Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery / Edition 1

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"A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." So reads Noah's curse on his son Ham, and all his descendants, in Genesis 9:25. Over centuries of interpretation, Ham came to be identified as the ancestor of black Africans, and Noah's curse to be seen as biblical justification for American slavery and segregation. Examining the history of the American interpretation of Noah's curse, this book begins with an overview of the prior history of the reception of this scripture and then turns to the distinctive and creative ways in which the curse was appropriated by American pro-slavery and pro-segregation interpreters.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Well-researched, interdisciplinary, and strongly moral Historians of American religion, race relations, or slavery, as well as theologians interested in the interplay between the Bible, culture, and social problems, will find this book as excellent resource."— The Journal of Religion

"Noah's Curse must be recognized as the most innovative and enlightening study of the Biblical defense of American slavery ever published. The dubious legend of Noah, as Stephen R. Haynes points out, is still with us, along with the Confederate symbols flying over public places and fundamentalists denouncing racial mixing. The Southern mind, he brilliantly explains, has woven the conventions of honor, the burdens of shame, the practice of race subordination, and the concept of divine grace into a single cultural fabric. In the field of religious and sectional history, this work will take an honored place next to the studies of Eugene Genovese and Donald Mathews. No one interested in American religious history can ignore this intellectually powerful study."—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida; Author of Southern Honor and The Shaping of Southern Culture

"The ancient rabbis suggested that every biblical text has seventy legitimate meanings (and no doubt an infinite number of illegitimate ones). Stephen Haynes has produced an amazing history of interpretation of the Ham and Nimrod narratives. It becomes clear through his careful research that such texts are supple and vulnerable to misguided theological passion. This book lets us reflect on old mistakes and, by inference, invites us to reflect on our own availability for parallel misreadings. Noah's Curse is an exercise in historical disclosure not to be missed by those who care about the crisis of reading in the church and in a Bible-rooted culture."—Walter Brueggemann, Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary; Author of Spirituality of the Psalms

"Haynes's study provides a thorough and rich sense of the interpretive history of the scriptural story"—Christian Century

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195142792
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Series: Religion in America Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 322
  • Sales rank: 1,517,325
  • Lexile: 1650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Haynes holds the A.B. Curry Chair of Religious Studies at Rhodes College, where he has taught since 1989. His publications include Reluctant Witnesses: Jews and the Christian Imagination (1995) and, as co-editor, To Each its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (1993)

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Table of Contents

1 Setting the Stage 3
Pt. I Characters in the Postdiluvian Drama
2 A Black Sheep in the (Second) First Family: The Legend of Noah and His Sons 23
3 Unauthorized Biography: The Legend of Nimrod and His Tower 41
Pt. II Honor and Order
4 Original Dishonor: Noah's Curse and the Southern Defense of Slavery 65
5 Original Disorder: Noah's Curse and the Southern Defense of Slavery 87
6 Grandson of Disorder: Nimrod Comes to America 105
Pt. III Noah's Camera
7 Noah's Sons in New Orleans: Genesis 9-11 and Benjamin Morgan Palmer 125
8 Honor, Order, and Mastery in Palmer's Biblical Imagination 146
9 Beyond Slavery, Beyond Race: Noah's Camera in the Twentieth Century 161
Pt. IV Redeeming the Curse
10 Challenging the Curse: Readings and Counterreadings 177
11 Redeeming the Curse: Ham as Victim 201
12 Conclusion: Racism, Religion, and Responsible Scholarship 220
Notes 223
Bibliography 299
Index 314
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