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When slavery was legal, its proponents often justified it with the Bible; specifically, a verse that tells servants to obey their masters. There were also a lot of verses that abolitionists could and did use to argue against slavery. But you wouldn’t find those in the heavily-redacted “Slave Bible.”
Most of the Old Testament is missing, and only about half of the New Testament remains. The reason? So that the enslaved Africans in the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua couldn’t read or be read anything that might incite them to rebel.
The Slave Bible was actually titled Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands.
It’s not clear who exactly directed these changes. British planters in the Caribbean had long been weary of missionaries, and could’ve demanded that they only teach enslaved people certain parts of the Bible. But some missionaries may have also believed that it was only appropriate to teach enslaved people excerpts that reinforced their enslaved status.
Whoever the Slave Bible’s editors were, “they’re really highlighting portions that would instill obedience,” says Anthony Schmidt, a curator at Washington, D.C. Museum of the Bible, which has a copy of the Slave Bible on display. There are only two other known copies.
The first Slave Bible was published in 1807, three years after the Haitian Revolution ended. That revolution was the only slave revolt in history in which enslaved people successfully drove out their European oppressors to formed a new nation, and it increased American and European paranoia that the people they oppressed would one day rise up against them.
READ MORE: 7 Famous Slave Revolts
The Haitian Revolution could have been a motivation for publishing a Bible without the part where Moses tells the Pharoah to “Let my people go.” Missionaries and planters may have thought that Christianity—at least, certain parts of it—would protect against revolutions by teaching enslaved people to respect their masters.
In this context, Schmidt says the British may have thought that teaching enslaved people Biblical lesson about obedience and accepting one’s fate would help them “be better slaves.”
The Slave Bible doesn’t include Moses leading the Israelites to freedom, but it does include Joseph’s enslavement in Egypt. In the U.S., some sermons aimed at enslaved people portrayed Joseph as someone who “accepts his lot in life, keeps his faith in God and in the end is rewarded for it,” Schmidt says. The Slave Bible may have wanted to impart a similar lesson to its audience.
Passages that emphasized equality between groups of people were also excised. This included: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The Slave Bible also doesn’t contain the book of Revelations, which tells of a new heaven and Earth in which evil will be punished.
In contrast, one of the passages that remained was one that proponents of slavery loved to cite: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5).
READ MORE: The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced
'Slave Bible' Converted Slaves to Christianity by Omitting Parts That Could Lead to Uprising
A new exhibit at a Washington, D.C., museum featuring an abridged version of the Bible sheds light on how Christian missionaries converted enslaved Africans to Christianity by teaching them the Gospel. except the parts about freedom, equality and resistance.
According to NPR , Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected For the Use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, is on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., and is one of only three known copies of this abridged version of the King James Bible. Printed by the Missionary Society For the Conversion of Negro Slaves, the text of the Bible was used by missionaries from England to convert slaves to Christianity.
The book is basically the enslavers extended remix of the King James version of the Bible, leaving out all that unnecessary junk that might lead slaves to turn on their masters. For instance, Moses doesn’t even exist until he is an old man in the “Slave Bible.”
“You’ll see a jump from Genesis 45, and they’ve cut out all the material to Exodus 19,” says Anthony Schmidt, associate curator of Bible and Religion in America at the museum. “ What they’ve cut out is the story of the Israelites captivity in Egypt and their eventual liberation and journey to the promised land.”
The censored version removed 90 percent of the Old Testament and 50 percent of the New Testament, eliminating potentially seditious passages such as Exodus 21:16, which reads: “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
However, the curators of the Slavery Bible did keep some passages that they thought were necessary for slaves, including Ephesians 6:5:
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ
The Missionary Society For the Conversion of Negro Slaves was a group of missionaries’ that was formed in 1794. The society’s original intent was to convert Native Americans to Christ but the group began to focus on enslaved Africans after the American Revolution.
The extremely rare artifact is on loan from Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn ., which has housed the “Slave Bible” i n their special collection for more than 50 years. The only other known copies of the artifact are in the United Kingdom.
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Why Did God Permit Slavery?
There are Old Testament laws and principles that don't have validity today, and there is a redemptive-historical flow in the Bible that accounts for why some things were both commanded and permitted earlier that aren't now.
Part of this flow is that the people of God in the Old Testament were a political and ethnic reality with God as their King, and later with an earthly king. God ordained in those circumstances that his people immediately exercise some of his rights and his judgments upon the people.
