God Does Not Distinguish Between Slaves And Freemen
Contrary to the claims of many skeptics, the New Testament proclaims that all people are equal in the eyes of God – even slaves:
- There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
- And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
Brief Notes From The Lecture
Is there a distinction between slavery and forced labour in certain circumstances, eg. making people who are in prison work?
Thesis of the talk: when we consider historical definitions of slavery it is clear that the Bible does not support that kind of slavery.
Sam Harris talks of slavery and the Bible in Letter to a Christian Nation, calling it “an abomination”, quoting Leviticus 25:44-46 .
The issue we face as Christians can be set out as follows:
The talk is in four parts: 1. Translation of the term slave 2. Examination of what the Old Testament says on the subject 3. A re-examination of the account of the Exodus 4. Examination of what the New Testament says on the subject.
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
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Property Ownership And Sale
In Hebrew, the term for selling and for buying are not distinguished from acquiring without money, so often these words in the context of slavery are about debt slavery or servitude, people “selling” themselves or a daughter in return for something when they have no other economic resources to survive. It is a pledge of future work, temporarily, for a meal today. The selling of a daughter is also related to marriage and dowries.
In interpreting the Old Testament, it is often helpful to go back first to what Creation teaches rather than to start with what the Law stipulates . Often the Old Testament Law is a matter of permitting or regulating something, rather than saying that it is good.
Why Does The Bible Allow Slave Owners To Beat Their Slaves
Mosaic Lawcarte blanchethe Bible allows for slaverySlavery is morally reprehensible in all situations.The Bible allows slavery.Therefore the Bible is an unreliable moral guide.The Bible is a reliable moral guide.The Bible allows slavery.Therefore slavery cannot be morally reprehensible in all situations.
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The New Testament On Slavery
Paul speaks about slavery in the New Testament. The Romans were big on slaves but Paul clearly did not like it. In 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 he writes, Were you a slave when you were called? Dont let it trouble youalthough if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lords freed person similarly, the one who was free when called is Christs slave. You were bought at a price do not become slaves of human beings. Paul said that if you can gain your freedom, do so and in verse 23 he says, do not become slaves of human beings. There is little doubt Paul detested slavery and wanted everyone to get out of it as soon as possible and desired no one to live in slavery.
By the way, this is an excellent analogy of the relationship between employer and employee. Paul was showing respect for authority in asking Onesimus to return to Philemon voluntarily as being in submission and compliance with Roman law. Paul writes in Philemon that Christians are to live in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
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.
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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.
How To Answer This Common Question From Aggressive Skeptics
The triumvirate of complaints about the Bible from atheists typically consists of denouncing its science, denouncing its God, and denouncing its morality. Here well handle a classic moral objection: the Bible is an evil book because it supports slavery .
For example, in 2012, provocative atheist Dan Savage gave a keynote speech at a conference for high school journalists. The topic was supposed to be bullying, but instead he spent most of the speech criticizing Christianity and the Bible:
The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesnt say Christians dont own people. Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong. Tim uh, Sam Harris, in A Letter to a Christian Nation, points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong.
How do we respond?
Even a quick examination of the New Testament and the letter to Philemon shows that Savage misses the mark in his interpretation. St. Paul exhorts Philemon to grant freedom to his slave Onesimus. In a key passage of the letter, Paul says:
Even after hearing these distinctions, a skeptic may press two additional objections:
Lets address each of those objections in turn.
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Pauls Teaching On Slavery
Paul encourages slaves to become free if they can, but if they cant then dont worry about it.
18. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 Were you a slave when you were called? Dont let it trouble youalthough if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lords freed person similarly, the one who was free when called is Christs slave. You were bought at a price do not become slaves of human beings.
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!
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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
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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Bible Of Oppression And Liberation
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.
What The New Testament Says About Slavery
Since many of the early Christians were slaves to Romans,8they were encouraged to become free if possible, but not worry about it if not possible.9 The Roman empire practiced involuntary slavery, so rules were established for Christians who were subject to this slavery or held slaves prior to becoming Christians. The rules established for slaves were similar to those established for other Christians with regard to being subject to governing authorities.10Slaves were told to be obedient to their master and serve them sincerely, as if serving the Lord Himself.11 Paul instructed slaves to serve with honor, so that Christianity would not be looked down upon.12
As with slaves, instructions were given to their masters as to how they were to treat their slaves. For example, they were not to be threatened,13but treated with justice and fairness.14 The text goes on to explain that this was to be done because God is the Master of all people, and does not show partiality on the basis of social status or position.13, 14
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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.
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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