- Two House Theology
The premise of Two House Theology is found in the
Hebrew Scripturesand primarily focuses on the division of the ancient Kingdom of Israelinto two kingdoms, Israel and the Kingdom of Judah(See History of ancient Israel and Judah). The tenets of Two House Theology become controversial and disputed when the ancient reality of the two Israelite kingdoms is applied to modern peoples who are thought to be descendents of the two ancient kingdoms, both Jewsand the Ten Lost Tribesof Israel, the latter are believed to have become "the fullness of the nations" .
The ancient empire of Israel, controlling lands from the
Euphrates Riverto the Egyptian border, became divided after King Solomon's reign passed unto his son Rehoboamin about 931 BCE. Rehoboam refused to grant the northern ten tribes relief from Solomon's taxation and they subsequently formed their own autonomous nation in the north, making Jeroboam Itheir king.
Kingdom of Israel, the northern ten tribes, were taken into Assyrian Captivitystarting in 740 BCE, culminating in 721 BCE with the seizure of Samaria. Even after invitations to return, many years later, no large representation of the tribes ever returned to their former boundaries.
Kingdom of Judahwas taken into Babylonian Captivitybetween 597-586 BCE. The kings of Persia granted Judah permission to return to their lands, which they did, but they were subsequently exiled again by the Romans in 70 CE.
For greater detail, see
History of ancient Israel and Judah.
The factions, in the Two House dispute, are not limited to any one religion or denomination. Advocates and opponents are found within the various sects and ranks of
Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity. ( [http://www.jewsandjoes.com/book-list.html See list of Various Authors] ) Advocates take the general position that the ten tribes of the Kingdom of Israelhave become a multitude of nations since their exile by the Assyrian Empire(740-722 BCE) and lengthy migrations before and particularly after the decline of the Parthian Empire, 200-700 CE (also known as the Great Migration Period).
It is believed that the ten tribes are not yet re-joined to the
Kingdom of Judahin any large representation, though some small reunifications with Judah are believed to have happened in antiquity and are well documented to be happening in recent history in the modern nation of Israel.
Many opponents of the theology claim that the lost tribes re-united with the
Kingdom of Judahin the years leading up to and following Judah's return from their Babylonian Captivityin 537 BCE, hence they do not exist in the nations today other than in the form of the " Jews", those scattered by the Roman diaspora(70 CE) and subsequent Christian and Muslim exiles in later periods.
Some opponents take an agnostic position claiming that the lost tribes have been completely assimilated by and are unidentifiable in the nations of the world and hence could never have returned from their deportation by and into
Assyria. Hence, "why dispute what is unknowable?"
Opposition also arises simply when Israelites are identified with people more "commonly" associated with
Japheth, one of Noah's three sons. Interestingly, some Two House advocates won't deny some aspect of this argument, taking into account a prophetic verse: Genesis 9:27a "God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem" (RSV). ( Shemwas another son of Noah, but also the ancestor of the Hebrews, Arabs, and many other ethnic groups according to genealogies found in the Hebrew Scriptures.)
Three of the major international Messianic Jewish groups reject the Two House Theology as being misguided at best, or at worst a Gentile cult seeking to make themselves appear as Jews. The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (www.umjc.org), The Messianic Jewish Association of America (www.mjaa.org) and the Messianic Bureau International (www.messianic.org) all proclaim the Messianic movement as a movement for Jewish believers in Yeshua and forbid the teaching that Gentiles may be of the lost tribes of Israel, or any reference to the two houses of Israel. This kind of thinking is best seen by the Ephraimite Error [ [http://www.mjaa.org/files/EphraimiteError.pdf MJAA: Page Not Found ] ] white paper, produced in 1999, which several Two House proponents have responded to [McKee, J.K. (2002) [http://www.tnnonline.net/two-housenews/judah/ee-ce/index.html "The Ephraimite Error": Critical Errors] . TNN Online. 15 November, 2002.] . These attitudes may come as a reaction to the cult of
British-Israelismthat has long been with us and is best epitomized by the Worldwide Church of Godfounded by Herbert W. Armstrong, and its many offshoots.
Many in Messianic Judaism have difficulty considering some of the claims of the Two House teaching. To them it is irrelevant and meaningless. Some would view Messianic Judaism's total avoidance of the issue and its dismissal of the Scriptures as a manifestation of Messianic Judaism's wide-scale avoidance of more important theological issues pertaining to the nature of Messiah, the composition and historicity of Scripture, and Messianic Judaism's engagement with modern society.
The earliest documentation of the dispute can be found in discussions taking place sometime before the second century CE. The
Mishnahrecords Rabbi Akivaand Rabbi Eliezardisagreeing on various points in regard to the return of the lost tribes.
