By Cooper P. Abrams, III
*All rights reserved.
What is Race?
Biblical Passages which have been Supposed to Indicate the Origin of Race.
The Role of Genetics in Race
At some point in the life of every Christian we will be confronted with what is called the "racial problem." When this occurs, Christians and churches often respond in ignorance to the truth regarding the origin of race. The problem is compounded both by false interpretations of the Bible and erroneous teachings of evolution, which have caused many to doggedly support false ideas. In order to face the issue and make a correct biblical based response, the Christian first needs to understand what the Bible has to say about this matter. Secondly, he needs to supplement biblical knowledge with information from modern sound and unbiased scientific investigation. It is the author's objective to present an explanation of how the races of man came into existence from a Biblical and scientific point of view. It is not the intent of this paper to deal with sociological issues or cultural influences, but to explore an epistemological route to the matter. A correct and unbiased explanation, of the origins of race, is actually quite simple.
RACE: Any of the major biological divisions of mankind, distinguished by color and texture of hair, color of skin and eyes, stature, bodily proportions, etc: many ethnologists now consider that there are only three primary divisions, the Caucasian (loosely ‘white race ), Negroid (loosely ‘black race ) and Mongoloid (loosely, ‘yellow race ), with various subdivisions: the term has acquired so many unscientific connotations that in this sense it is often replaced in scientific usage by ‘ethnic stock or ‘group .”
Japheth is the father of the Caucasian race; Shem of the Mongoloid race; and Ham of the Negroid race. Some have interpreted Noah's prophecies of his sons in Genesis 9 to be the Scriptural basis for discrimination of one race against another. Particularly, the supposed curse on Ham's son, Canaan, was purported to be biblical support for Negro slavery. We will deal with that later in this paper.
Basically, race is a vague term and is difficult to define. If race is based upon the color and texture of hair by what guidelines are we to classify the different shades of hair from black to blonde? A look at any group of people indicates that hair color has little to do with what we think of as race. In any group of Caucasian people, no two hair shades are alike. Hair texture and a person's stature also differ between one individual and another. Although skin color appears to be an easier method of distinguishing one race from another, a closer look reveals that this too is only a vague rule of thumb. The problem lies in determining how to classify all the varying shades of color between black and white. In order to accomplish this, one must increase the number of races and list various subgroups. As the classification process continues it tends to make classification less significant and definable.
Thus, the task of defining race is highly subjective and therefore, unscientific. We can consequently conclude that race is not clearly definable and is not a good term to use in describing variations among people.
The question we must first answer is: "Are there races of men?" The difficulty of classifying man into races has been shown. Perhaps a better term would be "varieties" of man. Even evolutionary science concludes that all existing varieties of man are members of the same species.2 Inter-racial marriages are common and children are produced with no biological difficulties. Prominent anthropologist, Ruth Benedict in her book, "Race: Science and Politics" stated the peoples of the earth are a single family and have a common origin.3
Once supposed biological differences, such as dissimilarity in blood, have proven to be incorrect. Blood is classified according to type, and all types are found within all supposed races of man. Blood transfusions are based on types A, B, AB, and O and are given without regard to race.4 It has also been supposed that different races have differing intelligence levels. This false and racist idea concludes that the Caucasian race is the most intelligent with the Negroid race being the least intelligent. This idea originated with Charles Darwin's false, inflammatory, and evolutionary idea that man is a descendent of primates. He concluded quite unscientifically that the Negro is more closely related to monkeys and apes because they look more like a primate. Since a Caucasian looks the least like a primate, Darwin said they were higher up on the supposed evolutionary chain and was more intelligent. Often the Oriental is portrayed as being the more advanced species of man because of less body hair.
Modern testing of the races has shown that intelligence is not a measurement of race, because intelligence levels differ greatly with individuals within every race. Further cultural influence and advantages account for most supposed examples of differing intelligence. 5
The next question is "Can race be Biblically defined?" The term race does not appear in the Bible. The Bible refers to differing peoples in terms such as family, tribe, people and nation. It groups people according to familial relationships and then into nationalities. An example of familial relationship is found in Genesis 10, where the genealogies listed are grouped by family and tribe. It should be noted that nowhere are the sons of Noah associated with race or color. An important passage on this matter is found in Genesis 10:5:
- "By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations" (Gen. 10:5).
