Throughout this blog, I have suggested that the region now known as the Philippines and the surrounding areas were thought of by various cultures far and wide as the location of cosmically important sites including the axis mundi, navel of the sea, world tree, paradise and the like. Nusantao seafarers and later the medieval kingdom known Sanfotsi and Zabag helped to spread such ideas.
When Columbus and Magellan sailed for the East Indies and Cathay, they hoped to find the biblical lands of Tarshish and Ophir. Columbus appears to be the person who sparked the idea that the acquisition of the gold and "almug trees" of Ophir were important prophetic requirements leading up to the reconquest of Jerusalem and to the Second Coming.
Shortly after the Spanish colonization of the Philippines had begun, most European writers believed that Tarshish and Ophir were located in the East Indies.
Sir Walter Raleigh, the founder of Virginia for Queen Elizabeth I and the architect of England's colonization in the "New World," wrote in 1614:
And by the length of the passage which Solomon's ships made from the Red Sea (which was three years in going and coming [to Ophir]), it seemeth they went to the uttermost east, as the Moluccas, or Philippines. Indeed, those that now go from Portugal, or from hence, finish that navigation in two years, and sometimes less; and Solomon's ships went not above a tenth part of this our course from hence....Neither was it needful for the Spaniards themselves (had it not been for the plenty of gold in the East India islands, far above the mines of any one place of America) to sail every year from the west part of America thither, and there to have strongly planted and inhabited the richest of those islands, wherein they have built a city called Manilla. Solomon, therefore, needed not to have gone farther off than Ophir in the East to have sped worse; neither could he navigate from the east to the west in those days, whenas he had no coast to guide him.
However the English were not particularly happy with Spanish claims to prophecy nor their denial of non-Catholics of the empire that became known as the "Spanish Main." The Ophirian Conjecture started as a debate largely between the English and the Spanish over proper interpretation of biblical prophecy.
In the mid 19th century, Americans began to strongly embrace the idea that their nation was included in the prophecies of the Bible. They largely drew on the older ideas of British Israelism that had been percolating for some time.
One can sense in the early writings on this topic, a continued antagonism with Spain. The Methodist minister Samuel Davies Baldwin, for example, admitted that the Spanish represented the biblical "ships of Tarshish" that according to him were prophesied to discover the Americas.
However, the main purpose of Spain's discovery, according to Baldwin, was "opening the way to the emigration of God's people," i.e., the Anglo-Saxon settlers of the United States. Fountain Pitts, another Methodist minister, stated that the Spanish were only interested in gold and silver, but that the Anglo-Saxon colonists came to claim the 'New World' for God.
In religious circles, the idea that America would evangelize the world as a prelude to Armageddon became widespread.
So when the Spanish-American War broke out, whatever the real cause of that war might have been, church writers quickly brought up the old antagonism between England and Spain in relation to the Ophirian conjecture and to prophecy. Now the Anglo-Israelists had departed from the old Catholic ideas that the "Far East" harbored the Garden of Eden, Prester John's kingdom, and golden Tarshish and Ophir. Again, they considered that Spain represented the nation known as Tarshish in the Bible. Of course, the also rejected Spain's old claim to be the nation that would reconquer Jerusalem and herald the return of Christ.
"Thou brakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind"
Religious minds of the time were quick to see America's defeat of Spain as a fulfillment of prophecy, and as a final settling of an old score with their Ophirian rival.
A. Maurice Low, an American working for the London Chronicle described 1898, the year of the Spanish American War, as "annus mirabilis in American history." While Martin Lyman Streator extended this "wonderful year" not only to American history but to the entire history of the Anglo-Saxon race.
Streator was a pastor of the Disciples of Christ, who worked as Pennsylvania State Evangelist for that organization before becoming chief missionary of the Christian Women's Board of Missions for the state of Montana. He was a prolific writer and two of his books, The Anglo-American Alliance in Prophecy in 1900 and The Hope of Israel in 1903 became very popular and favorably reviewed in Protestant religious circles. He writes in the former work:
The providential victory of Admiral Dewey at Manila, and the war in the Philippines, projected the American Republic in spite of ourselves into the great world of European and Asiatic nations. This should teach us that the God of nations and the ages intends that "the Company of Peoples" in the " strong nation " of prophecy in the United States shall have an influential voice in determining the destiny of the world in "this great epoch in the history of man." We cannot shirk this duty and avoid this destiny even if we desired to do it. The God of our fathers has set before us an open door in the Orient which no man can shut. He has given us a coign of vantage for the impending crisis.
