The most successful proponent of British-Israelism in the 1930s to 1970s was Herbert W. Armstrong. He claimed that it was possible to identify the American and British people in Biblical prophecies through the “now discovered Master Key.”1
This article is helpful for any who have been taught the theory of BI and who may have questions.
NOTE: British Israelism (i. e., Anglo-Israelism) is an Aryan racist belief that claims that the white race is supposedly superior. For more on this see COMMENT at end: How could HWA teach the white Aryan race is “God’s elect” and still be anti-German?
The Theory of British-Israelism
The theory of British-Israelism was once a main doctrine of the Worldwide Church of God (founded by Herbert Armstrong). Many offshoot groups of the WCG, such as Philadelphia Church of God, continue to cling to all the doctrines held by the late Herbert Armstrong, and so still accept this teaching. Some Christians are also influenced by this teaching, and need to take a closer look at it.
The book, The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy outlines the teaching that Britain and the United States are the lost ten tribes of Israel. In this teaching of “British-Israelism,” the tribe of Ephraim becomes Great Britain, Manasseh is the United States, and the throne of David is the throne of England.
Herbert W. Armstrong published this theory as his own special revelation from God. Recent evidence has surfaced that shows plagiarism from J. H. Allen’s book, Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright, a 375-page book published in 1902 and copyrighted in 1917.2
This book was written a full thirty years before Armstrong claimed to have made an “exhaustive” study of the British-Israelism issue.
The theory teaches that when God’s people [the Israelites] returned to Palestine after the captivity, only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi really returned. The “House of Israel,” meaning the ten lost tribes,3 scattered. By Jesus’ day, supposedly only three tribes were represented. According to the theory, the “House of Israel” [the Northern tribe] was missing.
The Bible Speaks
The Apostle Peter was, however, unaware of British-Israelism teaching, since he uttered these words in Acts 2: 36:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
In the BI theory, the judgments against Israel naturally become directed towards the United States. We thus find the belief that America will cease to be a nation, and her citizens will be removed, finding themselves in captivity. Plain Truth, July 1959, p. 16).
The Bible teaches that a prophet is false when his words fail to come to pass. (See Deuteronomy18:20-22). Time has already run out for this prophecy, since it was foretold for 1972 in the publications of Herbert W. Armstrong. The theory of British-Israelism falls with the prophecy, and the prophet.
Are “Israel” and “Jew” Two Separate Nations?
Armstrong taught that “Israel” and “Jew” were two separate nations. “Jew” always meant “The House of Judah,” and “Israel” meant “the lost ten tribes.” II Kings 17:18-23 is a favorite passage of British-Israelism devotees, so let’s consider it.
“So the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah keep not the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.
And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.
For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin..
For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, which he did; they departed not from them; until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.”
Notice the last phrase of this Scripture. Israel went as far as Assyria until this day! They relocated, but not far away, certainly not across oceans! Certainly not scattered far afield!
The Rebuilding Of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s Day
According to the British-Israelism theory, only Jews should have been participating in rebuilding Jerusalem since the house of Israel was “long gone.” Yet Ezra uses the words “all Israel” several times in the account. (Ezra 2:70; 6:17; 8:25,35; 10:5; Nehemiah 7:73; 12:47). Evidently the terms “Jew” and “Israel” were used interchangeably, thus spoiling the unsupported theory of British-Israelism.
The Ten Tribes in Christ’s Day
If the ten tribes were gone by Christ’s day, how does the BI theory explain that Anna the Prophetess was of the tribe of Asher? (Luke 2:36). Paul mentioned all twelve tribes. (Acts 26:6,7). James mentioned all twelve tribes. (James 1:1).
The book of Revelation tells of 12,000 people from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Revelation 7:4-8). All Israel shall be saved, eventually. (Romans 11:26).
