Jesus Was Never A White Man – Interview with Rev. Fr. Dr. Ernest Munachi Ezeogu, C.S.SP.

The Paraclete:

Good day, Father! We are members of the editorial crew of the Paralete Magazine, the annual publication of the Holy Ghost Juniorate Ihiala. Please, Father, could we know you? Tell us about yourself.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Ezeogu:

Thank you, very much. My name is, Ernest Munachi Ezeogu. I hail from Umuozu in Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo, Nigeria.
I am a Catholic priest belonging to the missionary Congregation of the Holy Ghost. I have a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural background of the Bible. I teach Sacred Scripture at the Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu – Enugu. I am the national as well as diocesan chaplain for the Catholic Bible Society of Nigeria. And, as you well know, I was the 2009 lecturer for the annual pan-lgbo Odenigbo lecture.

The Paraclete:

 Rev. Fr. Dr. Ezeogu:

Actually, I intended it to generated more light than dust. Maybe your publication will help some of the dust to settle. Now, to your question; by the grace of God, I am a Bible scholar, specializing in the New Testament, and majoring in the historical reading Synoptic Gospels. It took me twelve years of full-time studies to complete my biblical studies in Rome, Jerusalem and Toronto.

This gave me the opportunity to read the Bible in the original languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and one thing the African biblical scholar notices immediately is the close similarity between Hebrew and African cultures. Popularly, Africans like to explain this by claiming that they descended from the Hebrews as one of the lost Tribes of Israel. Biblical history and archaeology, however, explain it the other way round, that it was the Israelites who came out of Africa.

Fr. Dr. Ernest Munachi Ezeogu,

The Paraclete:

According to your Odenigbo lecture, Jesus is an African. What have you to say about his parents, Joseph and Mary?

Does it mean that Jesus is not truly from the root of David? How come? Is it a fact, a mere story or a statement of faith?

Rev. Fr. Dr. Ezeogu:

According to the Gospels, Jesus had only one natural parent, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who conceived her child by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, to trace the natural lineage or ethnicity of Jesus, you need only ask about the ethnicity of Mary. In the Odenigbo Lecture, I tried to show that Mary was an African of Egyptian origin. Some of the pointers to her Egyptian origin include,

(a) She was not a Jew. No where does the Bible say that Mary was Jewish. Rather, the fact that she lived in an area populated mainly by foreign immigrants (Galilee of the Gentiles), indicated that she was most probably a foreigner.

(B) Her name, Miryam, is not a Hebrew name. The name means nothing in the Hebrew language. Rather, it is an Egyptian name that means “beloved,” a popular name for girls.

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(c) When the life of her only child was threatened in Judea, she took the child and did what any young mother would do, tha t is, run back to her own people. So Mary took Jesus and ran to Egypt, her maiden home, where her natural kith and kin lived. There are many other indications of her Egyptian origin, for which you would do well to consult my Odenigbo book.

As for Joseph, he was only a foster father to Jesus, since he married Mary after Mary was already pregnant with Jesus and the Gospels present him as a son of David (Mt 1:20). He as the Bible says, knew her not till she had given birth to Jesus (Mt 1:25). The important role that Joseph plays in the Gospel story is that it is only through him that Jesus comes into the line of David. By marrying his mother, Joseph becomes the legal father of Jesus and Jesus becomes his legal son, able to inherit Joseph and his Davidic patrimony.

Matthew’s Gospel often calls Jesus “son of David.” But to call Jesus “son of David” was an act of faith. That is why Jesus always praised and rewarded those who called him “son of David.” By faith we recognize Jesus as son of David,” which was another way of acknowledging him as the promised Messiah of the Jews. Naturally, however, as a matter of biological fact, he was of African descent and deserves to be called “son of Africa.”

Bear in mind that when we say African we mean Black African. In biblical times, all of Africa was populated by Black people. The subsequent repopulation of most of Northern Africa, including Egypt, by lighter-skinned Arabs took place only in the 7th century of the modern era as a result of the Islamic invasion of Africa and consequent subjugation of the Black indigenous populations in the name of jihad. In biblical times, all Africans were Blacks, The Egyptians were Black, Mary. was a Black woman, and Jesus was a Black man.

The Paraclete:

Does it mean that the Jews lost their identity when they went into slavery in Egypt?

