Where Did the Concept of Race Come from?
Race is such a hot topic in the USA and several other countries today. Where did the concept of race come from? Some think that the worldview of three races: white, yellow, and black stems from passages in the book of Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible. But is that true?
Here are two vital facts:
Fact 1. The English translations of the Bible only use the word race four times, and when they do the subject is running. Two such occurrences are in the Old Testament (Psalm 19:5 and Ecclesiastes 9:11); the other two are in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 9:24 and Hebrews 12:1).
Fact 2. Definition: According to Britannica, “Race, the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences. Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races, and scholars now argue that “races” are cultural interventions reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century.”
Thus, our modern worldview of the subject of race is derived not from the Bible or truth or science but from colonial ideologies!
Author Paul Harvey wrote in his book Christianity and Race in the American South, “White southern theologians also ornamented increasingly baroque exegeses of how slavery arose from God’s curse on the Negro as a race. Passages from the Old Testament, especially Genesis 9:18-27… provided a start at a religiomythical grounding for modern racial meanings.” Harvey, explaining that the story about Noah’s prophetic announcement about the future of his sons is found in both the Bible and Koran, goes on to say, “It was revived as a mode of biblical interpretation during the modern age of exploration, from the sixteenth century forward.”
We should be shocked by this quote. When America practiced slavery, preachers in Southern churches from their pulpits justified the practice by misquoting the Bible. Genesis 9 does not say anything about “the Negro race” let alone that God cursed them. (In a future Blog, we will investigate exactly who was cursed in Genesis 9.) This indoctrination from pulpits catering to slave owners has survived the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. To our national disgrace, it continues to form the basis of ideological thought about race today.
The truth about Noah’s descendants in Genesis is found in Genesis 10:32, which says: These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood. The Bible explains the division of humans into nations. The New Testament passage on this subject is found in Acts 17:26, which says about God, From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth. This biblical truth is supported by genetic science.
So we see that the Bible did not originate the concept of race, but that the concept originated in 15th Century Europe as part of its colonial aspirations, and it was seized by American preachers to justify the enslavement of Africans.
Questions: What is gained by dividing humanity by races today? Why even use this divisive word?