17.2.3. Anglo-Israelism

Perhaps the most bizarre manifestation of Replacement Theology is found in what has come to be known as Anglo- or British-Israelism. This strange view holds that the peoples of Great Britain and the United States (those who are white and speak English) are the descendants of the “lost tribes:”

Very briefly the Anglo-Israel position is that the Anglo-Saxon peoples, especially Great Britain and the United States, are descended from the tribes of Israel of the Northern Kingdom, and therefore inherit the promises and responsibilities addressed in the Scriptures to Israel. “The National Message,” the official journal of the British-Israel World Federation, introduces its articles with these words: “The following should be read in the light of Israel Truth-namely, that the Anglo-Saxon nations are the continuation of the Israel nation; the inheritors of her Charters; the possessors of her guarantees and immunities from destruction; the executors of her commissions.” . . . Anglo-Israelism teaches that the ten tribes in Assyria migrated to South Russia about the year 650 B.C. . . . There in South Russia they became a gentile people by “associating with them (the gentiles) and absorbing them into their ranks” . . . As a matter of fact, we are told, they became the Scythians of history. These Scythians migrated by slow stages and during a period of about 1000 years to the British Isles.1

The principal belief of Anglo/British Israelism is that the British (and by extension Americans, Canadians, Australians, and others) are the spiritual and literal descendants of the ancient Israelites. Anglo-Israelism has a long history. The Puritan colonists in America also viewed themselves as spiritual descendants of the ancient Israelites. However, it was not until 1840 that John Wilson published “Lectures on our Israelitish Origin” and first proclaimed that the British people were the actual genetic descendants of God’s chosen people. . . . British Israel writers developed the belief that these “10 tribes” retained their identity, became lost to history, and wandered far from the Middle East. They stated that the stone used in the coronation of King David was transported to the British Isles where it exists today as the Stone of Scone. The latter stone is still used for the coronation of British queens and kings. The writers promoted the belief that divine authority was transferred from ancient Israel to England along with the stone. In reality, the origin of the Stone of Scone has been traced to rock outcroppings in Scotland using standard geological methods of analysis.2

The idea that Anglos are the “lost tribes” includes the transference of God’s election of Israel3 to these non-Jewish nations such that the royalty of Britain currently occupy the very “throne of David” (but see Mtt. Mat. 25:31; Rev. Rev. 3:21+)!

Great Britain and the USA are believed to be the Anglo-Saxon ancestors of the tribes Ephraim and Manasseh (predominantly), so it may be inferred by British-Israelism that white, English speaking people are really the chosen people of God. . . . Because of this dispersal, it is believed that the Queen of England now sits on the throne of David. . . . “The kingly line of Judah (Genesis Gen. 49:10) reached Britain when a daughter of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem, arrived with Jeremiah in 569 B.C. This princess, Tea-Tephi, married the king of Ireland, who also happened to be a descendant of Judah through Zarah, Judah’s younger son (Genesis Gen. 38:30), and so both branches of the kingly line were established as the Royal House of Ireland. This kingdom was transferred to Scotland and then to England with James I (James VI of Scotland) in 1603. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, therefore is a direct descendant of King David and recipient of his throne.” (D. Olinger, British Israelism , Bob Jones University Press) “Jeremiah also brought with him in 569 B.C. the liafail, or Jacob’s pillow-stone (Genesis Gen. 28:18) which had been used as the coronation stone of the kings of Judah (II Kings 2K. 11:14 - ‘pillar’). This stone now rests in the royal coronation chair of Great Britain in Westminster Abbey. All kings and queens of Great Britain are crowned while sitting on this chair.” (D. Olinger)4

This idea, as fanciful as it sounds, garnered considerable support among influential quarters in England in the early 1900s:

The idea that Britain was Israel grew with the Empire. The Metropolitan Anglo-Israel Association was founded in 1878 with the Bishop of Rangoon on the council. By the 1930s it could attract thousands to its annual meetings, many of them aristocrats. Its roll contained two duchesses, a marchioness, two earls, three countesses, barons, thirteen baronesses, nine baronets and a wide selection of knights, admirals and generals. All were convinced that the Briton was a lost tribe, ordained to rule the world. Dr Price, William Blake and the British Israelites were in a tradition of claims that biblical figures had visited the British Isles. Jose Arimathea planted the sacred thorn at Glastonbury; the Stone of which sits under the throne upon which English monarchs are crowned is the pillow upon which Joseph slept at Beth-El. It was taken to be carried by the exiled Children of Israel to Antrim, passed to Scotland, and thence to London in 1291 by Edward the First. In the 1950s it had a brief and ignoble trip back to Scotland when it was stolen by a group of Scottish Nationalists as a political stunt. The return of the Jews to England was itself tied to the story Lost Tribes.5

