Question: Do the scriptures promote racism?

FairMormon Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: Do the scriptures promote racism?

First Gabon Baptisms, photo by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

No, the scriptures contain explicit condemnation of disparaging those who are foreign.

Some have questioned if the scriptures sanction racism whether implicitly or explicitly. The scriptures contain specific language affirming the equality of all people before God. Just a small sampling:

  • Genesis 1:26-27 – Man is made in the image of God.
  • Exodus 22:21 – foreigners are to be given respect in Israel
  • Leviticus 19:33-34 – Foreigners are not to be vexed while sojourning in Israel.
  • Leviticus 25:39-42 – If foreigners are poor, they are to be hired with contracted, paid labor. Not slave labor.
  • Deuteronomy 24:7 – If someone kidnaps another to sell them into slavery, the thief was given capital punishment.
  • The Book of Ruth – Ruth, a Moabitess (Moabites receiving a restriction from entering the congregation of the Israelites) was permitted to enter the congregation and was even given the opportunity to canonize her writings that had the object of opposing the restriction of intermarrying with the Moabites.
  • 2 Chronicles 19:6-7 – The Lord is not a respector of persons.
  • Mark 12:31 – Love thy neighbor as thyself
  • Philippians 2:3-4 – let everyone esteem each other better than themselves.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:14 – A look towards Equality
  • 1 John 4: 19-21 – If a man says he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar.
  • Romans 1:16 – Both Jew and Gentile receive Gospel.
  • Romans 10:12-13 – No difference between Jew and Gentile
  • Mark 16:15 – The gospel should be preached to every creature.
  • Acts 17:26 – God hath made one blood of all nations.
  • 1 John 3:15-16 – Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.
  • John 7:24 – Judge not according to appearance.
  • Colossians 3:25 – there is no respect of persons.
  • Acts 10: 34-36 – God is no respector of persons.
  • 2 Nephi 26:29 – all are alike unto God.

The Challenging Texts

Interracial Marriage

The majority of the texts of the Bible for which racism is claimed have to do with interracial marriage. All passages that do have to do with marriage are not distinguishing based on race but rather the worship of other Gods. All idolatry and worshipping of other Gods in the Old Testament was strictly forbidden to all Israelites on the penalty of death (Exodus 20:5 22:20). This is the focus of every passage dealing with intermarriage.

  • Deuteronomy 7 (The Canaanites)

The text of Deuteronomy 7 consists of the Lord’s preliminary commands to Israel for the conquest of Canaan. Verse 3 states that

3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

As stated before, this had to do with idolatry and the worshipping of other Gods. The very next verse states:

4 For they will turn away they son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
  • Numbers 25 (Intermarriage with the Moabites)

Numbers 25 is another example of the discouragement of intermarriage based upon the fear of worship of other Gods. The chapter begins by indicating that Israel began to commit whoredoms with the daughters of Moab and that the Moabites seduced Israelite men into orgiastic adultery and worship of Baal (this becomes crucial to the Lord’s decision in Numbers 31 to kill them). God then commands that the heads of the Israelites to be arrested and executed (likely my impalement), and hung up to show the severe punishment brought for this idolatry. Moses issues another command: to kill any idolaters. Because the wrath of God is not turned away by following God’s command to execute a few, a plague follows (see 25:8-9; cf. 25:18; 31:8-16). The second story follows the beginning of this plague. Zimri, an Israelite man, marries Cozbi, a “Midianitish woman” (“Midianitish is translated simply as “Midianite” in the NIV, NET, and NRSV). Phinehas, an Israelite man, slays Zimri and Cozbi with a spear (translated as “javelin” in the KJV). The plague is turned away but it is recorded that roughly 24,000 had died. The Lord declares he (Phinehas) “hath turned my wrath away from the Children of Israel…” He then rewards him with a “covenant of peace” interpreted as a covenant of “everlasting priesthood.” By turning away the idolatry and harlotry away from Israel, God was pleased.

  • Nehemiah 13: 1-3, 23-30

Nehemiah contains prohibitions against Moabites and Ammonites from entering the congregation of the Lord. Both Deuteronomy and Nehemiah state that this prohibition is “forever.” Deuteronomy is the first to mention the prohibition against Moabites and Ammonites. Genesis 12:3 implies judgement on those who do wrong against Israel. Deuteronomy gives the actual rationale for the prohibition in 23:4

4 Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, and because they hired against thee Mesopotamia, to curse thee.

