greatest living treasure that God has given the kingdom on the face of the earth today.” Sam Liang, Discipleship Magazine, 1988 Summer Quarter.

    “With eyes wide open I’m following Kip McKean; Consciously; Intentionally; Thankfully.” Steve Johnson, Discipleship Magazine, 3/86/89.

    Gene Edwards in his excellent little book, Letters to a Devastated Christian, speaks of evaluating a group by the “ten year test.” The question to ask is, “Just how many ex-elders are there?”

    “A man begins a movement. In some solemn ceremony, he ordains a group of elders and announces…these men have been chosen by God and appointed by God to have authority…a few years pass and some of these elders defy - or at least disagree with - the founder…The leader gets upset and announces that those who’ve opposed him are…of the devil. He throws them out - or in some ugly scene - they leave.” Letters to a Devastated Christian, The SeedSowers, 1984, pp. 23-24.

    Of the original Elders/Leaders of the Twelve Tribes in Chattanooga, Tennessee, many have left in disgrace or been “cut off” from the group. This includes: James Howell, Larry and Maryann Davis, Michael Painter, Bill Tiller, Roger and JoEllen Griffin, Bill Hinchliff, Cliff Daniels, Ron and Jan Schneider, Mike and Debbie Paris. After the Community moved to Island Pond other very prominent members left: Bob and Susan Benoit, Dante and Janet Gargenese, Valerie Henderson, etc.

    Edwards goes on to state that it does not matter how many people come and go over the years. The issue is the manner of their leaving. Were they thrown out? Was it an ugly scene when they left? “Or did they encounter true Christian grace, understanding and love as they struggled through the question of whether or not to leave?” He then goes on to ask, “Of the many people who left, how many of them feel really comfortable in coming back to the group for a visit?”5 Out of the scores of ex-members we have become personally acquainted with, we have yet to meet one who would feel comfortable going back for a visit.

    Only His Teachings Disseminated

    “I (Yoneq) heard from Derush in Judah that as he was teaching about mercy from a teaching I taught here a few months ago, which Baherah had typed, up a young 18 year old woman began weeping and cried out for salvation.” The New Age Movement Philosophy, 2/22/93, Brazil.

    “Havah - ‘I want to share how thankful I am for the teachings (Spriggs’ interpretations - rp).’” Authority 6, 9/26/90, p.10.

    “After this, Yoneq continued to feed the flock.” Ahavah 3, 9/13/89, p.2.

    As stated earlier, the Community leadership, less Spriggs, has denied many times that only he can bring teachings. However, in the hundreds and hundreds of teachings of the Tribes that we have read perhaps 3% are by others. Not one of these other teachings bring anything new to the “revelation” that Spriggs has already brought. A challenge to his understanding of Scripture by one of the others in leadership would not be tolerated.6

    It is easy to understand why his teachings are the final say in the Tribes. At an interview with the leadership in August of 1994, we were told that “he has the grace to bring light to the Scriptures.” This is meant to the exclusion of others. But this is not to say that others cannot have insight into Scripture. However, everything is measured by the “revelation” that Spriggs has uniquely brought, and this “revelation” cannot be countermanded.

    We were also told at this same meeting that Spriggs is able to “extract truth from the Scripture without violating them.” However, as will be demonstrated in this section, Spriggs lacks the critical skills to justify the many doctrinal deviations he makes from the clear teaching of Scripture. This is not to say he is to be faulted because he does not have training in this area. But if an expositor of Scripture wishes to declare, “…Greek scholars cannot read plain Greek in Col 2:17,” he best have very convincing arguments to demonstrate that such is the case.7 At the least he would need to be on a par with them in his own Greek competency!

    It was also reported to us in a phone interview with Larry Davis, an original member, that one of the factors that disillusioned him greatly was when he taught at their community in France a “teaching” that didn’t originate from Spriggs. When Spriggs heard about it he “was angry because this teaching didn’t come from the head.”8

    Holy Spirit Required to Understand Teachings.

    “The Holy Spirit dwells in our heart by faith…only if the Spirit dwells in your HEART can you understand the teachings.” Ahavah, First Day Teaching, Sus, 4/23/89, p.9.

    Many ex-members told us they were frequently confused by Spriggs’ teachings. They just did not seem to make sense or were not consistent with previous teachings given by him.

    No One Can Speak Against God’s Anointed.

    ”Acts 3:19-23…In verse 22 when someone comes from Him there cannot be obstinance in anyone or the obstinant (sic) one will be cut off from the Holy Nation (Twelve Tribes -rp). So you can see, shortly people will be cut off if we are not in unity about the anointing.” Receiving the Anointing, 8/2/88, p.1.

