Christianity vs. Rastafari: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the differences between Christianity and Rastafari is beneficial for understanding the historical and cultural contexts that shaped these religions. It provides insight into the beliefs and practices that have influenced societies and cultures.

In summary, Christianity and Rastafari both believe in one God, but differ in their views of divinity. Christians see Jesus as the Son of God, while Rastas view Emperor Haile Selassie I as a divine figure.

Additionally, Christianity emphasizes salvation through faith in Jesus, while Rastafari focuses on African heritage and rejects Western values. Christians believe in Heaven and Hell, while Rastafari’s views vary.

The comparison charts and concise summaries below shed more light and provide more depth on the differences between Christianity and Rastafari.

Rasta men
Why is Emperor Haile Selassie I important to Rastafari? See below

Comparing Christian and Rastafari: An Overview

“Christianity” comes from the Greek word “Christos,” meaning “anointed one,” referring to Jesus Christ. The suffix “-ianity” denotes a belief system.

“Rastafari” combines “Ras,” an Ethiopian title meaning “head” or “chief,” and “Tafari,” the pre-coronation name of Emperor Haile Selassie I, who is central to the religion.

SizeApproximately 2.3 billion adherentsApproximately 1 million adherents
Date StartedAround 1st century AD1930s
FounderJesus Christ (central figure), ApostlesMarcus Garvey (precursor), Leonard Howell (founder)
Key BeliefsBelief in one God (Trinity), Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior, salvation through faith in Christ, Christ’s resurrectionBelief in one God (Jah), Emperor Haile Selassie I as a divine figure, African heritage and identity, rejection of Western society and values
Key PracticesPrayer, worship services, reading the Bible, baptism, communion (Eucharist)Prayer and meditation, use of cannabis in religious rituals, Ital diet (vegetarian), dreadlocks as a symbol of faith
DivisionsRoman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, ProtestantismBobo Shanti, Nyabinghi, 12 Tribes of Israel
Central LocationVatican City (Catholicism), various locations for other denominationsJamaica (origin), Ethiopia (spiritual homeland)
Sacred TextsThe Bible (Old and New Testaments)The Bible (especially the Old Testament)
Other texts such as the “Kebra Nagast” and “The Holy Piby”

Why is Marcus Garvey important to Rastafari?

Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican political activist and leader who advocated for black nationalism and Pan-Africanism. He inspired the Rastafarian movement with his vision of African redemption. Rastafarians view Garvey as a prophet who foretold the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I, a key figure in their faith.

Why is Emperor Haile Selassie I important to Rastafari?

Emperor Haile Selassie I was the ruler of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Rastafarians regard him as a divine figure and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. They believe he is a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and see him as a symbol of African redemption.

Why is Leonard Howell important to Rastafari?

Leonard Howell was a Jamaican religious leader who founded the Rastafarian movement in the 1930s. He preached that Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was the Messiah and that black people should reject Western society. Howell’s teachings laid the foundation for developing Rastafarian beliefs and practices.

Why are the 12 Apostles important to Christianity?

The Apostles were among the earliest followers of Jesus, chosen by him to spread his teachings. They played a crucial role in establishing the Christian Church and spreading Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Their writings and teachings form the foundation of Christian theology and practice.

Holy Bible
How do Christians and Rastas view the Bible? See below

Differences Between Christian and Rastafari Beliefs

Christians view Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of humanity, who died for the sins of the world and was resurrected. Rastafarians see Jesus as a divine figure, but they also believe that Emperor Haile Selassie I is a manifestation of God on Earth.

