African Christians Prior to Catholicism/King James/Columbus/African Diaspora/European Colonialism

J. Compton

"I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist." - 2 John 1:7

Don't believe the lie that the gospel of Jesus Christ was made up sometime after the Roman Emperor Constantine (around A.D. 313). Or, that King James is somehow responsible for the Scriptures that we have today.

African Christian Worship

Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria Egypt - according to their teachings, Jesus' disciple Mark is credited for establishing the Christian church there in approximately 42 A.D. Some writings that mirror today's New Testament were found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, around 200 A.D. Also, a fragment of the gospel written by Jesus' disciple John, written in Coptic, was found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the 2nd century A.D. In the 2nd century, Christianity began to spread to the rural areas, and scriptures were translated into the local Coptic language.

Ethiopia - in 333 A.D. officially proclaimed Christianity as its state religion. The adoption of Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the fourth-century reign of the Aksumite emperor Ezana.

Here's the story of Ezana's conversion:
As a young monarch, Ezana was tutored by a Middle-Eastern Christian named Frumentius (died 383 AD), a Syrian-Phoenician Greek who was born in the city of Tyre (modern-day Lebanon). According to the historian Rufinus, Frumentius and his brother Edesius traveled with their uncle Metropius by ship to Ethiopia around 313 AD, a land under Axumite control. While at harbor in the Red Sea region, the crew of their entire ship was slaughtered over a brawl that had broken out (while another account says they were shipwrecked and lost that way instead). In any case, the two boys, Frumentius and Edesius managed to survive, and were brought as slaves to the court of King Ousanas. The King favored the two, raising them to positions of trust, and before he passed away, liberated them from slavery. His widow, the acting regent Sofya, had the two (now young adults) stay at court and tutor her young son Ezana. Using their influence over the central administration of the kingdom, Frumentius managed to befriend Christian merchants living and working within the kingdom, along with converting Ethiopian Axumites to the Christian faith. While his brother Edesius traveled back to his original home of Tyre to be ordained a priest, Frumentius stayed behind in Ethiopia to continue his work of conversion. Eventually, the Orthodox Christian Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius, raised Frumentius to the status of Bishop, whereupon he baptized King Ezana. Frumentius is honored in Ethiopian history as the Kesate Birhan (Revealer of Light) and Abba Salama (Father of Peace), as well as the first Abune, head of the Coptic Church of Ethiopia. His is also accredited with being the first to translate the New Testament into the Ethiopian writing system of Ge'ez.

Aksum was one of the earliest states to develop a coin system in order to service its sophisticated and prosperous economy. Emperor Ezana was the first world leader to put the cross on coins that are the earliest examples of Christian material culture from Ethiopia.

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria - the Nicene Creed, which is recited in all churches throughout the world, has been authored by one of its favorite sons, Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria for 46 years, from 327 A.D. to 373.

Also, on January 7, 367 A.D. when he wrote his annual Resurrection Day letter to his churches, it contained the same list of 27 books of the New Testament that are found in our Bibles today. So far as we know, Athanasius was the first Christian leader to compile a list of New Testament books exactly as we know them today (before Constantine's dream that spawned Catholicism, King James commissioned the bible's compilation and African diaspora).

"Black Dwarf" was the tag his enemies gave him. And the short, dark-skinned Egyptian bishop had plenty of enemies.

He was exiled five times by four Roman emperors, spending 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop of Alexandria in exile. It is Athanasius' writings that shaped the future of the church.

