I still hear accusations about the Bible and slavery on a regular basis. If Christianity is true, why does the Bible condone and even promote slavery? A good God would not do that. And on it goes.
It is important to discuss what the Bible says about slavery. In a world where slavery is back in the headlines in the form of human trafficking, this is an important issue. Having said that, we need to clear away some of the misconceptions about the Bible and slavery. Here are five things that must be kept in mind.
- The Bible does not promote slavery, rather it provides limits on how it can be practiced. There is a difference. The Bible does not say slavery is good. But acknowledging that it was a part of the ancient economic system, guidelines were put in place to make it more humane.
- Many people sold themselves into slavery. While many today would think of slavery as the worst thing, for many in the ancient world it was the better alternative to starving in abject poverty. The government did not provide welfare programs for the poor. Slavery provided a way for families to survive.
- Do not judge slavery by what we think of the American south. Especially in the Roman world, slaves were often wealthier and more educated than the free. Some sold themselves into slavery, not because they had to, but because of the opportunities that would open up.
- Slavery was not race-based. The majority of what is said about slavery in the Old Testament is about Hebrew slaves with Hebrew masters. There was none of the dehumanization of slaves that we often think about.
- The Gospel of Jesus Christ contained the seeds that would lead to the end of slavery. While nothing could be done in the first century about slavery, it would be Christians that would lead the battle against slavery in England, United States and even today with human trafficking.
We should be outraged by slavery. But before condemning the Bible and Christianity, we need to consider all the facts.