The QuasiChristian

Critical Thinking and Spiritual Reasoning

Slavery Is Moral, This I Know, For The Bible Tells Me So


The Bible without a doubt condones slavery and in some respect promotes it. I mention this to black Christians all the time and I get the deer in headlights look. They think I’m making this stuff up. The first thing they do is get defensive, then they deny it. Vehemently proclaiming, “Not my God!” (Some people can’t accept that the Bible was compiled by men for men.) These are the folks who take their Bible with them wherever they go. Pulling it out whenever they can to show you that they’re “saved”.  What are they reading? Just the ooh-you’re-so-special-and-others-aren’t verses? I’ve seen people grab their phone and call their pastor instead of looking up the verses themselves. Usually the person on the other end tells them that Satan is using me, and to just ignore me. And that’s exactly what they do. Willful ignorance.

In the household codes sections of Colossians and Ephesians the promotion of slavery is clear. In Colossians slaves are instructed to obey their masters in every respect. This sounds like a euphemistic way of saying give into their sexual demands as well. Practices carried over from the Old Testament. What else could it mean to stipulate “obey your earthly masters in everything”? The Bible says don’t resent your Christian masters. This is to address those who might think it inconsistent for a believer to have an owner who considers himself a brother in the faith. Of course it’s inconsistent.

Philemon is the only hint we have of the slightest disapproval of slavery. It certainly pales in comparison to Colossians which is supposedly aimed at the same people in the congregation.

Sometimes in the Bible you were just selling your labor for a certain period. Slavery in the ancient world was not always the horror that it was during the Civil War or even today (sex slaves). It’s a mixed bag and an ambiguous picture, but it’s hard to absolve the Bible completely. You can’t expect too much out of the Bible writers as people in an ancient culture, but on the other hand there were people who had seen a bit farther into the future. Some of the presocratics seem to have understood that slavery was against human nature. So it’s not like no one had ever thought of this. Oh, and the Bible is supposed to be divinely inspired, isn’t it? Hint. Hint.

Was Jesus afraid to say, “Hey everybody, commandment #1 no more slavery! You can’t own your fellow children of God, only God can!” Why isn’t that in the text? Jesus is supposedly upset at what’s going on in the temple, but not upset that humans own other humans? Did Jesus say to himself, “I’d like to say that and save a lot of people torment, but they’d never buy it so I’m keeping my mouth shut.” This was the guy who was supposedly willing to go to the cross for what he said. He just punked out? What revelation is there? Wasn’t Jesus supposed to reveal the new way of life, the new Christian ethic?

Didn’t God know that people would justify slavery based on what’s in the Old Testament and New Testament? Didn’t Jesus have the foresight to know that he should explicitly condemn slavery so that there would be “divine” record of this? A condemnation of slavery in the Sermon on the Mount seems logical.

Heck, why didn’t God make it part of the Ten Commandments. There’d be no reason to state “You shall not covet your neighbor’s … male or female slave.” Here’s what should have been said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; therefore you shall make slaves of no man, male or female.” God has a problem with the Egyptians having Hebrew slaves, but no qualms with slavery in general.

Instead we get this:

As 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. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever. (Exodus 21:1-7)

When 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. (Exodus 21:20-21)

Slaves, 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 servants 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 slave or 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)

Slaves, 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, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Timothy 6:1-5)

Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:9-10, 15)

For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. (1 Peter 2:15-20)

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)

According to the Bible, God nor Jesus nor the writers themselves ever condemn slavery. No wonder many outside of the Christian faith are baffled by blacks/African-Americans who cling to the Bible as a “testament” of God’s love for them. How can people whose ancestors were snatched from their homeland and kept in bondage for hundreds of years by Christians whose actions are justified by the Bible claim the same faith? It’s most puzzling indeed.

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January 2, 2012 - Posted by | Biblical Criticism, Morality | , , , , , , ,

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