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The Bible tells us that Paul was mistaken for an Egyptian descendant of Ham. So why is it that we never see Paul depicted as anything other than a white man? When people say that the Bible doesn’t mention race, it means they either haven’t looked closely enough (me once), or they don’t want to have their eyes opened to the truth.
The Ethnicity of Paul
Paul was a free born Hebrew that had Roman citizenship. This is important because not every Hebrew in Rome had citizenship status. Many were slaves and second class non citizens. After being arrested, it is during a conversation with the chief captain that we learn quite a bit about Paul:
“And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?” – Acts 21:37
What Did Egyptians Look Like?
Imagery can be a very powerful tool, especially if used for deception. There is a reason that the entire Bible was “white washed”, and it’s probably because the Gentiles not only hate the implications that black people were chosen by God, but also can’t stand not being the chosen people. The same mistake of ethnicity happened to Moses, which you can read about by clicking the following link:
And The Assumptions Continue
If Paul had been white, there wouldn’t have been any immediate assumption that he couldn’t speak Greek based on appearance alone. Just by looking at Paul, the chief captain immediately assumed that Paul was an Egyptian. The same thing happened to Moses, and the first Israelites at the burial of Jacob. Paul then has to explain who he is:
“But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.” – Acts 21:39
Paul had to explain that he was a Jew and not an Egyptian. This reinforces the fact that Jews and Egyptians were indistinguishable by skin color. Paul then begins to speak to the crowd in Hebrew (Acts 21:40), but the evidence doesn’t end here. After Paul’s speech to the crowd, the chief captain made another wrong assumption about him:
“The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” – Acts 22:24-25
The chief captain assumed that Paul was not a Roman citizen because of his skin color (he looked like an Egyptian), and give the command to beat Paul without him being convicted of a crime. Paul knew the Roman law and mentioned it to the centurion, which brings us to the next part of the conversation:
“When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.” – Acts 22:26-28
The centurion warned his boss about his actions because Paul was a Roman citizen. But what’s even more interesting is that the chief captain is almost in disbelief, so much so that he brings up that he had to BUY HIS FREEDOM with a “great sum”, to which Paul responds that he was born free.
The assumption of Paul’s inability to speak Greek, the assumption that Paul was not a Roman citizen, and the assumption that they could bind and beat him without repercussion were all made based on nothing more than the fact that Paul looked like an Egyptian.
“Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” – Acts 22:29
Now that they know that Paul isn’t just some random black guy causing trouble, they become afraid. The reason they were afraid was because the chief captain was not a free born citizen. He bought his citizenship, which means not only was he ask risk of losing it, but he could be imprisoned or killed for breaking Roman law.
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An Apostle To The Gentiles
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. I have a full study on the Gentiles coming soon, so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss it. Feel free to leave your thoughts on this study by using the comments section below.
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