Theology Thursday - Slavery and the Bible - Part 2 (ca. 1850)

Today, we conclude this article from the September 1850 issue of DeBow’s Review. ​The anonymous author presents a “Scriptural defense” of slavery from the Bible.1

After the Israelites had been a long time in Egypt, they became servants to the Egyptians. At this time, God sent Moses, as a messenger, to bring them out of Egypt. Through Moses, God gave them laws by which they were to be governed. No law which came directly from him (the fountain of morality), can be considered morally wrong; it might be imperfect, in not providing for circumstances not then existing—but, so far as it does provide, the provisions are correct. Nothing which God ordained can be a crime, and nothing for which he gave express permission can be considered wrong.

In Leviticus xxv, we are told, that the Lord spake to Moses, saying:

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them—after various provisions of the law, the 39th verse reads as follows, in regard to servitude: If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, then shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant, but as an hired servant, &c.

—clearly showing that there was a distinction between bond-servant and hired-servant. After providing for the case of a Hebrew servant, verses 44, 45, and 46, of the same law, read as follows:

Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmenand bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever.

In Exodus xxi, 20, 21, we find this law:

And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

The 26th and 27th verses of the same chapter provide, that if the servant have lost an eye or a tooth, by a blow from the master, the servant should go free.

The 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32d verses provide, that if an ox was known to be vicious and killed a freeman, the ox and his owner were both put to death; but if he gored a bond-servant, the ox should be killed and the master should pay thirty shekels of silver: showing the distinction between bond and freemen.

The law given to the Israelites, in regard to circumcision, required the master to circumcise his male servant, bought with his money or born in his house; and, of course, it presupposes the right and power to enforce the circumcision.

Thus, we see that at a time when the Israelites had no slaves, but were themselves, in a manner, fugitive slaves, and when they had no use for slaves, being wanderers in a wilderness, and fed by God’s own hand, he provided laws for bringing in, buying, inheriting and governing, slaves, in the land unto which they were to be brought at the end of forty years. He made laws recognizing the right of property, in man and in his descendents, forever—the right to trade in that property, without any limit, except that the Israelites could not buy each other; and the right to punish the slave, with no limitation, except that if the slave should die under his master’s hand, the master should be punished—and if maimed, in certain ways, he had a right to freedom.

These laws are worse, for the slave, than the laws of any southern State. They were provided, by God himself, for his chosen people. To any man, who admits that the Bible is given by inspiration from God, they prove that, in buying, selling, holding and using slaves, there is no moral guilt. Like all the institutions of the Deity, the holding of slaves may become criminal, by abuse of the slave; but the relation, in itself, is good and moral.

In the New Testament I find frequent mention of master and servant, and of their duties. Paul and Timothy, in writing to the Colossians, in the third chapter and twenty-second to twenty-fifth verses, exhort servants to obey their masters in all things, and not with eye-service; and in the fourth chapter and first verse, they exhort masters to give their servants what is just and equal.

Paul, in writing to Timothy, tells him to teach the same doctrine; and says, if any man teach otherwise, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words: see 1 Timothy vi, 1–6. Peter, also (1 Peter ii, 18–24), exhorts servants to be obedient to their masters, not only to the good and gentle, but to the froward.

Now, we all know, that the condition of the servant of the Roman empire, was much less free than that of the southern negro. His master had a more unlimited control over him; yet, the apostles say to servants, to submit to their masters—not only to the good and gentle, but to the froward; and to masters to give to their servants what is just and equal. Now, had they considered the relation of master and slave, one criminal or immoral, in itself, they must either have omitted to speak of it at all, or have condemned the relation altogether.

Paul wrote an epistle to Philemon, a Christian, a disciple of his, and a slaveholder. He sent it to him by Onesimus, also a convert, a slave of Philemon, who was a fugitive. In it, he prays Philemon to charge the fault of Onesimus to him, saying he would repay it, unless Philemon forgave it for his sake.

Now, had the holding of slaves been a crime, Paul’s duty to Philemon would have required him to instruct Philemon, that he had no rights over Onesimus, but that the attempt to hold him in servitude was criminal; and his duty to Onesimus would have been, in such case, to send him to some foreign free country, whereby he might have escaped from oppression. But Paul sent him back. Our northern friends think that they manage these matters better than Paul did.

