'It is not improbable that the reader, while reflecting on the religious history of the Jews from the restoration to the times of the New Testament narrative, has often asked the question, in what part of the Jewish community centred the purer belief or rather the spiritual element of the church of God in this obscure period ? We see the nation variously impelled by the forces of sects. We see its union rent; its repose continually broken ; its prosperity hindered; its very existence endangered; its ruin at last consummated by the influence of religious factions. In earlier times we see the elements of sect in their purer forms, but incorporated in parties so prominent as to engross seemingly the whole breadth of history. Yet, as we are not informed that these parties absorbed to themselves the whole of the population, or that they comprehended exclusively the whole religious element of the nation, we are tempted to ask, what was the religious state of the people not thus banded in sects? and whether there did not descend, in the stream of their history, some purer current which either comprehended tha whole remainder left by the Chasidim and Zadikim, or was itself a third element or sect in that remainder; leaving the ambiguous portions on the margin in the undefined state of a low population generally—a population tending to profligacy, and liable, as in later times, to be impelled hither and thither by the influence of the sects in the ascendant.
We are not, we think, without something of a clue to the solution of this difficulty. If, for example, in looking more narrowly into Jewish history, we discover traces of a third religious community more spiritual in belief and practice than either of the others, and, moreover, evincing the working of a spiritual principle, the element sought after is found; and we are not only introduced to the knowledge of a people which may have had great influence on society, but we find in its noble qualities and progress the very church of God in the midst of Israel. This church of God, in ancient times, we think we discover in the character and principles of the Karaites.
The notices we have of this sect are scanty. We gain but a glimpse of their presence in some passing allusions. Yet these suffice to distinguish them alike from the Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as from their predecessors. They were essentially agreed with the Zadikim in the rejection of traditions ; but they bear evidence of something more positive and intelligent in their principles, and are entitled to rank as an independent and more estimable religious party. The Zadikim simply disallowed traditions on the ground of their being unsupported by Scripture, and still more from repugnance to a rigorous discipline. But the slight notices we possess of the Karaites present them to us as a more earnest and devout sect, formed on the principle of guarding the sufficiency and integrity of Scripture, but also most seriously devoted to its truths and ordinances. Thus defined, they are a sect largely comprising the best elements of the other two sects. As earnest in belief as the Chasidim, but defining that belief within the limit of inspired statement, these Karaites constituted the puritans of the Jewish church. Theirs was a positive faith in the truths which the other sects affirmed to be the grand basis of religion. They derived spiritual life from the Divine word. They were on their guard, further, not to allow any principles therein contained to be practically neglected.
They sought no prominence as a party. They had no wish except to be allowed, in quiet and obscurity, to serve God. This kept them from public view, as they had no worldly aim to stimulate them to concert in action. Like the Paulicians in the dark ages, after the general depravation of christian teaching; like the Waldenses, to whom these imparted their evangelical principles; or like the Lollards in England; the Karaites were indeed a class, bound by an essential identity of principles, and by the sympathies springing from these principles, but they were not distinguished by the formal compact and concert of a sect. They were elements dispersed through society. Although powerful by the influence of their character as individuals and small communities, their presence as a party is sometimes scarcely discernible. Yet they could not be extinguished, for they were the church of God; and the secret of their strength lay in their remoteness from worldly aims and strifes. In the shade, their virtues flourished, and gained admiration and regard. Scattered through all ranks of society, hut chiefly occupying its lower stations, everywhere their constancy in the truth made itself felt. Not often strong in numbers, they were, from the circumstances of their lot, always stronger in reality than in public recognition. Like the seven thousand who knelt not to Baal, and ranking, in fact, as the genuine followers of these devout Israelites, they maintained the continuity of the church of God in perilous times. The succession of these devout families continued to the times of Christ; and in this succession we are constrained to place the family of Bethlehem, and all the horyfamilie* dispersed through the rural districts of Galilee and Judea. As the parents of our Lord, and those of John the Baptist, and such devout-minded Jews as Simeon and Anna the prophetess, could have had no spiritual affinity with either the Pharisees or Sadducees; and though it may be that the name of Karaite was not much in use, or was convertible with the designation of "just and devout men;" we are naturally led to the conclusion that these saints without guile in Israel, as distinguished from other communities, were truly Karaites; and that from amongst these, moreover, would be derived many of the families who early attached themselves to the Saviour's ministry.
The Library of the Biblical literature, London, 1854, pp.29-32
According to this British Christian theologian, Karaites are the only true Israel of YHWH!