Two-House built on sand: Apostles did not believe that Gentiles were the “Lost Tribes of Israel”
Outside of the relatively tiny Messianic world most people have never even heard of the Two-House or Ephraimite theology or movement. For those Jews and Christians who hear its ideas for the first time, their reaction is usually a mix of amusement and incredulity. Some, however, become quite intrigued by its amazing premises and promises, and set themselves on a journey of exploration into the fascinating new world promised by the Two-House theology. This theology, in its most popular interpretation, makes a bold claim that most if not all of the Gentiles/Christians who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) are actually flesh and blood Israelites, i.e. literal relatives of the Jewish people and are in fact members of the so called “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel”. The draw of this theology becomes apparent as soon one gets deeper into it and so do the reasons behind its relative popularity. Many Christians have come to idealize the Israel of the Bible and want to identify themselves with it in some way. They read their Bibles and its focus on Israel and her future, and they want to personally identify with it. Indeed, today it has become very appealing and desirable to be not just a “Spiritual Israel” of Christianity, but a physical Israel as well. After all, Israel is described in the Bible as “special” and “chosen”, and who does not wants to be special and chosen? This theology has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past few decades, having first appeared in the form of British Israelism back in the 1860s and more recently as the defunct Armstrongism/Worldwide Church of G-d. The proponents of the theology see it as one of their main missions as a movement to reunite Israel (which they identify as Gentiles who lost the knowledge of their identity as Tribes of Israel during the thousands of years of dispersion) with Judah (which they say represent the Jewish people). They insist that not only does the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) fully support their beliefs, but that the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) do so as well. With this in mind, let us turn our attention to the apostles themselves. Did they teach the Ephraimite theology as described by the Two-House movement?
To test these Two-House claims, we will need to check if their version of theology matches that expressed by the apostles:
- Paul, who called himself “an apostle to the Gentiles”, failed to identify the Gentiles believers as the long-lost tribes of Israel at any point during his ministry. Instead of speaking in terms of restoring “two houses of Israel” and bringing the “lost Israelites” back to Torah they supposedly once had, Paul identifies Jews as the “natural branches” while Gentiles are called the “wild branches” (Romans 11:17-21). Paul taught that salvation has come to Gentiles to make Israel (by which he could only mean his own people, the Jews, because it is they who for the most part rejected the Good News) “jealous” (Romans 11:11). If he indeed believed that Gentiles under his care were the “lost tribes”, then he missed a trully great opportunity to use a historical/exegetical argument to prove to his fellow Jews that this is the one of the chief reasons they should accept the Gentiles as their fellow “lost” Israelites, indeed as fellow tribesmen coming back into the fold. Instead, over and over in his writing Paul includes Gentiles into G-d’s family solely by the work done though the sacrifice of Yeshua and not through some supposed reunification of the tribes of Israel.
- Following this pattern, Two House proponents have to contend with Paul’s supposed failure to reinforce Gentiles-as-lost-Israelites “reality” at the “Council of Jerusalem”, where he instead opposed those who wished to force Gentiles to get circumcised or to follow Mosaic Torah in the manner of Jews. In fact, it may have worked against him if he did at any point during his ministry believe or teach that Gentiles are long-lost tribes of Israel. After all, if one is an Israelite, is it not breaking of Torah to not circumcise him at an earliest opportunity? We must remember that the apostle not only claimed to be fully faithful to Torah but also to the traditions of the fathers (Oral Torah). As such, he was by no means averse to circumcising “wayward” Israelites, having previously circumcised Timothy, a son of a Jewish mother who failed to do so.
- Apostle Paul publicly chided apostle Peter for avoiding being seen eating with non-Jews. Again, logic dictates that it would have been a great opportunity to reinforce the message of “all Israel” by showing Peter that he’s been avoiding being seen as fellowshipping not with some foreigners and pagans, but with his own fellow Israelites. Instead, Paul forcefully and publicly confronts Peter for compelling Gentiles to live like Jews (Galatians 2:11-13)!
- The circumcision party, too, missed their chance to use the argument of “Gentiles are lost Israelites” to justify their push for circumcision of all Gentile followers of Yeshua (Acts 15:5). If the Two House theology of viewing believing Gentiles as tribes of Israel was an accepted belief at the time, all they had to do is show that these Gentiles were Israelites like themselves and that as Israelites they too had to obey the clear command of Torah to be circumcised. Instead, it becomes apparent that neither they, nor apostle Paul, nor any of the other apostles ever attempted to use the Two-House argument or anything remotely resembling it.
The available apostolic evidence simply doesn’t lend itself to the claims that the apostles viewed evangelizing and bringing Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, Samaritans, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Scythians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, or any other ethnic group of people to faith in Yeshua as evidence of the restoration of Israel through bringing the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel” back into the fold. It simply has not crossed their minds. This special “revelation” would apparently have to wait until our modern times to be revealed almost exclusively to the English speaking Christians of U.K. and North America.