EXTRACT FROM " The “Lost Tribes” of Israel.  Doctrinal Study Paper

by UCG (pages 15-16)


The belief in the churches 

In both the U.S. and Britain, the idea of British-Israelism cut across denominational lines, although a preponderance of Anglo-Israelites in the British Isles very likely were Anglican. 

Some of the major contributors to the literature illustrate the denominational diversity of the concept’s believers: John Wilson was an Anglican from England; Joseph Wild was a Congregationalist minister from Toronto, Canada; John Harden Allen was a Methodist from the Pacific Northwest; and T. Rosling Howlett was a Baptist minister who had pastorates in New York City, Washington, D. C., and Philadelphia. 

Believers typically were non-proselytizing. They usually tried to work within the framework of their own established churches. 

However, the British-Israel World Federation was formed in the late-19th century to bring together many of the various believers into an organized body. Headquartered in Putney, England, it continues to exist today although its vigor and influence has declined sharply. 

However, as the movement grew in strength during the last quarter of the 19th century, it also gathered some distinguished and respectable followers. These included Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900), Royal Astronomer of Scotland and Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at Edinburgh University; Colonel John Cox Gawler (1830-1882), the Keeper of the Crown Jewels; First Sea Lord and Admiral Jacky Fisher (1841-1920), as well as several members of the British Royal family

Even Queen Victoria was apparently intrigued, and one of her direct descendants was a patron of the movement until her death a few years ago. 

For awhile British-Israelism made a significant impact in the British Isles. At one stage, up to 20 million British subjects were reputed to be active believers. In 1845 one of the leading Tractarians of the Oxford Movement, John Henry Newman, cited his “fear that the Church of England stood in danger of being taken over by the Christian Israel Identity movement” as one of his reasons for leaving the Anglican Church to embrace Roman Catholicism (Patience Strong, Someone Had to Say, pp. 85-86). 

Sidebar: “We Are the Lost 10 Tribes!” 

If many of those who have believed in British-Israelism have been criticized as simple-minded or uneducated, the idea has attracted its share of prominent people as well. In 1914, one of Britain’s greatest admirals, Jacky Fisher wrote First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, offering advice on naval affairs. 

American author William Manchester recounts how “the old salt had been bombarding Churchill with advice, sometimes on profound matters, sometimes on trivia: ‘Why is the standard of recruits raised 3 inches to 5 feet 6? ... What d—d folly to discard supreme enthusiasm because it’s under 5 feet 6. We are a wonderful nation! astounding how we muddle through! There is only one explanation—We are the lost 10 tribes!’ He was now seventy-four” (The Last Lion, vol. 2, p. 440). 

An article in the June 1980 National Message attributes to Fisher these words when his nation was “at the peak of British sea-power...  “The only hypothesis to explain why we win in spite of incredible blunders is that we are the lost 10 tribes of Israel” (cited in O. Michael Friedman, Origins of the British Israelites, pp. 37, 45 [note 44]). Of such remarks, journalist-historian James Morris observes, “Admiral Fisher thought only half in jest that they [the British] were the Lost Tribes” (Pax Britannica, p. 502). 

Sidebar: Modern Archaeology & British-Israelism: Flinders Petrie & the Great Pyramid 

In 1865, Scottish Royal Astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth wrote his classic work, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid. It was this very book which launched the “father of modern scientific archaeology in Palestine,” Sir Flinders Petrie, on a prestigious career involving the excavation of more than 50 sites and the publication of 98 books on Middle Eastern archaeology. 

Petrie grew up in a strict Presbyterian home that embraced literalism. Smyth was a friend of the Petrie family. At age 13, Petrie read his book. At age 27 in 1880, he went to Egypt with the intention of mathematically confirming Smyth’s theories that the dimensions of the pyramids held the secrets of prophecy for the descendants of Israel. 

In fact, after two years of work, Petrie’s triangulation system disproved Smyth’s prophetic speculations. As the work of Petrie and many others who followed him have convincingly shown, the pyramids were principally tombs for Egyptian royalty. 

The results of Petrie’s work appeared in his first book, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. His experience at the pyramids induced Petrie to continue with his work in Egypt, laying the foundation for modern archaeological studies (Biblical Archaeology Review, November-December 1980, p. 46). 

On the opposite side of the Atlantic, the list of Americans who published British-Israel books and articles is a lengthy one. Two of the more well researched and balanced presentations include Israel Redivivus by Canadian clergyman Frederick C. Danvers, a recognized authority on the Indian Office, the East India Company, and the rise and decline of the Portuguese empire in India; and Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright by Methodist clergyman J. H. Allen.