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Thursday, 09 December 2004 23:24

A Brief Assessment of Two House Theology

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by Perry Trotter

All belief systems are based upon particular assumptions (presuppositions) -certain things are taken for granted. An evangelical Christian, for example, begins with the presupposition that God exists and that He has chosen to communicate. Those initial assumptions lead to the belief that the scriptures are inspired, that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died in our place and rose from grave.

If the initial assumption concerning God's existence could be shown to be false, then all beliefs based on that assumption would collapse. If God does not exist, then any discussion concerning Jesus' death for our sin becomes meaningless.

Two House Theology :"(Also known as The Ephraimite Movement )": is based on certain assumptions. While those distinctives are not as foundational as the very existence of God, they do set Two House Theology apart and merit critical examination.

For most believers an assessment of a movement's distinctives will be more concise and beneficial than full blown interaction with every claim the movement makes. If Two House Theology can be shown to be based upon faulty presuppositions then the belief system as a whole should be rejected.

An examination of a selection of the movement's writings :"(Your Arms To Israel Doctrinal Statement,Various, Moshe Yoseph Konuichowsky
Various, B'Nai Avraham Messianic Congregation
Various, Eddie Chumney
The Mystery of the Gentiles, Joy Jacobs
)": reveals a number of significant foundational errors. Among these:

  • belief in the concept of lost tribes
  • confusion concerning the biblical meanings of Israelite, Jew and Gentile
  • denial of the distinctiveness of the ekklesia (church)

What follows is a brief assessment of these foundational errors:

Lost Tribes?

The concept of ten lost tribes is nothing new. British Israelism has long held that the ten tribes of the northern kingdom became lost and that the British and American people are mostly descended from these supposedly missing tribes. Various supporting arguments have been presented including alleged linguistic connections and dubious interpretations of history and biblical prophecy.

The question should first be asked: from a biblical perspective, were any of Israel's tribes ever lost? The short answer is no.

The scriptures repeatedly make the prediction that the descendants of Israel will be scattered throughout the nations :"(e.g. Deut 4:27, 28; 30:1; Jer 30:11; Micah 5:7, 8 )":and that in the last days they will be regathered to the land of Israel, leaving none behind :"(e.g. Isa 11:11,12; Jer 16:14,15; 23:3-8; 31:10; Ezek 11:17-19; 39:28; Zeph 3:20)":. The dispersion has been fulfilled. Though scattered for more than two millennia the Jews have largely remained distinct and identifiable. Until recently assimilation has been relatively uncommon.

The biblically predicted dispersion is entirely different, however, from the concept of lost tribes as promoted by British Israelism. As we shall see, the lost tribe contention is without biblical support.

The Biblical Record

Following the kings Saul, David and Solomon, the kingdom was divided in the time of Rehoboam. Thereafter Judah and Benjamin were seen as the southern kingdom while the other ten tribes were frequently referred to as Israel, the northern kingdom.

The northern kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians around 722BC and many of its people deported :"( II Kings 17:6 )":. However, prior to the invasion many of the Israelites (...from every tribe of Israel...) were living in the southern kingdom among the people of Judah and Benjamin (I Kings 12:17; II Chronicles 11:3, 16). Large numbers from Ephraim, Mannaseh and Simeon had moved to the southern kingdom (II Chronicles 15:9).

Even following the Assyrian exile many Israelites were recorded as still dwelling among the people of Judah and Benjamin (II Chronicles 30:25; 34:9; 35:18).

Early in the 6th century BC the southern kingdom (Judah) was conquered by the Babylonians and a limited number of its people deported :"(Jer 52:28-30 )":

From the time of the return from Babylonian exile the terms Israelite and Jew began to be used interchangeably. Examples of returning Judahites referred to as Israelites include Ezra 8:35; 10:25 and Nehemiah 12:47. :"(In light of the aforementioned texts, I Kings, II Chronicles, Jeremiah, many of Nehemiah's references to Jews necessarily include some non-Judahites.)":

By this stage in the biblical narrative the notion of lost tribes has been exposed as a myth. Proponents of British Israelism will frequently teach that Judah ("the Jews") returned to the Holy land while the ten tribes ("Israel") somehow became lost. The Bible, however, reveals that there was significant intermingling of the twelve tribes. By the time of the return from Babylonian exile all twelve tribes were represented both within and outside the land of Israel. One of the fundamental flaws of British Israelism (and Two House Theology) is the insistence that Israel and Judah remained distinct.

The New Testament meaning of Israelite and Jew

As should be expected, the New Testament continues to use the terms Israelite and Jew interchangeably.

