British Israelism

British Israelism

Introduction

British Israelism is a theological movement that emerged in the 19th century, which posits that the British people are direct descendants of the ancient Israelites. Adherents believe that the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples are the modern-day representatives of the “Lost Tribes” of Israel, and that Britain and its Commonwealth are the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. This belief system often emphasizes a divine right of the British people to rule and influence the world, and has been associated with various political and social movements, including Christian Identity and white supremacist groups. However, it’s important to note that British Israelism has been widely criticized for its lack of historical and scientific evidence, and its connections to racist and anti-Semitic ideologies.

 


Origins

The origins of British Israelism can be traced back to the 19th century, when Richard Brothers published his book “Revealed Knowledge” in 1794. The movement gained momentum with the publication of John Wilson’s book “Our Israelitish Origin” in 1845. However, it was not until Edward Hine published “Identification of the British Nation with Lost Israel” in 1871 that the movement gained significant traction.

M. le Loyer’s book, “The Ten Lost Tribes,” published in 1590, is one of the earliest expressions of the belief that the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian, Germanic, and associated peoples are the direct descendants of the Old Testament Israelites.

A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times, by Richard Brothers
A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times, by Richard Brothers

Richard Brothers is considered the originator of British Israelism, which came into existence slightly more than one hundred years ago. Richard was a Canadian-born, and self-appointed prophet who believed he was destined to repopulate Jerusalem with the Jewish race and that he was the chosen one to succeed King George III. Richard published a book called “A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times”. The book was published in two parts: Book the First in 1794 and Book the Second in 1795. The book contains Brothers’ prophecies and visions, including the prediction that the Hebrews would be restored to Jerusalem by 1798 and that he himself would be revealed as their prince and prophet. The book was a best-seller and attracted a significant following, but it also led to Brothers’ arrest and confinement in a lunatic asylum for treason in 1795

 

"Our Israelitish Origin"*- Published in 1840
“Our Israelitish Origin”*
– Published in 1840

John Wilson was a historian and a key figure in the British Israelism movement. He wrote the book “Our Israelitish Origin” in 1840, which contains a series of lectures. John argues that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel migrated from the Near East to the British Isles. John claims that Northern European people are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes, with the British being the Tribe of Ephraim. He relied on philological “evidence” of English, Scottish, and Irish words similar to Hebrew words. It’s important to note John lacked formal training in language or seminary.

 

Some key points about the origins of British Israelism include:

  • Richard Brothers is considered the founder of British Israelism.
  • Brothers believed he was a direct descendant of King David and claimed he would be revealed as the prince of the Hebrews on November 19, 1795.
  • John Wilson built upon Brother’s ideas and established the basis of the theory.
  • Edward Hine popularized the movement through his writings and lectures.
  • The Anglo-Saxon Federation of America and the British-Israel-World Federation are two prominent organizations that have contributed to the spread of British Israelism.
  • British Israelism has been associated with various forms of Christianity and has influenced other movements, such as Christian Identity.

 


British Israelism in South Africa

British Israelism had a significant impact in South Africa, particularly during the apartheid era. The ideology was introduced to South Africa by British settlers and missionaries in the 19th century. It gained popularity among Afrikaner nationalists, who saw themselves as the chosen people of God, destined to rule over other nations.

Some key points about British Israelism in South Africa include:

  • Afrikaner nationalists used British Israelism to justify their dominance over other racial groups and to legitimize the apartheid system.
  • The idea of being God’s chosen people was used to justify the forced removal of black people from their land, the creation of homelands, and other oppressive policies.
  • Some prominent apartheid leaders, such as Daniel François Malan and Hendrik Verwoerd, were influenced by British Israelism.
  • The ideology also influenced the development of the “Volkskerk” (People’s Church), a nationalist and exclusivist form of Christianity that emphasized the superiority of the Afrikaner people.
  • British Israelism in South Africa has been widely criticized for its role in justifying and perpetuating apartheid and racism.

  • British Israelism has been linked to Israel Visie, a South African organization that promotes the idea that the Afrikaner people are the chosen people of God, destined to rule over other nations

It’s important to note that British Israelism is not widely accepted or taught in mainstream Christianity, and its teachings have been widely discredited by scholars and theologians.