    Spriggs is referring to himself in this teaching. It is clear that to be obstinate regarding the one who “comes from Him” is to risk excommunication from the Kingdom of God. This is very similar to statements that are frequently made by those in other highly controlling movements. The following are examples of such threats.

    “Several people I know have criticized. Some of them are dead right today in an early grave because of it and more than one of them got cancer.” Kenneth Copeland

    “I love Copeland. He’s my friend, and anyone who is attacking him is attacking the very presence of God.” Benny Hinn

    It was reported by every single ex-member with whom we spoke that one prominent female member of the Tribes had contracted uterine cancer and died. Apparently, about

    ten years earlier she had made a negative comment about Spriggs.9

    Spriggs Views Himself As An Apostle And Elijah

    “I must begin by saying that the only authority I have to be called an apostle is my fruit. Of course authority comes from God, but is recognized by men according to its fruit its praticality.” Apostolic Role, 1976 or 1977, p.1.

    “The test of an apostle is that he works to raise up others to be greater than himself.” Sent Ones, undated, p.1

    “This is why Elijah (in the context Spriggs is clearly referring to himself) must come to raise up the age old foundation, restore the Church to the Israel of YHWH. Matt. 17:11 The Roman, Greek, and Protestant are completely off the foundation of Messiah.” Apostasy, Apostate Israel Today, undated, p.2.

    These kind of claims have been repeated many times down through history. They are also similar to the statements of individuals like Kip McKean who “follows in the pattern of Paul,” and Carl Stevens of the Greater Grace World Outreach who is “God’s prophet for the east coast.”

    Receives Special Revelation

    “Yoneq expressed how there have been several things which our Father has spoken to him which have kept us on course.” Letter From Yoceph to Jonathan and Caleb, Sus France, 9/89, p.2.

    “This is a word to all true disciples. Our Father revealed to me that we were to observe the Sabbath - the day He made, not Sunday.” Observing the Sabbath, 4/30/94, p.1.

    There is no problem with God speaking to an individual. This is abundantly demonstrated in the Scriptures and down through history. There is a problem with God supposedly speaking to someone who leads a group that is almost entirely dependent upon him, and who teaches heresy. Please see Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20-22 and then turn to the section on theology.10

    Thus, when the Tribes state, “We are not followers of any man…,” that is not entirely accurate.11 While members are very sincere and not attempting to mislead in this regard the reality is that Spriggs is God’s prophet for these end times, and is the only one preparing the “Bride” so the heavenly “Bridegroom” will be able to return.12

    It also appears that a two tiered system exists within the Tribes. Upon joining, the convert must divest himself of everything he owns. People literally own only the clothes upon their back and a few personal items. Everything else is held in common. Also, there are no televisions, books, magazines, newspapers, etc., and members are discouraged from using a Bible that has study notes or any other such helps.13 However, Spriggs when he travels takes many suitcases with nothing but books. He is described as being a “voracious reader,” and from his teachings it is evident that he uses commentaries and reads other books dealing with the Bible, books not readily available to the average member.

    As The Apostle, Spriggs Wields Vast Authority

    This is evident in the stories told us by ex-members and by written communications that are disseminated throughout the Tribes.

    “It grieves me that I was not connected or attached to Yoneq…Dullness prompted me to call you, when Yoneq should have been the one I sought wisdom from…All this stuff about Ayal’s baptism came about without Yoneq’s approval or knowledge of what was happening!

    “Yoneq wants him to come to full repentance and be sorry for all he has done. I was working against this!

    “Ayal will be restored by a ruling government who are attached and connected to Yoneq.

    “I am a brother who was independent in my thinking and deeds. For weeks my heart has been grieved at my lack of loyalty to Yoneq.” Letter Sent to Deshe, 2/8/94, p.1.14

    This is an amazing admission to the authority and power that Spriggs exercises over the leadership in the Tribes. Continuosly (six times) the author berates and castigates himself for “independent thinking” and not being “attached to Yoneq,” not “seeking wisdom from Yoneq,” acting “without Yoneq’s approval,” “lack of loyalty to Yoneq,” etc.

    An ex-member also related to us an incident that occurred in Island Pond, Vermont. Apparently, the Elders in Island Pond decided to send a family that was living in their Community to another Community in Nova Scotia. This had been discussed between the Elders in both Tribes and agreed upon. Yoneq found out about it and rebuked the Elders in Island Pond. They had sent someone to “another tribe” and that was wrong even though both tribes agreed.

