The Ephraimite Error: A Short Summary
A Short Summary of
"The Ephraimite Error"
A Position Paper Submitted to the
International Messianic Jewish Alliance
Author: Kay Silberling, Ph.D.
Committee Members and Advisors: Kay Silberling, Ph.D. Daniel Juster, Th.D.
David Sedaca, M.A.
A movement alternately known as the "Ephraimite," "Restoration of Israel,"
"Two-Covenant Israel," or "Two House" movement has recently gained ground in
some areas among ardent Christian Zionists. Proponents of this
movementcontend that members of the "born-again" segment of the Christian
church are, in fact, actual blood descendants of the ancient Israelites who
were exiled in the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 B.C.E.1
Primary among the movement's spokespersons are Batya Wootten and Marshall,
a.k.a. Moshe, Koniuchowsky.
Logic and Exegetical Method
Batya Wootten and Koniuchowsky build their theology of the church as
physical Israel on typological and grammatically suspect readings of the
stories of the biblical patriarchs and the fall of the northern kingdom of
Israel in 722 B.C.E.
A Multitude of Nations
Starting with the patriarchs, Wootten argues that Jacob's promise to Ephraim
in Gen 48:19 predicted the transformation of Ephraim/Israel into Gentiles.2
Wootten claims that every time the Hebrew word, goy, is employed, it is a
reference to a Gentile or a Gentile nation.3
This is incorrect. In the Hebrew Bible and the Apostolic Writings, while the
word goy (English: people, nation; Greek: ethnos) may refer to a Gentile
nation, it may, just as easily, refer to the nation of Israel. The term is
used to refer to Israel or the Jewish people in Exod 19:6; Deut 32:28, cf.
32:45; Josh 10:12-13; Isa 1:4; Isa 26:2; Jer 31:36; Zeph 2:9.4 Note
especially Jer 31:36: "'If this fixed order departs from before me,'
declares the LORD, 'Then the offspring [lit. "seed"] of Israel also shall
cease from being a nation (goy) before me forever.'" In the Greek Apostolic
Writings, the word ethnos refers to the Jewish people in Luk 7:5; 23:2; John
11:48-52; 18:35; Acts 10:22; 24:2,10,17; 26:4; 28:19; 1 Cor 10:18; Phil 3:5.
The first contention, then, that goy or goyim is always translated as
Gentile or Gentiles is patently incorrect.
Because of this error, Wootten and Koniuchowsky argue that all the blessings
promised to Abraham's and Joseph's physical heirs are in fact blessings
promised to Gentiles. But because the premise is wrong (that goy always
means Gentile), the conclusion is also wrong.
Dust of the Earth
Another major cornerstone of this teaching is that social-historical Israel,
as it is traditionally perceived, cannot possibly fulfill the promises of
physical multiplicity that was to equal "the sand of the sea," "the dust of
the earth," or the "stars of the sky." Such a hyper-literalist reading of
these phrases, which rules out their common-sense interpretation, ignores
the scriptural record. For 2 Chron 1:9 states clearly that the people over
whom King Solomon reigned [Israel] were "a people as numerous as the dust of
the earth." Isa 10:22 also refers to the people of Israel being "as the sand
of the sea" in number. Recognizing hyperbole in the Bible is not a matter of
"spiritualizing" the promises as Wootten and Koniuchowsky contend. It is a
matter of being knowledgeable about the rhetorical conventions used by the
biblical writers.