Therefore you have the entire annihilation of the Canaanites by Joshua and his army with brutal, universal destruction. That's because God said in Deuteronomy, "I'm punishing these people for their sins. It's not your righteousness, O Israel, that is bringing this about. It's their sins that are bringing this about." So he was using his people as an instrument for his own judgment. In the context of a theocracy that was legitimate and right for God to do, even though the people themselves may have been sinful in the execution. And it was similar with things like slavery, God saying, in essence, "You're my people. Those people I have a right to judge. You may own them," and so on.
Now here comes Jesus, and he undoes much of the Old Testament law. In fact, I think he undoes all of it as law, according to Romans 7:4 where it says that we died to the law so that we may belong to another. And the reason he undoes it is not because it was wrong under those circumstances to do what he said to do. Rather, with the coming of Christ, his rejection of an earthly kingdom, and the establishment of a spiritual kingdom, Jesus says that the kingdom will be taken away from the Jews and be given to a people who bear its fruits, that is, the church.
Now the Kingdom of God isn't political, ethnic, or geographical. It has no king. It is a church made up of all ethnicities from all over the world, and therefore it has a very different witness to bear in the world. It is a "go tell" religion, not a "come see" religion. It is a religion of binding Jew and Gentile of all stripes together in the blood of Christ, not the religion of a Jewish phenomenon performing wonders that the world could look on and maybe get saved.
And under that new circumstance&mdashof a spiritual dying and rising Messiah who reigns from heaven (with no political dimensions to his faith on the earth), and a desire for all the peoples to come together (not just one ethnicity), and a desire that the command of love take on a whole new universal scope (because the very essence of the incarnation and the death of Christ was to love your enemies)&mdasha whole string of Old Testament processes, procedures, and commandments go by the wayside as part of the old system and not part of the new.
Now with regard to slavery in particular, it seems to me that the New Testament also causes us problems, because it tells slaves to be submissive to their masters and for masters not to threaten their slaves. So it's operating with a system of slavery that was given at that time.
However, the commands that are given and their context, I think, contain all the seeds for undoing anything like what we had in this country, for example, with the owning of human beings and its racial basis.
The book of Onesimus (Philemon) is the book that is brought forward most often&mdashand rightly, I think&mdashto show that Paul was sowing the seeds to explode the whole situation of slavery. Onesimus himself was a slave when he got converted. Paul sent him back to Philemon who had been his master, and he said, "I am sending him back as a brother. Honor him." I think that kind of spiritual dynamic is intended to explode the system.
Another thing to explode the system is when Paul says to masters, "Do not threaten them, remembering that you too have a master." So he puts the command of neighbor-love&mdashdo unto others as you would have them do unto you&mdashin the place of the right of the master to threaten. And if you don't threaten, what do you do? You win by love, and that transforms slavery into employment.
So I think it's not wrong that the Christians in America moved from a justification of slavery to a justification of the abolition of slavery, and that it was long and hard in coming. The biblical principles that were used to undermine the Old Testament's own speech about slavery was appropriate. It's right to say that there are changes that come about in the process of redemptive-history which make some laws in the Old Testament no longer appropriate or relevant at all in the New Testament.
Slaves had a variety of different purposes. To determine the function, many scholars look at repetitive descriptions in texts that were written around the same time and reports of other cultures from the well-documented Greco-Roman culture.  One of the main functions of slaves was as status symbols for the upper members of society, especially when it came to dowries for their daughters. These slaves could be sold or given away as needed, but also showed that the family was capable of providing generous amounts for their daughters to be married off. They also catered to the needs of the temple and had more domestic abilities such as keeping up the household and raising farm animals and small amounts of crops. Masters often took advantage of their slaves being at their beck and call by requiring them to perform duties in public that the master had the ability to do himself. This showed a level of luxury which extended beyond the private sphere into the public.  In addition to showing luxury, possession of slaves was necessary for a good family background, and many wealthy men viewed their colleagues who possessed only few slaves as the type of individual who needed to be pitied. 
War captives Edit
The Israelites did not generally get involved in distant or large-scale wars, and apparently capture was not a significant source of slaves. 
The taking of female captives is encouraged by Moses in Numbers 31. After being instructed by Yahweh to take vengeance upon the Midianites, Moses tells the Israelites to kill the male children and nonvirgin females but take the young virgins for themselves.  Kent Brown at Whitworth University claims that since the army did not receive a direct instruction by Yahweh to take the virgin girls captive, this cannot be justified as the obeying of a divine order rather the Israelites enslaved the virgin women of their own initiative. 
In the Deuteronomic Code, enemy nations that surrendered to the Israelites were to serve as tributaries. However, if they decided to war against Israel, all the men were to be killed and all the women and children were to be considered spoils of war. 
