[b-greek] Re: racist overtones in Hermas

From: Bill Barton (phos@prodigy.net)
Date: Thu Sep 07 2000 - 01:53:09 EDT

Bart Ehrman wrote:

ANOMON ESTIN. [Shepherd 9.19.1]>

BE>"This is why they are black, because their race also is lawless.">

BE>I'm eager to give a translation that sticks to the text. Any

I think your translation above follows the text well. Lightfoot and
Harmer, "The Apostolic Fathers," similarly translate, "For this cause also
they are black; for their race is lawless."

In order to establish an overtone of racism, one would perhaps have to
interpret the author's intent in using the key terms "race" and "black."
Two possibilities are:

1) The author is comparing the people on the mountain to the black race of
his day with respect to being unfaithful and apostate and lawless, either
directly or in the back of his mind.

2) The author is constructing a hypothetical race (based on spiritual
condition) which does not correspond to any race of his day; and he uses
the color black as suggestive of death (the fate of this race).

I think it's fair to say that there is no explicit comparison to the black
race of the author's day. So the question then becomes did the author have
this comparison in the back of his mind (overtone).

To show the author had this comparison in the back of his mind, one could
argue one of the following:

a) This author's writings show an explicit racist bias elsewhere in his
writings; or

b) Such a racial bias was an integral part of the author's culture and
hence could be taken for granted; or

c) Such a racial bias was common in the author's day.

Obviously a) makes a stronger argument than b) which makes a stronger
argument than c).

I think the short answer to your question is that a claim of racist
overtone, based on this passage alone, while of course possible is
necessarily weak.

Bill Barton

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