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Does The Bible Say Anything About Slavery

Gods Providence And Care

Does The Bible Support Slavery?

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.

Slavery As A ‘natural Condition’

The day after the Prime Minister’s appearance on Q& A, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, told ABC News that Mr Rudd’s comments were wrong.

“I can only say that Kevin Rudd was profoundly wrong in his understanding of the Bible and he misquoted the Bible,” Archbishop Davies said.

“He attributed to the Bible something that Aristotle said, that slavery was part of the human condition or natural condition.”

Stephens says Archbishop Davies is correct when he attributes “slavery as a natural condition” to Aristotle.

He referred to Book one, chapter five, of Aristotle’s Politics:

“But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature? There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.”

Associate Professor Strelan says “there’s no doubt that Rudd got it wrong on the Bible saying slavery is a ‘natural condition'”.

Professor McGowan says “Aristotle does say something closer to Mr Rudd’s suggestion, in explicit terms at least, than any biblical text”.

But he says this does not necessarily mean a misattribution by Mr Rudd.

“Strictly speaking Mr Rudd overstated the case regarding biblical attitudes to slavery,” he said.

Why Was Slavery Allowed In The New Testament

Types of slavesMining:Agriculture:Prostitutes and Gladiators:Tradesmen:Domestics:White collar:What does the Bible say about slavery in the New Testament? Slavery as a metaphorWhy doesn’t the New Testament directly condemn slavery?Why didn’t Paul push Philemon to free Onesimus?The Christian responseInternational Justice MissionRelated Truth:

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Does The Bible Support Harsh Slavery

There are several passages that are commonly used to suggest that the Bible condones harsh slavery. However, when we read these passages in context, we find that they clearly oppose harsh slavery.

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. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her masters, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, I love my master, my wife, and my children I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever.

This is the first type of bankruptcy law weve encountered. With this, a government doesnt step in, but a person who has lost himself or herself to debt can sell the only thing they have left: their ability to perform labor. This is a loan. In six years the loan is paid off, and they are set free. Bondservants who did this made a wage, had their debt covered, had a home to stay in, on-the-job training, and did it for only six years. This almost sounds better than college, which doesnt cover debt and you have to pay for it!

What The Bible really Says About Slavery

Enlightenment: The Bible DOES NOT promote 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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How Christian Slaveholders Used The Bible To Justify Slavery

During the period of American slavery, how did slaveholders manage to balance their religious beliefs with the cruel facts of the peculiar institution? As shown by the following passages adapted from Noel Raes new book The Great Stain, which uses firsthand accounts to tell the story of slavery in America for some of them that rationalization was right there in the Bible.

Out of the more than three quarters of a million words in the Bible, Christian slaveholdersand, if asked, most slaveholders would have defined themselves as Christianhad two favorites texts, one from the beginning of the Old Testament and the other from the end of the New Testament. In the words of the King James Bible, which was the version then current, these were, first, Genesis IX, 1827:

Despite some problems with this storyWhat was so terrible about seeing Noah drunk? Why curse Canaan rather than Ham? How long was the servitude to last? Surely Ham would have been the same color as his brothers?it eventually became the foundational text for those who wanted to justify slavery on Biblical grounds. In its boiled-down, popular version, known as The Curse of Ham, Canaan was dropped from the story, Ham was made black, and his descendants were made Africans.

Runaway Slaves Received Safe Haven

Unlike slavery in the South which legally required runaway slaves to be returned to their masters, God ordered the Israelites to give runaways safe haven. Deuteronomy 23:15-16 orders, If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.

Not only is this different from the South, its a huge improvement upon other the Hammurabi Code which demanded the death penalty for those helping runaway slaves.6

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Consider The Whole Bible

Progressive revelation simply means that God didnt reveal his will and character to humanity all at once, but gradually over a long period of time. Thus, you have to look at the entire narrative of biblical revelation to interpret it fairly, rather than just pull a verse from here or there.

Christians also believe God accommodates his revelation to particular historical contexts, and even to fallen social structures within them. This makes sense when you think about itunless we require that God refrain from giving any instructions or laws to a particular people at a particular time until all societal evil has been removed. An ethical exhortation in an ad hoc document , then, may not tell you everything you need to know about Gods will and character. In fact, it will probably give you more of a picture of day-to-day life as a Christian in a certain context than the Bibles overall ideal with respect to institutional and structural evil.

