Several readers have asked me, from time to time, to summarize the truth about Israel's history. Simultaneously, the writings of some exponents of British-Israel doctrine have been brought to my attention.
Some years ago, a fair amount was written in The Differentiator about this matter; but as much of it is now unobtainable, clearly something further needs to be said, for there is no dearth of British-Israel propaganda.
In attempting to deal with the exponents of their doctrine, one apparently immovable obstacle is soon, encountered: their resolute refusal to answer. They go on repeating their fallacies again and again, but never deem it necessary to supply real proof. Before the start of this century, David Baron, in his book, "The ancient Scriptures and the modem Jew," published a complete refutation of the strange British-Israel doctrine. It has never been answered; and, in fact, any answer that may be devised will probably be found to have been anticipated by him; for, as a Jew who had learnt to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, he had in this respect a vast advantage over the Christian of Gentile origin.
Israel's history as related in Scripture is the proper starting point in such an investigation as this. For our present purpose, we may "take it as read" as far as the time of the setting-up of a separate kingdom under Jeroboam comprising ten of the twelve tribes; because it is set out completely in the Old Testament, and about it there does not appear to be any dispute among us. The same applies, I believe, during its history of about 250 years till it was finally overthrown, its capital Samaria destroyed, and most of its people carried away captives by the Assyrians. Somewhere about a century after, in the reign of Josiah, we find still in the Land some of Manasseh and Ephraim and a remnant of all Israel (2. Chron. 34:9). However, not much more is said in the Old Testament about the history of Israel during that period. What there is can be found in David Baron's book. Although one of the exponents of British Israelism tells us in a recent book that "History stops short at this point"; his dictum is easily refuted, and presently in this paper will be.
This assertion is a characteristic example of the way such people frame a case by employing ambiguous statements; for in one sense it is true—that is, if by "history" is meant "the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament"; but if by "history" is meant "the whole recorded history of Israel," it is equally certainly untrue.
However, having asserted that history stopped short, they find some sort of substitute essential; so they resort to myth, and tell of a journey of Jeremiah to Ireland, with Tea Tephi, alleged to be daughter of King Zedekiah. She was supposed to have married, and borne children to, Heremon, and eventually to have been buried in the hill of Tara. It has even been declared that the British Israel people, some seventy years ago, produced "a genealogy showing 101 generations from Heremon of the tribe of Dan and Tea Tephi, alleged to be daughter of Zedekiah, up to our gracious Queen" (i.e. Queen Victoria) (see "Things to Come," Vol. 1, No. 12, June, 1895, p. 229). On that page, this writer adds: "And we remind British Israelites that there is One alive now, whose right it is, of 'the Royal Seed of King David's house'; and that God has sworn by His holiness, and He will not lie unto David, that He will establish His throne for ever."
For the following matter, which I have put in inverted commas, I am indebted to Dr. Bullinger, in "Things to Come," Vol. 3, p. 98:
The first reference chronologically to Israel in the Gospels as an existing entity is in Luke 1:80: "Now the little boy grows up and becomes staunch in spirit, and was in the wilderness until a day of his indication to Israel." This word, anadeixis, up-showing, indication, occurs here only; but the verb, anadeiknumi, indicate, occurs in Luke 10:1; Acts 1:24. Rotherham has, "a day of showing him forth to Israel." This can only mean that the little boy, who was to be John the Baptist, was to be indicated or shown forth to Israel; so Israel must have existed in Palestine for this to be possible. The psalm of praise by Zechariah is both an announcement of the coming of the forerunner of Messiah and a prophecy of what Messiah would do for Israel. How strange, if Israel were at that time far away from the Land of John the Baptist and Messiah! Furthermore, in John 1:31 we find the reason why John was baptizing in water, namely, that the Lord Jesus, Who was coming toward him, might "be manifested to Israel."
Quite soon comes a saying by the Lord Jesus which indicates that already a part of His manifestation to Israel had taken place: "Verily, I am saying to you: With no one, such faith as this, in Israel have I found." (Matt. 8:10); and immediately He goes on to prophesy that the centurion was only the first of many. Later, a similar event is recorded by Luke (Luke 7:9). Incidentally, Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, declares that it was the same centurion on a later occasion, but he omits to My how he knows this. The incidents are obviously different; and I can see no reason why another centurion should not have shown the same faith. Such a thing would be most natural and reasonable, and only the critic who is more interested in books than in people, and is unable to see further than the four walls of his study, could find it improbable. The alternatives are either to accept a dislocation of the text in transmission, for which there is no evidence, or a blunder by either Matthew or Luke.
Presently the Lord Jesus discloses a mission for the Twelve. The most important part for the matter under discussion is (Matt. 10:5-7): "Into a way of Gentiles you should not be going off, and into a city of Samaritans you should not be entering; yet rather toward the sheep, the lost ones of Israel's house, be going. Going, now be proclaiming, saying that the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near." Rotherham has: "And, as ye are going, proclaim ye . . ."; thus bringing out the point that "going" is one of the rare occurrences of the Present Participle of this verb (see Vol. 28, p. 61). How different is this immediate command from the one, indefinite in time, in Matt. 28:19!
