Sunday, 12 November 2006

Showdown review - British Israelism

Greg Doudna is no slacker. His name should be familiar to anyone interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls beyond the “Michael Baigent level”. In fact, I tripped over his cognomen quite by accident in the notes to a recent text on that subject (along with fellow WCG alumnus Lester Grabbe.) So, imagine for a moment an academic of this calibre turning his attention on the time-dishonoured theories of British Israelism.

Imagine no longer, but pull on your coat and gumboots, because the blood is up to the fetlocks and rising!

There are four chapters on this theme in Showdown. Doudna begins with a surreal tale surrounding a student paper he wrote in the 1970s at Big Sandy, where he tried to show that the church had things back to front: Ephraim was America, not Great Britain, and the English/Australians etc. were Manasseh. The paper was ignored at the time.

Fast forward to the late 1980s, and Greg was looking for a publisher for the first edition of Showdown. A copy of the manuscript was sent to William Dankenbring, including an outline of that original paper, now a curiosity piece set amid a thorough deconstruction of the BI doctrine. Willie however was converted to the tribal reassignment on the spot, and eagerly began to proclaim the “new truth” - much to Doudna's consternation. But lo, more was to follow. Ken Westby adopted the theory (without crediting its source), Norm Edwards championed it for a while, there was coverage in The Journal, while an upstart New Zealander (modest bow) opined that the whole idea was totally absurd either way. Doudna notes:

“In my dreams I would rather see myself credited with helping to put the Anglo-Israel idea in the grave where it belongs. The idea is factually untrue as an historical claim and has borne bad fruit...” (p. 227)

So it is that Greg is responsible for an Armstrong heresy without even trying. Providence obviously has a droll sense of humour!

The other chapters constitute a focussed discussion of BI that deserves to be read by anyone even remotely drawn to the Lost Ten Tribes theories. To cut to the chase, the historical sources used to justify the doctrine were abused and misused and sometimes created out of the whole cloth. Doudna spends some time demolishing the Tea-Tephi/Jeremiah fiction. “It may be an interesting story,” he writes, “but it is completely fabricated.” And then he proceeds to demonstrate just that in merciless detail.

As an aside, Greg relates how he once asked the great Doctor Hoeh whether he'd ever publish a new edition of his Compendium. The good doctor replied no, giving the reason that he didn't want to contribute to the world's paper shortage!

But back to the demure princess Tea-Tephi for a moment. It seems even that grand old dame of Biblical jingoism, the British Israel World Federation, no longer regards TT as a historical character. The whole story was a fiction from the beginning, and the supposed references in ancient Irish annals about as traceable as a leprechaun's pot of gold.

Having stripped the finery from the fair princess, Doudna takes a pneumatic drill to the Lia Fail Stone, and, barely pausing for a chapter break, asks “Were the Scythians Israelites?” Another fascinating anecdote: AC instructor Allen Manteufel taught Ancient World History using the legendary Compendium, but his other source materials were conveniently unavailable. Greg provides the following verbatim snippet from one of Manteufel's classes:

“Noah took his sons on a world tour to show them the world around the Mediterranean in 10 years. He began by the Black Sea, circled the Mediterranean, and left a colony on the Tiber River in Italy. Noah then retired to Armenia... He took another world tour in 2210 BC and spent 9 years in Spain. Then Noah arrived in Italy, found Gomer had died and the Italians were being corrupted by Ham. Noah kicked out Ham and ruled Italy himself. Noah died and gave the land to Saturn and one of Joktan's kids.”

Such was the depth of scholarship at AC!

Doudna, on a roll, proceeds to demolish the work of Anne Kristensen (cited by BI enthusiasts as a credible authority) and then turns to Herbert Armstrong's assertions that Adam and Eve were white (Mystery of the Ages, 148.) Next to feel the heat is Raymond McNair's loopy thesis Key to Northwest European Origins. He concludes with some apt observations on the dark side of BI: GTA referring to the Inuit peoples as “grunting savages”, and Bryce Clark calling Native Americans “heathen savages” who were therefore quite rightly dispossessed.

There are other books dealing with British Israelism, but this one has the benefit of coming from the keyboard of an incisive thinker and genuine researcher who has actually walked a mile in the moccasins of this “hallucinogenic” delusion. In short, it's priceless.

(Link: Showdown at Big Sandy)


Anonymous said...

