Black Hebrew Israelites

The Death of Meme Theology

By: Cam Triggs

I've had it happen a dozen times. I respond to a Facebook post or Twitter thread dismantling some false statements about Christianity, and then someone responds with a MEME. No, not a book, reputable quote, article, or peer-reviewed research… but a meme. These memes often depict stereotypes, characterizations, and blatant fallacies concerning the Christian faith. Sadly, they are also the worst of quality… fuzzy memes with shallow logic. It's the worst. Even scarier is the blind allegiance and trust someone has towards these viral graphics.

I understand this cultural phenomenon. Of course, it is easier to run with a two-second message rather than listen to a two-hour lecture or read a two-hundred-page book. However, these memes are not good sources for intellectual exchange. They add absolutely nothing to most conversations. When challenged with research, history, and logic, many memes crumble like dry cornbread. 

A few questions could actually save you the intellectual embarrassment of relying on such poor sources. Simply think and ask: 

 

  1. What is the origin of this graphic?
  2. Can it stand the test of peer-reviewed research?
  3. Are there any scholars who agree or disagree? 
  4. Is it logical? 
  5. Is it historical? 
  6. Where is the burden of proof? 
  7. Is it biased? 
  8. What presuppositions are left unfounded? 

 

You can't make good arguments with sound conclusion relying on a picture produced for propaganda. No, not all memes are false or malicious. Some may actually point to truth and promote accurate information. Regardless, no meme should be a foundation for rejecting or accepting a belief. There is too much left uninvestigated or researched. This leaves people unable to accurately and adequately articulate what they believe.

Family, if there really was a malicious conspiracy theory out to destroy us all, I fully expect it would be hidden within the confines of a book versus fuzzy memes and poorly produced YouTube videos. Think about it; where would you put secret information? Online, where people are passing off poorly cited information? Or in a book, where few people are reading and actually fact-checking sources?

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently did a study that indicated “fake news” travels faster than facts.[1] This is why we need to truly research the information we access online. More importantly, we need receipts for every claim made.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's not amuse ourselves to death with inaccurate presumptions being created by someone with troll-like tendencies and endless time to waste. We need to reach deeper and research widely. Take a look. It's in a book. Read widely and critically. It’s bad practice to get your worldview from a meme. 

 

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43344256


CAM TRIGGS.jpg

As lead pastor of Grace Alive Church, Cam has a heart for Jesus and for the city of Orlando. He hopes to see people discover the greatness of Jesus through Grace Alive.

He graduated from the University of Central of Florida as a religious studies major and also received additional training at Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando. During his time in Orlando, he made great friends and developed a passion for ministry in the Beautiful City.

More importantly, he is married to his beautiful best friend Tymara Triggs and the proud father of Cameron Triggs II and Charis Triggs.

10 Things to Study Before Engaging Black Hebrew Israelites

As Christian apologists, we are called to defend the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15). However, we must do this strategically and not ignorantly. Many times, well-meaning believers seek out maleficent arguments or renegade crusades without adequately preparing themselves through study. This is tragic because God calls us to be prepared and well-studied for the proclamation of His word (2 Timothy 2:15). One particular cult Christian apologists should certainly be prepared to engage are the Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI). Without preparation, a believer can walk away discouraged, deflated, and even dejected because of the strenuous effort of persuading this unique cult. Black Hebrew Israelites are often very well studied in the Bible, equipped with historical trivia, and familiar with frequent objections. They are often very passionate and, depending on the individual or cult, can be very condescending. Therefore, a soldier in the faith should be equipped, prepared, and bold to share the Gospel. Below are ten questions Christian apologists should understand, and be able to answer thoroughly, before engaging Black Hebrew Israelites.