In the conclusion of his sketch of one phase of our diplomacy before and after the war with Spain," Mr. Low says:
" It explains in a measure why those in authority have now, as they have had for the last two years, a feeling of gratitude toward England; it explains how, when in our extremity we needed a friend, the only friend we found was England, who stood by us loyally, manfully, and courageously, braving the displeasure of all the world because of the ties of blood ; it explains why there is to-day a solidarity of the English-speaking people: a union stronger, better, more powerful than any other union the world has before known; which does not exist by the favor of treaties or the grace of rulers, but which has come into being because it is a union that makes for the peace, the progress, the civilization of the world, which lends encouragement to the people still struggling for liberty and who know that to the Anglo-Saxon they must look for their inspiration and their deliverance.
"So long as the Blood endures,
I shall know that your good is mine, ye shall feel that my strength isyours:In the days of Armageddon, at the last great fight of all,
That Our House stand together and the pillars do not fall." (P. 261.)Men of thought and discernment already are perceiving that we are entering "the days of Armageddon," and that Our Race must stand together in " the last great fight of all." This we will do if we are the elect race of Israel. If we are not the House of Joseph, to whom the God of the covenant promised the dominion of the world, then we will fall never to rise again in the impending war of nations and races. If you accept the Bible as a revelation from the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, then open your eyes and see what he declares concerning the origin, the course, and the destiny of Our Race. He is fulfilling day by day in the chosen people of Our Race, now scattered over the world, the promises which he gave of old to the fathers concerning the dispersion, the expansion, the gathering, and the triumphant and glorious destiny of the children of Jacob and Joseph. The manifestations of sympathy and harmony between the two great branches of Our Race, which are the most notable characteristics of recent years, are the development of the eternal purposes of the living God towards his people.
John Patrick Brushingham, A Chicago Methodist pastor, wrote an article "American Protestanitism and Expansion" in The Methodist Review that connects the American victory with Isaiah's prophecy about the far off isles of the Gentiles. The Methodist Review was at the time the nation's oldest religious review, although a different publication tham the journal of the same name that exists today. Brushingham wrote in 1899:
"The isles shall wait for his law," sang Isaiah. "America is the world's evangelist," said Senator Davis, of the Peace Commission.
When Captain Gridley of the good ship Olympia tired that first gun at Cavite, by permission and order of the great admiral on May 1, 1898, it was heard round the world and became a revelation and a prophecy. When Dewey had destroyed the Spanish fleet and cut the cable to Hong Kong, there was placed upon the shoulders of our American republic a new burden of responsibility, and there was opened up before it a wide door of opportunity to give the blessings of a modern form of government and Anglo-Saxon civilization to islands hitherto considered to be at the ends of the earth. The distant echo of Dewey's guns was a prophecy that under God, and baptized by the divine Spirit, we are equal to the responsibility of this great providential opening. Let us take counsel of our hopes rather than our fears, believing that the genius and virtue of our American Christianity are adequate to the emergency. Dr. John Henry Barrows in a personal note says: " Those who have courageous hearts and the Christian spirit of missions, and the spirit of a world-wide evangelism, see God's hand and hear God's voice in recent events."
In another important religious journal of the time, The Homiletic Review, the editorial section in the July 1898 edition connects Dewey's victory with another prophecy of Isaiah that tells of the defeat of the ships of Tarshish, the nation that again was interpreted by Anglo-Israelists as referring to Spain. These sentiments were also echoed in other writings of the time.
The naval battles have been marvels that would almost be pronounced miracles, and incredible by skeptics, if found written in the Bible. In the days of the Invincible Armada there seemed to be a literal fulfillment of the divine Word, in Psalm xlviii. 7: "Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind." The providential interpositions of the recent months have been almost as wonderful. In a little over one hundred days of actual war, most of which time has necessarily been devoted to preparation, everything for which this country contended has been gained—and more. Assuredly there is reason for peculiar gratitude and special thanksgiving. And now begins the greater task of the nation in carrying out unselfishly and to the end the purposes of humanity and freedom for which the war was entered upon. It will need wise statesmanship and the sustaining influence of a tremendously powerful moral and Christian sentiment to keep the nation from being swept into the unrighteousness of a mad ambition for territorial expansion and imperialism. It will require just is potent moral and Christian forces to lift the nation up to the comprehension and attainment of the new destiny in the world's future, markt out for it by the events of the year 1898.
