Anglo-Israelism (a.k.a. British Israelism and Christian Identity) began as the ravings of a "harmless madman" but today has thousands of adherents. The Anglo-Israelites of various persuasions, both in England and the United States, have at least one thing in common. They believe that the modern Anglo-Saxons are the direct descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and are therefore, "God's Chosen People." The variations on this belief, for the most part, seem to be divergent answers to the question of who, therefore, the present-day "Jews" are.
The above-mentioned "harmless madman," Richard Brothers (1757-1824), was born in Newfoundland and eventually joined the British Navy. When he discovered that his wife had been living with another man while he was at sea, he retired at half-pay and moved to London, at the age of 30. In 1794 Brothers, calling himself "Prince of the Hebrews and Nephew of the Almighty," published a two-volume work, A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times, which predicted that the millennium would begin on November 19, 1795, and he would personally lead the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel back to Jerusalem. The books were very popular and stimulated discussion and debate throughout England, and Brothers gained a following among its readers. Brothers had also proclaimed that as a descendent of King David he was the rightful heir to the British Throne. King George III was not amused; in March, 1795 Brothers was committed to a lunatic asylum. But this didn't keep his ideas from spreading to more "respectable" citizens. Brothers, who died a pauper, is considered by some outsiders to be the granddad of Anglo-Israelitish beliefs, though the adherents themselves deny his influence.
Anglo-Israelism might well have developed without Brothers, for the idea that England and Israel are intimately connected goes back at least to the 17th century. The more extreme English Puritans of that time believed they were God's Chosen People, the Old Testament Hebrews--reincarnated--and appropriately chose Biblical names for their children. In 1653, "Praisegod Barebone" and other members of Cromwell's "Little Parliament" replaced the English constitution with the Old Testament Laws of Moses. Cromwell told his parliament that God's message to Israel in the 68th Psalm was addressed to them; they were chosen by God to preside over the establishment of His rule on earth.
The Anglo-Israelites go much further than the Puritans, for their link with Israel is historical as well as spiritual. They regard the scholar John Wilson, who in 1840 published Our Israelitish Origin, as the true "Father of the Rediscovery of Israel." He was the first person to give the British obsession with Israel a "scientific" foundation. His theory was that the modern Europeans, particularly the Anglo-Saxons, are descended from certain Scythian tribes, who were in turn descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel. Several other scholars embraced his theories; it seems Wilson was not generally thought of as a crank. But it wasn't until after a certain Edward Hine discovered Wilson that his theories became the basis for a religious crusade.
Wilson, Hine and other Anglo-Israelites at that time were not anti-Semites. On the contrary, they saw the modern Jews as their brethren under the same almighty God. In fact, as soon as the rest of the British discovered their true identity as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, they would join the tribes of Judah and Levi (the Jews) in the Holy Land; the reunion of the 12 tribes was a precondition for the second coming of Jesus, which would soon follow. Later, those who hated Jews rationalized their feelings in altered versions of the original theory. Hine paved the way for combining Wilson's theory with extremely liberal interpretations of the Bible. In time, virtually any bigotry could be justified by identifying the hated group with the various enemies of Israel, such as Canaanites, Amorites, Assyrians and Jebusites.
Hine published Forty-Seven Identifications of the British Nation with the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel in 1874. Therein he correlated biblical Israel with the British Empire of his day. For example, the biblical prophet Jeremiah had visions in which The God of Israel spoke to his children, and told them that he would save their remnant and "bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth..." (Jeremiah 31:8). He beseeched them to "Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off..." (Jeremiah 31:10). These vague references to location, most likely put there by the authors to emphasize that the seed of Israel would be scattered far and wide, told an entirely different story to Hine. His novel interpretation was that latter-day Israel must be a nation that resides on islands located to the north of Palestine. Reading deeply into other biblical passages, he concluded that this nation would be in possession of a declining international empire whose peoples are physically and culturally distinct from the Jews. This nation, of course, was Britain.
Hine's movement was confined to the U.K. until he embarked, in 1884, on the world's first Anglo-Israelite mission, to North America. Hine's mission was to reveal the true identity of the (North) Americans; he tried to convince them that they were the descendants of the tribe of Manasseh. Hine gained some disciples, including General Winfield Scott Hancock, who had once almost become President of the United States. Hine also appealed to people who already had strange beliefs of their own. One such, Mr. Charles Latimer, a practitioner of dowsing, was publisher of the magazine, International Standard, which contained rants against the metric system, based on his studies of The Great Pyramid of Giza. Attempts, however, to convince Latimer to publish a British-Israelite magazine did not succeed.
Hine's mission had its ups and downs, but it eventually met with utter failure in Buffalo, New York. Hine attempted to spread the word among the population, mostly German and Polish immigrants, many of whom didn't even understand English. Those who did were understandably unmoved by the news that the Anglo-Saxons were God's Chosen People. Hine soon became destitute, returned home, and died three years later.