    Use Of Scripture — Misleading Methods

    The Twelve Tribes believes the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. In that position it stands with historic Christianity. However, that being said, the method of interpretation utilized by Spriggs is fundamentally flawed. He seems to work backwards from his theological position to the Bible in order to prove a point of doctrine. He believes that agreement with the historic Creeds “is not proof of sound doctrine,” and that “the acid test for detecting orthodoxy is: Is it producing love?”15 Certainly precise agreement with the historic Creeds is not the ultimate standard whereby doctrinal purity is measured. The Creeds were not inspired, only God’s word is. However, one would be hard pressed to find a better or more concise statement of what the Bible teaches. What is extremely problematic is the standard of “love“ being elevated to the place where it determines doctrinal soundness. Biblical love is the hall mark of a truly vibrant Christian witness, however, love is always the handmaiden of sound doctrine and not the other way around.

    Therefore, proper principles of Biblical interpretation are critical in this subjective age in which we live.16 From the time of Paul the Church has been exhorted to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). The implication is that there is a wrong way to divide the Word of truth.17 Those involved in Biblical interpretation, or the interpretation of any other ancient document, generally employ three approaches to understand the author’s intent. These are the grammatical, the historical, and the theological approach.18 These approaches are absent from the Tribes’ (Spriggs) interpretation of Scripture, partly because no one understands the Biblical languages, and partly because the historical context is neglected or distorted. It appears that his scholarship is built upon the desire to find Biblical permission for what he has already planned to do. As has been aptly stated, “When all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.” Because Spriggs so desperately seeks justification for his heterodox teachings he is forced to filter out all Biblical evidence to the contrary. The result is Biblical confusion and gross perversion of God’s word. In the height of irony Spriggs underscores the importance of “rightly dividing” the Scriptures when he writes,

    “Rev. 22:18 - ‘if (sic) any adds to the word of the prophecy of this book, God shall add to him the plagues of this book, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and the Holy City which are written in this book.’ That is a solemn warning for everyone - for me too, if I deceive or am in such a state that I am being deceived.” First Day Teaching, Sus, 4/15/90, Members of Messiah, p.15.

    Spriggs’ errors of Biblical interpretation generally fall into four categories.

    1. Misunderstands Cultural/Historical Context

    “When the sun goes down, the Sabbath ends and the first day begins. It is obvious that Christianity has the wrong person (who died on Friday and rose on Sunday). But the real Savior spent three days and three nights in death (not one and a half).” Evening Sacrifice, 112/12/92, Brazil, Out of His Side, p.3.

    The Jews like many cultures, ours included, often used a figure of speech called synecdoche, where a part is spoken of as the whole. Jesus was in the grave part of Friday, all day Saturday, and then rose on Sunday morning. Thus, to Jewish reckoning He was in the grave three days.

    “2 Peter 3:14 - Be diligent to be found by Him to be without spot or blemish, having PEACE (SHALOM - they didn’t speak Greek back then, they hated it).” Sabbat Morning, Boston, A Seed Preserved/Serene Confidence/Peacemakers, p.2.

    Peter was a fisherman on the sea of Galilee. Galilee was a Gentile stronghold in Jesus day. It is unimaginable to think that Peter did not speak Greek in addition to his native tongue, Aramaic.19 Greek was the lingua franca of the times, and many, many people were bilingual in that culture.

    2. Misunderstands Greek

    “Matthew 5:17-19 The Law won’t pass away till the world’s (sic) pass away so they can become eternal and inhabitable. If the Sabbaths, new moons, and festivals are shadows of things to come, (In the Greek of Col. 2:17 it is ‘are a shadow’) where does the light come from? It is obvious anyone who had a hand in mistranslating this verse is going to the second death.” For This Cause, Part II, 6/19/90, p.15.

    “Weymouth and the rest of the Greek scholars cannot read plain Greek in Col 2:17. They fabricate the word ‘were’ in place of the ‘word’ are.” Redemption, undated, p.13.

    The arrogance of this second quote is amazing. Weymouth was a classical scholar of the last century and understood Greek fluently. Greek scholars understand that when Paul writes “is a shadow” this is a doctrinal statement. Such doctrinal statements are often timeless and appear in the present tense, which simply states a fact without any concern for time.20

    3. Changes Words

    “There is only one true Messiah and He is raising up the tribes of Israel. ‘I will build My community and the gates of hell will not prevail over my community - who stays in communion with one another and with Me.’” Evening Sacrifice, 12/12/92, Out of His Side, p.3.

    Unless Spriggs is speaking prophetically this is a partial quote of Matthew 16:18. Matthew writes ekklesia, which is literally “called out ones,” almost exclusively translated as church. The word community is inappropriate and misleading in this context, although that term fits the theology of The Twelve Tribes. This will be explored later in the theology part of the paper.

