Frequently Asked Question

Question:

Was Bob Marley a Christian? I heard a rumor that he accepted Christ before he died. Is this true?

Answer:

Bob Marley is infamous for being reggae music's ambassador to the world. He was raised in the Christian church but strayed away as a youth. He dove into Rastafari and the worship of Haile Selassie and his career exploded as he toured around the nation preaching the beliefs of Rastafari.

It is also a well known fact in Jamaica that Bob Marley became born again 7 months before he died of cancer. Regarding this conversion, I quote two sources.

Arch Bishop Yesehaq head of the Kingston chapter of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica was initially sent to Jamaica by His Majesty to establish the church and to dispel the worship of Selassie. Selassie felt that if he personally commissioned someone to start a church that worshipped Christ and not himself, the Rastafarians would follow the true Christ. It was these reasonings and many others that eventually brought Bob Marley to be baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox church by Arch Bishop Yesehaq. This conversion is well documented in Jamaica and was strongly criticized by many Rastas. In Yesehaq's interview with Ian Boyne on JBC's "Profile" (Jamaica's most popular talk show), he discusses this matter in great detail, explaining Bob's conversion as one whole hour of weeping sobbing and tears of repentance. Another confirmation of this fact is the following: If it was not for his denouncing Selassie as God, his conversion and baptism into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and acceptance of their belief system, his funeral would have never taken place in their church. For the Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not hold any ceremonies (including funerals) for non-members.

To further back up this fact is the testimony of Judy Mowatt. She was one of the famous "I-Threes," and a strong worshipper of Selassie. Judy was initially disturbed by Bob's commitment to accept the doctrine of the Ethiopian Orthodox church and be baptized into their body. She and others were frustrated with Bob for forsaking all that he had stood for in his music and mission for so many years. However, almost twenty years later Judy Mowatt completely understands the commitment that Bob had made. For just a few years ago as documented in Reggae Report vol 14#6, Judy Mowatt became what she calls a "fulfilled Rasta," by becoming a born again Christian. She believes that Selassie was a very godly man, but was not God. This belief was backed by two recordings that she possessed that were interviews with Selassie in which he discussed the fact that Rastafarians revered him as god, yet he clearly denied being God/Christ. A portion of each of these recordings is featured on Christafari's "Why You Ago Look" (WordSound&Power) and the dub version of the same song (Dub Sound&Power) and has led to the conversion of many more Rastas. These recordings are now available on CD at our webstore. Simply go to: http://tinyurl.com/GRselassie">http://tinyurl.com/GRselassie
Regrettably Bob was not able to leave us any post conversion recordings, but he did give us some great music and a powerful spiritual legacy with his last minute transformation. And he is probably singing a true redemption song in Heaven right now!

Also check out the following article recently published in Jamaica:
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Did Bob Marley confess Jesus Christ?

Sep. 8, 2005 - November 09, 2004
Article by Andre Huie for http://gospelcity.com

The undisputed “King of Reggae Music”— a titled Bob Marley has undoubtedly earned from his tireless, ambitious and illustrious music career. Many have tried to be as great as he was, but did not come as close. He is a class by himself; set apart as an extremely gifted musician that has given a voice not only to his native Jamaica but also to every third world citizen on the face of this earth. His staunch Rastafarian beliefs could very well be credited with cementing the religion and ideologies of Rastafarianism in almost every country that practices the faith. Bob Marley was indeed a true Rastaman. So could someone please tell me, how in the world could I deduce or even dare ask the question if Bob Marley confessed Jesus Christ?

Naturally speaking, such a question makes no sense. It’s like asking if granulated sugar is white and if black cows produce black milk. Jesus Christ and the “Messiah” of Rastafarianism, Haile Selassie I are considered opposites in the Rastafarian faith. To confess Christ is the biggest blasphemy in Rastafarianism—like sacrificing the sacred cow.

But there was more to Bob Marley than meets the eye and it might be a pleasant discovery to some that Bob Marley, just before he died, confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, he denied that Haile Selassie was God (as Rastas believe) and asserted Jesus as the true living God. If you ask me how I know this; let’s take a journey with a man who has, for years been close with the Reggae maestro, who once shared similar beliefs with Bob. I introduce to you, Tommy Cowan.

