James and the Twelve Tribes
NCW 75, April-June 2002
Q. The apostle James addresses his letter to "the twelve tribes scattered among the nations" (Jas.1:1). What exactly does this mean? Did he know where the other ten tribes were?
A. Orthodox Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern) say that the 12 tribes refer metaphorically to them, and Messianic Jews to the Jewish Diaspora. But this is not metaphorical and only the Talmudic Jews have ever regarded themselves as representing all of Israel. Since Paul talks about the restoration of both Judah and Israel it is clear that the literal 12 tribes are being referred to.
This does not imply, however, that James knew where they were located, or that anyone does. Yahweh knows who the Israelites are scattered in the nations and calls them in His own way and time. They are located in all nations, dispersed and intermingled with every race there is. It is the teaching of NCCG/BCAY that all those who truly accept Christ and remain faithful to the end, be they Asian, African or European, are evidencing that they are of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
And we, who are hearing the words of James, and of the other apostles, and of Christ, and of the prophets, are the audience which James is addressing. Whether by literal descent or by grafting-in, we are Israel. As to which tribe we individually belong to, this can only be known through revelation.
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Last updated on 16 June 2004
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