Sunday, May 10, 2009

Exploring Anglo-Israelism, Part 3: What Can Genetic Evidence Tell Us?

This is the third in a series of articles in response to a particular issue discussed in a book called Preach the Gospel. This issue is British-Israelism. This is the doctrine or belief that the British nation together with its Commonwealth of Nations and the United States constitute the lost ten tribes of Israel (of at least a portion thereof). This is an intriguing proposition, but I have some reservations about accepting this teaching. I have only read the first chapter of the book, so the author may have already addressed some of these reservations.

The answer to the question “What Can Genetic Evidence Tell Us?” is a lot. This should give conclusive proof one way or another as to the answer to question of British-Israelism. Certain genetic markers can clearly mark one as being of Mediterranean origin.

First let’s consider the Y-chromosome. This is passed on, intact, from father to son. The reason why this is better to use than other chromosomes is because of “chromosome crossover”. This means that a typical chromosome can be “mixed”, that is it contains some DNA inherited from each parent. But the Y-chromosome does not “crossover”. Its entire genetic content is inherited from the father only—it is an exact copy of the father’s DNA. But the reason why every human male doesn’t have the exact same Y-chromosome DNA is because of mutations. We call these mutations markers because they can show how closely two human males are related.

Secondly the mDNA is not chromosomal DNA, but is contained in the mitochondria, an organelle located in the cytoplasm. It is passed in tact from a mother to her children (except in rare cases). Like the Y-chromosome, mutations can accumulate in this DNA. Thus, this is another reliable way to determine the ancestry of individuals.

There is a Y-chromosome marker that is not only specific to the Jews (or Israel), but it is also specific to the Cohanim. They are those of the priestly order, by tradition the descendants of Aaron. This Levitical priesthood is passed from father to son only. This Cohen marker has shown up in a few groups, such as the Lemba and the Marathi-speaking Bene Israel, who claimed to be Jews separated from the main group during the various dispersions. I haven’t seen any concrete evidence that the Anglo-Saxon people have any prominent Mediterranean markers and particularly not this Cohen marker. If the believers in this teaching have such evidence, why haven’t they produced it? Surely if it has been highly reported in certain groups, if it were prominent in the Anglo-Saxon race, then this would also have been reported. This same evidence disproves the Book of Mormon teaching that Native Americans are of Jewish descent. I do not believe in British-Israelism.

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Exploring Anglo-Israelism, Part 2: Where are the Lost Ten Tribes?

This is the second in a series of articles in response to a particular issue discussed in a book called Preach the Gospel. This issue is British-Israelism. This is the doctrine or belief that the British nation together with its Commonwealth of Nations and the United States constitute the lost ten tribes of Israel (of at least a portion thereof). This is an intriguing proposition, but I have some reservations about accepting this teaching. I have only read the first chapter of the book, so the author may have already addressed some of these reservations.

My first inclination is to say that the lost ten tribes aren’t really lost. I think that the Samaritans, though they were intermarried with other races, were at least a major portion of the descendants of the northern kingdom of Israel. And there were descendants of the lost ten tribes in Judea at the time of Christ (Luke 2:36).

In 1 Chronicles 9:1-3 we read:

So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies; and, behold, they were written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, who were carried away to Babylon for their transgression. Now the first inhabitants that dwelt in their possessions in their cities were, the Israelites, the priests, Levites, and the Nethinims. And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh.

So this is definite proof that at least a portion of the “lost” ten tribes returned to Israel as they were supposed to, according to the Scriptures.

But what about the promise that there would always be a son of David on the throne in Israel? Well, for one thing, the British throne is not in Israel. For another thing, the One being referred to here is obviously Jesus Christ. This is proven by Hosea 13:9-11 which says, “I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?” See also Hosea 3:4-5.

Some British-Israelists say that the kings of England are descended from Zedekiah. But Jeremiah 22:28-30 says, “Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Therefore any descendants of Jeconiah (Coniah), the father of Zedekiah can’t be the ones which fulfill the prophecy concerning the everlasting throne of David. The reference to him being “childless” obviously means that his line has come to an end. Jesus was not a descendant of Zedekiah (see Matthew 1 and Luke 3).

Read more here. Click here to go on to the next article in this series.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Exploring Anglo-Israelism, Part 1: Seven Times Curse

This is first of a series of articles in response to a particular issue discussed in a book called Preach the Gospel. This issue is British Israelism. This is the doctrine or belief that the British nation together with its Commonwealth of Nations and the United States constitute the lost ten tribes of Israel (of at least a portion thereof). This is an intriguing proposition, but I have some reservations about accepting this teaching. I have only read the first chapter of the book, so the author may have already addressed some of these reservations.