5 Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD they God loved thee.

The prohibition was not because Israel was racist. Rather, it was that Israel had to have the Moabites and/or Ammonites accept Yahweh and be genuine worshippers of him.[1] For instance, as has been noted elsewhere "[s]ome scholars believe that the book of Ruth was written (or, at least, finalized) during or just after [the fifth-fourth centuries before Christ." Ruth the Moabitess was allowed into the congregation and allowed to canonize her "protest or caution against overemphasis on racial purity. Ruth, a Moabite woman — the Moabites were despised neighbors of Israel — converts to the religion of the Israelites, marries into Israel, and becomes the ancestor of the royal house of David and, thereby, of the Messiah himself."[2]

The Jews as a “Chosen People”

Some have seen the Jews as being a “chosen people” as a type of ethnocentrism and racism. This is an interesting accusation considering they were trying to preserve the covenant that eventually blessed “all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3; 28:14). This also disregards passages that provide explicit injunctions for the inclusion of foreigners among the Israelites such as has been listed above.

The Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman

Some have criticized the Savior for being a “racist” for the encounters with the Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman of Matthew 15 and Mark 7. This has been addressed thoroughly by author Ian Paul.[3]


Some have criticized certain passages of scripture that are claimed to promote anti-semitism. These passages include Matthew 23:31-35; 1st Thessalonians 2:14-16; Acts 2:22-36; 3:15; 10:39; John 8:44; Titus 1:10-11; Titus 15-16; and 2 Nephi 10:3. These passages have been used by Christians in the past to justify prejudiced sentiments and actions towards Jews. That cannot be disputed. What can be disputed is that there's is the only way to understand them. One way to interpret these passages is that they all relate specifically to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Readers have and should always normally separate the larger group of people from the people and specific actions they take. The Book of Mormon is actually one of the best guides in this regard as has been demonstrated by author Bradley J. Kramer.[4]

Regarding 2 Nephi 10:3-5 specifically, Kramer insightfully observes:

[D]uring the rare times when the prophets in the Book of Mormon do attempt to identify Jesus' killers, they do so sing vague terms such as "the world" or "wicked men" (1 Nephi 19:7-10), or they employ phrases that while they may appear at first to indict all Jews everywhere actually absolve the vast majority of Jews of any involvement in Jesus's [sic] death. Jacob's "they at Jerusalem" (2 Nephi 10:5), for example, may seem to some readers unfamiliar with Jewish history to prophesy that the Jews in general will crucify Jesus. These readers link this phrase with "the Jews" in verse 3 and see it as both affirming and intensifying Jewish culpability. To them, the statement that "there is none other nation on earth that would crucify God" seems to damn all Jews everywhere. However, only a relatively small percentage of the world's Jews in the first century lived in Jerusalem and the area around it. During the time of Jesus, most Jews were still residing in Babylon or were scattered throughout the eastern Mediterranean, in cities such as Alexandria, Antioch, and Ephesus. These "diaspora" Jews were the descendants of the vast number of Jews who did not return to their ancient homeland after the Persians defeated the Babylonians and instead took advantage of the new opportunities afforded them by their conquerors to spread themselves throughout the region. Indeed, David Klinghoffer, a Jewish historian and essayist, estimates that during Jesus's time there were about a million Jews living in "Jewish Palestine" while five million Jews were dispersed around the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East.[6] Other scholars, such as Samuel Sandmel, think that this 5 to 1 ratio could have been even higher, possibly even 10 to 1.[7] And Jerusalem was only one city in this "Jewish Palestine." As a result, "they at Jerusalem" instead of prophetically spreading the responsibility of Jesus's death to all Jews everywhere actually limits it to a smalls segment of the overall Jewish population...

