AFRICA. Either the whole continent or Roman Proconsular Africa (that is, modern Tunisia, to which were added Numidia and Mauretania). In the OT there are many references to Egypt and a few to Ethiopia (e.g., Isa.45.14; Jer.13.23). In the NT, Egypt, its Greek city of Alexandria (Acts.18.24), Ethiopia (Acts.8.27), and the port of Cyrene (in modern Libya) (Mark.15.21) are mentioned primarily because of the Jewish settlements there. Jesus himself went into Egypt (Matt.2.13-Matt.2.14), and Jews from Africa were present on the Day of Pentecost (Acts.2.10).

See Southern/West/North/East Africa; also Zaire; Ethiopia

AFRICA. One of the seven continents of the world. The name as such does not occur in the Bible.

It is uncertain what knowledge the ancients had of the continent as a whole though Herodotus (Hist. iv. 42) is convinced of its being washed by the sea on all sides. Israel’s greatest acquaintance was, of course, with Egypt, the latter having provided grain for the patriarchs (Gen 42ff.) and later, oppression and slavery for the children of Israel. Other African peoples such as the Lubim (Libyans) and Put also are referred to. Cush is referred to quite frequently and indicates the land beyond Egypt, esp. Ethiopia.

During the diaspora, large numbers of Jews settled in various parts of N Africa. In the NT, therefore, one is not surprised to find Egypt appearing as the place in which Mary and Joseph took refuge to preserve the life of the infant Jesus (Matt 2:13ff.). The man who bore Jesus’ cross was one Simon of Cyrene, a port in N Africa (Mark 15:21), and there were many Jews from Egypt and Cyrene present at Pentecost (Acts 2:10). Similarly, converted Cyrenians helped to evangelize Antioch (11:20) while the eloquent Appollos was a native of Alexandria (18:24). The Ethiopian eunuch, converted under Philip, may well have been responsible for carrying the Gospel back to his own country. Eusebius (EH, ii. 16) states that Mark evangelized Alexandria, and, indeed some of the strongest churches were found in Egypt and N Africa by the end of the 2nd cent.


C. P. Groves, The Planting of Christianity in Africa, I (1948) 31ff.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

af’-ri-ka: The name of this tract, as a continent, does not occur in the Bible, and it was only in later days known as one of the quarters of the world, under the name of Libya--that portion opposite the coast of Greece and West of Egypt.

1. Africa as Known to the Ancients:

Naturally the most considerable part of Africa known to the Hebrews was Egypt itself, but Libya is regarded as being referred to under the names of Lehabim and Lubim (Ludim) (Ge 10:13; 2Ch 12:3)--words indicating, as often with the Semites, not the country itself, but its inhabitants. Other portions of Africa known to the Hebrews were Cush or Ethiopia, and Put, whose inhabitants they regarded as belonging to the Hamitic stock. Canaan, also Cushite and therefore Hamitic, naturally did not belong to the African continent, showing that the divisions of then known world into "quarters" (Europe, Asia, Africa) had not taken place when the Table of the Nations (Ge 10:1 ff) was drawn up--indeed, these division were not apparently thought of until many centuries later. The Casluhim and the Naphtuhim (Ge 10:13,14) were in all probability African peoples, though their position is in general regarded as uncertain. For the Hebrews, to all appearance, the southernmost point of Africa was Cush or Ethiopia, called by the Assyrians and Babylonians Kusu and Meluhha (Meroe), which included the district now known as the Sudan, or Black region. The sons of Cush, and also those of his firstborn, Sheba, were all Arabian tribes, nominally under the domain of Mizraim or Egypt, and on this account classed with the descendants of Ham.

2. The Cushites and the Negroes:

It will thus be seen that the Negro districts were practically unknown to the ancient Hebrews, though men and women of Negro race must have come within their ken. It seems doubtful, therefore, whether there be, in the Bible, any reference to that race, either collectively or individually, the word Cushite standing, not for Negro, but for Ethiopian. This term is applied to Moses’ (first) wife (Nu 12:1), and it will probably be generally admitted, that the great Hebrew lawgiver is not likely to have espoused a Negro woman. The Ethiopian eunuch converted by Philip the Evangelist (Ac 8:26 ff) was an official of Meroe, and an educated man, for he could read the Old Testament in the Greek(Septuagint) version. Commerce must have revealed to the Hebrews the whereabouts of the various peoples of Africa with whom they came into contact, and they acquired a personal knowledge of Egypt when the 12 tribes were in bondage there. During this period, it may be supposed, they saw from time to time visitors from the South--people who are not mentioned in the sacred books of the Old Testament because the Hebrews, as a nation, never came into contact with them. Apart from Egypt, the history of the portion of Africa known to the Hebrews was a chequered one, as it came successively under Egypt, Phoenicia, Greek and Roman civilization. That it was not overrun, or even influenced, by the barbarous tribes of the South, is due to the fact that the Mediterranean tract is isolated from the central (and southern) portion of that continent by the Sahara.

3. Hebrew Tradition:

In the Talmud it is related that Alexander penetrated Africa on Libyan asses to find a race of women, with whom he had conversation, and from whom, as he afterward confessed, being a fool, he learned wisdom--a legend suggesting some possible tradition of the Amazons of Dahomey. But even in the Talmud it is mainly the nearer (Northeast) portion of Africa which is referred to, the Africans, who had the reputation of being flat-footed, being associated with the Canaanites.