The first issue is the prophecy of the 2520 years. The author mentioned that it had to do with the “seven times curse” mentioned in Leviticus 26:14-39. 2520 = 360 x 7. But where does the 360 come from? Ezekiel 4:5 says that the punishment for Israel is 390 days (the fact that days symbolize years is clearly explained in the context), not 360. This adds an extra 210 years, which (if you count from 720 B.C. as Mr. Armstrong suggests), puts the fulfillment of the prophecy at about right now!

OK, I know how another assumption goes into this, but I’m skeptical because I think that the above interpretation may be equally valid. The extra assumption is that first, God will decree a certain number of years of punishment (captivity—note the transition between verses 17 and 18 in Leviticus 26), God will bring them back into the land (?), and then if Israel does not repent, then the REMAINING years of the decreed punishment will be multiplied by seven. The other assumption is that the punishment for Israel (390 years) and Judah (40 years) are lumped together in the calculation. (The significance of the figure 430 years is that this was the period of time that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt.) So, since the Babylonian captivity was seventy years (2 Chronicles 36:21, Daniel 9:2), we have 430-70 = 360. So that is, I think, how Mr. Armstrong arrived at the answer, but it took me a while to figure this out. To me, it wasn’t the most natural interpretation of the prophecy. I wouldn’t have even thought of it if hadn’t been for a third interpretation which I have heard of.

This third interpretation of the prophecy is even more intriguing to me. This one is attributed to television evangelist/eschatologist Grant Jeffrey. Like Armstrong’s interpretation, Jeffrey lumps the 390 and 40 years together and subtracts 70. But unlike Armstrong, Jeffrey counts off the 2520 years starting at the RETURN of the Judahites from the Babylonian captivity, not the time that the northern kingdom of Israel entered into captivity. There is also another big difference. Jeffrey uses a 360 day year in his calculation. So you must multiply 2520 by 360 and count off the number of days. Jeffrey claims that if you do this, the date comes out to be May 15, 1948 which is the EXACT DAY that the modern state of Israel of gained its independence and became a nation again. I haven’t done the necessary research to verify the exactness of this calculation, but it is at least correct to within a year.

I think that this interpretation, though it is hard to arrive at, is much more compelling than Mr. Armstrong’s (if it is in fact, really that accurate). It also seems to make more sense. Why would you subtract 70 years (606-536 B.C.) from the 430, and then go back and start counting the remaining years (times seven) at 720 B.C.? You are then recounting Judahite captivity years again! The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the same thing, but they count from 606 B.C. to get 1914.

Secondly, the prophecy in Leviticus 26:14-39 clearly indicates that the “seven times punishment” would occur after a period of punishment. Notice that it says “they that hate you shall reign over you” as being part of the punishment. Though England became prominent in the early 1800s, they were not ruled over by peoples that hated them up until that time the way that the Israelites were up until the time that the modern Israelite nation was reborn.

Thirdly, prophecies concerning this national rebirth are much more prominent in Scripture than any prophecy concerning other nations coming from Ephraim or Manasseh. These prophecies state that the people would return to the land God promised them which is modern day Israel.

Fourthly, the obvious connection to the 430 years of bondage in Egypt fits more with those who are widely accepted as descendents of Israel, not the Anglo-Saxons. Armstrong’s interpretation has no exactness to it that I can see, but even the exactness of the prophecy has significance with the figure 430. Exodus 12:40-41 indicates that 430 years is an exact figure to the very day. Also the fact that the 430 years ended with a return to the land of Canaan fits with Jeffery’s interpretation better than Armstrong’s, because the British did not move back to Israel at that time.

In conclusion, even as good as Jeffrey’s interpretation is, I am still skeptical even of it. Part of it is based on the idea of a 30 day month and 12 month year. But I thought that a month was a cycle of the moon (not quite 30 days) and that the extra days were lumped into a thirteenth month, so that a year was more or less an exact year, not 360 days. (But I’m willing to be proven wrong about this.) Without this assumption, you get 1985 instead of 1948. And as I have said, I haven’t yet verified the exactness of the prophecy. Neither of the two interpretations explain why the 430 is divided up into 390 for Israel and 40 for Judah. It seems more logical that it would be divided up into 360 and 70, even though 40 is a number that is quite often associated with punishment. (But I similarly don’t know why the first 69 of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:20-27 are divided up into 7 and 62 either.) It also seems more logical that the two figures would represent separate (conditional) punishments for each group and that the multiplication by seven would be of each of the two figures separately. And the idea that the intensity of the punishment, rather than the length, is what is being multiplied also seems like a more natural interpretation. Finally, even if Jeffrey’s interpretation of this prophecy is right, that doesn’t necessarily disprove British-Israelism. But with so many valid interpretations of a prophecy, it seems like it has much less apologetic value than more straightforward prophecies, such as those which plainly state a return to Israel and rebirth of the nation. Take everything with a grain of salt. The series continues here.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Pre-Adamite Creationism and the Age of the Earth