The idea of British-Israelism is perhaps best known in the United States from its promotion by the Worldwide Church of God, a sect of the Seventh Day Adventists founded by Herbert W. Armstrong:

The founder of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, was ordained in 1931 by the Oregon Conference of the Church of God (Seventh-Day). In 1934 Armstrong, while still associated with the Church of God, began a radio ministry called the Radio Church of God and began publishing a magazine entitled The Plain Truth. A devoted student of the Bible, Armstrong had by this time come to believe in British Israelism. This doctrine, which identifies the ten lost tribes of Israel with Anglo-Saxons, became part of his church’s larger complex of beliefs that includes an emphasis on Old Testament law and the observance of Jewish festivals. By 1937 Armstrong had withdrawn from the Church of God (Seventh-Day), which had distanced itself from British Israelism and the observance of Jewish feasts. His own following grew, and in 1947 he moved his headquarters to Pasadena, California, where he founded Ambassador College. There the movement continued to prosper, with the radio broadcast (renamed “The World Tomorrow” during the 1960s and hosted by Armstrong’s son, Garner Ted Armstrong), followed by a television ministry, reaching an ever-widening audience. By 1974 distribution of The Plain Truth had reached 2 million.6

This unusual idea that English-speaking whites are genetic descendants of the “lost tribes” is completely lacking in objective historical support:

A letter was sent by the writer to several of our leading institutions of higher education, addressed to the department of History. The letter contained this question: “Do you know of any historical evidence to support the theory that the Anglo-Saxon people are descended from the ten tribes of Israel?” Here are the answers received:

“So far as I am aware no reputable historian accepts the theories of the people known as the Anglo-Israelites. There is a considerable body of literature on this subject, largely originating in England, but none of it, I believe, contains much more than speculation on probabilities plus Biblical interpretations of questionable soundness. Professional historians are agreed that the people who are now called Anglo-Saxon are a mixture of Teutonic, Norman French, and some Celtic blood. Any good, modern text-book, such as W. E. Lunt’s History of England (Harpers), will give you this information. If the Anglo-Saxons are descended from the ten tribes, the Germans, Scandinavians, French, Scotch, and Irish must be also” (from the University of Chicago).

“As you doubtless know, there is a small group of English people who believe that they and all their fellow countrymen are descended from the ‘Ten Lost Tribes,’ but their assertion is based almost entirely upon their own peculiar interpretation of certain passages in the Bible, and has no smallest scrap of historical evidence to support it” (from Princeton University).

“I beg to state briefly that the last substantial publication on the Lost Ten Tribes is that of Professor Allen H. Godbey, entitled, The Lost Tribes, a Myth, 1930. There you will find an extensive bibliography on the subject. Incidentally the prevalent scholarly opinion shares Professor Godbey’s view that the ten tribes have not left behind them sufficient historical records which allow us to trace them down to the more recent periods” (from Columbia University).

“I am aware that this theory has been mooted by a certain class of people for sometime, and that an organization evidently well supplied with funds occasionally inserts full page propaganda articles in London newspapers in support of it. So far as I know, no reputable historian has ever taken it seriously” (from Michigan State College).

“To the best of my knowledge no reputable historian has ever even entertained the suggestion that there is any connection between the ten tribes of Israel and the Anglo-Saxons. The ten tribes, to the historian, were never ‘lost,’ except in the sense that they were absorbed into neighboring peoples of the Near East. There is a wide gap in space and time between the Israelites and the earliest known Anglo-Saxons, and there are no existing records that even suggest that this gap, can be filled” (from Wayne University, Detroit, Michigan).

It may be objected that these professors have given prejudiced answers, but this is hardly possible when the question is strictly an historical one. However, we do not rest our case upon authorities, and so will proceed to show from an actual examination of both sacred and secular history, that the opinion of the Anglo-Israel theory expressed by these students of history is correct.7