For those who study and believe their bibles, it is never a surprise to see a pope or a Roman Catholic Publication make a mess out of Bible exegesis. What is troubling is seeing a papal bull issued by Innocent III in the 16th century, kept alive by King James Bible believers. To understand that statement we need to look at the history of slavery in Europe prior to the voyages of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama. Prior to those two explorers reopening the slave markets of Europe, the nations of Europe had put an end to the institution of involuntary servitude.
In Nigel Cliff's book Holy War: How Vasco Da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations, Cliff recounts for us the theological headache that families of frightened and shivering slaves created as they huddled on the docks of Lisbon, Portugal. The capitols of Europe had not seen slavery in well over a century. Both the secular governments and the Catholic Church had outlawed it. Slavery in Europe only existed in the last vestiges of the Moslem Kingdom of Spain. Now, with the return of Vasco Da Gama from his voyages around Africa and to the Moslem Satraps of India, the principal wealth with which he returned was human captives used for bartering at the ports where he had stopped.
Without a direct papal intervention, the prospective wealth that Da Gama's and Dias's voyages had seemed to promise to the King of Portugal would be worthless. Innocent III came through with a truly twisted bible gem. He saved the fledgling slave market that Portugal had opened and insured that involuntary human bondage would remain a blight to western civilization. Innocent III cited the story of Noah's three sons. As I recount his reasoning and as I deconstruct it using a King James Bible, I can only be embarrassed for my brethren who failed to see through this ruse but instead have been propagating it.
Innocent III zeroed in on Noah's son Ham. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant, Genesis 9:20-27.
In Innocent III's twisted reasoning, enslaving Ham was justified by scripture. After all, it was Ham's sin that had caused Canaan to be cursed, and the curse had been that he should be a servant of servants unto his brethren. Innocent was only too happy to note that Europeans were descended from Japheth, and that Canaan was to be Japheth's servant. Accordingly, Innocent III extended the curse to all the descendants of Ham because it was highly unlikely that any actual descendants of Canaan himself were living along the coasts of Africa. Since he couldn't be sure if any of the hapless African captives were actual descendants of Canaan, he extended the curse to all of Ham's children even though God hadn't done so. There is apparently a lot of power in a papal decree. The slave trade took off and prospered under Innocent III's blessing.
We need to examine Innocent III's reasoning. We will leave off all reference to him from this point on. He was a truly despicable man who launched crusades against the Anabaptists of Europe, and he undoubtedly burns in hell today. There are enough King James Bible-toting Fundamentalists out there clinging to his reasoning to carry the torch for him. The issue of race is a blot on American Fundamentalism and someone who believes and cherishes a King James Bible needs to shut it down holding forth the King James Bible for all proof.
The first thing we need to do is to consider why Noah cursed Canaan instead of Ham. The simple answer usually given satisfies me well. God had already blessed Ham. Look at David for an example. David put God in a terrible place with his murder and adultery. God had already blessed David and given him an everlasting kingdom. It was David's sons who bore the brunt of God's wrath. One of them became a sex pervert and raped his sister. Two of them sought rebellion against God by seeking the kingdom for themselves. What greater punishment could the Lord have put upon David? He gave over one of his sons to the lusts of his heart and gave over two to rebellion. Likewise, with Ham's sons, Canaan was cursed, not Ham.
Ham had four sons. The sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan, I Chronicles 1:8. Only one of them bore a curse. God did not intend for the seven nations that sprang forth from Canaan to survive. When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them, Deuteronomy: 7:1,2. And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee, Deuteronomy 7:16.
The simple problem for the descendants of Canaan was that there was no justification for them to live. With a few exceptions, Israel was to smite all the inhabitants and their cattle. We know that Israel failed in that mission. And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you, Judges 2:1-3.
Does that mean that those descendants of Canaan still alive in the Middle East and scattered around the world have no justification to live? No, when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he gave all men justification unto life. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life, Romans 5:18. Never again will God send armies into lands to wipe out every living inhabitant. Prior to the cross, people like the Canaanites had no justification unto life. We're not talking about salvation or a born-again experience here. We're talking about whether or not there is any justification for them to live on this earth. For those of you who study, there are three universal things that all men received by the cross of Jesus Christ whether or not they ever repent unto salvation. Justification unto life is one of them.
For the moment, we need to look at Japheth. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant, Genesis 9:27. Japheth certainly had his hay day, but it came relatively late in comparison to Shem and Ham, and in no way did God mix Japheth's blood with the descendants of Jacob. Whereas Israel was mostly descended from Shem, two complete tribes were half Hamite. Both Ephraim and Manasseh were descended from the marriage of Joseph with Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On, Genesis 41:45. Psalms 105 and 106 make it clear that the Egyptians were Hamites. We will see that Ham's bloodline was further disseminated into Israel including into the bloodline of Jesus Christ. What is important here is to realize that while the Lord was forming and guiding the nation of Israel, and while the Lord was endeavoring to see to it that Israel remained a holy seed (Ezra 9:2), Japheth was not mixed therein.
After the Book of Genesis, Japheth disappears from the bible narrative until he reappears as a trader of stolen men in the Book of Ezekiel. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market, Ezekiel 27:13. That is hardly an auspicious reappearance. For those who pay attention to symbolism in the word of God (as they should), blonde hair is unique to Japheth. Yellow hair is a sign of leprosy. Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard, Leviticus 13:30. Blue eyes are also unique to Japheth. The sky is Satan's territory and Japheth has eyes that match. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2.
