Black Hebrew Israelites
by Ryan Turner
edited by Matt Slick
Founder: Various leaders for different sects. There is no primary leader today. First started in the United States was before the Civil War.
Headquarters: Various major cities across the United States with state chapters. There does not appear to be a central headquarter of leadership for the movement.
Membership: Approximately 200,000 among the dozens of offshoot branches.
Approximately 50,000 Black Hebrews, while the number who follow some form of Judaism (broadly defined) could be up to 200,000. There is a vast amount of diversity amongst various groups who claim to be descendants from the ancient Israelites. It is difficult to distinguish between all the various offshoots and movements within the broad movement of "Black Jewish Indentity." Therefore, the range of possible adherents could be between 40,000-200,000.
Origins: One sect originated before the Civil War. There was another sect founded later in 1896, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, by William Crowdy. In the 1980s other sects began to appear, such as those lead by Yahweh Ben Yahweh (1935 - 2007), or Hulon Mitchell, Jr. There are a number of other sects of this broad Hebrew Israelite movement known as the Commandment Keepers, The Law Keepers, House of Judah, and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, just to name a few.1
- Some groups stand on the street corners of major cities and condemn people for their allegedly false beliefs while using vulgar language.2 The Hebrew Israelites are very combative and generally do not want to listen when their views are challenged.3
- They frequently use Hebrew words such as Yah [the name of God, Yahweh, shortened as Yah], Yahoshua [Jesus], Shabbat [Sabbath], etc.
- They keep the Jewish Sabbath and many other Jewish customs including circumcision, dietary laws, and the observance of certain Jewish holidays and festivals like Yom Kippur and Passover.
- They use the Old and New Testament to support their teachings, especially the five books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy).
- They do not consider themselves to be Jews in the modern sense of the term as associated with Orthodox, Reformed, Conservative, or Hasidic Judaism.
Source of Authority: It is difficult to determine where these Hebrew Israelites get their ultimate source of authority since they do not have any official writings. They apparently view the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments), preferably the King James Version, as an authoritative source, but they just argue that there have been a number of mistranslations. Nevertheless, some hint that the canon of the Bible is not fixed. They apparently use other writings outside of the Bible to support their ideas, such as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (meaning literally "false writings").
Generally, the Black Hebrew Israelites teach that certain groups of black are the descendants of ancient Israelites and that white people (especially those in Israel today) are not true descendents. Some BHI's adhere to the Talmud (Jewish collection of teachings, laws, and interpretations based on Genesis through Deuteronomy) while others do not. A very small faction is racist and considers white people to be evil. Most Black Hebrew Israelites are peacable and oppose racism.
Following are some of the teachings that many Black Hebrew Israelites affirm. However, there is no universal consensus on all of these points, nor is this an exhaustive summary of all their beliefs. Not all divisions within the movement hold to all these teaching since there is vast diversity in the movement that has no official creed.They are skilled in Bible Knowledge. Their Bible Knowledge would be a challenge for many Christian Churches.
Since this organization is skilled in Bible Study ; how should the Christian Church respond ?