Bible Versions Racism, and
This article is not intended to start a discussion / or bring up hurt feelings on the Bible issue that has fragmented the Mid-Acts Grace Fellowships, nor is this article attempting to endorse either position but, rather, the article is intended to deal with a specific issue - racism! On this issue there can be no doubt as to what the Word of God teaches. This topic is one I feel very passionate about. I hope and pray that you will carefully consider what is written.
Article by Bill Petri
Everywhere around us we see the results of racism, or the horrors of its continued existence. The thousands of victims in New Orleans bring racism and its effects upon a society to the forefront. Racism is a doctrine that many individuals try to support using the Scriptures.1 Today, I would like for you to study the Scriptures with me as we examine this very important issue. Within Christianity today we see racism becoming more prevalent than ever. Looking at churches throughout Canada, and the United States, we see the members segregated by colour lines. We have black churches, we have Hispanic churches, and we have white churches. We must ask ourselves why? Does the Bible teach such separation? Unfortunately, the answer may surprise you.
Do Modern Bible Versions Teach Racism?
We hear a lot today about the various races of people on this planet. Race is defined as "people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock," and as, "subspecies, race; in biology; a taxonomic division of a species, usually as a consequence of geographical isolation within a species."2
However, with the recent advancements in the human genome project, scientists are coming out with some alarming declarations. This quote from an article by Charles Petit, Chronicle Science writer, "Surely, one may suppose, the American melting pot is brimming with different races and racial mixtures. Wrong, say a broad coalition of experts." "The concept of race is a social and cultural construction... Race simply cannot be tested or proven scientifically," according to a policy statement by the American Anthropological Association. "It is clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. The concept of 'race' had no validity. . .in the human species." The Elder Web.com Newsletter of June 28, 2000, states concerning the human genome project: "Celera Genomics was responsible for the research done in the private sector. Celera CEO and lead researcher J. Craig Ventor states, "the concept of race has no genetic basis." Local newspapers have recently come out with articles showing that all human beings are genetically 99.9% the same. The differences are truly only skin deep. So we see that scientists today are coming around to the view that people should not be classified as belonging to different " races." This idea of races smacks of evolution, and the idea that some races are superior to others was very popular with Darwin and Adolf Hitler.3
All human beings in the world today, are classified as Homo sapiens. Scientists admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans. A scientist at the advancement of Science Convention in Atlanta in 1997 stated, "race is a social construct derived mainly from perceptions conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no biological reality." This person went on to say, "curiously enough the idea comes very close to being of American manufacture.4"
The distinctions are in all honesty only cosmetic. Scientific study is now starting to teach that people should not be recognized as belonging to different races, because no such thing really exists.5 Race is really a doctrine of Charles Darwin. It is a view that was held by such notable men as Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, and the founder of Islam, Mohammed. It is found throughout the pages of such books as "Mein Kampf," "Origin of Species," and the "Koran."
