Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kinism, the Bible, and Interracial Marriage

Kinists argue that Moses'
Ethiopian wife was really a
Semite; however, this view has
several problems, which
Schwertley here addresses.
by Brian Schwertley
[Note: the following are two excerpts from Brian Schwertley's piece, The Kinist Heresy: A Biblical Critique of Racism)

Interracial Marriage and the Old Testament

One of the most offensive, unbiblical aspects of the racist kinist movement is their teaching that no interracial marriage is permitted even among solid professing Christians. This view as we shall see is unbiblical and absurd.

Since we have already noted the marriage of Rahab the harlot who was likely a Canaanite and Ruth the Moabitess, we will consider a few more. Joseph, whose two sons became tribes of Israel (Manasseh, the firstborn, and Ephraim) was married to an Egyptian, Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On (Gen. 41:46). This name is not Hyksos or Semitic but Egyptian. Two tribes of Israel were half Semitic and half Egyptian; that is, Hamite blood flowed through their veins. I do not know how a kinist would explain how half ethnic  Egyptians could be the basis  of Israelite tribes. To an orthodox Christian it does not really matter because having the faith of Abraham is the crucial issue. 

Then we have the marriage of Moses, who God used to write down His law, to an African, an Ethiopian (Nu. 12:1). When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses’ authority and used Moses’ wife as an excuse, God struck Miriam with leprosy (Nu. 12:10).

The kinists, following Calvin and a few others, identify this wife of Moses as the Midianite (Ex. 2:16ff) and thus they argue that Moses married a Semite. This interpretation is highly unlikely, however, for the following reasons. First, although Habakkuk 3:7 and a few Assyrian texts seem to identify Midian and Cushan, Cush normally refers to Ethiopia. This is certainly how the word is used in Genesis. Thus we should not assign a different meaning to the word in Numbers also written by Moses. A. Noordlzii adds this important information:
Moses has married a Cushite woman. The rabbinical tradition has changed this into “a beautiful wife” to clear Moses of marriage to an Ethiopian (Onkelos, Rashi). Calvin and others believed that this refers to Zipporah (e.g., P. Heinisch, Numeri, p. 52; H. M. Weiner, Monatsschrift fur Geshichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, 1928, p. 309). But neither solution is possible. “Cush” is the Hebraization of the Egyptian Kosh, the name of the region between Assuan and Meru, north of what we call Ethiopia; this region has been inhabited by Nubian tribes with an African culture since 2200 B.C. It is indeed true that in the Old Testament a portion of southern Arabia is called Cush (see 2 Chron. 14:9; 21:16); but the Midianite woman Zipporah came from the northern region of the Sinai peninsula (Exod. 3:1; 18:1), and according to 1 Kings 11:18; Habakkuk 3:7 from near Paran. Moses has thus married a second time, probably a woman who belonged to the “many other people” of Exodus 12:38 (Rashi claims that Moses first divorced Zipporah). The Midrash states that the Cushite woman was Tharbis, daughter of the king of Ethiopia, from Meru (Josephus, Antiquities, II, 10. 2).
Miriam and Aaron complain to Moses about this marriage (both, in spite of the singular verb; cf. Jer. 12:4b; Esth. 7:3b; 9:29a). But apparently Miriam was the instigator, while Aaron once again gives evidence of a weak character (cf. Exod. 32:2ff., 22ff.; Num. 16:11). Miriam cannot have been upset because Moses married a non-Israelite woman, since Zipporah was also an “alien.” Nor can she have been hurt in her national pride, since such marriage were not at all uncommon in Israel (see 1 Chron. 2:34). I conclude from verse 2 that Moses’ marriage to the Cushite woman was nothing more than an excuse.[1]
R. K. Harrison writes,
kus has been identified with a region of continental Africa, either Ethiopia (KJV) or Nubia by some authorities, but alternatively with the territory of the Kassites (Akk. Kassu) in Mesopotamia by others. According to Isa. 18:1 Cush was on the Nile, while in Esther 1:1 Cush represented the southern boundary of Egypt. If the “land of Cush” (Gen. 2:13) did indeed refer to Kassite holdings, it is rather curious that the Kassites are not mentioned elsewhere in the OT, whereas the peoples to the south of Egypt were. If the woman whom Moses had married was indeed a descendant of Cush, she could trace her line back to Ham, son of Noah (Gen. 10:1). The Hamites lived principally in Nubia or Ethiopia.[2]     
Second, the Zipporah argument does not make any sense whatsoever. If it was Zipporah, Moses’ first wife, then Miriam  was complaining about a woman that Moses had been married to for decades. But, if Zippporah had died and Moses married an African woman, the complaint fits perfectly.  In addition, the expression “whom he had married” or more literally, “for he had taken a Cushite wife” sounds as though this was a recent event. Keil & Delitzsch write,
Miriam found an occasion for the manifestation of her discontent in the Cushite wife whom Moses had taken. This wife cannot have been Zipporah the Midianite: for even though Miriam might possibly have called her a Cushite, whether because the Cushite tribes dwelt in Arabia, or in a contemptuous sense as a Moor or Hamite, the author would certainly not have confirmed this at all events inaccurate, if not contemptuous epithet, by adding, “for he had taken a Cushite wife;” to say nothing of the improbability of Miriam having made the marriage which her brother had contracted when he was a fugitive in a foreign land, long before he was called by God, the occasion of reproach so many years afterwards. It would be quite different if, a short time before, probably after the death of Zipporah, he had contracted a second marriage with a Cushite woman, who either sprang from the Cushites dwelling in Arabia, or from the foreigners who had come out of Egypt  along with the Israelites. This marriage would not have been wrong in itself, as God had merely forbidden the Israelites to marry the daughters of Canaan (Ex. xxxiv. 16).[3] 
Another argument is to admit that she was a Cushite but then to say that does not make it right. But, if it was wrong, then  did not Miriam and Aaron have a legitimate complaint? Would not God honor his law-word? Kinist attempts to circumvent the passages that clearly teach the lawfulness of interracial marriages are desperate and foolish. If Joseph can marry an Egyptian, Moses an African, Boaz a Moabite, Bathsheba a Hittite, etc. without God’s disapprobation because faith makes a person a true Jew (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:6-9; 6:16; Eph. 2:15;  1 Pet. 2:9-10, etc.), then it cannot be wrong today. Racism and bigotry should have no acceptance whatsoever in the church of Christ.                                                

