Does the Bible Forbid Miscegenation?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

My Baptist friend says the Bible states that we shouldn't mix the races &#0151 non-whites marrying whites, etc. I didn't know what to say so I just kept quiet. I'd like to find it in the Bible or at least have a good way of answering her if she is mistaken. Would you please help me?


Eve Tackaberry

Falls Church, VA

Dear Eve:

Whew! I didn't know they still made Baptists like that. Your friend is espousing a theology that was coined to defend the American institution of chattel slavery of blacks and to prevent what the 19th Century called “miscegenation” or “mixing of the races” (which would have dangerously humanized a population which a slaveholding culture wished to regard as pack animals). It typically looked at passages like Genesis 9:25-26: “Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”

The claim here was that this somehow applied to African slaves in the US (even though, in the original context, it clearly applied to the inhabitants of the land of Canaan).

Other texts which are used to justify racism tend to run to the various passages in the Old Testament which forbid Jews to marry outside the covenant people and, particularly, to marry the inhabitants of Canaan. What is typically overlooked is the reason for those prohibitions: Namely, the need for the covenant people not to allow their faith in Yahweh to be adulterated with allegiance to Canaanite cults of Baal, Ashtoreth, and so forth. And, supremely, what is overlooked is that these prohibitions were temporary, so that the nation could be preserved till the coming of the Messiah.

In short, this appeal to Scripture to justify racism overlooks the fact that we are not ancient Israelites. We are baptized Christians who have been clearly told that “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11). Race is no necessary impediment (though, of course, that does not mean that a mixed-race marriage is thereby guaranteed to be a success simply by virtue of being a mixed-race marriage). Many factors (different cultural expectations, prejudice from relatives and friends, language, etc.) can pose a challenge for mixed-race marriages.

But it is simply false to claim that the Bible “forbids” “mixing the races.” The Bible teaches that there is only one race: the human race. The Bible never speaks of the “white race,” and with good reason: none of its authors were what a modern Baptist American would call “white.”

But even if they had all been blue-eyed blondes, it would still not matter. For the really important distinction is not between the races, it is between those who share in the life of Christ and those who do not. And even then, the Church does not forbid marriage, though she counsels against it.

Mark Shea

Senior Content Editor

Catholic Exchange

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  • Old Testament is very clear about Mixing seed.  It is forbidden. Period.

  • Alex Gordon

    To be fair “Tribalsupermasn101”, that is what the worlkd thinks of Americans, period.

  • Alex Gordon

    It also forbids the eating of shellfish, period. Go easy on the shrimp big fella…

  • Don Damien Orbea

    The Old Testament is full of promises and all relate to the MESSIAH AND GOD’S will. If we were still under OT, the New Testament would be unnecessary. we are under grace not the law-your flat declaration makes the cross of JESUS void-HIS life fulfilled the law – we are all fallen-HIS life, death and resurrection is GOD’s perfect redemptive plan for all who believe by FAITH-do you not understand this? As such, there are NO distinctions among men- Colossians 3:11 search your heart an you will see the truth .I pray for us all

  • Don Damien Orbea

    I once thought as you do-ad hominem ad ignoratium-JESUS delivered me. “I once thought as a child, spoke as a child, and acted a child. When I came to JESUS, I became a man and put away childish things 1 Corinthian 13:11