Races of Mankind

Definition: As used here, race means a division of mankind possessing in characteristic proportions certain combinations of physical traits that can be inherited and that are sufficient to set the group apart as a distinct human type. It should be noted, however, that the fact that the races are capable of intermarriage and reproduction shows that they are actually of one “kind,” all being members of the human family. So the various races are merely facets of the total variation possible in humankind.

From where did the various races come?

Gen. 5:1, 2; 1:28: “In the day of God’s creating Adam he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them. After that he blessed them and called their name Man [or, Mankind] in the day of their being created.” “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.’” (Thus all mankind are descendants of that first human pair, Adam and Eve.)

Acts 17:26: “[God] made out of one man [Adam] every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.” (So, regardless of what races make up a nation, they all are offspring of Adam.)

Gen. 9:18, 19: “Noah’s sons who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth. . . . These three were Noah’s sons, and from these was all the earth’s population spread abroad.” (After God destroyed the ungodly world by means of a global flood in Noah’s day, the earth’s new population, including all the races known today, developed from the offspring of Noah’s three sons and their wives.)

Were Adam and Eve merely allegorical (fictional) persons?

The Bible does not support that view; see the main heading “Adam and Eve.”

Where did Cain get his wife if there was just one family?

Gen. 3:20: “Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she had to become the mother of everyone living.” (So all humans were to be the offspring of Adam and Eve.)

Gen. 5:3, 4: “Adam lived on for a hundred and thirty years. Then he became father to a son in his likeness, in his image, and called his name Seth. And the days of Adam after his fathering Seth came to be eight hundred years. Meanwhile he became father to sons and daughters.” (One of Adam’s sons was Cain, and one of Adam’s daughters must have become Cain’s wife. At that time in human history when humans still had outstanding physical health and vitality, as indicated by the length of their lives, the likelihood of passing on defects as a result of marrying a close relative was not great. After some 2,500 years of human history, however, when mankind’s physical condition had greatly deteriorated, Jehovah gave to Israel laws forbidding incest.)

Gen. 4:16, 17: “Cain went away from the face of Jehovah and took up residence in the land of Fugitiveness [or, Nod] to the east of Eden. Afterward Cain had intercourse with his wife [“knew his wife,” that is, intimately so, KJ, RS; “lay with his wife,” NE] and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.” (Notice that Cain did not first meet his wife in the land to which he fled, as if she were from another family. Rather, it was there that he had sexual relations with her to produce a son.)

What explains the development of the various racial characteristics?

“All men living today belong to a single species, Homo sapiens, and are derived from a common stock. . . . Biological differences between human beings are due to differences in hereditary constitution and to the influence of the environment on this genetic potential. In most cases, those differences are due to the interaction of these two sets of factors. . . . Differences between individuals within a race or within a population are often greater than the average differences between races or populations.”—An international body of scientists convened by UNESCO, quoted in Statement on Race (New York, 1972, third ed.), Ashley Montagu, pp. 149, 150.

“A race is simply one of the partially isolated gene pools into which the human species came to be divided during and following its early geographical spread. Roughly one race has developed on each of the five major continental areas of the earth. . . . Man did indeed diverge genetically during this phase of history and we can measure and study the results of this divergence in what remains today of the old geographical races. As we would expect, divergence appears to be correlated with the degree of isolation. . . . When race formation took place on the continents, with the bottlenecking of thousands of populations in isolated gene pools all over the world, the gene-frequency differences we now see were established. . . . The paradox which faces us is that each group of humans appears to be externally different yet underneath these differences there is fundamental similarity.” (Heredity and Human Life, New York, 1963, H. L. Carson, pp. 151, 154, 162, 163) (Thus, early in human history, when a group of people were isolated from others and married within the group, certain distinctive combinations of genetic traits were emphasized in their offspring.)

Does the Bible teach that blacks are cursed?

That idea is based on a misunderstanding of Genesis 9:25, where Noah is quoted as saying: “Cursed be Canaan. Let him become the lowest slave to his brothers.” Read it carefully; it says nothing about skin color. The curse was because Ham’s son Canaan had evidently performed some shocking act deserving of a curse. But who were Canaan’s descendants? Not blacks, but lighter-skinned peoples living to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. Because of their depraved practices, demonistic rites, idolatry, and child sacrifice, they came under divine judgment, and God gave to Israel the land occupied by the Canaanites. (Gen. 10:15-19) Not all the Canaanites were destroyed; some were put at forced labor, in fulfillment of the curse.—Josh. 17:13.

From which of Noah’s offspring did the blacks descend? “The sons of Cush [another one of Ham’s sons] were Seba and Havilah and Sabtah and Raamah and Sabteca.” (Gen. 10:6, 7) Later Biblical references to Cush are usually equivalent to Ethiopia. Seba is later used when referring to another people in the eastern part of Africa and evidently close to Ethiopia.—Isa. 43:3, footnote in NW Reference edition.

Are all humans children of God?

Being children of God is not something that we imperfect humans are entitled to by birth. But we are all the offspring of Adam, who when created in perfection was a “son of God.”—Luke 3:38.

Acts 10:34, 35: “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”

John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (Exercising genuine faith in him is necessary in order for any of us to attain to the kind of relationship with God that Adam lost. That privilege is open to people of all races.)

1 John 3:10: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother.” (So God does not view all humans as his children. From a spiritual standpoint, those who deliberately practice what God condemns have the Devil as their father. See John 8:44. However, true Christians reflect godly qualities. From among these, God has selected a limited number to rule as kings with Christ in heaven. These are referred to by God as his “children” or his “sons.” For further details, see the main heading “Born Again.”)

Rom. 8:19-21: “The eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God . . . The creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Relief for mankind will come when “the sons of God,” after receiving heavenly life, are ‘revealed’ as taking positive action on behalf of mankind under the direction of Christ. After faithful ones on earth [referred to as “the creation” in this scripture] have attained to human perfection and have demonstrated unshakable loyalty to Jehovah as Universal Sovereign, then they too will enjoy the fine relationship of children of God. People of all races will share in this.)

Will people of all races ever truly be united as brothers and sisters?

To those who would be his true disciples, Jesus said: “All you are brothers.” (Matt. 23:8) Later he added: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.

Despite human imperfections, that sense of oneness was a reality among early Christians. The apostle Paul wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus.”—Gal. 3:28.

Christian brotherhood unmarred by racial distinctions is a reality among Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 20th century. Writer William Whalen said in U.S. Catholic: “I believe that one of the most attractive characteristics of [the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses] has been its traditional policy of racial equality.” After making an extensive study of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Africa, Oxford University sociologist Bryan Wilson stated: “The Witnesses are perhaps more successful than any other group in the speed with which they eliminate tribal discrimination among their own recruits.” Reporting on an international gathering of Witnesses from 123 lands, The New York Times Magazine said: “The Witnesses impressed New Yorkers not only with their numbers, but with their diversity (they include people from all walks of life), their racial unself-consciousness (many Witnesses are Negroes) and their quiet, orderly behavior.”

Soon God’s Kingdom will destroy the present ungodly system of things, including all who do not genuinely love both Jehovah God and their fellowman. (Dan. 2:44; Luke 10:25-28) God’s Word promises that the survivors will be persons “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Rev. 7:9) Drawn together by worship of the true God, by faith in Jesus Christ, and by love for one another, they will truly make up a united human family.