Race Theory and the Bible

The bible says that all people are one human race, and the nations (ethnic groups) were initially divided by their languages (Genesis 11), rather than being genetically different original creations. Therefore we are all genetically one kind of creature since we are all descendants of Adam. Race theory was created as a justification for colonialism and slavery by Europeans in the 1400s. Our cultural and ethnic differences are social constructs that can be highlighted by but are not exclusively linked to our genetic differences. A child born in one culture can be raised in another culture and take on that language and culture without interference from their genes. Dust/dirt (soil and sand) comes in different colors like red, brown, white, yellow, and black, and the bible says that Adam (as well as the animals) was made from dirt (Gen 2:7-20), and when a person dies their body becomes dirt again (Gen 3:19). Having different colors is a part of the capabilities of the material that we are made of, so God clearly has no problem with diversity since many species of plants and animals have variations. There is no segregation in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul says in Acts 17:26, (NLT) “From one man, he [God] created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries”.

The word nations are translated from the Greek word ethnos (ἔθνος). This means when the bible says” nations” it is talking about ethnicity rather than nation-states. When referring to nation-states it usually translates as “kingdoms”. One can see the distinction in Jesus’ prophecy about the future conflicts in Matt 24:7 when he says “nation against nation”, and “kingdom against kingdom”. Ethnicities exist because people groups who lived in specific regions had their lifestyles and genes shaped by their environment through things like food/nutrients, sun exposure, climate, sexual selection, etc., which are can be physically expressed as unique phenotypical traits through the system of epigenetics. Reproductive Isolation is what causes each group to look unique because they interbred with people that spoke the same language. In other words, according to the bible cultural distinction came before genetic distinction and not the other way around.

These people groups spread out and become isolated to specific regions. When small groups breed they reproduced more people with similar traits and after multiple generations of selective breeding within these groups they ended up with unique traits that were needed for whatever area they lived in. These traits distinguished each group from other groups in other regions with different environmental features. All humans are capable of making healthy offspring with one another, which wouldn’t be possible if we were truly different kinds (genera) of creatures. What appears to be different “races” is just the result of people groups expressing common genes within a group. Humans all have the same genome, and different traits are turned on or off in different people. The idea that we are different races comes from prejudicial classifications like Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, American, and Ethiopian. These classifications came from a German scientist from the 1400s named Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. The race theory idea ended up being used as “confirmation” for those who believed that they were a part of a superior race to “scientifically” justify looking down on people of other “races”. Race theory’s main purpose was to perpetuate stereotypes and continue oppression against non-European ethnic groups around the world.

Darwinism embraces this ideology as well:
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”
– The Descent of Man, 1871 (p.105)

Darwin actually believed it would advance humanity to wipe out all non-Caucasian races. His cousin Francis Galton, who coined the phrase “nature versus nurture”, was a proponent of social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism. The “science” from this ideology reinforced negative stereotypes about minorities and paved the way for the justification of racist social policies like the sterilization and extermination of certain people groups in order to purify the nation (sounds like a certain German dictator we all know).

The seed of the concept can be traced back even further to the ancient Greeks. Aristotle believe that climate and geography affected people’s intellectual capability and value to the world. He said that people from hot climates like the Persians, were intelligent but passively spirited because they came from a hot climate, and people from cold climates in north and western Europe like the Barbarians, were spirited but unintelligent. Then he concluded that the Greeks were the superior group of people in the world because they had the perfect combination of intelligence and will. Alexander the Great was a student of Aristotle and carried this ideology with him when conquering Persia and parts of what is now India. The Romans, who defined what is modern Europe through conquest, had adopted a lot of greek culture and ideas as so it seems reasonable that the seed Aristotle planted grew into the eurocentric race model.

Some Christians have adopted race-based theologies because of these ideas promoted by naturalism. Some believe that Noah’s son Ham (father of African nations) was cursed by God and therefore black people are cursed, but that is not biblical. According to Genesis, God made one first couple (Adam and Eve) and all humans descend from them. (Rom 5:12-17, Acts 17:26) In Genesis 9:25, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan, not Ham himself. God already blessed Noah and his sons (Gen 9:1), so Noah couldn’t curse any of them. No one can curse what God has already blessed, Balaam found this out when trying to curse the Israelites (Num 23:8). Only Canaan (father of the Canaanites), Ham’s oldest son, was cursed. Canaan didn’t even go to Africa, he went to the Levant and founded the land of Canaan, the promised land for the Israelites. The descendants of Canaan’s younger brothers Mizriam (Egypt and Libya), Put (West African nations), and Cush (Ethiopia, and more), mostly went to north Africa (with the exception of Nimrod who founded Babylon) and they were not cursed. In fact, Canaan was cursed to be subjected by his own brothers Mizraim, Put, and Cush (Gen 9:25), as well as, Shem’s and Japhet’s descendants, so the curse was only on Canaan. Therefore, Hamitic theory is not in the bible.