We find, then, that both the Old and New Testaments speak of slavery—that they do not condemn the relation, but, on the contrary, expressly allow it or create it; and they give commands and exhortations, which are based upon its legality and propriety. It can not, then, be wrong.

What we have written is founded solely upon the Bible, and can have no force, unless it is taken for truth. If that book is of divine origin, the holding of slaves is right: as that which God has permitted, recognized and commanded, cannot be inconsistent with his will.

Notes

1 This article is in the public domain, and was taken from Paul Finkelman, Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South – A Brief History with Documents (New York, NY: St. Martins, 2003), 109-114.

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There are 32 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

Although I'm guessing the very real murder of slaves probably didn't make the papers, nor the sexual abuse of female slaves ("bed wenches"), one has to wonder exactly how much preparation and research the gentleman did before writing this.  Or did he know about all this quite well, and wrote this anyways, simply withholding his name so as not to be permanently tarred with it?

JNoël's picture

Quote:

Nothing which God ordained can be a crime, and nothing for which he gave express permission can be considered wrong.

Is there anything wrong with this statement? Remove that foundational statement and the rest of the article fails.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

JNoël's picture

Perhaps I have not waited long enough since 9/29/2017, but I find it unfortunate that few want to seriously entertain this subject. Is no one willing to consider the significant quantities of commands from God regarding the manner in which slavery was properly conducted in scripture? Perhaps also we are simply too close in time to the ungodly manner in which American slavery was conducted.

Slavery, the relationship of one human to another human whereby one rules over another rendering the subordinate devoid of freedom (in a word: ownership), is not sin, if done in accordance with God's commands. It actually has the possibility of bringing glory to God in a very real way. It can be done in sinful ways, as can anything involving human beings (marriage: adultery; pro-creation: abortion; relationships: abuse, etc.), but the institution is not, in itself, sin. Could it ever be done right in 21st century America? Probably not. Do I think we should try? Honestly, I do not. Could every citizen of 21st century America benefit if it were rightly instituted and conducted? That itself is another interesting conversation that could be developed, but it would probably be too insensitive to do so publicly.

Maybe someday.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

G. N. Barkman's picture

I see some parallels with polygamy.  God regulated it rather than prohibited it in the OT.  Does that make is OK under certain circumstances?

G. N. Barkman

JNoël's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

I see some parallels with polygamy.  God regulated it rather than prohibited it in the OT.  Does that make is OK under certain circumstances?

I find the commands regarding polygamy to be different. They are usually phrased in the "IF a man takes a second wife...THEN..." format, which is different from how slavery appears. The polygamy references discuss what to do if a second polygamous marriage occurs, but, for example, Leviticus 25:44/45 actually states "...you may buy..." The former is what to do after the (sinful) action has been taken, the latter is governing how to actually buy a human.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

G. N. Barkman's picture

Joel,

How do you explain God's statement to David?  "I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care... and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these."  (II Samuel 12:8)

G. N. Barkman

josh p's picture

Jason, one thing that I appreciate about S/I is that usually there can be good discussion without vitriol and straw man arguments. I would say that if you suggested that slavery could be biblically acceptable in almost any church you would be laughed at. IOW you have already been engaged more than you would be in a lot of places. 

I don't really see how it could possibly work in a non-post mill scenario. Let's grant the point that slavery as a system may not be inherently evil (I'm not convinced). Unless one is a neo-Kuyperian, I don't understand how it could possibly be actually worked out. So when Doug Wilson makes these arguments (in his book Black and Tan for example) he is making them from a view of God's place in government that is radically different from my own and probably almost everyone on S/I. If we are just talking theory here with no thought that it could actually ever be implemented then I would just ask which Bible verses do you think most strongly support slavery? Personally I don't think that ANY of the verses from the OT can be used since Israel was a scourge of God's judgment against those pagan nations. They were also told to kill most of them so it's not a 1-1. 

JNoël's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Joel,

How do you explain God's statement to David?  "I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care... and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these."  (II Samuel 12:8)

I'm not seeing anywhere in that verse or surrounding context where God either authorized or commanded David to marry them, and there is also nothing in the text saying David did marry them. The Hebrew does not specify marriage, and can be translated "arms" "care" or "bosom." I don't think this verse is clearly showing God's approval of polygamy; in light of the multitude of verses condemning it, I think this should be seen as nothing more than what God gave David from Saul as possessions. Funny; it possibly could be said they became David's property. That would be an interesting twist.