Upon consulting a Jewish rabbi, he assured me the list in Revelation was a literal one, as are the other lists in the Bible, although they differ from one another for various reasons. The Revelation list is not “figurative” or “spiritual” allowing for interpretation to apply to some other nation, but applies to literal Israel.
Consider the Apostle Paul
The Apostle Paul was addressed in three ways:
- As a Hebrew (Philippians 3:5).
- As an Israelite (II Corintians 11:22).
- As a Jew (Acts 21:39; 22:3).
Obviously, Paul recognized no such distinctions as invented by this theory. All terms interchange.
Christ the King
Since Christ had a sign over his head on the crucifixion reading “King of the Jews”4, are we to assume that He was King for Judah only? No, for the Scriptures are plain that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah for all Israel. The disciples understood this when they questioned Him in Acts 16, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the Kingdom to Israel?”
Obviously, “Jew” and “Israel” were used interchangeably in Christ’s day.
After putting up the sign, “King of the Jews,” His mockers then said, “…if He be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42). Again, the terms interchange.
Problems With the Stone
British-Israelism claims that the stone under the Queen of England’s coronation chair is the very “pillar stone of Jacob” which was first transported by Jacob, and finally by Jeremiah to the British Isles, via Egypt.
The Scriptures know nothing of this invented event! We would expect, if the theory is correct, that the English coronation stone could be analyzed and found to be of the type found in Israel. The stone has been analyzed and “The Marson Report ” [by Richard A. Marson] page 128, records:
“The stone in Westminster Abbey has been analyzed and shown to be a calcareous type of red sandstone of Scottish origin.”
Conclusions on British-Israelism
British-Israelism is not a revelation from God as some teach. Rather it is a theory that cannot stand up to Biblical or scientific examination. It should be rejected by those professing Christianity.
~By JMR (former member of Worldwide Church of God)
UPDATE 2017: Gerald Flurry says that Herbert Armstrong’s prayer rock has replaced the stone of destiny. (“The New Stone of Destiny,” Royal Vision, July-August 2017, p. 2; “God is making this significant change for a good reason: We are ready to go to the place of safety, and we now have the stone of destiny!” Ibid; p. 3.) [Read: “Flurry Says PCG’s Scone of Stone is now HWA’s old Prayer Rock” (February 28, 2017 letter)]
UPDATE 2020: Gerald Flurry says he now has the “new Throne of David” that PCG will take with them to the Place of Safety. [Read: Gerald Flurry’s Insanity With The New Throne of David]
NOTE: Gerald Flurry places much emphasis on the Great Tribulation and ties various prophecies in with it such as Amos 7. [Read: Gerald Flurry and the Amos 7 Prophecy] The Great Tribulation is referred to in the Bible as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). When we realize that Jacob (Israel) is not referring to any so-called “modern-day” Israel taught by HWA as being America and Great Britain (discussed in this article on BI), many Scriptures can be understood.
MORE INFO: The Lia Fail (stone of destiny) is of Irish myth. According to the legend it was supposed to “roar” if a true king touched it. David Williams, in an article on BI, noted that “Professor A.C. Ramsey of the Geology Department of London University inspected the “coronation” stone and identified it as red sandstone, probably of Scottish origin. “The nearest red sandstone to Bethel, where Jacob found his stone is in Petra, nearly one hundred miles to the south; the stone around Bethel where Jacob slept is white limestone.” In 1996, British Prime Minister John Major said, “The stone of destiny holds a special place in the hearts of the Scots. I believe that on this, the 700th anniversary of its removal from Scotland, it’s appropriate to return it to its historic homeland.”