One might innocently suppose that this passage would be straightforward enough for anyone; but, as it completely destroys the British Israel theory that Israel had long since cleared off to Ireland, it obviously has to be by-passed somehow; so at least one of them tells us that the charge was to be going "to lost Israel." He leaves it at that; expecting, no doubt, that most of his readers would be too stupid to ask whether the Twelve ever managed to find "lost Israel" and, if they did, how they managed to get back all the way from Ireland with only the primitive, slow and very dangerous means of transport then available. That they did return somehow, none the worse for their (supposed) lengthy and extremely perilous mission (that is, if they did go there) is plain from Matt. 20:17, Mark 10:32 and the chronologically even earlier Luke 9:1 and 12, with in addition John 6:67, 70 and Mark 9:35, both slightly later than this. Such considerations as that, however, do not worry those who are determined to push their theories at all costs.
Further evidence about this point exists. In Matt. 15:24. the Lord Jesus declares: "I Was not commissioned except for (literally 'into') the sheep, the lost ones of Israel's house." If these lost ones had already gone away to the remotest N.W. or Europe, how did the Lord Jesus manage to carry out this commission? There is no reason to suppose that He ever left Palestine during His ministry. Some have perceived this, and tried to turn the thrust by resorting to legends that He visited Britain; but it is open to question whether this was not invented for that very purpose.
Thus we see that the evidence in the Gospels, though indirect, is cumulative and convincing. Even if there were no other, it would still settle the issue for any but the one-sided controversialist. But it does not stand alone, for in what follows there is evidence which is not only direct but overwhelming.
Moving on to Acts, we find the Twelve completed once more by the lawful act of the Eleven (1:23-26). Then comes Pentecost and the filling with holy spirit of the apostles and the brethren with them. That took place in Jerusalem where, we are told, (2:5) Were "Jews, pious men from every nation under heaven." Some of these are listed at length, culminating in: "and Roman repatriates, Jews as well as proselytes, Cretans and Arabs" (2:10, 11). To these, the Apostle Peter declaims: "Men! Judeans! and all who are dwelling in Jerusalem! . . .." As Israelites they are not addressed—so far—and this might be held as conclusive for the British Israelites but for the unfortunate fact (for them) that presently Peter appeals even more forcibly: "Men! Israelites! (2:22) and then: "Men! Brethren!" (2:29). Then he concludes with the final, overwhelming appeal: "Then let all Israel's house know certainly that both Lord and Christ God makes Him—this, the Jesus Whom you crucify!"
Not only did this put the matter beyond any possibility of dispute, but Peter's hearers had no doubts about it either. They understood their own status as belonging to Israel's house; for they said at once: "Men! Brethren! what should we be doing?" Note the first person plural of the verb, poiEsOmen, we-should-be-doing. The appeal was not to other people. Again, at Solomon's portico Peter answers "the entire people" by "Men! Israelites! etc.," and refers to "the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers" (3:11-I3). Furthermore, to the Chief Priest and the elders and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, Peter says in his address: "Let it be known to you all and to the entire people of Israel. . . ." (4:10). In the prayer of Peter and John (4:27, 28) they refer to the action of " Herod, as well as Pontius Pilate, together with Gentiles and peoples of Israel." In Acts 5:21 we read: "Now the Chief Priest and those with him, coming along, call together the Sanhedrin and the entire senate of the sons of Israel." What could be more conclusive?
Nor is this left to the apostles, for we read (5:34): "Yet, rising, a certain Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, named Gamaliel, a law-teacher honoured by the entire people, gave orders to put the men outside for a short while, and said to them besides: "Men! Israelites! Take heed to yourselves. . . ."
In Antioch, Pisidia, the Apostle Paul, in turn, speaks in a similar manner to the above quoted words of the Apostle Peter: "Men! Israelites! and those fearing God, hear! The God of this people Israel chooses our fathers. . . ." (Acts 13:16, 17). Further on, he declares: "From this one's seed, God, according to promise led to Israel a Saviour-Jesus. John's previous heralding, before his personal entering, was baptism of repentance to the entire people of Israel. . . . Men! Brethren! Sons of Abraham's race, and those among you fearing God! To us was the word of this, the salvation, despatched." (13:23, 24). Nothing could be less open to mis-construction! It is all about Israel, and nobody else.
Lastly, Jews from the province of Asia laid hands on Paul, crying: "Men! Israelites! Help! etc." Incidentally, this constitutes an admission by Jews that they are Israelites, though it is hard to see how anyone can doubt it. Also, in Acts 26:7 Paul speaks of our twelve tribes.
Little further evidence remains; but in view of the importance of the issue what exists is worth gathering up here. In Cor. 11:22 the Apostle Paul asserted that he was an Israelite, and in Phil. 3:5 that he was of the race of Israel. In 1. Cor. 10:18 he says to his readers: "Observe Israel according to flesh." That undoubtedly implies that Israel was available for observation, and not lost, as some would persuade us. James addresses "the twelve tribes," but as "those in the dispersion"—not as "lost." The word ioudas is most often a personal name. Only seven times in the Greek Scriptures does it refer to Judah—Matt. 2:6, twice; Luke 1:39; Heb. 7:14; 8:8; Rev. 5:5; 7:5. Yet Israel, israEl, occurs seventy times.
This closes Israel's history, so far as divine sources relate it. For their secular history we must turn to secular sources, for no other exist. Israel are now "lo-ammi," "not My people"; and in this condition they will remain until God is ready to receive them back. That time is not yet, for now, in Christ Jesus, covenant and its sign are availing nothing.
R.B.W. Last updated 27.6.2006