Slavery in the Bible:
Quotations by learned men from the 19th century:
||"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is
sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed
in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations
of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President of
the Confederate States of America. 1,2
||"There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but
many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." Rev.
||"The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy
Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. R. Furman, D.D.,
Baptist, of South Carolina
||"The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro
suffrage." A statement by a prominent 19th-century southern
Presbyterian pastor, cited by Rev. Jack
Rogers, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
||"The doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his
African descendants. The hand of fate has united his color and destiny.
Man cannot separate what God hath joined." United States
Senator James Henry Hammond. 3
A quotation from the 21st century:
||"If we apply sola scriptura to slavery, I'm afraid
the abolitionists are on relatively weak ground. Nowhere is slavery in the
Bible lambasted as an oppressive and evil institution: Vaughn Roste,
United Church of Canada staff.
The quotation by Jefferson Davis, listed above, reflected the beliefs of many
Americans in the 19th century. Slavery was seen as having been "sanctioned in
the Bible." They argued that:
||Biblical passages recognized, controlled, and regulated the practice.
||The Bible permitted owners to beat their slaves severely, even to the
point of killing them. However, as long as the slave lingered longer than
24 hours before dying of the abuse, the owner was not regarded as having
committed a crime, because -- after all -- the slave was his property.
||Paul had every opportunity to write in one of his Epistles that human
slavery -- the owning of one person as a piece of property by another --
is profoundly evil. His letter to Philemon would have been an ideal
opportunity to vilify slavery. But he wrote not one word of criticism of the institution of slavery.
||Jesus could have condemned the practice. He might have done so. But
there is no record of him having said anything negative about the
Eventually, the abolitionists gained sufficient power to eradicate slavery in
most areas of the world by the end of the 19th century. Slavery was eventually
recognized as an extreme evil. But this paradigm shift in understanding came at a
cost. Christians wondered why the Bible was so supportive of such an immoral
practice. They began to question whether the Bible was entirely reliable. Perhaps there
were other practices that it accepted as normal which
were profoundly evil -- like genocide, torturing prisoners, raping female
prisoners of war, forcing rape victims to marry their rapists, executing religious minorities, burning some hookers alive,
etc. The innocent faith that many Christians had in "the Good Book" was lost -- never
to be fully regained.
Topics covered in this section:
Dunbar Rowland quoting Jefferson Davis, in "Jefferson Davis,
Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers and Speeches. J. J. Little & Ives
Company, 1923, Page 286.
- Jefferson Davis, from a speech in the US Senate on 1850-FEB-14,
William Lee Miller, "Arguing About Slavery: The Great Battle in the
United States Congress." Alfred A. Knopf, (1996), Page 139.
From the Revised Standard version of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) -- Exodus 21:20-21 "When
a man strikes his slave, male or female, and the slave dies under his hand, he
shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be
punished; for the slave is his money." The word "money" in this case
means property; it is translated "property" in the Modern Language, Living Bible
and other translations.
Herb Vander Lugt, "How can we trust a Bible that tolerated slavery?,"
pamphlet, Radio Bible Class Ministries (RBC), at:
Copyright © 1998 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2013-SEP-22
Author: B.A. Robinson