Similarly, practices like slavery, polygamy, and divorce were common in antiquity. Biblical instruction that allows for them in certain contexts isnt necessarily biblical approval. We must interpret them in relation to everything else the Scriptures say.

Biblical instruction that allows for in certain contexts isnt necessarily biblical approval.

Creation is essential to consider because it reveals Gods original intent for the human race. And the gospel is essential because it reveals the ultimate trajectory of Gods redemptive work.

Kevin Rudd Correct On Paul’s References To Slavery In The Bible

What Does The Bible Say About Slavery?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s fiery defence of gay marriage on Q& A went viral, but his comments have faced scrutiny by religious leaders and theologians.

Mr Rudd was asked by a pastor how he could support gay marriage and call himself a Christian.

“I just believe in what the Bible says and I’m just curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don’t you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?” pastor Matt Prater asked.

Mr Rudd responded: “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition,” he said, receiving a loud applause from the audience.

“Because St Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves be obedient to your masters’. And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war. I mean, for goodness sake, the human condition and social conditions change.”

  • The claim: Kevin Rudd says St Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves be obedient to your masters’.
  • The verdict: Mr Rudd is correct. There are two statements from Paul in the New Testament which call on slaves to be obedient to their masters. But the Bible does not present a single view on slavery.

ABC Fact Check considers Mr Rudd’s statement about the New Testament is assessable, as it was clearly referenced and defined.

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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.
  • The Christian Scriptures And Slavery:

    Neither Jesus, nor St. Paul, nor any other Biblical figure is recorded as saying anything in opposition to the institution of slavery. Slavery was very much a part of life in Judea, Galilee, in the rest of the Roman Empire, and elsewhere during New Testament times. The practice continued in England, Canada and the rest of the English Empire until the early 19th century it continued in the U.S. until later in the 19th century.

    Quoting Rabbi M.J. Raphall, circa 1861:

    Receiving slavery as one of the conditions of society,the New Testament nowhere interferes with or contradicts the slave code of Moses it evenpreserves a letter written by one of the most eminent Christian teachers to a slave owner on sending back to him his runaway slave.1

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    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.

    Exploring The Links Between Slavery Sex And Scripture


    Bernadette Brootens new book takes on a once-taboo subject

    Bernadette Brooten

    Much has been written about slavery, but not much has been written about the sexually charged scriptural supports of the peculiar institution, as it was once euphemistically called. Throughout history, discussion of the taboo subject of sex with slaves and its echoes through the generations has been off limits.

    But, says Professor Bernadette Brooten, if humanity is ever to understand and eliminate the last vestiges of slavery, that painful legacy must be confronted.

    Exploring and confronting the biblical roots of sex and slavery is what she is attempting in Beyond Slavery: Overcoming Its Religious and Sexual Legacies, a just-published book that she edited as part of the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. The book brings together essays and poetry by scholars, activists and artists to dig deeply into the roots of slavery and to illuminate ways in which we still live with the fallout.

    We want people to take a hard look at the fact that for most of their history, Jews, Christians and Muslims tolerated slavery, says Brooten. Its codified in the writings.

    When you take a deep look into ancient history slavery and chastity rarely co-exist, Brooten says. Sexuality and slavery are intertwined from the beginning.

    But the notion of literal interpretation actually is relatively new.

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    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.

    What Does The Scripture Say About Slavery

    The Scripture does not condone slavery. It is important to understand here that the slavery the Bible allowed for in no way resembled the unjust racial slavery that plagued the entire world for the few past centuries. Also, both the Old and New Testament highly condemn the practice of man-stealing, which is what happened from the 16th to the 19th centuries in Africa. All-through these centuries, Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who took them to the New World to work on large plantations and farms. Behold, this practice is abhorrent to God. In short, the penalty for such a crime was death according to the Mosaic Law . Exodus 21:16 says, Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.

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    ‘slaves Be Obedient To Your Masters’

    Two verses from Paul in the New Testament – Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 – call on slaves to be obedient to their masters.

    “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” – Ephesians 6:5-9

    “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

    Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 3:22

    Professor Andrew McGowan, warden of The University of Melbourne’s Trinity College, says Mr Rudd has “accurately conveyed” these statements.

    But Stephens says the context in which the statements appear is important.


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