Document Type

Peer Reviewed Article

Publication Date

Spring 2017


Inspired by France’s decision to strike the word “race” from the nation’s law books, this essay describes an investigation into the biblical, etymological, historical, sociological and scientific evidence related to the term. It commences with an examination of biblical verses for which some translators haven chosen the word “race.” The article demonstrates that, in each case, the passage in question does not denote phenotypic peculiarity but something else. It next looks at biblical characters whose physical features are highlighted as being distinctive and finds that “race” is conspicuously absent from all English translations of these passages. The origins of the term and its evolution—outside of any biblical context—are then discussed, as is the scientific evidence surrounding the notion. This is followed by a consideration of the current usage of the word to denote a social construct. Recalling the power of language as manifested in the Bible and as described by linguists Sapir and Whorf, the article concludes by recommending the suppression of the term entirely.