A Question I Was Asked:

'Where Do You Stand on "The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel"? Were Some of the Tribes Really Lost?'

My Reply:

Regarding "the lost ten tribes," I have to say that much nonsense has been written on this topic, most of it based on folk lore and legend, rather than careful research. I am generally of the opinion that these tribes (which made up the northern kingdom of Israel), were never lost at all. These people were taken into captivity by the Assyrians, of course, around 721 BC. Then, around 585 BC, the southern kingdom of Judah were taken captive by the Babylonians. The Lord brought this punishment on His people because of their refusal to repent of their idolatry. A large part of Judah (including portions of Levi and Benjamin), later came out of captivity and returned to Judah at the time of the Persian Empire. They started to repair Jerusalem and the temple. We read about these things in Ezra and Nehemiah and Haggai also prophesied at that time. But not too much is known about the ten tribes from the north and what later happened to them. Yet the evidence is strong that certain portions of the ten tribes did apparently forget their differences with Judah and resettled in the south. Over in the New Testament, Anna, the prophetess, for example, was from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36-38), so some Asherites returned.

So it is clear that certain peoples of the 'ten tribes' did return but undoubtedly not all at that time. James speaks of 'the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.' (James 1:1), so it seems clear that certain of these peoples were indeed assimilated into other peoples but this does not prove that they were "lost" in any way; many different family groups have always been absorbed into other nations, for instance, the Vikings and Norsemen (who had once caused havoc to eastern England), eventually became part of the Anglo-Saxon English. Then from 1948, with the creation of the modern state of Israel, many other former Israel 'northerners' who had kept their identity also undoubtedly returned to the 'promised land,' and today the people of Israel claim lineage to many of the northern tribes and who seem perfectly happy to be considered 'Jews' (originally, the 'Jews' were only the Judahites). But the fact that portions of the ten tribes probably never returned to Israel does not prove or even suggest that various teachings on these so-called "lost" peoples (for instance, 'British Israelism' or the Mormon teaching on the 'lost tribes'), have any substance at all.

But What About the Celts?

One should just concede, however, that there is some evidence that the Celtic peoples possibly originated as a portion of Israel, though what part, or what portion, it would be very hard to say. One states this partly because, whilst not all early Celtic art is Bible-influenced, a goodly portion certainly appears to be and this is hard to explain. Many of the Celts settled in western Britain and when - around 600 - Augustine led a mission to convert Britain to Christianity, it was found that the western Celtic areas were already strongly Christian; Celtic Christianity was based on 'houses of prayer' (monasteries), and not on bishoprics. We must remember that St Patrick was born in 387 and St David lived 500-589. On the whole, the Celtic peoples have remained strong supporters of theistic Christianity. None of this is in any way conclusive, of course, but it might just lead one to the belief that the weight of evidence might point to the Celtic peoples having once been at least some portion of the peoples of Israel. More than this one cannot say.

Finally, we should all just remember that - in Christ - nationhood does not matter one iota. See Galatians 3:26-29 and Revelation 7:9. This is the most vital point which we need to finish with.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.