Book Review: J.H. Titcomb: ‘British-Israel: How I Came to Believe It'

By Mikkel Stjernholm Kragh


The Englishman Jonathan Holt Titcomb (1819-1887) was the first Anglican bishop of Rangoon, Burma (today Yangon, Myanmar). Titcomb was consecrated bishop in 1877, and fervently spread the Gospel for five years in Burma. In 1881 he unfortunately fell over a cliff in the Karen hills, and had to retire from the bishopric in 1882 due to ill-health. Back in England, Titcomb became a deputy for the bishop of London, and was for a while president of the Metropolitan Anglo-Israel Association.


JH Titcomb from British Israel How I Came to

The Rt. Rev. Bishop J.H. Titcomb


The book ‘British-Israel: How I Came to Believe It'  was originally published in 1875 under the title ‘The Anglo-Israel Post-Bag'. The book is not an introduction to, nor an explanation of, British-Israelism, but rather a step-by-step explanation of the personal difficulties which Titcomb encountered when he himself was introduced to British-Israelism. As Titcomb writes, “You will say, then, ‘What in the world has altered you?' I will tell you. I was thinking one day over the subject - anxious to do it full justice - and really desirous of discovering truth for its own sake, without prejudice or bigotry, when it occured to my mind that it would be only fair to look at what the advocates of this Anglo-Israel Theory said respecting the state of the Ten Tribes in their captivity." (p. 15)


Being an early and prominent British-Israelite, it must be mentioned that bishop Titcomb viewed all the Nordic, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon peoples as the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, just as the founder of British-Israelism, John Wilson, did, in ‘Our Israelitish Origin' (1840). Some later British-Israelites have followed another branch of British-Israelism as taught by Edward Hine, an Englishman of Jewish origin, who claimed that only Anglo-Saxons and Jews were Israel and Judah, respectively, but nothing of this sort is to be found in this book from 1875 by bishop Titcomb. This can be illustrated by the bishop's interpretation of Ezekiel chap. 37, concerning the future Spiritual Resurrection and Re-Union of Israel and Judah, of which he wrote that “we should have a representation of the Teutonic and Keltic races, or, at least, a large portion of them, lying in Britain, Gaul, Germany, Denmark, and Scandinavia, waiting to be collected into one nationalized mass." (p. 152)


There are many oddities in this book, but considering that it is the work of a pioneer, and also that it is a very personal testimony, it only adds to the charm of a book written at a time, 1875, when Britannia ruled the waves and the peoples of Europe were establishing themselves as masters of world-wide colonial empires.


June 2008