The Perpetuation of Racial Assumptions in Biblical Studies

Bibliographic information:

Galbraith, Deane. “The Perpetuation of Racial Assumptions in Biblical Studies.” in History, Politics and the Bible from the Iron Age to the Media Age: Essays in Honour of Keith W. Whitelam, eds James G. Crossley and Jim West, 116-134. (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017).


Racial distinctions remain embedded within contemporary conceptual frameworks and academic institutions. By examining scholarship on the Spy Narrative (Numbers 13–14 and Deuteronomy 1:19–46), this essay uncovers two main aspects of historical-critical method in which racial assumptions influence its conclusions: (1) a social evolutionary framework which connects material which has been arbitrarily allocated between ‘myth’ and ‘truly’ biblical material; and (2) an appeal to increasingly more subtle racialized categories to reprise older scholarship based on explicitly racist assumptions. The case study finds that racialist assumptions remain a constituent part of historical criticism, determining its key conclusions, as a result making it complicit in, rather than a challenge to, modern forms of racial discrimination and oppression.


Bloomsbury T&T Clark (website:

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