    4. Fanciful Interpretations

    “The steward in Luke 16:9 cut the bills of his Master’s debtors in half in order to have somewhere to live. He acted shrewdly. Our Master said, ‘therefore’ (in relationship to the context) make friends for yourself with all the money you have made in the world so that when it fails you may have an eternal dwelling. If you give it away to your parents or your ungodly friends, you are making homes for yourself with them. Submit it to the apostles feet who would do, with mercy and compassion, the righteous thing with that money.” First Day Teaching, Sus, 7/9/89, Matt “Be on the Alert,” p.5.

    This is a very interesting interpretation of this passage, and is pure eisegesis by Spriggs. It is unhinged from what Jesus was speaking to His disciples. The simplest explanation of such a parable is that Jesus was employing it to describe a worldly astuteness, and to teach a lesson on spiritual prudence. As in many parables, the details are often the “furniture” of the story and are of no intrinsic importance. All Jesus did here was use the wicked steward’s foresight and promptitude, evil as they were, to illustrate qualities that have an important place in the life of a true disciple. It is absurd to squeeze from this that a true disciple is to give all his worldly possessions to the apostles and not one’s parents or “ungodly friends.”

    Another very fanciful interpretation is Spriggs explanation of the fall of Adam and Eve. This is without any Scriptural support but does buttress the theology of the Twelve Tribes.


    “Woman can appreciate man for not leaving her alone to die but eating the fruit and choosing to die with her…Adam chose to eat the fruit knowing that he could not nullify Eve’s act…seeing that he, her covering, had explained in detail to her all that God had told him, Gen. 2:15-17…If he had been negligent to tell her, the blood would have been on his hands. But he was a good covering…Adam could not nullify Eve’s act because she vowed with him to be obedient. Adam had only one recourse. He loved his wife, they were one flesh. He was so thankful to our Father for her. He loved her….He entered into death with her to lead her until Yahshua could bring restoration. Adam wasn’t accusing Eve in Gen 3:13 (sic, v.12).” Headcover, undated, p.9.

    Inaccurate Historical Statements

    Spriggs also makes many inaccurate historical statements to support his position. Classic among these are his statements about how Sunday replaced the Sabbath (Saturday) as the day of worship in the early Church.

    “The Sabbath has not passed away. The Catholic Church and all her daughters have changed the Sabbath to Sunday in 336 A.D. at the council of Laodicea.” More on First and Second Death, 11/19/95, p.11.

    “In 334 A.D. the council at Laodicea removed the sign (speaking of the Sabbath - rp).” Redemption, undated, p.15.

    “We see so many things that Constantine put in. 100 years after Revelations (sic) declared the Laodiceans lukewarm a council there declared there would be no more 7th Day Sabbath…If you don’t keep the Sabbath you die, whether anyone knows it or not.” Who We Are, 10/3/89, p.8.

    First, there is a discrepancy with the dates given for the Council at Laodicea, and it is more properly called a Synod. Also, there were seven great ecumenical councils in the early Church.21 Laodicea was not one of them. There most likely was a regional council at Laodicea but historians are unclear about this. The one that is at times alluded to probably occurred around 363 A.D.. However, leeway can be given for anywhere between 343 A.D. - 381 A.D.. Regardless, it most likely occurred decades after Spriggs date and certainly was not called by Constantine. In fairness, Spriggs is probably confused with some of the edicts of Constantine around the year 325 AD. Sunday was set aside for part of the empire as a day of rest in deference to the Christians, and his new found Christian faith. He did not legislate something that Christians were not already observing. The early Church father’s writings are replete with references to Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

    The Bible and Extra-Biblical Writings

    Spriggs will also use the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha in the same capacity as Scripture to support his doctrines.

    “Extra Biblical writings can be useful to those who have a safe spirit (e.g. gospel of Thomas, Testimonies of the 12 Patriarchs). Paul in his day ‘added’ to the O.T. speaking prophetically, so it is today.” Pray Lifting Up Holy Hands Without Wrath and Dissension, 6/5/88, p.1.

    “The Gospel of Thomas which was found in Egypt not too long ago said, ‘He who is nearest to me is nearest to the fire.’ Fire is for purification.

    So we see the meaning of baptism here.” Reasoning 2, 10/19/90, p.5.

    “In the quote from the book of Maccabees it was THE PRIESTHOOD who became completely defiled by sports. (2Mac. 4:14) Though they may have been late for everything else, “at the stroke of the gong, they would hurry to the games”. The Dangers of Sports, 1/95, p.1.22

    What is also very disturbing is how Spriggs’ own teachings are give a place of equal divine authority with the Bible. This is true of the Freepapers as well.

    “The teachings (Spriggs’ teachings to the Tribes - rp) kill us. The Bible - the Word of God kills our flesh. It requires our death.” Ahavah 2, The Work of Faith, The Labor of Love and the Perseverance of Hope, Tabitha’s Place, 9/6/89, p.7.