Peter, In Acts 2, addressed his kinsmen as fellow-Jews in verse 14 but men of Israel in verse 22. Paul explicitly calls himself both an Israelite :"(Romans 11:1; II Corinthians 11:22 )": and a Jew :"(Acts 21:39; 22:3)":.

Throughout Romans, Paul uses Israel and Jew interchangeably. He freely moves between statements distinguishing Jew and Gentile :"(e.g. Romans 1:16; 2:9-3:1; 3:28-30; 9:24; 10:12; 15:8,9,27)": and Israelite and Gentile :"(e.g. 9:30; 11:11-14; 11:25-26)": . If these terms are given the meanings assigned by Two House Theology some of Paul's propositions become meaningless or confused :"(e.g. Rom 11:11 ...through their, Israel's, fall, salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke them to envy... THT teaches that most Gentiles who come to saving faith are in fact Israelites. As such, Paul's statement is rendered meaningless.)": .

None of the twelve tribes was considered lost in the first century. James knew that there were believers among all twelve tribes and that many were living in the Diaspora (dispersion). He began his letter to those Jewish believers ...to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, greeting... :"(James 1:1)": . Jesus' listeners in John 7 clearly understood that many of their people remained scattered among the Gentiles :"(John 7:35)": .

The prophetess Anna, mentioned by Luke, was of the tribe of Asher, one of the supposedly lost tribes :"(Luke 2:36)": .

The notion of lost tribes is found to be without biblical basis.

Two House Theology - A New Spin On An Old Error

Two House Theology appears to be established largely in the fringes of the Messianic movement. While it is not classic British Israelism it does draw from many of the same ideas.

Essentially, it is argued that those Gentiles who become believers are in fact mostly Ephraimites -that is, they are directly descended from Ephraim, Jacob's grandson, which of course would make them Israelites. Thus it is largely only Israelites and so called Judahites who are coming to saving faith in these days. :"(The obvious question arises: what about the "Gentile Gentiles"? A major provision of the Abrahamic covenant was that all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham (Gen 12:3). Paul later refers to this statement as the gospel announced in advance (Gal 3:8). Plainly, millions more Gentiles than Jews have come to faith in Messiah. THT, while not absolutely denying that some Gentile believers are in fact Gentiles, seems to have very little to say about Gentile salvation. Is
this revenge for replacement theology?)":

One of the key texts to which Two House Theology appeals is Genesis 48:19 :"(...but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.)": . In this scripture Ephraim is prophesied to become melo hagoyim -a multitude of peoples or nations. It is argued that this is a prediction that the descendants of Ephraim would one day become separate national identities distinct from those we today identify as Jews.

It is taught that these Ephraimites have till now been unidentifiable. It is said that their recognition as Israelites and their union with the "Jews" is a prelude to Israel's ultimate restoration.

It is true that Genesis 48:19 does use the Hebrew word goyim -the plural of goy, the word normally translated as Gentile or nation. The fundamental error, however, is in the assertion that this word always and only ever refers to Gentiles :"(Goy: "...in early usage, it was used of a nation, a people, a tribe, and even a clan. Thus the point of Gen 48:19 is that Ephraim
will be the father of a multitude of clans and so he was. His prominence is seen in that after the division of the kingdom, his name was often synonymous with the whole northern kingdom of Israel." Dr Arnold G Fruchtenbaum, Ariel Ministries.)":. We shall see that this is an error fatal to the system of Two House Theology.

Genesis 12:1-7 records the announcement of what has come to be known as the Abrahamic covenant. In this passage God promises to make a great nation of Abraham's physical descendants -a clear reference to Israel. Even in this passage the word used is goy.

Another clear example is Jeremiah 31:36 where the Lord promises that Israel will always exist as a nation before me. Again, the word is goy.

Zephaniah speaks of the Jewish people regathered for judgement and, ultimately, for great blessing. He speaks of Israel as a goy in Zephaniah 2:1 and 9.

While it is true that goy normally refers to Gentiles (i.e. those who are not physically descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) that is not always the case. As such, another of the presuppositions of Two House theology is found to be false.

Again, all belief systems are based on certain assumptions. Two House Theology is premised upon a number of significant errors. Its misunderstanding of the biblical usage of goy and goyim is one such error.

The Ekklesia (or Church :"(The English word church is probably a poor and unfortunate choice to translate the Greek ekklesia. The primary meaning of church in many English dictionaries is: edifice for public Christian worship. Significantly, this is a meaning the scriptures never assign to ekklesia. For this and other reasons some prefer not to use the term church.)": ) - A Distinct New Entity Or Simply New Covenant Israel?

