Essay #5. Do We Really Know The Bible and Its People?

The Bible has often been misinterpreted by those wanting power over others. All over this country Christians are behaving badly. Does the Bible talk about Christians with racist attitudes?

The Harper Study Bible Revised Standard Version, Numbers 12:1 says, “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.” The passage seems to be straightforward, until it’s compared to the same passage from the King James Version, which uses the word Ethiopian instead of Cushite. Unaware Christians don’t know that a Cushite is the same as an Ethiopian. Why would The Harpers Study Bible, copyrighted in 1952 (Old Testament) and 1946 & 1971 (New Testament), insert Cushite instead of just saying Ethiopian like most versions of the Bible? They didn’t stop there, in the small print at the bottom of the page it says that Cushite and Ethiopian are generally considered to be the same, but that doesn’t mean Moses’ wife was Negress. They’re suggesting there wasn’t anything different about her skin color. Jeremiah 13:23 asks, “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots?” This strongly suggests an Ethiopian’s skin was different. Some scholars claim the word “Ethiopia “comes from the Greek word “Aithiopia” which is a combination of two words aitho- “I burn” and ops- “face”, which would give us darkened or burned face people. God struck Miriam with leprosy for probably two reasons. First, Miriam shouldn’t have gone against God’s chosen leader. Second, like my Mama tells me, “God don’t like people actin’ ugly.”

Even from the beginning of the Bible skin color didn’t seem to be a problem. People of color fought against biblical heroes and some of them were biblical heroes. According to Wikipedia and many other encyclopedias, the origin of the word “Cush” is from the ancient Egyptian language and denotes a person of dark-skinned complexion. Cush was the eldest son of Ham and the father of Nimrod, who was the first mighty man and mighty hunter (Genesis 10:7). I Acts 8:26-40, it talks about Philip meeting and teaching an Ethiopian eunuch, sitting in his chariot reading, about Jesus.

Can some of what we think we know about Christianity be incorrect? Could it cause an attitude of superiority? In a 1939 article entitled “Ethiopian and the Origin of Civilization”, written by John G. Jackson, he quotes French historian Constantin-Francois de Chasseboeuf Count de Volney. Count C. Volney wrote the following before he died April 25, 1820, “Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. … There a people, now forgotten, discovered while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.” A lot of what happened in the Bible took place in or near Africa, the cradle of civilization, therefore some of the people in the Bible, would have had to been people of color or even Black. American White Christians have all but eliminated people of color from the people of the Bible. One of the most hideous aspects of racism is when the dominant group wipes away the history and existence of the people they feel they must dominate. Normally the dominated people don’t have the same color skin as the people doing the dominating. That’s racism at its worst. Maybe this is the reason we hardly ever hear the following passage preached in churches. “If a man says he loves God but hate his brother, he is a liar; for he that love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen” (1 John 4:20). Like my Mama says, “God don’t like people actin’ ugly.”