Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Stockbridge Bible and the Lost Tribes Theory

Have you seen the earlier posts in this series?:
Introduction to the Stockbridge Bible
From Generation to Generation
A Summary of 50 Years at the Massachusetts Mission Town

I've had the opportunity to deal with some things in detail here in Algonkian Church History that I just summarized in my article about the Stockbridge Bible ["From Generation to Generation," in The Book Collector, Spring, 2007, pages 49-66]. That, of course, includes U.S. Indian Policy, removals, tribal in-fighting and even the lost tribes theory.

The story of the Stockbridge Bible as it relates to the lost tribes theory is both unique and remarkable. This episode begins in the 1780's as the Stockbridge Mohicans are preparing to leave the mission town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. "They built a chest of oak to transport the two-volume Bible that they cherished"(p.53).

Beginning in the late 1600's, many Europeans believed the American Indians were the ten lost tribes of Israel. The Stockbridges themselves appear to have accepted this 'lost tribes theory' for many years. The oak chest that carried the two-volume Stockbridge Bible was compared to the ark of the covenant which the Israelites carried in the book of Exodus [Calvin Colton made the comparison in 1830] (pages 53-54).
J.N. Davidson and church historians that came after him believed that that Deacon John Metoxen, read aloud from the Stockbridge Bible as he led his band from New York State to Indiana's White River and on to what is now Wisconsin. Since a minister that met Metoxen's band in what is now Ohio mentioned Scott's Family Bible and not the Stockbridge Bible, I agree with Lion Miles that the Stockbridge Bible left New York with a different band.

But the similarities remain. Instead of wandering in the wilderness for forty years with an ark that protected two stone tablets (containing the Ten Commandments), the Stockbridge Indians trekked the American frontier carrying an oak chest that protected their two-volume Stockbridge Bible.

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