Our friend and fellow UbuntuFM community contributor Ikenna is from Nigeria. He is Igbo, a people native to the South Eastern part of Nigeria. According to Igbo lore, they are a nation of people descendant from Gad, the seventh son of Jacob, as recorded in Bible. This puts the Igbo in the lineage of the Jewish people, or rather the Biblical nation of Israel.
The Igbo feature the star of David in their ancient texts and practice the same customs as the Jews. Most of them do not consider themselves part of Judaism though.
The Igbo traditions and those of the Jews carry a remarkable resemblance nonetheless.
So what does this mean? Are the Igbo part of Eretz Israel? Can we make such a statement based on lore and traditions only? Well, that is open to debate.
Traditions do have origins though…
And so to the claims of other people native to Africa. Let’s look at some recent historical precedent: The Falasha Jews of Ethiopia.
Falashas Jews, also known as 'Beta Israel' lived from ancient times onwards in northern and north western Ethiopia, in more than 500 small villages spread over a wide territory, alongside populations that were Muslim and predominantly Christian. Most of them were concentrated in the area around and to the north of Lake Tana, in the Gondar region among the Wolqayit, Shire and Tselemt, Dembia, Segelt, Quara, and Belesa.
The Beta Israel made renewed contacts with other Jewish communities in the later 20th century. After ‘Halakhic’ and constitutional discussions, Israeli officials decided on March 14, 1977, that the Israeli Law of Return applied to the Beta Israel.
The Israeli and American governments mounted ‘aliyah’ operations to transport the people to Israel. These activities included Operation Brothers, Moses, Joshua in Sudan between 1979 and 1990 and Operation Solomon in the 1990s from Addis Ababa.
By the end of 2008, there were 119,300 people of Ethiopian descent in Israel, including nearly 81,000 people born in Ethiopia and about 38,500 native-born Israelis with at least one parent born in Ethiopia.
Common ancestry, common history?
So what’s the significance of this all?
Well, one question that can be raised is how a people that were separated over millennia are now deemed to be of the same root. If it would turn out that the Igbo belong to that same root as well, then one might conclude that Eretz Israel has a firm presence in Africa.
If we accept this logic for arguments' sake we could then start to look at and walk down the historical and Biblical timeline and ask ourselves this question:
If and when the Falashas and Igbo are part of Eretz Israel, do they then not only share common ancestry but common history as well? Are they for instance part of the Diaspora as well?
Did the Falashas venture into Africa after the fall of the Second Temple as (part of) one of the tribes of Israel? How do people, separated from each other - at least in modern times - by thousands of miles of land mass and sea, spring from the same root?
Think the unthinkable
Or dare we pose another question that is hardly ever heard?
For that we would have to travel a bit further down the Biblical timeline; to Exodus. The time according to the Bible where Israel fled from slavery and embarked on the long journey towards the promised land.
Did the events at the time of the Exodus as stated in the Bible took place in Middle Egypt or further up north in the delta? Or did they occur further down south at the source of the (White) Nile?
In other words, if we hold the Biblical texts for true - and we do - is it then still possible that the physical, geographical, locations are somehow different from what we have been led to believe?
Scientific Adam and Eve
Now this proposition may sound outrageous to some. Others might also question its relevancy. Why does or should it matter? The short answer to that statement is that it corroborates with scientific evidence. Not in terms of classical archeology but in the field of a relative scientific newcomer: genetics, in particular in the field of genealogy.
Genealogy has made a pretty solid case in recent years that points the origins of man to Africa. It even goes so far as to state that in terms of genetics, humanity stems from a single man and woman. Scientific Adam and Eve ‘emerged’ from what is now Tanzania between 60,000 and 200,000 years ago.
From there humanity spread out all over the world.
When humans first ventured out of Africa some 60,000 years ago, they left genetic footprints still visible today. By mapping the appearance and frequency of genetic markers in modern peoples, scientists created a picture of when and where ancient humans moved around the world. These great migrations eventually led the descendants of a small group of Africans to occupy even the farthest reaches of the Earth and eventually grew into a global population of 7 billion people to date.
The Human Journey
One of the forerunners in this field is Dr. Spencer Wells, resident scientist at the Genographic Project funded by National Geographic magazine.
Without going too far into the science of the project, so far more than 500,000 people world wide have been sampled. 500,000 DNA samples were matched against each other, from which a pattern emerges: that of the journey of humanity, from its early beginnings up to this day.
One of the key assertions of this research is the following: We all are one.
Humanity stems from a single source, has spread all over the world, diversified and adapted to the local environment and circumstances. Because of the distance in time and geography, different ‘races’ have emerged. Yet, the scientific evidence clearly points to a single source in Africa.
