History of the Jews in Great Britain #2
The Messianic Israel movement is growing worldwide, and incorporates an understanding of the Two Houses of Israel as separate branches of God's people. An upholding of Torah (Biblical Law) principles, Hebraic dress and worship rituals, and faith in Yahshua (Jesus) are also distinctives of this Biblical faith.
Dr. Moses Margoliouth (1819-1871)
LECTURES ON THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS
By Rev. Moses Margoliouth
Part Two of Two
Taking for granted that it is highly probable that the Jews visited Spain in the days of David and Solomon, in company with the Phoenician merchants; may we not extend the probability also to Britain?
Appian tells us, that the Spaniards of his time used to perform the passage to Britain in half a day. Britain was a place of attraction to mercantile persons at a very early period, and London was styled by the ancients, at a remote date, “nobile emporium.” There remaineth now no doubt whatever respecting the early intercourse between the Phoenicians and the Britons--all historians are unanimous upon it.
Sir Isaac Newton tells us, “With these Phoenicians came a sort of men skilled in religious mysteries.” Might they not have been Jews? True it is that we cannot appeal to monuments in order to establish our position; but we can, at the same time, appeal to the languages of the Hebrews and ancient Britons, which furnish a strong argument that they have known something of each other.
I begin with the name your country bears, viz. Britain. Various are the conjectures which antiquarians and philologists advanced in order to account why this island is so called. Herodotus calls the British Isles Cassiterides, which signifies, the island of tin. It is a name whereby the Phoenicians jealously contrived to conceal from their Mediterranean neighbors the locality of these islands, being the remote sources of their wealth. Bochart, a profound Oriental scholar, shows that Britain is a corruption of the Hebrew words Barat-Anach, which are in signification the same with Cassiterides. Is it not highly probable that Jews came over to this island with the Phoenicians, and named it according to its peculiar quality; which designation was ultimately adopted by the aborigines when they began to have intercourse with the Jews.
Any one having paid critical attention to the early history of this country, can scarcely remain in doubt as regards the existence of an intimate acquaintance between the Jews and the old Britons or Welsh. An eminent Cornish scholar of last century who devoted a great deal of his time to prove the affinity between the Hebrew and Welsh languages, observes, “It would be difficult to adduce a single article or form of construction in the Hebrew grammar, but the same is to be found in Welsh, and that there are many whole sentences in both languages exactly the same in the very words.”
Now, if the aborigine Britons knew not the Jews, where could they have got hold of such whole Hebrew, purely Hebrew, sentences? I say, then, again, Is it not highly probable, if not demonstrated, that the Jews visited this island at a very early period, and tried to teach the natives the lessons which they have themselves learned?
They possessed already the simple but most sublime Mosaic records, written above l000 years before the history of Herodotus; the Psalms and Proverbs written l040 years before Horace; and probably Isaiah and Jeremiah, for they were written 700 years before Virgil. Many Jews were fathers in literature before any of the present nations, especially those of Europe, had their existence. Did time permit, I would have called your attention to some of the proper names which have prevailed among the aborigines Britons, as Solomon, of which name, according to Lloyd’s Cambria, they anciently had three kings. We read of a Duke of Cornwall, Solomon by name, openly professing Christianity about the middle of the fourth century; Daniel, also Abraham, Asaph, and Adam, from which circumstance some antiquarians attempted to prove that the Welsh are descendants of the children of Israel. (See the Jewish Expositor, 1828, pp. 125-130) I think that I am very moderate in endeavoring only to establish a probability of the Jews mixing with the Britons earlier than it is generally supposed.
It may not be out of place here to state that “The isles afar off” (Jer. 31:10) were supposed by the ancients to have been Britannia, Scotia, and Hibernia. The following statement was made by a celebrated and venerable divine of the Church of England, when pleading the cause of the “London Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews”--I mean the Rev. Dr. Marsh:--”The command is to declare the Lord’s purpose concerning Israel ‘in the isles afar off’ (the expression always used by the Hebrews for these islands--known to them through the reports of the merchants of Tyre--Britannia, Scotia, and Hibernia). The proclamation is to be made here.” This notion receives additional force from the command contained in the 7th verse of the same chapter. “For thus saith the Lord, sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
“Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattereth Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock.”