Parallel Universes
Fundamental to Wootten's and Koniuchowsky's claims is a suspect view of
history. Wootten argues that the northern Israelite tribes taken captive by
Assyria in 722 B.C.E. were "never[ed] Jews [italics hers]."5 For
her, the exile of the northern kingdom automatically transformed that people
into Gentiles.6
Wootten and Koniuchowsky hope to establish that the members of the former
northern kingdom cannot possibly have been called Jews from the post-exilic
period on. If successful, they then hope to ask the question as to how God
could allow for 10/12ths of God's people to be annihilated. The obvious
answer to this is that God could allow no such thing! They then hope to
demonstrate that these "lost tribes" are indeed Christians - that they are
not lost at all but have been waiting for this end-time prophetic movement
to reveal their true natures. As Wootten states, "God allowed them to become
lost among the nations. He allowed them to become - Gentile Israel [italics
Wootten tries to make a strong distinction between post-exilic Judah and
Israel by quoting Jeremiah speaking to "'the house of Israel and the house
of Judah' (Jer 11:10)."8 Based on this phrasing, she claims that the two
"houses" were distinct. As a matter of fact, while there are indeed cases in
which Ephraim and Judah are referred to separately, scripture just as often
uses the terms "Ephraim" and "Judah," or "Israel" and "Judah," in tandem,
employing the two terms as a parallelism - a poetic way of speaking
synonymously of the two groups. Thus when the Psalmist states, "God is known
in Judah; His name is great in Israel," the intention is not to
differentiate Israel and Judah but to equate them.9
"All Israel"
Despite their arguments, the Bible tells us that many of the northern
kingdom's subjects rejoined the southern kingdom both before and after its
people were exiled. Based on this, scripture makes the claim that the Jews
today represent "all Israel." The term, "Gentile Israel," used by Wootten,
is an oxymoron in terms of the biblical world of ideas.10
Jer 30:10 addresses the Judahite exiles (cf. Jer 29:1, 30-31) and calls them
"Jacob" and "Israel." Jer 31:17-20 reports that Ephraim has repented (past
tense) and describes Ephraim grieving over its own acts. Ezra 2:70 states of
the returned exiles, "and all Israel lived in their cities." Zechariah
addresses the same Medo-Persian returnees as "Oh house of Judah and house of
Israel" (8:13; cf. 8:15) and distinguishes them from the people of the
nations (Zech 8:23). It is thus not accurate to argue that references to
post-exilic Judah are unique to Judah and do not apply to Israel.
Those who returned from exile referred to themselves both as Jews and as the
people of Israel because they affirmed the theocratic reign of God centered
in Jerusalem, the capital of the former kingdoms of united Israel and,
later, Judah (Yehudah).
Thus the phrase "the Jewish people" has become the title for all of Israel.
The term Jew encompassed all those who were taken into captivity by the time
of the Babylonian exile, both former Israelites and Judahites, "the remnant
of Israel" (Jer 31:7. Cf. Jer 50:33; Neh 12:47; Dan 9:11; Lam 2:5). By the
time of the writing of Esther, the term Jew, derived from Judah, could refer
to someone from the tribe of Benjamin (Esth 2:5). In the Greek Tobit 11:17,
in a clear reference to the Assyrian exiles, it states, "So on that day
there was rejoicing among all the Jews who were in Nineveh." This
designation became so widespread that by the time of the Hellenistic period,
the term Jew identified those of all the former tribes who dwelt in the
diaspora and who affirmed a particular religious system. Wootten's claim
that the northern Israelites were "never once called Jews" is false.11
Israel in the Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Writings reflect this Hellenistic usage. In Acts, Peter refers
to his Jewish audience members as "all the house of Israel" (Acts 2:36; cf.
4:10; 5:21; 10:36; 21:28). In Acts 13:24, John proclaims his baptism of
repentance "to all the people of Israel." His audience was comprised of
Jews. In Acts 26:7, Paul refers to the hope of "our twelve tribes" with no
reference whatsoever to Ephraim. Luke 2:36 mentions Anna as being from the
tribe of Asher. Paul states that he himself is of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom
11:1; Phil 3:5). Thus some members of non-Judahite tribes still maintained a
memory of their original tribal affiliations. Yeshua claims that his
followers are to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel
(Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30). Their function here is that of representatives of
the full twelve tribes.
In fact, the Apostolic Writings make no mention whatsoever of a gathering of
lost Ephraimites. Instead, they portray the ingathering of Gentiles as a
novum, an unexpected move in the history of redemption and a breaking in to
the present of God's final age of redemption.
In Romans 11:7-14, Paul states that salvation has come to the Gentiles in
order to make Israel jealous. If Gentile believers are Israel, then how can
Israel make Israel jealous? Note that while Paul makes a clear distinction
throughout his writings between Gentiles and Jews, he refers to Israel and
to Jewish people interchangeably.
