The REAL Jews of South Africa

lemba 1

Grant Swart

Over time we have posted numerous articles on this blog in both English and Afrikaans which address the subjects of British-Israelism (“Israel Vision”) and the Hebrew Roots Movement. In South Africa, these belief systems have a rather large following, and in particular among the Afrikaner people. Although there are many different streams within these belief systems, they all have in common some form of false belief that they are either descendants of the Jewish people by inheritance, by birthright or by divine proclamation.

Additionally, as in some other, mostly Western, countries, these remain highly controversial subjects and the indoctrinated followers of these cult-like movements vehemently defend their positions, often with great eloquence and with what they firmly believe to be, Old Testament Scriptural support. Many of the deceived followers of these incorrect and false belief systems have commented at length in opposition to our articles and, in an almost equal number of instances, we have not approved their comments. With predictable regularity, these misled people lose all semblance of the measured, intellectual decency and Christian attitudes they portray at first, once they resort to cursing us when we do not publish their deceitful responses. There are very few names which we have not been called by these religious terrorists.

Although, to some this may seem to be unfair practice on our part, it remains our prerogative as to what is made public on this blog. This blog is not entitled, “For the Love of Falsehood”. We are accountable to all true Christians and to all those whom we do not know, but whom God has drawn to faith and salvation by His grace. The reason for posting the related articles has always been to expose the dangers posed by these false belief systems and to refute them. We do not post articles which oppose the “Israel Vision” and Hebrew Roots Movements in order to create a platform from which followers of these religious falsehoods, can further advertise their deceptive messages.

Neither has it been our intention to use the blog as a forum for any long-winded and, more than likely, fruitless, debate with those who are opposed to simple biblical and historical facts. By not approving many of the comments which support the South African form of British-Israelism, “Israel Vision” and Hebrew Roots Movements, we are at least able to limit, to a small degree, the exposure given to their false and deadly religious beliefs.

However, there is a group of South Africans who can rightfully lay claim to being of Jewish descent, and I’m sure that there will be many readers, and in particular many of our South African readers, who will find the following article very surprising.

Of course, in this instance I am not speaking of our Jewish friends, team mates, business associates and acquaintances in South Africa’s towns and cities, who are quite obviously, Jewish immigrants to South Africa, naturalized South Africans, or the families of Jewish immigrants. Most, if not all of the South African Jewish people we have encountered, arrived on our shores quite some time after the first whites began to populate the Western Cape, less than four hundred years ago. No, here I am referring to an entire tribe of people, who have been in South Africa for over a thousand years!

It seems likely that these South African Jews, can rightfully lay claim to their Jewish ancestry, whereas the followers of the “Israel Vision” and HRM are quite simply deceived by malicious demons. While it must be acknowledged that the two subjects are not entirely related, and the spiritual inheritance of the Jewish people is not necessarily of similar relevance in both instances, the article below certainly provides some wonderful food for thought, and some amazing facts.

 zimbabwe ruins

The Black Jews of Africa

 

THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: DO NOT DARE DISMISS THE authenticity of oral histories and stories of origin of the people of Africa, even when these refer to events that took place more than a thousand years ago.

Ever since people can remember, there were groups of black people in southern Africa who told all who would listen that they had come from Israel more than a thousand years ago. Those who live in the northern parts of South Africa cal themselves the Lemba, those in Zimbabwe are known as the Vanwenye or Varemba, and those iin Mozambique, the Basena. Four hundred years ago there were reports in Europe of black Africans descended from the Moors who were great builders and medicine men and lived near the Mberengwa mountain in Zimbabwe. President Paul Kruger apparently believed them, because he called them the black Jews.

But in the past century or so, few people have believed the Lemba story, despite the fact that these people were very different from other African groups on the subcontinent and upheld many typically Jewish customs and rituals. Not even other Jews, in South Africa, Israel and elsewhere, took them seriously.

Even  now, the intriguing story of this ancient Semitic tribe who have been living, like the descendants of Coenraad de Buys, among the Venda in northern South Africa, is not generally known among South Africans.

Scientists were cynical when confronted with the Lemba’s fantastical story of where they originated and how they came to southern Africa. But when geneticists, anthropologists and historians meticulously studied their story, they found it to be substantially true, although its truth had been preserved for more than a millennium only by parents telling it to their children.

