Dark-skinned Satan has a long history

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Satan tempting Booth to murder President Abraham Lincoln, [Magee Portrait of Booth]. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

Satan tempting Booth to murder President Abraham Lincoln, [Magee Portrait of Booth]. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

Satan in the miniseries "The Bible." Photo courtesy of The History Channel.

Satan in the miniseries “The Bible.” Photo courtesy of The History Channel.

(RNS) When some people recently started questioning whether the Satan character on “The Bible” miniseries resembled President Obama, others posed a broader question: Why does Satan need to be dark-skinned at all?

Religious experts and historians say the controversy points to a centuries-old tradition where dark is bad, light is good.

“It’s just part and parcel of the stereotyping and the encoding of dark and black, particularly of African descent, as negative in American popular culture,” said the Rev. Paula Matabane, an African Methodist Episcopal minister and associate professor of television and film at Howard University.

Scott Poole, author of “Satan in America: The Devil We Know,” says the linking of Satan and race predates American history.

European folklore described Satan as a black man, and the Puritans imported these notions, and raised them during the Salem witch trials of the 1690s.

“That’s an idea that the Puritans brought with them from England to New England,” said Poole. “They actually had a tendency to identify all racial others with satanic powers, satanic control.”

paula matabane

Rev. Paula Matabane, an African Methodist Episcopal minister and associate professor of television and film at Howard University. Photo by Justin D. Knight, Howard University

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the husband-and-wife executive producers of the History channel miniseries that concludes on Easter Sunday (March 31), swiftly rejected the Obama comparison, calling it “a foolish distraction” and noting their “highest respect” for the president.

“The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors,” the History Channel added in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection.”

Entertainment writers noted that makeup artists made Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni look darker than he usually is, with one comparing his usual visage to Omar Sharif or David Niven.

Stephen Thorngate, an associate editor for Christian Century, was one commentator who said the hubbub about Obama “isn’t the point.”

“Just don’t give the ultimate good guy fair skin and the ultimate bad guy darker skin,” he said. “We’ve been down that road too many times before.’’

Time columnist James Poniewozik noted that the Bible lacks descriptions of Satan — just as it doesn’t dwell on the color of Jesus’ skin.

“Whether or not they intended to make Satan look like Obama, they did intend to make him a dark-shrouded bogeyman,” he wrote. “And that’s the real sin here.”

Long before Obama became the nation’s first black president, white supremacist theologians in the late 1800s claimed the devil was black.

“In that kind of high-water mark of American white supremacy, even the tempter in the Garden of Eden is referenced as an African man or woman who is soulless,” said Edward Blum, co-author of “The Color of Christ.”

Jumping ahead a century, there’s another Hollywood example of a negative biblical character: African-American actor Carl Anderson portrayed the role of Judas in the 1973 movie “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

'Niquita el Godo' by an anonymous artist. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/14tJAUm)

‘Niquita el Godo’ by an anonymous artist. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/14tJAUm)

“That caused a great deal of controversy,” said Blum, whose book noted protests from black Baptists who were upset that Jesus’ betrayer was depicted as a black man.

Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, said Anderson’s role was an “exception” for Hollywood depictions of Judas. But white actors tend to be cast as what would be considered the good guys of the Bible.

“There’s been a tradition that an awful lot of the heroes of the Bible have been played by light-skinned European Americans, including oftentimes, Jesus, who looks much like he may have come from northern Europe than down Israel way,” he said.

In Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of the Christ,” Satan was depicted as an androgynous albino figure. “I believe the Devil is real, but I don’t believe he shows up too often with horns and smoke and a forked tail,” Gibson told Christianity Today.

Cain Hope Felder, professor of New Testament language and literature at Howard University, said the Satan depiction in the recent miniseries was disappointing given the more multicultural depictions of biblical figures seen in recent decades.

