The Ephraimite or Two-House Doctrine

By Norman Manzon


I. Introduction

The Ephraimite or Two-House doctrine contradicts truths we've studied regarding the salvation of Gentiles and the nature of the church as well as this excerpt from the AMC Statement*:


We believe the Abrahamic Covenant. . . promises a descendant (the Messiah) who would. . . bless the entire world. The spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant overflow to all the nations. *Full AMC Statement


According to much attestation1 a major belief in the Two-House or Ephraimite movement is that every member of the body of Messiah is actually a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whether they know it or not: Jewish believers being descendants of the southern kingdom of Judah, and Gentile believers being descendants of the northern kingdom of Israel, the latter also referred to in Scripture as Ephraim (Isaiah 7:2:5,9,17; Hosea 9:3-16). Hence, the designations Ephraimite and Two-House. What this means is that God is NOT saving anyone who is not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!


It is not the goal of this writer to parse every aspect of Two-House. I will simply refute what appears to be this most dangerous aspect of its doctrine.


Preliminarily, that Christ's purpose in coming was to offer salvation to all people of all nations without exception is a plain biblical truth. It was declared by God to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed, and is being fulfilled in our Church Age in the train of Jesus' command, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). It commenced in our Church Age on the Day of Pentecost with the salvation of proselytes (Gentile adherents to Judaism) as well as Jews (Acts 2), and broke into the non-proselyte Gentile world with the salvation of Cornelius in Acts 10. (The Ethiopian of Acts 8:27-39 was likely a proselyte.) Note Acts 13:43: many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of GodIf Paul and Barnabas persuaded proselytes to continue in the grace of God, it means that they already were in the grace of God!


The plain and obvious teaching of Scripture is that the Gospel has been sent out to all people - including those without a drop of Jewish blood in their veins - and that multitudes of them have and will be saved. Revelation 5:9: And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."


To put any doubt to rest as to whether or not there are true, bona fide "non-Jewish" Gentiles in Messiah, this writer will offer evidence to the affirmative in addition to the evidence in the preceding paragraphs; but first, a look at some of the dangers of Two-House as expressed by Steve Shermett, former president of the AMC:2

II. Dangers of the Doctrine Overall


Six Reasons I Believe the Movement is Unhealthy

1. It is a new type of "replacement theology". If everyone is Jewish, no one is Jewish. Replacement theology holds that the church has replaced Israel spiritually. The Two House movement holds that the church has replaced Israel physically: The ten "lost tribes" are the Gentile believers of today! It seems that they think (erroneously) that Jewish believers are descendants of Judah; yet they don't realize that Jewish believers themselves have no clue as to which tribe they are descended from.
2. All mistranslation or misinterpretation of Scripture is cause for concern: as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable pervert, as also they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2Pe 3:16, MKJV).
3. The Two House movement diminishes the uniqueness of the nation which God has called, namely, Israel.
4. Two House doctrine adds further difficulty and confusion within the Messianic movement.
5. Two House harms the perception of our authenticity as Jews, and therefore, our witness among the Jewish people.
6. It violates the principles of 1 Cor. 7:17-20, ISV:


Nevertheless, everyone should live the life that the Lord gave him and to which God called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone circumcised when he was called? He should not try to change that. Was anyone uncircumcised when he was called? He should not get circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but obeying God's commandments is everything. Everyone should stay in the calling in which he was called.


I (N. Manzon) would add two more:
7. By virtue of association, it makes all in the messianic movement look like idiots. Some might think that's not a bad idea, but I think that God sees things differently!
8. It reduces the credibility of that which is true in our doctrinal distinctives and acceptable to God in our practices.

III. Refutation

In addition to passages already cited, the author offers the following as refutation of the belief that all believers in Messiah are descendants of Ephraim or Judah:

A. Gentiles Were Saved Before the Cross

Melchisedec was contemporary with Abraham, Rahab was a Canaanite, and Ruth was a Moabites. All were Gentiles who were saved prior to the cross and prior to the formation of the northern kingdom called Ephraim.

B. Evidences from Zechariah 8

Zechariah spoke the word of the LORD in Jerusalem to the returnees of both houses of Israel from Medo-Persian captivity: 

8. Oh house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. . . . 22. So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. 23. In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."

The nature of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah were addressed in prior studies. Though, as with any nation, some of its members lost their identities among the foreign nations in which they resided, no tribe was "lost." Peter wrote to the dispersion, (1 Peter 1:1. Young's Literal Translation), "the Diaspora (the Dispersion)" being the technical term for Jews outside the Land, still in use today. James wrote to the Twelve Tribes who are in the dispersion (James 1:1. Young's Literal Translation); and in Luke 2:36 we meet Anna of the tribe of Asher praying in the temple in Jerusalem.