Twenty years ago, the director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Dr Tudor Parfitt, visited South Africa to give a talk about his book on the exodus of the Falashas, the black Jews of Ethiopia, to Israel. Among the sea of white faces, sitting in the back, he noticed a few black people wearing the Jewish skullcap, the yarmulke.

Curious, he asked them after the lecture where they were from. He found their answer “rather intriguing but difficult to believe”: they were Jews, they said, whose ancestors had come from the Middle East to Africa more than a thousand years ago.

The men, seeing that Parfitt didn’t believe them, invited him to spend a weekend with them in Limpopo Province to introduce him to the Lemba elders and to show him their culture. Parfitt accepted, and was astonished. “I could see that it was almost certain that they must have some kind of Semitic connection,” he said later, “because all their pre-modern religious and social practices seemed to me imbued with a quality that was essentially Middle Eastern”. Their culture and customs were different from the black groups of southern Africa. They were against marrying outside the Lemba group: “They had a good Semitic disdain for all other people that they referred to as vhasendzhi, the gentiles,” Parfitt says.

Their ritual slaughtering of animals also seemed un-African and very much Middle Eastern. Each boy was given a knife for use in this ritual, which he would keep all his life and be buried with after his death.

Parfitt became so fascinated that the Lemba story became the focus of a research project that involved many months living among them. He followed their story and gathered clues across Africa, but when he reached the Indian Ocean, the clues stopped dead.

This is the story the Lemba elders were told by their elders, and they by theirs. About 2 500 years ago, a group of Jews under the leadership of a man named Buba left Judea and settled in Yemen, probably for reasons of trade. They built a city and called it Sena. Sena still plays an important part in Lemba culture as a place of origin, but it also has a spiritual meaning – “We’ll meet one day in Sena,” one Lemba elder would say to another.

About a thousand years ago, something happened that forced them to leave. According to oral history, they “crossed Pusela” and went to Africa. The Lemba don’t have a clear idea what Pusela was, but that’s how the story has been told. Buba is now the name of one of the Lemba clans.

When they arrived on the African east coast, they built a new settlement and called it Sena. Then they moved inland, where, according to the story, they helped construct the stone city of Great Zimbabwe. During that time they broke the law of God –  some say by eating mice, ad the Lemba were not allowed to eat rodents – and they were scattered  among several nations in Africa. In South Africa they settled in the areas of Louis Trichardt, Polokwane, Tzaneen and Thohoyandou in LimpopoProvince.

LembaMap

As far back as 1908, a Lemba told the writer HA Junod (author of The Balemba of the Zoutpansberg): “We have come from a very remote place, on the other side of the Phusela. We were on a big boat (some say on the back of a tree). A terrible storm nearly destroyed us all. The boat was broken in two pieces. One half of us reached the shores of this country, the others were taken away with the second half of the boat and we do not know where they are now. We climbed the mountains and arrived among the Banayi. There we settled, and after a time we moved southwards to the Transvaal; but we are not Banayi.”

Some believe that the group that left Yemen was made up of men only. Unisa theologian Dr Magdel le Roux, who wrote her PhD on the Lemba, was told by the Lemba’s relatives on the east coast that a war had broken out in their home country. This meant that they could not go home to marry, so they took brides from local Bantu-speaking groups.

The Lemba of southern Africa circumcise all young boys. They do not eat pork, warthog or hippo, or fish without scales such as barbel. They play musical instruments not found elsewhere in Africa. Those who follow the old traditions obey eating prescriptions pretty close to the rules of kosher: animals are slaughtered by designated individuals and bled properly, and milk and meat are never mixed. If a Lemba man wants to marry a non-Lemba, she has to “convert” by undergoing complex and exhausting ceremonies.

A Lemba woman told Dr Parfitt: “We came from the Israelites, we came from Sena, we crossed the sea. We were so beautiful with beautiful long, Jewish noses and so proud of our facial structure.” The Lemba sing a song at festivals and funerals with the words “We came from Sena, we crossed Pusela, we rebuilt Sena. In Sena they died like flies. We came from Hudji to Chilimani. From Chilimani to Wedza. The tribes went to Zimbabwe. They built the walls and lived on the hill. Mwali (God) sent the star. From Zimbabwe to Mberengwe. From Mberengwe to Dumghe. We carried the drum. We came to Venda, Solomon led us.”

