Through the years there has been a lot of speculation about the race of Augustine. Because he was from North Africa, many from within the social (justice warrior) gospel crowd have claimed that he was probably a black man. This is what I was taught in seminary. When googling the ethnicity of Augustine, nearly all answers suggest he was black or brown.
It is a testimony to liberal scholars’ disingenuity when they often warn us of anachronistic interpretations concerning ethnonationalism in the early church, yet (often even in the same discussion) also claim Augustine was black or brown based purely on anachronistic geographic-racial constellations. (i) That Augustine was black or brown because he was from Africa; (ii) that race doesn’t exist or matter; and (iii) that the civic-nationalist construction of national identity is the Christian position — these are all propositions that the average Christian somehow manages to hold simultaneously.
Nonetheless, recent DNA studies have revealed the folly of these Alienists. There have been numerous suggestions from many scholars that Augustine’s mother, at least, was a Berber. However, Augustine, with his immense biblical-historical awareness, would have been aware that the Berbers descend from the Hamitic peoples, a race from which he emphatically distanced himself.
Despite Justo Gonzalez’s absurd equivocation of ‘Punic’ with ‘African’ in his 2015 book, The Mestizo Augustine: A Theologian Between Two Cultures, the Punic people were by no means indigenous to North Africa. In fact, recent DNA studies have suggested the the Punic people were of European origin: in 2015, “Researchers have sequenced the first complete genome of a 2,500-year-old body discovered in Carthage, Tunisia and found the man had European heritage.”
The Punic people of North Africa, like Augustine, were white European people. This clarifies why Augustine identified with the descendants of Japheth, and fits with our understanding of North Africa as whiter in Augustine’s time than it became following the Muslim conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries.
The new light shed on Augustine’s racial identity also has implications for his views on race and nationhood. If Augustine was indeed not a brown mestizo as Gonzalez et. al allege, his statement that apostolic teaching demands “respect[ing] and living in accord with … racial differences” also means that he, in his North African context, advocated the continuing existence and survival of his own white race as a separate race within the context of Christ’s Kingdom.
Augustine was a white Christian ethnonationalist.