GodOne God, existing in three persons (Trinity): Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy SpiritOne God, referred to as Jah; Emperor Haile Selassie I is considered a divine figure
The UniverseCreated by God; a temporary existence that will be transformed in the end timesCreated by Jah; the Earth is seen as a place of exile, with Africa (especially Ethiopia) as the true homeland
Ultimate realityGod is the ultimate reality; eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresentJah is the ultimate reality; eternal and all-powerful; Haile Selassie I is seen as a manifestation of Jah
Human beingsCreated in the image of God; inherently sinful due to the Fall of Adam and EveCreated by Jah; African heritage is emphasized; Rastas see themselves as the chosen people of Jah
The problem with the worldSin, resulting from the Fall of Adam and Eve; leads to suffering, injustice, and separation from GodBabylon (Western society and values); oppression of African people; loss of African identity and heritage
The solution to the problemSalvation through faith in Jesus Christ; repentance and forgiveness of sinsRepatriation to Africa; embracing African heritage; rejection of Babylon; following Rastafarian beliefs and practices
The AfterlifeHeaven (eternal life with God) for the righteous; Hell (eternal separation from God) for the unrighteousVaried beliefs; some Rastafarians believe in reincarnation, while others focus on living a righteous life on Earth

The Role of the Old Testament in Christianity and Rastafari

RolePart of the Christian Bible, alongside the New Testament; provides historical and theological context for the coming of Jesus ChristCentral to Rastafarian beliefs; seen as a source of prophecy and guidance, especially regarding African heritage and identity
InterpretationInterpreted in light of the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ; some laws and practices are seen as fulfilled or superseded by the New CovenantInterpreted as a source of spiritual and moral guidance; emphasis on the teachings of the prophets and the connection to African history and culture
Use in WorshipUsed in worship services, sermons, and Bible studies; seen as a foundation for Christian theology and ethicsUsed in worship, meditation, and reasoning sessions; seen as a source of wisdom and insight into the will of Jah
Significance of ProphetsProphets are seen as messengers of God who foretold the coming of the Messiah (Jesus Christ)Prophets are seen as messengers of Jah who spoke of the redemption of Africa and the importance of African heritage
What have been the key moments in Christianity and Rastafari? See below

Important Practices in Christianity and Rastafari Compared

PrayerCentral to worship; personal communication with GodCentral to worship; communication with Jah; often accompanied by drumming and chanting
Worship ServicesRegular gatherings for communal worship, prayer, and Bible readingsReasoning sessions for communal worship, discussion, and meditation; often accompanied by music
Reading Sacred TextsReading and studying the Bible (Old and New Testaments)Reading and studying the Bible (especially the Old Testament); other texts like the “Kebra Nagast” and “The Holy Piby”
Dietary PracticesVaries by denomination; some observe fasting or abstain from certain foodsItal diet (vegetarian or vegan); avoidance of processed foods; some Rastafarians observe fasting
RitualsBaptism, Communion (Eucharist), Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the SickUse of cannabis in religious rituals; Nyabinghi gatherings with drumming, chanting, and dancing
SymbolsCross, fish, dove, bread and wine, lambLion of Judah, Ethiopian flag, dreadlocks, cannabis
Moral and Ethical ConductFollowing the teachings of Jesus Christ; emphasis on love, forgiveness, and charityFollowing the teachings of the Bible and Rastafarian leaders; emphasis on African heritage, rejection of Babylon, and living a natural lifestyle

10 Key Events in Christian and Rastafari History

Christianity EventsRastafarian Events
1. Birth of Jesus Christ (circa 4-6 BC)1. Birth of Marcus Garvey (1887)
2. Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (circa 30-33 AD)2. Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I (1930)
3. Conversion of Paul the Apostle (circa 33-36 AD)3. Founding of the Rastafarian movement by Leonard Howell (1930s)
4. Council of Nicaea (325 AD)4. Establishment of the Ethiopian World Federation (1937)
5. Conversion of Emperor Constantine (312 AD)5. Visit of Haile Selassie I to Jamaica (1966)
6. Great Schism (1054 AD)6. Founding of the Twelve Tribes of Israel sect (1968)
7. Crusades (1096-1291 AD)7. Founding of the Bobo Shanti sect (1970s)
8. Protestant Reformation (1517 AD)8. Assassination attempt on Bob Marley (1976)
9. Council of Trent (1545-1563 AD)9. Death of Emperor Haile Selassie I (1975)
10. Second Vatican Council (1962-1965 AD)10. Recognition of Rastafarianism as a religion in Jamaica (2003)

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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