The Arnold/Tabor Broadcast

It almost changed the course of history

On April 1, 1993, Dr. Phillip Arnold and Dr. James Tabor appeared on Ron Engelman's radio show, knowing that the besieged residents of Mt. Carmel had come to tune in to his sympathetic program. Though ostensibly addressing his wider audience, in fact they had one listener in mind: David Koresh.

And he was listening. On April 14, he sent out a letter to his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, announcing that he would surrender upon completing a manuscript on the Seven Seals. And he specifically mentioned that he wanted Jim Tabor and Phil Arnold to have a copy.

Drs. Arnold and Tabor had resolved the siege. Unfortunately, by this time, the FBI was too impatient to believe it. Just days later, they launched their final assault, leading to tragedy.

#Transcript of Arnold/Tabor Broadcast
#Afterword: Analyzing Koresh's Manuscript Pledge
Transcript of Dr. Tabor Interview

Those already familiar with the Arnold/Tabor story may want to skip to the transcript itself, and others might prefer to read Dr. Tabor's own account of their outreach to David Koresh, but I will offer additional explanatory commentary.

Phil Arnold, head of the Reunion Institute, believed that his experience with apocalyptic groups could provide valuable insights for the FBI, and decided to get involved. His concept for ending the siege was simple: the key was to understand David's apocalyptic scenario and where he believed it was heading. You could then not only avoid doing things that would drive towards that predicted apocalyptic ending, but point him to Biblical references and interpretations that were consistent with his basic Biblical framework, but would show him an alternate, more peaceful resolution.

However, he had little luck with the FBI. It is apparent that they could not grasp what he was trying to do. Even years later, FBI and Justice officials make statements that it was impossible to convince David Koresh to surrender peacefully because there was no way to convince him that he was not the messiah. But to Arnold, that was not the crucial issue: after all, some people who have believed they were a messiah or prophet have surrendered to authorities, while others who did not believe any such thing have refused. Arnold believed David could be convinced that God wanted him to surrender, without challenging his messianic claims and without obliterating the entire Branch Davidian belief structure. The FBI thought they needed to sink the ship while Arnold only wanted to trim the sails.

Arnold finally decided to bypass the FBI, and address David directly over Ron Engelman's radio program. Together with his colleague Jim Tabor, they prepared a program directed at him.

From reviewing interviews David had made early in the siege and talking with Davidians who had left the complex, they knew that David believed the events of the siege related to the Fifth Seal:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

The Davidians believed that the deaths on February 28 marked the start of the Fifth Seal, and that now they were to await a final assault that would slay them.

When would this assault take place? From talking with imprisoned Davidians, Arnold and Tabor learned that they reasoned that since a season consisted of three months, a "little season" must be some period less than three months. As for narrowing the time frame further, they were considering two possibilities. The first was that the end would come at Passover. This was the holiest Davidian holiday, it would occur about halfway through a three-month period, and it was about the time that Jesus was killed. The other possibility came from an apocryphal work known as Second Baruch or the Apocalypse of Baruch, in which God's people suffer a calamity, and then 49 days later, a symbolically significant period of seven weeks of seven days, suffer a second calamity. Under this possibility, seven weeks from Sunday, February 28 would be Sunday, April 18.

The two scholars were alarmed by how soon the Davidians were expecting the final end. Thus, one of their key goals was to give David Koresh more time. One tack was to say that the word translated as "season" was in fact "time" in the original Greek, and could mean up to a year. Another was to suggest that the Davidians were in the fifth seal on a microcosmic level, but that on the macrocosmic level the first seal had just gotten underway, allowing David to hit the "reset" button and go back to the first seal.

However, they were not out to convince him to hole up for a year. So they suggested that to complete his mission, he must "prophesy again," and seal 144,000 believers. In particular, they cited prophets who had used time in prison to write great works, implying that David could do the same.