    “These Freepapers are eternal life - the Word of God…How much time do you think you can devote to this paper every day with your busy schedule…? 20 seconds? Maybe some people could build up to a minute a day - that’s 60 seconds…See if you can and watch what happens to your life! I’m saying this because some people don’t read it at all, then they claim to have eternal life - Impossible!

    “…I’m talking about this because I want you to know how great a sin it is if you don’t read them yourself. Don’t even imagine that you are saved and have eternal life..” Reading Our Freepapers, 7/13/94, pp.1-2.23

    It would seem fair to deduce that Elbert Eugene Spriggs, “Yoneq,” has an unequaled place of authority and influence within The Twelve Tribes. His unquestioned and unchallenged interpretation of Scripture, his equating his own writings with the Bible, his position as the “apostle” in the group, allows him to come across with teachings and pronouncements that are no less weighty than the Bible’s, “Thus saith the Lord.” The rest of this paper will develop the tragic impact this has had on the lives of thousands of people. It is a very dangerous practice to delegate to any human being a “direct pipeline to God,” with no real accountability.

    1The Tribes complained that part of this quote was missing and that it changed substantially what was being communicated. It is true that the quote is more narrow in its application, for Spriggs was specifically talking about a point in the Book of Revelation. However, the quote overall stands as a prime example of the Tribes’ approach towards the Bible, Spriggs, and the Early Church. It is explicitly taught that for 1,900 years there was no true Church on the face of the earth until The Twelve Tribes began. The Bible is also intended, by God’s design, to be misunderstood by unbelievers unless you are under the “anointing” (The Twelve Tribes). Also, so many of the Tribes’ arguments for their position are “arguments from silence,” which is the point of this quote. “Arguments form silence” are also used to justify other major doctrines: the giving away of all one’s possessions, the story of Adam and Eve’s fall, living in community as a perpetual concept, etc.

    2 Groups frequently have what is understood to be “inner” and “outer” doctrine.” Outer doctrine is for public consumption and in The Twelve Tribes this includes their Freepapers, booklets written by them, letters to the press, etc. Their inner doctrine is the teachings of their founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs (Yoneq). These are not necessarily in contradiction with one another, however, the teachings do reveal a picture of the power Spriggs exercises in the Tribes that is never evident in the Freepapers. We were able to get these teachings from numerous ex-members and two members in the group. The group’s leadership would not give us these teachings, although we asked on numerous occasions. Their contention was that they would only be misunderstand by outsiders who are not under the “anointing.” These “teachings” with their titles are extensively quoted throughout this paper, and are available for inspection.

    As an aside, our initial response to the Tribes was very favorable. It was not until we were able to secure the bulk of their teachings that we became progressively troubled. They evidence a litany of destructive control on the part of Spriggs that is almost unparalleled in our experience. This control is not administered with an iron fist, but rather with a velvet glove. Thus, it is more insidious and difficult to identify, particularly by those under its sway.

    At our final meeting with their top leadership we mentioned to them that as far as public relations were concerned “these ‘teachings’ were their worst nightmare.”

    3 In 1978 the Chattanooga Times reports that Eddie Wiseman referred to Gene Spriggs as a “gift from God,” and that “upon him…the church is built.” Chattanooga Times, 1/10/78.

    4 The Tribes disputes this assertion in their Critique of this paper, however, we have since come into possession of a 1,000 more of Spriggs’ teachings that are filled with statements that demonstrate this contention. It would be good to hear from the Tribes why they feel it necessary to distribute “teachings” of these kind that glorify Spriggs. It has also been our understanding from conversations with members, family of current members, ex-members, and others that Spriggs carries an unrivaled, exalted position with the Twelve Tribes.

    5 Letters to a Devastated Christian, Gene Edwards, The SeedSowers, 1984, p.25.

    6 The Tribes wrote in their Critique of this section of the Analysis: “What is the Scriptural authority for this business of challenging one another? Is it supposed to be tolerated? Is disagreement among leaders regarding their interpretation of the Word some sort of proof of orthodoxy? The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another’ (Gal 5:26). He also wrote that ‘the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets’ (I Cor 14:32). It is a matter of attitude and motive. We do not challenge one another, but we do submit to one another out of reverence for Messiah (Eph 5:21).” Obviously, the Tribes takes issue with the word challenge. Thus, Spriggs, cannot be “challenged” regarding his interpretation of Scripture. However, he can and should be “submitted” to.

    7 Redemption, undated, p.13.

    8 This conversation occurred on March 27, 1995 and we found Mr. Davis to be a very humble Christian with no animosity towards the Tribes, and great insight into them. Mr Davis left in 1983 and has since been vilified by Spriggs in later teachings, “Larry Davis left of his own accord because he didn’t get the recognition he wanted…So he received a spirit that said ,’you (sic) need to be exalted in the Body.’ He was lifted up in pride - Satan’s sin.” First Day Teaching, Sus, 4/15/90, p.17. In a very insightful statement, Davis told Spriggs at the time of his confrontation, “We are growing hydroponic Christians here. They can only survive in the artificial environment of the Community, not outside in the world.”