The British Israel (BI) teaching started penetrating the United States when the Ku Klux Klan adopted it as one of its prime “biblical” doctrines to verify that the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) was actually doing God’s work. As BI gathered popularity in the Protestant arena starting in the 1930s, its understanding was refashioned several times over. Of late, it is popularly known as the Identity Movement. (Taken from ESN’s OIU 4, pt. 3) (OIUs open as PDF)
The key verses used by BI proponents are identical to the ones Herbert Armstrong used–and distorted. Their premise is that the ten tribes of Israel were “lost” and today are found in the Anglo-Saxons. The theory fosters racial and national pride. No matter who we are, if we are in Christ Jesus, our future is not linked to a particular land or race, but to an incorruptible inheritance. (I Peter 1:4) The Davidic Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of God, and the Word of God is clear that we are to seek Him.
Believing that the United States and Britain were modern Israel may have been what prompted many to become heavily involved in the WCG, or one of its offshoots or splinter groups. It can become a part of one’s self-worth (thinking we are special, chosen, the elite, etc.). Learning the truth about these things can be a huge letdown, but we must come see our special position in Christ.
The “Key to Unlocking Prophecy” (Did Herbert Armstrong Say God Revealed it to Him Alone?)
How is the Term Israel Used in the New Testament? (Shows how the church is not “spiritual Israel”) (also covers Galatians 6:16) [offsite article]
COMMENT: How could HWA teach the white Aryan race is “God’s elect” and still be anti-German?
The following is by Kelly Marshall, author of “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review).”
Herbert Armstrong emphatically believed in the superiority of the white race. He makes this clear early on in his teachings that Eve had given birth to three distinctive races: White, Black and Asian. The white race was the chosen one, whom he traced his bogus lineage. He believed he was a descendant of the Queen of England, and insisted his lineage went all the way back to David, which went all the way back to Seth. He never mentions that the Israelites/Jews were Semites and never truly “white” to begin with! But he did make us believe that all the white races around the world (England, Scotland/Ireland, Switzerland, France, Scandinavia, etc.) were nothing more than the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. We never questioned it. We figured if the great church historian, Herman Hoeh, said it was true, then we had to believe that God revealed all these “facts” to him!
But there was a big loophole in his concocted teachings: The belief that Germany was ancient Assyria. HWA taught that these modern-day “Assyrians” would rise up again (just like they did in WWII) and punish the U.S. and the other modern Lost Ten Tribes. This was merely a “scare tactic” to get members to conform and not question. To question meant the loss of their ticket to the Place of Safety. HWA needed the “Assyrians” (imagined threat) as a tool to keep his followers frightened. He didn’t care if the Assyrians were white, black or blue! He would always say, “If you repeat a lie long enough, people will begin to believe it as truth.”
So yes, HWA could easily hold teachings that didn’t support one another, or make any sense. He just had to believe it [and teach it] with great authority–never mind the details. Anyone who saw the loopholes were never allowed into the WCG.
Critics of HWA’s view need to understand that it’s not ESN who holds incorrect views. We are only reporting what was taught to us as “fact”; if anyone sees contradictions, then it should come as no surprise. All false teachers hold to conflicting doctrines, many of which cancel each other out! But these contradictions are never pointed out to members, and anyone who questions too closely, is quickly “put out” before other members are informed of the errors! (Members can easily recall his “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” spiel).
HWA made it clear to members that the white race was superior in God’s eyes. And he believed that the Germans were the ancient Assyrians. Does it make sense? No. Did he teach it? Yes. We can’t apologize or make amends to his flagrantly false beliefs. It didn’t matter to HWA if it made sense as long as it made money!
Read: The Origins of Assyria and Germany (shows the fallacy in HWA’s teaching that the Assyrians “settled in central Europe, and the Germans are the descendants of the ancient Assyrians”)
Herbert Armstrong’s Racial Views:
Following is from HWA’s October 1963 Plain Truth article: “The Real Cause of The RACE CRISIS!” In this article, HWA cloaks his racial and segregation views by Biblical terminology and doublespeak.
