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Does The Bible Condone Slavery?

Louis W. Cable
There is no morality outside of the Holy Bible! We hear this cliche repeated ad nauseam by Bible believers. But is the Bible itself morally flawed? Take, for example, the institution of human slavery. Could anything be more immoral than the buying and selling of fellow human beings into a life of involuntary servitude? Let us see what the Bible has to say about this cruel and highly immoral institution?

Despite 2 Cor. 3:17, that oft-quoted passage declaring, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," God approves of slavery. In Exodus 21:1-6 he sets forth the guidelines for the buying, selling and treatment of slaves. He says that if a male slave gets married and has children, the slave's wife and children shall remain with the master when the slave departs because, technically speaking, they belong to the master. Now, if the slave is imprudent enough to protests because he happens to love his wife and children, God tells the master to, "Take an awl, and thrust it through his earlobe unto the door." This is all repeated in Deut. 15. In verse 17, however, God adds as an afterthought, "Do likewise to your maid slaves." In Exodus 21:7-9 God even instructs men how they are to go about selling their daughters into slavery.

Concerning family values, in Joel 3:8 God warns that, "I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hands of the Judians, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off." In case you are still unconvinced, try 1 Tim. 6:1-2; "Let slaves regard their masters as worthy of all honor". Matthew 10:24 and John 13:16 remind us that slaves are never better than their masters. Women take note that in Titus 2:9-10 slaves are ordered to, "Be submissive to your master and give satisfaction in every respect". Also check Eph. 6:5 and Col. 3:22 which say, "Slaves obey your master". Of the venerated Ten Commandments, numbers four and ten tacitly condone slavery.

What did Jesus have to say about slavery? Well, in the revered Sermon of the Mount, widely recognized as a prescription for Christian living, the institution of slavery is never mentioned. However, in Matthew 8:5-13, the story of the healing of the Roman centurion's slave, not only does Jesus not condemn slavery, he actually compliments the centurion for his faithfulness. Therefore, we can only conclude that Jesus was aware of slavery and approved of it.

While the Bible may be morally correct in some cases, it is certainly immoral where human slavery is concerned. It is the secular state, not the Bible, which we have to thank for ending slavery. Also it is the secular state, not the church, which stands as the guarantor of freedom and human rights. The truth is that human rights were (and are being) achieved not through the Bible, but in spite of it. For more information see my web site, Skeptics Corner (will open in new window).

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