But the Anglo-Israelite seeds had already been planted.
By the 1920's, Howard B. Rand (1889-1991)--who would become Anglo-Israelism's foremost crusader on this side of the Atlantic--had become a convert. In 1928 he accepted the post of National Commissioner of the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America.
Prior to his involvement in Anglo-Israelism, Rand had been a lawyer, inventor and small businessman in his home town of Haverhill, Massachusetts; he was a solid citizen, and added a veneer of respectability to the Anglo-Israelite cause. His contribution to the literature was considerable; after a stint as crusader and lecturer on behalf of Anglo-Israelism during the 1930's, Rand settled into his role as publisher and writer for the movement. Destiny Publishers, which he began in 1937, is still printing hundreds of his books and pamphlets, as well as the newsletter Special Alert. Apparently, Rand made some effort to enter public service; in 1944, 1946, 1950 and 1952, Rand was the Prohibition Party candidate for Attorney General of Massachusetts.
One of Rand's accomplishments seems to have been the sanitization of anti-Semitism by smoothly integrating it with the Anglo-Israelite ideology. His account of the history of the Jews, based on the Old Testament, begins with the separation of the tribe of Judah, who resided in the Southern Kingdom, from the rest of Israel. The Northern Kingdom, or House of Israel, was overthrown and the Israelites were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians. Meanwhile the House of Judah was kept intact for 130 years, until decadence and rebellion compelled God to send the Babylonians to attack them. They were conquered and taken into captivity, and remained in Babylonia for 70 years. "It was at the time of the captivity of the Southern Kingdom that the term 'Jew' began to be used and it applied only to the remnant of Judah (II Kings 18:26; Jer. 41:3)." This "remnant" returned to Jerusalem and "the Nation of the Jews came into being." Therefore, the Jews are descended only from the Southern Kingdom of Judah and do not constitute the whole of Israel. Furthermore, "the remnant who returned to Palestine... intermarried with the Hittites and other Gentile people..." So the people referred to as Jews today are basically frauds if they claim to be the Israelites, God's Chosen People of the Bible.
Meanwhile, according to Rand, the rest of the Israelites who had been captured by the Assyrians began to migrate to the west, ending up in Europe, Scandinavia and the British Isles. They were now known as the Scutai, Sak-Geloths, Massagetae, Khumri, Cimmerians, Goths, Ostrogoths and Visigoths. It is implicit in various Destiny publications that these tribes, as opposed to the Judeans, managed to remain "intact." Though Rand never explains why the "pure" tribes changed their names, while "impure" Jews kept theirs. Be that as it may, the tribes lived in ignorance of their true identity for 2000 years. It wasn't until the end-times, which began in 1821 and will end in 2001, that "God's Kingdom people began to be identified with the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic and kindred peoples." In these latter days, the old "Gentile" order is in the process of disintegrating, and "will be replaced by the restoration of the Kingdom of God on the earth," with the Anglo-Israelites at the helm.
Most Anglo-Israelite literature takes the form of biblical interpretation; the evidence for identification between Britain and Israel is taken straight from the Bible. The Anglo-Israelites claim, however, that evidence comes not only from the Bible, but also from archaeology, heraldry, ethnology and philology. You might be surprised to find out that the word "SAXON" is actually derived from "SAAC'S SONS" which was derived from "ISAAC'S SONS." And "BRITISH" is from "BERITH-ISH" because in Hebrew, "BERITH" means "covenant," and "ISH" means "man," and therefore, "BRITISH" really means "MEN OF THE COVENANT." Try as you may, you'll never find this in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Rand's Destiny publications repeatedly claim that they do not disparage other races and that the Anglo-Saxons' status as the Chosen People is not a claim of superiority, but rather a "burden" and a "responsibility" and that the Anglo-Saxons were chosen for "special service." Despite protestations to the contrary, the literature is pervaded with sentiment against the Jews as well as arguments for racial segregation.
Rand is mild compared to those who see the Jews not as remnants of Judah, but as the offspring of various "wild tribes," most often the "Mongol Chazars." You won't find them in the Old Testament. R.H. Sawyer declares, in the booklet, The Jewish Question, that those who did descend from Judah disobeyed God and intermarried with Canaanites, Hittites, and other "inferior races."
A 1985 Destiny Publications booklet authored by "Wm. Norman Saxon" entitled The Mask of Edom, describes the world-wide Conspiracy to hide the false identity of the Jews and the true identity of the Israelites. The Jews are actually the progeny of Esau, the bad brother of Jacob--not Judah. Furthermore, these descendants of Esau intermarried with Hittites, and were joined by converts from the Edomites, Amalekites and Canaanites. "...these Shelanite-Jebusite Canaanites who returned to Jerusalem with the remnant of real Judaites from Babylon, and who took over and corrupted the nation of the Jews, were but a small part of the Babylonian conspirators who had palmed themselves off as the Diaspora or 'Dispersion of the Jews.'" Eventually, "Babylon became the real headquarters of Judaism. ... The Jews' masquerade as the LORD's chosen people is undoubtedly the greatest hoax in history. This is the basis of the anti-God conspiracy..."
