PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THE BIBLE
Furthering the Gospel
During Black History month, we often emphasize the many humanitarian, scientific, business, literary, and athletic, achievements of African Americans and the contributions they have made to society. However, we often overlook the role that the black-skinned person has played in the furtherance of the gospel from the beginnings of the church.
People of color are throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. When God emphasizes people’s ethnicity in the bible, it is for a reason. God loves all people and He wants us to realize that all people are a part of His plan. Black-skinned people are a part of God’s plan. They are not an afterthought and God wants this fact to be known.
Whenever you see words (or forms of the words) like Ham (Hamitic), Cush (Cushites), Mizraim, Canaan (Canaanites), Phut, Ephraim, Phoenicians, Crete, Cyrene (Cyrenian), Niger, Sheba, Egypt, or Ethiopia, these are references to people who were dark-skinned. After Jesus died, black-skinned people took part in furthering the gospel. Listed below are just a few black-skinned people who helped further the gospel.
Simon the Canaanite: “An Apostle”
Matthew 10:2-4 (2) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; (3) Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; (4) Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
Simon is the only apostle/disciple whose ethnic origin is given. He is a Cannanite (which means he was black-skinned). Simon was in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Simon was one of the leaders in the early Christian church. Simon the Canaanite was willing to sacrifice and suffer for the furtherance of the gospel. According to tradition, he did mission work in Asia Minor and Northern Africa, and was martyred in Persia along with Judas, not Iscariot.
The Ethiopian Eunuch: “A Seeker of God”
Acts 8:26-30 (30) And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. (27) And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Philip, an evangelist, was divinely directed to the eunuch by an angel of the Lord. Philip explained the gospel to him, proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Messiah and baptized him. God intended to save this one individual and according to church tradition, this Ethiopian carried the gospel to Africa.
Simeon and Lucius: “Prophets and/or Teachers”
Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
These men of God were teachers and prophets in the Antioch church (the first Gentile church). Simeon was from Niger, a region of Africa. Many African slaves were brought from this region. Lucius was from Cyrene, which is in the northern part of Africa. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, these men ordained Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work of the Lord. These men suffered persecutions and threats for the furtherance of the gospel.
Apostle Paul: One Who Looked Like an Egyptian
Acts 21:37-38 (37) And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? (38) Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
Paul could speak Greek and his native tongue was Hebrew, but from his appearance and his demeanor, the Romans assumed he was an Egyptian. The Roman captain was shocked that Paul could speak Greek. Could it be that the Apostle Paul looked like a black Egyptian (the original Egyptian were Black and not Arabic).
References: “Race, Religion & Racism” – Volume 3 by Frederick K.C. Price;
“The Black Biblical Heritage” by John L. Johnson