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Book Review: Black History Through Blue Eyes

seymour_book.gif Jim Seymour, in his semi-self-published book Black History through Blue Eyes: The Debt the World Owes to Africa argues that humanity owes a great debt to Africa because it is there, not Mesopotamia, that is the �cradle of civilization�. And that because of this Christians need to work toward racial reconciliation. Seymour’s sees European Christians desire to make biblical history and Jesus “white” has led to many of the rifts we see today.

According to Seymour, the Garden of Eden was located in Africa (although at the same time acknowledging the breakup of the two continents of Asia and Africa to create the Red Sea, making it unidentifiable), Solomon was a mulatto (i.e. Bathsheba was black as was her husband Uriah the Hittite, a member of a northern black tribe descended from Ham) and Jesus was black on both sides of his family, although his features were more likely swarthy than African.

I admit I struggled with this argument, not because I felt that Seymour is incorrect, but rather that he fails to provide enough proofs. While this book is not really intended to be a historical argument or a theological one, Seymour indulges himself in arguing the point, but then fails to back it up with enough research. Other times he wildly asserts the black skin color of some of the Old Testament characters without any argument at all. On page 44, he states that, �Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba are all women who ultimately trace their lineage to Ham, the traditional father of the black race.� But of these four, only Bathsheba�s black race is argued for in the book, the others get no other mention in the entire work. And even that is a little flimsy. Uriah the Hittite was black because the Hittites were black, by extension, his wife, who for all we know was a Hebrew, is therefore black also. It was unconvincing, as too many factors come into play. Also on page 44, Seymour states that Mary, mother of Jesus, was of mixed racial heritage, but no argument is made for or against it anywhere in the text.

Leaving this aside, the rest of the book is actually rather interesting. Seymour points out significant personages in the New Testament and Early Church who were African born (i.e. the Ethiopian eunuch, Augustine) and then some significant preachers in American History, none of whom I had ever heard of before. I learned a little about each of these, and challenged a few preconceived notions.

Using Acts 1:8 as his root text, �But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.� (ESV) Seymour argues that blacks have become like the Samaria of Jesus� time. They were a mixed race shunned by the true Jews, much as whites have historically shunned blacks, whether intentionally or not. It is an interesting argument, and not developed enough in this text.

Ultimately, the book has poor arguments with not enough references, many spelling and grammatical mistakes, and relies on assumptions and half-facts. It is not a good book, but it did make me as a Christian rethink my approach to my black brethren (and Hispanic and Asian) and make me want to learn more about them. Fortunately, Seymour�s bibliography is excellent and will point the dissatisfied reader to perhaps better argued or better presented facts.

As an overview of the importance of blacks or Africans in Christian history it lacks punch, and as an argument for that importance it lacks backing or substance. I recommend finding another book if this is a topic important to you. If you are a casual reader unfamiliar with the territory, it might just get you rethinking your assumptions, but you will need to test Seymour’s first. Seymour tried, but ultimately failed in his goal, and it is unfortunate, because his concern is valid, and his desire for racial reconciliation one all Christians should have.