Does the Bible ever speak of people belonging to various races, or even of some races being inferior to others? The answer may surprise you. It really depends on which version is your Bible of choice. The Authorized Version, 6 never verbalizes of mankind being of various races. It speaks of running the race that is set before us, but never uses this word when identifying people. Recent science advancements in genetics, as we have seen, attest the preciseness of the King James on this issue. Unhappily, the same cannot be expressed for many of the more contemporary renderings that continue to make inroads into our churches, homes, and stores. In their efforts to be "modern and up to date" they have actually proven themselves to be foolish and unscientific in regards to this very important issue of race. The NKJV7 uses the word "race" when alluding to people once, the NIV8 twice, and the NAS9 six times. Let's look at these examples and compare them with the King James Version.10 In Ezra 9:2, Israel's peoples sins are recounted. One of the sins enumerated is that they had married with the idolaters of the land of Canaan and had done according to their repugnance:
Ezra 9:2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
The word [zera] here, is clearly "seed," yet the NIV and the NAS say "the holy RACE." Are there unholy races? Are the Israelites a separate race or genetic deviation from the remainder of humanity? If they are, then Darwin was correct. If they are correct we should all become evolutionists. In Romans 9:3 the apostle Paul testifies:
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
The NIV records the verse, "for the sake of my brothers, those of my own RACE." No scholar would ever state Jews were a separate race (except perhaps Hitler and the Nazi scientists of the World War Two era), nor does the Bible state any such idea (including the new translations) - It teaches that we all came from Adam and Eve, and after that from Noah and his family. The following verse is very clear that there is only one race:
Act 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
The passage in James 3:7, "For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of MANKIND" now reads in the NAS as, "been tamed by the human race." In Zechariah 9:6 the KJV11 reads, "And a BASTARD shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines." This Hebrew word 'mamzer' is found only twice in the entire Old Testament. 12
"A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD."13
This word is not obsolete, and means a son, born out of matrimony. The NIV has messed it up by rendering this single word as "one born of a forbidden marriage." So also does the highly touted 2001 English Standard Version, "No one born of a forbidden union." None of these words occur in the Hebrew text, and if the child were born of any kind of a marriage, it would not be a bastard or of illegitimate birth. The word is correctly translated as bastard by the Revised Version of 1881, ASV of 1901, Darby, Young's, Geneva, RSV, Hebrew Names Bible, Webster's 1833, the Hebrew-English translation of 1936, Third Millennium Bible, World English Bible, Lamsa's translation from the Peshitta, the Italian Diodati, and the Spanish as 'bastardo.' When we get to Zechariah 9:6 the KJV phrase, "a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod" has now been replaced in the NIV as, "a foreigner," which is totally wrong, and in the NKJV as "a MIXED RACE." The English Standard Version of 2001 says: "A mixed people" but then has this footnote: Hebrew - a bastard. This is just bad translating, and even worse bad theology.14
This is the theology of Darwin and Hitler. This is the theology of the Ku Klux Klan, and any racist hate group. If there is a mixed race, is there such a thing as a pure race? Hitler thought so. The worst war in history was fought against such ideas. The New English Bible has "a half breed." But the NAS is the worst of all. It actually says "a MONGREL RACE." Mongrel usually refers to dogs of mixed breeds and has a negative connotation, especially when applied to people. This is reputed to be God's word and His outlook. Did God create a mongrel race? Relations among people of different skin colour are difficult enough because of our pride and our fallen nature, without having the "word of God" actually referring to some people as a "mongrel race." Since these "Bible" Versions are the Bibles of choice in ever increasing numbers, it should not surprise us that churches, and Christianity, are becoming more racist and segregated.
Marriage and Race?
Because individuals believe these Bibles to be God's Word about race relations, racism creeps into their thought process. Typically, it is obvious in regards to marriage. They logically conclude from their racist Bibles that interracial marriage is prohibited by God, and they appeal to verses such as
Ezra 9:2. I could answer this by simply stating the obvious fact that none of us is "pure" ethnically, because we all have ancestors from different parts of the world, which makes any arguments against intermarrying seem futile. The Bible, however, is our final authority in all issues, and we must seek out what it has to say about the topic.
Jewish Prohibitions Against Intermarriage
Gen 15:16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
God did not give the Israelites the land of an innocent or inferior people (the Canaanites), but rather of a wicked people whose religious practices were an abomination to God. This verse shows that God delayed the entry of Israel into the land until the magnitude of the Amorites' sin justified their annihilation. The issue in this verse is not one of race, but rather adherence to God's commands.
Exo 34:15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
Exo 34:16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
This passage serves as God's first warning to the Israelites about intermarriage with the peoples of Canaan whose nauseating pagan religious manners were the reason God was giving the land to Israel. Adopting those practices would turn Israel from God, this then was the reason for the prohibition of intermarriage and contact in general (Deuteronomy 7 expands on this as does Exodus 23:31-33). Numbers 25:1-9 records a plague sent from God, which killed 24,000 Israelites as a punishment for sexual relations and idol worship with Moabite and Midianite women, stopped only by the spearing of a brazen couple by Phineas.15
Jdg 3:6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
This passage really is a statement text about the entire book of Judges: the Canaanite people were left behind as a test (Judges 3:4) of the obedience of the Israelites to remain separate or they would be enticed into idolatry and pagan worship.16
1Ki 11:1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;
1Ki 11:2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
1Ki 11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
Neh 13:26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
Neh 13:27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?
