The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Question #44

Q. Is there any evidence that the ancient Christian Church had the Curse of Cain doctrine and did not ordain blacks to the Priesthood?

A. There is no direct evidence of that. There is mention in the New Testament of an Ethiopian eunuch being baptized, and also of a man named Simon but called “Niger” (pronounced ‘Nie-jeer’ which means “black” in Latin) being a “prophet”. The only church that had contact with black Africans in ancient times was the Coptic Church. The Coptic Church was the Church of Egypt; founded by John Mark; the author of the Gospel of Mark. The white-skinned peoples of Egypt (the descendants of Greeks, Romans, and Persians who migrated there) were called “Copts”. Blacks in Egypt were called “Nubians”; after the Land of Nubia (now Sudan). The Coptic Church did not ordain Nubians to its priesthood; although they did create a non-Priesthood office called Sub-Deacon which seemed to have been created especially for Nubians who wanted to serve in a Priesthood-like capacity. The only exception to this rule seems to have been a black monk (non-priesthood position) named Moses who was ordained a priest in the 4th century. Moses the Black is now one of the Saints of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.

The Nubian king Merkourios of Malkuria (697-730 A.D.) began a unification of all Nubia, and as part of his nationalistic campaign he forced all the white Coptic priests and bishops out of the country, and replaced them with black Nubians. (The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, p.348). After these Nubians became deacons, priests, and bishops, they eventually made their way to Ethiopia and ordained other black Africans.

It is reasonable to believe that had it not been for the black Nubian king Merkourios that the policy of not ordaining blacks to the Coptic priesthood would have remained unchanged.

There is, like Elijah Abel, an exception to the rule. The ancient Christina Coptic (Egyptian) Church, founded by St. Mark (disciple of Jesus and author of the Gospel of Mark) did not seem to ordain Hamitic Egyptians to its Priesthood. However, there was an exception. There was an Ethiopian robber who converted and became a monk. He later was ordained a Priest. They gave him the title of “Moses”. He became known as “Abba Moses” (320-407 A.D.). One black historian writes:

“All the monks regarded Moses as Father, Shepherd, leader, for thus had the most Holy Spirit determined....[Whenever he approached] all resounded with ‘Moses, Moses, Moses.” (Begrimed and Black, p.88)

The fact that the ancient Coptic Church (founded by St. Mark) did not ordain blacks to its Priesthood is further circumstantial evidence that the Mormon Priesthood ban is simply a continuation of an ancient Christian practice.

The ancient Christian Church accepted as part of their New Testament a work titled “The Pastor of Hermas”; which purported to be a vision by one Hermas; the brother of the bishop of Rome. It was written about 90 A.D. (older than some books in the New Testament) and was included as part of the Christian Scriptures until about the 5th century; when it was narrowly voted out of the canon. In one verse it says:

“To these repentance is not open; but death lies before them, and on this account also are they black, for their race is a lawless one.” (Anti-Nicene Fathers 2:50)

The ancient Christian theologian Origen (185-251 A.D. who was the Dean of the Christian School of Alexandria, founded by John Mark author of the Gospel of Mark) wrote that the wicked would have black bodies in the resurrection (Anti-Nicene Fathers 4:296).

Other than the above there is no direct evidence that the ancient Christians did not ordain black men. Certainly Simon called “Niger” was possibly black; although his name was Jewish. He may have been a black slave who converted to Judaism (thereby taking a Jewish name) and then converted to Christianity.

Please feel free to e-mail Darrick Evenson

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