Not all creationists are young earth creationists. There are two types of old earth creationists: the pre-Adamites and what I call the Long Agers. Some theistic evolutionists believe in the pre-Adamite theory and/or Long Age theory, but for purposes of this piece, I will consider these terms to refer to creationists only. (And by creationist I mean someone who believes that God created the “kinds” mentioned in Genesis 1 [including man] separately, so that they don’t have a common ancestor with any other “kind” and that these are the only “kinds” that exist today.) By the “Long Age theory” I mean the popular theory that some or all of the six days were long ages of millions or even billions of years. The pre-Adamite theory is different than this.

Like the Long Age theory, the pre-Adamite theory is an attempt to (partially) reconcile the Bible with an evolutionist’s version of the fossil record and radiometric dating methods. It gives the creationist less territory to defend without trivializing sin by giving up the concept that God did not make the world a place of disease, death, and suffering.

The pre-Adamite theory starts with the assumption that there was a long (unmentioned and indefinite) age in between Genesis 1:1 and verse two. This is what young earth creationists call the “gap theory”. Unlike some theistic evolutionists, however, the pre-Adamite does not believe that living things were macro-evolving during that time, or at least not into what we see today. But Satan was cast out (to the earth) during this time and reeked havoc there. They believe that God made the earth and the creatures within it perfect in the beginning, but Satan’s rebellion (not Adam’s sin) resulted in the deaths of animals which can be seen in the fossil record. Then God wiped out any remaining life and started all over again with the new creation which starts in Genesis 1:2. Some pre-Adamites even believe that God even created human beings in the pre-Adamite age.

But the only Biblical argument for this theory that I have heard is that God did not create the earth “without form” (see verse 2) because the phrase “in vain” in Isaiah 45:18 is the same Hebrew word as “without form” in Genesis 1:2. Even if I were to concede that God did not create the earth “without form”, there is no biblical or scientific proof that it didn’t become that way within a day.

The idea of men being created before Adam is contradicted by 1 Corinthians 15:45 which calls him “the first man”. Furthermore, Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” This contradicts the idea that Satan, in a sinful state, entered the earth and caused death before Adam.

The very fact that God names the Day and Night in Genesis 1:5 should be enough to prove that this really is the first day. Why would God do this then if millions of days had already before passed? The fact that he calls it “the first day” naturally leads one to believe that there were none before it.

But if this is not enough, here is the clincher. Exodus 20:11 says, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” If this is referring to the six days of Genesis 1 (which is what one would be most naturally inclined to believe) then it is clear that Genesis 1:1 must be included in this six day period. But to cover all bases, let us assume that the six days in Exodus 20:11 are not the six days in Genesis 1, but rather a previous creation. Then it would not be right to say that God created “all that in them is” during these six days because not everything in the earth, heavens, and seas would be created until the “second creation”.

Now I will briefly respond to the scientific arguments.

First, there could have been plenty of room in the Ark for the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs which God sent to Noah to be taken on the Ark could have been young specimens. Furthermore, I don’t recall anything in the Bible which says that no “kinds” died out in between the Fall and the Flood.

As for radiometric dating, this is based on many, many a priori assumptions. These include that the rate of decay has always been the same and that there were no “daughter” products in the material when God created it. Potassium-argon and uranium-lead dating methods ALWAYS give long dates. The carbon-14 dating method ALWAYS gives short dates. So the evolutionary scientists must decide whether or not something is very old beforehand, and then they select the most desirable method based on their a priori decision. There has been a least one example where rock with a known short age (50 years) was dated to be 1.2 million years old. Carbon-14 does give dates somewhat longer than 6000 years, but this can be explained by the assumption that God did not create the earth with any C-14 in it or allow it to be formed on earth in the beginning. This assumption is logical since C-14 can cause mutations. (C-14 is formed in the atmosphere when beta rays strike nitrogen molecules. The Bible says that the earth has shields (Psalm 47:9) which could have been stronger in the beginning. The “Canopy Theory” says that an atmospheric water vapor layer helped to shield the earth before the Flood.) Finally, even if the earth is very old, one must consider that the pre-Adamite theory might not be the only possible biblically consistent theory that could explain it.

In conclusion, though the pre-Adamite theory does not contradict the important doctrine that God does not create death, disease, or pain (but rather they are consequences of sin), it is nonetheless unscriptural. Furthermore, the proposition that the events of Genesis 1:1 happened on the same day as those of the next four verses does not contradict science. The Long Age theory is not so easy to disprove, so I will discuss this, God willing, in some future post.

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