 

1. Do you know how and why Christ has fulfilled the law?

This is a huge point that cannot be overlooked. Many Christians are fuzzy, at best, when it comes to declaring how the New Covenant and Old Covenant are related. Specifically, many Christians have accepted the “Americanized Jesus” and can no longer see the sunburnt Yeshua, who is the quintessential Jew. Redemptive History demonstrates Jesus as the coming Messiah who fulfilled the law and kept the commandments so sinners could have his imputed righteousness while he took the guilt, shame, and curse of our sin on the cross. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that institutes a New Covenant and then calls both Jew and Gentile into the Law of Christ (Romans 10:14). As Christians, we need to be able to prove, from scripture, that the law cannot save us. Instead, we should be able to prove that faith in the person and work of Jesus saves us. After which, we are called to follow Him.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 KJV

  • Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:24-25‬ ‭KJV

  • Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; Ephesians‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Helpful Books:

  • Law and the Gospel by Ernest C. Reisnger

  • 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas R. Schreiner

  • The End of the Law by Jason Meyer

Helpful Articleshttps://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/does-psalm-119-teach-salvation-comes-by-keeping-the-law

 

2. Do you know how we received and translate the Bible?

Christians should know how we received the Bible and how we translate it into modern day language. Many in the Black Hebrew Israelite camp believe that the King James Version is the only authentic version, while also affirming the Apocrypha. A Christian should be able to articulate the formation, reception, and preservation of the Biblical text, the process of textual criticism, and refute texts not in the Biblical Canon.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16 KJV

  • For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. ~ 2 Peter 1:21 KJV

Helpful Books:

  • From God to Us by Norman Geisler

  • The King James Only Controversy by James White

Helpful Articles: https://www.gotquestions.org/apocrypha-deuterocanonical.html

 

3. Do you know the history of the Jewish People?

A central claim in much Black Hebrew Israeliteideology is the belief that people affected by the evil of the Transatlantic Slave trade are indeed the lost tribes of Israel.  This discussion could lead to many debates and rabbit trails, but the apologist should be aware of the formation of Israel in the Bible and some historical facts on the current Nation of Israel.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. -Zechariah 2:11 KJV

  • And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. – Exodus 12:37-38 KJV

  • For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. – Romans 2:28-29 KJV

Helpful Books:

  • Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel by Eugene H. Merrill

  • Israel & the Nations: The History of Israel from the Exodus to the Fall of the Second Temple by F. F. Bruce

Helpful Articles: https://carm.org/black-hebrew-israelites

 

4. Do you know God's redemptive plan to save all people and nations?

Different camps will disagree on this point. However, it is important to know the intention of God to save all people from different tribes, tongues, and nations when engaged with a camp that believes only Israelites will be saved.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. ~ Isaiah 45:22 KJV

  • Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2:4 KJV

Helpful Books:

  • Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations by Walter C. Jr. Kaiser

  • From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by J. Daniel Hays

  • The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World by Derwin L. Gray

Helpful Articles: https://www.gotquestions.org/Jews-saved.html

 

5. Are you competent enough to have a discussion about the Hebrew language?

In your dialogue with Black Hebrew Israelites, many topics will eventually touch on the meaning of a word in Hebrew. Having a firm grasp of how the Biblical languages work would be a huge benefit for a believer trying to defend the faith.

Helpful Books:

  • Hebrew for the Rest of Us: Using Hebrew Tools without Mastering Biblical Hebrew by Lee M. Fields

  • Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors by Douglas Stuart

  • A History of the Hebrew Language by Angel Sáenz-Badillos

 

6. Are you competent enough to have a discussion about racism and racial reconciliation?

Much of Black Hebrew Israelite mythology evolves around the idea that “Edomites”, or white people in America, are deceiving and pacifying people of color with a whitewashedChristianity.In some cases, this does happen. However, it is not a good representation of Global Christianity or the strong activism and Biblical worldview of the historic black church. This heresy often leads to racism and xenophobia amongst certain camps. Edomites are often seen as condemned and not part of God’s redemptive plan.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land. ~Dueteromy 23:7 KJV

  • And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd ~John 10:16 KJV

Helpful Book:

  • Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We are Stronger Together by Tony Evans

  • Defending Black Faith: Answers to Tough Questions About African-American Christianity by Craig S. Keener

Helpful Articles: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2013/01/28/why-did-jesus-say-he-came-only-for-israel/

 

7. Do you have an accurate account of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade?

The Black Hebrew Israelites typically believe that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade is a biblical prophecy fulfilled in our American context. Admirably, they have an amazing knowledge of the horrific evils that took place in the slave trade. Sadly, much eisegesis is imposed on the Biblical text that is not a byproduct of helpful hermeneutics. 