Le Roux says the sacred drum referred to plays a similar role among the Lemba to the Ark of the Covenant among the ancient tribes of Israel. “Once we had a drum because we were a holy people and once we had a book because we were a wise people,” they say. Some believe that the original sacred drum is till hidden in the caves on Dumghe Mountain in Zimbabwe. The priest at Mberengwa said he wasn’t allowed to tell her about it, because “we are only allowed to reveal to people who have been circumcised.” An informant told Parfitt about the “book”, saying that it had been in their possession long ago, “but the Arabs were jealous and destroyed the book. Ours was the book of the Mwenye. Theirs was the book of Allah.” Other Lemba say that their grandfathers told them that the Lemba had a Bible made of skin very long ago, but lost it.

Professor Matshaya Mathiva, spiritual leader of the Lemba and president of the Lemba Cultural Society until his death in 2002, asked Parfitt during his stay in South Africa to go and find this place called Sena in Yemen. Yemeni imams quickly directed Parfitt to a town with that name in a remote valley in the south of the country.

What he found complied with the Lemba’s story. To get to the sea from Sena, one has to cross the Masilah River, which sounds very much like the Lemba’s “Pusela”. The port town of Sayhut on the southern coast of Arabia would have been the ideal place to launch ships to Africa – Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia are on the opposite side of the narrow strait of water. The ships of the time were very capable of reaching Kenya, Tanzania or even Mozambique, and therefore could have reached Mombasa, Zanzibar or even Sofala within a few days.

Parfitt uncovered other tantalizing snippets of information that appear to confirm the Lemba’s oral version of their origins. In the Hadramawt valley where Sena is situated, many of the tribes have exactly the same names as used by the Lemba, like the Sadiki and the Hamisi. And why did they leave Sena for Africa? Parfitt found out that about a thousand years ago, a huge stone-built dam supporting agriculture around the substantial city of Sena broke. The people of Sena told Parfitt that many residents were forced to leave because the area could not sustain that many people without the dam’s water.

Dr Parfitt has recently published a book about his work titled Journey to the Vanished City.

The Lemba were overjoyed with this confirmation of their oral traditions and saw it as final proof that they were indeed Jews from the Middle East. But while they regarded this new information as proof, some cynical scientists maintained that it could all be due to amazing coincidence. Here enter the geneticists.

The genetics story does not begin with the Lemba. It begins when a Jewish priest (as opposed to a rabbi), Dr Karl Skorecki, wondered if genetic comparisons would confirm the general Jewish belief that the priests, the Conahim, are the descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. He contacted an expert on the genetics of human populations working with the Y or male chromosome, Dr Michael Hammer of Arizona.

Unlike other chromosomes, the genetic material of the Y chromosome does not change with every generation. These Y Chromosomes are passed down unchanged, apart from possible mutations that occasionally occur, from father to son. This means that such research is an accurate tool to reconstruct the history of a population, as each lineage’s mutation patterns are different.

Skorecki’s expectation was proven valid. The geneticists identified the “Cohen genetic signature”, a DNA pattern prevalent among the Jewish populations and virtually absent from non-Jewish groups. They found that 45 per cent of Ashkenazi priests and 56 per cent of Sephardic priests have this Cohen signature, compared to between 3 and 5 per cent of general Jewish populations.

An Oxford population geneticist, David Goldstein, developed this discovery by calculating how long ago those with the Cohen signature shared a common ancestor. He concluded that this was somewhere between 2 600 and 3 100 years ago – close enough to the Jewish belief that their exodus from Egypt took place 3 000 years ago, after which Moses assigned the priesthood to the male descendants of his brother Aaron.

Goldstein then tested the DNA samples collected from the Lemba by Tudor Parfitt and his associate, Neil Bradman of the Centre for Genetic Anthropology at London’s University College. The results stunned geneticists. Nine per cent of Lemba men living in South Africa were found to carry the Cohen genetic signature, further proof of their Jewish ancestry. But among those males belonging to the Lemba clan named after the leader who led their ancestors fro Judea, Buba, it was as high or higher than the known Jewish priestly castes: 53 per cent. The Buba are recognized as the oldest and most senior of the twelve Lemba clans.

