Is 'interracial' marriage biblical?

It might surprise some to know that there is no such thing as 'interracial' marriage. Why? Because, from both a biblical and a biological perspective, there is only one race: the human race (Romans 5:12; Acts 17:26).

It is more accurate to speak of 'interethnic' marriage, the union of individuals from different ethnic groups. Of this, the Bible speaks favorably, both implicitly and explicitly.

Perhaps the most relevant instance of interethnic marriage in the Bible, one with direct bearing on this issue, involved Moses and a Cushite - that is, a woman from the Arabian peninsula or possibly Ethiopia (Numbers 12:1ff). Miriam, Moses' sister, took offense at the marriage and, along with their brother Aaron, spoke against Moses concerning it. The context indicates this was little more than a racist reaction. God's response was to strike Miriam with leprosy first for defying Moses, his great prophet, but also questioning the moral legitimacy of his taking a Cushite wife (Numbers 12:5-9).

While it is true that the Old Testament is replete with warnings against Israelites marrying among foreign peoples, these were rooted in theology, never ethnicity. God desired that his chosen people avoid intermarriage with the nations around them because it would lead them into idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Joshua 23:12; 1 Kings 11:2). Therefore, marriage to foreign converts to the Hebrew faith (those like Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabite, Uriah the Hittite, and more) was permitted - even celebrated.

Likewise, the New Testament says nothing directly for or against interethnic marriage. Instead, by strong and necessary implication, it affirms it.

For one, the apostles encourage us to no longer regard any person or group primarily from a worldly point of view (2 Corinthians 5:16; James 2:1-13). Beyond that, God’s people, chosen from every nation, tribe, and tongue on earth, are one (Galatians 3:28).

As such, and in keeping with the Old Testament, the New Testament forbids the union of Christ's disciples with those yet outside the Christian faith, a distinction of theology, not ethnicity or any other worldly category (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Sources

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures quoted The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.