How many Human Races are there?

One would have to be living under a rock to be unaware of recent (and historical) conflicts arising from what is commonly termed ‘racism’. You may be surprised to hear that the secular (biological and social) sciences have recently discovered something that Scripture already teaches us on this vital subject matter.

Scripture definitively teaches that all human beings were created in the image of God and share a common ancestor. That is, there is one human race. In Acts 17:26 Paul declared to the inquiring crowd in Athens, Greece that “He [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Paul could say this because he knew from the book of Genesis that Scripture teaches that all humanity has a common ancestry —Adam and Eve! Genesis 3:20 says, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” 

Furthermore, after the world wide flood, as recorded in Genesis chapters 6-9, Scripture remarks that the “whole earth was populated” from the three sons of Noah (Genesis 9:19). Given this teaching, believers over the years have written extensively on this subject. For example, see “How Many Races Did God Create?”1 from Answers in Genesis, a Biblically-based apologetics group.

Even secular sources now inadvertently confirm what the Bible has taught for centuries on this matter. Consider the following quote from a recent report from the Harvard Medical School:

“The popular classifications of race are based chiefly on skin color, with other relevant features including height, eyes, and hair. Though these physical differences may appear, on a superficial level, to be very dramatic, they are determined by only a minute portion of the genome: we as a species have been estimated to share 99.9% of our DNA with each other. The few differences that do exist reflect differences in environments and external factors, not core biology...Despite the scientific consensus that humanity is more alike than unlike, the long history of racism is a somber reminder that throughout human history, a mere 0.1% of variation has been sufficient justification for committing all manner of discriminations and atrocities.”2 Back in 2000, an article from the New York Times (“Do Races Differ? Not Really, Genes Show”) clearly stated the position that “Race is a social concept, not a scientific one.”3

So, although cultural practices, beliefs, and languages differ across the globe this does not substantiate the notion of multiple, physical races. Despite external differences, Christians are instructed to have compassion and mercy when encountering varying people groups and nations. During this time of grace in the church age, Scripture teaches that “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Extending mercy does not imply that we compromise the word of God but rather that we walk humbly, with understanding, and with truth spoken in love.

We must point out now that there is a problem within the human race that the biological and social sciences can neither discern nor solve. It is a problem that exists within all people groups and is irrespective of culture, income, and education. It is the fact that the human race has a sin condition and needs to be reconciled to its Creator! Romans chapter 3 clearly describes the spiritual needs of all humankind. Consider Romans 3:9- 11,23: “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.’… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Paul, in Ephesians 2:14-16, describes the creation of “one new man” since the Lord has now offered reconciliation to both Jew and Gentile. “For He [Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

Colossians 3:9-11 also describes the “new man” into which each believer in Christ is transformed. “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him [Jesus] who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

Just as we read that the human genome evidences very strong similarities across nationalities we also see that the spiritual needs across so-called ‘races’ are strikingly similar. The ultimate need is for everyone to be reconciled to their Creator, Jesus Christ! No one is better (or worse) than another. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” When we experience “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)” we will then truly be able to experience peace with our fellow man.

References (accessed online October 2, 2020):

1. https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/how-many- races-did-god-create/

2. http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/science-genetics- reshaping-race-debate-21st-century/

3. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/22/science/do-races differ-not-really-genes-show.html