By Matthew Shaw
Pentecostals are historically apocalyptic. When the Holy Ghost baptism evidenced by speaking in tongues was rediscovered in the early Twentieth Century, converts to the theology were convinced of its centrality to worldwide evangelism and the final harvest of souls before the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Bro. Charles Parham, founder of the Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas and self-proclaimed “Projector” of the Apostolic Faith propagated the Pentecostal message and formulated an elaborate eschatological perspective on the identity of the Church, the Bride, and the reformation of the nation of Israel. In 1902, he published Kol Kare Bomidbar or A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, which articulates many of his theological ideas, most of which do not survive in modern Pentecostalism. However, an examination of Bro. Parham’s theories indicates a strong support amongst early Pentecostals for the creation of a Jewish state and the reinstitution of Temple worship, which Parham believed would usher in the consummation of all things.
Bro. Parham was a Zionist! He repudiated the establishment of various utopian “Zions” by Christian sects, most certainly referring to Dowie’s Zion City, Illinois, and argued that all prophecies concerning Zion apply only to Jerusalem. He praises the work of the Zionist movement under Dr. Herzel of Vienna, Austria and declares: “Probably no one but a Jew can understand the great love and affection that we bear Jerusalem. It amounts to a consuming passion. We long for her ancient glory, we pray for its restoration!” (Parham 101). He further laments the unavoidable deception of the “Jewish brethren” who will accept the imposter Antichrist (Parham 103).
Bro.’ Parham’s passionate affinity for Judaism is more perfectly understood, however, when examining his conviction that Anglo-Saxons are blood descendants of Abraham. He outlines the complex migration of the Jewish diaspora and claims that Hindus, Japanese, high German, Danes,
Scandinavians, and Anglo-Saxons are all “lost tribes.” He claims that archaeological and folkloric evidence of their passage through various nations does exist, identifying them as the Isuki warriors recorded on Babylonian monuments and asserting that Greek historians wrote of monotheistic peoples who received their laws from Ike Moxes (Moses). The Danes, according to the theory, are the modern descendants of Dan. He also cites etymological evolution, arguing that Saxons (a corruption of “Isaac’s Sons”) have been variously known as Isuki, Sacae, Sunae, Sacea, Suncea, and Saxons through history (Parham 106).
The concept of British Israelism, the contemporary name for the identification of Anglo-Saxons as members of the lost tribes of Israel, is the root of many extreme, racist cults today. White supremacists have used the idea to foster anti-Semitic hate campaigns. Conversely, Parham’s conviction about the genetic relationship of modern Caucasians to the ancient Hebrews establishes a deep reverence for the Jews. The construct also involves both Christian Aryans and Jews in a complicit end-time drama that will culminate in the peaceful millennium of messianic monarchy. Parham quotes a friend, an unnamed Jewish rabbi, whom he claims also accepts the premise of British Israelism. When asked whether Jews must become Christians or Christians must become Jews, the rabbi responds:
“But when He, the desire of all nations shall come (Hag. 2:7.) [sic] the Jew in Him will behold their longed for Messiah, while the Christian in ecstasy, behold their Savior, and together He will unite them in the Messiah’s Sabbatic Kingdom of one thousand years” (Parham 104).
Bro. Parham also believed that through the ancient mingling of Israelites with various races and tribes in the Mediterranean there were people of all races that were true, blood descendants of Abraham. He concludes that the Bride of Christ will be comprised of these descendants: “In the Body and Bride of Christ there seemingly will be people from all races in whose veins flow the blood of Abraham.” Furthermore, he believed that the Bride will be sealed with the Holy Ghost baptism which is “the only promised deliverance from the plagues and wraths [sic] of the last days” (Parham 86). It follows, then, that Parham believed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given expressly to those who were genetically Abraham’s seed. In several early evangelistic campaigns, Parham even dressed in Palestinian costume, visually demonstrating his connection to Semitic culture (Blumhofer 89).
In his book, Bro. Parham gives the genealogical account, formulated by Rev. F.R.A. Glover, chaplain to the British consulate at Cologne, of Queen Victoria’s primogenitures, tracing her ancestry to the original grandsire, Adam (Parham 97-9). The unique history of this lineage connects the Irish, Scottish, and English Kings to Tea Tephi, a Hebrew princess who is said to have arrived in Ireland, more specifically Tara (Torah) with the Prophet Jeremiah (Glover 60; 75-7). Parham also accepted the legendary history of the stone of Scone, which some believe was brought to Ireland by Jeremiah, used for centuries in the coronation seat of Irish, Scottish, and English monarchs (Parham 94). He believed that the Anglo-Saxon royal houses are the prophetic Davidic line of rulers and the fulfillment of God’s promise to King David that his descendants will not be without a throne.
Bro. Parham was not successful in interpolating British Israelism and its theological corollaries into core Pentecostal persuasion. His ideas were probably related to the anomaly of the idea’s fashionable nineteenth-century popularity, which was in many ways a product of British and American economic and social hubris. However, his strong personal belief in the ubiquity of Abraham’s seed and the common inheritance of God’s people, internationally dispersed and prophetically destined for blessing and ultimate salvation may have been seminal in preventing Pentecostals from developing the anti-Semitic attitudes that were common at the turn of the century. While Parham’s concepts of British Israelism may be foreign to modern Apostolics, the dearness of Jerusalem and the prophetic centrality of a restored Jewish nation continue to dominate the modern Pentecostal view of God’s purpose and soon-coming divine finale!
Blumhofer, Edith L. The Assemblies of God: a Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism, Volume 1-to 1941. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House. 1989.
Glover, F.R.A. England the Remnant of Judah and the Israel of Ephraim: the Two Families under One Head, a Hebrew Episode in British History. London: Rivingtons, 1880.
Parham, Charles Fox. Kol Kare Bomidbar, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Baxter Springs, KS: Apostolic Faith Bible College, 1929.
Matthew Shaw is a librarian at Ball State University and serves as Minister of Music at the United Pentecostal Church of New Castle. He lives in Muncie with his wife, Brandi, and four sons.