Parfitt and Bradman also collected DNA samples from the people of the Hadramawt in Yemen and compared these to the Lemba DNA. They found close similarities between the Lemba Y chromosome and the Hadramawt Y chromosome. A South African scientist, Professor Trevor Jenkins of the University fo the Witwatersrand, also did comparative DNA testing on the Lemba, finding that they were significantly different from the Venda people among whom they lived. “There can be no doubt that more than a thousand years ago males from the Middle East came into the area. What they contributed to the local populace via marriage and procreation was a characteristic Y-chromosome which has remained unaltered in the men all these years. We have, in a sense, confirmed their oral tradition,” he says.

lemba 2

The Lemba and Dr Parfitt were excited by all these results of confirmation. If twenty-five years is seen as a generation average and one accepts the premise that the Lemba left Yemen a thousand years ago, it means that the Lemba came to Africa more or less forty generations ago. The story of these Jews leaving Judea and building the city of Sena is essentially correct and accurate.

Parfitt told the New York Timesat the time: “I was strongly criticized by a number of colleagues for listening to this nonsense because they assumed the sense of a different origin had been imposed on the Lemba by missionaries. As an anthropologist, I had a sense one should listen to what people say about themselves and shouldn’t be too arrogant. It turned out that what they are sayng about themselves is substantially correct.”

The Lemba so appreciated Parfitt’s work that they made him an honorary Lemba. This was a special honour, because Lemba tradition forbids outside males from becoming Lembas. This exclusion explains why the Cohen genetic signature has been preserved among them for more than ten centuries.

Many modern Lemba are now Christians,  and this has led to some Jews being reluctant to accept the Lemba. One of the senior Lemba cultural leaders, Rabson Wuriga, explains that the first colonial governments his people came into contact with in South Africa and Zimbabwe were Christians.

“Lembas could not live in isolation in the wake of modernization and urbanization… With passage of time and new generations coming, also isolated from the fatherland, many of us became Christians because that was the only route available to skills and academic development.”

But, says Wurige, “our answers to those who questioned our identity were never intended to prove our religion, but our identity and origins. We believe that the person is a Lemba because his father is a Lemba. The whole idea was simply to reclaim our historical, religious and cultural heritage that some people wanted tom rob us of.” He reminds skeptical Jews that the Lemba do not practice Rabbinic Judaism, because “we came out of Israel before Rabbinical Judaism”.

Over the centuries that the Lemba have been in Africa, they have lived among the Bantu-speaking peoples and gradually lost their own language, adopting the language of the group among whom they lived in South Africa, Venda. Through the inevitable intermarrying over the generations, their skins have become darker and they have been influenced by African traditions and customs.

Many of their practices remain essentially Judaic, but with a strong African feel. The purification ritual followed when a non-Lemba woman wants to marry a Lemba is an example. The woman has to crawl over anthills so that the ants can bite off her “pig-skin”, fire is used on her body to burn off her non-Lemba impurities, and she is forced to eat raw meat so that she can vomit out her gentile soul. She then puts her head through a hole in a hut, and when her hair has been shaved, she crawls through the hole, thereby becoming a Lemba.

Dr le Roux points out that circumcision is central to Lemba culture and beliefs. Zvinowanda Zvinowanda, the high priest at Mberengwa, told her that their circumcision rites are very similar to those of the Old Testament. Le Roux says most ethnographic accounts of Lemba life agree that it was the Lemba who brought circumcision to South Africa centuries ago, and passed it to the Venda, the Sotho and the Tsonga. The Lemba insist that their ancestors performed all the circumcisions at Great Zimbabwe, which grew into the most powerful metropolis in the region between 1250 and 1450.

Since 1999 many Jews from Israel, the United States and elsewhere have visited the Lemba in South Africa, and some of the Lemba leaders have visited Israel by invitation. **There are now programmes in place to build synagogues and inform the Lemba of contemporary Judaism.

The next time you hear a story about the origins or events of African people from ancient times, think twice before you dismiss it as an old wives’ tale. These wives may have a thing or two to teach us.