Note that familial and national division is shown, as well as division by geography and language (tongue). The significance of this will be discussed later in this paper. Nowhere in the Bible is prejudice based on what we determine as race; i.e. color of hair, skin, eyes or physical characteristics. When God commanded the children of Israel to be a separated people or to utterly destroy other peoples, it was always based upon the principle of separation from sin. The same principle of separation is presented in the New Testament when Christians are commanded to come out of the world and not be unequally yoked with the unsaved. (See 2 Cor. 6:14)
In Scripture, there are several references to problems in which people with different racial backgrounds were involved. In each case, the instruction is clear that God made no distinction between races regarding salvation or blessing. In Numbers 12:1-16, Miriam and Aaron openly criticized Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman. However, the issue was not racial, but jealousy over Moses' leadership, and the criticism was over marrying a foreigner, any foreigner, and not because she was an Ethiopian (see Number 12:2). In Acts 13:1 we read of "Simeon that was called Niger" and "Luis of Cyrene". Simeon was also referred to by his Latin name "Niger" ("Niger" translates as "black" in English).
Lucius was from Cyrene (Cyrene was an ancient city in North Africa; ancient Cyrene the modern city of Shahhat, Libya Simeon and Lucius are therefore thought to be black men who had an active place in the church at Antioch. Their names and countries are the only clues given regarding their race. As we see here in Acts 13:1, and in other parts of the Bible, when God spoke of groups of people, it was always in the context of their nationality and not their race. The most notable reference to racial prejudice was the Jews unfavorable feelings for the Samaritans. The Samaritans were racially mixed people that the Assyrian colonists brought in order to settle Palestine, after Israel was taken captive and only a remnant of Jews were left in the land. The Jews who were left in the land inter-married with these non-Jews, which were forbidden in Israel. These groups not only mixed racially, but also merged their religions into a Judaistic cult which the orthodox Jews hated.
The Jews also perverted their special position with God into a false national and ethnic pride that looked down on all Gentiles seeing them as "dogs." They considered themselves as superior to all other peoples, however, their ethnic pride did not come from God but from their sinful hearts. When God called Abraham, as Genesis 12:3 records, he stated that "In thee all the families of earth would be blessed." Genesis 22:18, says that from Abraham's seed ". . .all the nations of earth would be blessed." Both these passages are Messianic references to the coming of Christ, the Savior of the World as Paul explains in Galatians 3:6. God's offer of salvation was to the entire world (see Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 10:1-11:18; I John 2:2).
See the following classic passage in Romans 10:11-13:
- "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:11-13).
God states clearly He is not a respecter of persons, and that includes race or nationality.. "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But inevery nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34-35)
Race, as defined by Webster's Dictionary, is not a Biblical term and nowhere can it be shown that physical characteristics of people are a reason or a guide to distinguish one from another.
SUPPOSED TO INDICATE THE ORIGIN OF RACES.
The Curse on CainOften we hear the mark of "Cain" being related to the black race. To briefly deal with this erroneous idea it should be simply pointed out that the Hebrew word "oth" does not mean "mark" as an outward physical token or mark placed on Cain. Leupold says that the word is better translated "sign."6 Also, the text does not say that God set a mark "in" or "on" Cain and certainly does not even hint at the mark being related to his skin color or physical characteristics. The word used indicates God gave him a sign of guaranty, or an assurance that he would be protected. Ryrie says it was a sign to reassure him of God's gracious protection of his life.7 Furthermore, even if one were to take the position that Cain was given the mark of being black, all of his progeny died in the flood and since Noah's sons were Sethites (Genesis 5) the curse would have ended with the flood, rendering the issue moot.
The Curse on Canaan.One of the great tragedies of this erroneous biblical interpretation has been the interpretation by some of Genesis 9:18-27 bring related to a curse upon the black people. Specifically, some individuals have used the prophecy of Canaan being the "servant of servants" to mean that he would be the slave of Shem and Japheth.
Leupold believes that the curse was on Canaan and did not include Ham's three other sons.8 If this is a correct interpretation, it would be difficult to relate the Negroes of Africa to the descendants of Canaan who settled in the Middle East.
Henry Morris believes the curse was addressed to Canaan, but included all of Ham's progeny as well. He reasons that the prophecy seems to have worldwide implications and that if the curse was limited to Canaan and his descendants then historically the prophecy has not been properly fulfilled. He states that although the prophecy is addressed to Canaan, it was Ham who committed the sin.9 He explains that the servant of servant” phrase does not mean slave of slaves” and in history this has not occurred among Ham's decedents.10
A strong argument against this passage having any racial implications is the fact that Ham's descendants are not all black. Ham's progeny includes the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Ethiopians. Further, Canaanites who settled in the Middle East do not appear to be black. Morris also states that these three streams are not three races which is not what the Bible teaches, nor what modern anthropology and human genetics teach."11
No matter which view is held, the passage cannot be used to support the idea that the Negro or black people originated in the curse or that slavery is justified.
