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British Israelism

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British Israelism (sometimes called Anglo-Israelism) is the belief that the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian, Germanic and Dutch peoples of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States are the direct lineal descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and that the British Royal Family are directly descended from the line of King David. [1] [2]

This belief has been accorded little scientific proof or significance; its significance stems largely from its cultural significance as a concept, and as an idea historically accepted and propounded. Proponents assert that national favour with God is based on a nation's status as an Israelite nation while individual salvation remains based on a personal relationship with God.

Due to the amorphous nature of this idea over the years, there has rarely been a central head, recognised leadership, or organisational structure to the movement. This has led to a diverse set of professions and beliefs ancillary to the genealogical claims.



[edit] Scope of movement

[edit] Growth and spread of belief

Although British-Israelists will cite various ancient manuscripts to show an ancient origin for British Israelism, the belief appears to have gained momentum since the English Revolution and especially during the "Restorationist" movement (late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). John Sadler published The Rights of the Kingdom in 1649.

It was only in the late 1700s, however, during a religious climate of Millenarianism that it became a distinct ideology thanks to the preaching and writings of two men, Richard Brothers and John Wilson. Other books from this period detailing this theory were Ezra Stiles' The United States elevated to Glory and Honor, published in 1783 and Richard Brothers' A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times, published in 1794. Also cited as an original work is Rev. John Wilson's Our Israelitish Origins which was originally published during the 1840s. Brothers was certainly the first of the two to begin to expound his version of British-Israelism, but many have suggested he lacked credibility due to his alleged mental illness and extreme tendencies. Wilson, on the other hand, developed the idea using scriptural references and his own reasoning.

Wilson’s ideas were to be refined and new ideas developed, well into the second half of the nineteenth century. Wilson had already begun to spread his message by public lecture, but no formal organisations or movement was formed under his leadership. British Israelism was seen as amusing to some, fascinating to others, but it did not seem to develop any sort of organisational structure until the late half of the nineteenth century at the hands of, Edward Hine and Edward Wheeler Bird.

In 1919 the British-Israel-World Federation was founded in London near Buckingham Palace. During this time several prominent British citizens patronized this organisation. Perhaps one of the most notable of these members being the Prime Minister of New Zealand at the time William Massey. This organisation continues to this day with its main headquarters located in Bishop Auckland in Co. Durham. It continues to maintain local chapters throughout the British Isles and internationally.

[edit] Modern adherents

The late Professor Roger Rusk (1906 - 1994), brother of former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, was a prominent teacher of British Israelism. He spent 13 years as a public school teacher, and 28 years as a professor at the University of Tennessee, where he held the position as Emeritus Professor of Physics. He was also a member of American Physical Society and the Tennessee Academy of Science.

Pastor Arnold Murray, of the Shepherd’s Chapel, a registered non-profit organisation in the State of Arkansas, also embraces the British Israel belief. His teaching is broadcast regularly via satellite.

Some groups that follow the original teaching of Herbert W. Armstrong adhere to this doctrine. Armstrong was the founder and Pastor-General of the Radio Church of God from its foundation around 1934, through its re-naming in 1968 as the Worldwide Church of God, until a week before his death in 1986. Armstrong in chapter 5 of his Mystery of Ages (1985), "The Assyrians settled in central Europe, and the Germans, undoubtedly, are, in part, the descendents of the ancient Assyrians." (p. 183). In this, Armstrong draws upon the opinions of Herman L. Hoeh, published in his 1963 Compendium of World History.[3] On the fourth page of his book, The United States and Britain in Prophecy (1980), Armstrong maintained that this theory is a master key to understanding Biblical end-time prophecy. The current Worldwide Church of God has abandoned this doctrine and offers a detailed explanation of the doctrine's origin and abandonment at their official website. [4]

In Britain, the theology of British Israelism has been taught by a few small Pentecostal churches including the (now-defunct) Bible-Pattern Church Fellowship, an early offshoot of the Elim Pentecostal Church (which, however, does not hold to the British Israel doctrine). In London the Orange Street Congregational Church[5] also teaches a form of British Israelism. In Australia, the Christian Revival Crusade, founded by Leo Harris once but no longer teaches this theology. However, its prominent offshoot the Revival Centres International and its own various offshoots continue to teach the doctrine.

Some have suggested that the references made in the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath to the ancient nation of Israel imply that the authors of the Declaration believed in a racial connection between the Scots and the ancient Israelites.

Due to the expansive nature of the British Empire, believers in British Israelism spread worldwide but is most prevalent in the Commonwealth nations including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Belize. Nations with large populations of British and Northern European descendants such as the United States, South Africa, Ireland, and Argentina also contain groups of believers in British Israelism. Although no comprehensive database exists, it is now possible that there are more who embrace this belief outside of Britain, than within it.

