This is perhaps one of the best known references found within a major publication. The choice of words indicates that Negroes are from the line of Shem. This has raised major speculation from the majority of people that have read it. It reads as follows:
“Ham: The youngest son of Noah, born probably about 96 years before the Flood; and one of eight persons to live through the Flood. He became the progenitor of the dark races; not the Negroes, but the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Libyans and Canaanites.” – Zondervan Bible Dictionary
A Christian apologist was made aware of this entry and made a video accusing Zondervan of espousing the ideas from the book, “The Negro: A Beast.”
Due to the controversy the dictionary and the video caused, a representative from Zondervan’s parent company, Harper Collins, began emailing the following response to those inquiring as to what the entry in their dictionary meant:
“From: “Bigler, Amy” <email@example.com>
To: “Bigler, Amy” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thu, May 21, 2020 at 10:02 AM
Subject: Your inquiry regarding the Zondervan Compact Bible Dictionary
“Thank you for sending this information to us, including the link to the video by Nefer Nitty. First, I want you to know that Zondervan would never knowingly publish something that was intended to support racism or discrimination based on one’s ethnicity.
This title was originally produced by a Zondervan employee and published back in the 1960s. This is the first time that I am aware of that anyone has raised concerns about the article on Ham (and I have been with Zondervan for 40 years). I believe that Nitty’s interpretation of the article is based on a misreading and misinterpretation of the dictionary article perpetrated by Black Hebrew Israelites. I hope the following is helpful.
Unfortunately, Ms. Bigler falsely makes the assumption that the video creator was associated with “Black Hebrew Israelites”, when in reality she was a Jehovah’s Witness and active Christian Apologist at the time. These incorrect assumptions continue throughout the response.
There is a certain irony in this interpretation of the phrase “not the Negroes.” The Black Hebrew Israelites take the phrase out of context and use it as “scholarly” proof that Negroes are not Africans, but apparently Israelites. But Nitty links the phrase to a racist book published in 1800 that attempted to support slavery of Negroes with Scripture. I hope the following is helpful.
First, it is highly unlikely that the editor who produced the Zondervan Compact Bible Dictionary was even aware of the book from 1800s that apparently argued that the exclusion of Negroes from the list of the descendants of Ham was evidence that they were not made in the image of God, in other words, that they were less than fully human, thus justifying the enslavement of the Negroes.
Why then does the editor of the dictionary include the phrase “not the Negroes” in this article on Ham and his descendants? I can only guess, but here is the likely explanation: Noah pronounced a curse on Canaan, one of Ham’s sons, and said that Canaan (and by implication Canaan’s descendants) would be a slave to his brothers (and by implication to their descendants). Those who have attempted to argue that the Bible supports the slavery of Negroes have also argued that Abraham’s curse on Ham’s son Canaan included the Negroes. So, it is likely that the editor of this dictionary included the phrase “not the Negroes” in order to make it clear that the curse on Ham/Canaan did not at all have in mind Negroes! Therein is the irony in this situation. What the editor likely intended as evidence that the curse did not apply to Negroes is now being used as evidence that Negroes are less than human and hence candidates for slavery!
That raises the question, “From which of Noah’s sons do the Negroes come?” Answer: The text does not tell us just as it does not tell us from which son Asians are descended. It is likely that the lists of Noah’s descendants are intended to be representative of all of humanity, but not an exhaustive listing of every ethnic group. Of course, we must also remember that if the flood was not universal (i.e. worldwide) and did not destroy all of humanity worldwide, there could well have been people who survived the flood because it did not impact their part of the world. However, the question of whether or not the flood was worldwide and destroyed all of humanity except Noah and his descendants is a very controversial topic.
In any event, the two different interpretations of the article on Ham by the Black Hebrew Israelites and Nefer are both wrong—they are reading ideas into the article that were not intended to be there and logically are not there.”
While Ms. Bigler admits that she is not sure of why the entry was originally added to the dictionary, she speculates that the motive was a good natured attempt to exclude Negroes from the list of cursed descendants of Ham. While the true motives behind the entry may never be known, what we do know is that all Negroes did not descend from Ham.