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Biblical Blackness: Cush, the “Curse of Ham,” and the Queen of Sheba

Season 2: Episode 43
Biblical Blackness: Cush, the “Curse of Ham,” and the Queen of Sheba
Date Aired: 11/30/2023

The Bible is largely silent about race. People are identified by their lands of origin and beliefs, not their skin color. Yet centuries of biblical interpreters have read race into the Bible, for good and for ill. As our guest Stacy Davis explains, the biblical land of Cush (sometimes translated as Ethiopia) has long been associated with black people, a point of pride for African and African-American Christians. And Josephus believed that the legendary Queen of Sheba was black. But the Bible has also been misused for racist purposes. In the 1800s, pro-slavery forces in America cited a convoluted reading of Gen 9 and 10 to justify the enslavement of black people under the so-called Curse of Ham.

Listen to the episode on the Biblical Time Machine website or wherever you get your podcasts.

Disclaimer: The Society of Biblical Literature is not responsible for the content of this podcast. The opinions expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the Society of Biblical Literature, its members, or its staff.

  • The Biblical Time Machine Podcast is hosted by Helen Bond and Dave Roos. Helen Bond is professor of Christian origins at Edinburgh University. She is the author of Women Remembered: Jesus’s Female Disciples, The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel, and The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed. Her research focuses on the social and political history of first century Judaea, the historical Jesus and the canonical gospels. Dave Roos is a journalist and writer who contributes to, HowStuffWorks and the popular podcast Stuff You Should Know. Dave has a degree in religious studies from Duke University.