The Curse of Ham

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

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How old is prejudice against black people? Were the racist attitudes that fuelled the Atlantic slave trade firmly in place 700 years before the European discovery of sub-Saharan Africa? In this book, David Goldenberg seeks to discover how dark-skinned peoples, especially black Africans, were portrayed in the Bible and by those who interpreted the Bible - by Jews, Christians and Muslims. His investigations cover a 1500-year period, from ancient Israel (around 800 BCE) to the 8th century CE, after the birth of Islam. By tracing the development of anti-Black sentiment during this time, Goldenberg uncovers views about race, colour and slavery that took shape over the centuries - most centrally, the belief that the biblical Ham and his descendants, the black Africans, had been cursed by God with eternal slavery. Goldenberg begins by examining a host of references to black Africans in biblical and post-biblical Jewish literature. From there he moves the inquiry from Black as an ethnic group to black as colour, and early Jewish attitudes towards dark skin colour. He goes on to ask when the black African first became identified as slave in the Near East, and, in a powerful culmination, discusses the resounding influence of this identification on Jewish, Christian and Islamic thinking, noting each tradition's exegetical treatment of pertinent biblical passages.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 165.1 x 231.14 x 38.1mm | 748.42g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 2 tables.
  • 069111465X
  • 9780691114651

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[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 Review 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. hael N. Jagessar,"Black Theology

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About David M. Goldenberg

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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