[edit] Historical ideas

[edit] Legends and folklore

Many early legends abound in ancient British folklore. These include but are not limited to:

  1. The story that Saint Joseph of Arimathea (Jesus' alleged uncle) traveled to Glastonbury sometime after Christ's crucifixion and established an early Christian community,[6]
  2. Suggestions that the Stone of Scone might be Jacob's Pillar
  3. Legends that the Israelite prophet Jeremiah may have been the "Olam Fadlah" of Celtic lore,
  4. The legends of the Historia Regum Britanniae connecting Britain to the Mediterranean and the Middle East and detailing early Welsh/Brythonic genealogies.
  5. The coming of Brutus of Troy (Britis) to Great Britain after the burning of Troy and his genealogy leading to the Israelite tribe of Benjamin,
  6. The Matter of Britain detailing the Arthurian Legend.
  7. The claims by Henry VIII to be descended from King Arthur,[7] who legend has it was the eighth generation from Joseph of Aramathea.[8]
  8. The claim that Saint Paul visited Britain.
  9. B'ney BRIT is the Hebrew for children of the covenant, referring to Abraham's covenant with God. This is possible etymological evidence for Britons getting their name from the covenant.

Each of these stories has been incorporated into the British Israel belief as evidence of a belief in a tangible genetic connection between the people of Britain and the people of the Holy land.

Critics contend that these stories are apocryphal and were created and planted later to help justify England's rejection of the Vatican's authority.

[edit] The Saka

The key component of British Israelism is their representation of the migrations of the Lost Tribes of Israel. They often suggest that the Behistun Inscription has provided an invaluable missing link. George Rawlinson, Sir Henry Rawlinson's younger brother, connected the Saka/Gimiri of the Behistun Inscription with deported Israelites:

We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel.[9]

Jehu kneeling at the feet of Shalmaneser III on the Black Obelisk.

The inscription connects the people known in Old Persian and Elamite as Saka, Sacae or Scythian with the people known in Babylonian as Gimirri or Cimmerian. This is important because the Assyrians referred to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in their records as the "House of Khumri", named after Israel's King Omri of the 8th century BCE. Phonetically "Khumri", "Omri", and "Gimiri" are similar.[10]

It should be made clear from the start that the terms 'Cimmerian' and 'Scythian' were interchangeable: in Akkadian the name Iskuzai (Asguzai) occurs only exceptionally. Gimirrai (Gamir) was the normal designation for 'Cimmerians' as well as 'Scythians' in Akkadian.[11]

The archeologist E. Raymond Capt asserted that there were similarities between King Jehu's pointed headdress and that of the captive Saka king seen to the far right on the Behistun Inscription as shown in the photo of the Black Obelisk to the right.[12] King Jehu of Israel was a successor to King Omri of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

[edit] General overview of beliefs

The main evidence for British Israel is determined through the identification marks listed in the Bible, which proponents claim strongly apply to Britain and America. Among them are that 12 tribed Israel will lose all trace of her lineage (Isaiah 42:19, Hosea 1:9), Israel will be a great and mighty nation (Genesis 12:2, 18:18, Deuteronomy 4:7-8), named "Great," i.e. Great Britain (Genesis 12:2), will be a blessing to other nations (Genesis 12:2-3), that they will become many nations (Genesis 17:4), that their descendants will be Kings and rulers (Genesis 35:11), that they will keep the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13), that they will be a missionary nation (Isiah 49:6, 66:19), rule over others (Genesis 27:29, Deuteronomy 15:6), become envied and feared (Deuteronomy 2:25, 4:8, 28:10), that they will lend to other nations (Deuteronomy 15:6), that Israel will inhabit the isles of the sea (Isaiah 24:15), that Israel's new home will be northwest of Eretz Israel (Isaiah 49:12), and that it would spread abroad (Gen. 49:22).

Adherents of British Israelism assert that the Saka-Scythians migrated north and west after the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the city of Babylon. History suggests that these Scythians were forced further north and west by migrating / invading Sarmatians. The Sarmatians were also called “Scythians” by the Greeks. To differentiate between the two, Herodotus suggests that the former “Scythians” were called "Germain Scythians" (meaning "True Scythian"), while the Sarmatians were still merely called “Scythians.” This theory suggests the term "Germain Scythian" is synonymous with "Germanii." or in modern times "Germanic" or "German."

Late nineteenth-century Celtic language scholar John Rhys suggested

...the (Celtic) Kymry were for some time indifferently called Cambria or Cumbria, the Welsh word on which they are based being, as now written, Cymru ... and is there pronounced nearly as an Englishman would treat it if spelled Kumry or KUMRI.'].[13]

Rhys argued that both Celts and the Scythians came from an area south-east of the Black Sea, and migrated westward to the coast of Europe, comparing the name of the Welsh for themselves, Cymry, with the name of the Cimmerians "Kumri". He suggested the names Iberia for Spain, and Hibernia for Ireland were connected to a variation of "Hebrew" and that this was evidenced in philology. [14]

Some researchers[who?] suggest that the burial customs of the Scythians and Vikings also show similarities to ancient Israelites, for which many have argued a common origin in support of British Israelism.[15]

[edit] Theology involves claim of racial lineage

As with Judaism, British Israelism asserts theologically-related claims of a genetic link to the early Israelites. As such, it is based on a genealogical construct. This belief is typically confined to the geo-political status or the prophetical identity of the nation, not to the individual's superiority or salvation status with God.