Rev. Fr. Dr. Ezeogu:

There was no Jewish nation at the time of Joseph. There was only Jacob and his twelve sons, just one family, that emigrated into Egypt for sanctuary. Actually it is unfair to label Egypt as a “house of slavery.” For Israel, Egypt was first and foremost, a house of sanctuary. Without the magnanimity of Egypt, Israel (Jacob and his family) would have perished in the excruciating famine that came upon them. And just as Egypt was the place of sanctuary for the Holy Family of the Old Testament (Jacob and his family), so was Egypt again the place of sanctuary for the Holy Family of the New Testament, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

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The Paraclete:

Do the Jews really accept this belief that they are truly Africans? And also, since you argued that the Igbos had a lot of similarities with the Jews, who descended from the other?

Rev. Fr. Dr. Ezeogu:

First of all, there is a distinction between the Jews of the Bible who were Blacks and  most modern-day Jews, who are clearly Whites. The White Jews of today are not descendants of the Jews of the Bible. They are Europeans who converted en masse to Judaism.

As for whether the Jews accept their African origin, you can see that the modern-day White Jews do not really have a traceable African origin, so it would be a falsification of their historical memories to claim so. But not all Jews today are White. There are also Black Jews, called Sephardi Jews, who are, naturally, more likely to affirm their African connections.

More importantly, advances in Biblical history show, without a doubt, that the Jews of the Bible had African origins. Over ten studies done in the past decades have reached this conclusion. I have here on my desk, for example, this book entitled The Bible Myth: The African Origins of the Jewish People written by a Jewish scholar, Gary Greenberg, who was President of the Biblical archaeological Society of New York. Yes many Jewish scholars know and accept the fact that the Jews came out of Africa. But this is not yet a popular idea such as you can expect to hear in the streets of Jerusalem.

As for the Igbo-Jewish connections, yes, there are close cultural affinities between the Igbos and the Jews of the Bible. From this fact, popular Igbo imagination jumps to the conclusion that the Igbos descended from the Jews, or that the Igbos are one of the lost tribes of Israel, focusing particularly on the tribe of Gad. But serious research again finds that the direction of migration is from Africa to Israel, not vice versa. An example is the recent book by Professor Catherine Acholonu, They Lived Before Adam, which argues that not only the Jews but all other peoples of the world descended from the Igbos. Igbo-Jewish connections are yet shrouded in mystery, but the weight of evidence available to us is in favour of the antiquity and priority of the Igbos.

The Paraclete:

How can you reconcile facts (omereme) and faith (okwukwe) to the average reader that Christ whom they have known long ago as a Jew in the Bible is now African? What implications do you think this will have on the faith of Christians and what is your advice to this effect?

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Rev. Fr. Dr. Ezeogu:

I have presented my findings on the African origin of Jesus to many audiences in different parts of the world: When I presented it in Duquesrie University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a predominantly White audience, the only person who was bitterly opposed to the idea was an African student from East Africa. My experience is that Africans have a harder time accepting this conclusion than Whites. This must have something to do with the fact that we are a colonized people. We  see everything white as positive – white magic, white lie, white-list, White book – and see everything black as negative – black magic, black lie, black-list black book. Jesus is good, therefore he must be White. This way of thinking is as a result of colonial mentality. Secondly, some people fear that the notion of Jesus and Mary being Black Africans somehow constitutes a departure from traditional Christian faith. This, however, is not true at all. The Church has never officially taught that Jesus and Mary are Whites. The artistic impressions we see in our murals and holy pictures are just that, artistic impressions that lay no claim of historical accuracy.

The idea of African Jesus and Mary does not affect any Church teaching on Jesus and Mary. The African Jesus is still the Saviour of the world. Jesus would still be fully God, fully man, and fully African. The African Mary is still is still the Mother of God, she is still ever-Virgin, still immaculately conceived, still assumed body and soul into Heaven — and still African.

My advice to African Christians is twofold. First, that we should start changing the images we hold in our minds, then the pictures we use in our Churches, and finally the images we hold of ourselves. The greatest problem facing Africans today is not the economy or corruption. At the roots of these evils is a very bleak image. This is the worst problem facing Africans in our time, a negative self image.

The truth of Jesus and Mary being Africans can help us appreciate that black is positive, black is good, black is beautiful. My second advice to Africans is we should stop seeing Christianity as an imported Whiteman’s religion. Christianity is an African religion – more African than European, Asian or American because the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ himself, was an African. Let us all rise and reclaim Christianity as an African heritage. It is Africa’s greatest contribution to humanity.

What are your thoughts?

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