Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
Arpil 26, 1962


Kenneth A. Sterling, Napa, California

Most of us, I suppose, know what "plagiarism" is, but that we might have the definition firmly fixed in our mind we quote from Webster, (New Collegiate): Plagiarize: "To steal or purloin and pass off as one's own (ideas, writings, etc., of another)." As Christians we must not be guilty of plagiarism for it is a sin inasmuch as it is nothing more than stealing; even though the thing stolen is not necessarily tangible property. Besides the fact that it is sin against God (the Christian's first and greatest consideration), to be guilty of plagiarism is indeed most unbecoming to any individual.

No Axe To Grind

I might point out, just here, that I have not been prompted to write upon this particular subject because someone has "purloined" some ideas or articles of mine. Indeed, to be perfectly candid, I have not written enough, or well enough, that anyone would be desirous of "plagiarizing" anything of mine. I wish they would. It would be a compliment. However, I have known of many instances wherein good articles, ideas, and material of other men, have been freely used without any credit whatever being given the originator.

No Such Thing As "Plagiarism" Among Brethren (?)

I suppose that most good brethren feel that if anything they have spoken, written, or preached, can be used by another to the glory of God and the spread of the Kingdom, indeed to the saving of souls' let it be used — and that freely. This is certainly right and the kind of attitude that should prevail. However, though we may feel license to freely use the oral and written material of another, should we not at least give credit to him as author or originator? Paul said: " ... provide things honest in the sight of all men." (Rom. 12:17b) Is it really truly honest to use another's material without acknowledgement of any kind. Especially does this apply to written material. It would be rather absurd, of course, to state at the beginning of a sermon, "I got this outline from Brother Smith's sermon outline book, pages 175, 176," or to read a bibliography at the beginning or conclusion of a lesson. But, what I am speaking of is being fair and honest as possible in using another's material.


I don't know where this term ever came from in bulletins, but It appears more frequently than almost any other. Brethren, is it really fair and honest to use someone's article, which bears his name as author, and then rather than "give credit where credit is due," print "Selected" under it? Selected from whom? — from where? It shows that the editor of the bulletin is not taking credit, of course, but when the author is known, why not give his or her name? If the author is unknown, then why not indicate that fact and perhaps the source from which the article is borrowed?

Often I have seen articles in bulletins which had no author line, editor's initial, or even "Selected." In this situation, you don't know for sure whether the editor of the bulletin wrote it, where is came from, or really anything about it. Some bulletins state: "All articles are by the editor unless otherwise indicated." I feel this is a good idea if no initials, etc., are used.

Using Copyrighted Material

Again, I have known brethren to freely use — often mimeograph — copyrighted material with no permission being asked and no credit being given the author. Brethren, is this really honest and fair? If a brother goes to the expense (to say nothing of the time and toil), to have, for example, a lesson outline book published, is it right to buy only one copy, mimeograph as many as you need and then not even give him credit as author? I am sure that no true Christian brother would bring another brother into court for using his copyrighted material, but it is still a question of honesty and fairness.

In the congregation where the writer labors as local evangelist, we are currently, using some copyrighted lesson outline material which has been published in book form. We have one copy of the book from which we are mimeographing the lessons inasmuch as the author has given his permission since he is presently unable to supply us with books. We asked his permission, because we felt his material was very good, to mimeograph the lessons until such time as he could supply the books. Each lesson sheet contains the author's name, title of the book, and the statement that a certain number of copies have been re-produced with the author's written permission. This is not said to give us a "pat on the back," but to illustrate what I believe to be one fair way of using copyrighted material.

"Let Him That Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone"

Inasmuch as I have been guilty in times past of unfairly using another's material, it ill-behooves me to "cast stones" at anyone else. I am sure that we have all done these things without even thinking about them. But let's do think about them, and let's "give credit where credit is due" and truly "provide things honest in the sight of all men." (Rom. 12:17)