Interracial Marriage and the New Testament

"A wife is bound by law as long as her
husband lives; but if her husband dies, she
is at liberty to be married to whom she
wishes, only in the Lord." --the Apostle
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:39.
In the one specific passage on who a believer is allowed to marry in the epistles, Paul says that a Christian can marry anyone they want to as long as he or she is a Christian: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39).[4] If it were unlawful for Jew to marry a Greek or Roman or vice versa, then given the fact that many churches had both Jewish and Gentile members and virtually every substantial city in the Roman Empire had a Jewish community  in it, we would expect Paul to forbid interracial marriage if it were wrong. But following the teaching of the Old Testament, Paul does not have a problem with it at all. For the apostle, the issue is faith. If Paul was a kinist, we would expect him to say, “You can marry anyone you want as long as they are a Christian of your own race or ethnic group.”  

The kinist has an argument for this passage that goes something like this, “This passage does not contradict our position at all because Paul is only giving a brief statement here and is not giving a full exposition on who a Christian can marry. After all, the apostle says nothing about marrying one’s mother, or aunt, or sister or daughter. You surely do not believe someone can marry his blood relative as long as they are a Christian do you?” Of all the attempts of kinists to circumvent this  passage, this is their best argument. It, however, does not prove their case at all. Why is it unnecessary for Paul in this verse to stop and give a brief dissertation on the biblical prohibitions on the degrees of consanguinity? It is not needed because it is so clearly dealt with in the moral law of God (see Lev. 18). When Paul or anyone else says marry a Christian, it is assumed they are speaking of someone with a credible profession of faith and not someone living in scandalous or habitual sin. In addition, there is a very important difference between the biblical prohibitions on the degrees of consanguinity and the kinist/racist prohibitions on interracial marriage. The prohibited degrees of consanguinity are clearly set forth in Scripture while there is nothing at  all forbidding the marriage of two  believers of different ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, in our last lecture we surveyed the many godly people who married non-Hebrews (e.g., Moses who married a Cushite; the wife of Caleb; Salmon who married Rahab the harlot; Boaz who married Ruth; Joseph who married an Egyptian; Bathsheba was married to Uriah the Hittite; etc..). We also noted the law’s provision for the incorporation of non-Jewish people into the covenant nation (Dt. 23:1-8). Moreover, we disproved the kinist perversion of Nehemiah 13 by pointing out that this chapter identifies the foreign women as practicing pagans not believers (Neh. 13:27). If the kinist wants to circumvent the explicit teaching of 1 Corinthians 7:39, he must have solid exegetical proof not simply racist fantasies.  

     [1] A. Noordtzij, Numbers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 106-7.

     [2]  R. K. Harrison, Numbers (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 194-195. 

     [3] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 1:3:75.

     [4] The vast majority of commentators take the expression “in the Lord” as referring to someone united to Christ by faith. Paul insists that believers only marry persons who are already converted to Christ (see Matthew Poole, 3:563; Charles Hodge, 134; Christian Friedrich Kling, 164; A. R. Fausset, vol. 3, part 2, 304: Leon Morris, 122-123; James Moffet, 101; Simon J. Kistemaker, 255; W. Harold Mare, 10:237; etc..). A few commentators prefer the idea that “only in the Lord” means essentially according to the fear of God or in a Christian manner (cf. John Calvin, 1:270; John Gill, 8:655; and R. C. H. Lenski, 331). Charles Hodge notes that even if one takes the view that “in the Lord” means in a Christian manner, it would still forbid intermarrying with the heathen.    

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