This article is about a loosely defined religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI). What I say here is based on some of the beliefs of BHI members that I have encountered and based on my research though that research be not comprehensive. Indeed, BHI members do not all have the same beliefs to include on what the Bible says. This is also true of Christians and every other religious group. Moreover, the message here is largely about the American BHI rather than BHI worldwide as BHI do exist in other countries including the current nation of Israel. Also, I do not set forth that no Black Hebrews/Israelites existed in Moses or Jesus day. I simply set forth that Jews were probably of a variety of skin colors or races rather than being restricted to one color of skin or race.
The Black Hebrews/Israelites (BHI) is a group that is largely rooted under the Old Covenant and its laws and statutes, including feasts and dietary laws. BHI point to Matthew 5:17-18 where Christ talks about the law not passing away until heaven and earth pass away. But BHI fail to understand that Christ fulfilled (satisfied and kept perfectly) the law (e.g., Romans 10:4; 2 Cor 1:20; Hebrews 9:12). BHI are similar to Judaism and Islam in that respect.
American BHI are similar to American Islam in that they arose in response to American white racist improper use of Christian biblical scriptures to justify the American form of slavery and subsequent racial discrimination whose negative effects linger today in a multitude of systemic and non-systemic ways. Like American Islam, BHI believe Christianity is false and that Christianity was created by the white man to enslave the BHI.
BHI are similar to white slave masters in that BHI claim the Bible renders BHI superior to all non-Israelites. They claim that all Israelites were black. They claim Jesus did not come to save any white person. They also claim that native Africans are not Israelites and therefore Jesus did not come to save native Africans. They claim that the blacks brought from Africa as slaves were not native Africans but were BHI scattered to Africa. They claim that is why the native Africans sold blacks (non-natives) to whites as slaves. Of course, no one can say for certain what skin color Jesus and the apostles had or the Israelites in general. Skin color does not matter anyway.
BHI believe that the fact they were enslaved in America scripturally proves that they are the original Israelites. They point to various scriptures where it talks about enslavement of the Israelites. Of course, their blind hatred and resentment of white racism leads them to that racist conclusion and makes them similar to the white slave master. I am convinced that if BHI had the power they would be at least as cruel to white people as the white racists were to Blacks in America.
Indeed, BHI look for that day when they say scripture says God will destroy all non-Israelites, especially Edomites who they say are descendants of Esau. They say all white people are Edomites. BHI speak of the scriptures that talk about God’s hate for Esau (e.g., Romans 9:13). Yet, they neglect to recognize that such hate does not necessarily transfer to all Esau descendants. Moreover, the word hate has various meaning as indicated by Jesus in Luke 14:26. In Luke 14:26, Jesus says if a man does not hate his mother, father, etc. enough to follow Jesus then that man can not be Jesus disciple; the same Greek word (Strong’s G3404) is translated hate in Luke 14:26 and Romans 9:13. So then it is proper to conclude that it is not the person that is hated but what the person does/did that is hated. Also, Deuteronomy 23:7-8 tells the Israelites not to hate the Edomites nor the Egyptians. Indeed, Jesus says even love those you believe to be your enemy.
BHI claim that the words Gentile and Greeks in the bible do not refer to non-Israelites but rather to Israelites scattered to other nations throughout the earth. BHI claim that Jesus did not come to save Gentles but only Israelites. This of course contradicts Jesus words in John 17:9, 20. They erroneously conclude that the words world in John 3:16 and Mark 16:15 only refers to Israelites to include those scattered. Similarly, they say Matthew 28:18-20 is only talking about making disciples of scattered Israelites.
They point to Jesus prayer in John 17:
John 17:9 – I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
Thus, they say Jesus didn’t pray for the world but only for those disciples which the father had given him which BHI say were only Israelites. But they ignore John 17:20. a part of that same prayer where Jesus prays for those who come to believe through his disciples preaching which we know include even in this day people from all nations and races:
John 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
BHI use verses like Isaiah 45:17 as justification for restricting the word world to Israelites. But their conclusion ignores the fact that even if Isaiah 45:17 is talking about the Israelite world that does not mean John 3:16, Mark 16:15-16, and Matthew 28:18-20 are just talking about the Israelite world.
Furthermore, Psalms 33:8 says: Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
According to BHI doctrine of restricting the word world to mean Israelites, only the Israelites should stand in awe of God. Of course, such doctrine is ill-informed.