Babylonian Talmud( Mishnah) Sanhedrin 110b:
"THE TEN TRIBES WILL NOT RETURN [TO PALESTINE] , FOR IT IS SAID, AND CAST THEM INTO ANOTHER LAND, AS IS THIS DAY: JUST AS THE DAY GOES AND DOES NOT RETURN, SO THEY TOO WENT AND WILL NOT RETURN: THIS IS R. AKIBA'S VIEW. R. ELIEZER SAID: AS THIS DAY — JUST AS THE DAY DARKENS AND THEN BECOMES LIGHT AGAIN, SO THE TEN TRIBES — EVEN AS IT WENT DARK FOR THEM, SO WILL IT BECOME LIGHT FOR THEM." [ [http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_110.html#PARTb Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 110b] .]
The quote from
Rabbi Akiva, however, should probably be understood in light of his disappointed belief that Simon ben Kosiba (surnamed Simon bar Kokhba) was the Messiah who would liberate the Jews from Rome, return the lost tribes and usher in the long-awaited Olam Haba. The failure of the Bar Kochbarebellion convinced Akiva that the lost tribes would not return at "that" time. It is probably a mistake to take Akiva's statement as a categorical denial of a return at any time.
House of Judah: the Jews?
According to many Jewish rabbis and historians, the
Jewsare largely descended from the House of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Judah, chiefly consisting of the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Benjamin, with some of the tribe of Levi.
House of Joseph: a multitude of nations?
Some historians, and especially Two House advocates, believe the
Hebrew Scripturesindicate that the Kingdom of Israel, sometimes referred to as the "House of Joseph", never returned from their Assyrian Captivity.
The first century Jewish priest and historian,
Josephus, writing near the turn of the second century AD, affirmed that the Jews knew where Israel lived:
. . . the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media] ; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers. ["Antiquities of the Jews", 11.5.2, from The Works of Josephus, translated by Whiston, W., Hendrickson Publishers. 1987. 13th Printing. p 294]
While the multitudinous nature of the exiled ten tribes may be somewhat exaggerated in the opinion of many, it is highly unlikely that
Josephuswould pen an outright falsehood regarding the Median location of the ten tribes when such a statement could be vociferously denied by his fellow-countrymen if the ten tribes had at any time in the past reunited with the Jews following the Babylonian Captivity.
As shown previously, the
Talmudhas Rabbi Akivaand Rabbi Eliezerdiscussing the eventual return of the ten tribes approximately 900 years after the deportation occurred. For the advocate of the two house ideology, this is weighty evidence which indicates that the Northern Kingdom tribes of Israel did not return and unite with the Southern Kingdom of Judah prior to the 1st Century.
Multiplication and re-unification
Two House groups also believe many prophecies from the
Hebrew Scripturesindicate that the descendant nations of the ancient Kingdom of Israelwill be re-united with the descendants of the ancient Kingdom of Judah. They frequently reference [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2037;&version=8; Ezekiel 37] (as below) and similar prophecies:
"16 Son of man, take a stick and write on it, `For Judah, and the children of Israel associated with him'; then take another stick and write upon it, `For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him'; 17 and join them together into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, `Will you not show us what you mean by these?' 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (which is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him; and I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand" (vs. 16-19, RSV).
They also frequently quote from the Book of Hosea (chapters 1-3). In the first chapter (verses 2-9) God instructed this prophet of the Northern Kingdom to marry a prostitute (symbolic of the unfaithfulness of the northern tribes) and then gave two of Hosea’s children from this union Hebrew names signifying his rejection of the northern tribes: Lo-Ruchamah (Unpitied) and Lo-Ammi (Not my people). In Hosea 2:3, the eventual reversal of this judgment was indicated by means of a change in these names; and an accompanying change in the meanings of the names: Ruchamah (Pitied) and Ammi (My people). Hosea was told (3:3-5) that the northern tribes would be scattered among the Gentiles, that they would be in seclusion for a long time and become too numerous to be counted; but that in the "latter days," they would return in repentance and come trembling to their God and his goodness.
Two House Theology probably becomes most controversial when the ramifications of the Hebrew prophets are taken literally. The prophecy most poignant in the controversy is [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2048:19&version=8; Genesis 48:19] which indicates that the
tribe of Ephraim, half- tribe of Joseph, would become a “multitude of nations” (peoples/goyim), sometimes translated as “fullness of the nations”:
"But his father refused, and said, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; nevertheless his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations" (RSV).
According to advocates of Two House Theology, the passages above present a problem to those who think that the Jews are representative of all which is left of the twelve tribes of Israel. They argue, "the
Jewshave not become nor have they ever been a multitude of nations". For a Two House advocate, a common answer is: "no large contingents of Northern Kingdom tribes have been re-united with the Jews of the Southern Kingdom, thus they still exist as various nations/peoples in the world today". Also, someone sympathetic to the Two House ideals may say things like, "the problem is not: the Creator of the Universe lied about Ephraim becoming a multitude of nations/peoples, but simply: we have failed to unravel the mysteries of who is who in the nations today."
