Rastafarians believe in the Hebrew Bible, which is also the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, but do not believe in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. They believe that white oppressors perverted the true teachings and understanding of the Bible. Rastafarians interpret the text to indicate that black people are the true Israelites, and God's chosen people.

Corruption of the Bible

Rasta began in the 1930s in Jamaica, as a social, political and religious movement meant to comfort oppressed black people. The movement believes that European slaveholders took the Hebrew Bible from African tribes, and corrupted the true intent of the Hebrew Bible in order to further their own interests, which included the promotion of the slave trade. Rastafarians believe that black people are truly God's chosen people, and, as told in the Hebrew Bible, that the Messiah will deliver them from white oppression. Rastafarians see Babylon as the white-dominated empire and Ethiopia as Zion, the promised land.

Emperor Haile Selassie I

Two deviations of Rasta exist. Some believe the foretold Messiah of the Hebrew Bible was not Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and that the entire story was a corruption of the Bible by white oppressors. They believe the true Messiah was Haile Selassie I, the King of Ethiopia, though he denied this. Another division believes that Haile Selassie I is the second coming of Jesus, and they believe that he bares the marks of the stigmata, the wounds Jesus received from his crucifixion. They believe the Messiah will lead black people to liberation in Ethiopia, which they view as the promised land.

Biblical Usage

Rastafarians spend long periods studying biblical passages. They interpret some stories of the Bible to reflect the history of their oppression, and look to a passage in the book of Jeremiah in which God states he is black.They interpret the Bible as promising their own liberation from oppression, and foretelling of a return to the Promised Land. They study and recite the Hebrew Bible, and believe it tells their own story of the history of their oppression, as well as a promise of delivery from it. Rastafarians also uphold some of the Biblical laws on diet and dress.

Biblical Customs

Marijuana use is essential in the Rasta faith. Rastafarians interpret biblical references that mention partaking in the herbs of the Earth as a justification for it. They point to Biblical passages, such as Psalms 104:14, which tells of God creating "herb for the services of man." They believe marijuana helps develop a person's spiritual life. Prior to smoking, Rastafarians say prayers and then smoke marijuana cigarettes. Rastafarians are easily identified by their long dreadlocks. They follow biblical prohibitions against cutting their hair, and so grow dreadlocks as a spiritual act. Rastafarians follow dietary restrictions, similar to those in the Jewish faith. They do not eat pork, and attempt to consume the majority of their diet from foods from the Earth.