by David W. T. Brattston.
Any article on attitudes to racism in the Christian church’s foundational period would be necessarily short. There simply was none. The matter was sometimes different for foreigners and strangers in general.
Racism was absent in the earliest church and in the non-Christian society surrounding it. Christians and other subjects of the Roman Empire simply did not make distinctions based on race. In fact, mentions of a person’s skin color are so rare as to be insignificant. For instance, the Christian Bardesanes in early third-century eastern Syria mentioned the fact that people come in different colors as an example of what everyone agreed was inconsequential.
The only discriminations were based on cultural factors. Jews divided the world into themselves and Gentiles, while for Greeks the distinction was between themselves and “barbarians” i.e. people who did not share Greek language or culture. The Romans divided people between citizens and non-citizens, and then among various economic classes of citizens. The main Roman xenophobia was of hostile peoples outside the Empire. Continue reading The Absence of Racism and Xenophobia in the Early Church