There are others, who are more moderate in their approach to the Two House controversy, who choose to see it as an overlooked element in the eschatological restoration of Israel. They disregard the speculation and "pseudohistory" from
British-Israeland other Christian Identitygroups, adhering to Paul's directive not to pay attention to "endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith" (1 Timothy 1:4, RSV). They leave scattered Israel as a matter to be determined by God, and prefer instead to recognize all believers as participants in its restoration. This growing position has gained sympathy with some in Messianic Judaismamong those holding to the "One Law" position, where individuals can "agree to disagree" because the Two House teaching is a matter of eschatology, and thus not of a core theological nature.
Still others will contend that seven-eighths of scripture is undiscernable without first understanding the two house reality, certainly making it into a core theology, and not simply a matter of eschatology. For example, Prof.
C. A. L. Totten[1851-1908] , of Yale University, was quoted ["Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright", by Rev. J. H. Allen, Destiny Publishers. Seventeenth Edition, 1917, p. 79] :
"I can never be too thankful to the Almighty that in my youth he used the late Professor Wilson to show me the difference between the two houses. The very understanding of this difference is the KEY by which almost the entire Bible becomes intelligible, and I cannot state too strongly that the man who has not yet seen that Israel of the Scripture is totally distinct from the Jewish people, is yet in the very infancy, the mere alphabet, of Biblical study, and that to this day the meaning of seven-eighths of the Bible is shut to his understanding."
For students of the
Lost Tribes of Israel, including some Two House advocates, the Behistun Rock Inscriptionhas provided an invaluable missing link, which adds credibility to where and who the Northern Kingdom Israelites were in the fifth century BCE and where they subsequently went in the following periods of their history. George Rawlinson, Sir Henry Rawlinson's younger brother (translator of the Behistun Inscription), connected the Saka/Gimiri of the inscription with deported Israelites:
“We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the
House of Israel.” - George Rawlinson, note in his translation of "History of Herodotus", Book VII, p. 378
The Behistun Inscription connects the people known in
Old Persianand Elamiteas Saka, Sacaeor Scythianwith the people known in Babylonianas Gimirri or Cimmerian. This is important because the Assyrian's referred to the Northern Kingdom of Israelin their records as the "House of Khumri", named after Israel's King Omri of the 8th century BCE. Phonetically "Khumri", "Omri", and "Gimiri" are similar [Capt, E. Raymond, "Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets" Artisan Pub, 1985 ISBN 0-934666-15-6] .
"It should be made clear from the start that the terms '
Cimmerian' and ' Scythian' were interchangeable: in Akkadian the name Iskuzai (Asguzai) occurs only exceptionally. Gimirrai (Gamir) was the normal designation for 'Cimmerians' as well as 'Scythians' in Akkadian." [Van Loon, Maurits Nanning. "Urartian Art. Its Distinctive Traits in the Light of New Excavations", Istanbul, 1966. p. 16]
In the photo of the
Black Obeliskto the right, compare King Jehu's pointed Saka/ Scythianstyle headdress, which is similar to the captive Saka/Scythian king seen to the far right on the Behistun Inscription. Note: King Jehu of Israel was son and heir to King Omriof the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Two House advocates generally agree on the big picture, but disagree on numerous details, especially when view points converge amongst
Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity. Identifying specific nations and/or people groups is full of varying opinions and speculations. A great number of Two House advocates think that specific ethnicities can be identified with a particular tribe, and many others choose to let this be decided in the eschaton. [McKee, J.K. (2006) [http://tnnonline.net/two-housenews/two-houses/revisit-2house/ Revisiting the Two-House Teaching] . TNN Online. 01 March, 2006.] Because of the newness of this theological movement, many advocates point out that these issues will have to be worked out over time.
Advocates of Two House Theology wish not to be confused with
Replacement Theologyor Supersessionism. They refute this label with statements like: “there are two houses, two ancient kingdoms, being discussed and identified, without one replacing the other. The two are brothers who should not trouble each other as they did in their ancient past.” Replacement Theologians virtually make the claim that “the Jews have been replaced by the church”. Such persons may say things like, “We are Israel now.” Two House advocates make no such claims and respectively identify the Jewsas Israelites from the Kingdom of Judah.
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Assyrian Captivity of Israel
Kingdom of Israel
Lost Tribes of Israel
Stick of Joseph
The Behistun Rock
* [http://www.kolhator.org.il/return_lost_10_tribes.php Kol HaTor - Rabbinic lead effort to reconcile 10-Israel with Judah]
* [http://jewsandjoes.com/two-house-theology-reality-defined-and-defended.html Jews & Joes: the Two Houses of Israel]
* [http://unitedisrael.org/Biblical_Research_on_the_Lost_Tribes/Quick-Biblical-Overview-on-the-Lost-Tribes.html United Israel World Union]
* [http://britam.org/Proof/ProofsIntro.html Brit-Am with Yair Davidiy]
* [http://www.tnnonline.net/two-housenews/two-houses/revisit-2house/index.html TNN Online]
* [http://www.messianicisrael.com/news/teachings/a-one-house-or-two-house-movement.html Messianic Israel Alliance]
* [http://stevenmcollins.com/ Steven M. Collins]
* [http://israelite.info/ Israelite.info]
* [http://www.moshiach.com/features/tribes/overview.php Moshiach.com]
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