… that all Africans believe in the resurrection?
… that all Africans believe in the resurrection?
I believe the Africans brought to America over the two hundred years or so from 1620 to the early 1800’s brought a belief system with them that made it easy for them to embrace Christianity, when given the real deal. There were some things that all black Africans believed in, whether they came from West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, North Africa, or Southern Africa. These things were part of the world view of Africans that gave rise to that cultural unity that has been observed by eminent scholars such as Dr. John Hope Franklin, Basil Davidson, Drusilla Dunjee Houston, Egyptologist Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. Theophile Obenga (linguist and Egyptologist), Chancellor Williams, and Egyptologist E. Wallis Budge. One of those commonalities was a belief in the resurrection.
We cannot speak about the belief in a resurrection in a vacuum but must consider it in conjunction with their beliefs about God, eternal life, and final judgment. The scholarly British Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge wrote very persuasively about the unity in religious thought of Black Africans and Ancient Egyptians. Rather than try to paraphrase what he said, I will share several direct quotations from his book Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection. What brought him to investigate religious thought in Black Africa was his quest to discover “… the source of the fundamental beliefs of the indigenous Religion of Ancient Egypt … “.1
After much search, including looking at Asia as a possible source, Budge states, “… I became convinced that a satisfactory explanation of the ancient Egyptian Religion could only be obtained from the Religions of the Sudan, more especially those of the peoples who lived in the isolated districts in the south and west of that region [Egypt], where European influence was limited, and where native beliefs and religious ceremonials still possessed life and meaning.”1. Budge examined the accounts of Arabs and Europeans explorers who traveled throughout Sub-Sahara Africa. The value of the explorers’ and travelers’ accounts was that they generally were objective enough to simply write down what they were told. Additionally Budge himself traveled to the country of Sudan to do personal investigations.
His conclusion was “All the evidence available suggests that Sudani beliefs are identical with those of the Egyptians, because the people who held them in Egypt were Africans, and those who now hold them in the Sudan are Africans.”1. At another point, Budge characterizes this Egyptian/African belief system as an, “… unchanging, persistent belief in the resurrection of the righteous and in immortality.” When Budge says Sudan, he means Sub-Sahara Africa. Sudan is just the shortened form of the Arabic Beled-es-Sudan (Land of the Blacks). He found clear expression by African people of every element of Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. In short, in the process of investigating the source of Ancient Egyptian beliefs, he ends up giving up valuable information about modern African beliefs.
What then was the African conception of God? Budge characterizes it as the belief in “the existence of One Great God, self-produced, self-existent, almighty and eternal, who created the “gods”, the heavens and the sun, moon and stars in them, and the earth and everything on it, including man and beast, bird, fish, and reptile.”1 That is consistent with the Christian conception of God.
Budge relates that a Mr. Wilson, “… says that there is no well-defined system of false religion in Western Africa which is generally received by the people. The belief in one Supreme Being, who made and upholds all things, is universal. The impression is so deeply engraved upon their moral and mental nature that any system of atheism strikes them as too absurd and preposterous to require a denial [author’s italics]. All the tribes met with by him have a name for God …”1. Clearly the African-American strong belief in God pre-dates the slave experience.
British explorer and travelers Mungo Park who traveled through Senegambia (Gambia, Senegal, and Mali) in 1795 and 1796 had this to say about the belief system of the people he encountered: “… I have conversed with all ranks and conditions, upon the subject of their faith, and can pronounce, without the smallest shadow of doubt, that the belief of one God, and of a future state of reward and punishment is entire and universal among them …”2 In other words, people will be judged for their actions on earth.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ would have been Good News for a people with the belief system described above because it tells them how exactly they can achieve the resurrection and eternal life they longer for, as beautifully expressed in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” By his death and resurrection, Jesus, the man (though God in the flesh), conquered death and, therefore, we have the hope of the resurrection.
As an American of African descent, I thank my Heavenly Father for my African ancestors’ deep abiding faith in Him.
May You Have a Blessed Resurrection Day!
1. Quotations are from pages vi, xvii, 349, 361, 364 of Budge, E. A. Wallis (1911). Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection. London: Philip Lee Warner; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Accessed at http://www.archive.org/details/osirisegyptianre01budg.
2. Park, Mungo (1799). Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa. W. Bulmer and Co.: Pall-Mall, England. Reprinted in 2000 by Duke University Press: Durham and London, p. 247.