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Christian belief systems:

Anglo-Israelism & British Israelism

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The principal belief of Anglo/British Israelism is that the British (and by extension Americans, Canadians, Australians, and others) are the spiritual and literal descendants of the ancient Israelites.

Anglo-Israelism has a long history. The Puritan colonists in America also viewed themselves as spiritual descendants of the ancient Israelites. However, it was not until 1840 that John Wilson published "Lectures on our Israelitish Origin" and first proclaimed that the British people were the actual genetic descendants of God's chosen people.

The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) records how a schism occurred among the ancient Hebrews, separating the land into:

bulletThe Southern Kingdom of Judah which included the tribes of Benjamin and Levi, and
bulletThe Northern Kingdom of Israel which included the remaining ten tribes.

About 721 BCE, the latter was captured by the Assyrians. According to historians and archaeologists, its population was taken into captivity, and assimilated. Non-Hebrews were imported in the region and the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist. However, British Israel writers developed the belief that these "ten tribes" were able to retain their identity and cohesiveness, became lost to history, and wandered far from the Middle East. They concluded that the stone used in the coronation of King David was transported to the British Isles where it exists today as the Stone of Scone. The latter stone is still used for the coronation of British queens and kings. The writers promoted the belief that divine authority was transferred from ancient Israel to England along with the stone. In reality, the origin of the Stone of Scone has been traced to rock outcroppings in Scotland using standard geological analysis methods.

British Israelism was quite popular during the ascent of the British Empire, but quickly lost favor as the Empire was converted into a Commonwealth of Nations. In the early years of the 20th century, Charles Parham and John Allen were the main teachers of British-Israelism in the United States. Parham later went on to be a major influence in the Pentecostal movement. Allen's book "Judah's Scepter and Joseph's Birthright" spread the concept through the Adventist and other churches.

British Israelism formed a main part of the foundation of Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God.

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bulletA FAQ page which gives detailed information on British Israelism is at: http://www.melvig.org/
bulletDonna Kossy has written an essay on the history of the British-Israel movement, starting with the work of Richard Brothers (1757-1824). See: www.teleport.com/ 
bulletGregory S. Neal, "Imperial British-Israelism: Justification for an empire," (1987), at: http://www.revneal.org/
bulletA British Israel site from Australia is at: http://www.infobahn.com.au/ (May be offline).

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Copyright © 1996 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-JAN-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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