Christian Messianic Analysis and Apologetics
Who are the Black Hebrew Israelites? Within the past year I have had encounters with two adherents to this faith. Both boldly proclaim they have the truth and that Christianity as understood by most is a satanic deception. For informational purposes I’d like to shed some light on this subject to disclose the group’s origins and beliefs.
Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations founded by F. S. Cherry in 1886 in Tennessee. Cherry’s flock incorporated many Jewish practices and prohibitions along with some Christian traditions.
Church of God and Saints of Christ founded in Kansas by William Crowdy in 1896. Both claimed that they had revelations in which they believed that God told them that African Americans are descendants of the ancient Hebrews. During the ensuing decades, many more Black Hebrew congregations were established, and some of them had no connection to the Christian Church. In Harlem alone, at least eight such groups were founded from 1919 to 1931.
Commandment Keepers were founded in New York by Wentworth Arthur Matthew in 1919 who was influenced by Marcus Garvey who used Biblical Jews in exile as a metaphor for Black Folks in North America. They are noted for their adherence to traditional Judaism. Mr. Matthew taught that all genuine Jews are Black. Other groups include The Law Keepers, House of Judah, and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.
African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem were established in 1966 in Chicago by Ben-Ammi Ben-Israel. These Black Hebrews believe the descendants of American slaves and the indigenous peoples of the Americas make up the 12 tribes of Israel. That belief sprang from a vision that Ben Ammi says he had in 1966 when he was a Chicago foundry worker named Ben Carter. In a dream the Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the tribe of Judah. Adherents reject black Africans, who are usually seen as “traitors” who sold their black brethren into slavery. In 1986, Ben Israel and his aide, Prince Asiel Ben Israel were convicted of trafficking stolen passports and securities and forging checks and saving bonds.
Nation of Yahweh established in the 1980’s by Yahweh Ben Yahweh aka Hulon Mitchell, Jr. (1935-2007). This sect is an offshoot of African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Some of its members were accused of conspiring to commit RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) violations. Yahweh was sentenced to serving an eighteen-year sentence for another crime.
RESPONSE: Similar to the beginnings of Islam and Mormonism there were angelic visitations with the founders of the BHI’s claiming that the original Israelites were black and the current Jews are usurpers. This necessitated them to ignore the suffering of the descendents of modern day Israel and those that escaped Europe and the Islamic world and focus on themselves as the truly chosen and favored among all people.