But were all Jews living in the 1st century Jerusalem responsible for Jesus's death? Not according to the Book of Mormon. Just as the subject of 2 Nephi 10:5 prophetically reduces the number of Jews who will be involved in Jesus's death to a small fraction of the Jews living during the first third of the first century CE, its predicate softens what that involvement will be. Here, "they shall crucify him" of verse 3 becomes "they...will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified." In other words, not only will a small number of Jews contribute to Jesus's death sometime in the future but their contribution will also be small--possibly consisting only of an unwillingness to speak up against it or a reluctance to challenge publicly those pushing it. Furthermore, as the introductory phrase of 2 Nephi 10:5 points out, whatever these people will (or will not) do will occur not because of an informed, deep-seated, conscious conviction but "because of priestcrafts and iniquities." In other words, many of these first-century Jerusalemites will be manipulated, psychologically or physically, by corrupt priests and leaders. Consequently, it is these Jewish priests and leaders who bear most of the non-Roman responsibility for Jesus's death, not the general Jewish populace.

[. . .]

In this way, by analogy, the Book of Mormon renders a verdict as to who was responsible for Jesus's death. Ruling decision-makers, mostly Roman, are clearly guilty, as are to some degree their advisors, those who pressed for his death. However, the general population of Jerusalem was not. And neither were the vast majority of Jews who lived outside of Jerusalem. Some Jewish leaders at that time were most likely involved in Jesus's death in some way or other and therefore bear some guilt, but given the methods used to execute him, even they cannot, strictly speaking, be called Christ-killers. Since only Romans crucified people, that term can only be applied to Romans--not to Jews then and certainly not now.[5]

One may be able to hedge on Kramer's interpretation of Jacob 10:3-5. For example:

  • "Priestcrafts" could refer to Jewish leaders but it could also be referred to generally as those that set themselves up as a "'light unto the world,' in order to 'get gain and praise' without concern for the welfare of [God's people] (2 Nephi 26:29; cf. Alma 1:16; 3 Nephi 18:24)."[6]
  • "Iniquities" is ambiguous since it could refer to the priests, Roman leaders, the general populace, a small subsection of the general populace, or some other combination of them. Whose iniquities are we referring to? The question remains unanswerable.
  • The references to "nation" and "they at Jerusalem" could refer to 1st century AD Jerusalem but could also refer to 7th century BC Jerusalem with no diaspora Jews--thus the entire race of Jews could be condemned. Under this line of logic, the Lehites would have felt prejudice towards those at Jerusalem who chased them out of their land and thus Jacob here would be issuing a polemic against them. The Jews are those most guilty for being complict, orchestrating, and/or facilitating in any other way the death of Jesus. If one adopts this interpretation, then the only possible apologetic response would be to suggest that this is a hyperbolic yet mistaken indictment. This wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility for Latter-day Saints since The Book of Mormon states that some mistakes may be present in the record. Are we really to going to claim that no other nation would crucify Jesus?

All this said, Kramer's argument still works within the syntactical structure of the verses as a fully-viable interpretive possibility--demonstrating that some measured skepticism should be had towards those that would seek to make these verses have only one possible interpretation: the most negative one possible.

”Dark mark” on Lamanites and the racist perception of the Nephites?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #57: What Does it Mean to be a White and Delightsome People? (Video)

Some have claimed that the “Dark mark” on the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:21) is the result of a type of racism that the Nephites practiced against blacks. However, this almost certainly did not involve a literal skin change as has been convincingly argued by Brant Gardner. See this article for that argument. See also Book of Mormon Central's KnoWhy on the topic linked to the right.

Gardner gives this context to Nephite "racism":

Racism in the Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon is, in fact, racist, although not at all in the usual sense of the term.[7] It represents a particular culture with a distinctive worldview. Even though it was written for a future audience, it was written in a time and manner that reflected the social constructions of the authors, not those of modern readers. This referential gulf between intent and interpretation explains our tendency to read “skin of blackness” with modern racial overtones. The ancient world was actually quite prejudiced but did not necessarily base such prejudices upon skin color. Their prejudices ran deeper and broader, as Malina and Neyrey explain: “In their assessment of their fellow human beings, elite ancients utilized a set of fixed categories, each with a limited range of descriptive, distinct features. . . . It is important to note that these categories were regularly presented. Invariably, the usual way of thinking was in terms of A/not-A, either/or, for/against, true/false, in/out, heaven/earth—with no middle term. This so-called principle of excluded middle was the prevailing logic.”[8]

