Rev. Anthony Owens
Blacks In The Bible
This blog discusses a topic of great interest on the Internet: blacks in the Bible. Professor Cain Hope Felder was a New Testament languages and literature professor at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC; from my understanding, he's no longer with us. He's gone to be with the Lord, but he was one of the most outstanding scholars in New Testament theology. He was the general editor of the original African Heritage Study Bible King James version, which was copyrighted in 2007 by Judson Press, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
In paraphrasing the introduction of the original African Heritage Study Bible, which was edited or the general editor Cain Hope Felder writes what is an introduction by stating they're far too long in the history of western civilization, persons of African descent have been stereotyped in negative ways which have caused them to question not only their own identity but also their part in God's plan of salvation consequently. Afrocentricity, which is the idea that Africa and persons of African descent must be understood as making a significant contribution to world civilization as proactive subjects within history, is the methodology with which the original African Heritage Study Bible endeavors to reappraise ancient biblical traditions. Several volumes have appeared in the past few years attempting to engage in corrective historiography, attesting to the fact that it is no longer enough to limit what we believe is the discussion of black theology or even African theology. Instead, Africa and her people, nations, and cultures must be acknowledged as making primary, direct contributions to the development of Christianity, so Professor Cain Hope Felder concluded that the purpose of the original African Heritage Study Bible is to interpret the Bible as it relates to significantly to persons of African descent thus to foster an appreciation of the multiculturalism inherent in the Bible.
We believe that it is imperative to stress that our research is not presented from a racist viewpoint, according to Felder, but rather from the perspective of racial pluralism and inclusiveness, seeking to bring forth the truth from a story that has had many dubious interpretations. Cain Hope Felder said that we prayed that it might serve as an essential stepping stone; indeed, it should be a cornerstone for establishing a foundation of truth. Not speculation is the basis upon which this work has been founded. Cain Hope Felder said that we offered the simple facts presented in the Bible, supported by other historical evidence and by sound logic and reasoning.
In studying the scriptures, according to Cain Hope Felder, God has always separated those to whom he gave special blessings from others to whom he did not; it was Adam, who was created in the image of God and was put in a particular place (the garden) in blessing Adam passed to his descendants, who at that ancient time were reckoned only through the male line. The original blessing God gave Adam was also given to Abel, not because he was a male but because of his righteousness and ability to do what pleased God (Genesis 4: 1-4). We can conclude that Seth accordingly received the same blessing. Historians have suggested that Seth's name intentionally contrasts the righteous biblical Seth with the Egyptian Set, the lord of evil who killed his brother Osiris. Both, according to Cain Hope Felder, Osiris and Set were grandsons of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. In the Hebrew Bible, Set is recast as righteous in the image of his father, Noah. As such, God's blessing proceeds thenceforward nine generations to Noah, who found favor with God and was separated from the wickedness around him. We can conclude that these men were sons of God and, as such, received special treatment from their father; consequently, this special blessing was passed on to the Afro- Asiatic. Hebrew patriarch Abraham because he separated himself from the people around him so that he might serve God in righteousness.
We can conclude this blessing has yet to be fully manifested to the world because the African/Edenic man through whom it was to come has failed to fulfill his commission. As a result, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - African/Edenties - the original people of God have been chastised time after time for their disobedience to their God and were driven out of their land to the four corners of the earth.
The return of diverse races of people -including those of African descent - to the Holy Land signals the manifestation of that special blessing to the world. The Bible can therefore be viewed as a testament to the cycle of chastisement and redemption and the ultimate purpose of the Holy One of Israel. The Bible is a drama of the history of salvation in which black people play an essential part.
So, what is the Bible? The most published book in the world is a historical record of the relationship between a "particular people" and a "particular God" and how the specialness of that relationship has affected the entire world. The origin of these people has been shrouded in the mysteries of various versions and translations of the Bible (especially the King James version) for many years. The misinterpretation of those who rendered the original translations from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, English, and other languages, however, is a large part of the confusion that stems from deliberate Eurocentric attempts to conceal what today would be called the racial and/or ethnic identity of the people of the Bible. So, today popular Christianity too quickly assumes that modern ideas about race are traceable to the Bible or that there is no significant black presence.
Although all the evidence then indicates a manifest black biblical presence, Eurocentric church officials and scholars have tended to deny or minimize the fact that black people are in any way part of the Bible itself which is a tendency that has had grave consequences for persons of African descent. Modern biblical scholarship is just beginning to overcome centuries of tragic biases against blacks and their biblical heritage.
According to Cain Hope Felder, this discrimination has long been lived between the 4th century and the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. Europe recast the entire Bible into a saga of European people. Their interpretations have been accepted as fact by the western world, resulting in the creation of a world in which too many blacks themselves have become uncomfortable with images of biblical characters as blacks.
According to Cain Hope Felder, the black presence in the Bible is not new to fully recognize. The black fact in the Bible of black people for more than a century, despite their exclusion from centers of theological education, leaders in the black church have rejected the erroneous view that they were the progeny of the "accursed" of Ham.
According to Cain Hope Felder, who was the editor of the original African Heritage edition of the Holy Bible in the King James version, the original African Heritage Study Bible has been prepared to bring order and clarity to a conclusion, truth to the lie, and light to the darkness about ancient biblical truths. The first task is to use biblical evidence and supported academic references and common sense to show that the ancestral home of man (Adam) humanity's common ancestor was in Africa, the land associated with the beginnings of Eden in the Bible. So, today we must understand that in biblical times "Africa" included much of what European maps have come to call the Middle East. Remember, according to Cain Hope Felder, the name Africa is of Latin origin and was imposed on that great continent by European explorers. Three simple facts must be placed at the forefront of this discussion. First, we must consider the maps of ancient biblical lands. In the Bible, there is no single mention of either England or Germany; by contrast, African countries are mentioned repeatedly. In the Old Testament, cities in Ethiopia more than 40 times and in Egypt more than 100 times. Many biblical and ancient extra-biblical sources say Egypt and Ethiopia almost interchangeably.
According to Cain Hope Felder, the Bible provides extensive evidence that the earliest people were in Africa. The Garden of Eden account found in Genesis 2: 8 through the 14th verse indicates that the first two rivers of Eden were in ancient Cush, the term that the Greeks would later transpose as Ethiopia or Athops, meaning literally "burnt face "people. Genesis, the second chapter, verses 11 through the twelfth verse connects the Pishon River with Havilah, a direct descendant of Cush in Genesis the 10th chapter verse 7, the Gihon River is cited in Genesis the second chapter verse 13 as the second river in Eden surrounding the whole land of Cush/ Ethiopia. Clearly, according to Cain Hope Felder, wherever else" Eden" extended its beginning was within the continent of Africa.
Thirdly the ancient land of Canaan was an extension of the African land mass according to biblical times. African people frequently migrated from the continent proper through Canaan/Palestine to the east towards what has then included Asia, namely the Fertile Crescent or the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of ancient Mesopotamia. This fact helps us, according to Cain Hope Felder, to appreciate the term Afro- Asiatic as correctly identifying the mixed stock of people who populated the ancient Near East; Although; however, Europeans (Greeks and Romans) began to feature in the more recent biblical narratives; the fact remains that the earliest biblical people, by modern western standards of racial types, would have to be classified as blacks. This is because they were of African descent and possessed African physical features.