Are the Anglo-Saxons the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel?

We have been asked by correspondents to publish a paper upon this subject. Interest in which seems to have revived since the outbreak of the war. It is not possible in a short magazine article to go into such a question exhaustively, but we think that what we are here able to put before our readers should convince them that only those whose acquaintance with the Scriptures is not of the must superficial character could be led into accepting this theory. Many earnest Christians, we believe, have adopted it, the result being that they are hindered from grasping the purpose of God in this present period, which is the gathering out of the nations His assembly, and giving to it heavenly hopes and a heavenly destiny. Earthly hopes belong to Israel, and every promise made to that nation will be fulfilled by the faithful Fulfiller of promises, but this will be in a coming dispensation.—(Ed. - published in 1916)

We have before us a catalogue of over 150 books and pamphlets dealing with the above subject, showing a very considerable activity in propagating this theory, the contention being that the British nation and the United States of America are the descendants of the “ten tribes” forming the kingdom of Israel, and who were, in large numbers, deported to Assyria (see 2 Kings 15:29; 17:6) in 721 B.C.

The alleged proofs advanced by the advocates of this theory are twofold—historical and scriptural.

Historical Proofs

It is plain from Scripture where the Israelites, that is the ten tribes, were deported, viz, the region beyond the Euphrates, between the Black and Caspian seas. Some 800 years after their captivity Josephus, the Jewish historian, said that they were then beyond the Euphrates, and had become an immense multitude. So far we are on firm ground.

From this point we are treated by the advocates of this theory to tradition, legend, and probabilities.

The Rev. I. M. Condit, M.A., in his pamphlet, says:
  “Now this multitude, which had become so vast [referring to the ‘immense multitude’ of the descendants of the deported Israelites Josephus wrote about], seems* to be clearly identified with the ancient Scythians, and it seems to be quite as clear that the Scythians are the ancestors of the Saxon Race” (p. 7).

The above extract is too vague and unhistorical to carry conviction, but it is a fair sample of the most that is put forth by the advocates of the Anglo-Israelite theory.
{*The italics are the writer’s}

Mr. Condit goes on:
  “There ought to be no difficulty in connecting the Israelites and Scythians, as their starting-point, destination, and date are the same” (p. 7).

Where is the proof of this? We know the Israelites were deported 722 B.C. to Assyria, from which neighbourhood the Scythians are said to have emigrated, but the evidence that connects them with the Saxons is very vague and unreliable. Mr. Condit assumes that the Israelites and Scythians were the same people, and then speaks of their having a common start, destination and date.

Because the Normans reached England in 1066 A.D., and found the Saxons there, are we to suppose the Saxons and Normans to be the same people, because thenceforth their history is one? Either they remained separate, or became merged, but they could not be identical.

Sharon Turner, the celebrated historian of the Anglo-Saxons, says:
  “Of the various Scythian nations, which have been recorded, the Sakai or Sacae are the people from whom the descent of the Saxons may be inferred with the least violation of probability.”

This is strong and cautious language. That the Scythians were the ancestors of the Sakai or Sacae is at best an inference, and one which, Mr. Turner states, violates probability.

True, the same historian says:
  “The Saxons were a Scythian nation, and were called Sacs, Sachi, Sacki, and Sack-Sen.”

But these two statements do not tally. Nor do they in the least prove that the Israelites and Scythians were identical.

Nothing daunted, Mr. Condit, who quotes Mr. Turner, says:
  “These names, by dropping the initial ‘I,’ are easily traced to Isaac; and by adding the suffix ‘on,’ meaning ‘son,’ we easily have ‘Saxon,’ the ‘Sons of Isaac.’”

It reminds us of the rough-and-ready method of Procrustes, the mythological robber, who placed all his victims on a bed, and chopped off sufficient to make those too long for the bed fit its length, and dragged out those who were too short so as to fill its length. By such methods anything can be manipulated at will. What right has Mr. Condit and others of his way of thinking to drop the initial I”?

It would be just as sensible to drop the initial “A” in Abel, and identify that first martyr with Bel, the heathen idol of Isaiah 46:1. Such a contention shows how hard up the advocates of this theory are for facts. They have to resort to fancies. They build their airy notions on legends, traditions, and myths.

Mr. Condit says:
  “The Danites were closely associated with the Phoenicians, so that wherever one is mentioned we also hear the other. As an historical fact, it is known that the Phoenicians settled in South Ireland, and it is scarcely less certain that the Danites settled in North Ireland. As the Phoenicians and Danites fraternised together in Palestine and went trading together abroad, is it not quite a likely thing that they settled one in the north and the other in the south?” (p. 1).

According to this writer he has historical evidence for the Phoenicians settling in Ireland, but even according to himself he has only inference and fancy for his statement that the Danites settled in Ireland also.