Is it any wonder that Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem? He is a mooch. Do I have any reader who would find it complimentary to find out that their children lived in other people's houses? Canaan was his servant. Those are not proud and stellar times in the history of Japheth. For every feel-good story of some benevolent plantation owner who was kindly to his slaves, there are hundreds of stories of slave ships with their squalor, torture and miserable death. The testimonies before the British Parliament of the short life spans of Caribbean slaves and the never ending need to purchase stolen men to replace them will forever blight the memory of Japheth. Japheth was enlarged. Herein Japheth became a blessing to the world. The advent of the word of God being disseminated among the children of Japheth wrought great works of righteousness. That is not to say that all of Japheth's works were pure. Those nations conquered and colonized by the Germans, Spanish, Belgians and French suffered. Those nations on the earth today which were colonized by the English-Speaking peoples are light years ahead of the other nations in their development of personal freedoms and self-government. Those colonized earlier in England's history suffered as England matured as a nation, but eventually English-Speaking Colonialism was far more benevolent than any subjugation that any one people ever put on another throughout all of the world's long history.
The Romans and the Greeks each contributed to the language and culture of Western Civilization, but the ascendency of the Greeks and Romans was not the norm for Japheth during the writing of the word of God. The Slavs, Russians, Norse, German, English, French, Spanish and other European descendants of Japheth were wearing furs, carrying spears and practicing cannibalism while Luke was writing the Book of Acts. From the writing of the Book of Acts until the present day, Japheth has prospered and been enlarged. This has been a grace from God to the descendants of Japheth. The history of the world is a history of the various sons of Noah having their time of ascendency. To suppose that Japheth has reached lofty heights due to some inherent virtue, or genetically transmitted superiority is to ignore God, history and common sense.
By the grace of Almighty God, a cursed and damnable people were given their moment in time to dominate the world. Shem had been given his chance, Ham had been given his chance, and lastly Japheth was given his chance. By the grace of Almighty God, the gospel of Jesus Christ leavened some of those nations into being occasional workers of good. At the judgement of nations, each of the many nations descended from Japheth will have their moment to be judged by Jesus Christ to see if they can continue in the millennium. I have hope for some of Japheth. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats, Matthew 25:32.
One of the great fallacies still propagated by errant Fundamentalists is the fallacy that God hates interracial marriage. Israel was not forbidden to marry other races, they were forbidden to marry into other nations. When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son, Deuteronomy 7:1-3.
Each of the sons of Noah were divided into many nations. If a Baptist church was to try to apply keeping nations separate they wouldn't allow a German to marry into a French family. An Italian wouldn't be allowed to marry a Scott. In fact, if the biblical injunction against marrying into other nations was applied to our churches, we should all be judged a mongrel bunch. Other than a few Italians, I don't know any Independent Baptists who are pure blooded to any one nation. Therefore, in their ignorance, they move the barrier to the color of skin even though that was never any impediment to Israel.
Even the barrier that the Lord put up between Israel and other nations could be overcome within the law. The Lord made provision for Israel to take wives from among their captives. When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife, Deuteronomy 21:10-13. If the relevant passages are studied in context, the prohibition against marrying into other nations was to keep the culture pure. It was well within God's provisions for Israel to absorb other nations into his people if they accepted his laws and adopted Israel's culture. There was a mass conversion to Judaism in the days of Mordechai from other nations. Holy writ calls them Jews, not proselytes. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them, Esther 8:17. Strange blood and different ancestry were no impediments to having God accept them as Jews.
Certainly, God had no problem integrating Rahab the Harlot into the bloodline of Jesus Christ. A person can't get any more Canaanite than she was. Rahab would not have been allowed to sit in the front of a bus in the Jim Crow South. For that matter, neither would Jesse have been allowed a front row seat. He was what racist law called an octoroon, a person one eighth black. Oh, wouldn't our redneck white supremacist friends be proud to shepherd Jesse back into a lessor seat. They just wouldn't want David to see it.
Rahab and her offspring were not the first Canaanite blood brought within the bloodlines of Israel. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her, Genesis 38:2. Eventually, she brought forth Shelah. Shelah's progeny can be traced in honor up through the Chronicles.
When Ezra objected to the strange wives and strange children that Israel brought forth, it was specifically stated that it was because they had not been raised Jewish. The wives never converted, and the children couldn't even speak the Jews language. Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass, Ezra 9:1-2.
In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves, Nehemiah 13:23-25. Can anyone who has read all of the other accounts of Israel intermarrying and God's provision for the same, doubt that had these Jews taken the time and care to have converted these women to Judaism and to have raised those children within the laws of God, that the Lord would have sanctioned those marriages?
If you are someone who has been fooled into believing papal nonsense despite the clear testimony of scripture, it is time to repent. I have personally heard Dr. Peter Ruckman and many others teach that nonsense. For one last proof, I draw your attention to the Apostle Paul. In Acts 21, an experienced Roman soldier mistook him for an Egyptian. Egyptians are Hamites. What color was Paul? I have had some try to tell me that the soldier was referring to the Greek culture that had transplanted itself in Egypt. That can't be what the soldier was thinking because he was surprised that Paul spoke Greek. No, the truth is that Paul the apostle could not have sat in the front seat of a Southern bus prior to 1964. A segregated church would have been proud to have excluded him. As a vagrant which he often was, he could have been sold into slavery in the antebellum South, and some nitwit, redneck, no-nothing excuse for a Fundamental Baptist preacher would have said that was fine with him. God Forbid.