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Bible themes & marriage topics

Biblical passages used to
condemn interracial marriage:


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Anti-miscegenationists -- persons opposed to interracial marriage -- come in a variety of types:

  •  Some are simple racists -- most often white supremacists -- who regard all non-whites as intrinsically inferior to all whites. Non-whites are often referred to as the "mud" races.
  • Others believe that God divided humans into different races and expected them to remain separate from each other forever. 1

Many use verses and phrases from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Old and New Testaments) to justify their ban on interracial marriage. In contrast, most theologians have given these same passages a non-racial interpretation.

We use the King James Version of the Bible here for copyright reasons.

Some of the passages are:

  • Genesis 28:1: "And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan."
    Anti-miscegenationists typically interpret this verse after assuming that the Hebrews and Canaanites were of different races. Thus inter-marriage was forbidden on racial grounds. However, growing archeological and DNA evidence has revealed that the Hebrews originated as a sub-culture of Canaanites. Most theologians believe that the marriage prohibition in Genesis was grounded on a concern that the Hebrews would adopt the Pagan polytheistic religious beliefs and practices of nearby tribes if they were to marry outside of their culture. Thus the prohibition was based on religious, not racial differences.
  • Leviticus 19:19: "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind ..."
    "Gender" is translated as "mate" or "breed" in other English translations of the Bible. The term "kind" in the Bible can refer to a species of animal. However, creationists sometimes define "kind" as one created species (e.g. a proto-horse) from which many types of closely related animals (e.g. horse, zebra, donkey, perhaps even deer) developed. In this passage, the term "diverse kind" probably refers to different breeds of cattle. Today, this passage might refer to interbreeding of Holsteins and Guernsey's. This verse is part of the Holiness Code that was intended to keep behaviors of the Hebrews' different from that of the surrounding cultures. Most Jewish and Christian theologians believe that the Code does not apply to non-Jews.
  • Deuteronomy 7:2-3: "And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 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.
    This is one of the passages in the Pentateuch -- the first five books in the Bible -- in which God orders the ancient Hebrews to engage in genocide against other tribes. They were to kill every elder, adult, youth, child, infant and newborn from among the Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, and Perizzites without mercy. Anti-miscegenationists typically regard this as racially-based. However, a near consensus of Christian theologians regard this as religiously-based. God's concern appears to be that the Hebrews would marry Pagan polytheists, adopt the religions of the neighboring tribes, abandon worship of Yahweh, and become polytheistic.
  • Deuteronomy 22:9: "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled."
    The meaning of this verse is obscure in the King James Version. However, the New Living Translation describes this prohibiting the sowing another species of plant between the rows of grape bushes in a vineyard. If a farmer did this, he was forbidden to make use of either crop. If this verse is to be interpreted in terms of human mating, it would appear to refer to bestiality -- sexual behavior between a human and an animal. It appears to be unrelated to interracial marriage.
  • Deuteronomy 23:2: "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."
    This verse is sometimes interpreted by anti-miscegenationists as implying that the children of a mixed-race couple, and their grandchildren etc., even onto the tenth generation, could not enter the temple. There is a general consensus among theologians that this passage refers to a child born outside of a marriage relationship, regardless of the race(s) of its parents.
  • Jeremiah 13:23: "Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil."
    At least one white supremacist group interprets this passage as implying that one cannot start with a Black-White interracial couple and produce White offspring. 2 However the clear sense of the verse appears to be that if a person has habitually committed evil deeds, it is almost impossible for them to change completely and start going only good.

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  • Acts 17:24-26: "God ... 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 ..."
    Because of their conservative Christian faith, essentially all anti-miscegenationists believe that every human is a descendent of Adam and Eve. However, they believe that at some point in history, God intentionally separated people into different races, each in a different area of the world.

    The trial judge in a famous interracial marriage case appropriately titled "Loving v. Virginia" apparently agreed that racial separation was God's will and that mankind must not reverse that principle. He ignored the principle of separation of church and state as well as the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution when finding the Loving family guilty of miscegenation. Part of his ruling stated:

    "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix."

    However, the phrase "bounds of their habitation" could well refer to tribal and cultural rather than racial distinctions.


Conclusions:

There are many passages in the Bible that have been used by anti-miscegenationists to condemn interracial marriages. However most Christian and Jewish theologians interpret these same verses as referring to inter-faith marriages. Other passages refer to the Holiness Code of behavior that is generally believed to apply only to Jews and is unrelated to marriage.

J.D. Self, author of an Internet site "Interracial Marriage is against God's Law" concludes that God created the different races after the incident at the Tower of Babel. Genesis records that at that time, humans showed their arrogance towards God by trying to build a structure so tall that it would reach the firmament of Heaven. At the time, the cultures in what is now the Middle East believed that a metal dome above the Earth's surface separated Heaven and Earth. He writes:

"God created the different races and dispersed them because of man's arrogance. It is clearly evident that God purposely made the different races. Does that mean that we hate each other? No. It does mean that was His plan and we show our arrogance again in the face of God when we say: 'We know You made the different races, God, but we have decided we don't like that and we are going to try and have all the races intermarry again to get it back the way it was because You messed it up God.' This is ultimate arrogance to God and His plan. Pure arrogance in the face and to the plan of God."
An alternate interpretation of the Bible concludes that God loves human variety. If the stories in Genesis are literally true, he created the human race with great diversity: two sexes, many races, three sexual orientations, a range of heights and body styles, hundreds of languages, etc. Interracial marriage often produces biracial children who are different in skin color and features from both parents. This increases human diversity even more. So, perhaps interracial marriage has a positive value to God.

References used:

  1. J.D. Self, "Interracial Marriage is against God's Law," at: http://allpointssouth.com/ On 2008-JUN-16, this account had been suspended.
  2. Ed. Fields, "Inter-Racial Dating, Inter-Racial Marriage, Judgement [sic] Day," The Truth at Last, at: This is a white-supremacist organization that refers to itself as a "White Patriot" group.


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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-JUN-16
Latest update: 2008-JUN-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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