Where does he get his statements from, that the Danites were closely associated with the Phoenicians? In the days of Israel in Palestine the strip of country to the north was not called Phoenicia at all, nor its inhabitants Phoenicians. The country was called Zidon, from its chief city, and its inbabitants Zidonians, or Canaan and Canaanites.

If you get a map of Canaan, as divided among the tribes, you will find Dan in the south, and the territory south of that tribe Philistia, and as far removed on the coast line from Zidon as possible.

It is true that Dan made a northern eruption to get more territory, but one reason given for their success is this:
  “And there was no deliverer, because it was FAR from Zidon” (Jud. 28:28).

The chief city taken, Laish, was renamed Dan, and part of the tribe of that name settled there, hence the expression “from Dan to Beersheba”—that is from extreme north to extreme south.

But all this does not remotely prove Mr. Condit’s statement.

He might as well tell us that the Prussians are Danites, because one of their chief towns is called Dan-zig.

As a matter of fact, the origin of the word Dane, which the Anglo-Israelites seek to identify with Dan, is unknown, and there we must leave it.

The late Mr. Reader Harris, K.C., in his book, “The Lost Tribes of Israel,” says:
  “The Normans (or Northmen) are believed to be descended from Benjamin, because of their character, which was the character of that tribe, and also because the Norman standard was a wolf, which also was the standard of the tribe of Benjamin” (p. 59).

From a K.C. one would expect better proof than this. Ferocious conduct, and a wolf as standard, are surely not enough to render the Normans and the Benjamites identical. Ferocious conduct is the common characteristic of the human race in war, it is not the special character of one little tribe in Israel and one little nation in Northern France.

Moreover, Benjamin belonged to the two tribes and not to the ten, so that Mr. Harris, in his zeal, goes beyond Anglo-Israel, and is on a fair way to become Anglo-Benjamin.

The lion is the standard of Judah, and the standard of Britain; therefore, according to this kind of argument, Britons and Judaites are identical. But they do not argue thus. Why not? It would be just as reasonable to do so. The fact is, the facts are against them.

Many Anglo-Israelites contend that the British people are descended from Ephraim and the people of the United States of America from Manasseh. Seeing the Puritan Fathers were English, their descendants were English. Their blood was just the same. How and why, when and where Ephraimites, or the English nation according to Anglo-Israelites, became Manassehites is a puzzle beyond either wit or reason to circumvent. At what part of the stormy journey in the Mayflower did the change of blood and ancestry take place among the Pilgrim Fathers?

First we have Scythians and Saxons identical, which is not an impossibility, though there is no proof of it, but it is an utter impossibility for an Ephraimite to become a Manassehite by birth and blood. And yet this is what we are asked to believe.

Alleged Scriptural Proofs

Let us turn from these puerilities and examine very briefly what scriptural proofs the Anglo-Israelites present.

First of all it is strongly insisted by Anglo-Israelite writers that we must not confound Judah or the Jews with Israel.

Mr. Harris says:
  “When it [the Bible] speaks of Israel, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the ten tribes are meant.”

Mr. Harris puts the percentage far too high, as we shall presently see. Under the heading, “The Scriptural Evidences” he writes:
  “(1) Israel is to become a great multitudinal race of immense power. God, in speaking to Abram, says ‘I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth then shall thy seed also be numbered’ (Gen. 13:16). And God brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be’ (Gen. 15:5).”

And again, after his name became Abraham:
  “‘In blessing I will bless thee; and multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast observed my voice’ (Gen. 22:17-18). Note that these are unconditional promises which God is bound to fulfil.”

Then Mr. Harris, without more ado, expatiates upon the immense population of the English race. But consider his argument. He bids us differentiate carefully between the Jews and Israel, then as proof texts of Israel becoming a great nation he gives us three texts. These contain God’s promise to Abraham, who was the progenitor of BOTH JEWS AND ISRAELITES.

Next Mr. Harris says:
  “(2) Israel is to be a blessing to the whole world. ‘This people have I formed for myself: they shall show forth my praise’ (Isa. 43:21). ‘The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples, as a dew from the Lord, as showers upon grass’ (Mic. 5:7). Great Britain alone of all the nations can be taken to fulfil the prophecy.”

Isaiah 43:21 must be read in connection with verse 22. God contrasts the object for which Israel was formed with their conduct. He says in plaintive, touching language:
  “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.”

Isaiah 43:21 does not help to identify the British nation with Israel.

As to Micah 5:7 it is clearly future. Verse 2 prophesies the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, ignores the present dispensation, as the Old Testament prophets invariably do, and then prophesies the deliverance of Israel by the personal intervention of Messiah, and their deliverance from Assyrian invasion. Now Messiah is rejected, and therefore it cannot refer to the present period. It awaits its fulfilment, which will take place, as we have said, when Christ comes personally to deliver His people, Israel and set up His millennial reign. Then Micah 5:7 will be fulfilled. And further even from Mr. Harris’s stand-point, “The remnant of Jacob” refers as much to Judah as to Israel. “Bethlehem Ephratah” was in Judah.

