DOES THE BIBLE SUPPORT BRITISH ISRAELISM?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Central to the movement of British Israelism or Anglo-Israelism is the belief that the so-called “10 lost tribes of Israel” are the modern British and American peoples. Another main tenet of this system is that Israelites and Jews are two separate classes. Back in the latter half of the 20th century, Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the cultic Worldwide Church of God (“Armstrongism”), was a famous promoter of British Israelism. While still lacking widespread support, its terminology has crept into Christian thinking and conversation. Our goal in this “brief” study is two-fold: (1) to examine the two chief ideas associated with this theological system, and (2) to see if they align with the Holy Scriptures.
WERE THE 10 NORTHERN TRIBES EVER “LOST?”
Proponents of British Israelism contend that the 10 northern tribes (Israel) were “lost” once they went into the Assyrian captivity. These lost tribes eventually migrated from Palestine, over into Assyria, through Europe, to ultimately become the British people (and American people)—hence, the names “British Israelism” or “Anglo-Israelism.” This notion is unscriptural on three points.
Firstly, when idolatrous King Jeroboam (servant of the late King Solomon) established a false religious system in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 12:25-33), believers in JEHOVAH God migrated to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Thereafter, members of all 12 tribes lived in the Southern Kingdom to worship the one true God at the Jerusalem Temple. This resettlement occurred before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Again, representatives of all 12 tribes were in the Southern Kingdom before Assyria captured the Northern Kingdom (Israel) in 722 B.C. Those carried away into Assyria were apostates, idolaters, unbelievers.
Second Chronicles chapter 11: “ And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts.  For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD:  And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.  And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.”
Second Chronicles chapter 15: “ And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.  And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.”
Second Chronicles chapter 35: “ And the children of Israel that were present kept the passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days.  And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
The descendants of the 10 northern tribes returned from Babylon to Jerusalem as recorded in Ezra chapter 6: “ And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.  And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.” Friend, you should be very careful to note that all 12 tribes are present in the land of Canaan when they returned from the Babylonian captivity! There are no “lost” tribes!!
Secondly, the Lord Jesus Christ, when preaching to and converting “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), did not visit the North American or European continents. According to Scripture, He conducted His earthly ministry only in the Middle East! He did not sail across the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, or English Channel. The Lord Jesus was under the impression that representatives of all 12 tribes of Israel were present in Galilee (north) and Judaea (south). When He commissioned His 12 Apostles, He told them to preach “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). To where did He send them? The British Isles? North America? Europe? He sent them to the land of Canaan, where He conducted His own ministry with them!
The Apostle Peter preached in Acts 10:37-39: “That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:….” Note “the land of the Jews” is comparable to “all Judaea… from Galilee.” Peter makes no difference between the land of “Jews” (southern) and the land of “Israel” (northern). We will talk more about this later.
Thirdly, when Baby Jesus was being presented in the Jerusalem Temple, there was a prophetess named Anna. Luke 2:36 says she is “of the tribe of Aser.” “Aser” is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew name Asher, one of the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom. In Judah, the Southern Kingdom, there is a descendant of the Northern Kingdom. Her bloodline—or technically Asher’s bloodline—is intact and not “lost” at all. What is lost is that political entity, those dynasties (kingly bloodlines), that ruled over the Northern Kingdom. The bloodlines of the 10 northern tribes are still in existence in the land of Palestine at the time of Christ, before He even began His earthly ministry.
NOT ALL ISRAELITES ARE JEWS?
British Israelists are quite significant in differentiating between a “Jew” (Southern Kingdom) and an “Israelite” (Northern Kingdom). The Bible makes no such distinction—whether before the captivity, during the captivity, or after the captivity. All Israelites are Jews and all Jews are Israelites. That is what the Bible says. God has no problem using these titles interchangeably. A Jew is an Israelite, and an Israelite is a Jew. Watch and see the irrefutable testimony of the Holy Bible!
Before the captivity. Genesis 14:13 says Abraham was the first “Hebrew.” (This will be useful to us later.)
During the captivity. The terms “Hebrew” and “Jew” are exchangeable. Jeremiah 34:9 says, “That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.” (This will be useful to us later.)
During the captivity. Daniel 1:3 says of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invading and deporting Jerusalem: “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;….” Jerusalem, of course, is the capital of the Southern Kingdom. Yet, “the children of Israel” are living in Jerusalem and thereafter taken away captive to Babylon! This cannot be, unless, of course, we remember the believers from the 10 northern tribes (Israel) migrated south when Rehoboam corrupted their land with idolatry centuries earlier. Contrary to British Israelism, “Israelites” are in Judah, and not entirely removed to Assyria!