Helpful Scriptures:

  • Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. -1 Corinthians 7:21 KJV

Helpful Books:

  • The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective by Sidney Wilfred Mintz

  • Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall

Helpful Articles: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/four-differences-between-new-testament-servitude-and-new-world-slavery/

 

8. Have you consulted the best commentaries on Deuteronomy?

Referring back to point 7, much of the eisegesis and misapplication of scripture is from the book of Deuteronomy, in particular chapter 28. Many camps in the BHI cult believe that the curses found in this chapter apply to people of color displaced by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Reading exegetical articles will help you discern context and the meaning of these passages.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. -Deuteronomy 28:64 KJV

  • And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.–Deuteronomy 28:68 KJV

Helpful Books:

  • Deuteronomy (Evangelical Press Study Commentary) (EPSC Commentary Series) by John D. Currid

  • Deuteronomy (Apollos Old Testament Commentary) by J. G. McConville

Helpful Articles: https://www.equip.org/article/origin-insufficiency-black-hebrew-israelite-movement-article/

 

9. Are you aware of the black presence in the Bible& Church History?

A great portion of Black Hebrew Israelites are well trained to see the kaleidoscope of color in the Bible. If you read the Bible through a colorblind lens, you will miss the richness of God’s redemptive plan and appear to be brainwashed by this cult. Knowing the black presence in the Bible creates a common ground and enhances mutual dialogues, especially when one must challenge other points of interpretation. More ground can be gained in quoting sources if one is aware many of the early church fathers were indeed African.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • The Sons of Ham (Genesis 2:13; 10:6)

  • Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:2)

  • Caleb (Genesis 15:19; Joshua 14:6)

  • Jethro (Judges1:16)

  • The mixed ancestry of Jesus; Hamitic Descent from Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth (Matthew 1:1-16)

Helpful Books:

  • The Black Presence in the Bible by Walter Arthur McCray

  • How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden

Helpful Articles: https://iamernestgrant.com/2016/02/28/its-not-the-white-mans-religion-2/

 

10. Do you know the camp you are reaching?

Last but not least, it is helpful to know which camp of the Black Hebrew Israelites you are talking with. Many have different beliefs, and it would be helpful to ask questions about the specific camp, instead of assuming.

Helpful Scriptures:

  • Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath – James 1:19 KJV

  • If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. -Romans 12:18 KJV

  • He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. – Proverbs 18:13 KJV

Helpful Articles: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/5864-black-hebrew-israelites

Helpful Books:

  • Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions by Jacob S. Dorman

  • Barack Obama vs the Black Hebrew Israelites: Introduction to the History & Beliefs of 1West Hebrew Israelism by Vocab Malone


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As lead pastor of Grace Alive Church, Cam has a heart for Jesus and for the city of Orlando. He hopes to see people discover the greatness of Jesus through Grace Alive.

He graduated from the University of Central of Florida as a religious studies major and also received additional training at Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando. During his time in Orlando, he made great friends and developed a passion for ministry in the Beautiful City.

Cam is married to his best friend Tymara and together they are raising their son affectionately known as Baby Cam.


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Courageous Conversations 2019

Getting Specific: Engaging {Black} Hebrew Israelites Pt. 1

By: Cam Triggs

Here is an example of {Black} Hebrew Israelites presumably debating a Christian. They are debating the extent of the law in a person's life. 

The "apparent" nail in the coffin is the quoting of Romans 3:31 which states:

"Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." - Romans 3:31 (ESV)

From this verse, it would appear that the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant are still binding on believers. HOWEVER, if you read the context of Romans 3, a solid biblical answer would be provided:

"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one-who  will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." - Romans 3:27-30 (ESV)
 

So what is the law mentioned in verse 31? The law of works? The law of Moses? NO! The law of faith! The law of faith in Christ (Romans 10:4). We love according to justification by faith alone but a faith that is never alone.  In other words, faith produces good works. Good works will never produce justification. In the same letter, Paul states:

"But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." - Romans 7:6 (ESV)

How do we keep this law? Let Paul speak for himself again in Romans 13:

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; herefore love is the fulfilling of the law."- Romans 13:8-10 (ESV)

This new moral code is exemplified in Romans 12 and additional handling of laws is expressed in Romans 14.

