Marvel’s superhero, Black Panther hit theatres in February 2018 and critics call it one of the best Marvel movies to date and the highest-rated superhero film of all-time. The Black Panther’s name is T’Challa, the comic book character played by Anderson South Carolina’s native, Chadwick Boseman. He is the newly crowned king of Wakanda, a fictional African nation. Since all of the movie’s main characters are black and the setting highlights the continent of Africa, blacks have a compelling reason to rejoice during Black History Month.
BLACK CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE BIBLE
There is a greater reason to celebrate Black History Month. Although not from a black fictional superhero but from African heroes of the faith and their contributions to Christianity. The Bible as God’s infallible, inerrant Word is a multiracial Book. God’s redemptive story includes Blacks and the theological roles they played in God’s kingdom work. To help us understand that Blacks played a prominent role in biblical times is to see how the meaning of a person’s name gave credence to their geological location, their character, or to the kind of future laid before them. For example, Jacob means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter” because he would trick his brother of his rights as the firstborn. Ham means “hot” or “heat,” Shem means “dusky,” and Japheth means “fair.” All implicitly referencing skin tones. Lastly, Jesus means “the God of salvation,” designating who He is and what He would accomplish.
The Prophet Zephaniah
Zephaniah is of the lineage of Cush (Zephaniah 1:1). Noah’s son Ham had four sons. Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. Cush is the ancestor of the Ethiopians. God used this African to prophesy to Judah about the coming judgment upon them and their enemies.
Simon of Cyrene
During the crucifixion of Jesus, the Romans forced Simon of Cyrene to help bear Jesus’ cross. Simon was of African descent because Cyrene is a country in North Africa (Matthew 27:32). When our Lord was at the last hours of His life, facing death on the cross, God used an African to assist Him.
Simeon and Lucius
In the church at Antioch, two black leaders played a major role in the operations of the church. The name Simon was called Niger or “black” probably because of his dark-skinned complexion. He may have been a North African as was Lucius being from Cyrene. Simeon and Lucius, along with others of the church prayed, fasted, and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul for missionary work because the Holy Spirit chose them (Acts 13:1-3).
The Ethiopian Eunuch
The Lord sent Philip to a man from Ethiopia who had great authority under Candace the queen of Ethiopia. The term Ethiopian means “burnt face,” signifying that dark-skinned people existed and held high positions during early Christianity. This African eunuch came to Jerusalem to worship but lacked understanding as he read from the Scriptures. When Philip explained the Word of God to him, the Ethiopian eunuch believed in Jesus and Philip immediately baptized him. No doubt, Ethiopians gained the gospel of Jesus as Messiah through the testimony of this Ethiopian.
Black Biblical Pride
We can be proud of the fact that before the foundation of the world, God’s plan included Blacks in the process of reconciling the world unto Himself. When the church accepts this truth from Scripture, all Christians can praise God and celebrate black heroes of the Christian faith.
Dr. James D. Noble is Assistant Professor of Practical Ministry at Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He is married to Redunda Noble and they have two sons and a daughter. Dr. Noble attended Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, TN where he earned both a Master of Divinity Degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Dr. Noble has served as a pastor, associate pastor, church launch team member, and Vice President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.