British Israelism? HWA was a ignorant personal failure who turned himself into a lying religious huckster, eventually concocting a religion with himself at the center of it. The diabilical Dr. Hoeh with his fake Armstrongist credentials, took those eighteen foundational whoppers Armstrong concocted and wove even bigger, much more fantastic lies out of bits and pieces of history in support of BI to please his idolized Armstrong, while taking on airs of supposed scholarship. Armstrong's kind of moronic, phony scholarship turned his cult of into nothing but a pack of lies repeated ad infinitum by a den of thieves. These falsities are bad enough, but when repeated as unshakeable truth, are even more damning to the moronic COG leadership.

Jared Olar said...

A while back I had a short exchange of emails about the nonexistence of "Tea-Tephi" with an Armstrongist proponent of British Israelism. I showed him what the Metrical Dindshenchas (medieval Gaelic poems on historical and legendary topics) have to say. Contrary to British Israelism, ancient Irish tradition knows nothing of Tea-Tephi. Rather, those traditions and legends include fanciful stories about how Tara (Teamhuir), the ancient Irish royal capital and sacred precinct, got its name. One legend says Tara was named after a woman named Tea, daughter of Lughaidh, but another legend says Tara was named after Tephi, a daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt, who somehow ended up in Ireland. There's not the slightest hint that Tea and Tephi were the same woman (assuming they ever existed in the first place), nor is there anything about them being daughters of the King of Judah. "Tephi" is not Hebrew, but rather is a medieval Irish attempt to imitate Egyptian names. Nor is there anything in Irish legend about a Hebrew prophet named Ollamh Fodhla accompanied by an assistant Simon Brech. Rather, Irish legend identifies Ollamh Fodhla and Simon Brech as ancient kings, ancestors of later Irish royal families. Again, assuming Ollamh Fodhla (the Sage of Ireland) and Simon Brech (Simon the Freckled) ever existed, they weren't contemporaries and they weren't Israelites. Simon Brech is sometimes associated with the legend of the Liath Fail (Lia Fail, Stone of Destiny), but even so there is nothing that would indicate the stone had anything to do with Jacob or the Israelites. The whole story of Tea-Tephi and Heremon and Ollamh Fodhla/Jeremiah and Simon Brech/Baruch was cobbled together by the British Israelists who picked a name here and a legend there that they'd found in Irish tradition. It's all made up.

Neotherm said...

Armstrongism attracted different people for different reason. In particular, BI attracts people who are racists and who like to have access to "special knowledge" that makes them different from other people. The root of both of these tendencies is low self-esteem. HWA took a collection of common people and told them they were God's Chosen but nobody could understand it but them. And they had to have their minds specially opened by God to understand this precious truth. This is a powerful attractant for a certain class of people who have been marginalized by society and have a lot of accumulated resentment. Naturally, there is nothing anybody can do to peel them away from this security blanket. But, alas, they have had to make a decision between the security blanket and God and they chose the security blanket.

A Jewish Rabbi I correspond with has identified the people who inhabit to broad sweep of Eurasia as being descended from Japheth. In fact, many of the ancient Irish, Scottish and Anglo-Saxon genealogies identify these people as being descended from Gomer or Magog or both. Herman Hoeh gratuitously cast these genealogies aside and labelled them "monkish tales" designed to conceal the identify of Israel.

As regards Native Americans, Armstrongites always believed that they should have been exterminated. This is based on the mistaken idea that Native Americans in some cases are Canaanites. Presumably, if Armstrongites ever involved themselves in secular government, enough to influence policy, they would advocate a genocide of Native Americans based on their BI beliefs. But most Armstrongites would never own up to believing in genocide. It is just that they have never thought of their beliefs being translated into government policy.

-- Neo

Stinger said...

Ephraim vs. Manasseh.

I see I am not the first person to identify the U.S.A. as Ephraim. :-)

Actually, applying the "two out of three" rule here, the U.S.A. is the clear winner as being Ephraim :

- the U.S.A. is indeed the "younger" brother, compared to Merry Old England.

- These United States were the original "company" or group of nations (states) and not the much later on British Commonwealth.

- The U.S.A. became the "greater" of the two conglomerates after WWI. This is the one point that is debatable. Hence I say, the two out of three rule here.

Still, it's all based upon Armstrong's fairy tale, which he received from a prior fairy tale organization, the British Israel Society of Canada. Nothing that the man taught was original. He plagiarized all of it in an attempt to make his kook theology catch as many unsuspecting fish as possible.

And thanks to the power of the Internet, we all now know about this.

jorgheinz said...


Whilst British Israelism is a hotly disputed issue,neverthless, it is fact that the Windmill Hill people came to Britain from the East Mediterranean sometime around 2500 BCE.They were a slight,darkish people with delicate features.But of course,they cannot be Israelites.But this shows that travel from the Middle East to the UK was occurring two millenia before Christ.