Key Doctrines

Some key doctrines of British Israelism include :

  • The “Lost Ten Tribes” of Israel: The belief that the ten tribes of Israel migrated to Europe and eventually to England and became the primary ancestors of the British people and, by extension, the United States.
  • The Covenant: The belief that England and the United States have inherited the covenant promises God made to Israel.
  • The Bible as History: The Bible is the central document and is to be understood as the history of Israel, past, present, and future.
  • Identifying Israel: The key item in biblical interpretation is identifying Israel, and present-day Israel is found by determining which nation or race fulfills God’s promises made in the Old Testament.
  • Anglo-Saxon Superiority: The belief that the Anglo-Celtic-Saxon people are the present-day physical descendants of ancient Israel.
  • British Monarchs as Descendants of Ancient Israel: The belief that the British monarchs have descended in an unbroken line from the kings of ancient Israel.

Fallacies within British Israelism

British Israelism has been widely criticized for its flawed assumptions, misinterpretations, and factual errors. Some of the key fallacies within British Israelism include:

Lack of historical and scientific evidence:

There is no credible historical or scientific evidence to support the claim that the British people are direct descendants of the ancient Israelites.

The Stone of Scone

The Stone of Scone, is an oblong block of red sandstone that was used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs until the 13th century, and thereafter in the coronation of English and later British monarchs.
The Stone of Scone, is an oblong block of red sandstone that was used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs until the 13th century, and thereafter in the coronation of English and later British monarchs.

The Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, is a significant artifact in British history and has been linked to British Israelism. According to legend, the Stone of Scone was used in the coronation of Scottish and English monarchs, and British Israelists believe it to be the same stone mentioned in the Bible as the “Stone of Jacob” (Genesis 28:18-22, Isaiah 28:16).

British Israelists argue that the Stone of Scone is evidence of their theory because:

Jacob’s Pillar Stone: They believe the Stone of Scone is the same stone Jacob used as a pillow in Genesis 28, which became a pillar stone marking the boundary of Israel’s territory.
Israel’s Coronation Stone: They claim it was used in the coronation of Israel’s kings, including David and Solomon, and later brought to Scotland by the prophet Jeremiah.
British Monarchy’s Divine Right: British Israelists believe the Stone of Scone legitimizes the British monarchy’s divine right to rule, as descendants of the ancient Israelites.

However, it’s important to note that these claims are not supported by mainstream historians or scholars, and the Stone of Scone’s origins and history are still debated among experts. While the Stone of Scone holds significant cultural and historical importance, its connection to British Israelism remains a topic of controversy and speculation.

 

The Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath is not evidence that the Scots were Israelites. Here are some key points about the Declaration of Arbroath. British Israelists interpret the declaration as saying that the Scots claim to be descendants of Israel. This is an incorrect reading of the sentence, as below:

The 'Tyninghame' copy of the Declaration from 1320, in the National Archives of Scotland
The ‘Tyninghame’ copy of the Declaration from 1320, in the National Archives of Scotland

“…one thousand two hundred years from the Israelite people’s crossing of the Red Sea, to its home in the west, which it now holds, having first thrown out the Britons and completely destroyed the Picts, and even though it was often attacked by the Norse, the Danes and the English, it fought back with many victories and countless labours and it has held itself ever since, free from all slavery, as the historians of old testify…”

Purpose: The Declaration of Arbroath was a letter written in 1320 by Scottish barons to Pope John XXII, asserting Scotland’s independence and sovereignty and seeking recognition of Robert the Bruce as the rightful king of Scotland.

Content: The letter praises Robert the Bruce for setting the Scots free and accepts his right to be king, but warns that if he seeks to make Scotland subject to England, they would “drive him out as our enemy.”

Historical context: The letter was part of a broader diplomatic campaign to assert Scotland’s position as an independent kingdom, rather than a feudal land controlled by England’s Norman kings, and to lift the excommunication of Robert the Bruce.

Lack of connection to British Israelism: There is no direct connection between the Declaration of Arbroath and British Israelism The Declaration of Arbroath does not mention ancestry, Israelite ancestry or connection to the Ten Lost Tribes.