Each ancient culture usually saw itself as the center of the universe—the norm, the standard, the “good.” Using the logic of the excluded middle, “others” must be bad. This is the origin of the term “barbarian,” which the Greeks frequently used as a generic term for anyone who was not Greek and who was, therefore, inferior.[9] Israelites also shared this widespread prejudice against “others,” as Malina and Neyrey point out: “First-century members of the house of Israel felt concerning all other peoples the way the Greeks felt about barbarians.”[10]

This cultural background contrasts the ancient collectivist personality with the modern individualist personality. Modern society prefers to see differences as individualized and therefore prejudicial when applied to a group. In contrast, ancient society saw reality as communally related. The group was the meaning, and individuals who did not conform were considered deviant. According to this model, the Book of Mormon would predictably follow a model of a collective, excluded-middle, conception of others as “bad,” opposed to themselves as “good.” If it did not, it would not accurately represent the culture that produced it. The Book of Mormon is indeed prejudiced against the Lamanites. However, that prejudice always arises along the insider/outsider boundary, not the white/dark boundary. Descriptions of Lamanites repeat the same stock phrases over time:

1. (ca. 587 BC, written ca. 540–550 BC) 1 Nephi 12:23: And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.

2. (ca. 575 BC, written ca. 540–550 BC) 2 Nephi 5:24: “And because of their cursing . . . they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.”

3. (ca. 350–360 BC) Enos 1:20: “The Lamanites . . . were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.

4. (ca. 120 BC) Mosiah 10:12: They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers. . . .

5. (ca. 82 BC) Alma 17:13–14: And it came to pass when they had arrived in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, that they separated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken. And assuredly it was great, for they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.

6. (ca. 49 BC) Helaman 3:16: And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression and have been murdered, plundered, and hunted, and driven forth, and slain, and scattered upon the face of the earth, and mixed with the Lamanites until they are no more called the Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites.

7. (ca. AD 372) Mormon 5:15: And also that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles; for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry.

Each quotation describes “how the Lamanites are.” While there is at least a possibility that the description was true when Nephi began this traditional stereotyping of the Lamanites, it was untrue by the time of Enos if not earlier. It is conclusively untrue in Alma where the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies discusses the many cities of the Lamanites (Alma 23:9–15). Furthermore, these descriptions of the Lamanites as the opposite of the Nephites vanish as soon as the Lamanites cross the outsider/insider boundary. Once they are Nephites, they are fully and wholly Nephites, incorporating all of the “good” qualities of Nephites. Separation occurs with the label “Lamanite,” not because of skin color.

Note how Jacob uses the “filthy” label that accompanies “dark” in 1 Nephi 12:23 Mormon 5:15: “But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction” (Jacob 3:3). In normal reference, the Lamanites are “dark” and “filthy.” However, that “filthiness” is obviously a moral quality. At the point Jacob addresses his people, he applies this outsider label to them directly to highlight their adoption of outsider practices. (See commentary accompanying Jacob 3:3.)[11]

Darkness on the Canaanites (Moses 7)

Moses 7 is part of a vision of the prophet Enoch. Verses 8 and 22 have caused some concern for some. The texts state:

8 For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much hear, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever, and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.
22 And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.

The biggest problem with this is that the “blackness” did not mean to ancient people what it means to us today. Thus the book's mention of "blackness" should, like 2 Nephi 5, be interpreted with caution.

Again from Brant Gardner:

The tree’s whiteness symbolizes righteousness or heavenliness. It is not intended to be a physical description. Similarly, I conclude that the association between skin and white/black is metaphoric, not intended to indicate pigmentation. Douglas Campbell, a professor of computer science at Brigham Young University, examined the textual uses of “white” in the Book of Mormon and concludes that the term is used metaphorically for purity and/or cleanliness.20 The metaphorical use of color terms echoes that of the Bible. Lamentations 4:7–8 (Revised English Version), ascribes metaphorical color to capture the before/after conditions of the Babylonian captivity:

Her crowned princes were once purer than snow, whiter than milk; they were ruddier than branching coral; their limbs were lapis lazuli.