The British are a mongrel race, and those swarthy looks amongst their ranks go back to the times aforementioned,plus of course any additions since then, such as the Spanish Armada survivors who swam ashore.

And goodness knows what other races were dispersed throughout Britain as Roman soldiers who became settlers in many cases.Such is the case of the Samartian band from around the Slavic regions of today who served in Britain as Roman slogs.

If you look at the statues in Hatra, in Iraq,many of them are very definitely Nordic in appearance.And Hatra was considered to be allied with Parthia,or even part of it, depending on your viewpoint.And we know where the Nordics ended up. There were Nordics in Iraq, both as soldiers in the Roman armies and later as settlers.Of course, they were the Gothic divisions..time frame about 240 CE.

None of this proves British-ISRAELISM.Messianic Jewry believes that the 10 Lost Tribes were absorbed into that ilk.If so,twelve tribes live amongst us today on that basis.

But the Jews, as we know are present in every nation and indeed we regard Western Europe/Scandinavia and possibly parts of Eastern Europe as Japheth.

And Japheth was to dwell in the tents of Shem if we believe the good book.

So,I cannot entirely debunk BI...the tribes of Israel are, in the latter days,to return to Israel from every corner of this globe..whilst this has partially occurred since 1948,the good book plainly shows that the main migration back to Israel will be at the very calamitous end-time,YET TO COME.

So, in a nutshell, ancient Israel is present in every nation on earth,even if only as Jews.

That is my tuppence worth.


Anonymous said...

I am very pleased to see this topic coming up again (not that I believe it, because I dont yet fully know whether I do or not). That's just it, to me this silly nonsense is crucial! I need to make an informed decision about what I was taught as a child, whether it was reality or a myth. (Sabbath, etc.) I must make the decision myself. (apologies to all 23 of the two witnesses, er witlesses, uh...dammit). It defines a large part of my construct of who "God" is. I dont even know where to begin. I dont know who to trust, and I appreciate all the help. (hit me with everything you've got, um, softly!) Thank you all, especially Gavin! Please keep it up!

Douglas Becker said...

Jesus said, "By their fruit you shall know them".

If we look at the fruit of British Israelism within the Radio / Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong, the fruit was false prophecies based on a false premise. The result of British Israelism was a false prophet who created doom, death, destruction.

In the end, Herbert Armstrong propagated lies. British Israelism was the identifying sign of the Armstrongist churches of God, along with doomed prophecies, not the Sabbath and Holydays -- an idolatry of narcissism embedded within an arrogant disregard for truth, justice and humanity.

Byker Bob said...

The "lost" tribes of Israel don't exist any more. Basically, some people living today might posess limited quantities of their dna, though.

If you take all the sodium, and all the chlorine in the world, and combine them (perhaps different chemicals and a more complex compound would be a better example here) you will have salt. The unique characteristics of the sodium and the chlorine would no longer exist. I realize that in the case of chemicals, one can often process a compound, separating it into its original elements, but how can one do this with humans, or animals? How would one distill the Manassite characteristics from a person today who is part Anglo, part Pict, part Nordic, part African, part Native American, with perhaps a Jew in the woodpile for good measure? How could you call such a person Manassite any more than you would call them Indian, or Pict?

The theory behind British Israelism is simply another attempt to insert oneself into the Bible for the purpose of attaining greater relevance. It is ridiculous, and in some cases has been used to promote racism.


Neotherm said...

BI is a very clever concept. It artifically creates a dramatic Biblical relevancy for people in the US and BC. The truth is the European people of the US and BC are predominantly descended from Gomer and Magog, two sons of Japheth. And throughout the pages of the Bible, there are only one or two references to the people descended from Japheth.

BI suddenly and falsely makes most of the Bible to be concerned with the people of US and BC. Using this hyped up relevancy, HWA was able to get a certain class of people spun up about his religion. Clearly, this strange concept does not have universal appeal because only a small number of people have ever believed it. But that fewness, for some, made the idea all the more attractive.

An excellent simple proof that BI is false is to consider that fact that there is no ethnic difference between the people who are supposed to be Ephraim (England and the BC) and Mannasseh (USA). A branch of my family resides in Britain and a branch resides in the USA. This can be demonstrated from genealogical records that I have. (This is true of most people in the USA. To get a preliminary but accurate feel for this, think how the surnames in Britain and the surnames in the USA are held in common.) Does this mean that the British branch of my family is Ephraim and the American branch is Mannaseh? How can this difference be posited as ethnic when it is clearly only a matter of migration patterns and national borders? This simplistic argument alone, without resort to arcane histories, is enough to sink the entire BI theory as designed by HWA. If one cannot hurdle this barrier, who cares about Tea-Tephi?