Satan tempting Booth to murder President Abraham Lincoln, [Magee Portrait of Booth]. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

Satan tempting Booth to murder President Abraham Lincoln, [Magee Portrait of Booth]. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

He was the general editor of the Original African Heritage Bible, which in 1993 included images of Jesus and his disciples as people of color. That was followed in 1999 by the African American Jubilee Edition of the Holy Bible, which includes depictions of a black Jesus on the cross and in the arms of Mary.

“It’s unfortunate that the producers of this show made this terrible error,” Felder said. “They either should have taken Satan off the screen entirely and just had a voice or something. Or if you’re going to use him, he should certainly not have been black.”

Video courtesy You Tube.

  • Metronome49

    I think all of the historical data of the blackening of satan and evil is accurate and needs to be said, and before that is was Jewish that Satan and Judas were portrayed as, but the actor isn’t even a black guy…

  • Metronome49

    I haven’t even seen any other representational photos of this particular phenomenon in the miniseres. Is it possible this is just lighting?

  • Franklin N. Ampah-Korsah

    The IMPARTIAL God of Israel who created both the pale and the coloured has already resolved this issue of BLACK IS BAD and WHITE IS GOOD . How ? THE CHRIST TO RETURN , and who HAS RETURNED, TURNED OUT TO BE AN AFRICAN, A GHANAIAN to be exact. Let all needless babbles cease, for there is only ONE RACE that matter……CITIZENS OF HEAVEN.

  • Stan Cook

    The question is moot–satan never existed.

  • gilhcan

    Didn’t you hear the latest bulletin from the crazy, extremist, biblical junkies? Cain killed Abel, and the punishment for that horrific deed was that all of Cain’s descendants were cursed with dark skin.

    See, dark skin is a terrible curse, where light and white skin are sigms of heavenly favor!

  • Cedric

    Oh for goodness sake, this production’s Satan looks that way because he’s sun/wind-burned from being out in the wilderness!


  • AG

    Actual Nation of Islam has a similar lie. They claim the curse of Cain is that he was turned white because he went to live in the Caucus mountains. I am a man of color and I just think this is a bunch of hype about nothing. They had dark skinned people playing good guys and white skin people playing bad guys throughout the series. The actor they chose to play Satan just happens to be dark skinned. You have to look over the whole of the series and not just nitpick on one thing to make an argument that the series was racist.

  • John Mmulqueen

    In the Irish language, a person of color is never called black. He or she is described as blue instead: the devil was seen as black. This came up in an Irish language course I took once when I tried to describe Condi Rice as a black woman and was told by the teacher the proper word was blue–gorm. I don’t know why the Irish thought Satan was black, since they probably never seen a black person before the 20th century. Part of European culture.

  • surreality

    Actually, the Nation of Islam believes that dark-skinned Africans were the original people and from them all the other skin colors were developed. Yakub, a black scientist created the white man as a race of devils through selective breeding.

  • The “Asiatic Black Man”, rather than “dark-skinned African”, to be precise.

  • In Hinduism, Krishna is often depicted as blue; “krishna” means “dark; black”.

    I think blue and black are considered the same color in some cultures.

  • John Mulqueen

    Blue is black. I had heard that, that black is sometimes mistaken for black, or equated with it. But there are two different words in Irish, and as I understand it only the Devil can be described as black, when referring to a being.

  • Floyd Miller

    God, and therefore both Christ and Satan, are of no race and also all races. God also is neither sex and all sexes. God is not German, Chinese, Swahili, American, Argentinian, Syrisn, Australian, or Indian, yet He is ALL of them. He made ALL men in His image, “both male and female he made them”. We were all one race between Noah’ Ark and the Tower of Babel (in fact, we were all Iraqis, based on the most likely physical locations of Eden, Babel, and Ur.)

  • karigar

    Sri Krishna is indeed black skinned, as is the literal meaning of the word “krishna”. But the blueness can be best described as the special aura of godlike persons. The Hindu tradition depicts holy godlike persons with the blue aura, and Krishna, as is known, is an Avatara of Vishnu, the preserver aspect of the Ultimate Reality / God for Hindus.

