The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

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Overview

"A truly stunning work and a masterpiece of its kind. David Goldenberg goes far beyond anyone else in offering the most comprehensive, convincing, and important analysis I've read on interpretations of the famous Curse and, generally, of blackness and slavery. His research is breathtaking. It yields almost definitive answers to many longstanding debates over early attitudes toward dark skin."—David Brion Davis, Yale University, author of In the Image of God: Religion, Moral Values, and Our Heritage of Slavery

"A great book on a great topic. It is great both for what it does and what it does not do. What it does is to survey, consider, annotate, and analyze every Jewish text that refers to, or can be thought to refer to, black/dark skin or Black Africans. And yet it does not engage in polemics or apologetics."—Shaye J. D. Cohen, Harvard University, author of The Beginnings of Jewishness

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Editorial Reviews

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Goldenberg has produced what may well become the definitive study of race and slavery in the Old Testament texts. . . . In a work particularly valuable for its comprehensiveness and philology, Goldenberg's research is monumental; the writing is clear as a bell; the arguments are not only cogent, but honest. . . . In short, this is a wonderful book and I hope that it finds many readers.
— Molly Myerowitz Levine
America - Daniel J Harrington
Goldenberg's study is clearly a work of mature scholarship on an important theme. . . He writes in an accessible style and makes complex matters intelligible to nonspecialists. In fact, I often became so engrossed in his argument that I thought I was reading a detective story.
Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews - Molly Myerowitz Levine
Goldenberg has produced what may well become the definitive study of race and slavery in the Old Testament texts. . . . In a work particularly valuable for its comprehensiveness and philology, Goldenberg's research is monumental; the writing is clear as a bell; the arguments are not only cogent, but honest. . . . In short, this is a wonderful book and I hope that it finds many readers.
Church Times - John Pridmore
For so massively erudite a work this book is remarkably accessible. Goldenberg is sufficiently persuaded of the importance of the case he is making- that the Bible does not measure people's worth by the color of their skin—not to encumber the main body of his book with the kind of extended academic argument in whose thickets most readers would soon be lost. . . . [He has a] conviction that a scholarly work, if it has something important to say, should not be just for scholars.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Desmond Tutu
[A] masterly book. . . . With scrupulously meticulous and erudite scholarship, Goldenberg examines a plethora of source material and is a competent and assured guide through this labyrinth.
BYU Studies - Stirling Adams
[This] book is the result of thirteen years of steady research and presents what is often highly technical scholarship and linguistic analysis in a readable, cogent manner. . . .The Curse of Ham represents an important step towards increasing the ability of those who view the Bible as scripture to avoid continuing this error.
Chicago Jewish Star - Arnold Ages
Goldenberg has delved into the murky story which forms the focus of Genesis, Chapter 9: Noah's emergence from the flood, his drunken stupor, and his subsequent embarrassment at his son Ham's viewing of his nakedness. This is not only a meticulously documented work but an extraordinarily well-written inquiry...His purpose is to ascertain how this verse was transformed from a curse directed at Ham's son to a blanket condemnation of an entire race.
"Black Theology hael N. Jagessar

The Curse of Ham will clearly have a significant impact on the perennial debate over the roots of racism and slavery and on the study of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My view is that this volume ought to be required reading for all Black scholars. Biblical exegetes, theologians and clergy will all find this a valuable resource.
America - Daniel J. Harrington
Goldenberg's study is clearly a work of mature scholarship on an important theme. . . He writes in an accessible style and makes complex matters intelligible to nonspecialists. In fact, I often became so engrossed in his argument that I thought I was reading a detective story.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2005 Meritorious Publication Award, University of Cape Town

"[A] sweeping and ambitious work. . . . [T]he research is meticulous and important."—Publishers Weekly

"Goldenberg's study is clearly a work of mature scholarship on an important theme. . . He writes in an accessible style and makes complex matters intelligible to nonspecialists. In fact, I often became so engrossed in his argument that I thought I was reading a detective story."—Daniel J Harrington, America

"Goldenberg has produced what may well become the definitive study of race and slavery in the Old Testament texts. . . . In a work particularly valuable for its comprehensiveness and philology, Goldenberg's research is monumental; the writing is clear as a bell; the arguments are not only cogent, but honest. . . . In short, this is a wonderful book and I hope that it finds many readers."—Molly Myerowitz Levine, Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

"For so massively erudite a work this book is remarkably accessible. Goldenberg is sufficiently persuaded of the importance of the case he is making- that the Bible does not measure people's worth by the color of their skin—not to encumber the main body of his book with the kind of extended academic argument in whose thickets most readers would soon be lost. . . . [He has a] conviction that a scholarly work, if it has something important to say, should not be just for scholars."—John Pridmore, Church Times