The prophet seems to behold Britain in his vision. There can be no doubt that Britain is now the chief of the nations. Her monarch’s territory is one upon which the sun never sets. The expression “The end of the world,” mentioned in Isaiah 62:11, is also supposed to mean Britain, which was a common appellation for this island in remote ages. An expression which readily brings to our mind the phrase:
“....ultimo Orbs Britannos.”
I wish now to call your attention to another circumstance, which also gives color to the idea, that the Jews visited this country earlier than is generally supposed.
There existed once a very amicable alliance between the Hebrews and the Romans. It is a well-known fact, that many Jews served as soldiers in the Roman army; they resided in great numbers at Rome and other western countries in the days of the Caesars. Josephon ben Gorion informs us that when Julius became Caesar, Hyrcanus sent messengers to Rome to renew the alliance, which had just then expired. Now (B.C. 55) Caesar invaded Britain twice, and defeated its gallant natives in several battles, and compelled them to give hostages, and ultimately planted the Roman standard in this country. Why should it be a thing unlikely that the Jews went with him as warriors into Gaul, and aided in his conquests, and from thence accompanied him into Britain, and remained here under the protection of the Roman banner. For to assist each other in war was just in accordance with their original agreement, which is preserved in the first book of the Maccabees, 8:22-29, and which is as follows:--”This is the copy of the epistle which the senate wrote back again, in tables of brass, and sent to Jerusalem, that there they might have by them a memorial of peace and confederacy:--
“Good success be to the Romans, and to the people of the Jews, by sea and by land for ever: the sword also and enemy be far from them. If there come first any war upon the Romans, or any of their confederates throughout all their dominion, the people of the Jews shall help them, as the time shall be appointed, with all their heart. Neither shall they give any thing unto them that make war upon them, or aid them with victuals, weapons, money, or ships, as it hath seemed good unto the Romans, but they shall keep their covenant without taking any thing therefore. In the same manner also, if war come first upon the nation of the Jews, the Romans shall help them with all their heart, according as the time shall be appointed them. Neither shall victuals be given to them that take part against them, or weapons, or money, or ships, as it hath seemed good to the Romans, but they shall keep their covenants, and that without deceit. According to these articles did the Romans make a covenant with the people of the Jews.”
A copy of a letter preserved in Josephon ben Gorion, which the Jews of Asia sent to Hyrcanus and to the nobles of Judah, contains the following passage:--
“Be it known to you that Augustus Caesar sent, by the advice of his ally, Antoninus, throughout all the countries of his dominion, as far as beyond the Indian Sea, and as far as beyond the British territory, and commanded that in whatever place there be man or woman of the Jewish race, servant or handmaiden, to set them free without any redemption money. By the command of Caesar Augustus and his ally, Antoninus.”
In the “Branch of David,” a Jewish chronicle of some importance, written by Rabbi David Ganz, we have the following paragraph:--
“A.M. 4915.--Caesar Augustus was a pious and God-fearing man, and did execute judgment and justice, and was a lover of Israel. And as to that which is recorded in the beginning of the book, “Scepter of Judah,’ that Caesar Augustus caused a great slaughter amongst the Jews, his informant deceived him, for I have not met even with a hint respecting it in all the chronicles I have ever seen. On the contrary, in all their [i.e. Gentile] annals, and also in the fifteenth chapter of Josephon, it is recorded that he was a faithful friend of Israel. He also records in the forty-seventh chapter, that this Caesar sent an epistle of freedom to the Jews in all the countries of his dominion; to the east as far as beyond the Indian Sea, and to the west as far as beyond the British territory (which is the country Angleterre, and which is designated England in the lingua franca.”)
The Jews in this country chronicle the same event, annually, in their calendar; in the following words:--”Augustus’s edict in favor of the Jews in England, C.A.E. l5.”