  • Vivian

    We are made in God’s image refers to our soul’s (our soul’s are always yearning for peace and happiness. If our earthly parents were fat, skinny, white, black, etc., we would inherit their traits in our genes. God is True Spirit, he doesn’t have physical traits. We would never refer to God as being fat, short, etc.

  • Billy Bob Joe

    Mel Gibson had a super white and pale Satan (in the Passion of the Christ), so how about that, buttholes. And everyone always maligns poor poor Mel just because he likes to get drunk and make a fool of himself.

  • Billy Bob Joe

    Why don’t you read the article you idiot, they mentioned that. Moron

  • James Edward Kelley

    Hi, all. I think that the comment that the Bible Mini-Series as produced and created by Roma Downey is racist is without merit. Roma Downey has co-starred in a show for which she is also responsible with the inimitable Della Reese, who happens to be African-American and a legendary gospel singer as well. Also, I know from being a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, the film actors’ union, that African-American actors and African actors are not forced to perform roles they find racist. If Mr. Anderson said, for example, that he was discriminated against as an actor because he was black, then I would believe him. People who are not black actors should not speak for them unless the actor(s) tell them that he/she/they have been discriminated against in the casting process. Otherwise, it’s just hearsay.

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  • Gregory Peterson

    Gibson made Satan a scary effeminate Gay man instead of Roma Downey’s scary hyper-masculine Black man. Now that was real progressive of him.

    How come History Channel Jesus looks even more Nordic than my Norwegian self back when I was his age?

    Nothing at all wrong with looking Scandinavian, but… Jesus was a Middle Eastern man who was out in the sun a lot, walking from town to town. It was suppose to be a documentary set in the Middle East, and the main character was…Middle Eastern.

    Jesus was not a man from Oslo on a Mediterranean holiday that takes an interesting turn of events when he accidentally blunders into a mysterious time machine set for 30 CE.

    Downey wasn’t commuted to intellectual integrity. She was instead, committed to religious propaganda..

    In which case, I could have played Joseph, Queen Latifah would have nailed the Mary role, and who else but John Cho as Jesus?

    I can see it now… Dawn French as Satan! How could Jesus have resisted a Satan with an engaging grin and a sense of humor? History would have been a lot different.if Satan had been a funny, zaftig succubus.

  • Mbalula

    I am bright skin colour african , in my 29 to 32 Year old , I get a strong vision, and this vision it was reflected not to research about some one identity or life, but it was vision that lead me to focus to my personal identity. And this idea comes in message is written in Bible. As it written look yourself before look some one , so who are? The time I started to discover myself truly I discover a lot of secret despite human races and how the first human African Race bright colour was transformed under child birth. This so called new Satan is Product . Satan Spirit is a african man not black but multicolour skin. But his first child in existence on earth is dark and black skin colour but after time to times under the black and dark skin where others races get transformed specially under child birth. the last child of satan is White or Jews and Chinese but the arab and Somalia are in between the black and White people existences , the time I discover this true message I stated to be attacked by Satan himself at night spiritual and day time by christians people in South Africa but because my prayer ot was strong. In this regard I discover realities that is out of human mind into the world. This true discovery of true Angels and true Father God and true Jesus , all of them are African people in bright skin colour. The Angels are African Women brighter skin like sun shine and Father God is a man african in brighter skin and Jesus is same so their nose is not strait or sharp and long . But their noses if normal african. As well as they are all heart or spirit human form or nature they speak language like people on earth, and they power is connected to any bright man and woman african consciousness around the world. The truth is this the heaven don’t know or here any prayer of who ever is not look the first man and woman bright skin created in africa. In this regard of discover this messages the Bible is for dead , because humanity was lost.

  • omar

    Not black?your a jackass!MOrroco is located in Africa.white skin is a genetic mutation that happens in all life forms,albo gator much?

  • omar

    Satan has always been depicted as having reddish almost auburn complexion.hope your ressesive genetics further grease the wheels hurtling you abominations through existance.