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** While I cannot at this point ascertain the scope of these reported programmes, nor can I qualify the facts of the matter concerning the synagogues, this should nevertheless be a point of concern for the South African Christian. The Gospel needs to reach these people, so that they can be saved from all false religions and belief systems, and that will not happen by means of contemporary Judaism, which will simply lead these people further from the truth. Synagogues, temples, churches, priesthoods, traditions, laws, dietary laws, sacrifices, circumcision and ancient books cannot save these people. Get the Gospel to them.

I appeal to any Christians or Christian institution, who might have more detail regarding any evangelism which may or may not be taking place among the Lemba people, to avail to us of those details in order that we might be able to assist in some manner or by some means. 

The story of the Black Jews of South Africa is from the excellent book “Of Warriors, Lovers and Prophets: Unusual Stories from South Africa’s Past” by author and journalist extraordinaire, Max du Preez. 

- Grant Swart

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5 thoughts on “The REAL Jews of South Africa

  1. Goeiedag Grant
    Ek reageer graag op jou skrywe. Ek dink daar is baie vooraf opgestelde idees vervat in meeste Christene se Skrifopvattings, en verdien om verder bespreek te word.

    Ek sal graag wil weet wat jou mening is waarom sekere Fariseërs, wat ook tog kinders van Abraham was, en wat as Jode bekend gestaan het, nie slawediens verrig het nie? Beteken dit dat daar twee groepe Jode was, hulle wat slawediens verrig het en hulle wat nie slawediens verrig het nie?: “Joh. 8:33 Hulle antwoord Hom: Ons is die geslag van Abraham en het nog nooit vir iemand slawediens verrig nie; hoe sê U dan: Julle sal vry word? ”

    Ek sien ook dat Christus sekere Jode daarvan beskuldig het dat God nie hulle Vader is nie, maar dat die duiwel hul vader is- “Joh. 8:42 En Jesus sê vir hulle: As God julle Vader was, sou julle My liefhê, want Ek het uit God uitgegaan en gekom; want Ek het ook nie uit Myself gekom nie, maar Hy het My gestuur. 43 Waarom ken julle my spraak nie? Omdat julle na my woord nie kan luister nie.
    44 Julle het die duiwel as vader, en die begeertes van julle vader wil julle doen. Hy was ʼn mensemoordenaar van die begin af en staan nie in die waarheid nie, omdat daar in hom geen waarheid is nie. Wanneer hy leuentaal praat, praat hy uit sy eie, omdat hy ʼn leuenaar is en die vader daarvan.

    Volgens die volgende aanhaling was daar “Jews” en “Half Jews” – The Works of Flavius Josephus Translated by William Whiston Antiquities of the Jews:-
    Boek 13 hoofstuk 9 par. 1 vn (25) This account of the Idumeans admitting circumcision, and the entire Jewish law, from this time, or from the days of Hyrcanus, is confirmed by their entire history afterward. See Antiq. B. XIV. ch. 8. sect. 1; B. XV. ch. 7. sect. 9. Of the War, B. II. ch. 3. sect. 1; B. IV. ch. 4. sect. 5. This, in the opinion of Josephus, made them proselytes of justice, or entire Jews, as here and elsewhere, Antiq. B. XIV. ch. 8. sect. 1. However, Antigonus, the enemy of Herod, though Herod were derived from such a proselyte of justice for several generations, will allow him to be no more than a half Jew, B. XV. ch. 15. sect. 2. .But still, take out of Dean Prideaux, at the year 129, the words of Ammouius, a grammarian, which fully confirm this account of the Idumeans in Josephus: “The Jews,” says he, are such by nature, and from the beginning, whilst the Idumeans were not Jews from the beginning, but Phoenicians and Syrians; but being afterward subdued by the Jews, and compelled to be circumcised, and to unite into one nation, and be subject to the same laws, they were called Jews.” Dio also says, as the Dean there quotes him, from Book XXXVI. p. 37, “That country is called Judea, and the people Jews; and this name is given also to as many others as embrace their religion, though of other nations.” But then upon what foundation so good a governor as Hyrcanus took upon him to compel those Idumeans either to become Jews, or to leave the country, deserves great consideration. I suppose it was because they had long ago been driven out of the land of Edom, and had seized on and possessed the tribe of Simeon, and all the southern parts of the tribe of Judah, which was the peculiar inheritance of the worshippers of the true God without idolatry, as the reader may learn from Reland, Palestine, Part I. p. 154, 305; and from Prideaux, at the years 140 and 165.