It is a case of a verse being wrenched out of its context, and forced to do service in the upholding of a pet theory.

Next in proof Mr. Harris quotes:
  “‘Loose the bands of wickedness, and undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke’ (Isa. 58:6).”

In this he sees an allusion to Great Britain abolishing the slave trade, followed fifty years later by the United States doing the same.

But would the reader be surprised if we tell him that this K.C. has suppressed a very vital part of the verse? God says, calling Israel to true, and not feigned, repentance:
  “‘Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?’”

God tells His people this is just what they were not doing. It is not a command to do it, as Mr. Harris misquotes it, but a reproach that they were not doing it. On the contrary, Jehovah tells His people plainly:
  “Behold, ye fast for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness” (v. 4)

Verily, a case is hard put to, to be only able to quote passages that do not clearly apply at all, or misquote or mutilate texts to serve a party purpose.

Proof 3 given by Mr. Harris is as follows:
  “(3) Israel is to be an invincible nation. ‘No weapon that is formed against thee can prosper’ (Isa. 54:17). ‘Fear thou not (Israel), for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee’ (Isa. 41:10).”

Then Mr. Harris contends because the British have been uniformly victorious, that the above scriptures prove the British race to be the lost ten tribes, or any rate Ephraim, and the United States, Manasseh. Mr. Harris quotes the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the victory of Waterloo. But the Saxons were subjugated by Dane and Normans in a very terrible way. The English were driven out of France by Joan of Arc, and lost their American Colonies, so that historically Mr. Harris is beside the mark.

And scripturally these passages do not prove his contention. Isaiah 54:17 refers to the whole twelve tribes. The ten tribes were separated from the two, but they are to be joined together as one stock in a future day, and these glowing prophecies refer to them. At any rate read Isaiah 52, and you will find Zion and Jerusalem addressed right through the chapter; Isaiah 53 is too well known to need description, bringing in, as it does, in such vivid details the death of their Messiah, and the prophecy of its glorious results, whilst chapter 54 breaks forth into loud and exultant triumph as the “royal” prophet sees the wonderful place Israel—the whole twelve tribes—shall have when the Messiah reigns in power and glory.

Chapter 1:1 tells us Isaiah’s vision is concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and seeing Jerusalem is the true metropolis of all the tribes, God brushes aside the division that had occurred, and prophesies again and again of Israel’s glory—Israel covering the whole twelve tribes. Mr. Harris is too arbitrary in differentiating between Judah and Israel, and misses the spirit of Isaiah’s glowing prophecy. How petty the mind of man is naturally, and how a theory warps careful judgment.

Mr. Harris next gives proof:
  “Israel is to be the great money-lending race. ‘Thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow’ (Deut. 28:12).”

He states this alone is fulfilled by Great Britain, who, he says, receives 50 or 60 million pounds annually as interest upon her loans to other nations.

Now Deuteronomy 28 gives us part of the charge which Moses gave to the children of Israel, including all the twelve tribes, at the close of his marvellous career. The blessings promised were to be consequent on obedience; the curses, on disobedience. Now can the British nation be said to be obedient to God? Does the history of the last thousand years bear testimony to this? Were the Saxons God-fearing? Were the Normans? Were the ancient barons of England? Were they obedient to God during the Plantagenet, the Tudor, the Stuart periods? Are they obedient now? Thank God, there are many Christians in these islands, but the nation is God-forgetting, and pleasure-loving. And this proof also fails from the fact that Britain and her Allies is now raising a loan in U.S.A.

The very fact that Israel is driven out of her own land is a proof that the curses and not the blessings of Deuteronomy 28 are theirs.

The next proof text quoted by Mr. Harris is:
  “‘The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath, throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant: it is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever’ (Ex. 31:16-17).”

This is clearly all Israel, Mr. Harris says:
  “The British nation alone of the nations on earth possesses this sign.”

But this is not true. The British nation does not keep the Jewish Sabbath, that is the seventh day of the week, but the Christian Sunday, that is the first day of the week, a very different thing. And even as to the Christian Sunday, did the Scythians, the Saxons, the Normans, the early English keep Sunday any more than the French or Spaniards? Or does the British nation keep Sunday any more than the Swedes and Norwegians and Germans?

It would be more convincing to say that the Seventh-Day Adventists are the descendants of the lost tribes, because they keep the Sabbath.

This completes Mr. Harris’s “Scriptural Evidences.” Be remarks that there are many other remarkable prophecies about Israel, which are fulfilled by the British race. As a trained lawyer he would certainly bring forward the best and strongest proofs he could, so the reader can weigh what his best and strongest proofs amount to.