And by the way, how did keeping the law of Moses work for Israelites? Again, in the SAME letter Paul writes in Romans 9:

"What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone." - Romans 9:30-32 (ESV)

Lessons learned here:

  1. Stick with YOUR Bible! Pull it up. Read four verses above and four verses after to establish grammatical and canonical context. Turn to additional passages within the book. Remember when dealing with cults, they often borrow and pervert Christian truth. That's the bad news. Good news? We have home field advantage; the Bible. Let's practice at home so we may put up a good fight.
  2. Develop a biblical theology that can answer weightier questions of hermeneutics. Study good biblical theologies that present the redemptive story of God.
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and discernment on how to engage those who disagree. There is great wisdom needed as to when to answer a person according to their responses or giving no response at all.


Recommended Reading:
40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas Schreiner

 

Also, check out Jude 3's Interview on Hebrew Israelites:


Cam Triggs loves Jesus. God saved Cam from wrath, sin, death, and Satan in 2005. He began studies at University of Central Florida as a Religious Studies major & continued his education at Reformed Theological Seminary where he earned a Masters of Arts in Theological Studies. During his time at RTS, Cam was privileged to study under the apologist John Frame. In the future,  he looks forward to further study in the areas of philosophy, theology, and African American studies. He now enjoys loving God & loving students at Shiloh Church. More importantly, he is married to his beautiful best friend Tymara Triggs and the proud father of Cameron Triggs II. Stay connected with him atcamtriggs.com

WHO ARE THE HEBREW ISRAELITES AND WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE?

By: Vocab Malone of Urban Theologian Radio

Hebrew Israelite groups gather and proselytize in metropolitan areas. This group is usually made up of black and brown Americans who claim to be the true Israelites and that modern day Jews are impostors. Their presence in America has increased over the past decade. They have stepped up their efforts and are growing - both online and on the streets. This is a current cultural issue, especially in the urban community.

If you live in a major city and haven’t met a Hebrew Israelite yet, give it time – you will. Whether clad in camo or purple and gold, the Hebrew Israelites go where you go. Yelling, swearing, debating, pointing, and loudly pontificating; they go hard. They usually pick a favorite spot and post up every Saturday. In Phoenix, I’ve seen them at the light rail station, the State Fair, Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona State University and the Occupy Phoenix protests. They’ve even been known to storm in churches and disrupt services. 

Some think this group is obscure and irrelevant. Amar’e Stoudemire disagrees. The former Phoenix Sun and NBA star identifies as a Hebrew Israelite. When SB1070 (a controversial immigration bill) was the hot topic in Arizona, Stoudemire tweeted out his disagreement with the legislation. The reason? The “Latin community” is part of “the 12 tribes of Israel,” which is, “one nation under Yah.” Stoudemire is an executive producer of “Village of Peace”, a documentary about Chicago-based Hebrew Israelites moving to Israel in the 60’s. He’s applied for Israeli citizenship and is part owner of an Israeli basketball team. I could go on: St. Louis rapper Chingy of “Right Thurr” fame and Antoine Dodson of “Bed Intruder” fame both came out as Hebrew Israelites. Boyz II Men crooners Shawn Stockman and Wayna Morris claim this faith. Whitney Houston visited a Hebrew Israelite leader when she went to Israel. Hebrew Israelite influence outweighs their numbers.

If you run into a Hebrew Israelite, you’d be wise to know what they believe. Even though they often yell and curse, knowing something about their ideology can assist you in having a more productive dialogue.

10 Hebrew Israelite Beliefs

  1. Hebrew Israelites believe those whose ancestors were put in bondage during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are the true descendants of Biblical Israel.
  2. Hebrew Israelites believe modern day Israelites and Europeanized Jews are impostors and not the real descendants of true Israel.
  3. Hebrew Israelites usually hold the King James Version of the Bible as authoritative. Some only hold to the Old Testament. Most hold to the Apocrypha as well.
  4. Hebrew Israelites believe the “time of the Gentiles” means “the time of the white Europeans”, whom they refer to as Edomites or Esau. They believe this time is almost over; America and its allies will soon be judged.
  5. Hebrew Israelites believe righteousness is achieved by law keeping. Strict Sabbath-keeping, dietary restrictions and a certain physical appearance is important (e.g., fringes and beards are good).
  6. Hebrew Israelites believe Jesus Christ (although they use a different name - “Yahshuah” - or some other name) was a black man.
  7. Many (not all) Hebrew Israelites believe “Edomites” (white people) can’t be saved. They are destined to be killed or slaves for Hebrew Israelites after the Messiah returns. Others believe “Gentiles” (non-Hebrew Israelites) can be grafted into the Kingdom if they keep the law and are under the authority of a Hebrew Israelite.
  8. Hebrew Israelites believe both heaven and hell are conditions – mere “states of mind”. Neither are viewed as metaphysical realities as they are in orthodox Christianity.
  9. Hebrew Israelites are usually part of the Sacred Name movement: they believe you must refer to God as “Yah” (or some other name). Their preference for God’s name usually depends on their individual sect (which they call “camp”).
  10. Hebrew Israelites believe by spreading their message they are gathering the scattered Israelites who do not yet know their true ancestry and heritage. In essence, their mission is to build a nation.