-- Neo said...

When I first began to read the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong about the English-speaking people being the descendents of Joseph, my interest was to find out if there were fulfilled prophecies that could prove if the Bible is inspired by God. I wanted to know one way or the other, and I tried to be objective, and I didn't trust Herbert W. Armstrong's evidence for anything - I checked up for myself with my own research everything I could, and what I could not verify I did not use. I also tried to find contrary evidence and consider every possibility. And if an argument in favor of British-Israelism seemed weak, I didn't use it.

Someone in one of these blogs said that he did not have the power of analysis when he first heard Herbert W. Armstrong and could not prove he was wrong. But I did have the power of analysis and critical thinking, and I used it. Perhaps the fact that I did not grow up in the Church of God helped me to be objective and critical.

In the end, I came to believe that the United States and British nations are descended from Joseph, and I still believe that. This does not mean that there has not been inter-marriage and mixing with non-Israelites, but that enough people in these nations are directly descended from Joseph that God can look at us today as a continuation of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and that the prophecies concerning these tribes are fulfilled in us today.

My decision was based primarily on the improbability of a nation and a company of nations coming into their power 2520 years after the conquest of Israel, and having one of the few if not only monarchies with ancestry traceable to ancient times. Tracing migrations of people that occurred thousands of years ago in a reliable way is difficult at best, and was impossible for me. Likewise, I did not have the access to ancient records or the time and experience to reach any reliable conclusion about how "Tea-Tephi" or any particular individual from David's line may have become an ancestor of the British royal family. I knew that it is possible for one of the daughters of David's line to be transferred to the British Islands and become an ancestor of the royal family, if not someone named "Tea-Tephi" then someone else, and my inability to establish the names of particular individuals involved doesn't change that. But the history of the growth of the United States and British Commonwealth nations since 1800 AD is very reliable and easy to research, as well as their present state, and I based my conclusions on that.

For events that have occurred in the last two hundred years to fit so well with the Bible apart from the foreknowledge of a creator God seems so improbable to me, that it convinced me, along with other prophecies that have been fulfilled, that the Bible is inspired by God.

Neotherm said...

Regarding the statement by

You have made a logical error. A theory to have integrity must not explain 50% of the observable facts but must explain all of them. This is an argument used by Armstrongites to invalidate the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution just does not explain everything, even though a single aspect, the dynamics of natural selection, is demonstrably true.

Moreover, what it does not explain cannot be an outright contradiction of the theory. Albert Einstein said words to the effect that "No amount of evidence can prove me to be correct, but a single exception can prove me false." If BI does not explain everything, like the arbitary division between Ephraim and Manasseh cited in my previous post, then it is not a valid theory. If the BI theory does not account for everything, then we are forced to conclude that the ascendency of the British and American peoples in 1800 is due to other dynamics. Perhaps, this asendency was to establish a collection of prosperous Gentile nations which would be safe havens for Jews. Still a blessing to Israel without any implications for the racial identity of the British and American people.

-- Neo

Ned said...

People like author@ptgbook need to read material like SHOWDOWN AT BIG SANDY most of all. If you restrict yourself to pro-BI publications (which he says he hasn't) then naturally everything seems to fit together just dandy. From what I've seen of the book, Greg Doudna isn't just whistling Dixie, he's done original research including hunting down those Irish stories and checking up the claims Armstrong made. He also has a doctorate in theology, so knows what he's on about. Two choices: either Armstrong flat lied, or he was incompetant. You just can't demonstrate that "nation and a company of nations" thing outside of the King James and blatant proof-texting.

Byker Bob said...

Look at the Bible, look at the present, find similarities, and fill in the blanks to make your premise appear to be truth. It also helps if you have some pseudo-intellectuals around to sound authoritative as they explain all of the historical "facts" which they lifted or misquoted from proper context!

Basically, that was pretty much HWA's "shtick". So, you might say that our friend has just duplicated the substance of HWA's research. Unfortunately, as anyone who has read the plethora of RCG/WCG archives knows, this methodology often got HWA into much hot water.

Little things, like noticing similarities between Assyrians and Germans, and preaching during the late '30s and early '40s that Germany was going to win WWII. Or, failing to acknowledge the obvious when the allies won, and preaching that Hitler had to be alive somewhere in South America, and would resurface to lead a revitalized Germany into victory in World War III. Then there's the matter of all the numerology, mathmatics of the geneologies, and symbolism leading to the conclusion that Christ would return in 1975!

Some say HWA was a prophet and visionary who restored truth. But, those folks are remnants of HWA's "dumb sheep", not terribly deep thinkers.