Saxon's booklet pulls out all the stops when it comes to obsession with racial impurity. He goes much further than Rand did, but he doesn't go as far as Jonathan Ellsworth Perkins, however, who claims in Jesus Was Not a Jew that even Jesus was an Anglo-Saxon.
Howard B. Rand and his successors, despite their belief that they were God's Chosen, did not separate completely from society at large. Instead, they sought to make themselves and their views acceptable to mainstream Christians. I can't say that they succeeded in this. However, they were not usually perceived as members of a crazy cult.
On the other hand, Dr. Joseph Jeffers (1898-1988) and his flock--Jeffers currently directs his followers from the other side--variously named "Kingdom Temple," "Kingdom of Yahweh," and "Yahweh's New Kingdom" have never shied away from cultish practices, and on several occasions courted infamy. They subscribe to Anglo-Israelism, but also to "Yahwism," which holds that The Lord, God of Israel is not just plain "God," that He has a name, "Yahweh," that his son also had a name, "Yahoshua," and that Yahweh and his son are very particular that you address them by their names.
Jeffers, who began preaching Yahwism in the 1930's, claims to have been the first minister in America to do so. He points out, however, that he was not the founder of the Kingdom of Yahweh. "The Kingdom of Yahweh is not a new organization. It is the continuation of Yahweh's original Kingdom, which was covenanted with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; later continued by David and Solomon. After becoming disorganized under the reign of Solomon's sons, Jereboam and Rheaboam, it was re-established when the Master of Justice, or Messiah, was born. Toward the end of his lifetime, Yahweh then promised that in the 'end of the Age' or aeon, or approximately 2068 years, His Kingdom would be re-established again. I believe that the 20th Century is the END OF THE AGE."
Jeffers fancied himself a prophet, a distinction that he alone carried because he alone was on a first-name basis with the creator. "The preachers today have lost the art of prophecy because they have lost contact with YAHWEH. They preach in the names of Baal. How can the blind lead the blind? In the Old Testament alone, the translators were guilty 6,823 times of forgery, whey they substituted 'The Lord' and 'God' for the proper and sacred Name of YAHWEH. In Genesis alone, the personal Name YAHWEH occurs 156 times." He claimed to have a 98% accuracy rate on his predictions; in July of 1962, he had predicted the assassination of President Kennedy, only one of his many dire predictions. "Nearly four years before it took place, we predicted the day and hour that Hitler would come into power. ... For years we have given the weather-conditions all over the country. We have told of droughts, floods, famine, hurricanes and earthquakes, and we have told where they would take place. ... The late Dr. Helene Jeffers announced the coming assassination of Mahatma Gandhi six months before it happened. ..." They did not boast, however, their prediction that Florida would become a desert (see below).
Jeffers, like fellow Anglo-Israelites, taught that various odd groups--including Native Americans--are direct descendants of the Hebrews. His tract, "The Indians worshipped Yahweh," and the book it is based on--a 1775 English book by James Adair entitled The History of the American Indians--contain very good examples of the kind of logic involved in arguing the Anglo-Israelite case:
... We know from what Yahweh has told us that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel actually did not disappear, but became the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian and kindred peoples. The Tribe of Dan, for instance, left its mark wherever it went. For example, DANmark, DarDANelles, DANube, LonDAN, SweDAN, etc. were all named by the people of the tribe of Dan.Adair had lived with American Indians and, like many in his day, interpreted their practices in the only manner they knew: biblically.
Many other peoples descended from the Hebrews. ... The Japanese and Chinese, Yahweh says, actually came from the sons and daughters of Lot. ...When Eve seduced Adam, she gave birth to a white child who took a wife from neighboring people. They, in turn, had offspring who left the tribes of Yahweh because they knew they were different and they started out for another land. They journeyed and settled where the Americas are today. ...
As the Israelites were divided into TRIBES, and had chiefs over them, so the Indians divided themselves: each tribe forms a little community within the nation--and as the nation hath its particular symbol, so hath each tribe the badge from which it is denominated...If Jeffers' teachings were somewhat bizarre, his career was even more so. He was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1918, but began as a "pulpit clown," with a natural flair for theatrics. He later became a charismatic evangelist, travelling widely and always attracting attention; during one of his tours he was shot at, and during another his evangelical tents were set on fire. As if this wasn't enough, a killing occurred which police attributed to an emotional upset following one of his meetings. Jeffers no doubt had intimations that he was destined for higher things.