    In the Tribes’ Critique of this section of the Analysis they supplied a letter written by Davis, shortly before his departure, to another member of the Tribes. In that letter, Davis bemoans his lack of spirituality and that the Holy Spirit had never regenerated him in the Church. These kind of letters are common when a person, torn about their allegiance to a group, are on the verge of leaving. They reflect more the inner turmoil of the person’s emotional state, and are as much an attempt to convince their own self as they are a confession of their true inner condition. Once the person has left the group, and is no longer under the intense pressure and scrutiny to conform, such letters are rarely written, and often regretted if were.

    9 This sad event happened to Mary Wiseman, the first wife of Eddie Wiseman (“Hakam”), an apostolic worker and chief lieutenant of Spriggs. Eddie is an extremely sensitive and caring man. This whole event must have been devastating to him. Mary, in every instance, was spoken of with great love and respect and greatly influenced many members for good over the years. She and her husband tried many homeopathic therapies to treat her cancer, even laetrile brought back from Texas, but all with little to no effect. Shortly before she died a long prayer meeting was held that began above their Common Sense Restaurant and ended at Mary’s house, the Maples. This prayer meeting was intense with a great amount of singing and pleading before God on Mary’s behalf. “Huldah the Prophetess” even prophesied that “God had healed Mary.” Three or four days later she died. This created huge problems in the Tribes because Mary had been pronounced healed and was such a high ranking, beloved member. Why would God allow her to die? It was stated at an elders meeting that the “Gospel was on trial.” Either there was something wrong in Mary’s life that brought her to this premature end, despite the prayers of the believers, or, the Tribes were wrong. A short while later, after Mary’s funeral, one of the largest meetings ever held in the Tribes occurred and lasted into the early hours of the morning. Hundreds of people attended, many from their other communities. It was then revealed by a Tribes member that she remembered standing in a kitchen, talking with Mary, years earlier. Some remarks were made about what a great person Spriggs was to which Mary commented, “You don’t know Yoneq. He can really have anger.” Her husband, Eddie, also confessed that years earlier, when they had first moved to Island Pond, Vermont, Mary had tried to leave with their two boys, Luke and Nathan. He prevented her from going and confessed that his actions were a mistake. He should have let her leave because she demonstrated, by trying to leave, that she was no longer his wife. It was then stated that Mary had died for three reasons: she had a “spirit of her children” ( she was more committed to her children than she was to the Tribes), she had twice tried to leave (and thus demonstrated that her commitment to Yashua and the “anointing” was weak), and she had “spoken out against the anointed” –Spriggs (this was her most grievous error). Spriggs was at this meeting and said nothing in protest. Indeed, it was explicitly stated that Mary had contracted uterine cancer because she had a “spirit of her children.” He condoned this line of reasoning by what he taught at the time, and how he directed the meeting. Mary had become the sacrificial lamb. But equally devastating was that Mary’s children were there and heard these things spoken about their mother. The magnitude of this whole sad event demonstrates the extremes to which Spriggs has allowed the importance of his own person and position to be taken. Even the second-in-command’s wife’s godly character can be destroyed.

    Mr. Wiseman, in their Critique of this Analysis, was understandably very disturbed that we included this account of his deceased wife’s last days. He claims that this was “offensive, vicious” and “…that academic researchers warn and caution…of the unreliability of ex-members’ accounts.” Since receiving their Critique we have come into possession of the Apostolic Workers notes and Body Meeting notes from around the time of Mary’s death. They reveal far more clearly the tragedy of that time and the systematic decimation of Mary’s character. She had spoken against the “anointed” more than a decade earlier, and had tried to leave twice. And even though she could not remember the complaint against Spriggs’ abuse of authority, God did. Her disease was the consequence of not initiating a proper repentance when she had the opportunity. This account of Mary’s death was also revealed to use by many ex-members and one current member.

    10 The Tribes in their Critique responded thusly to this section of the Analysis. “Since Mr. Pardon is so keen on understanding the historical context of Scriptures, let him answer this question: who would the hearer of Moses’ words think was leading the people astray after other gods, one who told them to observe the Sabbath or to observe the day of ‘the invincible Sun,’ the Dies Solis of the Roman empire which honored the solar deity?” As is usual, in much of their Critique they do not deal with the real issue, which is Spriggs receiving special revelation. The implication is that he does receive it and propounds it in his teachings.

