Brothers, Richard°

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BROTHERS, RICHARD ° (1757–1824), founder of the British-Israelite movement. After serving in the Royal Navy (1771–83) Brothers retired on half pay but refused to take the statutory oath on religious grounds. He next began to address letters to the king, the prime minister, and other public personages foretelling the future. He regarded himself as the messiah who was to restore the "Hebrews" (i.e., Englishmen who had seen the light of truth) to their land. His name, according to him, signified that he was descended from James, the brother of Jesus, so that he called himself "The Nephew of the Almighty." In 1794 Brothers published the first part of his A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times foretelling the restoration of the "Hebrews" to Jerusalem in 1798. He had many followers, and large numbers of pamphlets were published supporting or opposing his views. Jews showed no interest, but David *Levi published a derisive pamphlet. Brothers' activities were suspected of being exploited for revolutionary ends and the government had him confined in an asylum for the criminally insane (1795–1806). Although his prophecies were unfulfilled, this did not affect the faith of his disciples. To the last Brothers continued to compose pamphlets about the government and architecture of the new Jerusalem. Upon his death, leadership of the group passed to John Finleyson (1770–1854).


C. Roth, Nephew of the Almighty (1933); Roth, Mag Bibl, 381–9; R. Matthews, English Messiahs (1936), 85–126; dnb, 2 (1921–22), 1350–53. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Cecil Roth]