From Every People and Nation is the most comprehensive study of the Bible in support of racial equality published to date by an evangelical scholar.J. Daniel Hays, chair of the department of religious studies at Quachita Baptist University, builds his theology of race relations on the basis of careful exegetical work.

Hays argues the Bible assumes a common origin for all humanity and a multi-ethnic world. Because all people are created in the image of God, all share a common status and worth. God’s plan of redemption included all kinds of people from its beginnings. Interracial marriage was practiced by the ancient people of God and in the New Testament era and is inherent in Paul’s theology of the church’s unity. Black leaders emerged in the early church (Acts 13). The gospel must be shared across all ethnic and racial lines, and the resulting church must be actively unified. Whatever else one might say about the consummation of history and the people of God, God intends his people be drawn from every tribe, language group, people and nation.

Along the way to such conclusions, Hays deals with an amazing number of biblical texts, terms, stories, and critical problems. His clear-cut analysis of the texts associated with the so called “Curse of Ham” and its subsequent misinterpretation is worth the price of the book. His discussion of the genealogy of Christ as found in Matthew’s Gospel and of the multi-ethnic thrust of Luke-Acts provides not only useful information but serves also as an excellent example of how to connect quality exegesis with relevant, theological thinking. The same can be said of his treatment of Genesis 1-12, Torah, the monarchy, the prophets, Paul and Revelation.

One senses Hays’ passion throughout the book. Most readers will be moved as they read the preface, in which he recounts growing up on military bases. As a child and teenager, he moved in the world of the military, in which segregation had more often to do with rank than race. He recalls being a bit stunned when he ventured into the world off the bases and found there segregation according to one’s skin color. Later experience as a missionary in southern Ethiopia, followed by exposure to the tradition of T. B. Maston’s battle against racism, further contributed to his personal formation.  Frankly, it is rare to find such a combination of passion and careful scholarship as is the case with From Every People and Nation.

In addition to academics, pastors and laity who are committed to serious Bible study, biblically based theology and biblically grounded ethics will want the book on their shelves. If Intervarsity Press wishes to extend the book’s usefulness to a wider audience, perhaps the author and his editors might attempt to fashion a study guide suitable for use by small groups.

Mike Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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