“GOD is the author of SEGREGATION! But man is the author of INTEGRATION!” (p. 28)
“Just as He [God] DELIVERED the White Israelites from Egypt, and took them to the land HE had appointed to be theirs, so He will DELIVER the Negroes from American Whites, and take them in an Exodus to THEIR OWN LAND where HE foreordained they should live!” (p. 28)
“Social fellowship between races is FORBIDDEN by the Word and Laws of God! (p. 29)
“Israelites were WHITE–of PURE white stock. But they intermarried with the Canaanites, many of whom were BLACK. Now they were–many of them–MIXED. That is, a WILD vine.” (p.29)
“How can our people say today, that geographical and social integration and intermarriage is ‘Christian’–and that, in God’s sight, we are not defiled?” (p. 29)
“Mongrels start a trail of degeneration. God’s Law forbids it!” (p. 30)
“The REASON God Almighty blotted ALL HUMANITY Out of existence–except for Noah and his family–was RACIAL INTEGRATION, leading to INTERMARRIAGE and VIOLENCE!” (p. 31)
“Men are fol1owing the WAY that seems right to them. Men are crying to eliminate discrimination by the very thing that has produced it–INTEGRATION!” (p.31)
“GOD ALMIGHTY is the Author of SEGREGATION but NOT of discrimination! Men have instituted integration and thereby caused DISCRIMINATION. But God decreed, not only social segregation, but also geographical segregation.” (p. 31)
Also, see words by WCG child survivor that mention members being taught they were “the chosen Aryan descendants” and which includes a footnote by ESN showing WCG practiced segregation. Also read: “Dumbfounded When I Found Out About WCG’s Racist Teachings” (December 30, 2013 letter).
The following is from the March 1958 Good News article: “Who May Attend Our Schools?” – A policy has had to be set regarding who may attend our Imperial Grade and High Schools and Ambassador College by Herman Hoeh. (This shows WCG practiced segregation in its schools. Again, the article contains much doublespeak.)
“Because Abraham was the first to be willing to give up fellowship with the world, God has made it possible for his fleshly children to be the first to enjoy a fuller social fellowship with one another in the Church–limited though it may be. That is why God has guided His Church to commence its Grade and High Schools for the children of racial Israelites first. (p. 8)
More of HWA’s racial views can be found by searching the older Plain Truths and Good News magazines. [found online]
HWA’s racial views are also critiqued by ESN in “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” by Kelly Marshall, chapter 4 (p. 148 is covered); and chapter 5 (p. 166 is covered). (PDF)
John H. Allen (whom HWA plagiarized from) “taught that the White Race was God’s choice to work his purpose; that Race was the basis of choice between Esau and Jacob; Ephraim and Mannaseh and the whole teaching of the lost ten tribes…” (A Little “Identity Crisis–British Israelism) [offsite article; link is broken. See below under “Related Articles” for a quote from this article.]
Herbert Armstrong did not have to come right out and say verbatim “the white race is superior” for us (and him) to know that he taught it.
~Info compiled by AJW
Exit & Support Network™
Books for further study on BI (Anglo-Israelism):
The Delusion of British Israelism by Anton Darms. Check out of print, used & rare books.
The History of the Ten “Lost” Tribes by David Baron (This is a classic work on the subject). Rare; check your library or used book stores.
Armstrongism: The “Worldwide Church of God” Examined in the Searching Light of Scripture by Dr. Robert L. Sumner. (Chapter 8: “The Armstrong Teaching About Israel” (covers Herbert Armstrong’s Anglo-Israel theory and quotes many of his words)
The Armstrong Empire by Joseph Hopkins (See Chapter 5: “The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy.”) (Check your library or used book stores)
BI has documented pagan druidic roots:
Brothers supposedly authored the “British Israel” movement that taught that the scattered and lost 10 families of Israel had journeyed northward, and through migrations had settled in northwestern Europe and particularly the United Kingdom.”