  • omar

    Africans are an old race.while whites are really mutations of a mutation.sorry to burst your bubbles,science doesn’t lie.

  • omar

    Fyi whites have millenin,i believe kidney spots are proof of that,all life starts with an explosion of millenin.please don’t think you dont have any.

  • kendra powell

    Are you really that ignorant? Many parts of the bible describes Jesus of a dark man. Also the whole world was once black.

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  • Mind Games

    What tha ???? You guys really belive that an evil entity is gonna walk right up to you in human form easy to identify??? First off we know the Bible was written by man and like all men personal expressions will show up in man’s writings and or art no if ands or buts and the Catholic church surpresses a lot of information and there you go ya boogie man.
    Why is it no one questions man and or the Catholic Church?

  • sindi

    I think this is high time that real history is preserved. What I notice is that when the time goes by, the true history is altered to satisfy the needs of those people who change it for their own benefits. Jesus was born under Jewish nation, so He was a Jew, now the question is. Do we have black or white Jews. If there are white and black Jews, so what. Let us forget about colour, let us stick on the good things Jesus did for us. Some 200 or more people will be asking or arguing if Nelson Mandela was a White or Black person. Let us stick on the good lessons and forget about colour, because our God is the God of variety. With the aid of technology, I think our history will be captured in an acceptable manner..

  • Brian

    you are insane if you think the “historical data” of the blackening of satan and eveil is accurate and needs to be said.

  • Brian

    Hitler would agree with you. remind me not to join your heaven.

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  • About 3 yrs ago I had a dream where I saw Satan & in this dream he was a very short black male but didnt have the typical characteristics you’d find in the average black male I denoted characteristics similar to that of a half case male although darker skinned less features , one eye was green one was brown or hazel should I say . To me instinctively knew who he was , he wore a big brown fur coat and had those very old fashioned shoes you know the ones Frank Sinatra wore the white tipped Brouges ?and carried a silver headed walking cane . In my dream he asked me to come sit down with me I need to speak to u he had been talking to others near where cars were an when he saw me he smiled took me away from the others and ushered me to sit down with him upon a wall which we did , telling me something real bad coming very soon and when it does it will mean you’ll come to me now I dont want you to be afraid because I will help you and you are going to be alright . I remember we talked for along time after that I know he was telling me things , how things are the way things are meant to be , I cant tho remember anything of what the rest of our talks in the dream was about only that something bad was coming .
    Now let me ask u this for a moment pls how many of u have ever had a dream whereby u can actually see their face in it but you’ve never in ur life set eyes upon them before .
    Now let me also ask u who’s ever recieved a very vivid dream where that very thing they said not two weeks to that very day actually occurred after the start of this that im still going through now ? .
    Im writing here because I Googled this is this description actually a very correct one ? And if it is let me ask u pls how do or would they possibly even know this ?
    Is this just a complete coincidence here ? Or it is something more cause ive found a lot of correlations even to as far as Mohammed the Muslim prophet was it ? Ive just read that before coming here .
    Anyway id just like to say here for anyone who maybe might of possibly dreamt similar ? But although I did not feel afraid after my dream infact the complete opposite infact the more I look into references made to this specific point the more it frightens me . !

  • ray

    My name is Ray. I am an annointed Prophet of G-D, by His Spoken and Light. I have seen and been rescued by Heavens Host many times. Heaven is perfect,without mutations,without Caucasous. Neither is it fully Negroid. Asiatic Black describes the inhabitants best,light skinned Ethiopioan types,with aqualine featues,dark hair and beards. Make sincere amends and repentance if you have made yourselves masters over the same.

  • Dr.L-uciferMe Evalantate

    Satan Was gray an it didnt look like obama get images or eyes fixed and stop puttin pll down

  • Dr.L-uciferMe Evalantate

    He risking wat he has to risk to make suggestions o n wats wring wit this world

  • NonKKK

    White skin is not a mutation it it’s an adaptation to less light, Where do people like you come up with this crap??..