Where Did the Different “Races” Come From?
“Where did the different races of men upon the earth come from?”
There are basically two views regarding the origin of ethnicity: the evolutionary view and the Biblical view.
The Evolutionary View
At the commencement of this discussion, we insist that the so-called “racial” developments did not result from an evolutionary ascendancy, with certain “races” being lower than others on the animal-to-human scale.
For many years this was the evolutionary propaganda line, though most modern disciples of Darwin shrink back from it because of changing social values. But the sub-title of Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species (1859) was: By Means Of Natural Selection: Or, The Preservation Of Favored Races In The Struggle For Life (emphasis added).
One writer has observed:
“After 1859, the evolutionary schema raised additional questions, particularly whether or not Afro-Americans could survive competition with their white near-relations. The momentous answer [in the evolutionary community] was a resounding no ... The African was inferior — he represented the missing link between the ape and the Teuton” (Burnham 1972, 506).
Henry Fairfield Osborn was a professor of biology and zoology at Columbia University. For a quarter of a century (1908-33), he also served as the President of the American Museum of Natural History’s Board of Trustees. Osborn once wrote:
“The Negroid stock is even more ancient than the Caucasian and Mongolians, as may be proved by an examination not only of the brain, of the hair, of the bodily characteristics ... but of the instinct, the intelligence. The standard of intelligence of the average adult Negro is similar to that of the eleven-year old youth of the species Homo sapiens” (1980, 129).
Those who view race development through evolutionary “colored lenses” do not compliment themselves.
The Biblical View
The Bible does not classify human beings along the racial lines common to modern thought. The Greek term that is rendered “race” — several times in the American Standard Version of the Bible (cf. Mk. 7:26; Acts 4:36; 18:2, 24) — finds a variety of translation expressions in the old King James Version.
genos occurs twenty-one times in the Greek New Testament. In the KJV, it is rendered by such terms as:
- “kind” (Mt. 13:47; 17:21; 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:10)
- “kindred” (Acts 4:6; 7:13, 19)
- “country” (Acts 4:36)
- “offspring” (Acts 17:28-29; Rev. 22:16)
- “nation” (Mk. 7:26; Gal. 1:14)
- “stock” (Acts 13:26; Phil. 3:5)
- “born” (Acts 18:2,24)
- “countryman” (2 Cor. 11:26)
- “generation” (1 Pet. 2:9)
- “diversity” (1 Cor. 12:28)
As the careful student can see, in not one single passage is the term used of a pigmentation distinction, e.g., white race, black race, yellow race, etc.
The Scriptures speak of nations, tribes, tongues [languages], and peoples, but they do not focus upon skin color. Geographical regions or close cultural associations are the usual applications of the word.
Biblical history and the human race
The following facts are most relevant to this issue.
All human beings are from a solitary human couple, Adam and Eve, who were fashioned by the hand of God himself (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-23).
In his discourse to the Athenians, Paul declared that God “made of one every nation
ethnos of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26 – ASV). The expression “of one,” as it appears in the Greek Testament, is
ex henos, literally “out of one male.” The allusion clearly is to Adam, out of whose side came Eve (Gen. 2:21-23) and ultimately all humanity (Gen. 3:20).
From the divine vantage point, there is no diversity of ethnicity.
In Acts chapter 10 there is the record of the first instance of Gentiles being admitted into the kingdom of Christ. The case involved Cornelius, a Roman centurion who worshiped the true God (Acts 10:2) but who had not been proselytized to the Jewish system (cf. Acts 2:11). By a vision, the Lord instructed the Roman officer to send for Peter, who would provide the necessary information for conversion (Acts 10:3ff; 11:14).
Similarly, Peter was supplied with a supernatural “nudge,” motivating him to go to this Gentile dignitary with the gospel (Acts 10:9ff). When all the respective parties made their connection, the apostle explained why this unusual event was transpiring. It was because:
“God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he who fears [reverences] him, and works righteousness, is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).
The phrase “respecter of persons” is quite interesting. In the Greek text it constitutes a single word,
prosopolemptes, literally to “lay hold on a face” (see W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words under “Persons (respect of)).”
The Lord does not look at the color of a person’s face. He looks at the quality of his soul (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; Gal. 2:6).
Human genetic variation
From a biological standpoint, it is obvious that from the commencement of the human family, mankind was designed with the potential for ethnic expansion. The mechanism for variation was packaged within the human genetic reservoir.
Each human cell contains that marvelous chemical substance known as DNA (short for deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA is the code that has been programmed by the Creator for the productions of different “kinds” of biological organisms, which includes the potential for variability within those kinds.
It has been estimated that the DNA in a single human cell, if decoded and translated into English, would fill a 1,000 volume set of encyclopedias of some 600 pages each (Gore 1976, 357).
Another element that must be factored into this scenario is the historical circumstance of the dispersing of the human family in the days of the post-Flood era. Early humanity largely had neglected the Creator’s charge to “fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). In fact, a significant portion absolutely refused to do so (see Gen. 11:4).
Accordingly, God “confounded” their speech and “scattered them abroad” (Gen. 11:6ff). The subsequent separations created the circumstances that accommodated the physical variations of the human family.
It is a well-known fact that in tight-knit societies, “dominant” genes tend to produce a more static set of traits, whereas in smaller populated groups “recessive” genes are allowed greater freedom to flourish, hence, more variable physical characteristics flourish.
The combined factors, therefore, of an incredibly rich genetic pool, together with an eventual dispersal of the human family, found just the right set of environments for the development of varying physical features.
In spite of the many minute differences between certain groups of humankind, overall each of the culturally segmented groups of the family of man is remarkably similar. In fact, note the following concession from a prominent evolutionist. Dr. Ashley Montagu has written:
“The members of all ethnic groups are far too much alike in their structural and functional characteristics for them to have originated from different apelike forms. And that is precisely the point, the more we study the different ethnic groups of man the more alike they turn out to be. The likenesses by far outnumber the differences” (1960, 184 — emphasis added).
Those similarities separate human beings from the animal “kinds,” and yet the “differences” reveal God’s infinite wisdom in creative design! We should give thanks unto him, for we have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa. 139:14).
- Burnham, John C. 1972. Science. Vol. 175, February 4.
- Gore, Rick. 1976. National Geographic. September.
- Montegu, Ashley. 1960. Human Heredity. New York: The New American Library.
- Osborn, Henry Fairfield. 1980. “The Evolution of Human Races.” Natural History. January/February, 1926; reprinted in the April, 1980 edition.