An ingenious antiquary of the seventeenth century, Mr. Richard Waller by name, came to the same conclusion in consequence of a curious Roman brick which was found in his time in London, when digging up the foundation of a house in Mark-lane. The brick had on one side a bass-relief, representing Samson driving the foxes into a field of corn. The whole circumstance is thus related in Leland’s Collections, in the preface to the first volume, pp. 70, 7l:--
“And now I shall take notice of a very great curiosity found in the Mark-lane--more properly called Mart-lane, it being a place where the Romans, and not improbably the ancient Britons, used to barter their commodities, as tin, lead, &c. with other nations, it may be the Greeks, who often came into this island to purchase the like goods.... The curiosity I am speaking of is a brick, found about forty years since [i.e. about l670], twenty-eight feet below the pavement, by Mr. Stockley, as he was digging the foundation of an house that he built for Mr. Wolley. This brick is of a Roman make, and was a key-brick to the arch of a vault where a quantity of burnt corn was found. ‘Tis made of curious red clay, and in bass-relief on the front hath the figure of Samson putting fire to the foxes’ tails, and driving them into a field of corn. This brick is deposited in the museum belonging to the Royal Society’s house, Fleet Street.” Dr. Leland then gives an extract from a letter of Mr. Richard Waller, which is the following: “How the story of Samson should be known to the Romans, much less to the Britons, so early after the propagation of the Gospel, seems to be a great doubt, except, it should be said, that some Jews, after the final destruction of Jerusalem, should wander into Britain; and London being, even in Caesar’s time, a port or trading city, they might settle here, and in the arch of their granary record the famous story of their delivery from their captivity under the Philistines.”
All these circumstantial evidences are sufficient, to my mind, to establish a probability, at least, that the Jews visited this country at a remote age.
Baronius may therefore be right after all, that St. Peter preached the Gospel in Britain, notwithstanding the learned Stilling-fleet’s opposition. The principal argument which the Bishop of Worcester advances against St. Peter’s visiting this island for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, is, that St. Peter was emphatically called the “Apostle of the Circumcision;” but--argues the learned prelate--as there were no Jews in Britain at that time, consequently Baronius must be wrong. With all due deference to the most learned Stillingfleet, I venture to say, that his lordship took for granted what remains to be proved. Baronius himself must certainly have been convinced that there were Jews in this realm in the days of the Apostles, or else he must have contradicted himself. He states that, until the 65th year of our Lord, the Gospel was preached to none but to the Jews; but he also tells us, that A.D. 6l, Peter came over to Britain in order to preach the Gospel. Of course, he must have meant, to the Jews of Britain.
Lippomanus declares, and Nicephorus makes use of his declaration, that St. Peter preached also to the Britons; “for he carried,” says the latter, “the same doctrine to the Western Ocean and to the British Isles.”