So if the scientific evidence points to Africa as the cradle of humanity, if science and the Book of Genesis both point to a single man and woman as the father and mother of all mankind, then why wouldn’t we take our exploration a step further and try to match the story of the Human Journey from this scientific theory with other recorded Bible texts?
How often does it occur that science and Bible correlate with each other instead of being at odds with each other? And if so, why?
Let us embark on this hypothetical journey and try to be as objective as possible whilst we work our way back in time.
The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, relate to us the travails of the nation of Israel, taken into captivity from a region we call Palestine to somewhere in Egypt. After many years the people discarded Pharao’s yoak and fled back through the Red Sea, the Sinai, into the promised land. It took them 40 years under Moses’ leadership.
40 years to get back to the place where they came from. 40 years to cover a distance of less than 1,000 miles. Has this never struck you as odd?
Now, if we take the story of the Human Journey from the Genographic project as an accompaniment to Bible, we may observe something else.
The direction of the Human Journey is pretty distinct. We can observe mostly movement from south to north and eastwards. There is mostly forward movement, not backward.
We know from archeology that the Egyptian kingdoms stretched from the Nile delta all the way down into the Sudan. It is said that (some of) the pharaohs were of dark skinned African descent.
In writing this article our general assumption is that the Bible is correct in its recordings on the nation of Israel, yet the geographical locations, in particular human interpretation of those areas mentioned in Bible, may include mismatches or at least raise questions. Our reasoning does not question the validity the Bible recordings, but raises questions on the plausibility of human interpretation and church dogma and the probability of said events occurring in different locations from what is deemed common knowledge.
For instance, the parting of the Red Sea; should it have occurred only in the northern region of the Red Sea, or could it have occurred further south, near present day Eritrea?
We know from other fields of science that sea levels have risen and dropped considerably over the ages. Could there have been another land bridge or a shallow sea that was parted by the hand of God?
When we walk further down the timeline towards the origins of man we come across the story of Noah's Ark. God ordered Noah to build the Ark and to gather all species to be rescued from the ensuing flood that would wipe away all life on our planet.
A lot of research has been done on the physical location of the Ark in order to locate possible remnants. The general scientific assertion is that remnants of the Ark should reside in the vicinity of mount Ararat, where the borders of present day Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran meet. Mount Ararat as the location where the Ark landed after the flood had settled.
So where was the Ark built?
Let us again try to match the Biblical record with our accompanying story of the Human Journey and take a look at this picture:
It is a picture of Mt. Ras Dashen “Head Guard”, or Ras Dejen (ራስ ደጀን) in the ancient Ge’ez semitic language. Ras Dashen is a mountain in the highlands of Ethiopia.
If you look at this picture, which we took randomly off off the internet, what does it look like to you?
What if we were to take the Ark not as a physical, humanly built object, but rather a geographical location? The mountain lies on the path humanity took as it ventured out of East Africa.
The Human Family Tree
Which brings us back to the Igbo and Falashas. Now, the Igbo claim may find little resonance within theological and scientific communities, the Falashas case on the other hand is pretty clearcut and accepted.
In any case both narratives corroborate with the story of the Human Journey. The paths of the Igbo and Falashas are both on the trail of the Human Journey.
From Adam and Eve to Noah, Exodus and Diaspora, both Bible and the story of the Human Journey make sense. They corroborate. They tell us of the origins of humanity, the struggle against almost insurmountable odds.
Bible tells us of the tree of Life and of Knowledge. It does not explicitly state yet another tree: the Human Family Tree. The story and scientific theory that surrounds the origins of humanity, supports Bible in many aspects.
A rare occasion where theology and science can find common ground.
We all are Africans
This article only touches some bases in a superficial manner. It poses questions that yet remain to be answered. We can be conclusive on one thing however, namely that humanities’ root lies in Africa. Everything else is highly speculative.
Yet, when we set aside speculation, consider this: If we can agree on the origins of mankind being from Africa, if we can agree on the probability of the road humanity took from its origins in East Africa to all corners of the world, then let us leave you with one remaining question:
What would be the probability of Noah, Moses and even Jesus Christ being African instead of caucasian as they are mostly portrayed? How likely is this in the light of scientific evidence taken from the Genographic Project matched against recorded Bible texts?
This article is not conclusive nor does it claim to be. A lot of what is being stated here is extremely hypothetical and may well be proven to be totally wrong. There are however a number of issues that cannot be discarded as such without debate or further exploration. The general theme of the article is to look at what we were taught to believe, from a different perspective, a different angle in the light of scientific evidence that supports and affirms Bible teachings.
These articles on our website provide further reading into the Human Journey
Genographic Project website: https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com