Ancient Nubia converted to Christianity under King Silko - ancient Nubia was at once a Nile Valley and Sudanic civilization. Its history extended beyond the founding of Dynastic Egypt and Napatan-Meroitic Kush. Equally significant, is the fact that long after ancient Egypt had been subdued by the Ptolemies and Rome, ancient Nubian civilization continued to thrive in late antiquity as an independent kingdom for 1,000 years. And more notably, contrary to western historians, the rise of Christianity in Nubia was gradual. It began a century before the arrival of Byzantine (the new Rome) missionaries. Consider the following:

  1. Evidence of this lies within the royal mound superstructures of deceased Nubian kings.
  2. The primary historic figure credited for an "entryway for Christianity to sprout in Nubian a century before the arrival of Byzantine missionaries was the Nubian King Silko." In 537 A.D. he drove out the Blemmyes nomads. Archaeologist, discover Silko's triumphant inscription written on the pagan Temple Kalabsha in southern Egypt. It declared that "God gave me the victory."
  3. The conversion of the Nubian peoples to Christianity in the sixth century A.D. began a period of cultural and political advance in the Sudan, and gave cohesion to the riverain kingdoms already existing before the arrival of the missionaries. Combining with the underlying native culture, new elements from the Mediterranean produced an intellectual and artistic activity, shown in the archaeological remains, which contradicts the impression of barbarism gained from reading the mainly hostile Arabic accounts of the country.
The findings above (among other logistical realities) serves to note the validation and sanction of Christianity within the noble court, no doubt initiating the Christianization process nearly 100 years before the Byzantine missions of Justinian and Theodora.

The scholarly debate as to whether King Silko was a pagan or Christian is put to rest when one considers how Africans (even today) practice Christianity. In Africa, when one becomes Christian that doesn't mean they throw away their traditional culture. "They can be Christian and at the same time, still adhere to the customs, and traditions and rites of their culture ... the Nubians did the same thing. Their form of Christianity was no different than what we might see among Christians today in Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe or Botswana - a synthesis of both African traditional religions and Christianity." In fact, when Rome embraced Christianity it did something very similar. It set December 25th as its date for celebrating Christmas in order to coincide with its pagan December 25th festivals honoring Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture) and Mithra (the Persian god of light). Also, Rome contextualized its pagan Spring festival into a Christian Easter holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

The Nubian Context of Yahweh:
Also, indirectly related, the oldest references to YHWH outside the Bible. The "Shasu of Yhw" is found on inscriptions from the Nubian temples of Soleb and Amara West (1400 B.C.), and corresponds precisely to the tetragrammaton ("I am that I am").

Brief Narrative About African Martyrs

Perpetua and Feliciti - in 202 or 203 A.D. a wealthy cultured and prominent woman of Carthage and her maid-servant were dragged to the courthouse by Roman soldiers. There the magistrate ordered the women to worship the Roman gods at once. The women did not answer. He offered them freedom and apologies if they would deny Jesus of Nazareth. Perpetua was said to have stepped forward and said, "As a water pot cannot call itself by any other name, I cannot call myself by any other name than Christian." Feliciti agreed. The magistrate ordered them both to be thrown into the sports arena with the lions on the following day. The hungry lions refused to attack them. So gladiators cut off their heads.

Alexander the African - around A.D. 252 he endured threats and harassment as other Christians. On April 24 of that year Roman officials gave him the chance to deny Jesus. He refused.

Theodora - a young black woman of high social position in Alexandria, Egypt was brought before Eustratius, the Roman Prefect of Alexandria, for refusing to make sacrifice before the Roman gods. The transcript records her saying things like, "I am a Christian made free by Jesus." ... "By coming incarnate into the world, He raised us from corruption and promised us eternal life." ... "The source of true honor is in Jesus of Nazareth. He is able to protect me."
Didymus helped Theodora escape from prison. Later the pair were martyred in 304 A.D. during the reigns of co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximianus.

Mary - a black slave woman of Senator Tertullius (he and his wife were also black). When the Roman Emperor Diocletian (240 A.D. - 311 A.D.) issued his edict against Christians Mary's owners whipped her in order to get her to deny Jesus (to keep their slaves out of the Roman hands) and on another occasion locked her in a closet. Mary refused to deny Jesus. Eventually, she was officially turned over to the Roman government system. Upon appearing in court before the Prefect Roman court records quote Mary as saying, "The God whom I serve is with me. I do not fear your torments which can only take away my life - which I am always ready to lay down for Jesus."