The Ephraimite message undermines the great power of the claims of the
Apostolic Writings. It tries to change a message of hope and comfort for all
peoples regardless of their heritage, regardless of their station in life,
into a racist and race-based plan of salvation for those with the proper
Who Is Israel?
Wootten and Koniuchowsky give contradictory evidence as to how all believing
Christians throughout history could be physically descended from the ancient
northern Israelite exiles. At times, they argue that all people on earth are
physically descended from Israel. At other times, they concede that there
may indeed be "perhaps some true Gentiles" among the believers.12 Or they
call believing followers of Yeshua "another 'sect' of Judaism," without any
explanation as to how they can be a sect of Judaism and not Jews!13
Wootten further confuses things by declaring that Gentiles become
Ephraimites only at the moment when they become "grafted in" to the olive
tree of Israel and no sooner.14 Thus we see wild contradictions in the
effort to explain how non-Jewish Christians today can be natural descendants
of ancient Israelites.
What about genealogy? Is it statistically possible that everyone on earth is
descended from one man? Only if no one but Abraham had ever produced
offspring that survived - making Abraham the "new Adam." Intuitively
recognizing the flaw in this argument, Wootten desperately tries out another
angle, arguing that today's followers of Yeshua, although considered
Gentiles, are actually physical offspring of those early Jewish and
Samaritan believers.15 Thus descendants of Jews, who are not Ephraim by
Wootten's own definition, have somehow become Ephraim. Not only is this
inherently contradictory, but it is statistically and historically
untenable. Finally, as we will see, Wootten and Koniuchowsky claim that
these descendants are found primarily in the West. Yet, if one were to
follow this logic, if any Christians today can make the claim to physical
descent from the early Jewish followers of Yeshua, it should be Christians
of North African, Egyptian, Syrian, and Palestinian descent, all non-white
peoples. However, we will see that Wootten and Koniuchowsky focus their
hopes primarily on white people, reserving only threats of annihilation for
the Palestinians and others from this region.16
Finally, Wootten and Koniuchowsky protest repeatedly that their claims to
Israelite heritage are physical and are not spiritual. Yet, the basis for
their claims are often wholly subjective -- when "you knew in your
'knower,'" as Wootten claims.17 She cannot have it both ways. Either it is
physical or it is spiritual. Wootten makes both contentions, but ultimately
she rejects the spiritual angle and bases her argument on physical,
race-based claims.
This pseudo-genealogy that Wootten and Koniuchowsky have created is a
desperate and contrived one - one that exists if you "know it" in your
heart. This differs drastically from the kinship groups of social-historical
Israel which have shared communal memories of kinship that are supported by
a rich history of literature, archaeology, and epigraphic evidence.
Parallels to Anglo-Israelism and Racial Theory
Where have these ideas of Wootten's and Koniuchowsky's come from? The
sources they give are few. Koniuchowsky cites Yair Davidy as a major source,
but attributes to him few specific citations.18 Neither he nor Wootten make
any mention of theirs or Davidy's dependence on another probable source, the
writings produced during and after the eighteenth century movement called
Anglo-Israelism or British-Israelism. And it is for good reason that these
sources are not mentioned, as they are popular among some American
anti-Semitic groups for their pro-white, racial claims to being Israel.
Wootten and Koniuchowsky make the same pro-white, racial claims.
I will list several parallels that are striking in their agreement. Both
groups (Anglo-Israelites and Ephraimites) build their theories on the mythic
story of the ten "lost tribes" of the northern kingdom. Both groups put
great store by suspect and contrived etymologies of English words based on
Hebrew. Both groups claim pre-eminent, "first-born" status as purported
heirs of Ephraim. Both share an innate hostility toward Roman Catholicism
and Judaism. Both proclaim that the teaching they propound is a "mystery"
revealed only through their teachers. Both argue that the lost tribes
migrated to areas where they eventually became known as Saxons. Both groups
make mention of the nobility of anglo-Saxons as evidence for their biblical,
Israelite heritage.
