Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation

By Cain Hope Felder | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Race, Racism, and the
Biblical Narratives

Cain Hope Felder

The aim of this chapter is to discuss the questions of race and ethnic identity in the diverse biblical narratives. I hope to clarify, for modern readers, the profound differences in racial attitudes between those in the biblical world and in the subsequent history of Eurocentric interpretation. In antiquity, we do not have any elaborate definitions of or theories about race. This means that we must reckon with certain methodological problems in attempting to examine racial motifs as contained in the Bible. Ancient authors of biblical texts did have a color consciousness (awareness of certain physiological differences), but this consciousness of color/race, as we shall show, was by no means a political or ideological basis for enslaving, oppressing, or in any way demeaning other peoples.1 In fact, the Bible contains no narratives in which the original intent was to negate the full humanity of black people or view blacks in an unfavorable way.2 Such negative attitudes about black people are entirely postbiblical. In this regard, the following observation by Cornel West is most instructive:

1. See Frank Snowden, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1983), 14–17, 43–46; and Nicholas F. Gier, “The Color of
Sin/The Color of Skin: Ancient Color Blindness and the Philosophical Origins of Modern
Racism,” Journal of Religious Thought 46, no. 1 (Summer-Fall 1989): 42–52.

2. See Charles B. Copher, “3,000 Years of Biblical Interpretation with Reference to
Black Peoples,” The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center 30, no. 2 (Spring
1986): 225–46; see also his “The Black Presence in the Old Testament,” included as chapter
7 in this volume.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 265

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?