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Book Notes: A Biblical Theology of Race

Last weekend, I read an engaging study by J. Daniel Hays titled From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race. The book was published by IVP as a volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, edited by D. A. Carson. Although the book was released in 2003, the insights are fresh, and the topic seems perhaps more important today than when it was first published. I read the book as part of a graduate class I am currently teaching on the doctrine of humanity. (Professors sometimes select books for courses based on what they want to read. I had not read Hays’s book and it was relevant to the course content, so I included it among the list of books from which students could select to review for the class.) Rather than write a full review, I have provided some notes about the book.

Hays is dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University and is the author of several books. He is perhaps best known for the hermeneutics book he co-authored with colleague J. Scott Duvall titled Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Zondervan, 2001), which is in its third edition (2012).

In From Every People and Nation, Hays attempts to uncover racial elements in the Bible and apply principles to the North American context of black-white relations within the church. He makes compelling arguments that Cushites, a people group comprised of black Africans, are overlooked in the field of biblical studies but feature prominently in the biblical storyline. In addition to presence of other racial groups, he demonstrates the importance of several black characters in Scripture, such as Moses’s Cushite wife (Numbers 12), Phineas the priest (Numbers 25, 31), Ebed-Melech (Jeremiah 38-39), the Ethiopian official (Acts 8), and Simeon the Niger (Acts 13).

Hays closes his study with the following “synthesizing conclusions” (quoted verbatim and replicating the author’s capitalization):

  • The biblical world was multi-ethnic, and Blacks were involved in God’s unfolding plan of redemption from the beginning.
  • All people are created in the image of God, and therefore all races and ethnic groups have the same status and unique value that results from the image of God.
  • Genesis 10 and the Abrahamic promise combine to form a theme that runs throughout Scripture, constantly pointing to the global and multi-ethnic elements inherent in the overarching plan of God.
  • Racial intermarriage is sanctioned by Scripture.
  • The gospel demands that we carry compassion and the message of Christ across ethnic lines.
  • The New Testament demands active unity in the Church, a unity that explicitly joins differing ethnic groups together because of their common identity in Christ.
  • The picture of God’s people at the climax of history portrays a multi-ethnic congregation from every tribe, language, people, and nation, all gathered together in worship around God’s throne.

Readers interested in gaining a view of race that is more faithful to the Bible will benefit from Hays’s study. I highly recommend it.


  1. doug sayers doug sayers

    Thanks Adam. One event where you can find a little foretaste of the multi-ethnic heavenly glory is at a Gideons International convention, where many come together from some 200 countries. A lot of wonderful variety all gathered together to worship the LORD and distribute His word.

    (Not quite like a Star Wars bar scene but a colorful bunch!)

    • Adam Harwood Adam Harwood

      I have never attended a Gideons convention, but I am thankful for their work to distribute Scripture! Yes, a group representing that number of countries is definitely a foretaste of the new heaven and earth.

  2. I have been a Gideon for about seven months; maybe someday I will be able to attend an international convention.

  3. Antoine Mason Antoine Mason

    So was Moses (Moshe) not a person of color? Scripture seems to allude to the fact that he was (Exodus 4:6). Also does historical antiquity suggests that the Hebrews were synonymous with the Hyksos? If so wouldn’t that make them people of color?

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