by the United Church of God
The prosperity of Britain and the United
States in the 19th and 20th centuries fueled the popular belief that the British
and American peoples are in fact the descendants of the lost 10 tribes. This
movement came to be popularly known as British-Israelism.
In the United States, where the idea of "manifest destiny"-the belief that it
was the nation's destiny to expand from shore to shore-was already firmly
entrenched, advocates of British-Israelism promoted the biblical explanation for
the nation's unexplained growth and prosperity. Britain and the United States,
they concluded, were recipients of the unconditional birthright of Joseph.
In recent times some have associated British-Israelism with the modern negative
connotations of imperialism. Critics even allege that those who embraced this
reasoning were only seeking a salve for their conscience to justify their
imperialist tendencies. Such accusation, however, is simply not in keeping with
the thinking of the 19th century. Those who project today's political
sensitivities on a past audience that viewed the world far differently are
incorrect and unfair in their assessment.
In the mid-19th century British subjects did not perceive imperialism as
negative. They viewed it as a magnanimous gesture-that they were
extending the blessings that had made their nation great to less-fortunate
peoples around the globe. Indeed the British Empire provided many blessings to
the peoples who became part of the empire.
Another criticism-this one accurate-aimed at British-Israel advocates is that
some of their proponents incorporated racism into their beliefs. Prejudicial
racist views have tarnished their reasoning, thus discrediting the historical
aspects of their teachings.
This is both regrettable and biblically unacceptable. Racial bigotry is most
definitely not what the Bible teaches. God is not the author of such a
point of view. He loves all people and commands us to do the same. The central
issues we need to consider are whether many of the descendants of the 10 tribes
of Israel reside in the British-descended nations today and, if so, what God
expects of them.
Focusing on the biblical promises, some scholars have undertaken extensive
research to advance the knowledge that God's promised blessings to Abraham's
descendants have largely been fulfilled in the British and American peoples.
Although many have contributed to the basic research, here are a few people who
have made significant contributions to the advancement of this area of study.
John Wilson, Anglican layman from Cheltenham, England, published Our
Israelitish Origin in 1840. This work was the first full-blown thesis
connecting the Anglo-Saxons to ancient Israel. Wilson drew on the best of
contemporary scholarship and methodology. He made particular use of the work of
Sharon Turner (1768-1847), a monumental figure in British historiography whose
multivolume work, The History of the Anglo-Saxons, traces the
Anglo-Saxons back through Europe to the Balkan countries and ultimately to the
Crimea and Caucasus Mountains-exactly what we would expect according to 2 Kings
17:6 and 1 Chronicles 5:26.
Edward Hine, a banker and successor of Wilson, wrote Forty-Seven
Identifications of the British Nation With Lost Israel (1871).
Hine claimed to have addressed five million people on this topic during his
John Harden Allen, Methodist minister from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, wrote
Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright (1917).
T. Rosling Howlett, Baptist minister, had pastorates in New York City,
Washington and Philadelphia.
Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900) was the royal astronomer of Scotland and
emeritus professor of astronomy at Edinburgh University.
Col. John Cox Gawler (1830-1882) was the keeper of the British crown jewels.
Herbert Armstrong (1892-1986), founder and chancellor of Ambassador University,
wrote The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, published
in several editions until 1986.
Steven Collins wrote The "Lost" Ten Tribes of Israel ... Found! (1992).
Yair Davidy authored The Tribes: The Israelite Origins of Western
Peoples (1993), Ephraim (1995) and Lost Israelite Identity
John Ogwyn, minister of the Living Church of God, wrote What's Ahead for
America and Britain? (1999).