Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Twelve (Plus or Minus) Tribes of Israel

Quick, how many tribes of Israel were there?

The stock answer is twelve, but the textual evidence is a little more complicated.

Paul Davidson pulls the evidence together on Is That In The Bible? At the bottom of his posting you'll also find a nifty chart which you can download as a PDF and print out.


(Tip of the hat to James McGrath who drew attention to Paul's posting first.)


  1. Since this is related to the topic, could you tell me if British Israelism was part of the theology you were taught growing up?

    1. I'll chuck that out there to those folks who, unlike myself, grew up in Armstrongism.

  2. Ah, yes, but how many tribes were mentioned in the New Testament?!??!!!

    I counted six.

    According to the math of British Israelism with 10 lost tribes we have the formula:

    Either (worst case scenario) 12 - 6 = 10

    -- or --

    14 - 6 = 10.

    Looking at Revelation, I believe there are 12 tribes from which Dan and Ephraim are missing.

    What do you make of that?

    And if James wrote to "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," he knew who they were and where they were and so none of them are lost, except maybe Dan and Ephraim, which puts us back at 14 tribes, two of which are really, really, really lost -- so lost, in fact, that God can't find them to put their names on the 12 gates of the New Jerusalem.

    Armstrongism bad math at work all around here -- it just doesn't add up.

    What a tangled web we weave when at first we use British Israelism to deceive.

  3. Nope...twelve is the magic number, that is, except when seven is the magic number. Paul was the 13th apostle - making the number thirteen unlucky and causing the 13 signs of the zodiac to be lowered to 12 - leaving off the serpent, of course.

    Did you know that 2520 years after 548 BC is 1972 AD? What the significance of 548 BC was, I have no idea. It wasn't the date of the exile and it wasn't the date of the destruction of the 1st temple and it wasn't any date of anything that I know of...but Armstrongism imagined it to be the date for those things - it wasn't. Actually, it was 587 BC. but that wouldn't work because the date of the great tribulation would be 1933 and Jesus would have returned in 1936.

    Numbers. They're fun to mess with and there are so many magical things you can do with them - especially when they are magical numbers to start with and you are trying to prove something that isn't true.

    1. No! No! No! Hebrews 3 says that Jesus was the apostle and high priest, so there must have been 13 apostles, except that after Judas was voted off the island, he was replaced by Matthias. So even if we never counted Judas in the first place, there were 13 original apostles. Then we have Barnabas. Did Barnabas precede Paul? And there are those who believe that Mary Magdalene was an apostle but was given the short shrift because she was a woman. And after Dogma, we all wonder if Rufus really was a black apostle (and whether Jesus was also black, which would explain a lot!).

      No! No! I don't believe we can name the Apostle Paul as the 13th apostle. We can't rightly say where he was in the scheme of things except that it appears that he mostly invented Christianity as some see it today and pretty much the other 'apostles' don't count for anything. Paul was taught by Jesus Christ personally in the desert of Arabia, or so he seems to claim, if only we could be certain Paul wrote any epistles at all and the New Testament isn't the figment of the imagination of the Catholic Church synthesized be using hearsay from superstitious illiterates quoting traditions handed down from dubious sources. We don't, after all, have any ORIGINAL documents, but supposed copies of copies of copies.

      OK, now, Corky, maybe you can answer me this, what Chinese year was Herbert Armstrong born in. I looked it up once and think it was either the dragon, snake or rat. I'm too lazy to look again, so hope you can help me out.

      And I will stand by 11 tribes of Israel, since Dan dropped off the list and we can't really count Manasseh because he was of the tribe of Joseph (and if you want to count Manasseh then you have to include Ephraim because of Genesis 48:14-20, Ephraim was GREATER than Manasseh!). Of course, perhaps we should count only Ephraim and Manasseh because Jacob said that his name was to be named on them -- that would mean that there are only 2 tribes of Israel and the other 11 tribes are lost. That sounds right: The 11 lost tribes of Israel, 12 if you count the fact that Ephraim has been dropped off the list. So we have one tribe of Israel only that cannot be found and accounted for and 12 other tribes that are lost. This means that THERE ARE NO TRIBES OF ISRAEL!

      With that, I'm not sure what to make of the Jews....

    2. The Jews are an invented race...they were Canaanites and the name, Jew, comes from their religion (known as Judaism) which was invented around 600 BCE and not from a genealogy of an invented Judah character.

      I think you're right about Paul inventing Xianity because if you figure the years Paul mentions in Galatians from the time before the famine of 44 AD then Paul is already preaching his gospel in Arabia several years before Jesus supposedly died on a Roman cross in 30 AD.