Reconciling the modern categories of race, ethnicity, and religion with ancient examples of identity formation continues to befuddle historians of antiquity. This problem of fusing disparate ancient and modern conceptual categories has been particularly acute for historians of early Christianity. This paper investigates the color symbolism employed in early Christian apocalyptic literature and demonstrate the role that such rhetorical strategies have on the formulations of Christian imperialism and anti-black prejudice. Yonatan Binyam proposes that racial formation theory as currently employed in premodern race studies can be a productive heuristic for analyzing Christian social formations in late antiquity.
Yonatan Binyam is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute for Society and Genetics and the Bunche Center for African American Studies. Prior to coming to UCLA, he was an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Department at Pennsylvania State University. He holds a doctorate in Religion from Florida State University. His research focuses on medieval Ethiopic receptions of ancient Greek and Latin texts, as well as the study of race, ethnicity, and religion in late antiquity.
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