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The Ten Lost Tribes Myth: David Baron’s Classic Work

August 31, 2012 7 comments

David Baron’s “The History of the Ten Lost Tribes: Anglo-Israelism Examined” (1915) (available online in several formats, including as listed here) is an easy and relatively short yet informative work about an issue still with us today: the idea that the ten northern tribes were lost at the time of the Assyrian exile, and that the Jews of today only include the two tribes (or generally, Judah, Benjamin and Levi).  Baron provided great background on this overall topic, as well as much detail concerning a specific form of this teaching, that the ten lost tribes are the ancestors of the modern British Anglo-Saxon people.  He also describes the specific claims and “superficial philology” that comes up with such reasoning, including the actual quotes from authors promoting the idea.

I had heard mention of the Anglo-Israeli claim before, but the details are indeed disturbing – and the sort of thing that anyone with a sense of history would wonder that it’s still around.  After all, the descriptions of the Anglo-Israel claims come from the time of British Imperialism, the time of Britain’s rise to prominence as a nation.  Indeed, Baron’s observation from nearly 100 years ago seems almost prophetic today, in light of modern-day Britain:

 Its proud boastful tone, its carnal confidence that Britain, in virtue of its supposed identity with the “lost” tribes, is to take possession of all the “gates” of her “enemies” and become practically mistress of the whole globe, is enough to provoke God’s judgment against the nation, and to make the spiritual believer and every true lover of this much-favoured land tremble.

Yet the Anglo-Israeli idea continued with Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God cult in the mid-20th century.  And the general idea of the tribes being lost is still with us today, an error I have specifically answered several times in online discussions.  This error is also taught by the teacher at this church.  I often link to the John MacArthur sermon (from the Luke series, about Anna in Luke 2)  and another helpful online article which point out the truth of that “lost ten tribes” myth.

As others have pointed out, the idea of the ten tribes really being the Anglo-Saxon people (or any other people group, other than the Jewish people today) is really the ultimate in replacement theology.  Ironically, though, the error even has its proponents among those who believe in the future restoration of Israel: only, they have redefined the restoration of Israel to mean all those who know they are Jews (meaning the two tribes) – PLUS a number of other people who are descended from the lost tribes, and who don’t know they are of ethnic Israel.

What these online links (above) mention briefly, David Baron’s work describes in full: the remnant of believing Israelites of the other tribes migrated to the southern kingdom as recorded at several points in 2 Chronicles, and were amongst the southern tribes after the return from the Babylonian exile.  Also, that the Assyrians did not carry off every single person of the northern tribes, only their political power and what made them a separate nation.  Baron also cites many texts that show the terms Israel and Jew used interchangeably in the post-exilic as well as New Testament era, including number counts for the two terms:

 I might add the significant fact that in the Book of Ezra this remnant is only called eight times by the name “Jews,” and no less than forty times by the name “Israel.”  In the Book of Nehemiah they are called “Jews” eleven times, and “Israel” twenty-two times. As to those who remained behind in the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the Persian Empire, which included all the territories of ancient Assyria, Anglo-Israelites would say they were of the kingdom of “Israel”; but in the Book of Esther, where we get a vivid glimpse of them at a period subsequent to the partial restoration under Zerubbabel and Joshua, they are called forty-five times by the name “Jews,” and not once by the name “Israel”!

In the New Testament the same people who are called “Jews” one hundred and seventy-four times are also called “Israel” no fewer than seventy-five times. Anglo-Israelism asserts that a “Jew” is only a descendant of Judah, and is not an “Israelite”; but Paul says more than once: “I am a man which am a Jew.” Yet he says: “For I also am an Israelite.” “Are they Israelites? so am I”

Going beyond the error itself, Baron also explains well the danger of this error, the important thing to remember regarding this issue:

 It diverts man’s attention from the one thing needful, and from the only means by which he can find acceptance with God. This it does by teaching that “a nation composed of millions of practical unbelievers in Christ, and ripe for apostasy, in virtue of a certain fanciful identity between the mixed race composing that nation and a people carried into captivity two thousand five hundred years ago, is in the enjoyment of God’s special blessing and will enjoy it on the same grounds for ever, thus laying another foundation for acceptance with God beside that which He has laid, even Christ Jesus.” After all, in this dispensation it is a question only as to whether men are “in Christ” or not. If they are Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, their destiny is not linked either with Palestine or with England, but with that inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and which fadeth not away; and if they are not Christians, then, instead of occupying their thoughts with vain speculations as to a supposed identity of the British race with the “lost” Ten Tribes, it is their duty to seek the one and only Saviour whom we must learn to know, not after the flesh, but in the Spirit, and without whom a man, whether an Israelite or not, is undone.