I would like your perspective on the Hebrew Israelite faith (African Americans claiming Hebrew decent, specifically from the tribe of Judah). I will continue to dig deeper in my research, but was curious about your perspective, and how you would deal with someone like that.  Thanks!


I am not sure I understand the nature of these claims, which makes it difficult to give useful response to your request.  Are these people claiming, literally, to be descended from the biblical Judah?   Or are they claiming to be descended from African Jews, presumably from Abyssinia/Ethiopia?   The first claim is likely to be dubious, but I cannot rule it out, as it is possible that Jews in the diaspora found their way to parts of Africa—especially Sudan and Ethiopia—and intermarried with the locals.   However, it is relatively unlikely that this is the case.   More likely, they may be descended from converts to Judaism.  The Queen of Sheba is one of, presumably, many who converted to Judaism and brought the religion to the northeast part of Africa.   In fact, in recent years, a large population of Ethiopian Jews have migrated to Israel.  I do not know the percentage of true Israelite genes in this group, but I suspect it is fairly small.  They are accepted as legitimate Jews based on their involvement in the religion for many hundreds of years.  I doubt that many of these are directly descended from Judah, but it is entirely possible that those you hear making such claims are descended from these people.

On the other hand, the claim you have heard is not of genetic descent from Jews who originate in Africa (even though it sounds as if it is).   In other words, it is possible that these people have simply aligned themselves with a “Hebrew Israelite faith.”   They may be a member of a group, at least some of whom are “descended from the biblical Judah” but most of whom clearly are not, but who simply align with this group.   I do not know the nature of the claim, and which of the three categories it falls into, so I am afraid I will have to give a fairly generic response.  If you send me some material, I might be able to give you a more accurate answer.  The little research I have done causes me to favor this third description.  There are many groups such as The Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations and the Church of God and Saints of Christ who have been identified as Black Israelites, but most or even all of whom are not literally descended from Judah or any other tribe of Israel.

There is a fourth possibility, which is that the people you refer to are related in one way or another to the bizarre Jamaican cult called the Rastafarians.  This group claims to be descended from Haile Selassie, the former emperor/king of Ethiopia.   This is truly a bizarre group with bizarre claims which are not sustainable by fact or evidence.  Rastafarians call Haile Selassie the “Lion of Judah.”   I am very sure Haile Selassie, if he were still alive, would renounce this nonsense.  The idea goes back to the fact that Ethiopia is the only African nation which, other than a very brief and incomplete occupation by Italy before World War II, was never colonized by Europeans.  This belief has political roots which rise from understandable African bitterness at Western colonization and abuse, making Haile Selassie a sort of an African demi-god.   If the group you have heard about is related to Rastafarian-like religious groups, then you can safely dismiss the claims as having absolutely no validity and no possible biblical support.

John Oakes

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