"An outstanding and comprehensive study."—Choice

"[A] masterly book. . . . With scrupulously meticulous and erudite scholarship, Goldenberg examines a plethora of source material and is a competent and assured guide through this labyrinth."—Desmond Tutu, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The Curse of Ham will clearly have a significant impact on the perennial debate over the roots of racism and slavery and on the study of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My view is that this volume ought to be required reading for all Black scholars. Biblical exegetes, theologians and clergy will all find this a valuable resource."—Michael N. Jagessar,Black Theology

"[This] book is the result of thirteen years of steady research and presents what is often highly technical scholarship and linguistic analysis in a readable, cogent manner. . . .The Curse of Ham represents an important step towards increasing the ability of those who view the Bible as scripture to avoid continuing this error."—Stirling Adams, BYU Studies

"Goldenberg has delved into the murky story which forms the focus of Genesis, Chapter 9: Noah's emergence from the flood, his drunken stupor, and his subsequent embarrassment at his son Ham's viewing of his nakedness. This is not only a meticulously documented work but an extraordinarily well-written inquiry...His purpose is to ascertain how this verse was transformed from a curse directed at Ham's son to a blanket condemnation of an entire race."—Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star

America
Goldenberg's study is clearly a work of mature scholarship on an important theme. . . He writes in an accessible style and makes complex matters intelligible to nonspecialists. In fact, I often became so engrossed in his argument that I thought I was reading a detective story.
— Daniel J Harrington
Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews
Goldenberg has produced what may well become the definitive study of race and slavery in the Old Testament texts. . . . In a work particularly valuable for its comprehensiveness and philology, Goldenberg's research is monumental; the writing is clear as a bell; the arguments are not only cogent, but honest. . . . In short, this is a wonderful book and I hope that it finds many readers.
— Molly Myerowitz Levine
Church Times
For so massively erudite a work this book is remarkably accessible. Goldenberg is sufficiently persuaded of the importance of the case he is making- that the Bible does not measure people's worth by the color of their skin—not to encumber the main body of his book with the kind of extended academic argument in whose thickets most readers would soon be lost. . . . [He has a] conviction that a scholarly work, if it has something important to say, should not be just for scholars.
— John Pridmore
Choice
An outstanding and comprehensive study.
Times Higher Education Supplement
[A] masterly book. . . . With scrupulously meticulous and erudite scholarship, Goldenberg examines a plethora of source material and is a competent and assured guide through this labyrinth.
— Desmond Tutu
BYU Studies
[This] book is the result of thirteen years of steady research and presents what is often highly technical scholarship and linguistic analysis in a readable, cogent manner. . . .The Curse of Ham represents an important step towards increasing the ability of those who view the Bible as scripture to avoid continuing this error.
— Stirling Adams
Chicago Jewish Star
Goldenberg has delved into the murky story which forms the focus of Genesis, Chapter 9: Noah's emergence from the flood, his drunken stupor, and his subsequent embarrassment at his son Ham's viewing of his nakedness. This is not only a meticulously documented work but an extraordinarily well-written inquiry...His purpose is to ascertain how this verse was transformed from a curse directed at Ham's son to a blanket condemnation of an entire race.
— Arnold Ages
Black Theology
The Curse of Ham will clearly have a significant impact on the perennial debate over the roots of racism and slavery and on the study of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My view is that this volume ought to be required reading for all Black scholars. Biblical exegetes, theologians and clergy will all find this a valuable resource.
BYU Studies
[This] book is the result of thirteen years of steady research and presents what is often highly technical scholarship and linguistic analysis in a readable, cogent manner. . . .The Curse of Ham represents an important step towards increasing the ability of those who view the Bible as scripture to avoid continuing this error.
— Stirling Adams
Chicago Jewish Star
Goldenberg has delved into the murky story which forms the focus of Genesis, Chapter 9: Noah's emergence from the flood, his drunken stupor, and his subsequent embarrassment at his son Ham's viewing of his nakedness. This is not only a meticulously documented work but an extraordinarily well-written inquiry...His purpose is to ascertain how this verse was transformed from a curse directed at Ham's son to a blanket condemnation of an entire race.
— Arnold Ages
Black Theology
The Curse of Ham will clearly have a significant impact on the perennial debate over the roots of racism and slavery and on the study of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My view is that this volume ought to be required reading for all Black scholars. Biblical exegetes, theologians and clergy will all find this a valuable resource.
Publishers Weekly
The Book of Genesis records an instance of Noah cursing his son Ham's descendants to be slaves. Although there is no biblical evidence that Ham was the "father" of African peoples, various Jewish, Christian and Islamic writers came to believe that he was, and their association helped to justify centuries of African enslavement. When did this interpretation creep in? In this sweeping and ambitious work, Goldenberg shows that early Jewish sources actually had positive or neutral associations for Africa and for Ethiopians (sometimes called "Kushites"), but that postbiblical writers such as Philo and Origen began associating "blackness" with darkness of the soul. Goldenberg's final chapters painstakingly trace the historical trajectories for "the curse of Ham" and "the curse of Cain" in Western thought through the 20th century. (Supporters of slavery thought that the "mark" that God put on Cain after he murdered Abel was black skin. The linguistic discussions in this book can be highly technical, but the research is meticulous and important. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

