Brief History

British-Israelism is not the name of an organization, but the name of an historical movement that has organizational manifestation in the U.S. and Europe today. The key idea of British-Israelism, also referred to as Anglo-Israelism, is that Great Britain is the geographical home of the lost tribes of Israel. The immediate implication of this belief is that it identifies the present day Anglo-Saxon people as God's Chosen People.
Scholars differ in their placement of British-Israelism's origin. Some scholars attribute the beginnings of British-Israelite beliefs to the Puritans of the 1600s, for the Puritans claimed to be the spiritual descendants of the ancient Israelites. Others assert that the idea precipitated from a Dr. Abade of Amsterdam when he allegedly wrote in 1723, "Unless the ten tribes have flown into the air...they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles" ( Orr ).

Historians find one of the first declarations of an actual European descent from the Israelites in the writings of Richard Brothers in the 1790s. Brothers published A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times in which he proclaimed himself a direct descendent to King David of Israel, and suggested that the majority of true Jews were Europeans who were ignorant of their true biblical lineage. Michael Barkun states that Brother's concept of a "hidden Israel" who thought themselves Gentile serves as the first appearance of this basic belief of British-Israelism (Barkun: 6).

It may be terminally difficult to determine who deserves the credit for originating the concept of British-Israelism, but its precise origin is not of preeminent importance. One ought to devote one's interest more appropriately to the historical development of the idea in the 19th and 20th centuries. With this in mind, a sociological approach to religious movements maintains that they are a sub-category to social movements. A sociologist, therefore, suggests that the reasons for which people join religious groups are the same reasons for which people join other kinds of groups. When one understands these social scientific assumptions, one may begin to understand the emergence of the religious movement British-Israelism .

The basic reward, and primary source of appeal, that British-Israelism provides to its Anglo-Saxon advocates, is its affirmation that biblical prophecy be directed to them specifically. For many Anglo-Saxons, it has been supremely desirable to have such a covenant with God. When people accept the idea, they establish a unique relationship with their God; therefore, its proponents receive the reward of becoming an elite.

British-Israelites view John Wilson as the true "Father of the Rediscovery of Israel," and Wilson delivers British-Israelism's first significant public exposure ( Kossy ). In his work Lectureson Our Israelitish Origin of 1840, Wilson attempted to provide empirical information that supported British- Israelism. His arguments suggested that similarities to English ways in certain elements in Hebrew language and social institutions were not merely coincidental (Barkun: 7). British-Israel organizations formed during the 1870s on account of slow, but growing acceptanceof Wilson's teachings.

According to Ralph Orr, British-Israelism found one of its first organized audiences in Millerism. The faith, named after its founder William Miller, declared that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur between 1843 and 1845. William Miller studied the writings of British-Israelites, and he seems to have recommended that his followers read Wilson's Lectures on Our Israelitish Origin ( Orr ). The exposure of British-Israelism that Millerism provided was limited, for the Great Disappointment of a failed prophecy (no arrival of Jesus) "led to the collapse of Millerism and the discrediting of its leaders" ( Orr ). Meanwhile, John Wilson continued to spearhead the British-Israelite movement.

Upon the death of Wilson in 1871, a new leader of the British-Israelism movement emerged in Edward Hine. He gave the movement increasingly more exposure with his writings and lectures in England and in the United States. One of his most important teachings was pyramidism -- the presentation of which will appear in a later section. Even with its new leader, British-Israelism faced numerous challenges. Perhaps the most serious was the absence of organization. Barkun writes that British-Israelism's "diffusion depended largely on the chance acquaintance individuals made with its teachings" (Barkun: 20).

1928 marks a key point in the history of British-Israelism. In this year, Howard B. Rand became the National Commissioner of the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America, and his significance rests on his anti-Semitic teachings. For the first time in the movement's history, exclusionary hatred earned legitimacy ( Kossy ).

Barkun writes that while British-Israelism reached its peak in the 1920sin England, the Depression of the 1930s provided the movements best environment in the United States. The Anglo-Saxon Federation of America published a monthly magazine until 1969, and Rand's Editorial Letter Service of BI claimed 25,000 readers in 1983 (Barkun: 44).

