The Phineas Priesthood

By Christopher Zoukis

Within the context of the Bible, the story of Phineas is minor and unremarkable.  Yet this relatively obscure event would later be shanghaied, distorted, and adopted by members of the Church of Christian Identity to promote their own supremacist agenda, which revolved around race religion.   The Church of Christian Identity put forth Phineas as the template for their concept of “solitary warriors,” thus fomenting violence and terrorism.  Thus, the next step in understanding the Phineas Priesthood involves an examination of Christian Identity.  Image courtesy

The term ‘Christian Identity’ comes from the following doctrinal statement:  “We believe the Bible identifies the Anglo-Saxon people with the Old Testament nation of Israel.”  The statement, of course, is wrong.  It reflects a misinterpretation of what happened to the Lost Tribes of Israel after their dispersion.

The Bible records – and historical evidence corroborates – that around 721 B.C. the Northern Tribes of Israel also known collectively as Samaria, were conquered by Assyria and carried away into captivity.  This was Assyria’s way of punishing Samaria for failing to pay tribute (taxes). 

What happened to these ‘lost tribes’ has always been a controversial topic among Biblical scholars, amateur theologians and Christians.  

According to some, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel migrated to Great Britain, where they gave origin to the Anglo-Saxon or Caucasian race, which is also referred to as Aryan.  The term given to this erroneous interpretation is British-Israelism.

The first person to really buy into the idea was John Sadler, who was a member of the British Parliament.  He published a book called Rights of the Kingdom in 1649.  In his book, Sadler put forth his belief that Europeans, Anglo-Saxons, Germans and Slavs were the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel.  Since this was the period of British Imperialism, when the British Empire had hegemony over much of the world, Sadler’s claim wasn’t astounding.  Most of England held the position they were not only racially superior to the rest of the world, but they were also “God’s chosen people.”  Indeed, circumstances served to prove the point.

Then in 1723, a Protestant apologist from Amsterdam, whose name was Dr. Abadie, observed, “Unless the ten tribes have flown into the air or have been plunged into the center of the earth, they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles.”  His remarks were reported widely in the British newspapers.

The idea of British Israelism really gathered momentum when, in 1792, Richard Brothers delivered letters to the King of England, the ministers of state, and the Speaker of the House of Commons.  In his letters, Brothers advised the readers that in five days the fulfillment of the prophecy made by the Prophet Daniel in the Old Testament would occur.  The prophecy Brothers referred to was in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, which predicted the coming of four world powers – called “beasts” – the rise of the Anti-Christ, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming of Jesus. 

According to Richard Brothers, God had called him two years before, in 1790.  Prior to his call, Brothers had been a lieutenant in the British Navy.  He abruptly resigned his commission in 1789 and, because of religious scruples, refused to accept his retirement money from the navy.  Soon after hearing the voice of God calling to him, Brothers had begun having visions. 

None of the letters’ recipients took the matter seriously, writing the author off as another religious nutcase.  Eight months later, in 1793, Brothers was back and again making fantastic predictions.  He proclaimed the imminent death of King George III.  And that after the King’s death, the crown would be given to him, “the Nephew of the Almighty, and prince of the Hebrews, appointed to lead them to the land of Canaan.”  In other words, Brothers believed he was a direct descendant of King David.  Which meant that only he could lay claim to the title of King of England.  Subsequent to these crazy statements, Brothers published his book A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and the Times, 1794.

The English government could no longer turn the other cheek.  Forecasting the death of the King was serious stuff.  So they tossed him into Newgate Prison.  After he got out, he wrote more books.  Most of his books trumpeted the validity of British Israelism, i.e., that the Anglo-Saxon people were the true Israel, descended from the Lost Tribes.  Brothers also spoke at public gatherings, where he made wild political prophecies.  Some of them actually came true, which increased his notoriety and attracted disciples to his religion.  Most of his disciples were uneducated, poor and easily manipulated, the kind of people looking to get something for nothing.  Apparently, Brothers was an accomplished rabble-rouser, because he was able to persuade many of his disciples to sell their meager earthly possessions so they could come with him to the New Jerusalem, which he was going to build on the River Jordan. 

In 1795, the English government decided Richard Brothers was a lunatic.  They ordered him committed to the Bedlam Asylum, where Brothers remained for eleven years.  Released in 1806, Brothers discovered his religion was flourishing.  British Israelism had caught on.