Does the Bible Condone Slavery?
In our study of Colossians, our church hit 3:22 today, which says, “Slaves obey your masters…” Several times over the last few years I’ve heard the argument go against the Bible like this: “The Bible’s just a book written by men. And it even condones slavery.” Does the Bible condone slavery? and if not, how should I answer such claims from skeptics? Check out a great article on this HERE.
A few points we discussed this morning:
Does the Bible Condone Slavery? Yes & No.
Yes. The Bible addresses slaves that were considered the property of another person. But NO! Not the kind of slavery we think of in our modern era, where someone is taken against there will and sold with little recompense and harsh treatment. Not that this type of slavery didn’t occur in Biblical times extensively, but it was not condoned by the Bible.
Exodus 21:16 (ESV) – “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found #in possession of him, shall be put to death.”
Slavery in the Bible consisted of a social class that was not bound by racial distinction, but was in servitude to another for some reason that may included indebtedness, choice, or empire politics. A few facts:
- There may have been as many as 60 million slaves in this time period. Potentially ½ the population at the time
- Slave was not the lowest on the societal food chain. The day laborer was.
- As a matter of fact, slavery actually provided protection from poverty, from debt, from a bad name. Many even sold themselves into slavery.
- Slaves were often educated, owned property, could accumulate wealth & status.
None of this is true of modern slavery where a person owned by another was taken against their will, had no rights, little hope of improvement of status, and subjected to harsh treatment and poor work conditions.
And the Gospel changed everything for both types.
Galatians 3:28 (NIV) “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And it was the Gospel’s influence that fueled the movement to end the modern American slave trade in the 1700’s-18oo’s, through men like William Wilberforce and John Newton. And it’s the Gospel that’s fueling a new generation to stand up and fight for the million’s still being sold into slavery around the world.
Check out a fuller treatment of this in this article, Does the Bible Condone Slavery?