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Are the Celts the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel?

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Question #1:  In your comments about the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel you wrote:

"There is one more point which should probably be mentioned here. In the past century, a number of groups have tried to make the claim that various other peoples (usually Anglo-Saxons) are really the "ten lost tribes" and so "the true Israel". This fantasy has no historical or scriptural basis and has been a dangerous jumping off point for all sorts of false doctrines."

I'd like to start off by saying that I'm not a British-Israelite. Much of the criticism leveled against them is warranted - but not all. I form my own conclusions. You claim that there is "...no historical or scriptural basis..." for this belief. However it's a "historical" fact that there were three large Celtic tribes living in modern-day Turkey during the time of Peter & Paul's ministries. These are the people whom Peter addresses writing to the Galatians wrote: "But ye are a chosen generation, ["Chosen Race" in the Gk.] . . .". Peter is quoting Hosea verbatim while addressing Celts, so these Celts must be the part of the lost ten tribes. That's also why he calls them "...the Exiles of the Dispersion" (1Pet.1:1). This is a strange comment to make to Celts - unless they are from the lost ten tribes.  

Response #1:  A couple of observations.

1) Peters comments to the believers throughout Asia Minor (among whom the Galatians are only one element) are part of the Word of God. His remarks that they are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" are applicable to us all, all believers, and not just to these particular people (as is true for the rest of the book as well).

2) Therefore I stand by statement that "This fantasy [of the ten lost tribes] has no historical or scriptural basis". The linguistic argument alone is one which cannot be easily refuted. If the Galatians or Celts or any other Indo-European group were actually the ten lost tribes, then how is it that they stopped speaking Hebrew and started speaking Celtic (for according to your argument it is not that they joined in with Celts, but that they are the Celts)? It is true that displaced groups often do put aside their mother tongue, but only when they are assimilated into another larger group (in which case they either come to lose their genetic and cultural identity as well, or else are clearly identifiable as a sub-culture within the larger group). There is absolutely no indication of this within the Celtic peoples, so that on this basis alone it is clear that there is no way that all or even most of the Galatians could have been Jewish (let alone the Celts as a whole).

3) It is indeed incumbent upon us all to form our own conclusions, but we are also responsible for the conclusions we form. I say this in Christian love, for the false doctrine of the ten lost tribes is, from a spiritual point of view, extremely dangerous to Christian faith. That is so because

    a) it puts the emphasis of the Christian life upon genealogy and pedigree rather than where it should be: faith and faithful service to Jesus Christ no matter who our ancestors may be; and

    b) it is virtually impossible to embrace without falling into anti-Semitism, and there are few false doctrines as devastating as this to the Christian's spiritual health. Anti-Semitism is at its core antithetical to discipleship to Christ, and by attributing Jewish-ness to those who are not Jewish, one inevitably calls into question the Jewish-ness of those who truly are Jewish (a mind-set from which hostility is never far away; see the link: Anti-Semitism).

Our Lord Jesus, a Jew, came to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel", and in doing so He came to the land of Israel, not to Galatia.

Yours in the God of all truth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the true Messiah.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

I understand what you're saying, however, some of the terminology Peter uses in his epistle are not applicable to the Church. The Church is not a "chosen race" but made up of all races and the Church is not a nation but made up of members of all nations. Moreover, the Church cannot be described as "Exiles of the Dispersion." Paul could not have addressed the Church at Rome in the same manner as Peter addressed the Galatians because the terms used did not fit Romans historically or racially. Peter is not using Church terms in his epistle but national terms. The Romans were not "Exile of the Dispersion" they were not a "chosen race," etc.

Judah was taken to Babylon speaking Hebrew and returned 70 years later speaking Aramaic. Israel was in exile ten times longer than Judah up until the time the Gospel was given to them. I don't know what language the Celts spoke but, it seems, Peter & Paul had no trouble communicating with them. No doubt their letters were written in Greek.

