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Does The Bible Condone Slavery

Here Are Ten Passages From The Bible That Clearly Demonstrate Gods Position On Slavery: From The Most Worstest To The Worst

Does the Bible condone slavery?

Exodus 21:7If a man sells his daughter as a slave she will not leave as male slaves do.If she does not please her master who intended her for himself he must let her be bought back.

Can it get any worse than this? A man sells his daughter to be a slave knowing full well that she will be raped but she had better enjoy the rape and be good in bed or else the father will have to give the rapist his money back.

Here, in these separate passages, God describes how to become a slave for life, and shows that it is completely acceptable to separate slaves from their families. God also shows that he completely endorses the branding of slaves through mutilation.

But if the slave says to you, I do not want to leave you, because he loves you and your family, and is well off with youthen you must take an awl and drive it through the slaves ear and into the door. He will be your servant forever.Exodus 21:2

Take an awl and drive it through the slaves ear.That sounds about right. Note its because its because he loves you and your family. Not because he loves his own family. Family values hadnt quite entered the lexicon yet.

When you purchase a Hebrew slave, his service will last for six years.In the seventh year he will leave a free man. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and children will belong to the master, and he will depart aloneDeuteronomy 15:16

Why Bibles Given To Slaves Omitted Most Of The Old Testament

Museum of the Bible

The so-called Slave Bible told of Josephs enslavement but left out the parts where Moses led the Israelites to freedom.

When slavery was legal, its proponents often justified it with the Bible specifically, a verse that tells servants to obey their masters. There were also a lot of verses that abolitionists could and did use to argue against slavery. But you wouldnt find those in the heavily-redacted Slave Bible.

Most of the Old Testament is missing, and only about half of the New Testament remains. The reason? So that the enslaved Africans in the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua couldnt read or be read anything that might incite them to rebel.

The Slave Bible was actually titled Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands.

Its not clear who exactly directed these changes. British planters in the Caribbean had long been weary of missionaries, and couldve demanded that they only teach enslaved people certain parts of the Bible. But some missionaries may have also believed that it was only appropriate to teach enslaved people excerpts that reinforced their enslaved status.

Whoever the Slave Bibles editors were, theyre really highlighting portions that would instill obedience, says Anthony Schmidt, a curator at Washington, D.C. Museum of the Bible, which has a copy of the Slave Bible on display. There are only two other known copies.

Museum of the Bible

And Now You Christians Cannot Excuse Slavery As An Old Testament Thing

Now a centurion had a slave who was dear to him, who was sick and at the point of death. When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue. And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, Go, and he goes and to another, Come, and he comes and to my slave, Do this, and he does it. When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.Luke, Chapter 7, verse 2:

Here Jesus shows that he is completely comfortable with the concept of slavery. Jesus heals the slave without any thought of freeing the slave or admonishing the slaves owner. Read that phrase again nonsense. Jesus is impressed by the centurion who bosses people around.

Here God shows that he is in complete acceptance of a slaves position, and encourages slaves to work hard. This sentiment is repeated in

Also Check: Chronological Order Of Bible

A Biblical Worldview Ultimately Undermines Slavery

Jesus never spoke to the institution of slavery, either to challenge or defend it. But the Apostle Paul laid a theological foundation that in time undermined slavery and led to its demise in the Western world. Galatians 3:26-28 argues that our identity in Christ transcends any social distinctions like slave or free. Ephesians 6:5-9 points out that Jesus is Lord over all relationships, and both masters and slaves are accountable to him. In the context of Ephesians 5:21, both masters and slaves are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul urges slaves to become free if they can which they often could. 1 Timothy 1:9-10 clearly denounces slave trading. And in Philemon 8-21, Paul urges Philemon to free his slave Onesimus, who had come to faith in Christ.

Greek And Hebrew Words For Slave

If the Bible Condones Slavery Then L Condone Slavery ...

The Hebrew and Greek words used for slave are also the same words used for servant and bondservant, as shown by the following table.

In essence, there are two kinds of slavery described in the Bible: a servant or bondservant who was paid a wage, and the enslavement of an individual without pay. Which types of slavery did the Bible condemn?

