[b-greek] RE: racist overtones in Hermas

From: l. j. swain (x99swain@wmich.edu)
Date: Wed Sep 06 2000 - 00:35:14 EDT

James Ernest wrote:
> I'm not sure there's no racism in the text. A later text, but germaine to
> the larger question, is this passage from Athanasius, The Life of Antony,
> where the monk is tempted by a melas pais; Antony's retort accuses the boy,
> melas ei ton noun. Here's the NPNF translation:
> ¦ 6. At last when the dragon could not even thus overthrow Antony, but
> ¦saw himself thrust out of his heart, gnashing his teeth as it is written,
> ¦and as it were beside himself, he appeared to Antony like a black boy,
> ¦taking a visible shape [17a] in accordance with the colour of his mind.
> ¦<snipped>
 Having heard this, the black one straightway
> ¦fled, shuddering at the words and dreading any longer even to come near
> ¦the man.

I would disagree. This text makes very clear that it is the dragon, i.
e. Satan, the devil, a demon etc. who appears to the saint as a MELAS
PAIS, "in accordance with the colour of his mind"--that is, the inner
state of the mind/heart determines the outward appearance. So I would
have to say that this text isn't suggestive of "racism". And lest we
forget, neither Athanasius nor Anthony are exactly what one would label
"white" in pigmentation.

Larry Swain

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