Catholics on the Lost tribes

Catholic Answers Magazine

What Lost Tribes?” you might ask. Why, the Lost Tribes of Israel, of course. You remember them: taken away by their Assyrian conquerors, roaming from here to there, finally settling in . . .
Well, maybe we shouldn’t get ahead of the story. Come to think of it, maybe we have no choice, since the booklet under review, “The United States and Britain in Prophecy,” gives away the answer in its title. Yes, according to the author, Herbert W. Armstrong, the Lost Tribes of Israel are none other than the British and Americans of British descent.

Armstrong first published this booklet in 1954. It was reprinted in 1987, a year after Armstrong’s death, by the religious organization he founded, the Worldwide Church of God, which is making a comeback from a series of scandals that rocked it in the late seventies and early eighties.

You might recall the excommunication of Armstrong’s son and heir apparent, Garner Ted Armstrong, who was given the boot because of his philandering and who promptly went out and started his own church, the Church of God, International.

You might even recall that financial troubles forced the Worldwide Church of God to sell off many of its properties and that 35 dissident ministers broke off to form their own church, alleging financial irregularities by both Armstrongs.

But we’re not giving an overview of the Worldwide Church of God in this tract. We’re just looking at one of the chief doctrines of this church, what is commonly called British Israelism, the idea that the Lost Tribes of Israel are really the descendants of Anglo-Saxons, which is to say the British and Americans whose ethnic origins are found in Britain.

This beguiling doctrine had been around for decades before Herbert W. Armstrong founded his church in 1933, and it appeals, naturally enough, to those of British heritage. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a member of the chosen nation (assuming there is one)? And that, in Armstrongism, is precisely what the Anglo-Saxons are—God’s chosen nation, where can be found the direct descendant of David and, even today, David’s throne.

The United States and Britain in Prophecy opens with this epigraph: “The prophecies of the Bible have been grievously misunderstood. And no wonder! For the vital key, needed to unlock prophetic doors to understanding, had become lost. That key is a definite knowledge of the true identity of the American and British peoples in biblical prophecy.”

Only the first sentence of this epigraph is strictly correct, and a good share of the grievous misunderstanding is by people who swallow the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong.