Q&A: What is British Israelitism?

What is British Israelitism?

Question

What is British Israelitism?

Answer

British Israelitism is also called Anglo-Israelism. It is the theory that people of western European descent are the ten lost tribes of Israel that were taken into captivity by Syria in 722-721 B.C. British-Israelism began with the self-styled "Nephew of the Almighty" Richard Brothers, and his book A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times (1794). After being troubled by visions, Brothers was admitted to a mental asylum, where he remained for eleven years.

Those adhering to the Christian Identity Movement also promote this theory. In addition, this false doctrine was re-packaged and popularized in the twentieth century by Herbert W. Armstrong as Armstrongism and was a main element of doctrine in his Worldwide Church of God (WCG) as well as Sabbatarian, Restoration, British-Israel, Messianic and Sacred Name organizations, which have been spawned by the WCG.

A weak argument used to present this doctrine often goes like this: It is noted that berith is the Hebrew word for covenant, and ish is the Hebrew word for man. By combining the two words the word berith-ish (covenant man) is formed, providing the basis for the word "British." This is "isogesis," (reading into Scripture), not exegesis (reading out of Scripture), and isogesis inevitably leads to heresy.

This is an elitist doctrine that stems from a misinterpretation of Scripture. Peter said in Acts 10:34-35, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."

Reference

Encyclopedia Judaica. Vol.4, page 1381. New York: Macmillan Company, 1974.

Crystal, David, Ed. Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia. Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).