Sincerely,

J. R. Noel

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Bert Perry's picture

....may actually be a decent picture.  For me, the kicker which makes polygamy totally impractical is Exodus 21:10; that a man may not diminish his first wife's food, clothing, or marital right (sex, I presume) if he takes another wife.  In a land where land was allocated according to family, good luck being able to get enough land to feed all those wives and children, never mind clothing them, no?  Plus, keeping up with affection for them all--no way that Solomon, or even David, was keeping all those wives satisfied.  

Also, you've got Deuteronomy 17:16-7--the king should not multiply wives, or gold, or silver, or horses.  Given that you can only used so much bullion for decoration, what's being said there is that the king was not going to be assembling vast armies for aggressive wars far from Israel--by which he would give something to do for wife-less men, and perhaps provide them with wives among women captured from those nations.  

So in the long run, polygamy was not going to be common in Israel simply because society was designed to avoid it.  

Now regarding slavery, consider also that the common source of slaves was....foreign wars.  Put the kibosh on foreign wars by eliminating imported horses and plunder, and you've also removed a great source of slaves.  Without that, you're limited to people selling themselves to settle debts and man-stealing--the latter of which is of course a capital crime in the Torah.  

What's left, really, is indentured servitude of the kind that existed prior to American slavery, and which really still exists today.  For example, students at the military academies and those on ROTC scholarships are required to serve a number of years in exchange for their education, and scholarship athletes play their game in exchange for the same.  Moreover, the old Torah economic system--a limited amount of land that could be owned, a limited term for debts, etc..--would make that indentured servitude/bond-servitude (along with polygamy) pretty rare.

In other words, I think that there's great similarity between bond-servitude and polygamy in that the consistent restrictions placed on both would make people think "well, I could do that, but why would I bother?"

JNoël's picture

josh p wrote:

Jason, one thing that I appreciate about S/I is that usually there can be good discussion without vitriol and straw man arguments. I would say that if you suggested that slavery could be biblically acceptable in almost any church you would be laughed at. IOW you have already been engaged more than you would be in a lot of places. 

I don't really see how it could possibly work in a non-post mill scenario. Let's grant the point that slavery as a system may not be inherently evil (I'm not convinced). Unless one is a neo-Kuyperian, I don't understand how it could possibly be actually worked out. So when Doug Wilson makes these arguments (in his book Black and Tan for example) he is making them from a view of God's place in government that is radically different from my own and probably almost everyone on S/I. If we are just talking theory here with no thought that it could actually ever be implemented then I would just ask which Bible verses do you think most strongly support slavery? Personally I don't think that ANY of the verses from the OT can be used since Israel was a scourge of God's judgment against those pagan nations. They were also told to kill most of them so it's not a 1-1. 

You're right about the "laughed at" comment, of course. And I think that is largely because of the baggage we Americans have. I very much appreciate those who have engaged.

It is very difficult to separate what was done in our history from what is seen in the Bible, especially considering God's commands to masters in Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1, and, of course, Philemon. And while it is clear that Paul was encouraging Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother, Paul did not tell Philemon to set Onesimus free. Paul did say he would cover Onesimus' debts, so that alludes to Paul doing what is necessary for Onesimus to thus be free from whatever debt he owed Philemon that caused him to be in bondage to Philemon in the first place. But there is still no direct condemnation of the ownership Philemon had over Onesimus.

Yes, I am only talking theoretically. I am not promoting slavery, I do not think it is the right thing for our time, and I wholeheartedly condemn that which was practiced in early America and which continues elsewhere in the world. For me, the purpose of the discussion is mostly one of apologetics. When someone points to the multitude of passages in the Bible that point to God providing guidelines concerning slavery all through the OT law and then also in the three mentioned NT areas, I find it contradictory and sloppy to say "slavery is sin" - that it is sin for one human to own another.

Sincerely,

J. R. Noel

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

TylerR's picture

Don't forget 1 Peter 2:18-25. I would have engaged on this one, but I'm in enough trouble already with my "Forgive and Forget? No!" artaicle from last week . . .

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

Don't forget 1 Peter 2:18-25. I would have engaged on this one, but I'm in enough trouble already with my "Forgive and Forget? No!" artaicle from last week . . .