 

Misinterpretation of scripture:

British Israelism often relies on a literal and selective reading of the Bible, ignoring historical and cultural context. Here’s an example of scriptural misinterpretation in British Israelism:

Misinterpretation of 2 Samuel 7:10

Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,

2 Samuel 7:10

British Israelists often cite 2 Samuel 7:10, which says, to claim that the British Isles are the “place” where God appointed the Israelites to dwell.

Misinterpretation of  Amos 9:9

For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth

Amos 9:9

They also cite Amos 9:9, which says, refers to the dispersal of the Ten Lost Tribes to the British Isles.

However, this interpretation is a misapplication of Scripture for several reasons:

Context: Both passages are speaking about ancient Israel and Judah, not modern-day Britain.
Historical context: The British Isles were not known to the ancient Israelites or prophets.
Linguistic context: The Hebrew words used in these passages do not support the British Israelist interpretation.

This misinterpretation is an example of how British Israelism often takes Scripture out of context, ignores historical and linguistic context, and forces a preconceived interpretation onto the text.

Racial and ethnic exclusivism:

The movement’s emphasis on the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic people leads to racist and anti-Semitic attitudes. They believe that only people of Anglo-Saxon or Caucasian descent are the true descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and therefore are the only ones entitled to God’s promises and blessings. This belief is often accompanied by a sense of superiority and a belief that other races and ethnicities are inferior or even cursed.

British Israelism has been widely criticized for its racist and exclusivist teachings, and many consider it to be a form of Christian Identity, a white supremacist movement. It’s also worth mentioning that not all British Israelists hold these racist and exclusivist beliefs, and some have actively rejected them. However, these beliefs have been a part of the movement’s history and have caused harm and division.

Pseudohistory and Pseudoscience:

British Israelism often employs pseudohistorical and pseudoscientific methods to support its claims, such as fabricated genealogies and misinterpreted archaeological findings. Here are some examples:

Pseudohistory:

1. Fabricated genealogies: British Israelists claim that British monarchs and nobility are direct descendants of King David and the ancient Israelites, despite lacking credible evidence.
2. Misinterpretation of historical events: They claim that events like the Norman Conquest of England were actually the return of the “Lost Tribes” to their promised land.
3. Invented migrations: British Israelists propose that the Ten Lost Tribes migrated from the Middle East to Europe, without any historical or archaeological evidence.

Psuedohistory: Migration of Israel to the British Isles
Pseudohistory: Migration of Israel to the British Isles

 

 

Pseudoscience:

1. Phrenology: Some British Israelists used phrenology (a discredited theory that head shape determines intelligence and character) to “prove” that Anglo-Saxons were superior to other races.
2. Linguistic manipulation: They claim that English and Hebrew share a common origin, despite linguists’ consensus that English is a Germanic language.
3. Fraudulent artifacts: British Israelists have created or misrepresented artifacts, like the “Stone of Scone,” to support their claims.
4. Misuse of anthropology: They misapply anthropological concepts, like “Caucasian” and “Semitic,” to support their racial theories.
5. Cherry-picking evidence: British Israelists selectively use historical and scientific data to support their beliefs, ignoring contradictory evidence.

Racial Phrenology used by British Israelists
Pseudoscience: Racial Phrenology used by British Israelists

 

It’s important to approach these claims with a critical eye and consult credible sources to separate fact from fiction. British Israelism’s pseudohistory and pseudoscience have been widely debunked by scholars and experts.

Cherry-picking and ignoring contradictory evidence:

Adherents often selectively present evidence that supports their claims while ignoring or dismissing contradictory evidence.

Lack of scholarly credibility:

British Israelism is not recognized as a legitimate field of study by mainstream academia, and its claims are not peer-reviewed or widely accepted.

Misuse of biblical prophecy:

The movement often misapplies biblical prophecies to support its claims, ignoring the original context and meaning.