For more information on the Arnold/Tabor approach, see:

Brad Bailey and Bob Darden, Mad Man in Waco, Chapters 15 and 16
James Tabor and Eugene Gallagher, Why Waco?
James Tabor, "The Role of Biblical Scholarship at Waco: One Attempt to Avert Disaster"


RE: My name is Ron Engelman on Hot Talk KGBS. Now listen carefully, there are a lot of people on the line right now. If you'd like to stay on the line, I will get to your calls after 11 o'clock. I have Dr. Tabor on the line, and I have Dr. Arnold on the line, and uh, Dr. Tabor and Dr. Arnold, uh, will be talking about the Seven Seals, right after the news. We're going to go into the newscast right now, but if you are on the line, and you want to stay on the line, feel free to do that. Uh, I'll have, uh, my, uh, board op check on it, or else my intern check on it, and see if you want to stay on, if you do that's fine, but for the next half-hour Dr. Arnold and Dr. Tabor will be our only guest. I'm Ron Engelman on Hot Talk KGBS...

RE: Thank you, Jeff. Ron Engelman here, and as I promised I have on our phone lines this morning, uh, Dr. Jim Tabor and Dr. Phil Arnold. Dr. Arnold is with the Reunion Institute in Houston, we had him on the air a couple of weeks ago and, uh, Dr. Jim Tabor is the associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, his, uh, field of specialty includes early Christianity and ancient Judaism. Good morning, gentlemen.

PA: (JT: Hello) Good morning, how are you Ron?

RE: Very good, thank you; and yourself?

PA: Just fine here in Houston.

RE: Good. Uh, and- Dr. Tabor, how are you?

JT: I'm{Fine?} here in Charlotte.

RE: That's very good. Listen, uh, what we'd like to talk about and discuss, and I'm- what I'm going to do, I'm just going to sit back and allow you two gentlemen to, uh, discuss the, uh, Seven Seals, and, uh, see, David, uh, Koresh says we're between the fifth and sixth seal. I've pleaded ignorance to the Seven Seals, uh, and I don't understand the Book of Revelation, I've, I, I just don't understand it. And, uh, I would very much appreciate it if you two gentlemen would, uh, just go ahead and go, and you've got 25 minutes, and I will not interrupt, uh, I may have a question now and then, but, uh, please, feel free.

PA: Well, I, first, I just wanted to say from here in Houston that, uh, scholars and Bible students, uh, around the country, and even in different parts of the world, have turned their attention now to a, a study of the Seven Seals, and the Book of Revelation, and I find it, uh, an exciting turn of events that finally people are taking seriously the Book of Revelation. Have you noticed that in your part of the world, Jim?

JT: Well, I, I think one of the problems, though, with the Koresh case is I don't think any clear message has gone out, because he's been portrayed uniformly by the media, uh, as, uh, just kind of a crazy man who rambles. You know, we look carefully at his, uh, radio text, and we noticed that there were a lot of mistakes even in the transcription. There-

PA: You mean their typist made some mistakes?

JT: Yeah, for example, I think there was the phrase, uh, "the lion in the trial of Judas?!"- and anyone who knows the Bible would know it would be "the lion of the tribe of Judah." And I remember when that came out, a lot of reporters, including, I remember, Time magazine, said he delivered a rambling, garbled, uh, incomprehensible message. And yet from our talks with, uh, a number of his people and reading more carefully, whether one agrees with it or not, it's far from rambling and incomprehensible. I would be more impressed with the systematic skills of the exegesis. And I'm just speaking neutrally here.

PA: Yes, I had the same impression. I spent about six hours studying the, uh, the text, and I also agree that the, uh, the newspaper typist or typesetter did a poor job, and uh, and sort of concealed, you know, the wisdom that was presented there. One thing that's important for me to say, from my point of view as a scholar of American religion and a scholar of early apocalyptic movements, is that, uh, the people of America need to realize that the Koreshian community is a real religion. These people- as you know, Jim, they have religious faith. They pray, pray, they have Bible studies, they sing hymns- they're, uh, they're people who, who are religious people. They are a community of faith. And they should be entitled to all the protection under the uh, the Constitution.

JT: Well, uh, I, I certainly agree with that, and I'd think, uh, that the fact that they delve into a lot of Old Testament prophecies that most people are quite unfamiliar with, not to even mention the Book of Revelation. You know, the average person has not sat, sat down and read, for example, Haggai, the Book of Haggai, it's in your Bible. I have the impression that David Koresh could probably quote it to us right now.