LOL

Good set of verses instructing slaves how to live in a manner pleasing to God. I don't think that passage has anything to say about whether or not God prohibits or approves of the concept of humans owning humans, though.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

G. N. Barkman's picture

J. R.. Noel,

The context of II Samuel 12:8 is David's sin with Bathsheba.  That was adultery, and that was clearly prohibited and David's violation was a transgression of the Seventh Commandment.  Nathan's statement about God giving David Saul's wives, in context, was to say something like,  "Look, David, I already gave you many wives, and would have given you more if you wanted them.  Why, therefore, did you commit adultery with another man's wife?  You could legitimately have more wives than you would know what to do with, and you go and take another man's wife!"

So yes, the context does indicate that Saul's wives were given to David by God to be his wives.  So much for OT prohibition against polygamy.  (And to say that because most men in Israel could not afford multiple wives says nothing about those who could, and any reading of the OT indicates there were many who could.  The question is, did God allow multiple wives if they could afford to support them equally?)

 

G. N. Barkman

JNoël's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

J. R.. Noel,

The context of II Samuel 12:8 is David's sin with Bathsheba.  That was adultery, and that was clearly prohibited and David's violation was a transgression of the Seventh Commandment.  Nathan's statement about God giving David Saul's wives, in context, was to say something like,  "Look, David, I already gave you many wives, and would have given you more if you wanted them.  Why, therefore, did you commit adultery with another man's wife?  You could legitimately have more wives than you would know what to do with, and you go and take another man's wife!"

So yes, the context does indicate that Saul's wives were given to David by God to be his wives.  So much for OT prohibition against polygamy.  (And to say that because most men in Israel could not afford multiple wives says nothing about those who could, and any reading of the OT indicates there were many who could.  The question is, did God allow multiple wives if they could afford to support them equally?)

 

Respectfully, we will need to agree to disagree on that, as there are a multitude of commentators who disagree with your interpretation. I am not saying you are wrong, though, but your assessment is as much inference as those who say "into your care/arms" does not mean polygamy.

But, that being said, the point of this passage isn't whether or not God prohibited polygamy, it is whether or not God provided guidance on how to have a polygamous relationship that pleased him - meaning it was in accordance with his commands. The Bible tells us how to have master-slave relationships that are right, but I don't know that it tells us how to have polygamous relationships that are also right. Can you help me with any examples to that effect?

 

Sincerely,

J. R. Noel

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Bert Perry's picture

....seems to me to be the operative phrase that ties things in.  Since God did not give David "that and more", we must assume that God felt that what He had already given David was enough, or more than enough. 

No?  

But even if that's not the most reasonable interpretation, I really don't see how one can read about the infighting of Sarah and Hagar, of Rachel and Leah and their slaves (there's those slaves again), of David's wives, and the like without figuring out that husbands are one thing women don't share well.  One can make an inference from history--about that, and about how the wives led their husbands astray, no?  And then you've got Paul's clear warning that polygamists can't be church leaders--OK, something's going on there, no?

And one ought to remember as well that where you've got polygamy, you've got to have something to do with those unmarried men--again, that's war, that's slavery, that's eunuchs for your harem--and compelling them to that point is always sin.  

G. N. Barkman's picture

Is polygamy a good idea?  No.  The examples cited above demonstrate that it's fraught with problems.  (Though by this standard, some might conclude that marriage itself is not a good idea.  There are plenty of examples of marriage problems in the Bible as well.  Just saying.)

Is slavery a good idea?  No again.  But all of this is avoiding the question, "Does God prohibit polygamy?  Does God consider it sin?"  The reason I brought polygamy into the discussion is because of the similarities to J. R . Noel's question about slavery.  JR wants us to agree with him that slavery is Not prohibited by God.  It is regulated, not prohibited.  Actually, I agree with him on this.  But the same is true of polygamy.  JR doesn't want to acknowledge the parallels, but they are apparent to me.  We all agree that polygamy is not the ideal, could hardly be considered good, and should be avoided for many, many reasons.  So too with slavery.  But to be honest with Scripture, if you insist on divine permission for slavery under certain ideal conditions, I believe consistency demands the same fo polygamy.  For the record, I am opposed to both, and am convinced that NT teaching about marriage eliminates polygamy for a Christian, and likewise with slavery.  You can't fully implement all that the NT requires of brothers in Christ if you own a Christian slave.  From that starting point, the whole institution of slavery unravels.  But its one thing to say that God prohibits it, and another to say that mature Christian development renders it impossible.