David M. Goldenbergis Isidore and Theresa Cohen Chair of Jewish Religion and Thought at the University of Cape Town, and Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. He was formerly President of Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, Associate Director of the Annenberg Research Institute for Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, and Editor of "The Jewish Quarterly Review".
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Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS xi
Introduction 1
PART ONE: IMAGES OF BLACKS
ONE
Biblical Israel: The Land of Kush 17
TWO
Biblical Israel: The People of Kush 26
THREE
Postbiblical Israel: Black Africa 41
FOUR
Postbiblical Israel: Black Africans 46
PART TWO: THE COLOR OF SKIN
FIVE
The Color of Women 79
SIX
The Color of Health 93
SEVEN
The Colors of Mankind 95
EIGHT
The Colored Meaning of Kushite in Postbiblical Literature 113
PART THREE: HISTORY
NINE
Evidence for Black Slaves in Israel 131
PART FOUR: AT THE CROSSROADS OF HISTORY AND EXEGESIS
TEN
Was Ham Black? 141
ELEVEN
"Ham Sinned and Canaan was Cursed?!" 157
TWELVE
The Curse of Ham 168
THIRTEEN
The Curse of Cain 178
FOURTEEN
The New World Order: Humanity by Physiognomy 183
Conclusion
Jewish Views of Black Africans and the Development of Anti-Black Sentiment in Western Thought 195
APPENDIX I
When is a Kushite not a Kushite? Cases of Mistaken Identity 201
APPENDIX II
Kush/Ethiopia and India 211
NOTES 213
GLOSSARY OF SOURCES AND TERMS 379
SUBJECT INDEX 395
INDEX OF ANCIENT SOURCES 413
INDEX OF MODERN SCHOLARS 431

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  • Posted December 26, 2008

    Curse of Ham - a meticulous work except...

    This book is very meticulous with an abundance of information on how the curse of Ham evolved from the time of the Greeks and Romans. It however, leaves out an important ancient Semitic (Afro-Asiatic) cultural history and heritagee. It dealss mainly with the origins of Syrian and European Jewish tradition rather than true Semitic heritage as exemplified in early Arabia including Judaea. Hamran (or Ham)and Shim'al refered to the agricultural as opposed to bedouin Arabian caste which controlled them. In Arabian and early Jewish culture Ham and Shem and Japhet were definitely one peoples. To be fair in Arabia as late as the 13th c. was considered to be descended from a slave. According to ibn Rabbu writer of El Eqd El Fareed of Andalusia the Shuraik el Qadi of the 7th c. said "A fair-skinned Arab is something unthinkable or inconceivable". The interpretation of colors in this book by Goldenberg is different from early Arab interpretations. For example, his interpretation of el Tabari in Arabic where it says " Shem were both black and black with a light brown undertone". The term for fair skin in Arab is not white . White, yellow and green was and is used in early Arabian and modern African and Afro-Arabian culture often for brown and dark-skinned people like Aulemidden Tuareg in Niger,Fulani in Sahara, African Americans and North Sudanese, etc. Thus Thus El Dhahabi 13th and 14th c. said in the text Seyar A'alam al Nubalaa, "When the Arabs say that that a person is white they mean that he is black with a light brownish undertone." He also wrote "red in the speech of the people from the Hijaz means fair-complexioned and this color is rare amongst the Arabs. This is the meaning of the saying... 'a red man as if he is one of the slaves'." ." Similar statements are made by Ibn Mandur 12th c. who said Red people applies to the non-Arabs because of their whiteness and he also said the Arabs call the slaves "the red people". This is why in the Kitab al Aghani the tribe of Yashkur in Mohammed's time is said to be "so lightskinned that you would think they are slaves." Thalab of the 9th c. stated "The Arabs don't say a man is white because of a white complexion... If they meant that his complexion was white, they said red."<BR/><BR/>This is to say while in Syria and the Levant blackness may have come to be associated with slavery. But, it was quite the opposite among the early or real Arabs who were also the originators of the Ham, Shem Japhet allegory. In Arabian genealogy Shem Ham and Japhet are various tribes in Arabia and are all the same color. <BR/><BR/>Even one Jewish writing Pirqe de Ribbi Eli`ezer pereq 24.says "Shem was especially blessed black and beautiful. Ham was blessed black like the raven, and Yapheth was blessed white all over."from Pirqe de Ribbi Eli`ezer pereq 24. Thus it is clear the tradition Shem and Japhet being white arose later. First Japhet became white because Arabian tribes had been settled in Iran and Asia Minor for a millenium and a half before Christ since this Hyksos period and before. As Josephus said the nations received their names from their original inhabitants. Then Shem finally became associated with whiteness as Syrians and other groups began to adopt Judaean and Arabian culture in Palestine and Syria. <BR/><BR/>It is clear that European academics need to become more versed on early Semitic and Arabian culture and dialects and stop t

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