This is a second part in a series on Jon Holt Titcomb’s Message to the Nineteenth-Century. The Rt. Rev. Titcomb served as the first Anglican bishop of Rangoon (British Burma) in 1878 and later coadjutor to English chaplaincies across Europe in 1885. He was a late-Victorian and great advocate of the Israel-Identity teaching.
Titcomb begins chapter 1 with a certain caution respecting Identity methodology. Titcomb’s warnings remain relevant, and might be marked-well even for today’s BI milieu. Quoting Dr. Wright– while speaking as a Cambridge don himself– Titcomb says,
“Dr. Wright remakrs that ‘he is no true friend of the Bible who founds an imposing theory on a fanciful basis of evidence’. This being so, it follows that all who believe in the Israelitish origin of the British Empire, and in its consequent investiture with the prerogatives of Joseph’s birthright, should be particularly careful to avoid any fanciful evidences derived from scripture, by which they profess to identify these two subjects. The allegation of those who reject the belief is, that it rests upon nothing else than wild and imaginary fancies. And it must be honestly confessed, that many writers on the subject have laid themselves open to the charge; first, by picking out isolated texts, and then arbitrary piecing them into modern events, without the least regard to careful criticism.”
A rather scathing criticism and likely suitable to our own contemporary students of Identity, Titcomb continues,
“The Bible is, undoubtedly, not a book which we are at liberty to treat in a rough and slipshod manner. We have no right to select a passage here, and another there, applying them with superficial lightness to the current topics of the day, or to the past events of history, according to our own capricious judgment. Such a method of interpretation is childish, and may lead to opinions which are extravagant and absurd.”
Interesting, Titcomb evidently felt the royal throne’s Davidic character a notion which risked the ‘extravagant and absurd’. Nonetheless, the Bishop’s basic thesis remains, likely predicated upon a more futurist than preterist millenial scheme:
“The result is, that we are led to see a chain of prophetic promises to Jacob, not only pledged through Judah, but also through Joseph, all of which promises require specific fulfillment, in some way or other, and at some time or other, during the Messianic Dispensation”.
Next, Titcomb explains his basic argument, namely, how the Promises of God given to Abraham evolved to Jacob, and then to their posterity, even to this day and age. As Providence unfolds, the fulfillment of these blessings (and consequent Identity of Israel) becomes clear. Though Titcomb admits limits, he is optimistic about the general approach:
“No one, perhaps, can speak of his belief in these divinely coordinated agreements, with a certitude which is absolutely dogmatic and positive. It is but ‘probable’ after all, though future events will probably make the evidence finally irresistible.”
Titcomb now gives us the nuts and bolts of his interpretation. Rather than fall back upon uncertain legends, speculative linguistics, or strange anthropology, Titcomb shall build a case for ‘probable evidence’. Quoting Dean Mansell, Titcomb explains the evidential approach:
“What is the nature and scope of probable evidence? In its every nature it wants the fulfillment of experience. Nevertheless, it is capable of producing rational belief. Every fresh occurrence of circumstance is a ground upon which we reason, and upon which we predict, infer, and conclude, something which is not mathematically included in those circumstances, but to which they point… We reason toward the thing though we do not know it. There is evidence in it, and it produces belief.”
Titcomb concludes, ‘probable evidence, is consistent with rational belief; and with a belief, the issues of which are both far-reaching and stupendous’. Titcomb likely thinks the Evidental approach is the safest way, and will later build a case based on an accumulation of prophetic fulfillment as witnessed in the 19th century. Titcomb is not unique in this method since Evidentalism is used whenever BI teachers summon Identification Marks to prove the Lost Tribes. The amassing of these prophetic marks have been typical with BI adherents with as few as twelve and as many as forty-seven Marks offered since the mid-Victorian period.