Although interpreters refer to the association between blackness and evil in ancient texts as essentially universal, specific reference by Christians to the counter-divine with the colour epithet ὁ μέλας is new with the Epistle of Barnabas. Black is applied as an honorific to certain Egyptian deities, but it is never used in Egyptian religion with reference to the counter-divine. Furthermore, black demons proliferate in late third- and fourth-century Egyptian monastic texts, but these witnesses postdate Barnabas. The first explicit reference to the devil as black after Barnabas is in Didymus the Blind, who interprets the reference as ‘Ethiopian’. Exploring the origin and background of this nickname for the counter-divine, this essay argues that Didymus accurately apprehends Barnabas’ intention: namely, that ‘the Black One’ does not merely reflect the universal association of blackness and evil in Roman antiquity, but, rather it reflects the appropriation of an ethnic stereotype in an apocalyptic context with distinctly anti-imperial resonances.