But methinks I hear one say, Suppose there were a few Jews in this island, would that circumstance afford St. Peter sufficient encouragement and invitation to visit it. I answer, yes--there was encouragement and invitation enough for an apostle to the Jews to travel such a great distance. The Jews, being thus far removed from Jerusalem, had no opportunity of hearing any thing of the awful scene that was exhibited on Calvary, they would, therefore, be free from all the prejudices which prevailed in the breasts of their brethren in Palestine. The apostle might, therefore, calculate on sure success, for he would come to them, and preach the things noted in their Scriptures of truth respecting their Messiah, who was then universally expected by them. St. Peter would unfold to them the ninth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Daniel, where the time of Messiah’s first advent was fixed, as also that He was to “be cut off, but not for himself;” all of which is, to unprejudiced and unbiased minds, so self-evident, that the then British Jews could not but believe, especially when preached by a holy and pious countryman of their own. Dr. Wolff’s last journal of his travels to Bokhara convinces me, that where the Jews are ignorant of the controversy at issue between Jews and Christians, the Gospel meets with an easy and favorable reception by them, as you will perceive from the following extract:--
“Here I may as well notice the Jews of Yemen generally. While at Sanaa, Mose Joseph Alkaree, the chief rabbi of the Jews, called on me. He is an amiable and sensible man. The Jews of Yemen adhere uniquely to the ancient interpretation of Scripture in the passage (Isaiah 7:l4), ‘A virgin shall conceive,’ and they give to the word ---- the same interpretation, virgin, that the Christians do, without knowing the history of Jesus. Rabbi Alkaree asserted, that in Isa. 53, the suffering of the Messiah is described as anterior to his reign in glory. He informed me that the Jews of Yemen never returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonish captivity; and that when Ezra wrote a letter to the princes of the captivity at Tanaan--a day’s journey from Sanaa--inviting them to return, they replied, ‘Daniel predicts the murder of the Messiah, and another destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and there fore we will not go up until He shall have scattered the power of the holy people, until the thousand two hundred and ninety days are over.’ I demanded, ‘Do you consider these days to be literal days?’ The Alkaree replied, ‘No; but we do expect the coming of the Messiah from the commotions now going on at Yemen. We think he begins to come from Temen, i.e., Yemen, for you see the tents of Cushan are now in affliction, and the curtains of Midian tremble. There is now war in the wilderness unprecedented in our memory. There are twelve gates at San. As soon as one of them--the Bab Alstraan, which is always kept closed--is opened, we expect Him. Rechab and Hamdan are before it.’ I then expounded Isaiah 53, and read him the holy history of Jesus. He said, ‘Your exposition is in better agreement with the ancient interpretation; I approve it much more than that of our nation, which ascribes the passage to Josiah.’ This kind Jew assisted me in the distribution of Testaments among his people. Sanaa contains l5,000 Jews. In Yemen they amount to 20,000. I conceive the total population of the Jews throughout the world amounts to l0,000,000. I baptized here sixteen Jews, and left them all New Testaments.”
The latest intelligence we received from Persia bears testimony to the same striking fact. The following is an extract from a letter of the Rev. H. A. Stern, dated Tehran, June l9, l845:--
“May 16th, Kermanshah.--We were visited by Hassan Khan Kalentar: he was very polite, and offered us the use of his house, but we declined his offer, preferring to remain where we were. We went to the Jewish quarter, which is situated in the lowest part of the town, and inquired for the synagogue. A crowd of Jews quickly surrounded us, and conducted us to it. We had to wait several minutes while a messenger was despatched for the keys. On entering, we descended into an extremely poor place of worship, affording he strongest evidence of the poverty and oppression of the Jews here. They told us that they had repeatedly laid down expensive carpets, and ornamented the books of the law, but the soldiers had as often broken in at night, and stolen every article of value. We then called upon one of the mullahs or rabbis, and preached Jesus of Nazareth to him. He confessed he had never heard of the message of salvation, and was entirely ignorant of every thing respecting a Redeemer. He repeatedly said, ‘Did our forefathers so err?’ During our conversation the greater part of the Jewish population had crowded round the door, and the people were anxiously listening to what was said.
“May 17th.--We went again to the synagogue, and had scarcely entered before we were called up to the oratory. The mullah, with whom we had the conversation after our former visit, said he was very sorry that we did not come before the reading of the law, as he would have conferred the honor upon us. Some of the Jews gave us vases of roses which were standing near the reading-desk; and at the conclusion of the service, two of the mullahs and another influential Jew requested the congregation to remain quiet while we addressed them. We did so, for some time, on the first advent of the Messiah, his rejection by the Jewish nation, his sufferings and atonement, the reason of his coming in humility the first time, and of his future coming in glory. We entreated them to believe in Christ, and no longer to reject the proffered salvation. One of the Mullahs said, “We are in captivity, and groan under oppression. What can we do?”