The wisest man who ever lived, one of the great kings of Israel, serves as a great example of the result of Intermarriage with pagan women. The subsequent idolatry of the soon to be divided nation of Israel/Judah, which led to their eventual conquest and removal from the land by foreign empires, is directly traceable to disobeying God's commands concerning intermixing with the pagan peoples.
Ezr 9:2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
Ezr 9:10 And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,
Ezr 9:11 Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.
Ezr 9:12 Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and
leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.
The reason for remaining separate from the people is reiterated while post-captivity leaders Ezra and Nehemiah deal with the seemingly unending problem of intermarriage with pagan peoples. God's prohibition against intermarriage with the Canaanite and other peoples of the land was not based on racial but rather the religious and societal practices of those peoples. Using this prohibition to support racial theories of superiority or segregationist policy is bad theology. The prohibitions were not strictly against Jewish-Gentile marriages as racial mixture, but against believer-unbeliever marriages. Ruth and Rahab were Gentile women of faith (and colour), both accepted into the community of believers, and are even mentioned in the genealogical line of Jesus!(Matthew 1:5) We read in Numbers 12:21 that Moses married an Ethiopian woman, resulting in a challange to his leadership by his brother and sister. God forcefully supports Moses with no condemnation of the marriage! In 2 Samuael 3:3 we read of David's wife Macaah who was a Geshurite, an Aramean. In 1 Chronicles 11:26-47 the list of David's mighty men included Zelek the Ammonite, Ithmah the Moabite, and Uriah the Hittite, all non - Israelite peoples. Very clearly the laws of prohibition are to prevent false religious practices from corrupting the people of God. When an individual from any of the foreign peoples embraced the God of Israel, he or she was accepted as an equal member of Israel's community.17
2Ki 17:28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
The Samaritans were actually foreign peoples that Assyria brought in to populate the Nothern Kingdom of Israel (also called Samaria) after the native Israelites had been deported. The mixing of their pagan religious practices with the corrupted Israelite religion, which Jeroboam established at Bethel, led the Israelites to avoid contact with the Samaritans as the new 'Canaanites.' Their racial/ethnic makeup was not the issue.
Joh 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Joh 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
Joh 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus reveals the true nature of the point of hostility between the two groups of people (true verses false worship of God), and the ultimate goal of God to have all, regardless of race or ethnic group, to worship Him together.18
The Greek Manuscripts
Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
After writing that all men (Jew and Gentile in Romans 3:9-10) are equally guilty of sin before God, Paul writes that the issue is faith, and salvation is extended to all who believe. Race is not the issue, but rather belief is the issue with God.
Act 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Act 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Act 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
Act 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Act 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Act 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Act 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
These verses show how the Samaritans, a black Ethiopian and white Roman Gentiles all received the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Ethiopian is a direct refutation of racists' propaganda that declares blacks are somehow inferior.
