Abstract: In early 2000s, a large group of Gogodala-speaking villagers in the Western Province (WP) of Papua New Guinea, led by a man I refer to as Henry, claimed to be members of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Henry and his supporters arranged for the visit of Tudor Parfitt, then Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of London, to WP. In this paper, I suggest that an ongoing local interest in ‘origins’ has been framed in light of biblical teachings, and this more recent claim of a connection between the Gogodala ancestors and the Lost Tribes of Israel. I explore the generation of such ideas and claims through an examination of the significance of babala (‘rules’ or ‘laws’) as practices vital to the maintenance of village-based life, and biblical teachings on behaviour and practice focused on by the local Unevangelised Fields Mission. In this context, I explore the implications of the conjuncture of babala and the Bible, and the visits by Parfitt and his team, through the recent development of a ‘Messianic Church’ in Balimo with explicit forms of worship associated with Judaism.
Abstract: This Introduction to this Special Issue of Oceania, ‘Descent from Israel: Jewish Identities in the Pacific, Past and Present’, sets the historical context of European interest in Pacific peoples as descended from the ‘Lost Tribes’ of the biblical Hebrews. After surveying the way in which Pacific Christians in the past and present have adopted a Jewish identity, whether through genealogy, biblical and theological interpretation, and/or deep interest in the State of Israel, we then contextualise and summarise the scholarship that follows: on Jewish identity as adopted by churches and religious movements in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua Guinea, as well as a final reflection on their significance for Judaism today.
Abstract: The suggestion that the iTaukei (indigenous Fijians) are a lost tribe of Israel has gained currency among Methodists in the interior of Viti Levu, coexisting with a firm and widely held belief in the ancestors’ emergence from the mystical Nakauvadra hills. For the people of Nabobuco, the Hebrew Bible’s depiction of the relationship between Jehovah and the Israelites also contains powerful analogies with contemporary Christian experiences of collective sin and redemption. This paper discusses local genealogies and the use of the Old Testament to posit Nabobuco and Israel’s moral equivalence within the Kingdom of God.