If you hear anyone saying that Christianity is a European religion just lovingly but firmly remind them of its place of origin in the Middle East (Jerusalem) and it is critical for Black Muslims and people in general to know that Islam was not the original faith of Africans. Christianity was introduced to Africa in all likelihood in the 1st century AD through the ‘Ethiopian Eunuch’ mentioned in Acts 8.27, an official in the Royal Court of what is now modern Sudan. Additionally, Christianity was accepted by The Royal Court of Ethiopia and became that country’s official religion from the 4th century AD, some 300 years before Islam even began in Arabia in the 7th century AD.
It is incontestable that we have a genuine Black person in the early Church leader in Antioch referred to as ‘Simeon called Niger’ (Acts 13.1). In Simeon’s case ‘Niger’ was a kind of ethnic qualifier or Latin nickname based on his complexion. Niger means black and is the root word in the African countries Niger and Nigeria as well as the word Negro and it’s offensive derivative Nigger. Another genuine Black person in the Bible is Ebed-Melech (literally ‘servant of the King’ = royal official) who rescued Jeremiah and is four times referred to as a Cushite (Jer. 38.7, 10, 12; 39.16). “The Hebrew word Cush, is a loanword borrowed from the Egyptian word Kush, originally pronounced Kash.” (Edwin M. Yamauchi, Africa and the Bible, 2004, 41) and had geographical reference to the area south of Egypt (also called Ethiopia in some English translations) from which area came the black pharaohs of the 25th dynasty in Egypt like Taharqa (Tirhakah in 2 Kings 19.9; Is. 37.9). “The Kushite rulers are depicted with a darker ‘chocolate brown’ color than the reddish–brown Egyptians in the wall paintings of the temple of Taharqa…and also on a papyrus fragment (Brooklyn 47.218.3).” (Yamauchi, 108). Other Cushites (Blacks) mentioned in the Bible include Joab’s messenger (2 Samuel 18.19-33) and Moses’ Cushite wife, presumably not Zipporah, (Numbers 12.1; Ex. 2.21).
You may have heard that a Black man carried the cross of Jesus. That man was Simon of Cyrene, believed to have been a Black person because his homeland was in North Africa (modern Libya). A similar argument is advanced for his fellow countryman Lucius, one of the leaders of the early church mentioned in Acts 13. The basic and popular mistake (reflected even in The Original African Heritage Study Bible) is the view that all Africans were Blacks. Cyrene was a Greek colony whose native people were Berbers not Blacks.
Through Rastafarian influence many believe that King Solomon was Black. The one passage used in support of this view is Song of Solomon 1.5, “I am black and comely…” The problem here is that the Hebrew word for black is the feminine form shehorah, which means that the person making the statement is female. It is therefore the bride in the song cycle who is black, not the bridegroom. In Song of Solomon 5.10 the bride describes her bridegroom thus “My beloved is white and ruddy…” If Solomon is the bridegroom in the song cycle then he is most definitely non-Black. For a glimpse of David’s coloration see 1 Sam. 16.12 and 17.42.
Bonus: Probing Black Consciousness
Black consciousness is an enterprise that can be seen as intimately related to Afrocentrism if not identical with it. The differentiating nuance, if any, is that Black consciousness deals specifically with the need for pride in one’s Black skin while sharing with Afrocentrism the concern to refocus the Black psyche on things African.
It must be realized though that there are Black persons who are very proud of their ethnic identity but do not deem it necessary to wear anything special or speak in any particular way to show that they are proud of their ethnic identity. Nor do they see the need to be, in principle, against any other ethnic stock.
If there is a genuine pride in ethnic particularity, plain and simple, there can be no place for denouncing those who are not so vocal or even ambivalent about ethnic issues. Nor should we indulge or defend the practice of calling such persons by derogatory terms as ‘roast breadfruit’ or ‘coconut’ or ‘Oreo’ Is my ethnicity or my skin colouration the essence of me?
Why should there be any greater virtue in preferring one’s skin colour over say one’s height, weight, brain-power or character? If I can, defensibly, have a certain brain, height, weight or character and yet prefer another kind of all or any of these, what is so wrong with having a certain skin colour and preferring another kind, especially given the wide spectrum of skin colourations qualifying as Black?
The bible provides the most defensible bases for true identity and genuine selfworth for any ethnic group. One basis is found in Psalm 8 joined to Gen. 1.27. It is the IMAGO DEI basis of identity, Christian or non-Christian, you can say ‘I am created by God and in the image of God, therefore I am significant’. The other basis is a bit more selective, it is for Christians. Remember 2 Cor. 5.17? This is the IN CHRIST basis of identity. If you are ‘bloodwashed*, if you are a born-again child of God you do not need identity confirmation by linking with any piece of real estate or with your ancestors, you are special in God’s eyes, ‘Christ died for you’ and you have appropriated the benefits of his sacrifice for you. It helps psychologically to know your ancestry and the achievements of your ancestors but that is not what should ground your sense of identity.
© Rev. Clinton Chisholm, www.thechisholmsource.com