Slavery in the Bible Revisited
In the previous post, I quoted 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 in order to make a point that the Bible doesn’t endorse church-hopping. That passage has Paul urging Christians to stay in the situation in which they were called. Most often, candidates to enter seminary for full-time ministry are told to reflect on that passage.
As much as Christendom (both Roman Catholics and Protestants) needs preachers, we are loathe to have people enter the ministry who are needed elsewhere. God doesn’t call everyone to be ministers in the sense of being in the full-time employ of a local church. Consider 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Paul specifically tells us that everyone receives different spiritual gifts, and each is therefore called to different duties within the church.
However, the passage from 1 Corinthians 7 I quoted in the previous article contains an extensive discussion of slavery, urging slaves to remain under their masters (unless they gain an opportunity to be freed). Any mention of slavery in the Bible disgusts and outrages critics of Christianity, and unless I deal with the potential objection now it will be raised. I will probably be accused of being pro-slavery unless I deal with it now.
Slavery in the Bible is seriously misunderstood. Check Glenn Miller’s contextualization of ANE slavery here. Slavery in the Bible was closer in nature to the modern employer-employee relationship. There were significant areas of difference that would make slavery far less desirable than a modern at-will employment contract, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that no differences exist. Skeptics normally think of the African Slave Trade when faced with passages about slavery in the Bible, but that’s not what the Bible means by “slavery.”
This is another example of the skeptic’s outright refusal to understand the Bible on its own terms. They are reading a modern idea into an ancient document. The writers of the Bible knew nothing of the brutality of the African Slave Trade, which involved the kidnapping and forcible transplanting of an indigenous people–a practice that is forbidden in Mosaic Law.
Slavery was first eliminated in the Roman Empire and beyond in the early part of the first millennium by Christians because they saw it as a moral evil and an abomination in the sight of God.
Slavery was resurrected over strenuous papal opposition with the African Slave Trade of the 1700 and 1800s. This would not have been endorsed by the Bible. The end of the African Slave Trade in the mid-1800s marked the second time slavery was abolished from the world–and it was also accomplished by Christians. Atheists have made every effort to cast non-Christians as the key players in abolition, and often cite sermons of leading pastors that endorse slavery. They do everything to isolate Christian abolitionists from Christianity. But the fact remains that abolition was a Christian movement.
For a document that endorses slavery as much as skeptics claim, the Bible was somehow used twice to denounce and eliminate it. Funny, that.