What’s the origin of races?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of the origin of races has been a topic of much discussion throughout history. There are several passages and narratives in the Bible that address the origin of humanity and the diversity within it. Let us examine these passages to understand the origin of the different races.

Race – Science and the Bible

The term ‘race’ isn’t one found in the Bible, rather it’s a more modern term used to define why we as humans look different. According to the Bible, we all came from the same parents, Adam and Eve.

Science

A race is a biological subspecies which has genetically transmittable traits that differentiates it from other races. Scientific research shows that humans are 99.8% genetically identical. Most differing 0.2% has to do with gender and personalities. Therefore, humans originate from one race. Even evolutionary science concludes that all existing varieties of man are members of the same species. [Ralph Linton. The Study of Man. (Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964). p. 24.]

Bible

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26).

All men sprang from common ancestors, our first parents – Adam and Eve. After the tower of Babel, Noah’s decedents migrated from the Middle East (Genesis 11:1-9) to the different parts of the earth. As people dispersed and intermarried between themselves, certain genes within the human gene pool became dominate within each group, while others became latent. With time, these genes produced the skin color, hair color and texture, bone structure and other physical characteristics that made each group different. Let us look closely to the origin of the races in the Bible.

The Creation of Humanity

The Bible begins with the account of creation, where God creates the first humans, Adam and Eve. This foundational story is found in the Book of Genesis.

Genesis 1:26-28 (NKJV):

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'”

This passage emphasizes the unity of the human race, as all people are descended from the first man and woman, created in the image of God. The command to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth” sets the stage for humanity’s spread across the globe.

The Tower of Babel

A significant event that contributes to the understanding of the origin of different races is the story of the Tower of Babel. This narrative explains the diversification of languages and the scattering of people across the earth.

Genesis 11:1-9 (NKJV):

“Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’

But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

This passage is crucial in understanding the biblical origin of races. The confusion of language at Babel led to the scattering of people into different regions, where distinct cultures and eventually different races emerged.

The Table of Nations

Following the account of the Flood and the Tower of Babel, Genesis provides a genealogical record known as the Table of Nations. This genealogy traces the descendants of Noah’s sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—and their distribution across the earth.

Genesis 10:1-32 (NKJV):

“Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.

The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.

The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).

Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar as far as Gaza, then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.

And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder. The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.

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.”

This genealogy provides a detailed account of the post-Flood human population and their geographic distribution, contributing to the understanding of the development of different races and cultures.

The Spread of Humanity

The Bible provides additional context on the spread of humanity and the establishment of various nations and peoples. This spread is seen as part of God’s divine plan and often reflects His sovereignty over the nations.

Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (NKJV):

“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. For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance.”

This passage emphasizes that the division and distribution of peoples and their lands were orchestrated by God.

Biblical Perspectives on Race and Salvation

The Bible consistently teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God and share a common origin. Despite the diversity of races and cultures, the biblical message emphasizes unity and equality before God.

Galatians 3:28 (NKJV):

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This verse underscores the unity of believers in Christ, transcending racial, social, and gender distinctions.

Ephesians 2:14-15 (NKJV):

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”

Paul speaks of the reconciliation and unity brought about by Christ, breaking down barriers between different groups and creating a unified body of believers.

When it comes to salvation, God makes no distinction between races “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13, NKJV).

The Bible teaches that there is no superior race, we are all children of Adam and Eve and created by God. The Lord Himself told Samuel, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NKJV).

Theological Implications

The biblical narrative regarding the origin of races carries significant theological implications:

The Unity of Humanity

The Bible’s emphasis on a common origin for all humanity underscores the essential unity of the human race. This unity is foundational to the Christian understanding of human dignity and equality.

The Diversity of Cultures

The scattering at Babel and the subsequent development of various nations highlight the diversity within God’s creation. This diversity is seen as part of God’s design, intended to reflect the manifold richness of His creation.

The Need for Reconciliation

The Bible’s message of reconciliation in Christ addresses the divisions caused by sin, including racial and ethnic divisions. The Gospel calls for the breaking down of barriers and the creation of a unified community of believers.

Conclusion

The origin of races according to the Bible is intricately connected to the narratives of creation, the flood, the Tower of Babel, and the genealogies of Noah’s descendants. These accounts provide a framework for understanding the diversity of humanity as part of God’s sovereign plan.

From the initial creation of Adam and Eve to the scattering at Babel, the Bible presents a cohesive story of how different races and cultures came into being. Despite the diversity, the Bible consistently emphasizes the unity and equality of all people before God. By exploring these biblical narratives and passages, we gain insight into the theological significance of the origin of races, the unity of humanity, and the call for reconciliation and unity in Christ.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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