Five Common Practices/Characteristics

  1. On the street, Hebrew Israelites tend to be boisterous, belligerent and bold. They blurt, blare and bellow. If you engage a member on the street, be prepared for a noisy encounter. They often enjoy shouting obscenities at pedestrians and onlookers, especially those whom they deem to be morally repugnant (e.g., women wearing pants, black-and-white couples, etc.).
  2. Hebrew Israelites craft their own signage. Common images include politicians with devil horns, “white Jesus” portrayals, images of slavery (men with scarred backs, slave ship diagrams, etc.) and the all-important 12 Tribes of Israel genealogy chart. For example, the Tribe of Judah is said to be the ancestors of black Americans, Isaachar for Mexicans and Gad for Native Americans.
  3. Hebrew Israelites travel in groups. I’ve seen anywhere from three to a dozen congregate.
  4. Hebrew Israelites members love to carry tattered old Bibles. Their messages include heavy doses of Scripture. Usually, there is a primary speaker and then a Scripture reader. The speaker will shout a verse to the reader - “Give me that Deuteronomy 28!” – and then the reader yells it out – loudly.
  5. Most Hebrew Israelites will engage you – to a certain extent. If they view you as “having a demon” (a common accusation they make against opponents), they act dismissive and aggressive. If they see you as interested (but not too “talky”), they love the chance to lecture and even “cross-examine” you (“What does ADAM mean?” “What does Judah mean?”).

If you are a Christian, you should engage Hebrew Israelites when you see them. Why? They will benefit from well-informed brothers and sisters in Christ dropping knowledge. If you call yourself a Christian but don’t know your stuff, study up and come back – they eat the biblically ignorant alive!

Remember, it’s not just knowledge they need; the Hebrew Israelites need to see authentic love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and patience. If you are going to converse with them, ask the Lord for a double-dose of the last one – patience.

If you know the Bible well and are quick on your feet, they may show some extra respect to you, but then again, they may become more irritated than usual – it all depends on the makeup of the group and the nature of the crowd. As you can imagine, engaging a Hebrew Israelite in this environment can be intimidating.

My main goal in this piece was to give the reader the basics about the Hebrew Israelites. It is not intended to be an all-out rebuttal; I’m writing more in the vein of “heads up, coming at you.” In the future, I’d love to tackle some of the truth claims Hebrew Israelite adherents make.

For more information about Black Hebrew Israelites, check out Vocab's interview with the Jude 3 Project below:


Vocab Malone is a Christian hip hop artist and slam poet as well as Pastor of Teaching and Outreach at Roosevelt Community Church. He obtained a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary. Vocab is currently enrolled at Talbot School of Theology, working on a doctorate of ministry under philosophers Garrett DeWeese and JP Moreland. Vocab loves to geek out with his wife, Nicole. Together, they have four children who have been adopted.

Overview of The Black Hebrew Israelites

By: D.A Horton (Article Originally Posted on dahorton.com on Sept. 26, 2015)

Heads upsince there is no “one set of beliefs” that all Black Hebrews, Black Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites fall under, this blog will highlight a few of the movements that are often identified as having similar beliefs. This section will be longer than others as I’ve attempted to consolidate several different movements under the term Black Hebrew Israelite while giving each respected entity recognition for it unique nuance and history.