Black Africanus - he was told by the local Roman Prefect to stop preaching the gospel of Jesus. The Emperor Decius had him arrested on April 10, 250 A.D. Roman soldiers led Africanus and his followers to a wide deep pit full of snakes. Africanus was thrown in first, then his followers. The poisonous and constricting snake did not harm them. So the Romans pulled Africanus and his followers out, lined them up in front of the Prefect and beheaded them all.

African named Arcadius - a loyal Christian. Romans arrested his family and held them hostage to lure him back home. Upon return the Roman magistrate offered let them all go if he would deny Jesus and acclaim the Roman gods. Arcadius refused. In brutal return, the soldiers hacked away his limbs one-by-one, but Arcadius continued to pray to Jesus until he died. Some place his death under Roman Emperor Valerian (253-260 A.D.), others under Diocletian (240-311 A.D.).

Maurice, the African Roman general - he and his 6,000 men were black and Christian. He was ordered to put down a rebellion, but when he arrived at the location he discover the rebels were Christians. He sent a message to the Roman Emperor Maximian (250-310 A.D.) saying that he would not fight or kill these Christian rebels. The emperor sent another army who killed Maurice and his men. Italy's highest civilian medal is named after him - Sardinian Order of Saint Maurice. In A.D. 369 the site where he and his men died a basilica was built, and the village was named St. Maurice en Valais.

Summary of Africans Who Lived or Died for Jesus (not exhaustive)
(an introduction ... you can research it)