The writer was offered Mr. Harris’s book as the clearest and most convincing in small compass by the publishers of the catalogue of over 150 books and pamphlets on this subject, so he feels he is doing no injustice to the cause in exhausting his “SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCES,” and allowing the theory to stand or fall by their test. Fall it certainly does without a hope of recovery.

Now, if the British are Anglo-Israelites, all the prophecies concerning Israel should apply. Balaam’s Inspired prophecy says:
  “The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9).

This is emphatically not true of the British nation.

  “Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince” (Hos. 3:4).

This is not true of the British nation. The Saxons had kings, likewise the Normans, and the English. This is true of the Jews now, literally fulfilled, but not of the British nation.

  “The Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen” (Deut. 4:27).

This is prophesied of all Israel, and is clearly seen in the Jews. The British nation are not scattered among the nations, nor are they few in number. But how does this tally with the promise to Abraham that his seed should be as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand upon the seashore? We reply that prophecy remains to be fulfilled, when all his seed, both according to the flesh, and spiritually according to Galatians, shall in the day of manifestation, when Christ shall reign gloriously, fulfil to the letter this glowing prophecy. For proof that they will then multiply, read Jeremiah 30:19.

  “God said unto Abraham, Thou shall keep My covenant [that is, circumcision] therefore, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations” (Gen. 17:9).

This is not true of the British nation. Texts like these might be multiplied, but we forbear. We, unhesitatingly, claim that they shatter all contentions that the British nation is Anglo-Israel.

The Rev. David Baron, a well-known Christian writer of Jewish birth, says:
  “By this new system, while the curses are left to the Jew, all the blessings are applied not even to those ‘in Christ’ but indiscriminately to a nation, which, as a nation, is as apostate from God as any other of which ‘Christendom’ is composed, though I thankfully recognize the fact that there are many of God’s true people in it” (The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew).

  “I have said above that Anglo-Israelitism applies the promises given to converted Israel indiscriminately to the English nation. It does not stop even here … but goes on to rob Christ Himself of His glory by applying to the British people prophecies which belong, not even to Israel, but to Israel’s Saviour. I have seen, for instance, again and again the second Psalm, with the address of the Father to the Son, ‘Ask of Me and I will give thee the heathen [or ‘nations’] for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,’ interpreted of the British Empire” (Ibid., p. 203).

I believe the result of this unscientific, unhistorical, and unscriptural theory is to divert Christians from their high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

If one of Abraham’s race believes today, he surrenders gladly earthly hopes and aspirations. He ceases to be a Jew (or an Israelite, if he could know himself to be one), religiously, he becomes a Christian, and part of the assembly that is called out from the nations to be a people for God’s Son.

I have no hesitation in denouncing the theory as a great snare designed to lower the standard of Christianity, and divert believers from their true position in Christ.

It is interesting to trace the testimony in Scripture as to the disposition of the twelve tribes, and if Levi is counted, thirteen. After the division between the two and the ten tribes was effected, we learn that the tribe of Levi joined itself to Judah, and that the spiritually minded in all Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice, and so strengthened the kingdom of Judah (see 2 Chr. 11:13-17).

Further, this disposition to leave the ten tribes and cast in their lot with the two became very noticeable when there was revival in Judah. Israel’s history was unrelieved by revival. So we read in the reign of the pious King Asa that—“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” (2 Chr. 15:9).

In response to Hezekiah’s appeal at a later date we read:
  “Nevertheless diverse of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 30:11).

Now are we to suppose that in the return of God’s people to the land in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s time that only those belonging to the southern kingdom returned. There are evidences that it was not so here and there, as, for instance, Ezra 2:28 tells us of 223 men of Bethel and Ai returning, Bethel being in Ephraim and the centre of the idolatrous worship instituted by Jeroboam.

Then in the New Testament we read of Anna of the tribe of Asher, and the writer James addresses the twelve tribes scattered abroad.

So that it does not do to draw too hard and fast a line, though doubtless the Israelites are scattered among the nations, and will be under God’s hand till the hour of their repentance and restoration to their own land as reconciled to Judah.

We cannot do better, in conclusion, than quote Professor Rawlinson’s comments on Hine’s “Identifications,” a standard book among Anglo-Israelites:
  “Such effect as it may have can only be on the ignorant and unlearned—on those who are unaware of the absolute end, entire diversity in language, physical type, religious opinions, and manners and customs, between the Israelites and the various races from whom the English nation can be shown historically to be descended.”

To the above the Rev. D. Baron adds:
  “As a matter of fact, there is as little absolute proof that the Anglo-Saxons are the Saxae, or Scythians, as that the Saxae are Israelites.”

The “Encyclopaedia Britannica” says that “this theory of Anglo-Israel rests on premises which are deemed by scholars both theological and anthropological to be utterly unsound.”