By a strict, permanent, divine precept, the Hebrew nation were ordered to worship at Jerusalem, the true and living God, and who by the Indians is styled "Yohewah'...
In 1935 Jeffers broke with the Baptists and formed Kingdom Temple, Inc. in California, and began his career as a prophet. During the 1930's and 40's he was accused of pro-Nazi sentiments and prophecies. He and his wife Joy honeymooned in Europe and were entertained "for some time" in Berlin. The American Weekly reported that "[Jeffers] went along in a taxi as a spectator when the Nazi legions invaded Czechoslovakia."
In 1943 Jeffers, in effect, announced that he was "the Christ." Though married, he sought to fulfill prophecy--as well as his yen for pretty young women--by taking follower Helen Veborg to the desert to become the mother of his "sacred child." But rather than Arizona or New Mexico, the couple and their followers chose Florida as the destination of their desert pilgrimage. Jeffers explained later, in court, that a drought was soon to transform Florida into a desert. Meanwhile Joy, the unhappy wife, was not far behind. She followed them to Florida and sued for divorce. The American Weekly reports that she won the divorce, and was awarded the family car, "a raky eight-cylinder job which had been converted to butane and was referred to by the papers as the Golden Chariot of Kingdom Come." Nonetheless, Jeffers and his followers were directed, from heaven, to "join with the chariot." They followed this Godly advice, and stole the car. Heaven did not intervene however, when Jeffers was convicted of the theft and was handed a four-year prison sentence.
While in prison, Jeffers' 5,000 followers had paid $60,000 for a 32-room mansion with five chauffeur-driven cars and a house full of servants, believing him to be the "Son of the Creator." After being released, Jeffers violated his parole, and, despite his divine status, had to serve more time in prison.
The flock did eventually end up in a bona fide desert. They settled down in Arizona, and today reside there under the name "Yahweh's New Kingdom," despite Jeffers' earthly demise in 1988. The October, 1992 issue of "Kingdom Voice" contains messages from Yahweh, documentation on Yahweh's name and items about the End Times. The Yahwists are true survivors; they roll with the times. Their Anglo-Israelite and Yahwist teachings are now supplemented by New Age health tips, "Secrets About Yahweh's Spaceships" and "Secrets About Lost Civilizations."
Most of their doctrine remains the same, and channeled messages from Yahweh continue to implore people to "GET OFF THE COASTS." Yahweh has stated that "New York City will be completely destroyed, as well as Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco!" For Judgment day is at hand, as it has been for the past two millennia.
Anglo-Israelism, Christian Identity, and Yahwism aren't exactly household words, but recently the concepts--somewhat garbled by reporters attempting to explain them in 20 words or less--were thrust into public consciousness. In August of 1992, there was a shootout between Randy Weaver, a self-described white separatist, and Federal Agents attempting to arrest him for Federal weapons violations. Weaver is reported to be an Anglo-Israelite and a Yahwist. With the help of Yahweh, Weaver held the federal agents and their "New World Order" at bay for over a week. In the meantime, his belief that he was fighting off evil "Zionist Occupational Government" (ZOG) robots was fueled by their irresponsible behavior.
Weaver was wanted for skipping bail on a weapons charge, but was treated as though he was a baby killer; during the shootout, Weaver's wife and son were mercilessly killed by the agents. No doubt the white separatists gained some new converts that day.
Weaver's supporters see the siege of his cabin as only the beginning of a holy war between God's Chosen (white separatists) and the dreaded Zionist Occupational Government. Soon Federal troops will be back to attempt to force them to accept the Mark of the Beast, a computer chip planted in the brain or on the hand. But through their faith in Great White Yahweh, they will resist the Mark of the Beast, and will be saved by Yahoshua (Jesus) when he returns in a fury.
Weaver and his ilk represent a new phase in Anglo-Israelism. God's Chosen are no longer content to merely wait for their savior; they must be ready at all times to take action. For the White Supremacists, Christian Identity is merely an adjunct used to rationalize their firmly held beliefs in white superiority. Earlier Anglo-Israelites of various persuasions had used the ideology largely for the same reason, but with a bit more subtlety. They forged historical and genetic links between the Anglo-Saxons and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, thus "proving" that they were God's Chosen People, but they didn't take the argument to its logical conclusion. The milder Christian Identity preachers might wish to disassociate themselves from the White Supremacist variety, but at bottom, their message is the same.
Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religions. Wilmington, NC: McGrath Publishing Company, 1978.
Michell, John. Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1984; "Jews, Britons and the Lost Tribes of Israel," pp. 163-177.
Roy, Ralph Lord. Apostles of Discord. Boston: Beacon Press, 1953.
Saxon, Wm. Norman. The Mask of Edom. Merrimac, MA: Destiny Publishers, 1985.
© 1995, Donna Kossy