This Strange Story: Jewish and Christian Interpretation of the Curse of Canaan from Antiquity to 1865

This Strange Story: Jewish and Christian Interpretation of the Curse of Canaan from Antiquity to 1865

by Stacy Davis


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, August 22


This book addresses the claim that an American antebellum era anti-African reading of "the curse of Canaan" story originated in rabbinic literature. By tracing the curse of Canaan's history of interpretation from the beginning of the Common Era to 1865, with particular emphasis on the neglected medieval period, this work examines this long-held false claim. Although Jewish readings of the curse of Canaan appear in medieval Christian commentaries, no Jewish references to skin color are repeated in Christian exegesis. Therefore, the book argues that the anti-African antebellum reading develops in response both to abolitionism and the biblical text's establishment of a social hierarchy that divides humankind into slaves and masters. The pro-slavery reading is an extension of Christian allegorical exegesis of the curse of Canaan, in which Shem, Ham, and Japheth represented different groups of people depending upon the interpreter's historical context, usually Jewish Christians, Jews or Christian heretics, and Gentile Christians respectively. Southerners and their allies simply changed the typology, making Shem the ancestor of brown people, Ham the ancestor of black people due to a reading of his genealogy in Genesis 10, and Japheth the ancestor of white people. The new typology justified African slavery as a divinely ordained and sanctioned economic system, just as the old typology justified Christian supersessionism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780761838791
Publisher: UPA
Publication date: 11/01/2007
Pages: 250
Product dimensions: 6.05(w) x 9.13(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Stacy Davis is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN.

Table of Contents

Part 1 List of Abbreviations Part 2 Foreword Part 3 Preface Part 4 Acknowledgements Chapter 5 Introduction Chapter 6 Textual History and Exegesis Chapter 7 Interpretation of the Curse of Canaan, ca. 100 BCE–1050 CE Chapter 8 Jewish Interpretation of the Curse of Canaan in France and Spain, ca. 1075–1350 Chapter 9 Christian Interpretation of the Curse of Canaan in Western Europe, ca. 1075–1350 Chapter 10 Modern Western Exegesis of the Curse of Canaan, ca. 1500–1865 Chapter 11 Conclusion Part 12 Appendix Part 13 Endnotes Part 14 References Part 15 Index of Texts Part 16 Index of Names and Subjects Part 17 About the Author

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews