Map 2. Migration map of Eastern European nations and Eastern Germans (Haplogroup R1a)
Germany Plans to Rearm – Part 2
Nations Lost and Nations Found
The dire warning above from the 1964 Plain Truth Magazine is based on the Classical Armstrongist belief that the modern Germans are the descendants of the ancient Assyrians, that the modern European people of the United States and Great Britain are the descendants of ancient Israel and the Old Testament prophecies concerning these peoples are for today. Among those who know them, these beliefs are controversial because they are founded principally on interpretations of history rather than empirical evidence. But through the sciences of archaeology and genetics, this controversy can be resolved for reasonable minds. And it would seem that those Armstrongist organizations that have money to spend on archaeology would gladly seek this resolution as an affirmation of the credibility of their end-time message – the core of their most important mission. As Herbert W. Armstrong stated, understanding the identity of such important nations is “The Key that Unlocks Bible Prophecy.” And predictive prophecy about the events leading up to and including the Kingdom of God is the “gospel message” of Armstrongism. So it is entirely aligned with this mission for these organizations to verify these national identities. This verification is of prior importance because other archaeological pursuits will acquire meaning for the Armstrongist message only in the context of the understanding of these national identities. And now with enough funding, the modern-day national identities of Israel and Assyria can be established – or disproved. This determination can be made through science and that is our point of departure for Part 2. (See Part 1: Germany Plans to Rearm - Will Assyria Make War Again?)
Assyria, Germany, and the “Black Box” of Scythia
First, it provides useful context to summarize what Armstrongists believe about the migration of the Assyrians. The online article titled “The Remarkable Identity of the German People” authored by David Vejil is used here as a source for the Armstrongist view. I did not try to verify this view against that of Herman Hoeh or Edward Hine so there is some assumption on my part involved. I will not do a full review of the article but will focus on one salient point: Scythia.
“Archaeological data reveals that shortly after Xerxes’s (sic) disastrous campaign, a great migration of the Assyrian people from the Black Sea region occurred. With the Persian Empire weakening, the Assyrians moved from Asia Minor and the southern shores of the Black Sea to the sea’s northern shores—to a land called Scythia. Here they began to be called Scythians, and their identity was eventually obscured. But these people didn’t just disappear into thin air. They migrated west and underwent a name change!
Scythia actually serves as a kind of Black Box. Peoples go in and peoples come out but nobody really knows what happens inside the box. The Assyrians putatively entered the southern portal of Scythia and the Germans come out of the northwest portal without any documented connecting migration paths or trains of events. Migration imagination can become highly creative and in this case, Scythia is the blank canvas on which it paints. Also, it is not good to place too much trust in ancient historians. Herodotus may have identified some people as this or that but he also recorded that the tribe of Garamantes of Libya spent time hunting Ethiopian troglodytes who lived in holes in the ground and squeaked like bats. The Hoehist historical methodology that relies on ancient resources cannot stand by itself.
The Assyrian Genetic Identity
If ancient history can be suspect, how then can it be validated? If one can construct designer migrations of peoples at will then what are we to believe? Only in recent decades have we had the science of genetics to ameliorate this situation. We can call on the field of archaeogenetics and ask for the genetic data that will tell us who the ancient Assyrians were in the human family. There are not a lot of these data points yet but what is there is telling. In fact, this cannot be viewed as a selective presentation of data because this seems to be the entirety of what has been published on the topic. The two tables below contain Y chromosome haplogroups (Y HG) from excavated ancient Assyrian skeletal remains.
From: Haplogroup spreadsheet
de Barros Damgaard 2018
ca. 2300–2000 BC
de Barros Damgaard 2018
ca. 2000–1750 BC
de Barros Damgaard 2018
ca. 1750–1500 BC
From: Indo-Europeans and Uralic peoples, viii.13. Assyrians and Hittites
Table 1 shows five individuals who are known to be Assyrian from an archaeological context. The first two are typical haplogroup J Middle Easterners. The results reflect the J1 and J2 subclades of haplogroup J. Individuals 3 and 4 both have Middle Eastern mtDNA (female line) results. Individual 3 was also determined to have certain pigmentation characteristics shown in the Note. Individual 5 was haplogroup G but this sample was taken from Anatolia where the Assyrians had a trading outpost. Individual 5 could have been a native, non-Assyrian merchant associate.
Table 2 lists three Assyrians all of whom belong to subclades of haplogroup J2 – once again, typical of the Middle East. This data from different time periods supports the conclusion that Assyrians were haplogroup J. Absent is the important haplogroup R which would be typical of modern Germans. This data comports with what we find in the Bible when genetic principles are applied to genealogy. We have the following masculine line:
Noah → Shem → Asshur (Biblical progenitor of the Assyrians)We can deduce that Noah is haplogroup J and, therefore, Asshur must be haplogroup J if the Biblical genealogies are correct. (See Part 1 of this essay for details of this deduction.) This brings us to a dilemma. The ancient Assyrians are haplogroup J and the modern Germans are haplogroup R. They are not just separate peoples they are peoples widely separated from each other genetically. And all of the rummaging around in historical sources produced the wrong conclusion.
