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)