Modern Movements

The Worldwide Church of God and Christian Identity are the fruits of British-Israelism. The former group is relatively benign, and has recently repudiated the key ideas of British-Israelism; the latter group has harnessed British-Israelism to support its racist and anti-Semitic doctrine.

The World Wide Church of God: At this point, it is appropriate to return to the topic of Millerism. Most Millerites after the Great Disappointment abandoned the teachings of William Miller, and rejoined their former churches. Others remained together, and earned the name Adventists because of their belief in the imminence of the second advent of Jesus ( Orr ).
Some scholars argue that British-Israelism entered the American Adventist movement -- from which the Worldwide Church of God developed. In 1927, American Adventist Herbert W. Armstrong became keenly interested in British-Israelism. By 1933, Armstrong had established the independent Eugene congregation in Oregon, which "became the parent of the Worldwide Church of God" ( Orr ). Along with other unorthodox doctrines, Armstrong and his congregation embraced British-Israelism. The Worldwide Church of God did not endorse anti-Semitism, nor racism.

Following the death of its founder, The Worldwide Church of God dropped British- Israelism and other unorthodox beliefs in 1995. The Church's officialweb page states: "We have worked hard to inform our own members about where we went wrong," and they apologize for having "taught...erroneous doctrines [like British-Israelism]."

Christian Identity: Howard Rand's explicit attempts to attach anti-Semitism to British- Israelism earned a following. In the middle of the 1940s, a Wesley Swift founded his ownchurch in Lancaster, California that taught British-Israelism. During these same years, "he was involved in an attempt to revive the Ku Klux Klan in Los Angeles" (Barkun: 64). Other churches that espoused British-Israelism with an application towards racial bias developed into the Identity movement. The Identity emphatically believes that the modern day Jews are of the House of Judah, while Anglo-Saxons are of the House of Israel. Themovement maintains that only the Anglo-Saxons, of the House of Israel, have a covenant with God, thereby inducing pro-white attitudes. Click here to access some horrifying examples of the radically racist and anti-Semitic teachingsof the Identity movement.


The grounds from which British-Israelism arise base themselves on the ancient history of Palestine. Historians know that the Babylonian-AssyrianEmpire sacked the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah during the 7th and 8th centuries BCE. Assyrian occupation lead to the expulsion of the ten northern tribes from their homelands in Israel. British-Israelism asserts that these ten tribes migrated from the middleeast to the British Isles, thereby establishing a direct lineage from the Jews of Israel to the present day British, Americans, and Canadians. Accordingto author and researcher Nick Greer, British-Israelites claim that when the daughters of King Zedikiah went to Europe to avoid Babylonian capture (as indicated by Jeremiah 43:4-7), the Throne of David became fixed in Ireland. This supposed transfer of the Throne, British-Israelism argues, established in Ireland a Jewish divine right. Furthermore, Greer writes, British-Israelism alleges that the lost tribes traveled across Europe before settling in Britain, and making Britain the "new Israel" ( Greer ). Writers of British-Israelism contend that the Stone of Scone, which the British use in the coronation of their kings and queens, is the same stonethat coronated King David in Israel.
The arguments that British-Israelites put forth to support their beliefs are varied. For instance, British-Israelites assert that many of the geographic names in Europe are Israeli by origin. British-Israelites suggest that Danube , Denmark , and Danzig are areas through whichthe tribe of Dan migrated ( Williams ). David Williamsalso writes, "By removing the letter "I" from Isaac, [British- Israelism] derives the word "saac" which combines with the word "son" to form "Saxon",i.e. "British" ( Williams ). Scholars refute the historical accuracy of these arguments. Popular opinion is that the ten tribes assimilated into the societies around them(click here for reasons).

Edward Hine incorporated the interesting belief of pyramidism into British-Israelism. This belief espouses that a divine source constructed the Great Pyramids of Egypt with its own superior form of measurement. Orr writes, "Pyramidologists claim that if one correctly interprets the measurements of the inner tunnels of the Great Pyramid of Giza one can know the future ( Orr ).For instance, the July 1907 edition of The Journal of the British-Israel Association in London contains an article about pyramidism that reveals the perceived significance of the mathematics that make up the Pyramids. Jane Simpson, the author of the article, writes, "the region in which granite reappears, after being wholly absent for an interval of near 2,900inches, (represents) the years during which the two houses of Israel and Judah have remained separate..." (Simpson: 12). Thus, British-Israelism views the pyramids as a tool through which people may understand God's will for the future.