The Tower of Babel.The search for a correct understanding of the varieties of man (races) is found within these passages. To begin, verse one states that all mankind spoke the same language. This is completely contradictory to evolution, which teaches that language evolved from animal sounds to speech, and finally to language. Because there was no language barrier, all men on earth conversed freely with all others. Just think of what that would do toward relieving international tensions today. Men could communicate with each other with full understanding; however, man lost that ability due to his sin.
Such was the situation at the tower of Babel. The people congregated and built a great city which was in direct opposition to God's expressed command to scatter and populate the earth. (Genesis 9:1) Because of their disobedience, God "confounded" their language and scattered them over all the earth (Gen. 11:7-8). The scattering of these groups all over the earth, which created genetic isolation, is the real cause for the origin of modern races of people.
The act of confounding the language of man records that many different languages were created and that each family of people had their own separate language. This division was not based on skin color or physical characteristics, but on familial relationships. Families or tribes of people were given a common language, and they separated from other groups speaking a different language. The passage also says that God scattered them over the entire surface of the world. It is important to realize just what was occurring in this incident. As the people began to group themselves together, based on their common language, they began to migrate in all directions away from Babel. At Babel, they were a homogeneous people, but with God giving them different languages, they separated and in time became heterogeneous.
God did not indiscriminately change the languages among the people, because to do so would have broken up and confounded families. The genealogies in Genesis 10 extend beyond the time of confusion of languages so it would seem that God kept families together by giving them the same language. Furthermore, Genesis 10:5 states that God divided them by language, family and nations.
At this point, it is very important to keep in mind that as these groups of people migrated further from the Middle East they became isolated from other groups. This separation caused isolation from other groups resulted in breeding within a specific smaller number people. Because of isolation, genetics then began to limit the physical characteristics of their offspring as the dominate genes began to emerge.
The geographical direction of differentIn the dispersion, families were grouped together and for the most part, migrated in one general geographical direction. To illustrate, the following is a selected list of names from the genealogies of each of Noah's sons with the general geographical location associated with each, from the historical record.
families in accordance with Genesis 10.
families in accordance with Genesis 10.
- The Descendants of Japheth: The Indo-European of western Asia and of Europe. (Gen. 10:2-4)
- Gomer: Probably the Cimmerians which are mentioned by Homer as the people of the far north (Odys. xl. 14). They are believed to be identical with the Cimmerians of Roman times and the Cymry of Wales.12
Magog: Josephus and Greek writers generally relate them as the Scythians of Southern Europe. Also associated with the Tartars of Russia.13
Madai: Medes who lived in area of Caspian Sea.14
Javan: Comes from the term Ionian which means Greeks.
- Cush: Peoples of central and Southern Arabia.15 &nbshp; The Ethiopians are shown as being inhabitants of both sides of the Red Sea. Furthermore, they had a skin of a different appearance. (Jer. 13:23) Pictures on monuments show that they were a mixed race, some Negro, some Semite and some Caucasian.16 This is a very important fact and will be referred to later.
Mizraim: Refers to areas of upper and lower Nile River of Egypt thus a reference to Egyptians.
Phut: Generally associated with the Egyptians and more specifically Libya.17
Canaan: The area settled by Canaan and his sons was west of the River Jordan. His first born
Sidon (Zidon) name stood for the whole Phoenician coast.18
- Eber: Abraham was the sixth generation of Eber who settled in Mesopotamia in the area of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 11).
Elam: Geographically the region beyond the Tigris River, east of Babylonia. The Elamites became a strong nation and were recognized as sovereign by the Babylonian states.19
Asshur: The Assyrians of the head waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Lud: The Lydians of Asia Minor.
Aram: Aramaeans of Syria and Mesopotamia.
It is important to recognize that from the Bible and from history, specific statements cannot be made that Shem fathered all Orientals, Ham all black people or Japheth all white people. Note that the Ethiopians are represented as being all three colors. This is a good example which shows that Ham produced peoples of varying colors. This point will become more evident when one sees the importance of genetics and how it works.
THE TABLE OF NATIONS FROM GENESIS CHAPTER 10
How genetics work.At this point, three things should be evident. First, race is a term which attempts to define physical characteristics of peoples, and seeks to group them together.
Second, the physical characteristics appear to be closely associated with geographic locations. People who have the same combination of physical characteristics generally come from the same area on earth.
Third, as in the case of Ham being the progenitor of white, black and yellow peoples; the same physical characteristics can appear within any group of people.
The explanation of these seemly confusing conclusions is found in the study of genetics or the physical characteristic generator in man, the "gene."
