Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3, NKJV)
While we’ve announced our Black History of the Bible celebration here at The Essential Church in order to do our Educate the Hate Month justice, every celebration must begin someone. Today, it begins with the study of one individual in Scripture who was considered to be a prophet and/or teacher: a man named Simeon of Niger. All Scripture says about the man, in addition to being a prophet and teacher, is that he was “Simeon who was called Niger” (Acts 13:1).
The word “Niger” here, the Greek niger, refers to the man Simeon as black. The Greek word Niger is from where the name Nigeria comes. We know that Nigeria consists of dark-skinned persons, as Nigeria is African in descent. Thus, Simeon was called “Niger” which means that he was called that because he was Black or African in descent. No one would accept being called “Black” unless he or she was an African or dark-skinned. We know that Niger was a common Roman name, so it wasn’t Jewish and was strongly Gentile.
Acts 13:1 also tells us that Simeon “ministered to the Lord and fasted,” and “laid hands on” Barnabas and Saul (this is the Saul who became “Paul” after his conversion) when the Holy Spirit told them to set the two aside for missionary work.
Simeon is listed in the lineup of prophets and teachers alongside of another Black man, “Lucius of Cyrene”, so we can assume that he was a man of some spiritual giftedness. God gifted him greatly, and he ministered in the church at Antioch. We often read of so many Jewish persons in Scripture that we just assume every person in Scripture is Jewish, but no Jewish person would’ve wanted to be called Niger. The label means “black” in both Hebrew and Greek, so it’s likely that Simeon was a black prophet and teacher in the early church and that he was ministering and communing with Jews — a sign that the early church was biracial.
We’re thankful to God that Simeon called Niger is in the Bible, and it reminds us that Jesus came for all people, including Africans, African-Americans, Black Americans, Nigerians, Ethiopians, Jews, Europeans, Asians, and the entire world.
The next time someone says that Christianity is “a white man’s religion” and that the gospel isn’t for blacks, you can always point them to Simeon called Niger in Acts 13:1. Remember, one must #Educate the Hate in order to see it disappear.
We pray this post has been a blessing to you. Looking forward to more posts like this? Please feel free to write in and let us know.
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