    Hieruit is dit tog duidelik dat daar al lank gelede meningsverskil bestaan oor die identiteit van die Jode, en dat daar ongetwyfeld Jode is wat dit uit die Judese/Israelitiese genelyn is, en dat daar Edomitiese proseliet Jode is – uit die Edom genelyn. Dit wil dan voorkom asof hierdie Edomitiese Jode binne die Fariseërs en Sadduseërs van 2000 jaar gelede, getel het, en Christus het geweet dat hulle ‘n ander oorsprong het as die Judese/Israelitiese Jode.

    Verder is dit voor die hand liggend dat Paulus ook bewus was van die multi genetiese aard van die Jode, soos opgeteken in:
    Hand. 26:6 En nou staan ek tereg oor die hoop op die belofte wat aan die vaders deur God gedoen is, :7 waartoe ons twaalf stamme wat God aanhoudend dag en nag dien, hoop om te kom; oor hierdie hoop, koning Agríppa, word ek deur die Jode beskuldig.

    Dit is darm nou baie duidelik dat die Jode wat Paulus vervolg het, nie Judeërs was nie. Daar was verseker nie plek vir sekere Jode binne die 12 Stamme van Israel nie. Daar is ‘n Juda stam in Israel en nie ‘n stam genaamd Jood nie! Daar het dus nie volledige integrasie plaasgevind tussen die proseliet Edomitiese Jood en die Judese Jood nie.

    Die bewyse hou egter nie op nie:- Op. 2:9 Ek ken jou werke en verdrukking en armoede maar jy is ryk en die lastering van die wat sê dat hulle Jode is en dit nie is nie, maar ʼn sinagoge van die Satan.
    en
    Op.3:9 Kyk, Ek gee jou uit die sinagoge van die Satan, van die wat sê dat hulle Jode is en dit nie is nie, maar lieg Ek sal maak dat hulle kom en voor jou voete neerbuig en erken dat Ek jou liefgehad het.

    Die twee groepe in Openbaring staan tog duidelik teenoor mekaar, nl. die destydse Jode en die sewe Christelike Gemeentes. Hierdie Jode van 2000 jaar gelede het voorgegee om Judeërs te wees, maar is in werklikheid die sinagoge van die satan, soos Christus hulle in Johannes 8, Mat.23 geopenbaar het, en weer in Openbaring.

    Dit is tog helder en duidelik dat mens baie soorte Jode kry en gekry het, maar dat net die Israelitiese Jode/Judeërs die naam werklik werd is, en dat die res vervalsings is.
    Vrede
    Flip

    • Flip Swanepoel
      Verskoon asseblief dat ek in Engels beantwoord, veral omdat my tyd huidiglik beperk is. Dankie vir jou kommentaar.

      The crux of the matter here is by no means whether or not there were two groups of Jews, or maybe even many more groups. To the church, that information is of very limited relevance, other than an historical one for those who have an interest in those matters. The pivotal issue is that there were two important groups of people throughout the history of man, just as there are today: those who were saved by the grace of God, and those who have remained unsaved.

      Firstly, let us briefly investigate Revelation 2:9, to which you have referred in making the point that there were specifically two groups of Jews. However, the words of our Lord in this verse, as in all instances, have value only to the group to which His sheep belong. Never did Jesus Christ consider or address unbelievers, which constitute the other group, in the same way as He did His followers.

      Of overwhelming importance, however, is to bear in mind and embrace the fact that God’s covenant people, the true Israel of God, is the church of God, Christ’s spiritual seed. A man’s family tree, outward religious exercises, profession of religion, and doctrinal creed has nothing to do with his relationship to God. Christianity, faith in Christ is a matter of the heart. It is altogether inward and spiritual. ‘They are not all Israel which are of Israel’ (Rom 9:6; Rom 2:28-29; Php 3:3).

