False Teaching: The Black Hebrew Israelites
There are a plethora of “movements” in this age which claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. From charismatic to humanist theology, the winds of doctrine are tossing both believers and the lost world to and fro. These gales initiated by seducing spirits deceive men and women into believing doctrines of devils (1Ti 4:1).
One of the most pervasive of these doctrines is that of replacement theology, a line of heresy which proposes that the Church has replaced Israel and that the covenants God made with his chosen nation now apply to the Gentile Church. Despite the Bible being abundantly clear that God is not finished with Israel and that the promises made to that nation are to that nation alone, replacement theology is running rampant, particularly as the years tick by.
While replacement theology, also called supersessionism, is most often applied to the Gentile Church, there are branches of it throughout history (and today) that broke off and claim that a specific people group are in fact the new or true Israel. Most replacement theology is merely a sly way to promote white supremacy. One of these replacement ideologies, however, that has crept up quietly and is becoming popular throughout Kansas City in particular, is that of the “Black Hebrew Israelites”.
This movement claims that the true Hebrews are the modern descendants of ancient Israelites who have been scattered to the four corners of the earth. They claim that the Hebrews are not the Jews, but rather are those descending from Africa, and that they are the true descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Let’s look at the scriptural evidence as to why this theology is contrary to the word of God.
1. Hebrew Israelites are none other than those of Jewish descent
Hebrew Israelites are known today as Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, named for the lands they were scattered to and/or are returning from. We know these are the true Israelites and true descendants of Abraham because they kept (preserved) the Old Testament scriptures God committed to them (Acts 7:38; Rom 3:2) in the form of the Hebrew Masoretic text.
The adherents of the Black Hebrew movement claim that the term “Jew” does not mean a descendant of ancient Israel, but rather merely someone who adheres to Judaism. They claim the following:
The ancient Hebrews were not called Jews. That is a mistranslation, because Jew is not a Hebrew Word, but English. Yah the Most High did not give his people the name Jew; this was done by men. Jew is not in the 1611 KJV of the Bible. The ancient Hebrew Israelites were not Jews, and neither are their descendants (Hebrew Israelite Heritage).
Jew is the English pronunciation of the Hebrew יְהוּדִי (yehûdı̂y) and the Greek Ioudiaos. We know the pronunciation does not matter, because the Greek of the New Testament pronounces it differently than the Hebrew of the Old Testament, confirming that God did, in fact, give his people this name.
The ancient Hebrews were called Jews many times in both the Old and New Testaments (Esther, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel, every gospel, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, Colossians and Revelation. Whew!). Additionally, God’s covenant was made with both the house of Israel AND the house of Judah (from which the terms Jehudite and Jew come) according to (Hebrews 8:8).
Judaism is only the religion. Jew is ethnically the person. These people were taken captive (2Ch 29:9) and exiled, but never “lost,” and many of them returned to the land (Ezra and Nehemiah). Paul himself was one of the not-really-lost ten tribes (Rom 11:1)!
James, Peter, and John ministered to the true Hebrew Israelites who were in Jerusalem and Palestine (Gal 2:7). When Paul preached to the true Hebrew Israelites scattered abroad (Jew first, Rom 1:16) he did not go to Africa, but to the northern Mediterranean coast around Europe and the Middle East.
2. While there may be similarities between the histories of blacks and Hebrews, they are not one and the same
There are real parallels between what happened to blacks historically and what has happened to the Jews. However, these parallels can also be drawn between the Israelites and Albanians, Cambodians, Bosnians, and others affected by countless genocides/enslavements throughout history. No one from Africa had God’s word committed to them to preserve it. The Jews did, and they returned to their Promised Land.
The Black Israel movement espouses that whichever people are suffering the curses given to the ancient Israelites are the true Hebrews. They claim:
The Most High said the Curses found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are the Identifying mark. Whichever people are suffering the curses in their entirety are the true Israelites. This is the so-called black man and woman of the western hemisphere who got to this part of the world as captives in the bottom of slave ships. They fit the full scriptural description of Israel. Any other people who are claiming Israelite heritage must fit the full description of Israel in the latter days (Hebrew Israelite Heritage).
God does not say what Black Hebrew Israelites say God says. Read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 and you will not find a single verse saying, “The Most High said the Curses are the identifying mark of the true Israelites.” You will not find that God says, “Whichever people are suffering the curses in their entirety are the true Israelites.” Some of the verses in those chapters can be compared to African history—as well as many other pestilences and genocides and enslavements throughout time.