But their faces turned blacker than soot, and no one knew them in the streets; the skin was shriveled tight over their bones, dry as touchwood.

Obviously no pigmentation change occurred as the “white” faces of the princes became “blacker than soot.” Here are two other examples:

Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. (Joel 2:6)

She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness. (Nahum 2:10)[12]

That race that was cursed according to the Priesthood (Abraham 1:24-27)

Some have held that the Book of Abraham preserves doctrines of the African race being cursed by God relevant to the priesthood. Hugh Nibley has pointed out a number of problems with this exegesis:

The Mark of Cain

When Cain was cursed because of his sin he went to the land of Nod (Genesis 4:16)—meaning nomadism or wandering; he and his descendants became wanderers on the face of the earth. The parallel with the Lamanites at once springs to mind. Lamanite darkness was ethnic in the broadest sense, being both hereditary and cultural, shifting between “white and delightsome” and “dark and loathsome,” along with manners and customs as well as intermarriage (Alma 3:4—10). But inseparable from the cultural heritage of ancient tribes were the markings that members of the society put on themselves, without which they would be considered outcasts. People who marked their foreheads with red after the Lamanite custom “knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads,” thus showing that the Lamanite curse had fallen on them (Alma 3:18). It was the same with the descendants of Cain. Since time immemorial they have been identified throughout the East with those wandering tribes of metalworkers whose father was Tubal Cain. “Thubal bore the sins of Cain,” says a midrash, “and followed Cain’s trade. For he prepared weapons for murderers,”[13]a tradition clearly echoed in the Book of Mormon (Ether 8:15). Tubal is the Sumerian tibera, coppersmith or metalworker.[14] As the sign of their mystery and their tribe, the wandering smiths or tinkers have always blackened their faces with soot, a practice still found among journeying sweeps and some others who work at the grimy forge.[15] The name by which they were known was Qenites[16] (cf. Aramaic qēnā = smith). The ancient people of Tubal were also connected with Nukhashshe, a name that designated those parts of Asia Minor and Syria where mining and metallurgy are believed to have originated;[17]the same word is the common Semitic root for copper and its alloys, and it is the Egyptian name for the Ethiopians, usually translated as “the Blacks,” nḥsy. According to their own report and universal folklore, these traveling menders of pots and pans must keep traveling because they are under a curse. “They are the Gypsies,” says a very old Judaeo-Christian writing, “who carry loads, and they march on the roads with their backs and necks breaking under their loads, and they wander round to the doors of the children of their brethren.”[18]They beguile their outcast condition with wild music and dancing, and they are the Cainites of old who enticed the righteous Sethians, called “the Children of God,” to join in their revels and so fall from grace in the days of Jared.[19] Their special mark is not the blackened face and hands, however, but a tattoo on the hand or arm, a Tau-sign or a circle and cross. In Genesis it is the brand of Cain, ancestor of the Kenites, and in Ezekiel it is the divine mark set on the brows of all just men.[20] According to a midrash, God placed a letter of the alphabet on Cain’s hand as a mark, so that no one would slay him,[21] and some of the Jewish doctors maintained that “the ‘Sign of Cain’ was the mark on David’s brow.”[22] Certain it is that “the mark of Cain” goes along with a cursing, a wandering way of life, and a distinctive mark on the body.