“I--’Believe in Jesus Christ, and he will redeem you. It grieves us much to see you scattered like sheep without a shepherd--instead of hearing the lovely songs of Zion, to hear the wailings of affliction. Shall the gold always remain dim, and the sword always reek with your blood? No: come to Jesus, hear the blessed Gospel, and you will then find peace here and life eternal hereafter.’ Upon which, the whole synagogue--men, women, and children--loudly answered, ‘Amen! speedily, speedily; and may the blessing of God rest upon your heads!’ We spoke Hebrew, and the mullahs interpreted all we said to the people. We have each of the mullahs a New Testament, and presented a Bible to the synagogue. Thus were we enabled, by God’s grace, to preach Christ to no less than three hundred souls, and in a public synagogue.
“As we were on our way home, one of the mullahs sent a messenger to invite us to his house; but his wife being ill, and he poor, we did not accept the invitation.”
But Dr. Wolff’s late enterprise convinces us, likewise, that it is possible for a man who is inspired with benevolence and zeal, to travel 5,000 miles, in order to deliver two fellow-creatures only. Considering the superiority of the Apostle’s mission, there will be no reason to object to the probability of St. Peter’s visiting the Jews in this island, few as they may have been, in order to rescue them from that eternal death which ever dying never dies.
As to St. Paul’s being one of the first heralds of salvation in this island, there can scarcely be any doubt on the subject. Indeed, if we do not believe it we must make up our minds to reject all the hitherto authentic historians. By them we can prove to a demonstration, that St. Paul did preach the Gospel in Britain. However, as to prove this is not my object at present, I shall, therefore, only confine myself to a few writers on the subject.
Dr. Burgess, late Bishop of Sarum, one of the most learned and pious bishops of our Church, has shown most satisfactorily, in the tracts he published, that whilst to the Apostles generally--to St. Paul most particularly is Britain indebted for the foundation of her national Church. Clemens Romanus, who was an intimate friend and fellow-laborer of St. Paul, declares in his Epistle to the Corinthians, that “St. Paul having been a herald of the Gospel both in the east and in the west, he received the noble crown of faith, after teaching righteousness to the whole world, and gone even, to the utmost bounds of the west:” an expression, well known to every scholar, that always designated, or at least included, the British Islands.
Theodoret, one of the most learned and sound Church historians of the fourth century, mentions Britain among the nations which had received the Gospel. He states in his observations on Psalm 116, that “Paul carried salvation to the islands which lie in the ocean.” Jerome shortly afterwards writes, when commenting on The fifth chapter of Amos, that “St. Paul’s diligence in preaching extended as far as the earth itself.” Again, “after his imprisonment he preached the Gospel in the western parts” (De Script. Eccl.), in which (as is evident from a passage in his Epistle to Marcella) he included Britain. Venentius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, who lived in the fifth century, states that “Paul having crossed the ocean, landed and preached in the countries which the Britons inhabit.” I could multiply quotations on this subject almost without end; but they would be as tedious, as they are unnecessary. I may, however, observe that some of the greatest men of this country, who spent a great part of their lives in such researches--viz. the most learned Ussher, Parker, Stillingfleet, Cave, Camden, Gibson, Godwin, Rapin, and a great many others--have clearly shown that St. Paul was the founder of the British Church. But Archbishop Ussher proves also, that St. Paul did not quit this island before he had appointed the first bishop or bishops, and the other ministers of the Church--that Aristobulus was the first bishop he had appointed. Some of the old Welsh writers state, that Bran, son of Llyr Llediaeth (who had been a hostage for several years at Rome, for his son Caradoc or Caractacus), brought with him as preachers, on his return from Rome, one Aristobulus, an Italian, and two Israelites, named Ilid and Cynvan (Hughes’ Hora Britanica, vol. 2, p. 23), which must have taken place soon after St. Paul left Rome.
As far as the investigation of my subject is concerned, all the above rays of historical light converge to one point, which is, that some Jews must have been in this country during the first century; yea, the government of the British Christian Church was established and set in proper scriptural order by Jews themselves, be they who they may--Peter, Paul, Simon Zealotes, Joseph of Arimathea. So that the British Church actually owes to the Jewish nation a great debt of gratitude, for her beautiful and scriptural order, and for all her godlike religion. [end]