THE TWO HOUSE OR EPHRAIMITE MOVEMENT
By Steve Shermett, AMC President
I. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE MOVEMENT
The Two House movement, also known as the Ephraimite movement among
other names, is a Christian sect that teaches that Gentile believers in
Messiah Yeshua are literal physical descendants of the ten northern
tribes of the Kingdom of Israel, also know as Ephraim. Thus the name
Ephraimites believe that Jewish identity is rightfully theirs. They
identify themselves as Israelites, and not as Jews, the latter of whom
they believe come primarily from the tribe of Judah. Nevertheless, they
claim to be Jews by most common definitions, and are therefore to be
considered a pseudo-Messianic sect.
Although the adherents of the Two House movement disavow British
Israelism1, British Israelism, nevertheless, is the
philosophical origin of their movement.
As with many sects and cults, it is difficult to communicate with Two
House adherents, or even about the group, due to the logical fallacy
known as equivocation, which is "falsification by means of vague or
ambiguous language" , causing the same term [to be] used with two
different meanings." (WWW.datanation.Com/fallacies/equiv.htm)
Here are two examples of
1. Criminal actions are illegal. All murder trials are criminal actions.
Therefore, all murder trials are illegal. (ibid)
2. Hot dogs are better than nothing. Nothing is better than steak.
Therefore, hot dogs are better than steak. (WWW.drury.edu/ess/Logic/Informal/Equivocation.HTML)
Since the words "Israelite" and "Jew" do not mean
the same things to Ephraimites that they mean to most people in the
Messianic movement, clear communication is often impossible. To most
within the Messianic movement, a Jew is any descendant of Jacob who
identifies himself by the word "Jew." To Ephraimites, a Jew is
one who is a descendant of Judah.
Most within the Messianic movement believe that an Israelite is a Jew,
and a Jew is an Israelite: that the terms are synonymous. Jews
throughout history have been identified as Hebrews and Israelites as
well as Jews. To the
Ephraimites, an Israelite is one who is a descendant of one of the ten
northern tribes, and one who is a descendant of Judah (or Benjamin) is
NOT an Israelite, but a Jew.
To sum up Ephraimite belief thus far:
1. A Jew is a descendant of Judah (or Benjamin).
2. An Israelite is a descendant of one of the other ten tribes.
3. Therefore, a Jew is not an Israelite, and an Israelite is not a Jew!
To an Ephraimite, the fact that he believes in Yeshua is proof positive
that he is an Israelite! No historical, genealogical or archeological
evidence is necessary.
II. BIBLICAL DEFINITIONS
The Ephramite movement errs in distinguishing between "Jew"
and "Israelite". Paul used the terms, Hebrew, Israelite and
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of
Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (Philippians
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am
an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, [of] the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans
But Paul said, I am a man, a Jew.... (Acts 21:39, MKJV)
To sum up, Paul identified himself as a Jew, an Israelite and a
Benjamite, thus refuting the Ephraimite position.
III. KEY POINTS FOR CONSIDERATION
A. Were the ten tribes "lost?"
1. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Hezekiah,
who came to the throne of Judah probably in 715 BC, could still appeal
to the tribes Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Asher and Zebulun.
The Assyrian captivity of the northern
kingdom of Israel, the home of the ten northern tribes, took place in
721 B.C.E. Thus, Hezekiah appealed to these tribes identified by name
six years after they were "lost".
2. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of
the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an
husband seven years from her virginity. (Luke 2:36)
This is 700 years after Assyria destroyed
the northern Kingdom of Israel; yet, the specific tribal identity of
this woman, the northern tribe of Asher, is stated unequivocally.
3. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah were scattered, in great part, to
the same geographical area. They would have mixed and returned together
under Ezra and Nehemiah:
And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the
rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house
of God with joy.... (Ezra 6:16, KJV)
Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo,
prophesied unto the Jews that [were] in Judah and Jerusalem in the name
of the God of Israel, [even] unto them. (Ezra 5:1)
According to Ezra, Israel and Judah were joined together in the return
from the captivity.
Obviously, no tribe of Israel was lost; not one of the ten northern
tribes, nor either of the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
B. Does having some Jewish lineage make one a Jew?
Consider the Samaritans2
Samaritans (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). The name
given to the new and mixed inhabitants ...brought from Babylon and other
places and settled in the cities of Samaria,... These strangers
...amalgamated with the Jews still remaining in the land, and gradually
abandoned their old idolatry and adopted partly the Jewish religion.