PA: I think so, and the Book of Zechariah, and Malachi, and-

JT: Exactly so.

PA: and, uh, just amazing, uh, prophecies are scattered throughout the-

JT: E-, (PA: -text.) even calling him a cultist from an academic point of view is incorrect, because cult just means religion, and, uh, it's taken on these bizarre associations. Now I'm not en- I know nothing personally about him or his practices or many of the things reported. I'm just speaking from an academic point of view, looking at, uh, his exegesis of prophecies of the Old Testament and Revelation. There's definitely a systematic approach and it- one thing interesting that you and I were talking about yesterday is some of the things he's on to are echoed in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Gospel of Thomas. For example, this thing about the carcass, which is an obscure thing to most people. Uh, there's a- where Jesus in the New Testament talks about where the carcass is the eagles will be gathered. He, he, uh, works with that, and in the- in a text like the Gospel of Thomas, twice it mentions that the world is a carcass, and be careful lest you be eaten like a carcass. So he, he knows more than he's been given credit for, is what I'm trying to say.

PA: Well, I think you're right. And I know in your work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Dr. Tabor, where you have worked with some of these texts, that scholars, uh, did not release until the last, uh, I would say, six months. They were discovered, of course, in around 1949 or so after being buried 2,000 years in Israel- and finally, when they were discovered they were nevertheless not finally published until recently. I know you have worked with some of these very newly published texts.

JT: That's right. There's one in particular that is amazing in the light of current events. Uh, we released it on November 9, 1991 at- was- I'm sure it was front page, I know it was front page in the Dallas Morning News-

PA: It was 92, wasn't it?

JT: No, it was in 91, November.

PA: All right.

JT: It talks about a Branch of David being wounded, and then, uh, uh, some kind of a battle taking place. It's very obscure. Now, I'm not saying that the Dead Sea Scrolls predicted David Koresh, what I'm saying is that he is part of a long history of groups going all the way back to the time of Jesus who talked about these kind of things. That's my point. And that, and that there are things in, like, the Scrolls and so forth.

PA: Well, there's one text (JT: One text-) in the Scrolls that refers to a, a book of seven seals-

JT: (PA: -in the Dead Sea Scrolls.) That's right. We found, uh, the original reference to the book of Seven Seals in one of the new scrolls.

PA: In one of the new scrolls. And that scroll is just now being, uh, out, so that we can study it in detail, but if I remember right, it's, uh, it states that a, a scroll with seven seals was given to a Persian king.

JT: That's exactly true. So we must, you know, no one, uh, who didn't know Hebrew would have known that Koresh is the name for Cyrus. When I heard the first CNN report on February 28th, when he was on, I immediately said, "Koresh? He's clai- you know, Isaiah 45:1." Uh, so peop- I'm not saying, you know, we know more than everybody else. All I'm saying is, you have to look seriously at the text if you want to understand what's going on there. And, we don't have a lot of time. Why don't we get into these Seven Seals a little bit, uh, here.

PA: Yeah, I wanted to look at the Seven Seals carefully here. When we look at, uh, Revelation, uh, chapter six, we come down to verse ten, we come to a very important verse. And I think it's significant that this verse, ah, could be understood in the light of events that happened around February 28th. We read um, uh, in verse ten of chapter six of a group of people who are crying out. These are people who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

JT: That's right.

PA: And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, o Lord, holy and true, dost though not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" They ask the question, "How long?" And that's the question that the media is asking, the government's asking, scholars are asking, and I'm sure the Koreshian church community is asking. And I think in verse 11 we have an answer to that, it says that, ah, white robes were given, and it was said to them that they should rest, yet, for a little season, until some other events take place. So, as I understand this verse, we have a period of time called the resting time, a time of waiting, that will last for what's called a, a season here. Is that your understanding?

JT: Yeah. Now, we talked a bit about that word, though. I think that the King James says season, but the Greek word is "chronos," so it-

PA: Chronos means TIME.