G. N. Barkman

JNoël's picture

Thank you for your thoughts, I really do appreciate it.

G. N. Barkman wrote:

...am convinced that NT teaching about marriage eliminates polygamy for a Christian, and likewise with slavery.  You can't fully implement all that the NT requires of brothers in Christ if you own a Christian slave.  From that starting point, the whole institution of slavery unravels.

I agree with the your polygamy comment, but I'm not sure about the NT and slavery. Is there anything in the NT regarding guidelines for polygamous marriages? There certainly is for masters and slaves. I'm also not convinced that a Christian "can't fully implement all the NT requires of brothers in Christ" in a master-slave relationship. It seems to me that is what God calls masters to do in Ephesians and Colossians, doesn't he?

Once again I feel it is necessary to put the word "slavery" into perspective due to American baggage. In a word, I am referring to one human "owning" another. What that looks like is where significant variety can occur. I am only arguing that there is nothing sinful about that "ownership" and that it can be done in a manner that honors God's commands. Polygamy cannot.

A thought occurred to me recently regarding the concept of ownership. I realize there are differences in what I am about to say, but it may help to provide some perspective on the word "own." At what point is a child no longer "owned" by his parents? As a parent myself, I can tell you that the relationship I have over my children is virtually identical to that of one human owning another. It is easy to accept this when they are babies, toddlers, elementary, and even middle school aged. But at what point does that lordship over my children become nothing more than ownership? 16? 18? 21? When they get married? When they move out of the house? What if they run away at 15?

G. N. Barkman wrote:

But its one thing to say that God prohibits it, and another to say that mature Christian development renders it impossible.

Point taken. I'm not sure it renders it impossible; we don't know what the world will look like in 1,000 years and how God may sovereignly direct societies. It is not impossible that he could ordain governments and move within leaders to render human ownership more socially acceptable. Speculation, of course, but I just don't think it can be said that such Christian development renders it impossible. For now, I am not condoning human ownership or looking for some way to justify what happened in early America. Hardly. My point is only to consider what the Bible says and how we can better communicate what it says to people who falsely claim that what happened in America's past was godly. American slavery did not at all model God's commands in Galatians and Colossians.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

G. N. Barkman's picture

The Golden Rule alone renders slavery impossible, if fully obeyed.  Can anyone say that they would want another person to own them as a slave?  If not, then do not own slaves yourself.  That's pretty straightforward and simple.

G. N. Barkman

JNoël's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Can anyone say that they would want another person to own them as a slave?

Americanism prohibits us from desiring to be owned. But is it possible for a master, who rightly treats his "slaves," to actually be affording those owned by him a better life than if he were free? If a master followed the commands God gave him in Galatians and Colossians, and if the slaves were Christians, especially, where the master could show brotherly kindness due a Christian brother, I can think of scenarios where the slave may actually be thankful for such an arrangement.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Bert Perry's picture

....with various forms of dementia. It is a common thing for them to turn over management of their affairs to a relative or friend so they don't end up suffering the consequences of forgetfulness.  You also have various forms of apprenticeship which require service after training or financial recompense, as well as (again) the service requirements for those on ROTC scholarships and attending military academies.  Go back a couple of centuries, and it was common for a man to indenture himself for the term of Biblical slavery so he could get passage across the Atlantic and/or training in a trade.

All of these fit the Biblical model of slavery far closer than does our "peculiar institution."  It's also worth noting that none less than the autobiography of Booker T. Washington notes that many older slaves had a talk with their former masters in 1865 so that they would not be left to starve--this was, despite the passing of the 13th Amendment, really very similar to the Torah procedure of the awl and the earring.  

Plus, those of us with mortgages, student loans, and the like need to remember that the word used in Proverbs 22:7 to describe the borrower's relationship to the lender--and yes, the word used is 'avad, Hebrew for "servant" or "slave". 

We don't just have slavery today, but in a manner of speaking, we love our slavery.  We just don't recognize it as such, and think that if a person isn't being whipped by an overseer or driver, or raped by the master or his sons, that it somehow doesn't count.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

JNoel,

Perhaps the slavery you are speaking of is better covered by Socialism and Communism.  But I do not believe it is biblical.  