      In Revelation 2:9 our Lord assures us that he knows his true people as a group apart from those who merely profess to be His people. There was a large population of Jews in Smyrna. They had settled there, because Smyrna was a good place of business, and built a synagogue. As always, these Jews were filled with hatred for the people of God. They both blasphemed Christ and accused his people of horrible crimes before the Romans. These physical descendants of Abraham thought they were to remain the people of God. But our Lord calls them the synagogue of Satan.

      “How anyone can say that the Jews of today are still, in a very special and glorious, and pre-eminent sense, God’s people, is more than we can understand. God himself calls those who reject the Savior and persecute true believers ‘the synagogue of Satan’. They are no longer his people.” (William Hendriksen)

      Yet, this text has a wider application. Those assemblies which are set up in opposition to the truths of the gospel, though they call themselves Christian churches, are all synagogues of Satan. He presides over them. He works in them. And his interests are served by them. What are these synagogues of Satan? Any church that equates morality with righteousness (Rom 10:1-4). Any church that promotes will worship (Col 2:23). Any church that puts salvation and redemption in the hands of man (Gal 2:21). Any church that substitutes ceremonialism and ritualism for worship.

      Considering Revelation 3:9, to which you also referred: Inasmuch as they were faithful to him, our Lord assured the saints at Philadelphia that he would be faithful to them and declared that he would keep them with a divine protection: ‘Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.’

      Those who are enabled to keep God’s Word shall be kept by God. Those who hold fast the truth of God shall be held in truth by the grace of God. Those who persevere in faith shall be preserved by the same encompassing grace.

      Our Lord will always separate the wheat from the chaff, the precious from the vile, the saved from the unsaved, the righteous from the unrighteous. Once again, as He says in the same verse, ‘Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.’ “Thee”, in this instance, are true believers, not specific bloodlines of an ancient apostate people.

      The Jews, who are Abraham’s physical seed, claimed to be God’s people exclusively; and many to this day regard them as the people of God’s choice. But in this ninth verse our Lord calls those who yet worship according to the customs of Judaism and the law of Moses, ‘the synagogue of Satan.’

      It is not Abraham’s physical seed, but his spiritual seed who are the people of God, the Israel of God, for whom the promises and the covenant were made. The Church of God is the Israel of God (Rom 2:28-29; Rom 11:25-26; Php 3:3). Abraham is the father of all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 4:!; Rom 4:16: Rom 4:22-25:Gal 3:6-7). Today Judaism is an apostate religion.

      There are many who, like the Jews, claim to be God’s people who are not. They say they are Jews (Christians, children of God), but they lie. All who hope for acceptance with God because of a decision they made for Jesus, because of their baptism, their church membership, their good works, their taking the sacraments, their experiences, or their personal holiness are hypocrites. They may be called a church, they may think they are the house of God. But our Lord here identifies all such as ‘the synagogue of Satan.’ God’s elect, the true people of God, are circumcised in their hearts by the Spirit of God, not in their flesh (Col 2:10-14). We worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ alone, and have no confidence in the flesh (Php3:3).

      In the end the despised people of God shall be exalted over their enemies. Our Lord will make our enemies to bow before our feet and know that he loved us, chose us, redeemed us, called us, and saved us by his grace (Matt 25:31-34; Matt 25:41).

      Concerning the work of Flavius Josephus I do not care to comment, it carries no divine message or extra-biblical truth which may be of importance to the believers. There can be no emphatic deductions made from that source, as a result I will disregard it.

      As far as there being reports of Jews and Half Jews? Once again I state that there are only two groups of people which should concern us, irrespective of whether they are of Jewish, Irish, Japanese or Xhosa ancestry: those who are saved by the Grace of God, and those who are not. With all due affection for my Jewish friends, on a lighter note and at the risk of sounding flippant, a Half Jew might as well be referring to a person of Jewish descent with a serious physical disability, or a Jew of unusually short stature, or maybe even something similar to a “Half-Mens,” a succulent cactus-like plant with thorns which Namibians call by that name.