JT: Right. And those listeners that know the Book of Daniel, I don't want to get too technical here, but usually "time" refers to a year. And so, uh, you know, different times in history, people have felt that this scenario of events might fit their time-

PA: You're right.

JT: And all we're really saying is that it's interesting, and we should try to understand how the, uh, how the group would be reading these texts, and indeed there is kind of an interesting thing here. But as far as the time, uh, it- would your understanding be that the word "chronos" would normally be used not for a season, like a (PA: That's-) month or two- this Greek word- but actually, uh, up to a year or so.

PA: Yes, there are other Greek words that have to do with fall, spring, winter, two or three month periods. But here you have the word "chronos," which has to do with time, and I'm sure that, ah, anyone familiar with Daniel and, ah, Revelation know that "time" represents a year: time, time and a half times, etc.

JT: Right.

PA: And I think we have here, a shortened year. (JT: Mmm.) Now, the year, of course, was debated, the calendar was debated in the time of Jesus, as to whether it was 365-day year, or 357 or 360-

JT: That's right.

PA: So when we talk about a short year, you could be referring to a year of a shortened calendar, even of 360 days.

JT: And that's the calendar, as you know, that the Dead Sea Scroll group used.

PA: Exactly right. And I think when we look over at chapter seven, we find here, uh, a parenthetical or insert chapter, that is referring to the time between the fifth and sixth seals, is how I understand it. When you have an angel tell the other angels, who have wrath to bring on the earth, that they should wait-

JT: Mmm-hmm.

PA: They should not hurt until something has taken place. (JT: Right.) And that's called the process of sealing a hundred and 44 thousand.

JT: Mmm-hmm.

PA: And I would think that, uh, there's a lot of work to be done here in the process of sealing a hundred and 44 thousand Bible students around the world.

JT: Yeah. I think if you go through these early chapters, particularly six, seven, eight, and nine, no matter when it's gonna be fulfilled- uh, and let's say David would be right, or he's at least looking at this and trying to figure it out in his own mind, that there is room for, uh, lengths of time there. And you find that also later. Another thing I noticed, I think I mentioned this to you. Uh, you know the horsemen are actually mentioned- a lot of people think the four horsemen of the apocalypse are the Notre Dame, uh, front line but (PA: Huh!) you know the four horsemen are actually mentioned in Zechariah, chapter two. And it's very interesting, in Zechariah 2, that they're released on the 24th day of the 11th Jewish month. Now, that's the Jewish calendar, but, it would be September 15 this, this, I mean, uh, February 15th, this year. And, if that's the case, and in any year, you would expect a, a longer period- Uh, see, let's say that Koresh is the white horse, as he claims- just, thinking with me a minute.

PA: Of course, (JT: Uh-) go right ahead.

JT: Uh, the white horse is released, and rides, you see, fr- beginning in, uh, February. But it would take a, a while for this to go forth. Not a month, but, because of this garbled message, very few people in the world have heard a clear message of what he's saying. And, I think, ah, given his view, you could say the horse began to ride in, uh, February- he was on the cover of Time, Newsweek, People, and so forth- and that was the opening, but, uh, you had said something to me about how prophecies often have a double fulfillment. Do you think that would apply?

PA: Yes, I, I could see how you could have a, um, ah, on the macrocosm, on the large view, the prophecies could just now- of the Seals- just now be opening up. Starting, as you say, here as Zechariah says, in February, opening up and being fulfilled on a global scale But on a, on a microcosm, there can be an internal fulfillment, within the community itself, of some of these prophecies, where they can see themselves and the events that transpire in their daily lives as a religious community, could have begun to be fulfilled, ah, six or seven years ago.

JT: Yeah. I have no doubt from our talks with some of their, uh, scholars that they do think that. And, ah, you know, you even look at prophecies in Daniel which all historians would agree, like-

PA: Sure. Antiochus Epiphanes is prophesied there as a little horn, or as an abomination of desolation, on a micro level-

JT: Mmm-hmm.

PA: But we all know that it's, it really points to a macro fulfillment, or a sense of duality in prophecy that, ah, we await a fulfillment of.