There are others that suggest the “mark of Cain” (Gen 4:8-16) was dark skin and therefore a curse on dark skin people, again that is nonsense. The mark is a unique mark on Cain’s body like a scar or something so it was not genetic. Lamach Cain’s descendant believed he would attain his own mark by murdering other people in Gen 4:19-24, so if it were genetic then why did he try to get it? Some believe that only Europeans came from Adam and other people come from a pre-Adamic race or from humans and ape crossbreeding. There are others who have counter theories like the Nation of Islam’s story of Yaqub (Jacob), written by Wallace Fard Muhammad, which says God made only black and brown people but Jacob (from Genesis) invented white people through genetic experiments. This is based on Jacob’s crossbreeding of Laban’s flocks in Genesis 30 – 31. They further say that later Moses tried to civilize them (white people) on Mt Sinai and failed, so he tried to blow them up with dynamite. This was their explanation of God’s fiery presence on Mt Sinai when Moses received the covenant and ten commandments.

All of this is engineered to dehumanize and justify hatred of other people. It also influences false ideologies that suggest it is a sin to intermarry even though Gentiles don’t have marriage restrictions between each other in the bible. Meanwhile, marriage restrictions on Jews were based on religion more than ethnic background. Tamar, Rahab (both Canaanites), and Ruth (Moabite) all married into the nation of Israel and are in the lineage of Jesus (Matt ch. 1). Ever notice, that Caleb’s father was a Kenizzite (Num 32:12, Joshua 14:14), which means he is a Canaanite (Gen 15:18-21), yet God used him to fight for Israel against the Canaanites. Interracial marriage is not a sin in the bible because the bible doesn’t teach the concept of races. Esther from the book of Esther married the Persian King Xerxes. In Deut 23:3-8 there are restrictions on certain groups like Moabites and Ammonites have to wait for 10 generations to intermarry with Israel because of their temptation with the Midianites and Egypt and Edom have to wait for three generations since they actually did treat Israel well at one point and only sinned against them later with slavery and war. Notice these did not ban marriage outright but made them wait because of certain things these nations did to Israel. Also, this restriction only applied to Gentile men from these nations marrying Jewish women, not the other way around. The Israelites were allowed to take captive women in war (Deut 21:10-14), mainly from non-Canaanite nations (Deut 20:10-18), because Canaanites were off-limits (Deut 7:3). However, there were exemptions made based on religion and spirituality. The Midianites used women to seduce the men of Israel into idolatry (Numbers 25), so even though they were non-Canaanites there inherited the punishment of Canaan and were to be wiped out, but because they were also descendants of Abraham’s son Midian from his 2nd wife (Gen 25:1-4), the virgins were spared because of the Abrahamic blessing on all of his children. The virgins specifically because they had non learned the pagan sex practices of the Midianite women. In the case of marrying Rahab the prostitute from Jericho, she helped the Israel spies escape Jericho and that allowed her to integrate with them because of the Abrahamic blessing from Gen 12:1-3. God told Abraham He will “bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him”. Rahab was a blessing to the Israelites so in return, she received mercy on herself and her family, and she was allowed to intermarry into the nation of Israel. Uriah the Hittite was one of David’s best men (1 Chron 2:41) and he was married to Bathsheba who would later become a widow, then David’s wife, and mother of Solomon (2 Sam ch. 11). So the main thing is they can marry Gentiles as long as those Gentiles become proselytes (converts to Judaism), which is what Uriah, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth had done. Deut 17:17 says that kings should not accumulate too many wives, especially Gentiles because they will turn their hearts to idolatry, which is what happened with Solomon and is why afterward Israel started falling away from God. The exception to this was Xerxes marrying Esther because was a part of God’s larger plan to save the Jews from an extermination plot.