      The arguments surrounding the physical identity of true Jews remains of as little consequence today, other than political, as it did when Jesus addressed the people in His audience – He was speaking of His church, not the genetics of the people. (Gal 3:28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And, (Rom 8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

      Regarding John 8:33 and 42-44, this was the reply made by the Jews to the words of our Lord in verse 32. They were thinking in terms of flesh, because one replied, ‘We be Abraham’s seed: we are God’s chosen people: we are the kingdom of God and were never in bondage!’ Again, here our Lord speaks of the bondage of the will – spiritual slavery and captivity. Before a man knows Christ, he is in bondage and from this bondage and death only the grace of God and the truth of Christ can deliver him.

      The reason the Jews whom Jesus was addressing (v 42-44) could not understand the meaning of His words was because they could not discern them in a spiritual sense. They had been blinded and deafened by nature, tradition and prejudice, they had eyes but could not see, and ears but could not hear. Today the same wisdom applies to those who remain unbelievers.

      It might well be so that one could encounter many “types” of or “fractional” Jews, maybe even “quarter Jews” or “one-eighth Jews”. Whether some deserved the name it more than others is highly debatable, as on what other than genetics could it have been based? Today, after the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, the label is simply of geo-political relevance, and has no further spiritual relevance at this point in history for the church.

      In summary:
      Whether or not any of the Black Hebrew / Israelite groups have Jewish ancestry is not the most important issue. Interesting certainly, but not of ultimate importance to anyone other than the unbeliever. What these groups believe is far more important than their ancestry. Each of these groups, to varying degrees, have beliefs that are unbiblical, as they are stuck in some form of ancient Judaic belief system, much like those who follow the HRM or Israel Vision. Above everything else, the most crucial error is a misunderstanding, or in some cases denial, of who Jesus Christ is, what He taught, and how His death and resurrection provide the way of salvation.

      Mag die Genade van ons Here Jesus by jou wees.

  2. Grant
    Dankie vir die reaksie op my skrywe.
    Ek het begrip vir jou bekommernis, naamlik dat meeste van die Joods gelowiges se geloof onbybels is. My bekommernis is, dat daardie tekortkoming nie tot die Joods gelowiges beperk is nie, maar ook aanwesig is in die geloofsopvattings van meeste Christene. Die algemene opvatting is dat Israel vir alle praktiese doeleindes verdwyn het, en geen rol meer te speel het, soos ook elders op hierdie blad uitgestippel word.

    My vraag is, as Israel verdwyn het en geen rol meer te speel het, hoe verklaar mens die volgende Skrif:
    Jer. 31:35 So sê die HERE wat die son gee tot ‘n lig oordag, die ordeninge van die maan en van die sterre tot ‘n lig in die nag; wat die see in beroering bring, sodat sy golwe bruis, HERE van die leërskare is sy Naam:
    Jer. 31:36 As hierdie verordeninge voor my aangesig sal wyk, spreek die HERE, dan sal die nageslag van Israel ook ophou om ‘n volk te wees voor my aangesig vir altyd.
    Jer. 31:37 So sê die HERE: As die hemele daarbo gemeet en die fondamente van die aarde daaronder nagespeur kan word, dan sal Ek ook die hele nageslag van Israel verwerp weens alles wat hulle gedoen het, spreek die HERE.

    Feit van die saak is dat die son, maan, sterre en golwe nog in plek is; dat die hemele nog nie gemeet is nie en die fondament van die aarde is nog nie nagespeur nie. Hoe is dit moontlik dat Israel nou nie meer as volk gereken word voor die Aangesig van God nie? Die nageslag van Israel is dus nie verwerp nie, en bestaan hiervolgens as volk nog steeds. Inteendeel, in dieselfde hoofstuk sê die HERE dat Hy juis Sy Nuwe Verbond met Israel gaan kom sluit – Jer.31:31-34.

    Ek vra mooi dat hierdie feite nie weggewens en verag moet word nie – die is die woorde van die Lewende Gad. Ons as Skrifgelowiges het ‘n groot verantwoordelikheid teenoor mekaar, en dit is om mekaar lief te hê en mekaar te vermaan soos Paulus dit gestel het:
    2Tim.4:2 verkondig die woord; hou aan tydig en ontydig; weerlê, bestraf, vermaan in alle lankmoedigheid en lering;

    Dankie vir mooi wyse waarop jy jou brief afgesluit het. Ek wens jou dieselfde toe.

    Vrede
    Flip

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