Before Constantine's dream that spawned Catholicism, King James commissioned the bible's compilation and African dispora
Julia of Tunisia ? Slave girl crucified for her faith
Matthew 90 Apostle and Evangelist. Preached for a long time in Judea and then in all parts of Ethiopia (later: Abyssinia, Nubia, Kordofan, Darfun; and now: Ethiopia and the Sudan). He was killed by the sword in one of the cities of ancient Ethiopia.
Speratus and Companions 180 The 12 martyrs of Scillum, Carthage, Tunisia
Pantaenus 190 Head of Alexandrian Catechetical School and missionary to Persia (Iran)
Victor I 199 Bishop of Rome and first African Pope (189-199)
Perpetua and Felicity 202 Martyred in Carthage along with 6 other companions
Rutilius 210 North African martyr
Isdore of Chios 251 Alexandrian army officer beheaded for his faith
Donatian and Companions 257 9 Bishops, several deacons and lay persons who died in a marble quarry in North Africa
153 martyrs of Utica 260 Thrown into a pit of quicklime in Utica, Tunisia
Anatolius 282 Philosopher and scientist of Alexandria
Maurice and his Theban Legion (from Egypt) 287 Martyrs, who were killed at Agauno, Switzerland for refusing to sacrifice to pagan divinities
Maximilian (Marmilian) 295 Martyred at Theveste, Numidia after refusing to serve in the Roman army
Timothy and Maura 298 Husband and wife martyred in Southern Egypt
Cassian of Tangiers 298 A lawyer who resigned and became Christian and died as a martyr
Raissa 300 Virgin and martyr from Alexandria
Nennas 300 An Egyptian soldier in Phygia, who fled from persecution and became a hermit
Marcellinus 304 He was an African priest in Rome and missionary to France. He was beheaded with others in secret (so that their place of burial wouldn't be known to the Church, and in the hopes that their example of courage and faith would be forgotten).
Catherine of Alexandria 305 Virgin and martyr who suffered martyrdom in Alexandria. When she was 18 years old, during the persecution of Maximinus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Her relics are said to be kept in the monastery of St. Catherine on Sinai.
Pierius 309 Head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria
Peter Martyr of Alexandria 311 Patriarch of Alexandria during the Roman persecution
Achilias 312 Head of religious instruction in Alexandria
Before King James commissioned the bible's compilation and African dispora
Melchiades 314 Bishop of Rome and second African Pope (311-314)
Paul 342 Egyptian Hermit and founder of Monastic life in Thebes
Thais 350 Egyptian penitent, converted after many years as a prostitute
Anthony 356 Founder of monastic life in the desert of Egypt
Sarmata 357 A disciple of St. Anthony of Egypt, martyred by Saracens in the Egyptian desert
Aizan and Sazan 360 Twin Brothers; Aizan was the first Christian Emperor of the Kingdom of Axum, Ethiopia
Athanasius 373 Bishop of Alexandria. Was the first Christian leader to compile a list of New Testament books exactly as we know them today. "Black Dwarf" was the tag his enemies gave him. And the short, dark-skinned Egyptian bishop had plenty of enemies. He was exiled five times by four Roman emperors, spending 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop of Alexandria in exile.
Zeno 380 Born at Cherchell, Algeria; missionary in Verona, Italy, where he become Bishop of Verona (c.362)
Orsiesius 380 Abbot of Tabennisi Monastery, Egypt
Commemoration of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church: St. Frumentius (Abba Salama) and Aedesius 380 Syriac monks and founders of the Church in Ethiopia
Monica 387 Mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, widowed at age 40
Moses the Black 395 A slave, gang leader, who after conversion died a martyr of non-violence on August 28. The date also coincides with the march to Washington by 200,000 African Americans in 1963
Onuphrius the Great 4th Century Egyptian Thebaid desert hermit who lived in complete isolation in the wilds of the wilderness for sixty years (mastering desert spirituality).
Michael Aragave 4th Century One of the first Ethiopian Monks
Poemen 400 A desert monk known for his holiness, and who encouraged frequent Communion
Aurelius 430 Archbishop of Carthage, Tunisia. He was among the first to unmask and denounce Pelagianism.
Augustine of Hippo 430 Bishop of Hippo Regius (modern Annaba) on coast of Algeria, Doctor of the Church
Arcadius and Companions 437 Martyrs, victims of the Arian Kind of the Vandals, Genseric
Cyril of Alexandria 444 Patriarch of Alexandria (412-444)
Shenute 450 Founder of monastic life in Egypt
5000 African martyrs and confessors of the faith 483 African martyrs deported and killed for their faith by the Vandal King Huneric
Gelasius 496 Bishop of Rome and third African Pope (492-496), liturgical reformer
Eugenius 505 Archbishop of Carthage, Tunisia. Eugenius died in exile in a monastery that he founded.
Fulgentius 533 Bishop of Ruspe, Tunisia
Elesbaan 555 An Ethiopian King who died as a monk in Jerusalem
Cerbonius 573 African missionary Bishop in Italy
John the Alms Giver 619 Patriarch of Alexandria
Lalibala (Ghebre Mesgel) 1255 An Ethiopian Emperor revered for his faith
Tekla Hymanot 1313 A great Ethiopian reformer of monasticism
300 years after the Great Ethiopian reformer mentioned above, in 1604 A.D. King James commissioned the compilation of the inspired Scriptural manuscripts, letters and Old Testament manuscript into a single book (we call it the Bible). The results of the New Testament compilation were the exact books recommended by "dark-skinned" Athanasius, leader of the churches in Alexandria, Egypt nearly 1,000 years prior.

But for over 1,500 years already, Africans had been using those same manuscripts and letters as an authoritative source for faith and worship of Jesus Christ.


  1. Christian History Magazine Editorial Staff, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, Worcester, 2000
  2. Faraji, Salim, THE ROOTS OF NUBIAN CHRISTIANITY UNCOVERED: The Triumph of the Last Pharaoh, Trenton, 2012
  3. Graham, Alexander, Roman Africa, An Outline of the History of the Roman Occupation of North Africa, London, 1902
  4. Graham, Alexander, Roman Africa, Black Heritage Library Collection, Books For Libraries, Freeport, New York, 1971
  5. Hyman, Mark, Blacks Who Died For Jesus, A History Book, Nashville, 1983
  6. Linsley, Alice C., Biblical Anthropology: The Nubian Context of YHWH,, 2013
  7. Metzger, Bruce, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development and Significance, London, 1997
  8. Mutiso-Mbinda, J., List of African Saints,, 1998
  9. Preobrazhenskoe, World Historia,, 2007
  10. Shinnie, P.L., Medieval Nubia, Khartoum, 1954