Due to the diverse structure of the movement, other elements of belief and key doctrines may be embraced by individual adherents. British Israel theology varies from the conventionally Protestant Christian to various more extreme forms, one of which may be exemplified by the Christian Identity Movement with some of its historic roots in British-Israelism, but the core belief of British Israelism is that the Anglo-Saxon peoples of Britain and Northern Europe have a direct genetic connection to the Ancient Israelites mentioned in the Bible. However most British Israel movements also believe that personal salvation is open to all.

[edit] Genetic evidence

Genetics research on DNA shows that most modern Jews share origins with other people of the Middle East and are sharply divergent genetically from Britons and other Europeans.[16]

[edit] Criticism

Critics[who?] responding to the British-Israel rejectionism, are quick to point out contrary evidence, and the idea that city names in England such as "Yarmouth" arose without any real historical connection to Ancient Israel should be dismissed as lacking basis[citation needed]. For example, the article from the Scotsman entitled "One in five Scots has blood tie to ancient Iraq" [2][dead link] should cast serious doubt to accepting spurious DNA patterns as justification for utterly dismissing other more obvious geographic and cultural evidence[citation needed].

Advocates[who?] of the theory assert that that the Bible refers to Judah as being of darker skin, and the story of the patriarch Judah himself having a child by a Canaanite woman may also explain genetic differences between modern Jews and the British people while also explaining similarity to modern day Arab people[citation needed].

Critics[who?] of the theory reject any such interpretation of scripture and find no color distinction among the twelve tribes of Israel. They assert that all of the Israelites were Semitic and thus of the same color and ethnicity as the Canaanites[citation needed]. Judah's great-grandfather Abraham had been called out by God from among the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans and Canaanites were of similar color and ethnic background[citation needed].

Advocates[who?] of the theory further respond that the idea of ancient British people as having a religious system entirely unknown to ancient biblical writers should be dismissed considering that the river "Aven" shares the same name as a principal region of idolatrous practices mentioned in various bible prophecies[citation needed]. Some descendants[who?] of the inhabitants of the same region even have family traditions which say that the real name for the same river is actually not even "Aven" at all, but in fact "Beith Muin Ailm," dismissing connection with some of the more widespread ancient customs which are looked down on as unfavorable for the aforementioned reason[citation needed].

[edit] Key writings and people

Early books connecting British Israelism to North America include:

Other books connecting British Israelism to North America include:

Key people include:

  • Richard Brothers (1757–1824) was well known as both an early believer and teacher of this theory concerning the Lost Ten Tribes.
  • William H. Poole was a minister known for his 1889 book titled Anglo-Israel or the Saxon Race?: Proved to be the Lost Tribes of Israel.
  • J. H. Allen authored Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright which many have claimed formed the basis of a later foundation for the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong on this same subject.
  • C. A. L. Totten Professor of Military Tactics at Yale, wrote countless articles and books advocating British Israelism, including a 26 volume series entitled "Our Race".

Early books criticising the historical and theological basis of Anglo-Israelism include:

[edit] See also

[edit] Compare with

[edit] References

  1. ^ Beliefs of the Orange Street Church, a British-Israelite church
  2. ^ British-Israel World Federation - Beliefs
  3. ^ vol. 2, ch. 1: "If the Germans admitted to themselves and the world who they really are, all the world would recognise in Imperial Germany the reconstituted Assyrian Empire — once the terror of all the civilized world!" [1]
  4. ^ How Anglo-Israelism Entered Seventh-day Churches of God. 1999 Worldwide Church of God explanation of the historical origin of British Israelism doctrine within its fellowship. Accessed July 19, 2007.
  5. ^ Orange Street Congregational Church, retrieved 19 May 2007.
  6. ^ Traditions of Glastonbury by E. Raymond Artisan Publishers
  7. ^ Francine Roche (1 January 2007). The Battle of the Books: An Attack on Nationalism. Accessed 2007-05-02.
  8. ^ Traditions of Glastonbury by E. Raymond Capt Artisan Publishers
  9. ^ George Rawlinson, note in his translation of History of Herodotus, Book VII, p. 378
  10. ^ E. Raymond Capt, Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets Artisan Pub, 1985 ISBN 0-934666-15-6
  11. ^ Maurits Nanning Van Loon. "Urartian Art. Its Distinctive Traits in the Light of New Excavations", Istanbul, 1966. p. 16
  12. ^ E. Raymond Capt, Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets Artisan Pub, 1985 ISBN 0-934666-15-6
  13. ^ Early Celtic Britain pg 142. by Sir John Rhys
  14. ^ Early Celtic Britain pg 150 & 162-3
  15. ^ They Came A Viking E. Raymond Capt M.A., A.I.A.,F.S.A. Scot.
  16. ^ "Y Chromosome Bears Witness to Story of the Jewish Diaspora" (May 9 2000). New York Times. 

[edit] External links

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