Recently we have seen news about racial hatred and white supremacy. Sometimes racist claims are attributed to the Bible. We must understand the true biblical teaching on the origins of racial groups. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the Earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us that in Christ we are all one. Genesis 1:27 reveals that God created us in His image. That description is of all humans, not one race or group.
In Genesis 6:4 we see a passage that many have felt advocates strange interpretations of the Hebrew word “nephilim.” The Hebrew lexicon tells us that “nephilim,” means “fallen ones.” Numbers 13:33 uses the same word to give us the story of a time when Israel was about to invade and take the promised land. Twelve spies scouted the land and came back with a report of the land and the people. They described the people, and among them they included “the fallen ones who are the sons of Anak.”(Verse 33). Anak in the Hebrew language refers to a “large, long-necked people.” The Bible describes these pagan, war-like people, but the point is they are all descriptions of people. The nephilim were not aliens or astronauts or spirit creatures or yeti.
In the first chapter of Song of Solomon, we see a wife of Solomon writing a love letter. In verse 6 she indicates that her racial characteristic is that she is dark skinned. Dark sin was considered to be beautiful, and that is true of American teenagers just as it was in ancient Israel. Just a casual look at the relationship between latitude and skin color shows us that many racial features are a function of the geographic latitude where people live. People who are native to equatorial latitudes tend to have darker skin than people in northern latitudes. Almost every racial feature you can imagine has practical survival value as a function of climate. God created humans to live anywhere on the Earth, and we all have genomes that allow us to adapt to those latitudes.
Racial hatred has no place or connection to the Bible. It is totally a function of ignorance and a refusal to value humans and see them all as equal. God urges us to love one another and to live as He has called us to live.
One of the most ambiguous words used by believers and atheists alike is when they say they are taking the Bible “literally.” It is ambiguous because of the underlying assumptions people make about the biblical translations. Word meanings can change over centuries and sometimes over decades. We can think of words, such as “gay,” which have changed in meaning in our lifetimes. Sometimes believers get confused by the meaning of Bible words in the King James Version. Skeptics especially like to criticize anatomical Bible words for being inaccurate.
At one extreme, some Bible fundamentalists insist that the King James Version was given by direct revelation from God to the translators in 1611, and that it is 100% correct. There are massive difficulties with that view. There are both translation mistakes and antiquated vocabulary in the KJV. Many words used in the KJV have gone out of use or have different meanings today.
A translation error we have mentioned before is in Genesis 6 wherenephilim is translated “giant.” That mistranslation was a carryover from the earlier Latin Vulgate translation. In the Vulgate, the Latin scholars translated nephilim as gigantus which means “giant.” The KJV translators didn’t go back to the true meaning of the word nephilim which is “fallen ones.” The Hebrew word nephilim is derived from naphal which means to fall, fall away, or be cast down.
At the other extreme, atheists, skeptics, and biblical minimalists have claimed that the Bible is full of errors. They say that anatomical Bible words show a lack of understanding of basic science. The Hebrew word for kidneys is kelayot and it was used by the ancients in the sense of “mind” or “interior self.” We find it used eleven times in the Old Testament in reference to humans. In the KJV it is usually translated “reins.” We all know that the kidneys filter our blood and remove wastes, but the Bible never identifies the kidneys with that function. In Job 19:27 kelayot is translated “heart” or “mind” in most translations. In Proverbs 23:16 most translations read “innermost being.”
So does this mean that the Bible is not the word of God because our creator should have understood that kidneys are not the seat of our inner self? We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. We have stated before that we must understand the Bible literally. To take it literally means to look at who wrote the passage, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of the day in which it was written would have understood it.