White Supremacy
Of most concern about the Anglo-Israelite and the "Two House" theory is the
racial element found in both. Both focus primarily on the anglo-Saxon
"race." Wootten uses other racial terms such as "blood-line Israelites." She
is concerned about "dilut[ing] the bloodlines."19 She refers to Jews today
as "biological Jews."20
Yet God's relationship with Israel is not racial. The social-historical
people of Israel have never claimed racial priority as the basis for their
covenant relationship to God. Jewish identity is based, not on racial
deliberations but on a shared communal memory and on choice.
The same exegesis, the same contrived etymologies, the same constructed
histories, the same white, Anglo-Saxon racial focus, the same arguments
against the church and the Jews - the parallels are unmistakable and
undeniable. Wootten and Koniuchowsky have built their "Two Houses" on the
shifting sand of Anglo-Israelite theology. The concerns that this raises for
Jews, whether Messianic, rabbinic, or secular, and for non-Jewish Christians
are evident.
Anti-Jewish Elements in the "Two House" Theology
Certainly Wootten and Koniuchowsky are not overt Jew-haters. But their words
often echo and have the same effect as those of people who hate Jews.21 Thus
despite the fact that Koniuchowsky claims to be Jewish (we have not verified
this), and despite his vigorous protests, there is indeed a great deal of
anti-Jewish rhetoric in his and Wootten's claims. Following what has become
a typical motif among Christian critics of Jews, Wootten accuses Messianic
Jews of "feelings of superiority," of believing they are "'Twice Chosen,'"
and of having a "false racial pride."22 The motif of the "blind Jews," a
long-standing, standard motif of Christian anti-Jewish rhetoric, is there
also.23 Wootten states, "They cannot hear. They cannot see. Until the Lord
lifts the veil."24 She scolds Jews, demanding that they "must accept" her
own viewpoint.25 Wootten and Koniuchowsky demand to set the vision for
Messianic Jews today. Wootten argues that it is only when Jews follow her
teaching that they will be obedient to God, "for only then," she promises,
"will you be what the Father called you to be."26
With an irony that Koniuchowsky seems to be unaware of, he refers to his
solution for the problem of Jewish and Christian relations as "the biblical
final solution."27 We do not need another "final solution." The Jewish
people barely survived the last one. In this, Wootten and Koniuchowsky, in
their grand claims to have solved the issue of racial pride, merely replaced
an old racial argument with a new one. For them, race and "bloodline" is the
determining factor.
Dangers of the Movement
Wootten's and Koniuchowsky's words elicit the gravest concern in the images
they construct for the future. For along with their claims to be physical
Israel, they expect someday to wield territorial control over 10/12th of the
ancient tribal boundaries of Israel. They create an "enemy" that includes
Jews now living in regions once occupied by the ancient tribal groups,
which, they contend, now belong to the Ephraimites. For the Palestinians
they expect total eradication.28 In the pages of both Wootten's and
Koniuchowsky's writings lies a strong assumption, sometimes stated
implicitly, sometimes explicitly, that the land belongs to them (along with
the Jewish people, whose portion, they contend, should be limited to 2/12ths
of Israel's territory). For the "Two House" proponents, the land of Israel
is "their land."29
Here again, the acorn has not fallen far from the tree. Traditionally,
Anglo-Israelite thinking has also included an expectation that the land
would be theirs as physical Israel.30 It evokes for us memories of the
Crusaders of the 11th through 13th centuries, who also, based on the claim
to be heirs of Israel, sought to take their "rightful place" as dwellers of
the land through conquest and warfare.
The position of the I.M.J.A. is that the Ephraimite, or "Two House" movement
is in error for the following reasons:
flawed, unwarranted, and dangerous interpretation of scripture
inconsistent logic and contradictions
racist and race-based theology
theology that functions in the same way as supersessionism
historically inaccurate depictions of Israel
dangerous, false, and militant claims to the land which threaten the
stability of the current State of Israel
1: Moshe Koniuchowsky, in "Your Arms to Israel: Updated Doctrinal Statement
Reflecting Kingdom Restoration Views of the Ministry of Your Arms to Israel"
states, "the Jewish
people have been the identifiable representatives and offspring of Judah.
Non-Jewish followers of Messiah from all nations have been up to now the
unidentifiable representatives and offspring of Ephraim (Zechariah 8:23)."
It should be stated that Koniuchowsky would not use the term "Christian."
