Has the lost tribe of Mannaseh been found?

A tribal community in India that calls itself Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “children of Mannaseh”) is claiming to be the the remnant of the Hebrew tribe of Mannaseh, one of the “lost tribes” that was taken into captivity by the Assyrians some 3000 years ago.  And the state of Israel is recognizing their legitimacy by according them the “right of return,” whereby all Jews are allowed to immigrate to Israel.  Some of the Bnei Menashe have moved to Israel, which some Christian groups are hailing as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.  See ‘Lost Tribe’s’ Return to Israel Fulfilling Prophecy? – Inside Israel – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

The tribe does seem to have some traditional songs and legends with echoes of the Exodus.  But according to the Wikipedia article, the Bnei Menashe are part of a larger tribal culture of animists and headhunters that converted to Christianity in the 19th century.   In 1951, a Pentecostalist preacher in the tribe said that he had a vision from God that the people should turn back to their ancient religion of Judaism.  (So do the Christians getting all excited about this believe that this was the work of the Holy Spirit?  Telling people to give up their Christianity?)  So about 9,000 of the group adopted Judaism.  (The tribe of Mannaseh would have known only the sacrificial system of the Temple, in the unorthodox version of the northern tribes.  That was quite different from the Judaism that arose after the destruction of the Temple.)  The larger population of the ethnic group, the Chin-Kuki-Miso remained Christian and oppose this movement.

The CBN article linked above says nothing about the recent history of this group, but reports the return of Mannaseh as simple fact.  That the modern state of Israel is taking this seriously, though, is interesting, though the official rabbis are requiring the Bnei Menashe to undergo an orthodox conversion process, just in case.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Matt Jamison

    What does the DNA say? I understand that mitochondrial DNA is particularly useful in identifying Jewish lineage because it is matrilineal, and there is clear genetic evidence of common descent for subgroups like the Cohanim.

    Yet invariably, whenever a group is claiming questionable ancestry, they will voice loud objections to having their DNA analyzed. I would be interested to know how the Bnei Menashe feels about DNA testing.


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