Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 12, PAGE 18-19

Anglo-Israel: Quintessence Of Literalism

Yater Tant

(Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Bible Banner May, 1943. It was reproduced in the book God's Prophetic Word by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., first edition, page 320, with the following comments:

"One of the best articles on the subject that I have read came from the pen of `later Tant some months ago, under the title 'Anglo-Israel: Quintessence of Literalism,' and was published in the BIBLE BANNER. It will serve to introduce the claims of the Anglo-Israelists, and I insert it here as a brief epitome of their theory.")

Richard Brothers (1757-1824), "a half-pay officer of eccentric habits in the British Navy," has given to the world one of the most amazing religio-political theories to be found in all history. It was this odd character who was the first, in modern times to advocate the singular theory that the British nation is in actual fact and truth the real Israel of God. He claimed that the Anglo-Saxon race was descended from the "ten lost tribes" of Israel; that he himself was a lineal descendant of David, and the rightful claimant to "David's throne"; that very shortly God would overthrow all the enemies of Israel (England), and that he, Richard Brothers, would become the ruler of the whole world.

Quite understandably, the Britishers confined this man to a lunatic asylum, but, even so, he secured and retained many admirers. Outstanding among them was C. Piazzi Smyth, astronomer-royal for Scotland, who made certain measurements of the Great Pyramid of Ghizeh, and deduced from these mathematical computations that Brothers was right in all his claims except one — namely, the matter of the royal line of David. Smyth believed that the Great Pyramid established the right of Victoria, then Queen of England, to the throne of David, and that while Brothers was absolutely right in claiming descent from the ten lost tribes, he made a mistake in thinking he was the rightful heir to the throne.

Brothers and Smyth and their followers argued that Britain must be the true Israel, or else great numbers of promises made to Israel in the Bible would have to go unfulfilled. And once having determined their position, they set to work with great diligence in the fields of ethnology and philology to find evidence to corroborate their contention. It was claimed that the very word "British" was itself the "new name" prophesied for Israel in Isaiah 62:2; the Hebrew word for "man" is "ish" and the word "Brit" is the Hebrew "B'rith" meaning "of the covenant." Hence "British" means "man of the covenant." Furthermore, it was claimed that the "mark of Dan" could be found all over Europe — evidence of the one time journeyings of Dan in those regions. For instance, the rivers of Europe: Don, D(a)neiper: D(a)neister, Danube, etc., also his mark is seen in Denmark (Dan's mark), Lon-don, Edinburgh, London-berry, and a great host of similar names.

It was, however much more on passages of Scripture than on historical occurrences and linguistic similarities that Brothers and his followers relied for proof of their theory. And in their application of the selected passages they have given to the world an undying demonstration of the absurdities to which the literalist can go in his insistence on a literal, word-by-word fulfillment of prophecies.

Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics lists the chief proof-texts of Anglo-Israelism, and shows how an almost childish insistence on literalistic application of the passages is necessary for any sort of support for the theory. Here they are:

Jeremiah 3:12. God's word should be proclaimed to the north (Britain is to the north of Palestine)

Isaiah 49:10. Heat or sun should not smite them. (Britain is foggy and cloudy most of the year. The sun rarely ever shines upon the people there.)

Micah 5:8. The remnant of Jacob shall be as a lion among the nations. (Britain is traditionally the "lion," even using the symbol of a lion in her coat of arms.)

Isaiah 24:15. God's name should be glorified in the isles. (Britain is an island kingdom.)

Isaiah 49:19-20, 54:3. Colonies should be established. (Britain is the world's greatest colonial empire.)

Genesis 48:19. One of Joseph's sons, Mannasseh, was to become a separate nation. (Who can deny that this refers to the United States?)

Genesis 22:17, 24:60. Israel should possess the gates of her enemies. (Britain possesses the "gateways of the world — Gibraltar, Suez, Aden, and — until recently, Singapore.)

It can be seen that there would be a very subtle appeal in this sort of theory to the self-esteem of the British people. While in the past the British attitude has never been exactly what one would describe as an inferiority complex, nevertheless, it would be quite a boost to their sense of well-being to have "scriptural proof" that they, and they alone, are God's chosen — destined to be the conquerors of the world and "the master race." As might be expected nearly all of the 2,000,000 people who have accepted this delusion are Britishers — members of the Church of England. Indeed, it is almost exclusively an intra-church movement within the Anglican Church. Americans, with some few exceptions, seem to have been more amused than allured by the theory. (Editors note: Now, some 25 years after these lines were written, the Anglo-Israel theory with considerable modification has been made popular in this country by Herbert W. Armstrong and his son Garner Ted Armstrong.)

"The whole movement is chiefly interesting as a reduction ad absurdum of too literal an interpretation of the prophecies," says the Jewish Encyclopedia. To students of religious psychology it is a most interesting study in the extent to which credulity can be stretched. For its followers must not only 'completely pervert and misapply in the most grossly literalistic fashion imaginable every passage of scripture they use; but, they blithely and naively set aside as false the incontrovertible and established facts of history.

There is no agreement whatever among competent ethnologists concerning the origin of the British people. There is not the slightest doubt among philologists concerning the origin of the English language. Here are the facts: the original inhabitants of the islands were primitive Celtic tribes; in 449 A. D. and the years immediately following the isles were invaded and conquered by Anglo-Saxons, a group of peoples from southern Germany, in whom there is not the faintest trace of Israelitish blood, either in physical features, in language, in customs or in religion. On the contrary, the Anglo-Saxons are of the Japhetic race, and definitely not Semitic. The Anglo-Saxons conquered the Celts, and remained masters of the isles until 1066 A. D. In that year, and the years following, the Normans under William the Conqueror over-ran them. The Normans were of Scandinavian origin. These three strains — Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian — make up the heritage of the modern British race. The present ruling house of England, far from being the "house of David," is German. It came out of Germany less than two hundred and fifty years ago, and until the last war even continued to wear its German name of "Hanover." The name was changed to "Windsor" during the heated days of the last war (World War I) when anything that even suggested Germany was unpopular in Britain.

Yet these authenticated facts of history arc blissfully ignored by the advocate of Anglo-Israelism. They don't fit in with his theory; they are contrary to his interpretation of the scriptures hence, they must be false! The historians of the world have perpetrated a giant hoax! The Bible plainly describes "Israel," and that description fits Britain!

This theory is the most refreshing piece of naivet we have seen in many years. And at the same time it contains a solemn warning to the followers of Russell, Rutherford, and Brother Boll. For it shows the logical conclusion of too great an insistence on "literalistic" ideas of an earthly kingdom. The Anglo-Israelites have carried premillennialism to its next phrase in the search for an earthly kingdom. Instead of waiting for the Lord to establish such a kingdom when he comes, they already have it going and ready for Him — with a lineal descendant of David (King George VI) now occupying "David's throne" in the city of Lon- don!

— 3229 Green dale Rd. 35243