Rev. Dr. Sheldon R Shipman is an Afro-centric educator, community activist, senior minister, and pastor of Greenville Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — a denomination known as the “Freedom Church”, the church of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Paul Roberson, Booker T. Washington, and Harriet Tubman. In addition to assisting his church members with their spiritual development, Rev. Shipman is passionate about using the Bible and Black History to uplift the spiritual, physical, economic, and socio-political conditions of African-Americans and people in the African Diaspora. Below is my interview with Pastor Shipman about the Hair in the Bible.
Phillips: What is the significance of Hair in the Bible?
Shipman: Biblically speaking, hair has always been the glory of mankind. The hair-related biblical scriptures that stick out in my mind are about Jesus and Sampson. In Revelations Chapter 1, Jesus’ hair is described as similar to “wool”. The holy scriptures also refer to Sampson as a man of strength and his strength was connected to the length of his hair. As Samson’s hair grew longer, he had the strength of the Lord but when Delilah cut Sampson’s locks, then Samson lost his powers. The bible references to Jesus’ hair texture and Sampson’s locks clearly communicate that both men had melanin. After I taught these scriptures to my members, our church felt compelled to change the stained-glass images of Jesus Christ to reflect the biblical truth.
In the African-American community, the barber shop and the beauty salon is an important part of our culture. From the biblical view, your body is the temple of God and hair is a part of your body. So it’s important to properly care for your hair to honor your temple. If you don’t take care of your temple (including your hair), then you are placing yourself on a path of physical and spiritual self-destruction. Whether people know it or not, they are getting much more than a haircut or a hair style at the barbershop or beauty salon, they are maintaining their body which is God’s temple.
Phillips: Do black people have a presence in the Bible?
Shipman: Absolutely! In Revelations Chapter 22 Verse 16, Jesus says that “He is the root and offspring of David.” In Song of Solomon Chapter 1 Verse 5, David’s son, Solomon says “I am black but comely.” In the Bible Jesus is clearly saying that he is related to David who said he was black. On top of that, Jesus is described as having hair like wool and feet like burned brass. In Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 13-15, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his wife and child to hide in Egypt. If the baby Jesus was white, why would his parents be able to hide him from King Herod in an African country? During the biblical times, the Egyptian people didn’t look the current Egyptians who are mostly people of Arab descent. Back then, Egypt was an African country with mostly black and brown skinned African people. In fact, Egypt is a Greek word which means “burnt-skinned people.”
I know this topic may make some people uncomfortable, but the biblical truth about Jesus’ ethnicity can no longer remain hidden. Often times, people of color have the hardest time accepting that Jesus Christ was of African descent but high ranking members of the Catholic Church accept that Jesus was black. In many of the early European churches (located in Turkey, Poland, and France), the images of the baby Jesus and Mary are clearly black. In my office, I have an image of Jesus reflecting his dark skin and curly hair that I received as a gift from a high ranking Catholic priest.
Phillips: According to the Bible, are people with dark skin and kinky hair cursed?
Shipman: No, the Curse of Ham is a misnomer and it’s been used by people who have a white supremacy agenda to create an environment to oppress and suppress people of African descent. This powerful myth that black people are cursed gives people of African descent an inferiority complex and extremely low self-esteem. How can black people be cursed when Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who died for our sins was described in the Bible as having hair like wool and skin of burnt brass? Many of the major biblical events occurred in Egypt, which is an African country. People of African descent shouldn’t feel or believe that we are cursed. We are spiritual people who possess the complexion of many of the significant people mentioned in the Bible. Last but not least, I encourage your readers to visit Greenville Memorial Church for Bible Study on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm or Wednesdays at 12:00 pm so that they can gain more knowledge and insight about Jesus Christ and the role of black people in the Bible.