As to antisemitism, I can assure you of my bona fides as a lover of Israel and of the Jewish people. That is not what this is about. The 10 tribes of the northern kingdom were never referred to as Jew's anywhere in the Bible. "Jew" is a cognate of "Judah." You have to be from the tribe of Judah in order to be called a Jew. The ten tribes were not from the tribe of Judah, therefore, can not be referred to as Jews. The belief that the Jew's of today represent all 12 tribes is predominately, almost exclusively, a Christian doctrine. This concept is virtually unknown among Jewish scholarship---for the past 2500 years! If you believe that the Jew's of today represent all 12 tribes try and find a Rabbi or Jewish historian who will agree with you---you won't be able to find one. I still can't figure out this mystery, why some Christians tenaciously maintain the notion that the Jew's represent all 12 tribes and Jew's themselves maintain that they only represent 2 tribes. From 2 Esdras to Josephus to the modern day scholarship, all Jewish authorities maintain the conviction that they are but 2 tribes. You're using a "straw man" argument here.

Response #2: 

On the contrary, the true Church is indeed a "chosen race" in the sense Peter is using it here - in Christ there are no longer any Greeks or Jews, for we are all one (Gal.3:27-28; cf. Rom.10:12; 1Cor.12:13). We have all put on Christ and so have all become Abraham's seed (Gal.3:29). Ultimately, the entire "Church", a concept misunderstood by many (it has nothing to do with buildings, organizations or denominations), will be subsumed into Israel (see the links: Israel the ultimate measure; and The uniqueness of Israel).

In order to receive a fair hearing for your hypothesis, the linguistic argument must still be addressed first. To wit, it must be explained how the ten tribes went from speaking Hebrew, to Aramaic, to Greek, and how Celtic fits into this paradigm (the language/language group exclusively spoken as the mother tongue by Celts from central Europe to Ireland before the Germanic and Roman invasions).

I am greatly relieved to hear that you are in no way an anti-Semitic and are, to the contrary, a lover of Israel. However, I must stand by previous statement which is not a straw-man argument nor even an argument at all but a sober warning based upon historical precedents that the identification of the ten-tribes as different from present day Jews inevitably has as its flip-side the implication that present day Jews are not true Israel. Though you personally may not use it in this way, it has, is, and will in the future (from my reading of prophecy) continue to be a tool used against Jews by those who mean them harm. Hence my caveat.

In the first place, the Assyrian exile was not total. There were many survivors from the ten tribes who remained in the land (see 2Chron.30, especially verse 6). And as to the fact that the ten tribes continued to be represented in southern kingdom of Judah (and so are represented in the gene pool of those today who identify themselves as Jewish), we are assured by the Bible (2Chron.11:13-17; cf. 1Chron.9:3; 2Chron.10:17; 15:9; and chapter 34 passim; cf. also Luke 2:36). Therefore the ten tribes have never really been "lost". Many of their number perished, but the same happened to the southern kingdom during the Babylonian conquest, and again after the Roman conquest, and yet God has still had no problem multiplying the biological seed of Abraham "like the sand on the seashore", and will do so beyond our imagination after the regathering of Israel at Christ's return.

You have probably already read these, but here are two other e-mail response links on this question just in case:

        Who are the ten lost tribes of Israel?

        Who is true Israel?

Some Jewish Issues

Yours in Him in whom all are Abraham's offspring, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

As I mentioned before, your position contradicts 25 centuries of Jewish thought on this subject. And that's something you really need to address and possibly do an article on in the future. If someone sent me an email telling me that my position on Jewish history contradicted 25 centuries of Jewish scholarship I would investigate the issue posthaste. I happen to side with Jewish scholarship on this issue...as do many other mainstream Christians by the way.

Examples:

Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus writes that "the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [to which the Assyrians deported them]; wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the 10 tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (Book 11, Chapter V, Section 2).

And:

Esdras 13:40 reads: "Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so they came into another land. (41) But they took this council among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into another country, [2 Sam. 7:10] where never mankind dwelt, (42) That they might keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land."

Two things to consider:

"Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they might dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime." 2 Sam. 7:10. Nathan gave this prophecy to David while Israel was enjoying its greatest geographical expanse. Nathan was not referring to land of Israel in this prophecy. This ties in with what Jacob told Joseph on his death bed in Egypt: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branched run over the wall." Gen. 49:22. The term "branches run over the wall" means the sons of Joseph would migrate---it was never God's plan that all the tribes would remain in the land of Israel, but migrate to other parts of the world. Josephus and Esdras are confirming what the Bible predicted. They're confirming 2 Sam. 7:10 and Gen. 49:22.