The original attitude British-Israelites held towards Jews is not necessarily anti-Semitic. Most British-Israelites of the movement's early years viewed present day Jews as partners under their same God. They emphasized theneed of the reconciliation of all the tribes in Israel, including the tribes of Judah and Levy (whom British-Israelites presume to be Jews of the present day), for the Second Coming of Jesus. Anti-Semitism seems to have formally entered British-Israelism with Howard B. Rand. "One of Rand's accomplishments," according to Kossy, "seems to have been the sanitization of anti- Semitism by smoothly integrating it with Anglo-Israelite ideology" ( Kossy ). Rand stressed that those who called themselves Jews had intermarried with non-Jews under Babylonian rule, thereby sacrificing their heritage of being God's Chosen People ( Kossy ). Hatred groups, like the Christian Identity, have continued to draw from these unoriginal characteristics of British-Israelism.

It is important to recognize that British-Israelism does not aim to challenge the Hebrew and Christian bibles. Rather, British-Israelism is a Christian sectarian movement that holds the above distinctive beliefs in addition to those basic to Christianity.

Links to British-Israelism Web Sites

Anglo-Israelism;British Israelism; WorldWide Church of God
This site provides a brief history of British-Israelism, and is a good resource for information about the Worldwide Church of God. It discusses the Church's past and present doctrines. The site gives you access to anumber of related links, but not all of them work.
British Israel World Federation Home Page
Not a large site, but it provides valuable information about history, beliefs and membership.
British Israel World Federation

The Anglo Israelites

Access Donna Kossy's "The Anglo-Israelites" here. Also, you may find a fairly comprehensive history of British-Israelism. Special note of interest:it relates British- Israelism to Yahwism, which asserts that Yahweh is theparticular name of the God of Israel.


This site lists, and offers answers to, a series of popular questions about British-Israelism. The comments embrace the viewpoints of the Identity movement.

Lost Tribes of Israel

Read Ralph Orr's article here. He discusses the integration of British-Israelism with the Worldwide Church of God.

British-Israelism:An Expose

Find David William's article here. He briefly describes the concept of British- Israelism, and presents some popular arguments for it. Furthermore, he offers arguments that refute British-Israel claims.
British Israelism

The Identity Movement

This site presents the Identity movement, and it provides a useful list of present day related organizations.
The Identity Movement

RevivalFellowship Information Page

Access Nick Greer's "British Israelism and the Revival Centres" here. It offers information about the Revival Fellowship religious group in Australia. It represents the attitude of the counter-cult movement, and provides access to many relevant articles. This is a well constructed page -- it even has working sound bytes to offer.

Print Bibliography
Barkun, Michael. 1997.
Religion and the Racist Right. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press.

Boyer, Paul. 1991.
When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard Press.

Horsman, Reginald. 1981.
Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge: Harvard Press.

Kaplan, Jeffrey, ed. 2000.
Encyclopedia of Whilte Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right. Alta Mira PRess 585 pps.

Simpson, James. July, 1907.
The Covenant People: The Journal of the British-Israel Association. "Great Pyramid Papers."

Totten, Charles A. 1891.
Our Race: Its Origin and Destiny- A Series of Studies on the Saxon Riddle. New Haven: Our Race Publishing Company.

Footnote References
1. "How Anglo-Israelism Entered the Churches of God: A History of the Doctrine"
This article by Ralph Orr is located on a site entitled Lost Tribes of Israel . (Last visited: 12/15/98)

2. "The Anglo-Israelites"
This article by Donna Kossy is located on a site entitled The Anglo Israelites . (Last visited: 12/15/98)

3. "British Israelism and the Revival Centres"
This article by Nick Greer is located on a site entitled Revival Fellowship Information . (Last visited: 12/15/98)

4. "British Israelism- An Expose"
This article by David Williams is located in a site entitled British Israelism - An Expose . (Last visited: 12/15/98)
British Israelism

Source: University of Virginia Library