Monday, December 28, 2009

The Role of the Lost Tribes Theory in Promoting Missions

Right: the Pilgrims make a treaty with Massasoit of the Wampanoags.

As you may recall, many whites and at least some Indians once believed that Algonkian Indians were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Something that James De Jong's As the Waters Cover the Sea does well is to explain what that "lost tribes theory" did for missions to those Indians. One might say that it motivated whites to support mission work. Many believed that the conversion of Native Americans would lead to the Chilead, or Millennium (a one-thousand-year period in which Christ would reign over a peaceful earth).

"...many leading Puritans in England and America wrote and endorsed missionary propaganda in the 1640's and 1650's. Their support was predicated on the belief that through missions, the glorious gospel day would dawn. It should be noted that this faith was based on many Old and New Testament passages of hope and not on a few select verses" De Jong, page 55.
Those verses included Psalm 72:8, Isaiah 49:6, Matthew 24:14, Mark 16:15, and Revelations 21:21.

However, as you may recall, things went downhill with King Philip's War in 1676. By that time, the lost tribes theory was not as widely believed. De Jong says (page 64) that scholars had a variety of ideas about the origin of the American Indians at that time.

I know of at least one person who believes in the Lost Tribes Theory to this very day.

1 comment :

Yishai said...

Some Jews believe that at least some Indian tribes are descended from the Lost Tribes.

Rabbi Lazer Brody's blog has numerous posts about this, including correspondence from Indians who believe in the theory too, most of which focuses on the Cherokee.