The Founders: Most groups that identify themselves with being Black Hebrew Israelites residing in America trace their inception back to the Pre-Civil War era of American History. One of the first preachers known to harmonize the American slaves with the biblical account of the Israelites was Martin Prosser, a slave preacher in Richmond, VA. In 1800 he helped his brother Gabriel organize what is now known as Gabriel’s rebellion.[1] The first known leader to organize a movement around the connection between American slavery and the Israelite narrative recorded in the Bible was William Saunders Crowdy.

Crowdy, a Civial War veteran established the establishing of The Church of God and Saints in Christ (COGASC) in 1896.[2] Crowdy began to preach new revelations that God gave Him known as the “Seven Keys”[3] that make up the doctrine of the COGASC. Crowdy remained the leader of congregation until his death on August 4, 1908 after which Bishop James M. Grove was elected as the new leader.[4]

In 1866 F.S. Cherry organized the Church of the Living God, Pillar of Truth for All Nations in Chattanooga, TN.[5] Cherry’s doctrine focused on the blackness of Adam, Eve and Jesus while arguing the white/white Jews altering of the blackness of biblical figures to fit their purposes. Cherry claimed his call to ministry was given by God to make Blacks aware that their true religion was indeed Judaism.[6] Cherry also taught Blacks were of the lineage of Jacob and God hated White Jews because they rejected Jesus while using Revelation 3:9 as his proof text. Cherry moved the church from Chattanooga to Philadelphia in 1915 and remained the leader of the church until his death in 1965 after which, his son Benjamin Cherry took over as the leader.

In 1919 in Harlem, New York the Commandment Keepers of the Living God (also known as the Royal Order of Ethiopian Hebrews)[7] began assembling under the leadership of Rabbi Wentworth A. Matthew.[8] The group gained momentum due to their response to the Great Depression, World War II, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Matthew, born is West Africa but raise in the Caribbean created a hybrid theology that had influences from March Garvey, Arnold Josiah Ford to the point he took over Ford’s congregation when he left for Ethiopia.[9] Matthew’s congregation stayed in tact while other organizations around them were closing their doors, most notably Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Matthew’s views and practices were known to be the closest of all Black Jewish movements to Orthodox Judaism yet at the same time, he taught; original Jews were black and white Jews are products of generational intermarriage with Europeans and the sufferings of Blacks was caused by their violation of God’s commandments.[10] Before his death in 1973 Matthew ordained his grandson, Rabbi David Dore to be his successor. At the time of his ordination, Dore was only seventeen years old. His ordination caused a great division between Dore and Rabbi Chaim White that lasted for over three decades that eventually led to self-destruction.[11]

In the 1960’s Ebner ben Yomin (also known as Abba Bivens) left the Commandment Keepers and began the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge. Three of Bivens’ followers teamed up with four “high priests” to take over the school and were collectively known as the “Seven Heads”.[12] These leaders later changed the name of the school to the Israelite Church of Universal Practical Knowledge and then changing the name again to rebrand because of a failed prophecy of Christ’ return in 2000, the name became the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, Inc.[13] The current leader, Apostle and Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah, born Jermaine Grant, rose to power after Ahrayah’s, one of Bivens disciples, prophecy of Christ’s return in 2000 to “slay or enslave” all the Edomites (whites) failed to come to pass.[14] Tazadagyah is known by his followers as the Comforter, a direct reference to Holy Spirit and is propagated as such at the website dedicated to him.[15]

Yahweh ben Yahweh was born Hulon Mitchell, Jr on October 27, 1935 in Kingfisher, OK to a pentecostal minister. After graduating high school he served in the Air Force, earned a degree in Psychology from Phillips College in Oklahoma before earning a master’s degree in economics from Atlanta University.[16] He was briefly involved with the Nation of Islam before moving to Miami, FL in 1979 when where he declared himself as Yahweh ben Yahweh and began the Nation of Yahweh.[17]His ministry was to rebuild the Liberty City section of Miami and by October 7, 1990 Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez declared the day to be Yahweh ben Yahweh Day all the while a federal grand jury was preparing to indict he and over a dozen of his followers with charges ranging from extortion, racketeering and over a dozen murders.[18]The trial ended with a conviction that landed him in prison for 18 years but only served 11 of those years and after his release was informed he could not have any contact with any of the members of his group. On May 7, 2007 he passed away from cancer.[19]