No Prejudice

Black persons occasionally turn up in reception scenes such as our Facsimile 3, for example, in the tombs of the Courtiers, of the Engravers, or Setnakht, of Tauser, of Ramses IX, etc., where they represent persons of honor from servants to the gods themselves, for Isis, Osiris, and Horus are all shown at times with black faces. When we see the black man Bak-en-Mut in his own funeral papyrus standing before a black Osiris seated upon the throne, the blackness is no mere whim of the artist, but is meant to be taken seriously, since the black Osiris is wearing not the usual Atef crown, as in countless other such scenes, but only the white crown of the South.[23]In other papyri showing the same scene, the black Osiris is always wearing that white crown alone, making the black connection a positive one.[24] In the drawings and texts, which are numerous, the proportion of black to white seems to follow no pattern but that of a society in which the races mingle freely and equally. If Senusret III has contempt for his black enemies, the great pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty speak with no less contempt of their Asiatic foes.[25] Even among the Egyptian slave population the blacks are far outnumbered by the Asiatics, and no distinction is made between them in the record.[26] The stock representations by the Egyptians of “the four races” (Egyptian, Asiatic, Black, European-Berber) have, according to Brugsch, “completely lost . . . any special significance” by the New Kingdom. “The old names still appear on the monuments, but rarely and without the slightest indication of race distinction.”[27] We are fortunate in possessing an impressive gallery of royal portraits, to say nothing of an even more impressive line of royal mummies, male and female, dating from the earliest dynasties right down to the end. Among them are a few black African types, showing that if black did not prevent one from becoming pharaoh, neither was it a requirement.[28] There was simply no prejudice in the matter. There is a tradition that the most precious gift of Pharaoh to Abraham was a black servant from the king’s household, who became inseparably attached to Abraham, and even resembled him like a twin.[29] This recalls Abraham’s marriage to Hagar, traditionally a servant or even a daughter of Pharaoh, whose son Ishmael shared equal honors with Isaac, even to receiving the great promise of becoming the father of many nations. When Judah’s son refused to accept a Canaanite woman for his wife because of her race, according to the book of Jubilees, God smote him. When Judah himself tried to take advantage of the same woman as an inferior, God smote him too.[30]

In the ancient records the blood of Ham is a mixture, always containing more white than black. The mingling of Egyptian and Canaanite is attested in a number of ancient sources,[31] as in Abraham 1:21. Josephus tells us that the countries occupied by Ham stretched “from Syria and Mounts Amanus and Lebanon to the ocean.”[32] And while Ham is the ancestor of Pharaoh in Genesis 10:6—20, the line also includes the Philistines, from whom Palestine gets its name.[33]Recent studies of the genealogy of Cain by Johannes Gabriel[34]and Robert North[35] emphasize the claims of such desert tribes as the Kenites and the families of Kenaz and Caleb to belong to the family. Though the Hamites are as conspicuously Asiatic as African,[36] the oldest African stocks as well—Libyans, Tehennu, Berber—were not only white, but often referred to as pale-skinned and red-headed. Joseph Karst detected an extension of “the chain of Hamite people: Kushites, Egyptoids and Libyo-Hamites,” in enclaves all over the Mediterranean and the islands clear to Spain.[37] Linguistic evidence intertwines Hamites and Semites the further back in time one goes, their vigorous rivalry being evidenced in the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics, as shown by Hans Stock.[38] Werner Vycichl finds Semitic traits in the beginning in North Africa, “perhaps due to a wave of Hamitic tribes coming from Asia via the Strait of al-Qantara as the Arabs came later.”[39] “The Hamitic invasion,” he concludes, “certainly came from the East,” though “originally . . . the Hamitic languages were not a single block as were the Semitic.”[40]

These few observations, kept to a minimum, should be enough to make it clear that there is no exclusive equation between Ham and Pharaoh, or between Ham and the Egyptians, or between the Egyptians and the blacks, or between any of the above and any particular curse. What was denied was recognition of patriarchal right to the priesthood made by a claim of matriarchal succession.[41]

As can be seen, claims of the scriptures being racist generally lack context and depth.


