Monday, December 1, 2008

The Hope of Israel

In my post on November 20th, I explained the significance of millenial thinking (or "millenialism") to the mission enterprise in "the New World." I ended that post by saying that part of the motivation for converting Indians to Christianity was based on a belief that it would bring on the second coming of Christ.

What was the basis for such a belief? That, of course is too huge a question to answer fully here, but, for some, it had something to do with the Lost Tribes Theory, or the belief that the American Indians were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

The Encyclopaedia Judaica, a highly respected reference work, asserts that "the legend of the Ten Lost Tribes is one of the most fascinating and persistent in Judaism and beyond it"(page 639). The article's author, Louis Isaac Rabinowitz later adds:

Special interest is attached to the fantastic traveler's tale told by Aaron (Antonio) Levi de Montezinos who, on his return to Amsterdam [Netherlands] from South America in 1644, told a remarkable story of having found Indians beyond the mountain passes of the Cordilleras who greeted him by reciting the Shema [prayers taken from Deuteronomy and Numbers]. Among those to whom Montezinos gave his affidavit was Manasseh Ben Israel, then rabbi of Amsterdam, who fully accepted the story, and to it devoted his [book] Hope of Israel (1650, 1652), (page 640).

In future posts, I will present to you quotes from various documents showing that Christian missionaries and American Indians themselves subscribed to the lost tribes theory well into the 1800's. In fact, I have corresponded with one Native American who still subscribes to it.

1 comment :

John Umland said...

Joseph Smith's Mormon church is also an example of an ongoing belief in the Indians being "lost" Israelites.
God is good