The Followers: It is hard to identify how many followers in the United States align themselves with the various groups that identify with the Black Hebrew Israelites. Part of the challenge is due to the strong emphasis put on a Jewish bloodline as being a prerequisite. According to an article by Michael Gelbwasser published in 1998 there were he cites Robin Washington (who organized the Alliance of Black Jews) claim of 260,000 black Jews practicing Judaism in America.[20]Although the entirety of this number does not state how many align with Black Hebrew Israelite teachings, those who do would argue there are more since Black Hebrew Israelites include Latino and Native American heritages as well.[21]

The Focus: The overall focus of all groups regardless of Scriptural interpretation is to bring an awareness of Israelite identity to those living in America that are unaware of such heritage. In addition, they live to see all true Israelites obey the Commandments of the Only True and Living God and forsake all forms of paganism. Some groups such as African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem go as far as mandating a migration to Israel.[22]

The Faith: Many Black Hebrew Israelites affirm the King James (1611) Version of the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice and the interpretation of it is reserved for their ordained leader. Some groups accept some books of the New Covenant (New Testament) yet, many reject Paul’s writings on the idea, they were used often by White masters during the American slavery years.

The Friction: In addition to a high regard for the KJV, other Black Hebrew Israelites look to the Torah alone or Talmud while others the ApocryphaBook of EnochBook of Jasher, andPseudepigrapha texts as being with equal with the KJV. Many Black Hebrew Israelites reject God’s nature being triune and separates Jesus from God the Father by forcing a dichotomy between the Supreme Being in the Universe and Jesus the “mere human being, a noteworthy prophet”.[23]Jesus is then also seen as one who practiced Judaism, did not change any laws in Torah, lived an exemplary life.

According to the Hebrew Israelites sin is defined by 1 John 3:4 which says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness”, but on their website they quote the KJV which says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (italics original).[24] They go onto to explain the “laws of Yah can be found in the first five books Scripture which are known as the Torah or Instructions” which include the Ten Commandments and various dietary laws. In addition, many Black Hebrew Israelites teach the only days that are to be celebrated are the Feasts found in Scripture.[25]

Salvation to many Black Hebrew Israelites is defined by one of two schools of thought; it is obtained through total obedience to the Law of Moses and calling on the Hebrew name of God (or Jesus for those who see Him as the Messiah) or exclusive to those who have a bloodline that leads back to Israel. According to the ICOGIJC, different nations who believe in the Lord Jesus “will not be spared from God’s wrath” using Isaiah 14:1—3, 34:1—3, and 66:15—6; Jeremiah 3:23; Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:11—3; and Revelation 19:11—5 as proof texts. They also say only the 12 Tribes of Israel will be saved and spared from His wrath.[26] Heaven and hell are seen as states of mind not literal locations.

Notes:


D.A. HORTON currently is preparing to relocate his family to Los Angeles to plant a church. During this season of preparation he will be serving on staff at Summit Churchwhile continuing his speaking and writing ministries. Prior to his current role he served as; the National Coordinator for Urban Student Missions at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Executive Director of ReachLife Ministries, the non-profit ministry of Reach Records and as an urban church planter, pastor and Lead Teaching Elder in Kansas City, MO for close to 6 years. For over 16 years D.A. also used the medium of Rap music as a tool to help educate the people of God on the precepts of Scripture as well as how to evangelize to the lost by presenting them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. D.A. also has served as an Adjunct Professor at Calvary Bible College teaching systematic and contemporary theology courses in addition to the seven urban-focused courses he wrote for the Urban Studies major. D.A. earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Calvary Bible College and his Master’s Degree in Christian Studies from Calvary Theological Seminary. D.A. is currently working towards his PhD in Applied Theology with a North American Missions emphasis at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

With a heart to provide local churches with quality Bible-centered tools and resources for evangelism and discipleship, D.A. wrote two books; G.O.S.P.E.L. and DNA: Foundations of the Faith both published through Moody Publishers. His third book, Bound to Be Free: Escaping Performance to be Captured by Grace, will be released through NavPress in spring 2016. He and his wife of 12 years Elicia have two daughters, Izabelle and Lola and one son, D.A. Jr. (aka Duce). If you would like to book DA for an event, please contact his manager Elicia by email at e.horton82@gmail.com