  1. Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense Of The Old Testament God (Ada, MI: Baker Books, 2011) Ebook loc 313. Copan cites Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, New American Commentary 2 (Nashville: B & H Publishing Company, 2008) 478; John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Life, vol. 3 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009), 618.
  2. Daniel C. Peterson, "A note on race and ethnicity in the scriptures," <> (8 June 2020).
  3. Ian Paul, “Did the Syrophoenician woman teach Jesus to be Jesus?” <> (4 January 2019).
  4. Bradley J. Kramer, Gathered in One: How the Book of Mormon Counters Anti-Semitism in the New Testament (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2019).
  5. Kramer, Gathered in One, 54-55, 57. Kramer cites the following in order: (6) David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History (New York: Doubleday, 2005), 44. (7) Samuel Sandmel, A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005), 19-20.
  6. Terry B. Ball, "Priestcraft," Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis Largey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2003), 656.
  7. John A. Tvedtnes, “The Charge of ‘Racism’ in the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Review 15, no. 2 (2003): 183–197, argues against the common allegation of racism in the modern pejorative sense rather than the more ancient sense for which I argue here.
  8. Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, Portraits of Paul (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 102.
  9. Ibid., 106
  10. Ibid. Malina and Neyrey described Israelite culture about six hundred years after Nephi. Nevertheless, Malina, writing with another coauthor, feels that this cultural phenomenon has endured for the intervening two thousand years and would, hence, probably agree that it was in place at Nephi’s time as well: “In the circum-Mediterranean region, five millennia of common participation in conquest, colonialism, connubium, and trade, along with a mixed, small-scale farming and herding village economy embedded in a series of larger agrarian empires, created a set of common cultural institutions that have likewise persisted over time. The resulting ‘Mediterranean culture-continent’ exists yet today.” Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 4.
  11. Brant Gardner, “What does the Book of Mormon mean by “skin of blackness”? <> (4 January 2019).
  12. Ibid.
  13. Micha J. Ben Gorion, Die Sagen der Juden, 5 vols. (Frankfurt: Rütten & Loening, 1913—27), 1:160.
  14. Zacharie Mayani, Les Hyksos et le monde de la Bible (Paris: Payot, 1956),180.
  15. Robert Eisler, Iēsous Basileus ou Basileusas, 2 vols. (Heidelberg: Winters, 1929), 2:180.
  16. Ibid., 2:180, 217.
  17. Mayani, Hyksos et le monde de la Bible, 179.
  18. E.A. Wallis Budge, Book of the Cave of Treasures (Whitefish, MO: Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 120-21.
  19. Ibid., 87—93; J.P. Migne "Le combat d’Adam et Eve," Dictionnaire des Apocryphes I, vol. 23 of Encyclopedie théologique, ser. 3 (Paris: Chez l’editeur, 1856), 349—52.
  20. Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis (Manchester, UK: Carcanet Press, 2004), 96—97.
  21. Micha Josef Ben Gorion, Sagen der Juden (Berlin: Parkland Verlag, 1997), 1:136, 239—40.
  22. Robert North, “The Cain Music,” Journal of Biblical Literature 83 (1964): 389.
  23. Alexandre Piankoff, Mythological Papyri II, vol. 3 of Bollingen Series 40, Egyptian Tests and Representations (New York: Pantheon, 1957), plate 12.
  24. Ibid., plates 20, 24.
  25. Alan H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961), 37.
  26. Abd Bakir, Slavery in Pharaonic Egypt (Cairo: BIFAO, 1952), 72, 97—99. (Cahier no. 18, in Supplement to ASAE.)
  27. Heinrich K. Brugsch, Die Geographie der Ägypter nach den Denkmälern, Geographie Inschriften altägyptischer Denkmäler, vol. 6 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1860), 51.
  28. Pierre Montet, Eternal Egypt (New York: New American Library, 1964), plates 26—64.
  29. Geza Vermes, “Sepher ha-Yashar,” cited in Scripture and Tradition in Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 1961), 73; Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2003), 1:203, 292—94.
  30. Jubilees 41:23—25.
  31. René Dussaud, “Cham et Canaan,” RHR 59 (1909): 221—30.
  32. Josephus, Antiquities I, 6, 2; cf. A. Epstein, “Chamites de la table ethnographique selon le Pseudo-Jonathan comparé avec Joséph et le livre de Jubilé,” REJ 24 (1892): 83—85.
  33. Wolfgang Richter, “Urgeschichte und Hoftheologie,” BZ 10 (1966): 100.
  34. Johannes Gabriel, “Die Kainitengenealogie, Gen. 4:17—24,” Biblica 40 (1959): 409—27.
  35. North, Cain Music, 373—89.
  36. Joseph Karst, “Aïa-Kolchis et les Chamites septentrionaux,” Orientalia 3 (1934): 31—41.
  37. Ibid., 33
  38. Hans Stock, “Das Ostdelta Ägyptens in seiner entscheidenden Rolle für die politische und religiöse Entwicklung des alten Reiches,” Die Welt des Orients (1948): 144—45.
  39. Werner Vycichl, “Notes sur la préhistoire de la langue égyptienne,” Orientalia 23 (1954): 217.
  40. Ibid., 218-19
  41. Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 583-87.