Today, we have an unusual post compared to what I normally write. I was recently asked to visit a web site directed at black Christians in order to get my response because its contents were causing problems in a racially mixed church. Basically, this page is using racism as a platform to convince black Christians to believe the Messiah was physically black instead of white and to accuse white Christians of teaching doctrinal errors to black Christians. I believe this site contains a mixture of truth and error. Today, I will try to address several things including racial prejudice, the correct name of God and His Son, and Jesus’ skin color so there will be another viewpoint for truth seekers to access.
First, it is improper to use the history of African American slavery in America as a divisive weapon in the church to draw people to a distorted version of their Hebraic roots. The Messiah would never have encouraged this practice because He always desired unity among His people and for His people to love one another. This is our first clue something is wrong on this site.
The rightful identity of man is not found in one’s ethnicity, the country of his ancestors, the country where he was born or lives, nor his DNA. Man’s identity should be dependent on his relationship with Christ. Every black man is not at the bottom of all societies nor is he the most hated of all men.
It is true there are some people who are prejudiced against people with certain skin colors but there are many who are not. To assume everyone hates you or responds to you in a certain way because of your skin color is accepting a lie from Satan himself. Individuals who are being treated poorly should realize it’s more likely due to some other underlying reason. Prejudice against an entire group of people doesn’t result only from skin color but also from observing repeated negative behavior from that people group. Those experiencing prejudice have a choice –lament it, aggressively fight it, reinforce it, or calmly disprove it. I think it’s best to treat others as you want to be treated and to forgive offenses as necessary.
If anyone is hated more than anyone in the world just because they exist, it is the Jews who are of various skin tones. This statement is not racist, it’s a very unfortunate fact that truly breaks my heart. The hatred of Israel’s enemies for the Jews and a desire for their land will eventually bring about Christ’s return.
The web site in question tries to convince African Americans that white Americans deceived them concerning their true identity, the name of God and His Son, and various other doctrines of the Christian church. It is foolish and divisive to make a claim that white Christians are purposely deceiving black Christians because every ethnicity of Christian believers throughout the world has been misled by various teachings to some extent.
Many Christian believers of various ethnicities worldwide have embraced doctrines that came from Constantine, other church leaders, denominational conventions, missionaries, Biblical scholars, and laymen. There is no doubt that the original Messianic congregation was syncretized with paganism since the time of Constantine. We should be grateful white Europeans involved in the Reformation attempted to break free from much error. Unfortunately, they failed to fully reject everything that was false. If you investigate their writings, you may be surprised to find that anti-Semitism played a role in this. Do I blame them for an incomplete Reformation? Certainly not! What they did accomplish cost them their lives. Am I disappointed to know how they felt about the Jews? Definitely!
Although I was disillusioned to find out I had been taught many errors in my early Christian life, I must carefully make sure I don’t embrace something as bad if not worse now and in the future. Everyone, no matter what their ethnicity is must take the time to read the Word of God, research the culture of the Hebrews, and understand the Scripture’s continuity in order to properly interpret it. At the same time, everyone who does so must be prepared for intense opposition as they seek to reverse doctrinal error and share truth. We must accept the fact that sometimes we have to agree to disagree and leave it at that while praying the Holy Spirit reveals truth.
Having said all of this, let’s look at the names of Jesus and Jehovah.
Anyone who looks at a Greek Interlinear Bible will see Jesus Christ is English for Iesous Christos. The Hebrew equivalent is Yeshua HaMashiyach or Yeshua the Messiah. Every country/language spells and pronounces Jesus Christ or Yeshua HaMashiyach differently but the name is always based on the original Greek or Hebrew & Aramaic text. People normally use the name of the Father or Son as it is written in their heart language and this is certainly acceptable.
The Hebrew name Joshua (Yod, Hey, Vav, Shin, Ayin) comes from YHVH (Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey) and yasha (Yod, Shin, Ayin) which means “to free or deliver.” The Aramaic name Yeshua (Yod, Shin, Vav, Ayin) means “he will save.” Both Joshua and Yeshua are considered to be equivalent names. Name differences among different languages should be expected. Note the following equivalent names:
- Yochanon (Hebrew) and Ivan (Ukrainian) is John (English).
- Julia is Yulia in Eastern Europe.
- James is Ya’akov (Hebrew).
- Paul (Greek) is Shaul in Hebrew. The Greeks called him Paul, the Jews called him Shaul (Acts 13:9), and you probably guessed that Shaul is Saul in English.
