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Christian Interpretations of Hams Curse

It should be noted that the majority of these sources are from writers who were either condemned as heretics or, at the time of their writing, were not in communion with the Orthodox Church. These viewpoints do not reflect the views of the Eastern Orthodox Church (i.e. original Christianity).

1. Origen (ca. 185-254): For the Egyptians are prone to a degenerate life and quickly sink to every slavery of the vices. Look at the origin of the race and you will discover that their father Cham, who had laughed at his fathers nakedness, deserved a judgment of this kind, that his son Chanaan should be a servant to his brothers, in which case the condition of bondage would prove the wickedness of his conduct. Not without merit, therefore, does the discolored posterity imitate the ignobility of the race [Non ergo immerito ignobilitatem decolor posteritas imitatur]. - Homilies on Genesis 16.1. 2. Mar Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306 373): "When Noah awoke and was told what Canaan did. . .Noah said, Cursed be Canaan and may God make his face black, and immediately the face of Canaan changed; so did of his father Ham, and their white faces became black and dark and their color changed.1 3. The Cave of Treasures, 4th century Syriac work, gives the explanation that Canaan's curse was actually earned because he revived the sinful music and arts of Cain's progeny that had been before the flood.2 "And Canaan was cursed because he had dared to do this, and his seed became a servant of servants, that is to say, to the Egyptians, and the Cushites, and the Msy, [and the Indians, and all the Ethiopians, whose skins are black]."3 4. Ishodad of Merv, the Syrian Christian bishop of Hedhatha, (9th century): When Noah cursed Canaan, instantly, by the force of the curse. . .his face and entire body became black [ukmotha]. This is the black color which has persisted in his descendants.4 5. Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, a Persian historian (c. 915), recounted a version of the story where Noah cursed both Canaan and Ham to slavery, on account of Ham's action of seeing his father naked and not covering him.5 6. Eutychius, an Alexandrian Melkite patriarch, (d. 940): Cursed be Ham and may he be a servant to his brothers He himself and his descendants, who are the Egyptians, the Negroes, the Ethiopians and (it is said) the Barbari.6 7. Ibn al-Tayyib, an Arabic Christian scholar, Baghdad, (d. 1043): The curse of Noah affected the posterity of Canaan who were killed by Joshua son of Nun. At the moment of the curse, Canaans body became black and the blackness spread out among them. 7 8. Bar Hebraeus, a Syrian Christian scholar, (122686): And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and showed [it] to his two brothers. That isthat Canaan was cursed and

not Ham, and with the very curse he became black and the blackness was transmitted to his descendants And he said, Cursed be Canaan! A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers. 8,9 9. Anne Catherine Emmerich, a Catholic mystic (1774-1824): "I saw the curse pronounced by Noah upon Ham moving toward the latter like a black cloud and obscuring him. His skin lost its whiteness, he grew darker. His sin was the sin of sacrilege, the sin of one who would forcibly enter the Ark of the Covenant. I saw a most corrupt race descend from Ham and sink deeper and deeper in darkness. I see that the black, idolatrous, stupid nations are the descendants of Ham. Their color is due, not to the rays of the sun, but to the dark source whence those degraded races sprang".10 10. John Brown, a Scottish Anglican Divine, published The Self-Interpreting Bible (1778). Genesis 9:25 footnote reads: For about four thousand years past the bulk of Africans have been abandoned of Heaven to the most gross ignorance, rigid slavery, stupid idolatry, and savage barbarity.11

Serfdom The curse of Ham became used as a justification for serfdom during the medieval era. Honorius Augustodunensis (c. 1100) was the first recorded to propose a caste system associating Ham with serfdom, writing that serfs were descended from Ham, nobles from Japheth, and free men from Shem. However, he also followed the earlier interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:21 by Ambrosiaster (late 4th century), that as servants in the temporal world, these "Hamites" were likely to receive a far greater reward in the next world than would the Japhetic nobility.12 The idea that serfs were the descendants of Ham soon became widely promoted in Europe. At the height of the medieval era, it was a significant trend in Genesis exegesis to interpret that the descendants of Ham were serfs. Dame Juliana Berners (c. 1388) in a treatise on hawks, claimed that the "churlish" descendants of Ham had settled in Europe, those of Shem in Africa, and those of Japheth in Asia a departure from normal arrangements because she considered Europe to be the "country of churls", Asia of gentility, and Africa of temperance.13 As serfdom waned in the late medieval era, the interpretation of serfs being descendants of Ham decreased as well.14 Proslavery The curse of Ham has been used to promoted race and slavery movements as early as Classical antiquity. European biblical scholars of the Middle Ages supported the view that the "sons of Ham" or Hamites were cursed, possibly "blackened" by their sins. Though early arguments to this effect were sporadic, they became increasingly common during the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.15 The justification of slavery itself through the sins of Ham was well suited to the ideological interests of the elite; with the emergence of the slave trade, its racialized version justified the exploitation of a ready supply of African labour.

In the parts of Africa where Christianity flourished in the early days, while it was still illegal in Rome, this idea never took hold, and its interpretation of scripture was never adopted by the African Coptic Churches. A modern Amharic commentary on Genesis notes the 19th century and earlier European theory that blacks were subject to whites as a result of the "curse of Ham", but calls this a false teaching unsupported by the text of the Bible, emphatically pointing out that this curse fell not upon all descendants of Ham but only on the descendants of Canaan, and asserting that it was fulfilled when Canaan was occupied by both Semites (Israel) and Japethites (ancient Philistines). The commentary further notes that Canaanites ceased to exist politically after the Third Punic War (149 BC), and that their current descendants are thus unknown and scattered among all peoples.16

NOTES: 1) 2) 3) 4) Paul de Lagarde. Materialien zur Kritik und Geschichte des Pentateuchs,(Leipzig, 1867), part II This sentiment also appears in the later Syriac Book of the Bee (1222). Cave of Treasures, E. Wallis Budge translation from Syriac C. Van Den Eynde, Corpus scriptorium Christianorum orientalium 156, Scriptores Syri 75 (Louvain, 1955), p. 139. 5) Tabari's Prophets and Patriarchs 6) Patrologiae cursus completesseries Graeca, ed. J.P. Migne (Paris, 185766), Pocockes (1658 59) translation of the Annales, 111.917B (sec. 41-43) 7) Joannes C.J. Sanders, Commentaire sur la Gense, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 274-275, Scriptores Arabici 24-25 (Louvain, 1967), 1:56 (text), 2:52-55 (translation). 8) Sprengling and Graham, Barhebraeus Scholia on the Old Testament, pp. 4041, to Gen 9:22. 9) See also: Phillip Mayerson, Anti-Black Sentiment in the Vitae Patrum, Harvard Theological Review, vol. 71, 1978, pp. 304311. 10) All-jesus.com 11) David M. Whitford . The curse of Ham in the early modern era: the Bible and the justifications for slavery, (ISBN 0754666255, 9780754666257), 2009, p. 171 12) Paul H. Freedman, 1999, Images of the mediaeval peasant p. 291; Whitford 2009 pp. 31-34. 13) Whitford 2009 p. 38. 14) David Mark Whitford (21 October 2009). The curse of Ham in the early modern era: the Bible and the justifications for slavery. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-7546-6625-7. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 15) Benjamin Braude, "The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, "William and Mary Quarterly LIV (January 1997): 103142. See also William McKee Evans, "From the Land of Canaan to the Land of Guinea: The Strange Odyssey of the Sons of Ham,"American Historical Review 85 (February 1980): 1543 16) ^ ... (Commentary on Genesis) p. 133-142.