Also Check: Is The Bible Infallible And Inerrant

God Sometimes Works Within Broken Systems Like Divorce And Slavery

And sixth, it should also be noted that God sometimes works within imperfect systems, instead of abolishing them immediately. We may not know Godâs exact reasons, but the fact that God uses sinful humanity throughout history to sovereignly accomplish His eternal plans means that there is simply nothing immoral, rationally speaking, in how God chooses to accomplish His plans. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus says, âBecause of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.â In a perfect world, neither divorce nor slavery would exist, but God has chosen to use them within human history as part of His sovereign plan. Also, again, letâs note that the biblical teaching concerning humans being created in the image of God is antithetical to the African slave trade and chattel slavery, and itâs the reason why Christians fought so hard against it.

Slavery In The Bible Must Be Limited To Its Appropriate Contexts

Sadly, the Bible was used to justify slavery during the Transatlantic period. But this is a misuse and manipulation of scripture. The Bible does not sanction the kind of slavery practiced in the Americas. In the OT, it was a social institution strictly regulated for the people of Israel and was not meant as a template for any other situation. In the NT, it was a Roman institution not a Christian one with which the early church had to contend. The NT strongly encouraged the church to move away from slavery and explicitly condemns certain elements of slavery, such as racial targeting, slave trading, deprivation, and cruelty the very elements that made Transatlantic slavery so evil.

The Bibles emphasis on conscience-based decision-making suggests that choices about master-slave situations were not to be solved by a broad proclamation, but by individuals in their unique situations living in a non-Christian society that relied upon slavery. Ancient documents indicate that some Christians literally sold themselves into slavery to purchase the freedom of others, while some churches collected money to buy slaves freedom.

A holistic biblical worldview for Christians today is ultimately inconsistent with slavery.

  • What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  • Read Exodus 21:16. Compare and contrast slavery in the American South to slavery in the OT. How were they alike? How were they different?
  • Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
  • Recommended Reading: What Is The Chronological Order Of The Bible

    Slavery In The Old Testament

    The practices allowed in OT Israel were different from the enslavement of West Africans enslaved during the Transatlantic slave trade period. The two forms of slavery actually have little in common.

    In general, slavery in ancient Israel was a voluntary provision to support the destitute. If a person was in financial debt, the debt could be paid off by becoming a servant in the household of a wealthy landowner. In most cases, the person himself initiated the arrangement by offering his services. The protections of the OT law for the poor and powerless were designed to make this as rare an occurrence as possible. It was a temporary arrangement. Once the debt was paid, the servant was free. Even if the servant was not able to repay the debt, all debts were forgiven and thus all servants set free every seven years. In this arrangement, slaves had numerous rights and were protected by the law from being harmed or abused. Based on the memory of Israels own experience in slavery in Egypt, God required them to treat their servants humanely.

    What The Bible really Says About Slavery


    Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary

    Slavery stands as the single most contested issue in the history of biblical interpretation in the United States. Not only did the nation fracture over slavery, denominations did too. Northern and Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists remained divided until well into the twentieth century in fact, Southern Baptists still represent the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. What did slavery mean in the biblical world, and how did biblical authors respond to it?

    Don’t let anybody tell you that biblical slavery was somehow less brutal than slavery in the United States. Without exception, biblical societies were slaveholding societies. The Bible engages remarkably diverse cultures — Ethiopian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman — but in every one of them some people owned the rights to others. Slaveowners possessed not only the slaves’ labor but also their sexual and reproductive capacities. When the Bible refers to female slaves who do not “please” their masters, we’re talking about the sexual use of slaves. Likewise when the Bible spells out the conditions for marrying a slave .

    Does Paul encourage slaves to embrace their captivity or to gain their freedom?