The German Genetic Identity
Now that it has been established, because of the haplogroup discrepancy, that the Germans are not the modern Assyrians, who then are the Germans? The two maps at the beginning of this essay trace the origins of the German people. Map 1 shows the migration of haplogroup R1b people, known as Yamnaya people – early forerunners of Western Europeans. This is the haplogroup of those countries in the far west of Europe along the Atlantic littoral such as the western part of Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and parts of Fennoscandia. Map 2 traces the migration pattern of haplogroup R1a which is a predominant haplogroup in eastern Germany, the Baltic countries, and the Slavic countries. These maps are constructed from empirical data and not the hearsay of ancient historians.
Sidebar: There is the question of the point of origin of the haplogroup R people. Based on the present state of knowledge, the earliest site that indicates where haplogroup R might have originated is at Mal’ta Buret near Lake Baikal in Siberia. The skeleton of a young boy was found there and dated to 24,000 BP. The boy’s haplogroup was basal R*, the original haplogroup R form prior to subclade formation through mutation. This is the only occurrence of basal R* yet discovered. This could be where the mutations of haplogroup P occurred that produced Western Europeans. Haplogroup R is an immediate descendant of Haplogroup P.
Notice that on both maps there is no migration path for R1b or R1a into the area of the Middle East where ancient Assyria or ancient Israel were located. This is because there is no archaeogenetic data that has been discovered so far to indicate that haplogroup R1a or R1b people invaded the heart of the Middle East in ancient times.
The following article on the web focuses on the need for more funding for archaeogenetic research in Israel. It also has some discussion of haplogroups found in Israel.
Recommendation to Armstrongists Who Want Run Archaeology Projects
The absence of R1a or R1b data in the ancient lands of Assyria and Israel is a “show-stopping” problem for Anglo-Israelism as defined in Classical Armstrongism. According to the Armstrongist view, the lands of Assyria and Palestine were once densely populated by the people who now live in Western Europe. Yet the ancient genetic material recovered from Palestine is principally haplogroup J – sometimes identified as Canaanite. Absent are haplogroups R1b and R1a. If Armstrongist Anglo-Israelism is true then there should be in the excavated ancient bones of Israel and Assyria an overwhelming abundance of ancient haplogroup R DNA. And the discovery of this would revolutionize the history of the Middle East as currently understood. But such ancient material has never come to light.
In order to lend credence to their end-time message, Armstrongist organizations should lead in the search for ancient haplogroup R in Palestine and the land of ancient Assyria. And if none is ever found, they should discard the dogma of Anglo-Israelism and Assyria/Germany and its supposed relevance to end-time prophecy. Some may claim that God concealed the identities of Assyria and Israel and that is why we cannot find their genetic remnants but that identity is now important to the end-time message of Armstrongism. Further, its various denominations have publications concerning the modern identities of ancient Israel and Assyria available to the public. Concealment now seems to have lost its value. And it would seem like God would want such a discovery to be made in order to affirm the end-time message. So, the concealment argument has no traction.
The Assyrians in the Prophets and New Testament
In Classical Armstrongism the Assyrians/Germans were a dark theme. I recall Gerald Waterhouse luridly describing the inhumanities that the Assyrians/Germans would perpetrate against the supposed descendants of Israel during the Tribulation – a kind of holocaust for the people of the United States and Britain. This holocaust also would ensnare lukewarm members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). I recall the strange ideas that members of the WCG had towards a German family in a congregation I attended. Assyria/Germany cast a dark shadow on the Armstrongist landscape. But does this reflect Biblical themes?
The latter prophets are not consistently negative in their attitude towards Assyria. This can be seen in Isaiah 19:23-24. And then we have the tension between the vision of Nahum and the book of Jonah. In the former the Assyrians are excoriated and in the latter they exemplify repentance – a lesson to Israel.
Drawing on the book of Jonah, Jesus mentions the Assyrians of Nineveh as an example of repentance (Matt 12:41). He asserts that those Assyrians who repented at Jonah’s preaching will in the resurrection condemn the Jews of Jesus’ day for their unbelief. Jesus also mentions the Assyrians in a similar context in Luke 11:30. In brief, Jesus and the Prophets did not see the Assyrians as the unalloyed villains of history.
ConclusionThere are two major reasons why the idea that the modern Germans and the ancient Assyrians are the same people is without support:
I further suggest that Armstrongists should spend the dollars they wish to devote to archaeology on establishing the identities of these nations, so important to their end-time message, through archaeogenetics before they fund other marginal archaeological efforts.
1. To date, the ancient Assyrian genetic material is Y chromosome haplogroup J as expected from Biblical genealogy. Whereas, the modern German haplogroups are R1b and R1a. And a phylogenetic haplogroup tree will show that haplogroup R is not a mutational product of haplogroup J (see Part 1).
2. Findings related to the archaeology of Ancient Assyria (and ancient Israel) should reflect high frequencies of haplogroup R in ancient skeletons. This is because Armstrongism asserts that the land of ancient Assyria (and ancient Israel) was densely populated by people of haplogroup R heritage (identical with modern Western Europeans). So far this abundance of haplogroup R material has not been found.