JT: See, given, uh, David Koresh's worldview, and what I understand of how he understands himself and the Psalms and so on, it seems to me that, that you would say that the white horse has begun to ride, and the next step would be, uh, a more public, ungarbled communication. Now, how that could come I'm not sure, but I don't think it can come sitting in the compound. I think it would have to come in later interviews- and even a trial, could turn out not to be a, you know, a negative thing, even from his point of view. Oh, you know, Paul was in prison for two years, and he mentions that, in the Book of Acts, that the Word went forth. That's a two-year period there, while he was waiting for trial. Now, I'm no-, I don't know anything about the legal things, or-

PA: No.

JT: You know, the FBI and all that. I'm just talking about, uh, how someone might begin a message, and then come forth in another stage. Particularly at this season of Passover, which is the (PA: Well-) motif of coming out or going forth.

PA: Well, I think that's significant, that we are in the Passover season. I think-

JT: You know what today is on the Jewish calendar?

PA: Yes, today, today in Nisan 10th.

JT: That's right

PA: And when you look at. Exodus 12:3, it states very clearly there that the, uh, Lamb is taken up by the nation, by the people.

JT: That's right.

PA: And is able to fulfill its function after it's taken up. And I think it's, uh, interesting that today, as we're talking, is Nisan 10th.

JT: I think that's very interesting, and, you know, given this scenario of- if- I think, uh, no matter how this ends up, David Koresh deserves a clear voice of communication to those who study the Bible and are serious and would like to hear what he thinks. And to say that we're in the fifth seal, in some limited way might be true, but, but I, I, I just would insist on, uh, on this time. I think there's a lot more time involved here, and, uh, if you're gonna give his view, I think, uh, you know, it'd have to go forth in a more public, coherent way.

PA: I agree. I think that fits Revelation 7 better, too, where there is. a time here for the hundred and 44 thousand to be sealed. And I think it fits well with verse 11 of Revelation 6, that states very clearly, in. the Greek, that there's a micron chronon there, a time (JT: right) period when these things are to take place. I-

JT: Did you notice-

PA: Think that in reference to Paul-

JT: I'm sorry.

PA: I'm willing to say that Paul, when he had his trial, you might remember he was in Rome.

JT: Mmm-hmm.

PA: Rome was the center of the world, uh, powers, of that day.

JT: It was called Babylon in 2 Peter.

PA: And all the whole Roman world was able to hear his message. And, I might point out, that scholars realize that Paul at that time began to put his letters together in some kind of canon, or some kind of grouping. (JT: That's true-) It was time that he had there to prepare a literature that has influenced the entire Christian church and the whole world.

JT: Mmm-hmm. See, David certainly got the attention of the world, but nobody has clearly heard yet what he's saying, I don't think. So.

PA: Well I think you're right. I think that some of us have heard, and people are beginning to look at the Book of Revelation, and at the Seven Seals, and there are many more things, very technical things, we could go in to, but this doesn't seem to be the, the, the best place to do it. It would seem to me that if it would be possible, uh, in the future, uh, by God's grace, that, ah, we could have conversations, uh, on a more public, ah, way with students of the Book of Revelation. We could bring out, ah, more information, we could learn ourselves more, and, uh, I think an expositor of the Book of Revelation that should be included in such a forum, would be David Koresh.

JT: I think that would be interesting to the whole world! Huh-huh!

PA: Yeah, I think it would too.

JT: Um, I was- I started to say, we're probably about out of time, but I, I had just noticed, ah, today, looking more at chapter nine and ten, about these time references, that when the, ah, little book is eaten- you know, this is a little vague, but re-, listeners can look this up and read Revelation 10. It does say you will prophesy again. And I'm sure David has an understanding of that, but it actually fits what we're saying, that maybe he's prophesied to his people, but it seems like, ah, then the prophet goes and kind of has a, a more public message. It says to peoples, languages, nations, and kings. Uh- and I wondered if you had looked at that yet.

PA: No, I hadn't thought of that verse either. So many verses that need to be brought out here.

JT: Mmm-hmm.

PA: Would need that, uh, dialogue to be able to bring it out.