Samaritans had Jewish lineage and even partly adopted Judaism. Yet, Ezra
didn't consider them Jews (Ezra 4:1-4). Nor did Yeshua. To the woman at
the well: You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know,
for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22, NASB).
IV. WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
Six Reasons I Believe the Movement is Unhealthy
1. It is a new type of "replacement theology". If everyone is
Jewish, no one is Jewish. Replacement theology holds that the church has
replaced Israel spiritually. The Two House movement holds that the
church has replaced Israel physically: The ten "lost tribes"
are the Gentile believers of today! It seems that they think
(erroneously) that Jewish believers are descendants of Judah; yet they
don't realize that Jewish believers themselves have no clue as to which
tribe they are descended from.
2. All mistranslation or misinterpretation of Scripture is cause for
... as also in all his letters,
speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be
understood, which the unlearned and unstable pervert, as also they do
the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2Pe 3:16,
3. The Two House movement diminishes the uniqueness of the nation which
God has called, namely, Israel.
4. Two House doctrine adds further difficulty and confusion within the
5. Two House harms the perception of our authenticity as Jews, and
therefore, our witness among the Jewish people.
6. It violates the principles of 1 Cor. 7:17-20, ISV:
Nevertheless, everyone should live the
life that the Lord gave him and to which God called him. This is my rule
in all the churches. Was anyone circumcised when he was called? He
should not try to change that. Was anyone uncircumcised when he was
called? He should not get circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and
uncircumcision is nothing, but obeying God's commandments is everything.
Everyone should stay in the calling in which he was called.
V. WHY PEOPLE ADOPT EPHRAIMITE BELIEFS
There are perhaps two reasons:
1. They are taught it and accept it.
2. They really wish they were Jewish.
Those who adopt Two House must realize that God doesn't make mistakes,
that He doesn't love Jews more than Gentiles, and that Jews and Gentiles
are one in Messiah. In addition, those in the Messianic movement must be
careful to not perpetuate the error that there is a qualitative
difference between Jewish believers and Gentile believers.
We all must accept one another as we are, and as God has made us. Everyone
should stay in the calling in which he was called. (1 Cor. 7:20)
3More on Two House
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1British Israelism is
"the doctrine that the true identity of modern Israel (or the
"ten lost tribes") is Britain and (sometimes) the British
colonies (America)" It is a philosophy popularized by Herbert
Armstrong's cult, The World Wide Church of God. (watchman.org)
Armstrongism: The doctrines and religious
movement originating with Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986), who founded
the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). Armstrong rejected such essential
doctrines of evangelical Christianity as the Trinity, the full deity of
Jesus Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit. Armstrong taught
British Israelism and believed that worthy humans could eventually
"become God as God is God". Armstrongism teaches salvation by
works predicated on Sabbatarianism, tithing (20-30%), and keeping the
Old Testament feast days and dietary laws. Under the leadership of
Armstrong's successors, Joseph W. Tkach and his son Joe Tkach, the WCG
has undergone a radical doctrinal transformation. Scores of splinter
groups, such as the Global Church of God and the United Church of God,
continue to teach various forms of Armstrongism. (http://www.watchman.org/cat95.htm#Armstrongism)
2... until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He
spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away
into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day. The king of
Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from
Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in
place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its
cities. At the beginning of their living there, they did not fear the
LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them which killed some of
them. So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, "The nations
whom you have carried away into exile in the cities of Samaria do not
know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions among them,
and behold, they kill them because they do not know the custom of the
god of the land." Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying,
"Take there one of the priests whom you carried away into exile and
let him go and live there; and let him teach them the custom of the god
of the land." So one of the priests whom they had carried away into
exile from Samaria came and lived at Bethel, and taught them how they
should fear the LORD. But every nation still made gods of its own and
put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria
had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived. (2 Kings
* * * *
3More on Two House:
For a brief assessment of Two House on our web site, click here.
For a more extensive assessment
of Two House than is presented here, you may purchase the CD of the 2005
AMC Leadership Conference, "Defending the Messianic Faith,"
which features several Messianic leaders speaking on a rich variety of
topics. See the ad
at the very bottom of The Shofar.