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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Reclaiming the Bible

If you've been to a Christian bookstore lately, you may have noticed new Bibles that re-examine the African heritage of some biblical characters.

"Many blacks have long believed they have been born with no significant history traceable to biblical days," says Cain Hope Felder, a professor at Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, D.C.

These Bibles say African biblical figures include: Hagar, the slave who bore Abraham's son, Ishmael; Zipporah, wife of Moses; and Rahab, the woman who hid the spies that Joshua sent into Canaan. Rahab is also listed as an ancestor of King David and Jesus.

In her introduction to the Woman of Color Bible, editor Marjorie Lawson says the new Bibles help correct distortions that have occurred over the last 400 years. "During biblical times, the color of a person's skin was ... a nonissue. Only during the last three to four centuries have concerted attempts been made to eliminate the presence of people of color from the Bible."

Many of the Bibles include articles that correct misinterpretations of Old Testament texts — such as the story of Ham, which were used by some to legitimize enslaving people from Africa, says Fred Allen, who helped compile the American Bible Society's African American Jubilee Bible.


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