Jehovah is really a term used for the Hebrew letters: YHWH or YHVH. Since the Vav can be either a V or a W, YHVH (Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey) can be written as Yahweh or Yahveh. This is not unusual considering Germans pronounce w as v. Normally, YHVH is translated LORD (Name) as opposed to Lord (Title) in the Bible. Some Bibles even substitute Adonai which means Lord for YHVH to avoid misusing it.
The correct pronunciation of the name of God was lost with the Jews many years ago. Vowel pointings were not written for YHVH in the Torah because that might make it possible to use the sacred name vainly. Even though the Greek equivalent term kurios can be applied to Baal, Jesus is still the kurios kurioon (Lord of lords). The Greek word kurios is seen twice in a row in this phrase. The difference in spelling the second time is due to it being used in the genitive case.
So what should God’s name be called?
Exodus 3:14 says, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” [“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh”= I am/will be what I am/will be.] And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM [Ehyeh = Aleph, Hey, Yod, Hey] has sent me to you.'”
As verse 15 continues, God explained that He was the LORD God of (YHVH Elohey) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Elohey means “God of” and is a construct of Elohim. We can also call God by the many other names in the Bible that describe His character.
The writer of the web page directed at black Christians also discussed the use of Yah as God’s real name. Yah (Yod, Hey) is simply a contracted form of Yahveh (Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey). It doesn’t matter if your version of the Bible translated it as Jah or Yah. In European countries, J is pronounced as a Y, hence Yulia for Julia. Someone is trying to make a big deal out of nothing by saying you must use one spelling over another. Also, any time the word “God” is used in the New Testament, it is translated from the Greek word theos and should not be translated Yah as this writer suggests.
Yah is specifically used in Exodus 15:2, 17:16; Song of Solomon 8:6, Isaiah 12:2, 26:4, 38:11; and 14 times in the Psalms; it is not used anywhere else in the Old Testament! YHWH is! We don’t know why Yah is sometimes used and we can’t say that it is specifically God’s real name or a casual nickname. It could’ve been used as a substitution to avoid misusing the name of God. If you don’t feel comfortable using the circumlocutions mentioned so far for the name of God, you can always use “Father.”
This writer also says that Christianity is not from the Bible and that it is a false religion. We are about to get into more semantics on this issue. What people need to know is whether or not they are “a true son of Abraham.” Initially, Jewish Christians or Messianic Jews were initially considered to be a Jewish sect and not a new religion. Disciples of Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch. These disciples still obeyed the law of God because both Jesus and Paul taught the law was not abolished and kept it themselves (Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; Acts 21:21, 24). The primary difference between Messianic Jews and other Jews was that Messianic Jews had put their faith in Jesus, the promised Jewish Messiah. In a way, this was the crowning of their Jewish faith. In Acts 11:26, we can see they were probably called Christians or disciples of Christ because they were giving or teaching divine messages about Christ to the people. This was the purest form of Christianity. Many years after this, Christianity became syncretized with paganism so in this sense, it is no longer pure. Our goal should be to return to how it was in the book of Acts.
As Gentiles put their trust in Christ, they were grafted into the olive tree of Israel by grace through faith in Christ (Rom. 11). In this way, they became “sons of Abraham.” This should be no surprise because Jesus said another flock would become one flock with Israel (John 10:16). There is no difference between Jew and Gentile believers. All those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:12). The writer in question thinks that because the people of the Old Testament did not know or see Jesus personally, they didn’t experience salvation. That’s not exactly true because the types and shadows of the Old Testament pointed directly to Jesus. Many saints of that era looked anxiously for Him and put their faith in He who was to come just as we put our faith in Christ today without ever having seen Him. They also showed their love for God by obeying His commandments. These Old Testament saints were true sons of Abraham and were similar to Zacchaeus to whom Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10) Paul made it clear in Galatians 3:7 that only those who are of faith are true sons of Abraham whether they are Jew or Gentile. What we need to understand is that not all people who call themselves Christians today are true sons of Abraham.
Another false doctrine in the church today is called Replacement Theology. This belief teaches that the Gentile church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. The Old Testament has always taught that Israel was God’s chosen people. That has not changed. Paul explained that the Jews have been grafted out of the olive tree of Israel due to unbelief but that they will be grafted back in once the fullness of the Gentiles has been reached. The name of the tree never changed. The tree is still Israel. True sons of Abraham, whether they are Jew or Gentile have been chosen and called into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
As mentioned earlier, this writer is teaching that the ancient Israelites were a black people and that there is no proof that the lighter-skinned European Ashkeknazi Jews are related to the Biblical children of Israel. This is not true because DNA shows their genetic ancestry. In fact, Jews can be of a variety of skin tones.