However the facts go much deeper, with a connection to the Druids. Professor Stuart Piggot writes in “The Druids” of the influence of Rowland Jones who saw Cabalistic teaching in the words and syllables of the Druids. Professor Piggot states, “of Rowland Jones, it has been written”:
“…through his influence on…William Owen Pughe… he helped to pollute the stream of Welsh scholarship throughout the nineteenth century…The Druids in their latter days begin to move away from scholarship, however eccentric, and offer themselves as symbols within a non-rational universe…Pughe was one of the Twenty-four Elders appointed by Joanna Southcott, the religious maniac, together with the engraver William Sharp, who had previously been a follower of Richard Brothers…Both Sharp and Pughe were friends of William Blake, and Robert Southey wrote of Pughe, ‘Poor Owen found everything he wished to find in the Bardic system, and there he found Blake’s notions, and thus Blake and his wife were persuaded that his dreams were old patriarchal truths, long forgotten and now re-revealed.'”
“…’the antiquities of every Nation under Heaven’, Blake was to write, ‘is no less sacred than that of the Jews. They are the same thing, as Jacob Bryant and all the antiquaries have proved.’ Though the Druids change their character as Blake’s own vision changed during the writings of the Prophetic Books between 1797 and 1804, they have their apotheosis in the context of his revolutionary discovery that Britain was the original Holy Land, and Jerusalem not so far from Primrose Hill…”
“The Druids are the priests, lawgivers, philosophers and mathematicians of Urizen, but by Jerusalem, “All things Begin & End in Albion’s Ancient Druid Rocky Shore”…’Was Britain the Primitive Seat of Patriarchal Religion?’ Blake asked, and straightway gave his answer: Patriarchal Druids originated in Britain and spread their doctrine far and wide, even to the oak-groves on the Plain of Mamre. ‘Your Ancestors,’ he told his readers, ‘derived their origin from Abraham, Heber, Shem and Noah, who were Druids, as the Druid Temples (which are Patriarchal Pillars and Oak Groves) over the whole Earth to witness to this day.’ And in a single phrase Blake takes us, and the Druids, back to a familiar landscape. ‘The Nature of my Work,’ he wrote, ‘is Visionary or Imaginative; it is an endeavour to Restore what the Ancients call’d the Golden Age.'”59
The history of the Druids provides some of the more notable names involved in the movement, along with some of it’s more aberrant factions and teachings.
“…1781, a ‘secret society’, The Order of the Ancient Druids, had been set up in London by Henry Hurle…on Garlick Hill in the city, on lines doubtless inspired by Freemasonry…In 1833 the Order split…majority became ‘The United Ancient Order of the Druids.’ This, with …numerous daughter Orders, flourishes as a Friendly Society, but the rump of the 1833 split also contained its original mystic lines…Albion Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids of Oxford (1908) it accepted as an initiate the young Winston Churchill at a ceremony in Blenheim Park…. Henry Hurles original Order…The British Circle of the Universal Bond—split and formed The Order of the Bards, Ovates and Druids in 1963—meet on Tower Hill in London. 1717 members of Druids include John Toland, William Stukeley, Lord Winchilsea and William Blake. Chief druid from 1909 to 1946 –George Watson Macgregor Reid, friend of Bernard Shaw…”
“A man named Owen Morgan or Morien around the 1920s in England managed to reconcile his pious Welsh Calvinistic Methodism with Druidism even though it meant equating Taliesin with Jesus Christ.–his writings such things as Phallic worship to the Holy Greal, by way of Druidic Mysteries.”61
Excerpted from: A Little “Identity” Crisis ~ British Israelism ( www.seekgod.ca/identity.htm ) [page no longer up]
Theological claims that assert a racial lineage in British Israelism (covers “Lack of consistency with modern genetic findings”) [offsite article]
Footnotes by ESN:
4 The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states that the word for “Jew” in these verses means “Judah” in the sense of a country: Jew: Greek word #2453 loudaios (ee-oo-dah`-yos); from #2448 (in the sense of #2455 as a country); Judaean, i. e., belonging to Jehudah [“Judah”]: KJV–Jew (-ess), of Judaea.
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