Real Biblical Intermarriage
If one wants to use the term 'interracial,' then the real 'interracial' marriage that God says we should not enter into is when a child of the Last Adam (one who is a new creation in Christa Christian) marries one who is an unconverted child of the First Adam (one who is dead in trespasses and sina non-Christian). These are the two 'races' of humans that should not intermarry. Examples of such 'mixed marriages' and their negative consequences can be seen in Nehemiah 9 and 10, and Numbers 25. The family is the first and most fundamental of all human institutions. It is the unit that God uses to transmit His Word from one generation to the next. In Malachi 2:15, when the prophet asked the question, 'Why did God make two one?' (alluding to the account of the creation of the first man and womanthe first marriage), the answer was given that God sought a godly seed (godly offspring).19
Mal 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
In other words, it is of paramount significance in marriage to produce godly offspring, who themselves will then produce godly progeny, generation after generation. Satan knows that if this can be discontinued, then the generations to come will not have the knowledge of the Lord.20 One of the best ways to destroy the family and its function of producing godly offspring, is to have godly people marry ungodly mates. It is obvious that Satan has attempted to do this right down through history. The Israelites often disobeyed God's commandments and married those from pagan cultures who then brought their pagan religion into the Israelite culture. This destroyed one of the purposes of the family. From Numbers 31 and 25, we find that Balaam counseled the enemies of Israel on how to destroy God's people. They were to get the Israelite men to marry the women from their pagan culture. Balaam knew that by destroying the godly family, one could ultimately destroy a nation which trusted in God.
Num 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
Num 25:1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
Num 25:2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
Today, just like the Israelites, many Christian young people date and marry non-Christians, thus destroying one of the meanings for the family. Parents need to be diligent in teaching their children the true biblical principles of marriage. Sadly, this is not done in many Christian homes. Instead non-biblical ideas that engender racial prejudice are imposed on these offspring.
Cross - Cultural Problems
Because many people groups have been separated since the Tower of Babel, they have developed many cultural differences. If two people from very different cultures marry, they can have a number of communication problems, even if both are Christians. Expectations regarding relationships with members of the extended family, for example, can also differ. Even people from different English-speaking countries can have communication problems because words may have different meanings. Counselors should go through this in detail, anticipating the problems and giving specific examples. Some marriages have failed because of such cultural differences. However, such problems have nothing to do with genetics or 'race.' And ultimately, if a couple are one spiritually, and believe before the Lord that they should be joined in marriage, there is nothing in the Bible that speaks against this union.
In summation then:
1. There is no biblical justification for claiming that people from different so-called 'races' (best described as 'people groups') should not marry.
2. The biblical basis for marriage makes it clear that a Christian should only marry a Christian.
When Christians legalistically dictate non-biblical ideas such as 'no interracial marriage' on to their culture, they are helping to perpetuate prejudices that have often arisen from evolutionary influences. If we are really honest, in countries like Canada, or the United States, the main reason for Christians being against 'interracial marriage' is, in most instances, really because of skin 'colour.' The church could greatly relieve the tensions over racism if only the leaders would teach that all people are descended from one man and woman, and all people are equal before God. Furthermore, all are sinners in need of salvation; all need to build their thinking on God's Word rightly - divided and judge all their cultural aspects accordingly; all need to be one in Christ, and put an end to their rebellion against their Creator. (to read the lead article in Issue 32 also dealing with racism please click here.)
To order Bill Petri's booklet on racism please click here.
1 See Are You a Gracist, from issue #32 of Beacon of Grace. You can also read this article on our web site www.beaconofgrace.com
2 Funk and Wagnalls Home Dictionary 2nd edition
3 Taken from Modern Versions and Racism, by Will Kinney.
4 Robert Lee Holtz, Race Has No Basis in Biology, Los Angeles Times Article reprinted in the Cincinnati Enquirer, p3, 20 February 1997
5 We're All The Same, American Broadcasting Corporation News,
6 Also known as the King James Version (AV or KJV). These statements are also true of the Universal King James Version (UKJV).
7 New King James Version
8 New International Version
9 New American Standard
10 The attempt of this paper is not to debate the Bible issue, but to state facts as they relate to our topic of racism. When a version of the Bible creates a false doctrine it must be exposed at all costs!
11 King James Version, sometimes called the Authorized Version.
12 Taken from Modern Versions and Racism, by Will Kinney.
18 Ken Ham, Carl Wieland, and Don Batten; One Blood; Answers in Genesis
20 We must realize that having godly parents does not ensure godly children. It does, however, increase the chances of the child having instruction in the Word of God, and since faith comes by hearing the Word (Rom.10:17), the odds of the child becoming a Christian increase significantly.