Philippines as 'ends of the earth'
Columbus believed that Spain would fulfill prophecy as the chosen nation of God by carrying the Christian faith to the farthest corners of the world -- that in his mind meant the far east where Cipangu and Cathay were located. To this end, the most important geographical goal of his journeys was the island of Ophir.
Anglo-Israelists appear to have co-opted Columbus idea but with America bringing "true" Protestant Christianity to the 'ends of the earth.' In this sense, the Philippines was again linked with biblical prophecies speaking of the far east and the rising of the sun -- the last place on earth to be evangelized.
Here is how Streator interprets statements by President William McKinley on the "just war" with Spain and the colonization of the Philippines.
President McKinley characterized our recent war with Spain as "A just war for humanity." Concerning it, and the new issues growing out of it he said :
"Some things have happened which were not promised, nor even foreseen, and our purposes in relation to them must not be left in doubt. A just war has been waged for humanity and with it have come new problems and responsibilities. Spain has been ejected from the Western Hemisphere, and our flag floats over her former territory. Cuba has been liberated, and our guarantees to her people will be sacredly executed. A beneficent government has been provided for Porto Rico. The Philippines are ours, and American authority must be supreme thruout the archipelago. There will be amnesty broad and liberal, but no abatement of our rights, no abandonment of our duty. There must be no scuttle policy. We will fulfil in the Philippines the obligations imposed by the triumphs of our arms and by the treaty of peace; by international law; by the nation's sense of honor; and more than all by the rights, interests, and conditions of the Philippine peoples themselves. No outside interference blocks the way to peace and a stable government. The obstructionists are here, not elsewhere. They may postpone, but they cannot defeat the realization of the high purpose of this nation to restore order to the islands and establish a just and generous government, in which the inhabitants shall have the largest participation for which they are capable. The organized forces which have been misled into rebellion have been dispersed by our faithful soldiers and sailors, and the people of the islands, delivered from anarchy, pillage, and oppression, recognize American sovereignty as the symbol and pledge of peace, justice, law, religious freedom, the security of life and property, and the welfare and prosperity of their several communities."This language of the President of the great Republic is in harmony with the teaching of the oracles of God concerning the mission and work and destiny of his chosen people Israel. The Messianic King of Israel breaks in pieces the oppressor by arming his chosen people who hate oppression with the weapons of war whereby they break in pieces the feet of the image of Gentile empire, and break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free. American Israel has been doing this on a stupendous scale since the beginning of this era of crisis in 1898. Compare the language of our President with the following oracle in Isaiah:
"According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay,Wrath to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies (such as the Spaniards) ;To the islands he will repay recompense.So shall they fear the name of Jehovah from the west (as in the West Indies),And his glory from the rising of the sun (as in the East Indies):When the adversary shall come in like a flood (as in the Boxer revolt in China),The spirit of Jehovah shall lift up a standard against him." (13a.59:18,19.)
What standard is this but the standard of the chosen people appointed of God to execute his will? I do not claim that the instances cited as above in the parentheses exhaust the meaning of the prophecy, but select them as notable examples of its fulfilment. The context shows that the oracle relates to events belonging to the time of the end. It was not the design of American statesmen to take possession of the West Indies and the East Indies at the beginning of this crisis, for as President McKinley said: " Some things have happened which were not promised (in the political platform), nor even foreseen (by the wisest statesmen)." But they were foreseen of God, and they were promised by his holy prophets. The marvelous things in the great naval victories in Manila Bay and off Santiago were foretold in these words of the prophet Micah:
"As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt Will I show unto him marvelous things.The nations (Gentiles) shall see and be ashamed of all their might."(Mi. 7:15, 16.)
Those victories arrested the attention of the world, and filled the Gentiles with astonishment and dismay at the might of the American Company of Peoples. The war in the Philippines is accurately described in the next sentences. I quote the language from Lesser's Translation as more definite in meaning.