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    Also Check: What God Says About Loneliness

    Are People Supposed To Be Slaves Forever

    10. Deuteronomy 15:1-2 At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lords remission has been proclaimed.

    11. Exodus 21:1-3 Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.

    The Bible Does Not Condone Chattel Slavery

    However, when we examine the relevant passages, we learn that the Bible does not in fact condone chattel slavery. The slavery that the Bible regulates and allows is not forced slavery, and people who were considered âslavesâ in the Bible had rights and protections that chattel slaves do not have. Probably the two most relevant passage are Leviticus 25:44-46, which says:

    âAs for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.â

    And Exodus 21:20-21, which says:

    âWhen a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.â

    Recommended Reading: What The Bible Says About Isolation

    Gods Providence And Care

    Paul now addresses the delicate matter at hand. While we may not be able to gain absolute certainty regarding the circumstances in which Onesimus left Philemon and joined Paul, it is clear that Onesimus was a slave and, as such, was in an extremely precarious position. He, in common with all slaves in Greco-Roman society, was regarded as the possession of his master and, depending on the attitude of his master, could face violence and even death upon his return.1

    In Gods providence and care for Onesimus, however, it turns out that he had a gracious and skillful advocate in Paul. Pauls appeal to Philemon shows rhetorical skill as well as pastoral sensitivity. It would be unfair, however, to suggest that Paul manipulates Philemon. While it is true that Paul deals with the delicate situation very shrewdly, there is no reason to believe that anything Paul says is insincere or that he did not seek at all times to act in the best interests of both Onesimus and Philemon.

    Bible Of Oppression And Liberation

    Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

    The Africans who were brought to America from 1619 onward carried with them diverse religious traditions. About 20 to 30 percent were Muslim, Pierce said. Some had learned of Christianity before coming to America, but many practiced African spiritual traditions.

    Early on, many slaveholders were not concerned with the spiritual well-being of Africans. But few had qualms about using Christianity to justify slavery.

    Some theologians said it was providence that had brought Africans to America as slaves, since their enslavement would allow them to encounter the Christian message and thus their eternal souls would be saved, said Mark Noll, a historian of American Christianity.

    Some preachers encouraged slave owners to allow their slaves to attend worship services though only in separate gatherings led by white proslavery preachers. They had to be seated in the back or the balcony of a segregated church. Those men of God argued that the sermons on the injunction in Ephesians and Colossians, slaves, obey your earthly master, would promote docility among enslaved workers.

    Washingtons Museum of the Bible displays a slave Bible, published in 1807, which removed portions of Scripture including the Exodus story that could inspire rebellious thinking.

    Slaveholders frequently noted that the Israelites of the Old Testament owned slaves.

    Recommended Reading: Is The Bible Infallible

    Slavery In The Bible Verses

    In the Bible people voluntarily sold themselves to slavery so they could receive food, water, and shelter for themselves and their family. If you were poor and had no choice, but to sell yourself to slavery, what would you do?

    1. Leviticus 25:39-42 I If your brother with you becomes so poor that he sells himself to you, you are not to make him serve like a bond slave. Instead, he is to serve with you like a hired servant or a traveler who lives with you, until the year of jubilee. Then he and his children with him may leave to return to his family and his ancestors inheritance. Since theyre my servants whom Ive brought out of the land of Egypt, they are not to be sold as slaves.

    2. Deuteronomy 15:11-14 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. If any of your peopleHebrew men or womensell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you.

    Why Its Wrong To Say The Bible Is Pro

    The Bible is pro-slavery.

    Its a common charge these days. Part of the New Atheist attack on religion, it also comes from various progressive circles in order to defend certain social views .

    The claim is not incomprehensible. It has some apparent, face-value supportand not just in Old Testament law regulations, but in New Testament epistles written by the very apostles of Jesus Christ:

    • Ephesians 6:5: Bondservants, obey your earthly masters.
    • Colossians 3:22: Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.
    • 1 Peter 2:18: Servants, be subject to your masters.

    How should Christians respond to this concern? Its a complicated issue that one brief article cannot resolve, but here are several initial appeals that may be helpful to at least draw attention to its complexity.

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    The Essence Of The Old Testament Institution

    In the patriarchal system, the work in someone’s household was carried out by herdsmen and domestic servants, but if Abraham had had no offspring one of his servants would inherit all he had . Servants were trusted with money and weapons. There is no approval for selling people, although Abraham ‘acquired’ people for silver.

    The following table shows a comparison of slave systems.

    Conditions of slaves in different systems


    Deuteronomy 23:15-16 forbids returning a runaway slave to his master. This contrasts to former slavery laws in America or even in the ancient lawcode of the Babylonian king Hammurabi .


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