Webster defines gene as:
In ‘genetics, any of the elements by which hereditary characters are transmitted and determined, regarded as a particular state of organization of the chromatin in the chromosome; factor: theoretically, each mature reproductive cell carries a gene for every inheritable characteristic, and thus an individual resulting from the union of two such cells receives a set of genes from each of its parents.”
- "A gene may be recessive and, in the presence of a dominant gene, it becomes latent, not causing the formation of its trait. In a later generation it may occur, not accompanied by its dominant partner and so produce its characteristic trait.” 20"
When we look around us today and see all the different physical characteristics in people and relate this to Adam, who was the first man. We can see that in Adam, the potential combination of genes was enormous. Francesco Ayala states that:
On the basis of only 6.7% heterosis the average human couple could have ten children before they would have to have one child identical to another! That number is far greater than the number of atoms in the known universe!" 21
An example was my FDS (Field Dog Stud Book) registered Irish Setter "Bryan's Red Sun" (we just called him "Sam"). He was the product of selected breeding over many generations. As a dog breeder, one basic rule, I quickly learned was that to produce an Irish Setter, I had to breed a male and female Irish Setter. This is where the term "pure breed" comes from. In other words, in Sam's historical blood line for several hundred years only dogs of the same family were bred together. No other breed of dog was allowed to "cross breed" into his blood line. The key to producing a particular breed with specific physical characteristic is in isolation from other breeds. The genes which produced the red-colored hair and general physical appearance of the Irish Setter have become dominate by selective breeding, and consistently produce the same characteristics repeatedly in every generation.
Through the example of Sam, we see that isolation of a group of dogs from other groups of dogs produces what could be called "race." Note, however, that even within the "race" or "breed" called Irish Setter, there is still much potential for variation. My Irish Setter was a "field dog" bred for hunting. Although he had similar characteristics as other Irish Setters his appearance showed he was not bred as a "show dog." He was muscular and stocky not like the thinner show dogs. He was bred to be a hunting dog which the physical characteristics for hunting.
Isolation of peoples and genetics.In this paper, we have seen that the decedents of Noah's three sons were generally dispersed over all the earth. Furthermore, the physical characteristics of any of his sons were not exclusive to his progeny. Each could and did produce offspring with different characteristic.
The most important factor in reaching an explanation for the origin of race is the understanding that as the migration from the Middle East proceeded, contact with other groups became less frequent, and in time each group became isolated from all others, and became smaller. Because of this isolation men and women married within their own group and breeding took place within an isolated group and between kin.
An example of how isolation caused particular characteristics in a group of people would be the American Indian. DNA shows that the American Indian originated from oriental peoples who came across the Bering Strait which connected eastern Asia and Alaska. As they migrated south and east, they became isolated from the peoples of Asia. American Indians are considered to be Mongoloid people, but differ from Asian Mongoloids of China and Japan. isolated from their original tribes, caused the American Indian to be somewhat different from other Mongoloids of Asia. Their numbers were small at first and they married among their kin from within his group. The dominant genes of the group surfaced within a few generations and began to produce the general characteristics which are common to the American Indian today.
Some groups moved further south into Mexico and South America, and they, too, became isolated. This isolation caused somewhat differing physical appearances in each group. Thor Heyerdahl, the anthropologist, studied the people of North America and the Pacific islands for years.23 He has shown that the Polynesian people came from North America and migrated (in boats) to the Pacific Islands. The isolation of these people produced the Polynesian peoples.
Without isolation, it is unlikely that "race" would have ever occurred. It is a vital part of understanding how genetics caused the different physical characteristics of isolated groups of people which we call races.
This paper has tried to show that the findings of modern science in genetics have offered a reasonable and logical model, which when combined with Scripture, explains how the races came to be. I have deliberately ignored the evolutionary model of the origin of races in this paper, as my primary purpose was to present a biblical and scientific model. There is no empirical evidence for the hypothesis of evolution and it has never been shown that evolution happened in any degree. Evolution in all aspects, including theistic evolution, is contrary to the Word of God and true science. All of the empirical evidence supports the Creation Model. The lie of evolution has been the source of ethnic genocide since its inception. This false humanistic idea has been at the heart of the decline in morals of the once great United States. At best, evolution's explanation for the origin of race is silly and a child's fairy tale.
The model or explanation or the origin of race as presented in this paper can afford the Christian with a basic understanding of how race came to be. It is easily understood when all the evidence is considered. Racial differences can never honestly be said to be the result of curses placed on people by God, or the nonsensical theories of evolution. Race occurred because of the work of the physical laws of human genetics that Almighty God instituted and race has no spiritual significance.