"They shall lay their hand upon their mouth,Shall they come forth trembling out of their close places
(In token of their astonishment at the victories of Israel),
Their ears shall be deafened (by the roar of Israel's cannon).
They shall lick the dust like a serpent;
Like those that crawl on the earth,
(As they are doing in the Philippine Islands):
Unto the Lord our God shall they hasten in dread,
And shall be afraid of thee." (Mi. 7: 16, 17.)
Biblical interpretation in the Philippines
While America had one interpretation of events in relation to biblical prophecy, the revolutionaries of the Philippines had their own view of the same writings.
The Philippine Revolution had begun two years before the Spanish American War, and one of the chief propagandists of the movement, Pedro Paterno, had reintroduced older views like those of Father Colin and Antonio Galvão that the Philippines was the location of Tarshish and/or Ophir to which the navy of Solomon ventured.
Paterno's interpretation would be repeated frequently by Filipino writers over the decades up to the present times, especially in popular publications.
Similar views also seemed to have penetrated into the Iglesia ni Cristo, the largest independent church of the Philippines and a powerhouse in politics. Due to their ability of delivering a solid block vote, the Iglesia ni Cristo has been credited by many local experts with electing a number of Philippine presidents.
Felix Manalo, the founder of the church in the early part of the 20th century, used biblical passages like Isaiah 43:5-6 and Isaiah 46 to claim that the "true" church of God would be reborn in the Philippines. He claimed that the Philippines was the location referred to as the "east" or "far east," and as the "end of the earth" in these prophecies. According to one school of thought, Manalo was influenced by the Disciples of Christ, who were also known as the "Church of Christ." The name "Iglesia ni Christo" translates to "Church of Christ." If this view of Manalo's influences is correct, then his views may have been directly influenced by the writings of Streator, a Church of Christ minister, with some reinterpretation of course.
So to this day, in important intellectual and religious circles in the Philippines, these old ideas still play a major role in shaping the national identity of the country.
As discussed in earlier postings, Anglo-Israelism survives today in the United States as the movement known as Christian Zionism. Indeed, the Anglo-Israel movement has played no small part in shaping the present day Arab-Israeli conflict.
On the other side of the pond, Queen Victoria had shown a penchant for Anglo-Israelism. Streator quotes a news article published in the Pittsburgh Daily Post of Sept. 10, 1899 in which the queen claims to be a descendant of King David:
London, Sep. 10th. Queen Victoria, it is reported, has sent to Emperor William a prized copy of her family tree, showing King David at the top. A pet idea entertained by the Queen is that she is descended from the Psalmist thru Zedekiah's eldest daughter, and it is said that Emperor William's conviction of his divine origin is greatly due to his grandmother's foible."
Just as the Spanish had used extra-biblical works like Pseudo-Methodius to bolster their claims as heirs of prophecy, the Anglo-Israelists used works like the Celtic Book of Tephi to support their own arguments. According to that work a prophet arrived in Ireland in ancient times with a daughter of King David to continue the royal lineage.
Queen Victoria's favorite prime minister Benjamin Disraeli was the nation's first and only person of Jewish ancestry to hold that office. He was raised by Victoria to the peerage becoming the 1st Earl of Beaconsfield. Although baptized as a teen into the Anglican Church, Disraeli wrote what was probably the first modern Zionist novel.
When Theodor Herzl, generally considered the father of modern national Zionism, was asked to give a list of profiles to the newspaper Die Welt of "representative exponents of the Zionist idea," he placed Disraeli's name at the top.
The First Zionist Congress took place in 1897, the year following the start of the Philippine Revolution and the year preceding the Spanish-American War. In 1899, near the end of Queen Victoria's reign, the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland was established.
Decades later in 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour would send the Balfour Declaration to Lord Rothschild for conveyance to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Balfour Declaration, of course, declared the British policy of establishing a homeland for Jews in Palestine.
Paul Kekai Manansala
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Streator, Martin Lyman. The Anglo-American Alliance in Prophecy: Or, the Promises to the Fathers. London: Werner, 1900.
The Methodist Review vol. LXXXI. New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1899, 585.
The Homiletic Review vol. 36, July 1898. New York: Funk & Wagnalls], 286.