Also, does Psalm 9:8 mean that God will only judge the Israelites in righteousness? And in Psalm 89:11, is it only the Israelite world that the Lord has founded/created? One could go on and on; but my point ought to be clear.
One major problem with the BHI is they don’t understand language. Hence, they say the word Jesus should not be used. So they use the Hebrew word Yashua or Yahusha or various other spelling instead of Jesus. (Even they can’t agree on Jesus name or consider him to have multiple names.) In any case in English his name is Jesus for me; though Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 1:23 show he has many names. This same lack of understanding of language causes BHI to misapply Isaiah 45:17.
Some use false logic claiming the letter J did not exist until a certain point in time so according to them Jesus could not be his name. This illogical argument seems to stem from the an original translation of the Greek version of Jesus not containing a J.
To them I say: Jesus is an English word. The English language did not even exist at the time of Jesus birth. So none of the letters existed. So to single out the letter J is rather nonsense. Clearly they should be mindful of Hebrews 5:11-14.
As a matter of language, the phrase “world without end” in Isaiah 45:17 is not even talking geography.
The phrase “world without end” means in a state of existence having no end, eternally, forever, and everlasting, according to the dictionary.
So then Isaiah 45:17 is saying the Israelites in this case will not be confounded and ashamed forever. In fact, the Hebrew word for world does not appear in Isaiah 45:17 but rather a sequence of Hebrew words translated world without end is what appears.
Indeed, the dictionary’s various definitions of the word world tells us something we ought to intuitively recognize. It is that the scope of the word world varies depending on the context. Indeed, I can in the same conversation use the word world to mean three different scopes. I could say in my world, in your world, and in the world. The scope differs in all three instances.
Moses and the other Old Testament prophets primarily spoke to the Israelites. Therefore they naturally used reference words such as Israel. It is no different when Rev. MLK Jr. often used reference words such as America since he was primarily speaking to America.
God chose Israel to be the protype nation through whom he revealed his plan to bring his creation back in good standing that was lost in Genesis 3. So the Bible often uses terminology centered around Israel.
So it is with the twelve gates and walls having the names of the twelve tribes and twelve apostles, respectively (Rev 21:12). The naming is to honor them for their special role in God’s plan.
BHI believes God only gave the Old Covenant to the biological Israelites. Consequently, they hold that the New Covenant is only for the biological Israelites. This is the reason they claim to be the original Israelites less they be excluded. Of course such a claim is also necessary for them to disqualify white people from salvation.
Moreover, BHI claim that the New Covenant is not yet in effect. Of course, in doing so they reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah who has already come to save and sanctify all who believe. In doing so they are akin to those Jews/Israelites who rejected Jesus in biblical days and who reject Jesus even today. Indeed, it is through Jesus Christ that God brought in the New Covenant by which he reconciles the believing world unto himself (2 Cor 5:18-20); this believing world consists of repentant people from all nations of all races, ethnicities and nationalities who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Reconciliation means through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the believer is brought back to the right relationship with God that was lost through sin that began with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3).
In considering scriptures BHI fail to look at the context and their relationship to the entirety of the scriptures (Old/New Testament) not just their relationship to selected other scriptures in other contexts. Thus, they fail to rightly divide the word of truth.
In the final analysis:
1. BHI do not understand God’s plan of salvation. They do not accept the biblical truth that the Old Covenant is passed away in that Christ brought in the New Covenant and that the New Covenant (Hebrews chapters 8 and 9) is available to all people (Israelite and non-Israelite; black and white) who accepts Christ as the Messiah/Saviour (John 3:16; Matthew 28:18-20).
2. Christianity is superior to BHI just as Christianity is superior to Judaism and Islam. Christianity is superior to BHI-ism, Judaism and Islam in that Christianity gives man a more certain and greater hope than BHI, Judaism, and Islam. Thus all humans should accept Christianity and reject those portions of BHI, Judaism and Islam that are inconsistent with Christianity.
For a discussion on Jesus race and skin color click here.
For more information on God’s Covenants with his creation, click here.
For more info on the grace, law, etc. click here.
See Why Not Judaism and Islam for more info on them.
For a discussion of proselytes see the external reference in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
The Congregation Temple Bethel is a predominantly black Jewish congregation that believes they are descendants of Abraham. Yet, they also accept whites who say they are Jews, descendants of Abraham. Hence, they are not the same as BHI.