Identity Truth is Under Attack By Failing End-Time Churchianity
In 1840 a scholar named John Wilson published a book entitled Our Israelitish Origin which not only attracted the favourable attention of two historians -- the great Sharon Turner and the distinguished Dr. George Moore -- but of the Astronomer Royal of Scotland, Professor C. Piazzi Smyth, who was at that time involved in research into the antiquities of Egypt. It was also being read with avid interest by clergymen of the Anglican church both at home and throughout Europe and the Empire. It made a profound and lasting impression.
Five years later, in 1845, the Anglo-Catholic vicar of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford resigned his living and was received into the Roman Catholic church, later to be made a cardinal -- Cardinal John Henry Newman. When asked why he had left the Anglican communion, he gave, as one of his reasons, his fear that the Church of England stood in danger of being taken over by the Christian Israel Identity movement.
These two incidents are recalled in order to underline three facts which are so often overlooked:
The first fact is that the Israel Identity hypothesis was the work of scholarly men, scholars with a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and of antiquity. These men brought to the enquiry a specialized knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon peoples, Sharon Turner being an acknowledged authority on the Anglo-Saxons in Europe and the British Isles and Dr. Moore on the progenitors of the Anglo-Saxons in the Middle and Far East.
The second fact is that the conclusions of these scholarly men were accepted by clergymen who were not only well versed in both the Old and the New Testaments, but whose classical education enabled them to check the claims and conclusions in the ancient Hebrew and Greek. The fear expressed by Cardinal Newman reveals that the Israel Identity hypothesis had been accepted by a majority of the clergy of the Church of England which, at that time, was by far the largest denomination in the British Isles.
The third fact is that John Wilson did not discover the identity of the Israel peoples for himself; but was successful in being able to trace them back from Europe through the Balkans to the area of the Caucasian mountains. The fact of our identity had been taken for granted, for as early as the fifth century St. Patrick had said: “We turned away from God and did not keep His Commandments, and did not obey our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of His anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Writing in the sixth century, Gildas referred to the people of Britain as “God’s Israelites, whether they loved Him or not.” In the seventh century Pope Vitalianus told Oswy, king of the Saxons: “Because your nation believed in Christ, the Almighty God, according to the words of the divine prophets, as it is written in Isaiah, ‘In that day there shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the people. To him shall the Gentiles seek’.” In the ninth century Alfred the Great told His people: “Be ye kind to the stranger within thy gates, for ye were strangers in the land of the Egyptians.”
The Arbroath Declaration of 1320 recorded the view of the Scottish barons that the Scots were directly descended from “the people of Israel.” And from the sixteenth century we have Drake’s prayer “that we might have continual peace in Israel.” In the United States the death of George Washington provoked the observation that “a great man in Israel has died” and, 70 years later, Major-General P.H. Sheridan justified his “burning raid” on Loundoun in Virginia as calculated to let the Confederates know that “there is a God in Israel.”
It is clear beyond reasonable doubt that the people of these islands have always believed or accepted or assumed that Britain was the home and refuge of ten-tribed Israel. John Wilson brought about this conviction by publishing irrefutable proof that this age-old belief could be confirmed by historical evidence, evidence that was accepted by the historians of his day.
Having established that the various peoples who have invaded and settled in this country during a period of more than 2,000 years had originated from that part of the world where the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had “disappeared,” it was not long before the historical hypothesis received support from other disciplines. In his Robert Boyle lecture at Oxford, Sir Arthur Keith F.R.S. rejected the argument that we are a mixed and mongrel collection of types and breeds with these words: “It is often said that we British are a mixed and mongrel collection of types and breeds. The truth is that, as regards physical type, the inhabitants of the British Isles are the most uniform of all the large nationalities of Europe.”
Professor Huxley in his Racial Origins was equally emphatic. He wrote: “The invasions of Saxons, Goths, Danes and Romans changed the language of Britain, but added no new physical element. Therefore we should not talk of Celts and Saxons for they are all one. I never lose the opportunity of rooting up the false idea that the Celts and Saxons are different races.” Professor Ripley in his Races of Europe supported Huxley by the evidence of craniology. “The shape of the head,” he wrote, “is one of the best available tests of race known. The most remarkable trait of the population of the British Isles is its head-form; and especially the uniformity in this respect, which is everywhere manifested...Cranial type in the British Isles is practically uniform from end to end.”
And the evidence of the anthropologists was supported by the archaeologists and the philologists.
