A BLACK HEBREW ISRAELITE LITERATURE REVIEW
Over the past few years, I have gathered a large amount of resources related to the Black Hebrew Israelites and their theology: websites, video/audio resources, journal articles, dissertations and books. There are no publications dedicated to the modern incarnation of Hebrew Israelitism with its uber-aggressive street “preaching” tactics. No books deal with the recent upsurge in self-publishing, whether it is through books or online materials. No books hash out all the distinctions among the different modern sects. No books give a theological analysis or gospel-based solutions. There are no books which wholly support a biblical approach. However, there are books which support pegs in an overall argument, below are some examples.
BOOKS BY CHRISTIANS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND CULTURE/COLOR
From Every People and Nation by J. Daniel Hays, One New Man: Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis Williams, Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian by John Piper are all excellent books for getting a biblical perspective on people groups, culture, and ethnicity. These books lay out a biblical anthropology and then apply that to the issues of ethnic divisions in our world. They are helpful in understanding how the Bible (and therefore the Creator) views people and what that means for the church. This is important because Hebrew Israelites tend to have an unbiblical view of nations and it shows up in their extremely bigoted view of others.
One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and Culture by Carl Wieland and One Race One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware cover some of the same territory but also add an additional help: science. Both books are written by authors with a background in creation science and they apply both Scripture and some basic scientific facts (such as genetics) to issues of people and ethnic groups. These are a unique resource and relate to the implied Hebrew Israelite claims about genetics (I have noticed that BHI’s rely on genetics only when it supports them).
BOOKS BY AUTHORS WHO HAVE STUDIED GENETICS RELATED TO JEWS
The next three books touch on the same territory (genetics) but in a much more in-depth way and from a non-Christian but still very helpful perspective. Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People by Harry Ostrer, Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People by Jon Entine and Jacob’s Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History by David B. Goldstein are secular academic and stellar works which give the actual science and genetic studies which – if properly synthesized and applied – will refute many of the Hebrew Israelite claims about who and who isn’t an actual child of Abraham.
BOOKS BY ACADEMIC HISTORIANS AND SOCIOLOGISTS
Two standard (or they should be!) works in this field are Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions by Jacob S. Dorman and Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem by John L. Jackson, Jr. are published by Oxford and Harvard, respectively, and are excellent at giving the historical rise of these groups. The latter work even has four pages on “camps”; the names given to different sects of Hebrew Israelites with their separate local chapters.
Surprisingly, there is a considerable amount on this subject by non-Christian authors, often by secular black or Jewish scholars. Some are helpful, but none go deep into exegesis. None offer spiritual answers. Hardly any deal with the current adherents who have gained strength the past few decades; the more militant who use street-style tactics and “do-it-yourself” methods more than their forebears. Here are some of this class of book: The Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Rise of Black Jews by Elly M. Wynia; Brother Love: Murder, Money and a Messiah by Sydney P. Freedberg; Black Jews in Africa and the Americas by Tudor Parfitt; The New Ship of Zion: Dynamic Diaspora Dimensions of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem by Martina Koenighofer; The Black Jews of Africa: History, Religion, Identity by Edith Bruder.
BOOKS BY BLACK HEBREW ISRAELITE AUTHORS
Most books written from the Hebrew Israelite perspective are not professional but they represent their beliefs on key matters. Many are self-published; some are only e-books. Other books are not Hebrew Israelite authors proper but are either friendly towards their positions or have been co-opted. A great example is Satan’s Angels Exposed by Arabic Christian Salem Kirban. The book was even distributed by Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerrullo. Yet, it is in the online resource library of a Hebrew Israelite group known as The Gathering of Christ’s Church (see video below for some BHI insider recommends).
A few books by Hebrew Israelites of the more explicit variety include The Power to Define: God, The Black Man and Truth by Ben Ammi and especially Hebrew Israelites for Dummies: The Family of Messiah by “The Judahite”. The latter is poorly type-set and difficult to read due to its extremely “helter skelter” layout but is by far the closest I have seen to a Black Hebrew Israelite “systematic theology”. Even though it is not very systematic, it does cover the big issues most important to the modern Black Hebrew Israelite and has a liberal dose of graphics, picture and even Internet memes – it is a very visual book and that makes it helpful.
Notable publications by “allied” authors are: From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of Ancient Black Races by Rudolph R. Windsor; Lost Tribes and Promised Lands: The Origins of American Racism by Ronald Sanders and We The Black Jews: Witness to the “White Jewish Race” Myth by Yosef ben-Jochannan. These books are the most frequently recommended books on Black Hebrew Israelite affiliated websites – they are close to standard works and many BHI members have read at least one. They give the BHI groups a basic vision of world history. However, they are older and do not represent some of the contemporary nuances in the BHI movement the past decade.
BOOKS BY EX-BLACK HEBREW ISRAELITES
A small but important class of book – the three all-too-brief ones by ex-members: A Burden Has Been Lifted by Frede’ Rica; Israel’s Secret Cult: The Incredible Story of a Former Member of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem by Mahaleyah Goodman; Why I Abandoned the Hebrew Israelite Religion by Hannah Spivey.
BOOKS BY CHRISTIANS WHICH TOUCH ON THE SIGNIFICANT ISSUES
There are Christian books which touch on relevant subjects to countering many Black Hebrew Israelite claims regarding the Sabbath Day ; The Law; The African Church; the black church in the US; bigotry, diversity, and ethnicity. Some books which are helpful in this regard are The Blessing of Africa: The Bible and African Christianity by Keith Augustus Burton; Africa and the Bible by Edwin M. Yamauchi; Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in the Bible and Beyond Roots II: If Anybody Ask You Who I Am: A Deeper Look at Blacks in the Bible, both by William Dwight McKissic, Sr.; A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present by Elizabeth Isichei; How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden. There are a few online resources as well.
As you can tell, there are no Christian books strictly on the Hebrew Israelites. However, there are a few apologetic books which mention them and two which even discuss them for a few pages: Black Man’s Religion Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity Be Afrocentric? by Glenn Usry and Craig S. Keener and Urban Apologetics Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City by Christopher W. Brooks. There is a demand for this material but very little supply. By God’s grace, I hope to see a new generation of urban apologists who help rectify this situation – and soon!
Book Reviews: Every time I finish a book related to the subject, I go on Amazon and leave a mini-review; I have completed nine (as 5/18/16). This as a public service of sorts: people looking into this will know what is good and what is bad, or at least they will have a warning or endorsement. People can also comment on Amazon reviews, so it is a way for adherents to engage me and defend or critique the book. simply look for book reviews by VOCAB MALONE.
Host, Urban Theologian Radio
Staff, Roosevelt Community Church
Student, Talbot School of Theology