    11 What We Believe, undated, p.4.

    12 Again the Tribes in their Critique attempts to downplay the authority of Spriggs by asserting that it is the whole Body that prepares itself for Messiah to return. However, it is only Spriggs that has called the “true” Body into existence after 1,900 years, only Spriggs teachings that are disseminated, and only Spriggs who functions in the role of Elijah. Our point stands as is.

    13 I was personally told by David Jones (Yonah) that Bibles with study notes kept a person from hearing from the Holy Spirit as they read the Scriptures. This was because they were hearing the opinions of another man. However, it does not seem to dawn on members of the Tribes that in listening to only the opinions of Spriggs they are in effect in the same bind as the person with his Bible with study notes. Their defense would be that Spriggs has the ability /anointing to understand the true word of God.

    14 This quote is amazingly similar to statements found in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, only there the locus of God’s anointing is not a single person but the Governing Body, a small group of men. “Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: ‘This shows that we have to make up our mind what to believe.’ This is independent thinking! Why is this so dangerous? Such thinking is evidence of pride. And the Bible says: ‘Pride is before a crash…’ If we get to thinking that we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: ‘Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the truth if it had not been for the guidance from the organization? Could we get along without the direction of God’s organization?’ No, we cannot.” Watchtower, 1/15/83, p.27.

    15 Apostolic Role, 1976 or 1977, p.2.

    16 In a Chattanooga Times article, 1/19/78, written by Alan Murray, he asks the question of the Vine Church (Twelve Tribes) how they can be sure their interpretation of Scripture is the correct one. Eddie Wiseman responds, “By the fruit of our efforts. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love our brethren. The life is what gives us credibility, not just the doctrine.” This is very reminiscent of our meetings with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon’s and Baha’is who have all stated to us that the “proof” of their interpretation of Scripture is in their “fruit.” “See how we love one another! See how we have grown! Look at our lifestyle!” are the things that we continuously hear. They ask, “Isn’t it obvious that God is with us and blessing us?” Each of these groups believes that there particular _expression has given them a real corner on the truth of Scripture, and all the other groups are wrong.

    17 Leaders of heretical groups often have an exalted sense of their own unique ability to understand Scripture, and recapture what has been “lost” from Scripture, in a way that nobody has ever been able to. “Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness…because the plain and most precious parts of the Gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by the abominable Church…” Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:32 . “The desire to compel all men to think alike on all subjects, culminated in the great apostasy…the one faith that Paul and the other apostles set forth, was lost - buried under the mass of uninspired decrees of popes and councils” Charles Taze Russell, Watchtower. “Christianity has mistranslated the scriptures. A spirit caused them to purposely distort the bibles according to their beliefs. Every study bible, every translation of the bible has a different diversification behind it…” E. Spriggs, Ahavah, First Day Teaching, Sus, 4/23/89, p.8.

    18 The grammatical approach looks at the meaning of words in their original language, and their etymology. It also takes into consideration their usage at the time the document was written. Then the words need to be considered in their connection with one another. This will deal with such things as their metaphorical and figurative meaning.

    The historical approach assumes that the Word of God originated in an historical context, and can best be understood in light of that history. This involves considering the personal, social and religious characteristics of the author, the circumstances peculiar to his time, and the original recipients of the letter.

    The theological approach (this pertains only to Biblical interpretation) takes into consideration that the Bible is the Word of God; that it stands as an organic whole and is to be understood within that context; that the Old and New Testament are best understood as type and anti-type; and that not only the clear statements of Scripture comprise its message, but also those that may be deduced from it by employing these methods. See L. Berkhof’s, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Baker Book House, 1950.

    19 The Way International also tries to prove that the Gospels were written in Aramaic as a justification for many of their doctrines. Spriggs attempts to do the same kind of thing in stating that the Messiah would never have been called Jesus, because that is a Greek name, or that none of the disciples would ever speak Greek. However, we possess the New Testament only in Greek in its earliest manuscripts. No Aramaic originals are extant. All the earliest New Testament manuscripts that have been recovered (and they number in the 1,000’s) are in Greek, not Aramaic.

    20 Rev. 13:8 is an even clearer example of this disregard for time. Jesus is the Lamb that is “slain before the creation of the world.” John 1:29 is a similar example of this kind of statement. Jesus “takes away the sin of the world.” “Takes” is a present active participle. Yet in space and time this event had not yet occurred. Paul has many examples of this in his writings.

    21 Only the great ecumenical councils carried the authority to influence the whole Church. These councils were: Nicea, 325 AD; Constantinople, 381 AD; Ephesus, 431 AD; Chalcedon, 451 AD; Constantinople, 553 AD; Constantinople, 680-681 AD; Nicea, 787 AD.

