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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Deuteronomy (Evangelical Press Study Commentary) (EPSC Commentary Series) by John D. Currid
Deuteronomy (Apollos Old Testament Commentary) by J. G. McConville
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.
The Sons of Ham (Genesis 2:13; 10:6)
Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:2)
Caleb (Genesis 15:19; Joshua 14:6)
The mixed ancestry of Jesus; Hamitic Descent from Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth (Matthew 1:1-16)
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.
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
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
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.