Is Interracial Marriage Biblical?

What does the Bible say about interracial marriage?  To answer, we’ll look at

  • How the Old Testament divided up the world after the flood.

  • Consider how, from a biblical perspective, race is not real, but racism is very real.

  • Christians are urged to marry Christians.

Dividing the World After the Flood

“These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these, the nations were divided on the earth after the flood. Now the whole earth had one language and one speech” (Genesis 10:32-11:1).

The Bible is absolutely consistent on this point:  every human being descends from Adam and Eve through Noah.  Genesis 10 divides the world into families and thereby into nations.  At this very early juncture, there was only one culture in place.  Language, the most significant way we differentiate between cultures, was still universal.  So from the Bible’s perspective, every human being has a common ancestry, a common culture, a common heritage.

Moses echoes this in Deuteronomy 32:8,

“When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.”

Notice how Moses phrases it:  he calls the nations, “the sons of Adam,” pointing to a common ancestor.  Moses also says God “set the boundaries of the peoples” — He divided the world into nations.  This initial division was “according to the number of the children of Israel.”  The prophet notes a symmetry between the descendants of Noah and the descendants of Abraham:  seventy descendants of Abraham took refuge in Egypt during the famine and seventy nations descended from Noah according to Genesis 10.  The only implied distinction is the division between Jew and Gentile; no other distinction is made.  The reason why the Jews were distinct was because of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He made this covenant in order to preserve His revealed word and to bring Jesus into the world.

So where are racial divisions on the basis of skin color?  Quite frankly, we don’t find them in the OT or anywhere else in the Bible.  After the flood, God divided the world into nations on the basis of hereditary descent and, after the tower of Babel, on the basis of language.  Other than that, God distinguished between the Jews and Gentiles on the basis of His covenant relationship.  We have no reason to believe that God ever drew a distinction between people on the basis of their skin color.

The gospel of Jesus Christ carries the OT message on race forward.  To the Areopagus, Pauls says,

“From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live…” (Acts 17:26).

We have one common ancestor, from whom descended every nation, but we are one race, the human race.  When we obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, every factor which distinguishes one individual from another is nailed to the cross and we become a new creation:

we “…have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:10-11).

My brother sitting next to me in a church may have a different color of skin, but that doesn’t matter; in Christ, we are all re-created to conform to the image of Jesus; “Christ is all and in all.”

That leads me to a point that may sound controversial, but please give it some thought before you respond.

Race is not real, but racism is very real

The concept of racial divisions on the basis of skin pigmentation originates at the beginning of European colonization of the world.  This entire conceptualization was of human origin and was used to justify chattel slavery.  There is a wealth of information available on this topic, so I don’t feel a need to go into depth; I encourage you to look into this on your own if you are curious.

What concerns me are the twisted interpretations of the Bible some people have used to justify racism. For example, some have claimed skin pigmentation has to do with descending from either Cain or Ham.  This interpretation is false.

Following his murder of Abel, Cain was “marked” so that others would not attack him after he was banished.  We have NO idea how God “marked” Cain; anyone who claims to know does so either on the basis of human tradition or speculation.  Furthermore, Scripture strongly implies Cain’s line died out in the flood:  the descendants of Cain are contrasted with the descendants of Seth who, through Noah, survived the flood.  I have no Biblical reason to believe Cain’s descendants survived God’s judgment of the world in the days of Noah.

What about Ham?  It’s true, we do see dark skin pigmentation among the descendants of Ham.  Cush, one of Ham’s sons, is traditionally held to be the father of Ethiopians.  His brother, Mizraim, is traditionally held to be the father of Egyptians.  Mizraim’s son, Ludim, was believed to be the father of what we call Libya. So yes, many of Ham’s descendants are known for their dark skin.

But we also see dark skin pigmentation among Indo-Europeans.  According to the Biblical record, Indo-Europeans likely descended from Japheth.  For example, Javan, the fourth son of Japheth, is generally believed to be the father of the Greeks.  Also according to the Biblical record, Indians are Indo-European by descent.  Madai, the third son of Japheth, and brother of Javan is traditionally held to be the father of Iranians and Indians, two peoples with darker skin.  So according to the Biblical record, dark skin pigmentation is scattered across the seventy descendants of Noah.

Here is what I conclude from the Biblical record:

  • Interpreting dark skin pigmentation as an indication of one’s descent from either Cain or Ham is a twisting of the Scripture.

  • The Bible draws no distinction between people on the basis of skin color.

  • Therefore, prejudice toward anyone with a different skin pigmentation is not from God and is, therefore, a sin.

  • Those who hold onto such beliefs should re-examine the Scriptures and examine their hearts very, very closely.

So what does the Bible say about interracial marriage?

Nothing, because our conceptualization of race does not come from the Bible.  As far as the Bible, and God, is concerned, there is only one race, the human race. If you’re a white Christian and you love a black Christian, get married, and have children; God will bless your union just as He would a marriage involving two white people or two black people or two Asian people, etc.

When it comes to marriage, there is one major factor ALL Christians should take into consideration and it has NOTHING to do with race.

Christians should marry Christians

As a Christian, I should be careful to marry someone who shares my faith:  Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15,

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?”

“Unequally yoked” is a reference to the command in Deuteronomy 22:10, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”  The Old Law was filled with these sorts of regulations — the surrounding verses all warn against mixing things that do not belong together.  It seems God taught His people discernment through these types of regulations — He trained their minds to distinguish between small matters of little consequence so that they would apply the same discernment to matters of great importance.

In that spirit, Paul warns Christians about forming relationships or maintaining associations with what lies outside — with unbelievers, with lawlessness, with idolatry, etc.  This would, of course, extend to the most intimate human relationship of all: marriage.

So while the human concept of race is unbiblical and therefore has no bearing on whether or not one should marry someone of a “different race,” Christians should carefully consider the spiritual status of their prospective mate:  is he or she a Christian?

Dividing the world into races due to skin pigmentation is not a Biblical concept.  According to the Bible, our definition of race is not real, but racism is very, very real.  Racism is a corruption of God’s design, it is false teaching, and it is a tool of Satan to lead us away from the call of Jesus Christ.  And because prejudice on the basis of skin color is very real, the church must confront it and deal with it as we would with any other false teaching.

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