Monday, November 24, 2014

THE SEARCH FOR THE TEN LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL (6)

(Please scroll down to read parts 1-5)

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PHYSICAL AND ETHNIC DESCENDANTS OF ISRAEL?

Discovery Claims in Europe and the New World

The arrival to the Americas by the Europeans during the 16th century brought a whole new wave of claims of discovery of lost tribes.
        In the eyes of most of the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors in Central and South America, the natives already living in these places were either to be conquered and made subject to the rule of the conquistadors, or simply to be exterminated.  However, there were a few of the newly arrived Europeans who had a heart for the indigenous people and came to their defense.

 Lost Tribes in Central America

One of these was a missionary named Bartholeme de Las Casas, who worked among the natives of the Caribbean as well as those from the jungles of Peru, and especially among the Mayans of Mexico and Guatemala.  De Las Casas worked tirelessly on behalf of the indigenous peoples to try to convert them to Christianity, for, he said, “Their conversion is apt indeed, as I am convinced the Indians (Mayans) originate in Ancient Israel.  Indeed, I can bring proofs from the Bible that they are of the Lost Tribes” (I do not know if de Las Casas indeed did bring these proofs, as he called them, for I have not been able to find them documented.)

 Lost Tribes in Peru

In the middle of the 17th century, a Dutch Jewish scholar named Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel published a treatise in a book he called The Hope of Israel on the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, whom he said lived in the Americas.  Menasseh ben Israel was inspired to pursue this subject after hearing reports from the Portuguese traveler Antonio Montezinos who had been imprisoned by the Inquisition in Cartagena, Colombia.  Montezinos escaped from prison, and as he fled his imprisonment, he found his way to the Peruvian jungles where he claimed to have come in contact with the descendants of the Ten Tribes.

Christian Theologians at that time believed that when the Ten Tribes would be found, it meant that the tribes would be soon reunited and restored to the Promised Land and that the Second Coming of Christ would soon come.

In the year 1655, Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel referred to the report of Montezinos and others to appeal to this belief and to convince Oliver Cromwell of England that Cromwell could hasten the return of Christ by allowing the Jews to return to England, where they had not been allowed to live since the year 1290. In presenting his case to Cromwell, Menasseh ben Israel made an association between the Hebrew word for “the end of the Earth” and the medieval term for England, “Angle Terre,” which he then linked to Biblical texts concerning the scattering and salvation of the Ten Tribes ( as found, for example in Deuteronomy 28:64 and Isaiah 49:6).  This he did to try to demonstrate to Cromwell the importance of England in the plan of God.


Lost Tribes in Polynesia

Even to the present day, the teaching is common among the Mormon churches of the Pacific Islands that the original the Polynesian people are direct, blood descendants of Israel. Actually, they believe that all of the Americas were first inhabited by a tribe of Israel that they call the Laminites, but that these Laminites degenerated in their worship (I am not completely certain what the official present-day Mormon teaching of this is).

However, in 1911, a letter from the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, written to the Maoris of New Zealand, speaks specifically of the Polynesians and especially of the Maoris. Here we learn that the Mormon Church believed that the Polynesians were so blessed by God because, “The Lord … directed their course away from this continent [America] to their island homes [Polynesia], that they might not be left to be preyed upon and destroyed by the more wicked part of the House of Israel whose descendants still roam upon this continent in a fallen and degraded state.”

It was, and perhaps is still taught in many Mormon churches of the Pacific, that the original Polynesian people left the Americas to preserve the purity of their place with God. Again, I do not know for certainty that this is still the official teaching of the church, however, I do know that the belief is not unusual among many Pacific Islanders that they are direct literal and blood descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.

Lost Tribes in Europe and Judah in England

Entire books have been written tracing the resettlements of the Ten Tribes using local names as “evidence” and even “proof” that some of the tribes settled in certain areas.  Some of this evidence includes names such as the city of Danzig in Poland, and the Danube River given as a confirmation that these areas were settled by the Israelite tribe of Dan.

Then there are the claims of the British-Israeli movement, which teaches that the Royal line of England is actually the Davidic blood line, brought to England via Ireland. According to this teaching, the royal line was brought to England through the daughter of King Zedekiah, who was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah.

Along with the princess, Jeremiah also is said to have brought a three-hundred pound stone. For centuries, many of the monarchs of Ireland, Scotland, and England have received their crown as they sat in the coronation chair built above this this stone.  According to legend, this is the very stone which Jacob used as a pillow on the night that he dreamed the dream of angels ascending and descending the stairway at Bethel.

Although the story of how the stone came to be found in the British Isles is a very long one and has various versions, This Coronation Stone (also known as The Stone of Destiny, The Stone Lia Fail, or the Stone of Scone) had been placed in a special chair that had sat for many years in the Westminster Abbey.  The stone now has recently (1996) been moved to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

Lost Tribes in Japan and Ethiopia

Among other traditions is that a great many people strongly believe that the people of Japan are actually descendants of some of the Ten Lost Tribes and give some good reasons for their conclusions. Among these reasons are hundreds of words and names of places in Japan with no etymological relationship to the Japanese language, but which have similar meanings of the corresponding Hebrew words.

And, of course, there is the famous case of the Ethiopian Jews, the Falashas, or the Lemba, a southern African tribe who claim to be descended from the Jewish race and carry a very strong incidence of the same Y chromosome as the Jews of Israel.  These would not be related to the Ten Tribes, but to the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

Claims of links to the Ten Tribes range from Africa to Kashmir in India to China to the Americas and to all points in between. There are hundreds of claims, but the great majority of them that I have read seem simply too incredible for me to consider as being possibilities. But of course, the possibility does remain that some of these claims may have elements of actual fact.  It is just that there is no way that we can verify it. However, what we can see is the zeal with which some people have searched for the lost tribes.
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I have spent much more time on this than I should have, but I did it for a couple of reasons.  First, it is quite an interesting study, but a subject for which I doubt if I should ever devote an extended writing.  So, for interest’s sake, I had to include in these posts at least some of what I found.
        However, the second reason that I brought up some of these points is to demonstrate how a pre-conceived and rigid interpretation of a Biblical doctrine that is not completely revealed to us (such as eschatology), can lead not only to poor hermeneutics, but a poor interpretation of history.

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Next time, three covenants that God made with men, which in light of this subject, I think are important to understand

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