See Moshe Koniuchowsky, "The Full Restoration of All Israel: Part 3," 8.
Please note that for purposes of research, we printed out all four parts of
the series, and our page number references are to that of the final
printout. Because of the size of the document, we determined that it was
important to have more detailed reference than just to the document as a
2: Batya Ruth Wootten, The Olive Tree of Israel (White Stone, Virginia:
House of David, 1992), 31. Cf. also Batya Ruth Wootten, Who Is Israel? And
Why You Need to Know (St. Cloud, FL: Key of David, 1998), 16-17, 28.
3: Wootten, Who Is Israel?, 82-83, acknowledges that it sometimes refers to
Israel, but she asserts that by the time of the conquest of the land by
Israel, the name referred primarily to the foreign nations. This is not the
case, however, for the exilic and post-exilic prophets continued to use the
term to refer to Israel. Add to this the common usage of the Greek term
ethnos in the Apostolic Writings to refer to Jews. Moreover, she constructs
her doctrine precisely upon the use of the term goy in the pre-conquest
period, during the time of the patriarchs. Thus a post-exilic reference is
not historically appropriate when writing about the patriarchal period.
4: Koniuchowsky, "The Full Restoration of All Israel: Part 2," 7, argues
that these references reinforce his point that Israel is Gentile. The
reasoning is circular and begs the question.
5: Wootten, Olive Tree, 42.
6: Ibid., 43.
7: Wootten, Olive Tree, 43.
8: Batya Ruth Wootten, "House of David Herald: Muddled Doctrines"
9: Examples of the use of parallelism to demonstrate that Israel and Judah
are synonymous (the list is far from exhaustive) are Ps 114:2; Isa 5:7; Jer
23:6; 50:20; Hos 5:12-14; 8:14; 11:12; 12:1-2; Mic 1:5; Mal 2:11.
10: Wootten, Who Is Israel?, 93, calls the term, "Gentile Christian" an
oxymoron, but has no problem using the term "Gentile Israel." Cf. Olive
Tree, 43.
11: See above.
12: Koniuchowsky, "Full Restoration: Part 1," 6. But Wootten, Olive Tree,
107, remains steadfast, arguing, "It is very probable that these former
Gentiles actually descend from the scattered Ephraimites that Yahveh said He
would regather.Though their background may appear to be that of a Gentile,
in reality, they probably are physical Israelites."
13: Wootten, "Muddled," 7.
14: Wootten, Olive Tree, 106.
15: Wootten, Olive Tree, 9, 106. See also "Muddled," 8; Who Is Israel?, 97.
16: Cf. p. 6.
17: Ibid., 119.
18: Koniuchowsky, "Full Restoration: Part 2," 12.
19: Wootten, Olive Tree, 52; "Muddled," 5; Who Is Israel?, 73.
20: Wootten, "Muddled," 4.
21: Cf. Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver, Univ. of British
Columbia, 1987).
22: Wootten, Olive Tree, 2. Cf. also "Muddled," 10; Who Is Israel?, 104-105.
23: Cf. Rosemary Ruether, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of
Anti-Semitism (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, reprt. 1997), 121 135. In 135,
she reminds us that the cathedrals built during the Medieval period often
included statuary images of two women, representing Church and Synagogue.
The one representing the Church looked alive and full of power. The one
representing the Synagogue looked sad and always wore blindfolds over her
eyes. For an example of this identical motif in Anglo-Israelism, see John
Wilson, Sixty Anglo-Israel Difficulties Answered:
click here, Difficulty 15, 6.
24: Ibid., 92.
25: Wootten, Olive Tree, 124.
26: Ibid., 125. Cf. also Koniuchowsky, "Full Restoration: Part 3," 6.
27: Koniuchowsky, "Full Restoration: Part 3," 4.
28: Koniuchowsky, "Full Restoration: Part 4," 8; Wootten, Olive Tree, 36.
29: Koniuchowsky, "Full Restoration: Part 2," 5.
30: Wilson, Difficulty 3, 4, contended that the land is lying desolate
without them and looked forward to the time when "the mountains were to
shoot forth their branches, and bear their fruit for the people of Israel."
Cf. also Difficulty 20, 13.

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