Consider this. If Abraham was originally a Semite and originally from Iraq, it seems the appearance of the Jews would have been similar to those in the Middle East. Since Jacob married Syrian women, Leah and Rachel were Middle Eastern. By the time the mixed multitude came out of Egypt, many of the people were probably still Hebrew while a few may have mixed with the Egyptians. Looking at Jesus’ genealogy, we can see that Middle Eastern foreigners such as Rahab (from Jericho) and Ruth (Moabitess) were part of His bloodline. Normally, when foreigners were introduced into the bloodline, they were mentioned. You’d have to do a full examination of Jesus’ bloodline to determine how mixed He was but in the end, it doesn’t matter how light or dark skinned He was. He still gave His life so we could have eternal life.
I don’t know why the subject of Jesus’ skin color matters so much to some people but let’s continue our discussion. For the sake of our readers in Europe, let me say that most African Americans are probably of mixed DNA (African, European, and/or American Indian) — each of which can affect skin color. Throughout the continent of Africa, the skin tone of each people group varies from tribe to tribe and country to country. African Americans don’t know which country in Africa or which tribe their descendants were from either. I find it interesting that American missionaries to Africa who are well traveled return to America and often can tell which African country or tribe African American descendants most likely came from just by looking at their predominating facial features (bone structure and skin color). Of course, the same can be said of other people groups around the world as well.
Genetically speaking, it is possible to have dark colored skin and yet have more than 50% of your DNA be of European descent and/or Native American Indian. It may be better to overlook skin color and say Jews are not defined so much by their obvious history of mixed ethnicity but by religious culture and conversion to their religious faith.
Those interested in this topic really need to look at the dispersion of the nations which show that dark-skinned people were originally descendants of Ham, white people (Caucasians) and those of Central Asia were originally descended from Japheth, and the Jews and others from the Middle East were descended from Shem. To think the world is divided into people who are either black and white is narrow-minded because there are thousands of ethnic groups throughout the world that fall somewhere in between.
A very enlightening web page concerning DNA, the dispersion of Noah’s descendants, and how skin color varies among those of mixed peoples is found at www.soundchristian.com/man. This site has pictures of families with different colored twins that you simply must see. This phenomenon is not unusual in mixed peoples.
The writer of the web site in question also pointed out that the history of African Americans shows they experienced the curses of the law as described in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. This may be true but other people groups have also suffered the curses of the law too. This is particularly true of those in Eastern Europe under Communism. As it is, the curses of the law are currently falling on all Americans. What is clear is that when God’s people do not show their love for God by obeying His commandments, they experience the curses of the law and non-believers suffer too. Since Jesus died in our place, the only curse believers don’t experience is spiritual death and eternal separation from God.
Revelation 7:9 says there will be a great multitude standing before the throne and before the Lamb from every nation, tribe, and language. With that in mind it is hard to believe this web page in question claims Christianity is filled with white supremacy and other statements that are derogatory about white Christians. Only God knows the hearts and motives of His people. We must be careful when we judge a person’s fruit so that we don’t make wrong assumptions about the heart.
This writer also said that there was no one in the Bible who was a Lord and Personal Savior. This is false because the New Testament refers to Jesus as Lord and Savior several times:
1 Tim 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope,”
Titus 1:4 addresses Titus, “a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”
2 Peter 1:11 tells us, “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 2:20 states, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.”
2 Peter 3:17-18 says: “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
This site also mentioned parallels and Hebraisms. We must understand that even though the history of African Americans parallels that of the Jews and even though Hebraisms exist in Africa, this should be expected among all people. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” Those Americans who study the Bible thematically have seen Biblical patterns in world history especially the history of the U.S. Presidents.
Hebraisms have not only existed among African Americans. Missionaries have also noted Hebraisms in other parts of the world such as India. This is probably because the northern tribes had been dispersed among the nations. The Jewish Virtual Library has an interesting page with information about the Hebraisms and various colored Jews of India. See http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/indians.html
As we close our post today, I encourage everyone no matter what race they are to question new ideas and compare them to Scripture before being led away into something false and divisive. May God bless those who seek and embrace truth.