A number of Scriptures that contradict slavery were given in part one of this series.  But, of course, you disagree.  I continue to believe involuntary servitude is unbiblical.  

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, when you call it "involuntary servitude", you ignore the fact that in Bible times, bond-servitude could be voluntary.  The awl in the ear examples is one, and selling one's self into slavery to pay off debts is another example.  I would grant that it would generally be a last resort, but the simple fact of the matter is that bond-servitude was, Biblically speaking, not uniformly involuntary. 

Let's be careful that we don't confuse the circumstances extant in the "peculiar institution" with those of Scripture.  If we do so, we are going to (see my comment from 10:55 am today) fail not only to understand our ancestors in the faith, but also the prophets (esp. Obadiah), the apostles, those enslaved in the U.S. and elsewhere in recent times, and most significantly, ourselves. 

No argument that the word is poison today and we ought to avoid it, but let's not ignore what Scripture actually says about the matter.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Slave - a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.

David R. Brumbelow

JNoël's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

Slave - a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.

I like that definition. Where is the sin in it? "Legal property of another?" "Forced to obey?"

I argue that neither, in themselves, are sin.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Bert Perry's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

Slave - a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.

David R. Brumbelow

That's a nice translation of the English word "slave" as it is currently used.  Now, the $64000 question is whether this matches the usage of the Hebrew term "avad" or the Greek term "Doulos."  If we're going to debate what the Scriptures say about the matter, this is key.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Bert Perry wrote:

Go back a couple of centuries, and it was common for a man to indenture himself for the term of Biblical slavery so he could get passage across the Atlantic and/or training in a trade.

 

.....one of my great-grandfathers indentured himself to a farmer in Illinois for two years to pay off his passage from Norway.  This was circa 1885.

TylerR's picture

Before you agree or disagree with the author's assertions, you need to answer four questions:

  1. What is the nature of slavery under the Mosaic Covenant?
  2. What was the nature of slavery in the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament?
  3. What was the nature of slavery in America in the 19th century?
  4. Then, having answered the above, you have to determine whether it's legitimate to conflate 19th century American slavery to the Hebrew and Greco-Roman versions, and argue "slavery is allowed?"

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

Before you agree or disagree with the author's assertions, you need to answer four questions:

  1. What is the nature of slavery under the Mosaic Covenant?
  2. What was the nature of slavery in the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament?
  3. What was the nature of slavery in America in the 19th century?
  4. Then, having answered the above, you have to determine whether it's legitimate to conflate 19th century American slavery to the Hebrew and Greco-Roman versions, and argue "slavery is allowed?"

I agree. In your first three points, the word "slavery" itself has different meanings.

Is it safe to say we can reduce the varieties of applications to what David R. Brumbelow posted, that of "legal property...forced to obey?" Whether the circumstances involve the consequences of war victories or voluntary (or involuntary, perhaps) indentured servitude, isn't the fundamental argument still the question of property and obedience?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

TylerR's picture

JNoel asked:

 . . . isn't the fundamental argument still the question of property and obedience?

I think the natures of these three different institutions are very different, and it makes a difference. There is a big distinction between, for example, the status of a slave in the Hebrew and Greco-Roman contexts, and 19th century America. The author of this piece was arguing for slavery from the Hebrew Bible, from the NT, and then extrapolating out and claiming 19th century American slavery is therefore legitimate. These are different institutions, and slaves are viewed very differently in all three. There is enough difference between them (and their respective social contexts) that I feel it is very simplistic to make the kind of leaps the author of this piece made.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

There is enough difference between them (and their respective social contexts) that I feel it is very simplistic to make the kind of leaps the author of this piece made.

I completely agree. So perhaps my repeated queries into this subject would be better done in an entirely separate thread, a discussion on nothing more than the question of "property" and "forced obedience," to state it perhaps too simply. Or perhaps not too simply at all. After all, it is my opinion that we Americans struggle with this conversation because of our ugly past. Yet I believe it is a valuable conversation because it can help us understand not only the differences in American slavery and what is shown in the Bible, but also that there really isn't anything sinful about not having one's own complete freedom from being ruled (owned?) by another human to be subject to him as his rightful property.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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