[b-greek] RE: racist overtones in Hermas

From: James Ernest (jernest@hendrickson.com)
Date: Wed Sep 06 2000 - 00:48:45 EDT

(1) Well, I don't really know whether there's necessarily racism
in the association of dark colors with wickedness; it looks like
it when the darkness is not abstract but incarnate in a human
form, but I'm unfamiliar with any other evidence that Ath. was racist
and wdn't want to jump to that conclusion.
(2) As far as I know, no samples of Athanasius's skin are available
for analysis.


James D. Ernest
Acquisitions Editor, Hendrickson Publishers
Ph.D. cand., Boston College
S-MAIL: Hendrickson Publishers, 140 Summit Street, P. O. Box 3473
  Peabody, MA 01961-3473 USA
FAX: 978/573-8243
PHONE: 978/573-2243
E-MAIL: ernest@bc.edu (accessible to me anywhere)
E-MAIL: jernest@hendrickson.com (accessible to me in the office)

-----Original Message-----
From: l. j. swain [mailto:x99swain@wmich.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2000 12:35 AM
To: James Ernest
Cc: Biblical Greek
Subject: Re: [b-greek] RE: racist overtones in Hermas

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
> 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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