    22 As an aside, this comes from a very interesting teaching that equates the playing of “sports” with setting up a “high place” in one’s heart. This “high place” is an idol that now takes the place of God. “False Prophets encourage them (people in The Twelve Tribes - rp) to play sports. False leaders lead the saints into sin by playing.”

    23 The Tribes refers to this assertion in our Analysis as being “sensationalistic” and without any merit on such “scanty evidence.” They then assert five things in their defense. First, the initial quote deals with the Biblical demand to die to selfishness (which does not deal with the obvious parallel between Spriggs’ teachings and the Bible). Their second and fourth objections emphasize that there are abundant Biblical citations in both articles quoted in the Analysis. Building on this, their third objection makes it very clear that anyone reading the two articles would not be “confused as to which was which” (which was Scripture and which was Freepaper). Their fifth objection demonstrates our point, “…we have no qualms about saying that our literature would be words of eternal life to a lost person, and that for one of us to give out a Freepaper without reading it would not only be hypocritical, but would also exhibit a sinful indifference to God’s Word.” However, this is not what Spriggs states. He says the Freepapers are “the Word of God,” not that they contain the message of eternal life for a “lost person.” Also, this teaching was not given to “lost persons.” It was given to “believers” in the Tribes who were told that if they did not read the Freepapers to “..not even imagine that you are saved and have eternal life.” This is all too reminiscent of a quote by Charles Taze Russell of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, “Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years–if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light in two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.”

    Our point is simply that Spriggs teachings, reflected in the Freepapers, is elevated to Biblical status.

  8. KD Says:

    In Christianity, there are no apostles, prophets or elders. There are only hirelings who care nothing for the sheep.
    -Elders and Deacons

    Christianity is full of deceptive birds.
    -The Personality of God in Us 8/25/94

    Christianity has mistranslated the scriptures. A spirit caused them to purposely distort the bibles according to their beliefs. Every Study bible every translation of the bible has a different diversification behind it.
    -Ahavah, First Day Teaching 4/23/89

    Christianity is reckoned with the nations. They eat dogs, cats, snails, buzzards and hedgehogs because ‘everything is clean,’ not just pigs.
    -More on the First and Second death, 11/19/85

    …Christianity is no longer scorned by the heathen but accepted as one of them…This is because they are no different from the rest of the world system …All the world needs is one more Christian. One more would make 1 Billion and one…. All Christianity is leveled, lukewarm and nicely conformed to this worlds evil system.
    -The Disciple -part 1

    Christianity is not valid because sheep are not in a pasture; it is only possible in the Edah, the true pasture.
    -For Shepherds Only

    The word Christian has come to mean ‘an adherent of Christ, but what a joke.
    -The Disciple

    Christianity has hirelings who just want a position with a good salary. They don’t care about the sheep, they just feed off them.
    -Elders Part II

    Christianity is a folk religion based on myths.
    -Seeking First kingdom/washing/the narrow road

    Christianity twists and distorts the Scriptures because they are untaught - they have been taught by the wrong people.
    -More on the First and Second death

    There’s no forgiveness in Christianity. They all go to church having committed every sin imaginable and don’t confess it to anyone.
    -Seeking First Kingdom/washing/ the narrow road

    Christianity is a mountain, a high place, where you worship idols, a false place of worship.

    The harlot [Christianity] is filled with demons, unclean birds, hatred sins piled up to heaven, and is responsible for the blood of martyrs. Her sorcery has corrupted the whole world.
    -Stone IV

    The Christian church is good for nothing- not even good enough for the dung heap.
    -The Disciple

    Christianity has fallen - a big tree, a false growth, which our Father will destroy someday. He will replace it with spiritual Israel who obeys Him… Sabbath Eve.
    -Sus 3/30/90

    A little white wafer that melts in your mouth represents Christianity, it does not represent His body.
    - The Loaf

  9. KD Says:

    I had more than one disciple tell me something to the effect of :

    “Did you know that blacks should have stayed in submission to their masters ? They were better off as slaves , look at how they live now . ”

    “Abraham Lincoln wasn’t such a good president , he helped free the slaves ”

    ” God created the different races right after the Tower of Babel incident . He doesn’t want “race mixing” , that goes contrary to God’s law ”

    I was shocked .

  10. James Howell Says:

    My name is James Howell and I was a member of the Twelve Tribes community for 15 excruciating years. I was high up in the leadership of the tribes and close to Elbert Eugene Spriggs. I would like to share some of my experiences and knowledge of the tribes. Etched in every edah where an established clan or expression of the body of Christ exists, Spriggs’ control and rule unite to form the communities. This denotes a common denominator that marks all of the communities.

  11. James Howell Says:

    The community believes no one holds a valid viewpoint on any subject except tribes members. They are extremely arrogant.

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