Sidewalk Theology: Questions I Get Asked a Lot #5

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

Originally posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. Click here to view original.

Q: What Does the Bible Say About Interracial Marriage?

Without question the Hebrew scriptures/Old Testament prohibited Israel from intermarrying with some nearby people groups (Deuteronomy 7:5). Interestingly, the prohibitions were always based on competing religious allegiances, never on ethnicity or skin color.

Often hostile neighboring groups were dedicated to championing rival gods who were largely corrupted agents of chaos in the heavens who passed those corrupting and chaotic traits on to their earth bound worshippers. Intermingling with these earthly agents of chaos could and, later in the national life of Israel, would result in abandonment of the Most High God (El Elyon). The exclusive, never before covenant relationship between Israel and her deliverer God - one who was above all rival gods - is what would make her a light to the nations and a fulfillment of the Most High God's promise to Abraham, the nation's founder and father. Daily recitation of the Shema ("hear/listen") prayer of Deuteronomy 6 reinforced the uniqueness of the relationship - "Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD". Israel can lay claim to the LORD/Yahweh/Most High God as "our God" who is uniquely "one LORD" - not simply numerically unique but a "One and Only LORD" without rival. Neighboring people groups were dedicated to lesser rival gods wit vastly different agendas and much lower natures.

Intermarriage with those devoted to lesser rival gods would jeopardize the entire scheme of God toward Israel and severely alter world history. But again, the prohibition was strictly religious and it was in no way based on ethnicity or skin tone.

Opponents of interracial marriage have long invoked a dire sounding New Testament warning on unequal yoking in marriage. A careful reading tells you inserting race and ethnicity in the passage is a bogus use of the injunction.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the caution to Jesus followers against unequal marriage yoking is consistent with the warnings to ancient Israel, being similarly based on relationship to God. The unequal pairings in the passage are believers with unbelievers, righteousness with unrighteousness. Only the most obtuse and ignorant would see in the third unequal partnering of light and darkness a reference to skin tone. To argue color or ethnicity as constituting an unequal yoking would be a weak argument from silence, which is to say no argument at all. There are no biblical prohibitions against interethnic or interracial marriages.

In marrying each other, Moses and Tzipporah married outside their ethnic groups. Their differing skin tones brought out the bigot in his siblings, whose nasty, racist criticisms were soundly and dramatically condemned by God. Both enter the narrative as worshippers of God Most High and by Paul's New Testament definition were equally yoked. Additionally her father was a devotee and priest of the same God as Moses and presumably raised her in that tradition.

Ethnicity is not a factor or cause for division in marriage, the church or the wider kingdom of God since the exposure and naked artificiality of all ethnic, class and gender barriers occurred at and was demolished by the Cross so that "you are all one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28).

The Bible seems to be in agreement with much recent thinking in the social sciences which describes racial categories as mere human constructs with no bases in biology. In his presentation of the risen Messiah to Athens' intelligentsia, Paul cites the common origin of all people as a basic tenet of his good message that includes the brotherhood of man, the Fatherhood of God and the messiahship of Jesus Christ.

"God that made the world and all things therein . . .hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth . . . that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us." Acts 17: 24-27 KJV

No dividing walls. One blood. Finding a God who's never been that far away. Rightly related to God and each other. Pretty good arrangement, wouldn't you say?

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