There is only one skin tone pigment (not multiple), that functions like a value slider determining the lightness and darkness of skin based on the amount of melanin in one’s body. This mechanism is influenced by the correlation between the geographic distributions of melanin and ultraviolet exposure. Skin’s reaction to sun exposure is based on vitamin D levels. Limited sun means less Vit D, so people in climates with less sun need less melanin to get more Vit D, but those exposed to more sun need more melanin to protect them from overexposure. Here are some other examples of how the environment influenced epigenetics in natural selection. The average height can be affected by climates because of the square-cube law and thermodynamics. Tall people lose body heat more easily while shorter people retain it. Nose shape is influenced by how climate and temperature can affect the respiratory system. Narrow noses can warm the air as it comes in because of the decrease in the volume of the nostril compared to wider noses. Warming the air allows it to condense and moisturize the nostril, this helps prevent dry nostrils and means less runny noses in the winter, meanwhile, wide noses have to produce more mucus. This is influenced by the mechanics demonstrated in Charles’ law which shows a correlation between temperature, and pressure.

A more specific example, people that live near the poles, like the Inuit, have mostly meat diets because their climate isn’t suited for farming. They have larger livers and bladders that allow them to process eating meat only by converting the protein to energy without carbs (gluconeogenesis). Plus they get extra vitamins from eating raw fish and organ meat. Meanwhile, most other people would get protein poisoning or scurvy. Nevertheless, they are still human and can breed with other people. Environmental determines what nutrients the bodies get, and the body responds by expressing specific genes to maximize health in those conditions. Humans like all other creatures are simply made to be adaptive, are differents are the result of separate origins.

Epigenetics works like this, every cell in our bodies no matter what kind has the same DNA. However, different types of cells (like eye vs liver cells) are different because certain coding tags that are switched off in one type of cell are one in another. Natural selection happens primarily through a mechanism that uses genes that were already embedded in the DNA that are switched on or off via epigenetic tags. This process can include but is not explicitly done through random arrangements or additions of new genetic material which mainly results in errors. Epigenetics is the software changing parameters but the hardware “the genome” doesn’t change much except by minor mutations (failures) or transduction from viruses. Ethnicity in simplest terms is defined by regional, ancestral and cultural heritage. Skin tones vary within each ethnic group, with African and Asiatic people having the largest range of skin tones because they have the least amount of reproductive isolation. Meanwhile, Europeans have mostly recessive traits like blonde/ginger hair, and eye color variations, because they have high reproductive isolation. The old narrative of separate distinct human races doesn’t match the findings of the human genome project, which shows that we are all the same species despite favoring specific trait expression in different regions because of reproductive isolation.

The division at Babel by languages in Genesis 11 is when God separated the nations supernaturally. However, the reverse of that is Acts 2 when the holy spirit came. This was when multiple groups of Jews from different countries who spoke different languages heard the gospel supernaturally all at once from local Judanes who spoke in tongues by the spirit. The Messianic Kingdom of God is supposed to reunify God’s people into one multiethnic family.

We had nothing to do with selecting who our parents and ancestors were or how our genetics shape us, so taking pride in it doesn’t make much sense. We can’t take pride in something that we didn’t create, only God can take pride in our biological traits because he made reality and designed each one of us in our mother’s wombs (Jer 1:5). Our blood and skin only represent the ancestry of sexually selected individuals we are born into, but that shouldn’t supersede the new creation that we became when we were born again (John 3:1-8). We can celebrate our individual cultural and family heritage, but we should aim to reshape and redefine them with the culture of the kingdom of God, which becomes a part of us when we receive God’s spirit and become his children. Pride is the foundation of racism, ethnicism, tribalism, and nationalism and the issue with pride is that it prevents repentance. As a follower of Christ the focus should be on being citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21), and ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). For believers, as children of God, neither our ethnicity, sex, nor anything else has made us right with God and gave us the power to overcome sin. We can fight racism, sexism, and bigotry by calling them out and judging the actions and ideologies behind them, without submitting to and idolizing an identity in the appearance of our flesh. When we walk in the spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16). Sowing into the flesh reaps corruption but sowing into the spirit reaps eternal life (Gal 6:7-8). We are not our bodies, we simply possess our bodies, and when we die we lose them, but at the resurrection, we will gain new eternal ones (for believers).

More on Aristotle’s ethnic theories in the book Race:
A History Beyond Black and White, by Marc Aronson
A biblical look at races
Correlation between ultraviolet radiation and skin tone
Race and the Bible
Inuits and Eating Meat only

About Epigenetics:
Article – What is Epigenetics