Bob’s conversion:

Tommy Cowan, is a very experienced musical icon in Jamaica. Having burst on the Jamaican music scene in the 1960s with the group called The Jamaicans and a hit song from the group that won the 1967 Jamaica popular song festival competition Baba Boom. Tommy has traveled the world of music. He later became one of the most sought after promoters of shows in Jamaica and overseas and yes, he too was a staunch Rastafarian. He knew Bob very well because he managed Marley’s business for years while touring with him to Africa, Europe and the U.S. Tommy was probably closer to Bob Marley than most people who knew him were. “Bob Marley, of course, was gifted, very gifted person. You could probably say he never made a bad song and you know that gifts come from the Lord,” says Tommy.

I had the distinct privilege of rapping briefly with Tommy about Bob in an exclusive interview. Tommy is the manager and husband of famed Jamaican gospel singer, Carlene Davis. He converted to Christianity and has taken his music-wise entrepreneurship to help advance the current movement of gospel music in the region.

As he lay back on his chair resting on the wall of his hotel room at Divi Little Bay, Tommy colorfully described the rarely spoken of experience of Bob Marley, about a year before he died. “Bob Marley himself, before he died, he got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Tommy says with much conviction. “What does Selassie teaches, that Jesus Christ is the only way…He (Bob) through whole treading of Rasta found that Jesus Christ is the way. As a matter of fact, in one song you would have heard him militantly (saying) ‘how they crucified my Jesus Christ and they sold Marcus Garvey for rice…’ One of his songs said, “Give us the teachings if his majesty because we don’t want the devil’s philosophy.” Bob, Tommy recalls, called the bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and told him I need to be baptized now. Just recently Tommy was speaking with the said bishop who described Bob’s baptism. “At one point he (Bob) cried for 45 minutes non-stop; his tears wet the floor. And the Holy Spirit came down upon his body and he cried out Jesus Christ three times—Jesus my Savior, Jesus Christ.”

This for Tommy, spells a lot and will be a powerful testimony to the power of Jesus in times to come, especially to Rastas. It also is a lesson that no matter where we have gone or what we have done in life, God has a plan for every life. Selassie, Tommy notes, has made it clear, he is not the messiah nor God the creator; he worships Jesus Christ.

From Selassie to Jesus:

Been there, done that sums up Tommy’s life and career. Today, being an indomitable force in the promotion of gospel music, Tommy’s life is now geared toward winning souls for Christ through the enhancement of music loaded with messages of hope, peace, love and Jesus. Among the things he has done in his secular music career, Tommy has hosted major reggae events such as Sting and Reggae Sunsplash.

Tommy has taken his musical deftness to the gospel music world, promoting gospel shows like Fun in the Son, a major four-day gospel music and evangelism festival in Ocho Rios, Jamaica’s north coast resort town and Gospel Train—a gospel music tour around Jamaica. On the side of community work, Tommy’s ministry, Glory Music, has also ventured into inner-city areas in Jamaica to help children from the Maxfield Park Children’s Home in Trench Town, Rema area where 300 children attend summer school.

Acknowledging that man is always searching for God and to discover the true and living God, Tommy adopted the faith of Rastafarianism. It was through this search that he found the truth of Jesus Christ.

“When I pursued the teachings of Rasta which is Haile Selassie, basically, Rasta would have had to be a Christian religion,” Tommy reasons. “Haile Selassie himself was a very, very committed Christian and somehow through that whole faith it led me back to that place that I had to realize that it’s not about Islam, it’s not about Buddha, it’s not about Mohammed, it’s not about Selassie but at the name of Jesus that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.”

His musical business experience has impacted him greatly, even today in his gospel music career. “When I usually tour, I remember doing 500 events across the United States of America over a ten year period. For those 500 events we were late twice; one for five minutes and another time we ran over five minutes,” Tommy says with an awe of professional easiness. “When I worked with Bob Marley, he was a leader who led from the front. He was first up, he was hard at rehearsals and he really wanted excellence.”

It is this outstanding and consistent work of merit that compels Tommy never to succumb to mediocrity in his ministry. “When I am now doing the work for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords for the highest order, I have now got to bring the highest order of excellence,” asserts Tommy.

Tommy still has his dreadlocks (no Rasta tams the real thing) and for that he has drawn a lot of flack from the church community, many of whom believe he should cut his hair. It would be strange to see him with a low cut. Everybody knows Tommy with his well-groomed, very long dreadlocks, which the Rastas identify as an important tenet of their faith. However for Tommy it’s not about the externals but the heart that matters to God. And though at times, he is barred from going onstage to share his testimony at events with his wife, Tommy takes the criticisms as they come, but still rolls strong for the Lord.

His message to budding gospel music ministers is simple. “Equip yourself that you may be found worthy to say the Word of God…we really need to show ourselves approved to study the Word. You cannot take someone to a place where you have not been.”

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