After the captivity. Acts 2:5 says “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Now, verse 14: “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:….” In verse 22, Peter then calls them “ye men of Israel.” Finally, in verse 36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” We see that the Holy Spirit calls them “Jews” (verse 5), “men of Judaea” (verse 14), “men of Israel” (verse 22), and “all the house of Israel” (verse 36). This is another clear proof from Scripture that British Israelism makes distinctions that God the Holy Spirit does not!
After the captivity. First Corinthians 10:32 speaks of three classes of people present in the Book of Acts—“the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church of God.” Where are the “Israelites?” Why, they are “the Jews!” The Holy Spirit sees no difference between “Israelites” and “Jews.” If He did, the verse would have said, “the Jews, the Israelites, the Gentiles, and the church of God.” Why does it not read thus?
After the captivity. Romans 9:24 says, “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” Why did Paul not say “Israelites” here? Does God save only Gentiles and people who are of the Southern Kingdom? What nonsense! “Jews” is being used as a synonym for “Israelites.” All 12 tribes are included—otherwise, we are forced to conclude that God does not justify anyone from the 10 northern tribes!! (And, then, this would nullify the British-Israelistic idea of God’s blessings on “United-States-being-Manasseh, Britain-being-Ephraim!”)
After the captivity. In Matthew 4:18, the Bible says Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and chose Simon Peter and brother Andrew as Apostles. These, along with the other nine apostles (minus deceased Judas Iscariot) are addressed as “men of Galilee” in Acts 1:11. Galilee is what we would understand as the former Northern Kingdom. The Apostle Paul, in Galatians 2:15, says to Peter, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles….” Paul did not distinguish between “Israelite” (Northern Kingdom) and “Jew” (Southern Kingdom). Peter was of the Northern Kingdom and yet a “Jew.” British Israelism is again discredited as a figment of someone’s imagination.
After the captivity. Paul claims in Romans 11:1 to be of the tribe of Benjamin, part of the Southern Kingdom (Judah). He also declares to be an “Israelite.” Notice his own words: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” This is repeated in 2 Corinthians 11:22: “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.” Once more, Philippians 3:5: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;….” These verses should not be thus if British Israelism is correct. “Hebrew,” “Jew” (Galatians 2:15), and “Israelite” are all synonyms, which ties back to Abraham in Genesis 14:13 as well as Jeremiah 34:9.
Basically, British Israelism (Anglo-Israelism) is false teaching. It is nothing but a subtle attempt of professing Christians trying to seize Israel’s blessings by claiming to be Israel. In other words, it is a gateway for embracing “Replacement Theology” (also called “Covenant Theology”). We the Church the Body of Christ have not replaced Israel; we are not Israel!! Yet, some adherents of British Israelism have gone so far as to declare that the (Gentile) British Monarchy is the modern manifestation of the Davidic dynasty. Britain is seen as the tribe of Ephraim, and the United States is viewed as the tribe of Manasseh. British Israelism is vain theological speculation. Like so many other eccentric ideas in Christendom, it stems from a failure to “study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). People are not separating Israel from the Body of Christ, prophecy from mystery, Peter from Paul, Law from Grace, and so on, and thus wind up in terrible confusion. Beware and flee it!
Actually, it makes no difference whether we are a Jew or a Gentile today in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. People who profess to be Jews today—especially so-called “spiritual Jews”—assume that it is beneficial to being a Jew today, that God favors a Jew over a Gentile since Israel is God’s special nation in the Bible. They are arguing about something Scriptures says does not matter in light of the dispensational changes that occurred in the Book of Acts. There is currently no advantage to being a Jew and there is currently no disadvantage to being a Gentile. In this dispensation, the ground is level at the foot of Calvary’s cross!
- “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:22).
- “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
- “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6).
- “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15).
- “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
Today, in our Dispensation of Grace, God “hath concluded them all [Jew and Gentile] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:32). National Israel is fallen today. Romans chapter 11 already declared: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”
Israel rejected her Messiah (Jesus) and refused to accept Him in early Acts period. Today, consequently, everyone is a Gentile before God. Israel no longer has a special position before God: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Romans 11:28). National Israel is God’s enemy today. As we already saw, salvation is going to us Gentiles without Israel. The Jews are not ministering as a “kingdom of priests” to evangelize Gentiles (that will come one day after God concludes our program—Zechariah 8:20-23, Isaiah 60:1-3, Exodus 19:5-6). Today, salvation is coming to us Gentiles (nations), not through Israel’s rise (Genesis 12:1-3), but through Israel’s fall. We must believe today the Apostle Paul’s message, the Gospel of the Grace of God, to have a right standing before God: “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Ephesians 2:11-18: “ Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”