RE: Uh, Dr., Drs. Arnold and, ah, Tabor, you've got about, ah, seven more minutes, I just want to let you know that ya, that you still have time.

JT: Well, Ron, do you have some, uh-

RE: Yeah. Well, one thing, something that, that, that's crossed my mind, is that, ah, you know, Christ allowed himself to be tried.

JT: Yes.

RE: And, uh, I, I, I don't know why- I think of, uh, uh, Mark 13, uh, verse 9.

JT: Mmm-hmm.

RE: Uh, take heed to yourselves, for they will deliver you up to the council. You'll be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake and bear testimony before them, and the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

JT: Mmm-hmm.

RE: And, ah, when they br-, they'll bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what, ah, you are to say, but say, whatever is given in that hour, for it is not you who speaks, but the Holy Spirit. Uh-

PA: Down through the history of the church and the history of the Hebrew Bible, you find the prophets: ah, Moses, uh, others finding themselves in a position where the world does have them in a captive situation. And they bear witness and the, uh, glory of their message goes even further. Even in the case of the lamb there in Exodus 12, in verse three, there's, ah, an inspection period there to see whether or not its doctrine or its teaching is without blemish. And I think this would be a period of time for an inspection and a study of the, uh, of the, ah, religious message of the Seven Seals that David has.

JT: Yeah, that's an interesting point. The, the, the text that Ron mentioned, that's kind of an astounding verse, Ron.

RE: Well, I think it, I- you know, and it, it fits because, uh, ah, it seems, ah, it- Christ wasn't the only one, ah, wasn't John also imprisoned?

JT: Absolutely.

RE: And, uh, that was, it was, after he was in prison and came out of prison, that the word of God, just, uh- the word of Christ just spread, uh, rampantly, didn't it?

JT: See, I, I think the mistake is to see, ah, prison as captivity i-, in verses like this, like exodus means coming out of bondage.

RE: Mmm-hmm.

JT: But the bondage doesn't mean where you are physically. The bondage would be the lack of understanding people have. And so we're, we're thinking in, in terms of, of how he might see this, that the Passover season could be the beginning of a "coming out," ah, to, if you want to use Egypt, or Rome, or whatever analogy of captivating power. It doesn't seem here to refer to the physical surroundings, but more, ah, the testimony that goes out.

RE: I see. So y-

JT: I think that's quite an interesting verse.

RE: But then it, then it at Passover, uh, the, that's when the, the word itself would be going out and not necessarily the individual. The individual, uh, it doesn't make any difference where the individual is, is that what you're saying?

JT: Well, I'm just saying, ah, it might occur to somebody to say, well, uh, you know, people talked about David maybe coming out and going on trial, and you could say, well, that's not release, that's captivity. That's the opposite of exodus. But I think, uh, you have to see this on a deeper level. Because, if, if he was allowed to speak freely and talk openly, it would be a release of the word, you see?

RE: Mmm-hmm.

JT: You notice his body, whether his body is, uh, you know, in custody or not is not the point.

PA: I think that's right. And I think that, ah, once this is, ah, known publicly and his message is heard, ah, there'll be, ah, many people who would bear witness that, ah, this is indeed a, a, a religious community, a church community, a remnant people who are praying, studying, and, uh, is indeed a, a church community. And I think the word cult would, ah, no longer be used!

JT: Umm.

PA: I certainly would bear expert witness to that testimony, I'll tell ya.

JT: See, one of the problems with, when we study cults through the ages, the early Christians for example were accused of cannibalism, incest, and so forth by the Romans. And these charges turned out to not to be true.

PA: Exactly right.

JT: We don't know about, ah, all these reports that were in the Waco paper about David's, uh, behavior.

PA: We don't know about those.

JT: But, uh, uh, that's not the point. The point is, to, uh, come forth and let this be handled in an open way, and, uh, uh, I guess what we're, what we keep saying is that it deserves a hearing, it's not nonsense, it's not gibberish. And whether I would even ultimately agree with it or not, I would glad to be a, a responsible dialogue partner with somebody like David.

PA: I would also remind you that in the seventeenth century, the Baptists were whipped and beaten, being accused of, of being a cult. In Boston, Massachusetts, Quakers were hanged there, hanged until death...