This mass of scientific evidence that the British people could be and probably were the descendants of ancient Israel brought about a dramatic change in the public attitude towards the Holy Bible, and especially towards the Old Testament which the Higher Criticism had attempted to discredit. Here was scientific evidence that the Bible was undoubtedly the inspired word of Almighty God. Bible scholarship, previously the purview of the classical scholar, was taken up by every type of trained or enquiring mind. This is reflected in the flood of scholarly books on Scriptural prophecy, numerology, history and archaeology. Scriptural books of reference became best sellers, with Dr. Young’s massive Analytical Concordance to the Bible appearing in 1879.
Here was evidence that discredited Papal doctrine that the Church had inherited the promises made to Israel; that the Church, in other words, was to replace Israel as the nucleus of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Unfortunately, those who propagated the Israel Identity message -- and their numbers now included a majority of the ministers of the Free Churches -- paid little heed to Papal reactions to what they were teaching. They apparently believed that the facts would speak for themselves. And in this they appeared to be right because throughout the Victorian period the movement gained an immense following among the laity. It inspired the great reformers and writers of that period. Queen Victoria herself and many members of her family became identified with the movement, the Countess of Athlone becoming the Patron of the largest organized movement of Identity Christians.
It was not until the early 1920s that the opposition began to make itself felt, not by open refutation, but through the “inspired scholarship” of theologians friendly to Rome. By that time it became obvious that the strange and subtle teaching of these men, which began in the early 1880s, was beginning to find acceptance throughout the Church. Taking their cue from an early Augustinian precept, and basing their argument on those passages of Scripture which were somewhat obscure, they argued that the Kingdom of God was not a literal or earthly kingdom over which Christ [and YEHOVAH God] would rule at His return: it was, they said, a kingdom which existed either in the hearts of men or in the realms of Heaven. The plain and unmistakable words of Scripture, which had been accepted by Christians for more than a thousand years, were so cleverly spiritualized away that they were now seen to mean something quite different from what Jesus had intended.
By destroying the Scriptural concept of the Kingdom of God on earth, this teaching did something more than merely discredit the Christian Israel hypothesis: it introduced to the Church another gospel which, by degrees, has been accepted almost without question. And that is the position today. A substantial majority of modernist clergymen have accepted the view that the Kingdom of God on earth is a doctrine only which, because it cannot be accepted as literal by them, must therefore be discarded or replaced by an unreal kingdom which can only exist in Heaven or in the hearts of men. As a result, the message of the Church has, over the last fifty-five years, become more and more muted. And, in the process, there is almost complete silence about the long expected return of Jesus Christ [and YEHOVAH God the Father] to take up His [their] Throne[s] upon earth. The Second Event is no longer preached from the pulpit: it is a subject which the man and woman in the pew is not encouraged to explore.
To ministers who have been subverted by this strange Papal aberration, the Christian Israel vision of a literal Kingdom ruled, as described in Scripture, by the King of Kings [YEHOVAH God] and administered by [Yeshua the Messiah and] His “saints,” is anathema. They will have none of it. The opposition to this concept, which is often without scruple, has become concerted. Here, for example, is how the prestigious Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes Identity Christians, using the title adopted by an organized group in the United Kingdom, presumably to support the ridiculous claim that the movement “has pronounced Imperialistic views”:
“BRITISH ISRAEL THEORY. The theory that the British people is ultimately descended from the ten Israelite tribes which were taken captive into Assyria in 722-721 B.C., and thereafter wholly disappeared from Hebrew history. It was found in conjunction with pronounced imperialistic views; and though the numbers and influence of those who defend it are small, they often hold it with a persistence and enthusiasm which refuse to give a dispassionate consideration to objections urged against it. The theory meets with no support from serious ethnologists or archaeologists.
“For a criticism, see H.L. Goudge, The British Israel Theory (1922).”
This false and erroneous view of the Identity movement is reflected in every book of reference published during the last 55 years. And this vilification has prompted at least one sensation-seeking writer to describe the movement as one of the many “isms” that threaten to destroy the peace of the world!
In the realm of religious controversy, it is difficult to imagine a more stupid campaign. Indeed, one would have to go back to the days of the Inquisition in order to find a parallel to a situation in which clergymen should be guilty of attacking committed and dedicated Christians because they believe truth. Yet, the Identity Christian is not discouraged, because he can recognize in these blind shepherds the people to whom our Lord referred in his many parables of the Kingdom. These are the people whom Jesus described as “Seeing, they see not and hearing, they hear not; neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Identity Christians cannot be discouraged because they know that God’s words, through Isaiah, are addressed to each of them personally: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me” (Isaiah 43:10).
-- Reginald H.W. Cox
Hope of Israel
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.