Eerdmans: A Case Study in How a Responsible Publisher Handles Charges of Plagiarism

This is simply brilliant and though I have long admired Eerdmans and their spectacular work, I now admire them even more.

August 15, 2016

At the beginning of July 2016, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. received allegations against one of its New Testament commentaries and immediately undertook a careful investigation. Eerdmans is now withdrawing that book and two others by the same author.

Eerdmans editors compared the text of The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2010) with various secondary sources and submitted findings to external experts for verification. Summing up the findings, Editor-in-chief James Ernest said, “Our own editors and our outside consultants agreed that what we found on the pages of this commentary runs afoul of commonly accepted standards with regard to the utilization and documentation of secondary sources. We agreed that the book could not be retained in print.”

Examination of the same author’s Letter to the Ephesians (PNTC, 1999) and Epistle to the Philippians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1991) found them less pervasively flawed but still untenable.

The author, Peter T. O’Brien, was presented with the findings and provided the following response: “In the New Testament commentaries that I have written, although I have never deliberately misused the work of others, nevertheless I now see that my work processes at times have been faulty and have generated clear-cut, but unintentional, plagiarism. For this I apologize without reservation.”

President and publisher Anita Eerdmans summed up the company’s stance as follows: “Eerdmans is steadfastly committed to the highest ethical standards in academic and business practice, and we apologize to all who are negatively affected by this situation. Our Bible commentary series, among the best of their kind, are authored and edited by the field’s top scholars. The strong measures we are taking in this case are meant to underscore our firm belief that our commentary program is, and must remain, solid.”

Eerdmans is taking the following steps:

● Ceasing sales and pulp stock of all three volumes, placing them out of print.
● Offering credit to individuals and trade partners who have purchased the above three volumes.
For detailed instructions on how to pursue this option, please write tocommentarycredit@eerdmans.com.
● Discussing best practices for quality control with press editors, series editors, and authors.

Members of the media wishing to contact Eerdmans may send e-mail topublicity@eerdmans.com.