JT: That's a very good point, I think.

PA: And it's happened, ah, down through, ah, the history. And, ah, sometimes we have to have a- let a group have a fair hearing.

RE: Gentlemen, just quickly, ah, uh, we had a call to, ah, the front desk Uh, Dr. Arnold, would you, would you be kind enough to explain your background?

PA: Yes. I have master's degree from the University of Houston in American religion. I have another master's degree from Rice University in theology. And I have a Ph.D. from Rice University in the study of apocalyptic religious movements, including those at the time the Book of Revelation was written, as well as modern groups. And, uh, that is my background and training. I've been a student of the Scriptures now for, uh, since I was 16 years old.

RE: And, ah, Dr. Tabor, could we get a real quick synopsis of yours.

JT: Well, I, I'm at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It just so happens that my, uh, concentration also is on apocalyptic groups, and how these texts have been understood from the time around Jesus' time on up and particularly the Dead Sea Scrolls. And as well as modern groups.

RE: Well, doctors, I, I want to thank you both very, very much. We have finally ru-, ru-, run out of time. And I wish that we hadn't because, ah, it, it's a very interesting subject and a, and a in-, interesting discussion, and I thank you for trying to educate us a little bit on, uh, the Book of Revelations.

JT?: Enjoy it!

PA?: Thank you, thank you.

RE: Yes. Nice talking to you gentlemen, thank you very, very much. I do appreciate, ah, you coming on the air this morning, that was very nice. It was a little, uh, little deep, ah, it, it got a little bit- you know, it was kind of hard to understand parts of it. But, uh, I, I think they did a great job. And I, I thank them very much. I'm Ron Engelman on Hot Talk KGBS...


Afterword: One of the themes Dr. Arnold and Dr. Tabor stressed was the possibility that David could write down his beliefs, and pointed to the example of many previous prophets who found time in prison to pen religious works. David's April 14th letter shows signs of having been influenced by them. Not only does he speak of writing a manuscript on the Seven Seals, and mention Arnold and Tabor by name, but some of his other comments parallel themes in their broadcast.

There was, however, one major difference between David's plans and the course proposed by Arnold and Tabor. They had suggested that he could write his words in prison, while David pledged to come out after he wrote his manuscript.

After the fire, Phil Arnold said, "the way I put it together now, he feared he would be killed in prison. He decided to write it before he surrendered, to be safe." However, there are other possible factors in his decision as well.

First, the FBI charged that the manuscript promise was "just another stall." While the existence of the unfinished manuscript suggests that David was sincere (and the charge that he was "stalling" authorities contradicts the claim that he was eagerly seeking self-destruction), the prospect of putting off for a couple of weeks the time when he would be imprisoned surely couldn't have been unattractive.

Secondly, the manuscript pledge allowed him to save face and declare victory. Imagine if David Koresh had suddenly surrendered, saying that he had just realized what a great place jail made for writing a book! Such an announcement would probably have been greeted with snickers, and he would have been seen as having "wimped out." By seemingly forcing the FBI to wait for him to finish his manuscript, he could claim to be coming out on his terms.

Third, David's way ensured the widest public audience for the manuscript. Public interest in what he had to say was likely to be strongest when he first came out. But if he had followed the course suggested by Arnold/Tabor, he probably would have faced interviewers interested mainly in his wives and guns. (This in fact is the reason he gave talking to FBI negotiators.) By the time he finished his work, there would have been a cooler public reception, even if it were only a couple of weeks later. By surrendering with a finished manuscript in hand, he not only would have it ready when interest was at its peak, but by tying it to the end of the siege, he focused attention even more strongly on the manuscript.

Fourth, the cornerstone of David's authority was that "only one" could reveal the Seven Seals. But if he were to follow the exact scenario laid out by Arnold and Tabor, he might appear to be admitting that they too could interpret the Seals. By putting his own twist on their interpretations, he asserted himself as the arbiter of the meaning of the Seven Seals and the Bible, and protected himself from undermining his legitimacy.


Dr. Tabor Interview on KRLD

Link to Tabor's Why Waco Collection

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