3. There is no need to perform the Mosaic Law because Christ fulfilled it
Black Hebrew Israelites claim:
If there is no law, then there can be no sin. If there is no sin, then there can be no judgment. The laws are what deem men righteous or wicked. Nowhere in scripture are the laws done away with, Yahshuah the Messiah [has] never done away with the laws, [and] Yah [has] never done away with the laws (Hebrew Israelite Heritage).
Lukewarm American Christianity has spawned many cult groups which deceive unwary people by confusing the covenants God made to Israel with Church Age salvation. The Mosaic covenant was conditional, with promises from God fulfilled based on the obedience of God’s people, the Jewish Hebrew Israelites. That covenant contained 613 conditions organized into three sections. All of them applied to Israel’s religious theocracy.
The law was fulfilled by Jesus (Mat 5:17), done away with when Christ was crucified (and the veil in the temple torn in two), and the proof was that the temple was destroyed 40 years later. The doctrinal heresy of Black Hebrew Israelites can be cleared-up by reading Colossians and Galatians. Note: As with most of the various sects which claim the law ought to be followed today, I don’t see any Black “Hebrews” or Seventh Day Adventists slaughtering lambs or doves.
4. The scattered Israelites have already been gathered together
The BHI movement claims that Israel will be restored when the Messiah returns. To them, the reinstation of the Jews to Israel does not fulfill prophecy, because Jews are not the true Hebrew Israelites. According to their theology, the Hebrews are still scattered throughout the world, existing in the black populations across many nations. The reason they say this is because it is the only way to make their false doctrine fit. You should not trust, believe in, or be following someone who is not honest in their use of God’s word.
Israel lost their nationhood in 606 BC. Jerusalem was destroyed nineteen years later in 587 BC. Israel became a nation again in 1948. They regained control of Jerusalem as their capital nineteen years later in 1967. After their nationhood was restored, the world saw Jews return from the four corners of the earth to their Promised Land.
5. The Messiah’s name is Jesus—also known as Yeshua, Îsa, Giêsu, เยซู...
There is a lack of consistency (surprise) in what adherents to BHI theology believe about the Messiah. What many will espouse, however, is that his name is not Jesus.
Black Hebrews claim that the true name of the Messiah is Yahshuah Ben Yah. They claim that the name Jesus is a mistranslation. I’ll let you know right now that it is not a mistake or mistranslation, but every cult group has to take the stance that truth was lost and they just found it—otherwise they have no reason for their existence!
They claim that to be saved you must believe on the name of Yahshuah Ben Yah, and that Jesus is a name created by men, not the Most High. They claim that (Acts 4:12) says that you must call upon his true Hebrew name. No other name or translation of it can be a substitute.
Take a look at (Acts 4:10-12) and you’ll find no mention of “Yahshuah Ben Yah”. You’ll find that the name under heaven by which all must be saved is Jesus. It doesn’t even mention one of the Hebrew names for God, Yahweh, in Hebrew, Greek, or any other language.
They claim that when Jesus spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus, he spoke in Hebrew and declared his name to Saul in the Hebrew tongue. Even if he did, Paul gave it to Agrippa in (Acts 26:14-15) in Greek, not Hebrew. So even Paul did not care what language the name of the Messiah was declared in.
There is nothing wrong with the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ being translated into other languages. In fact, there need to be these variants of the name of Jesus in every different language, because that is the proof that people are being saved out of every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9).
Let us conclude.
In one sense, Black Hebrew Israelite theology is no different than the “British Israelism” espoused by Herbert W. Armstrong and others in the early 1900s. On the other hand, the idea that “the black race” was “cursed” used to be the private domain of white supremacists and the KKK.
Let me be clear my intentions are not to offend black culture or heritage. I invite you to read one of my past posts on how Jesus wants to break down all barriers, be they racial, cultural, or physical. But let me also be clear that we need to hold fast to sound doctrine as we speak the truth in love in defense against those who lie in wait to deceive (Tit 1:9, Eph 4:14-15).
All false teachings, whether they’re thousands or tens of years old, can be put to rest with some fairly simple Bible study. But this is how you know you are dealing with doctrines of devils, because devils cannot do biblical exegesis.