Replacement Theology, in its many forms, has long confused the two biblically distinct entities Israel and the church. From the time of Augustine and his damaging doctrines :"(Augustine 354-430. Amillennialism: "...second major factor which prompted the rejection of premillennialism was the teaching of Augustine... ...he developed... ...new view which became known as amillennialism." Renald E Showers, There Really Is A Difference, p132; promoted Mariolatry; consented to death penalty for those who submitted to believer's baptism; etc)": , and before, the church has been seen as the new Israel -effectively disenfranchising ethnic Israel of its covenants and ushering in centuries of heresy and antisemitism within Christendom.

A plain reading of scripture reveals a clear distinction between the two entities: Israel as those who are physically descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob :"(A Gentile believer is a son of Abraham by faith e.g. Gal 3:29, Rom 4:11,16. This does not make him a Jew, however. Biblically, Jewishness is a matter of physical descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.)": ; the ekklesia (or church) as those Jews and Gentiles who, since Acts 2, have come to saving faith in Jesus the Messiah.

While replacement theology effectively displaces Israel, Two House Theology denies and displaces the ekklesia.

Two House Theology, consistent with its other errors, sees the ekklesia as simply "new covenant Israel" :"(Your Arms To Israel Doctrinal Statement)":Â   . It teaches that supposedly Gentile believers within the ekklesia are in fact mostly unrecognised Ephraimites, Israelites)Â   :"(Your Arms To Israel Doctrinal Statement)":Â   . These "Israelites", by uniting with the believing Jews in the church "Judah", are reuniting both houses of Israel -hence Two House Theology. One error leads to another. Confusion regarding origin and terminology inevitably creates confusion regarding the identity of Israel and of the church.

Scripture teaches that the ekklesia or church is a truly new entity. Paul speaks of Jewish and Gentile believers united in one body :"( I Cor 12:13; Eph 2:16)": . Union of this kind was impossible before Messiah's death :"(Col 2:14; Eph 2:14, 15)": . We are now heirs together and sharers together :"(Eph 3:6)":.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul describes this entity with the Greek word kainos :"(Eph 2:15)": -what is new and distinctive as compared with other things; new in kind. He describes the concept as a mystery :"(Eph 3:4-6)": -that is, something that was formerly unrevealed but now has been made known :"(Greek: musterion see also Romans 16:25-26; Col 1:26)":Â   The church is a truly new entity.

Paul tells his Gentile readers :"(Eph 2:11; 3:1)": that they were formerly excluded from the commonwealth of Israel :"(Eph 2:12)": . What he does not say is that Gentile believers have now become part of Israel :"(Romans 11:17 and 24 teach that Gentile believers are grafted into a tree belonging to Israel. It does not teach that Gentile believers become spiritual Jews.)": . Rather, he teaches that Gentiles have been made members of a new entity, variously described as the body of Messiah :"( I Cor 12:13, 27; Eph 4:12; 5:23)": , one new man :"(Eph 2:15)": , the household of God :"(Eph 2:19)": , the ekklesia (or church ) :"(Eph 1:22; Col 1:18)":Â   . It is precisely this teaching that Two House Theology describes as an unscriptural doctrine of hell :"(Your Arms To Israel Doctrinal Statement)": .

A Foundation Of Sand

The errors of Two House Theology are not limited to those outlined above. Other areas of concern include claims of obedience to Mosaic law :"( B'Nai Avraham Messianic Congregation, About Us)": (obviously highly inconsistent and selective observance). There also appears to be partial acceptance of orthodox (rabbinic) Judaism :"(Eddie Chumney)": -a belief system that by biblical definition qualifies as antichrist religion :"( I John 2:22)": .

The purpose of this short paper has been to address a number of Two House Theology's key presuppositions. If these have been recognised to be false then the system can be, and should be, rejected. Those in positions of leadership within the ekklesia are obliged not only to teach sound doctrine, but also to identify and refute that which is false. :"( Titus 1:9; Romans 16:17)": Two House Theology is the kind of movement that should be strenuously opposed. True shepherds will protect the flock from wolves :"(Acts 20:28-31)":Â   Sadly, many of today's shepherds are merely hirelings and willingly tolerate wolves -or worse, feed the sheep to the wolves.

It is heartening that in recent years many thousands of Jews and Gentiles have come to recognise the Jewishness of the scriptures and of Messiah Himself. It is tragic, however, that so many subsequently embrace errors such as Two House Theology that exploit the pride and insecurity of believers.

In these days of increasing deception believers need to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the proclamation of Jesus' Messiahship and to sound, biblical discipleship. Winds of doctrine such as Two House Theology serve only to distract, disable and divide.

Read 5718 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 December 2008 00:32

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