Harper Collins apologizes for ‘editorial error’ in MacArthur plagiarism controversy


Harper Collins Christian Publishing has apologized to a former vice president at Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS) for misattributing a chapter the vice president wrote in a book about the council to John MacArthur. Harper Collins says the error was an “editorial error”.

The apology comes about a month after former TMUS Vice President Dennis Swanson accused MacArthur of plagiarism, which was first reported by The Roys Report. This comes 17 years after the error was originally made in MacArthur’s 2005 book, How to Counsel Biblically, which has been reprinted many times.

According to Swanson, How to Counsel Biblically, assigned one chapter—”Frequently Asked Questions About Biblical Counsel”—to John MacArthur and Wayne Mack as editors. Still, Swanson says he edited the chapter. And the identical chapter is attributed to him in a 1994 edition of the book.

“The publisher who published this book has conducted an investigation and has concluded that the change in attribution of Chapter 19 in 2005, from the original 1995 (sic) edition of the book, was erroneous,” said writes Casey Harrell, Vice President. corporate communications at Harper Collins.

Harrel added:

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This is an editorial error whose origin we cannot trace, although we have confirmed that it was not made at the direction of the author. We noted that there are other areas of the book that give you the role of contributor and you are also listed in the index. We can only conclude that this was an editorial error and we are taking steps to begin the process of corrections for the eBook and print editions. We apologize for this error and are grateful that it was brought to our attention.

The claim that MacArthur did not order Swanson’s name removed appears to contradict statements by Phil Johnson, executive director of MacArthur’s broadcast ministry, Grace to You.

Two days after RTR published the article about Swanson’s allegations, Johnson tweeted, “I literally have no involvement in this, but I believe the chapters were written as works for hire. Contributors have been remunerated. Chapters belong to TMS (The Master’s Seminary) to do with as they please.

Johnson added, “In my opinion, TMS had good reason to remove (Swanson’s) name from their projects.”

In response, Swanson tweeted that the book was never a TMS project. He added that Phil Johnson was credited in the original edition of the advice book for his editorial work, “So you must have done something.”

The Roys Report first contacted Harper Collins on February 7 to comment on the controversy. A spokesperson replied: “We take accusations of plagiarism seriously and are reviewing the matter.”

We followed up with an email on Feb. 9, and Harrell replied, “Our comment remains the same.” We emailed Harrell again on February 15 and he replied, “We are still investigating the matter.”

Our last email to Harrell requesting information about the investigation was on February 21. Harrell did not respond to this email.

However, on March 9, Swanson emailed Harrell about it. The next day, Harrell sent Swanson his explanation and apology.

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