Hosea said that Israel "...shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered ..." Josephus, writing some 800 years later said: "...the 10 tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers." Josephus is only confirming what Hosea predicted.

However, you need not address all these issues, but I would like to know why you disagree with them? In my opinion who, better that the Jews themselves, would know what tribes they represent? If the Jews, for the past 25 centuries, are in error over the issue of the 10 tribes please explain why. And I'll tell you why I'd like to know. In the 1000s of hours I've spent on the web seeking answers to a variety of questions, I've never found an answer to this one: Why Christian and Jewish scholarship differ on the issue of what tribes represent the Jews of today.

Response #3: 

The section in "Coming Tribulation: part 2B" on the 144,000 of Revelation chapter 7 has a direct bearing on this issue (see the link: the 144,000).  For the 144,000 will know that they are Jewish, and so will everyone else - and they do come from every tribe except Dan (see part 3B on the exclusion of Dan).

The differences in our respective methodologies are beginning to clarify. In my capacity as a classicist and ancient historian, I evaluate works such as the ones you quote purely on the philological merits. In this regard I would be skeptical of placing much faith in either (Josephus in particular is highly overrated). In my capacity as a teacher of the Bible, I would note that neither Esdras nor Josephus are inspired works. The question of the ten tribes is both a historical question and a biblical stumbling block. As one who has always been interested in ancient history and publishes in the field, I have an academic interest in all such questions. As one who is attempting to minister the Word of God through this website and as a believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible is the one standard to which I adhere.

Viewed as a secular, historical question, your appeal to extra-biblical literary sources, traditions, archaeology, linguistics, etc., is certainly legitimate, but your hypothesis must then of course stand the test of academic scrutiny. Viewed as a biblical question, the spirit in which I entertain all inquiries to this site, it is my method - the only valid orthodox method, in my view - to utilize such materials only to the extent that they may illuminate our understanding of what the Bible actually says, and to strenuously avoid influencing the Bible's loud and clear voice through the introduction of anything extraneous (1Cor.4:6). This is expressly stated in scripture as the correct procedure for genealogical matters (1Tim.1:4; Tit.3:9).

It is all too common for contemporary so-called Bible teachers and Christian media to indulge in innumerable extra-biblical speculations, but Ichthys is all about keeping the focus on the scriptures. In my view, the Bible answers this question of the ten tribes sufficiently, and I have done my best to set forth my understanding of what it says in this regard. Even were your Celtic-hypothesis true (and my linguistic and historical reservations are profound), I am not sure what difference it would make to the revealed eschatology of scripture. For even though there may well be many people in the world with Jewish genes who do not know it. And if they do not know it, do not accept it, do not practice Judaism in any form, and do not have any discernible living tradition of Judaism, then, as far as I can see from the prophecies contained in the Bible, it will, for all practical purposes, be just as if they had no Jewish genes - until our Lord returns. In other words, any real difference there may be as a result of this hypothesis being "a reality" will be hidden in the mysteries of God until He reveals all things.

For the persecution of Israel by antichrist will be against "visible Israel" and the 144,000 (see above) will be "obvious Jews" who will minister to "those who are clear to all the world as Jews", so that, as I say, until our Lord returns, any non-obvious Jews will have the status of gentiles at least as far as prophetic events that precede the Second Advent are concerned. Since that event is coterminous with the resurrection of all true believers in Jesus Christ (Jew and gentile alike regardless of their genealogical knowledge), it seems to me that this question of the ten tribes can have little positive impact upon the faith and practice of the community of true believers in Jesus.

On the other hand, even beyond its historical and possible future liabilities mentioned in our previous correspondence, I can certainly imagine additional potential harm for those who assume they are Jewish when they are not. It seems to me not only a far safer course but a biblical one to heed the words of the apostles and accept the removal of the barrier between us so as to embrace our spiritual one-ness in our dear Lord Jesus Christ rather than to make an issue of our respective pedigrees.

In Him who has broken down the middle wall of partition between us, the Lord and Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Bob L.


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