Monday, 28 September 2009

British Israelism

Dear Bishop Manchester, Concerning the Glastonbury traditions, what do you think of British Israelism? Yours faithfully in Christ, Wayne.

British Israelism, also known as Anglo-Israelism, is the belief that the lost ten tribes of Israel migrated to Europe and then to England and became the primary ancestors of the British people, and thereby, the United States. It is often accompanied by the belief that the British Royal Family is directly descended from the line of King David.
The main body of evidence cited by believers in British Israelism consists of what they consider to be Biblical identification marks and the birthright blessings given to Joseph (Genesis 49: 22; I Chronicles 5: 1-2) and to his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48: 14-20), which they believe apply to Britain and America. Adherents believe that biblical prophecies reveal that Israel will lose all trace of her lineage (Isaiah 42: 19, Hosea 1: 9), will become a great and mighty nation (Genesis 12: 2, 18: 18, Deuteronomy 4: 7-8), be named "Great," ie 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 (Isaiah 49: 6, 66: 19), will 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 will spread abroad (Genesis 49: 22).
Is British Israelism true and biblical? In order to determine this, we need to examine the two primary claims, namely that the ten tribes were lost, and that the ten tribes migrated to England.
2 Kings 17: 18 states that Israel was deported to Assyria in 722 BC. After this time, mention of the ten northern tribes (Israel) is rare in scripture. However, other scriptures (and historical records) indicate that some of the people of the northern ten tribes remained in the land. Second Chronicles 35: 18 records Israel celebrating the Passover with Judah approximately ninety years after the Assyrian deportation. It is likely that many people of the northern ten tribes fled to Judah to escape the Assyrians, and even more fled to the safety of Judah after the Assyrians had ransacked Israel. Second Chronicles 15: 9 records people from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon settling in Judah long before the Assyrian invasion. In the New Testament, the prophetess Anna is said to be from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2: 36), one of the supposed ten lost tribes. Many people from the northern ten tribes were deported to Assyria, however, never to be mentioned again. At the same time, there is sufficient evidence in scripture to prove that the ten tribes were not entirely lost, but rather to some degree rejoined with Judah in the south. It is likely that when Judah was deported by the Babylonians, the people would have sought out the Israelites in Assyria, which is very near Babylon, and rejoined with them. In the returns to Israel recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, the scriptures nowhere limit the returnees as being entirely from the tribe of Judah.
It is possible that some of the deported Israelites emigrated to Europe and England? A journey from Assyria to England would have nevertheless been exceedingly difficult in ancient times for a large number of people. While it is possible that some Israelites migrated to Europe and indeed England, it is highly unlikely that this occurred to any significant degree.
The primary goal behind British Israelism is to claim that England and the United States have inherited the covenant promises God made to Israel. This is clearly not evident according to the terms and on the scale expressed by proponents of this theory.

1 comment:

  1. "Dear Bishop, thank you for your kind and informative response. I used to be a monk in an anglican monastic community in Crawley Down and almost converted to Russian Orthodoxy via my studies on the early Celtic Church as I was looking for a tradition that was a true third way, neither the Roman papal system that has added to the tradition nor the Protestant churches that have taken things away fom it. I ended up becoming involved in British Israel circles as a result of a pilgrimage to Glastonbury etc. I currently worship in a United Reformed Church. I very much appreciate and agree with your comments on what truly belonging to the church means but does this mean then we are all part of the Grail Church anyway? Surely this must take a visible manifestation and i assume that this is what your ministry is about and how this ministry was restored in the early 70s but how can I become part of this wonderful renewal of our sacred heritage(what maybe I have mistakenly sought in British Israelism?)I have been baptised and confirmed in the Church of England. Am I then in full communion with the apostolic sucession of the Grail Church? Or should I become Orthodox in the Eastern sense? I feel called to our native tradition whatever that is? I have always felt that this was tied up with an alternative sucession to that of Rome and this was related to the Glastonbury traditions, the early Celtic Church via the media of Anglicanism but I struggle with ecumenicalism, ie reunion with Rome, as my Protestant friends keep telling me that this is a union with "antichrist" (there are some in Orthodoxy who also believe this). What should I do?" - Wayne

    The frustration vented by you is one I have encountered from a great many down the years. Try to listen less to others who are ready to condemn, and more to the answers within yourself. These will only manifest through prayer.

    What matters is your relationship with Christ. You will find error in every institution, and no mortal being will completely satisfy your quest. Only you can do that.

    The path of the disciple might seem lonely at times, but Christ walks with each one of us.

    The Body of Christ is all who walk with humility in His footsteps. It is not a visible building which might or might not be run by a good man.

    The quest ultimately is to become like Christ. Others who are Christ-like are to be found in all walks of life.

    Seek the answer within yourself and you will find it.