Also, by comparing verses 8 and 23, we see that the LORD recognized members of both houses as Jews and distinguished them from the nations. While the prophesied event takes place in an age subsequent to the Church Age, this distinction alone destroys the notion that the saved Gentiles of today are Ephraimites. The same distinction is made in Revelation 7:1-9: Israelites are the preachers, and a great multitude . . . from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues are the Gentiles who will be saved by the Israelite preachers.


So, Gentiles without a drop of Jewish blood were saved prior to the Church Age, and will be saved subsequent to the Church Age: during the Tribulation period, as shown by Revelation 7:1-9, and during the Millennium, as shown by Zechariah 8:22-23. Why would God cut them off from the possibility of salvation in the intervening Church Age - right after Jesus died for the sin of the world (John 1:29)!

C. No Apostolic Mention or Explanation

If God did cut off Church Age Gentiles from salvation, why would He not have one of His apostles explain such a dreadful departure in writing? Why does the New Testament never explain that Gentile believers are of the ten northern tribes, or call them Ephraimites? If Paul was the apostle to the Ephraimites, why didn't he say so? What he did say was that he was an apostle of Gentiles (Romans 11:13. Also Romans 15:16, 1 Timothy, 2:7, etc.)

D. The New Testament Distinguishes Between Church Age Jewish and Gentile Believers

Just a few examples: Nicholas, a Gentile convert to Judaism who came to believe in Messiah, was not called an Ephraimite or Israelite, but a proselyte (Acts 6:5). Paul refused to circumcise Titus, a Greek, but circumcised Timothy, who had a Jewish parent (Acts 16:1-3; Galatians 2:3). Gentile believers were called wild olive branches, and Jewish believers were called natural branches (Romans 11:17,24).

E. Key Terms in the Greek

In Matthew 28:19. Jesus said, Make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). According to Strong's, the Greek for nation is ethnos, and it means "a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): - Gentile, heathen, nation, people."


Revelation 5:9: You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. The word for nation here is also ethnos. Also, the word for tribe means "an offshoot, that is, race or clan: - kindred, tribe."

John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). The word for world is kosmos, and, according to Strong, it means ". . . the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitants. . . .)" - and that includes more than just the descendants of the man Israel!

F. James' Application of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15

To resolve the Acts 15 controversy over the necessity of circumcision for Gentile salvation, James quoted the Septuagint version of Amos 9:11-12:

16. After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17. so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name.


~ Acts 15:16-17 ~


James applied the passage to the issue of Gentile salvation in his day and age. The point he was making to his Jewish listeners was that God had made a way so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name. How could anyone interpret this as referring solely to Ephraimites in the Diaspora!

IV. Conclusion and Comment

Gentile believers without a drop of Jewish blood in their veins are being saved in this day and age. It is pathetic to have to prove it! The foolishness of teaching that God has excluded Gentiles from salvation in the Church Age belies either a profound incompetence in biblical exegesis or a willingness to sacrifice the plain teaching of Scripture on the altar of some unholy spirit.


V. The AMC Statement on the Two-House/Ephraimite Doctrine


To summarize the AMC position on Two-House overall, I herein present the addendum to the AMC doctrinal statement:


One More Item: Two House/Ephraimite Doctrine

We have been asked our position regarding the new/old Two House/Ephraimite doctrine and the related speculation about the 10 Northern Tribes of Israel supposedly getting 'lost' and then showing up in the USA. At both recent AMC Conferences our President Steve Shermett presented seminars on these new twists on old false doctrines. Here is our Editor's [not this article's author] quick summary of what was presented:

1. The Ten Northern Tribes were taken captive by Assyria. After a hundred years Babylon defeated Judah with it's 2 Tribes and defeated Assyria and took all their captives, including the Hebrews of the Ten Tribes. So there was a reunion of sorts, albeit in captivity, of all the 12 Tribes. After more years, Persia defeated Babylon and guess what they did? They let everyone go home, including the members of all 12 Tribes, together. The New Testament records members of several of the Northern Tribes back in Israel in the First Century. So, they weren't "lost", they were reunited with the rest of the Hebrew people, and the myth of "10 Lost Tribes" is the product of poor Bible exegesis or an intentional effort to invent a scenario that names some group or church as descendants of a tribe.

2. Scripture uses the terms Jewish and Israel interchangeably, trying to invent some difference between the terms is really "reading back" into the Scriptures a recent false teaching. A good example of the interchangeability is Romans 11:1, where Rabbi Sh'aul (known generally as Paul) calls himself an "Israelite" of "the Tribe of Benjamin". Of course, Benjamin was part of [the southern kingdom of] Judah.

3. Gentile Believers in Messiah Yeshua are beloved of God and do not need to invent, imagine or make up a false Jewish/Hebrew/Israel lineage to be top-ranked "players" in the family of God. God loves Gentiles who love the Messiah. Selah.


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                              Scriptures used by the author are generally in the New King James or New American Standard translations.
                             Scriptures in quotations by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum are in the American Standard Version.
                                 Scriptures quoted by others may be in other translations.


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