Here’s an example of how British Israelism misuses biblical prophecy:

Misinterpretation of Jeremiah 31:10

British Israelists claim that Jeremiah 31:10, refers to the British Empire’s role in “gathering” the lost tribes of Israel.Jeremiah 31:10

Jeremiah 31:10

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock”

However, this interpretation is a misuse of biblical prophecy for several reasons:

Context: The passage is clearly addressing the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian exile, not a future British Empire.
Historical context: The British Empire did not exist until centuries later, making it impossible for Jeremiah to be referring to it.
Linguistic context: The Hebrew words used in the passage do not support the British Israelist interpretation.

British Israelism often takes biblical prophecies out of context, ignoring historical and linguistic context, to support their preconceived theories. This misinterpretation is just one example of how British Israelism misuses biblical prophecy to justify their claims.

It’s important to approach biblical interpretation with careful consideration of context, history, and language to avoid misusing scripture in this way.

Disregard for Jewish identity and experience:

British Israelism often dismisses or appropriates Jewish history and identity, leading to anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior.

Political and social extremism:

British Israelism has been linked to various forms of political and social extremism, including white supremacy and Christian Identity movements.

Lack of self-reflection and criticism:

The movement often fails to engage in self-reflection and criticism, leading to a lack of accountability and intellectual honesty.


Dangers within British Israelism

British Israelism has been criticized for its harmful and dangerous ideologies, including:

1. Racism and white supremacy: British Israelism promotes the idea of Anglo-Saxon-Celtic superiority, leading to racist and anti-Semitic attitudes.
2. Anti-Semitism: By claiming to be the “true Israel,” British Israelism diminishes the legitimacy of Jewish identity and experience.
3. Christian nationalism: British Israelism often merges Christianity with nationalism, leading to an exclusionary and intolerant worldview.
4. Political extremism: British Israelism has been linked to far-right political movements, including white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
5. Pseudohistory and pseudoscience: British Israelism promotes flawed and fabricated historical and scientific claims, undermining critical thinking and scholarship.
6. Exclusivism and intolerance: British Israelism often leads to a narrow, exclusive focus on one’s own group, dismissing other cultures, religions, and identities.
7. Lack of empathy and compassion: By elevating one’s own group as “chosen,” British Israelism can lead to a lack of empathy and compassion for others.
8. Misuse of religious authority: British Israelism often distorts religious teachings to justify its claims, leading to a misuse of religious authority.
9. Damage to Jewish-Christian relations: British Israelism’s anti-Semitic and supersessionist ideologies harm Jewish-Christian relations and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
10. Undermining of scholarship and critical thinking: British Israelism’s flawed methodologies and pseudoscholarship undermine genuine scholarship and critical thinking.

It’s important to recognize and challenge these harmful ideologies, promoting inclusive and respectful understanding of diverse cultures, religions, and identities.

 

Popular in the 19th century, British Israelism claimed that the British people (and by extension the Americans) are the physical descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, and that biblical prophecies about Israel apply to Britain today.
Popular in the 19th century, British Israelism claimed that the British people (and by extension the Americans) are the physical descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, and that biblical prophecies about Israel apply to Britain today.

 


 

Scriptural refutations:

Romans 2:28-29

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”

(This verse emphasizes that being a Jew is not about physical descent or outward appearance, but about spiritual identity and heart circumcision.)

 

Galatians 3:28-29

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

(This verse highlights that in Christ, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that spiritual identity in Christ supersedes physical descent.)

 

Revelation 2:9

“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

(This verse warns against those who falsely claim to be Jews, implying that not all who claim Jewish identity are truly part of God’s chosen people.)

 

Matthew 3:9

“Do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

(This verse emphasizes that physical descent from Abraham is not enough; God can raise up spiritual children to Abraham from unexpected sources.)

 

Luke 3:8

“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

(Similar to Matthew 3:9, this verse emphasizes the importance of spiritual fruit and repentance over physical descent.)

 

These verses, among others, refute British Israelism’s claims by emphasizing spiritual identity, heart circumcision, and the inclusive nature of God’s chosen people, rather than physical descent or outward appearance.

 


https://www.gotquestions.org/British-Israelism.html

https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/british-israelism-0

https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1524-anglo-israelism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Brothers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Arbroath

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_of_Scone

https://biblehub.com/amos/9-9.htm

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