If the soldier desired to marry a captured foreigner he was to take her home to his house, shave her head, pare her nails, and discard her captive's garb. She would remain in his house a full month, mourning for her father and mother, after that he could may go in to her and be her husband, and she be his wife. If he later wished to end the relationship, he could not sell her into slavery. 
Harold C. Washington of the Saint Paul School of Theology cites Deuteronomy 21:10-14 as an example of how the Bible condones sexual violence committed by Israelites they were taking advantage of women who, as war captives, had no recourse or means of self defense. 
M.I. Rey at the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at Boston University argues that the passage is an endorsement of not only sexual slavery but genocidal rape, as the capture of these women is justified on the grounds of their not being Hebrew. Rey further argues that these women were not viewed as equals to Hebrew women, but rather as war trophies, and thus their captors had no qualms in engaging in sexual violence.  However, the biblical command never specifies that the war in question is against non-Hebrews, but rather against generic "enemies", a term used in reference to Israelites as well as foreigners,  and several wars between Israelite armies are recorded in the Bible. 
According to many Jewish commentators, the laws of the captive woman are not intended to encourage capture and forced marriage of women, but rather view it as inevitable in wartime and seek to minimize its occurrence and brutality.   By this view, the laws of Deuteronomy 21:12-13 (that the captive woman must shave her head, spend a month in mourning, etc. before marriage) are intended "to remove [the captor's] desire for her, so that he not take her as wife". 
Fugitive slaves Edit
The Deuteronomic Code forbids the Israelites from handing over fugitive slaves to their masters or oppressing them, and instructs that these fugitives should be allowed to reside where they wish.  Although a literal reading would indicate that this applies to slaves of all nationalities and locations, the Mishnah and many commentators consider the rule to have the much narrower application, to just those slaves who flee from outside Israelite territory into it.  
Blood slavery Edit
It was also possible to be born into slavery.  If a male Israelite slave had been given a wife by his owner, then the wife and any children which had resulted from the union would remain the property of his former owner, according to the Covenant Code.  Although no nationality is specified, 18th-century theologians John Gill (1697–1771) and Adam Clarke suggested this referred only to Canaanite concubines.  
Debt slavery Edit
Like the rest of the Ancient Near East, the legal systems of the Israelites divided slaves into different categories: "In determining who should benefit from their intervention, the legal systems drew two important distinctions: between debt and chattel slaves, and between native and foreign slaves. The authorities intervened first and foremost to protect the former category of each--citizens who had fallen on hard times and had been forced into slavery by debt or famine." 
Poverty, and more generally a lack of economic security, compelled some people to enter debt bondage. In the Ancient Near East, wives and (non-adult) children were dependents of the head of household and were sometimes sold into slavery by the husband or father for financial reasons. Evidence of this viewpoint is found in the Code of Hammurabi, which permits debtors to sell their wives and children into temporary slavery, lasting a maximum of three years. The book of Leviticus also exhibits this, allowing foreign residents to sell their own children and families to Israelites, although no limitation is placed on the duration of such slavery.  Biblical authors repeatedly criticize debt slavery, which could be attributed to high taxation, monopoly of resources, high-interest loans, and collapse of higher kinship groups. 
Debt slaves were one of the two categories of slaves in ancient Jewish society. As the name implies, these individuals sold themselves into slavery in order to pay off debts they may have accrued.  These individuals were not permanently in this situation and were usually released after six to seven years. Chattel slaves, on the other hand, were less common and were usually prisoners of war who retained no individual right of redemption. These chattel slaves engaged in full-time menial labor, often in a domestic capacity. 
The earlier     Covenant Code instructs that, if a thief is caught after sunrise and is unable to make restitution for the theft, then the thief should be enslaved. 
Sexual and conjugal slavery Edit
There were two words used for female slaves, which were amah and shifhah.  Based upon the uses in different texts, the words appear to have the same connotations and are used synonymously, namely that of being a sexual object, though the words themselves appear to be from different ethnic origins. Men assigned their female slaves the same level of dependence as they would a wife. Close levels of relationships could occur given the amount of dependence placed upon these women.  These slaves had two specific roles: a sexual use and companionship.  Their reproductive capacities were valued within their roles within the family. Marriage with these slaves was not unheard of or prohibited. In fact, it was a man's concubine that was seen as the "other" and shunned from the family structure. These female slaves were treated more like women than slaves which may have resulted, according to some scholars, due to their sexual role, which was particularly to "breed" more slaves. 
Sexual slavery, or being sold to be a wife, was common in the ancient world. Throughout the Old Testament, the taking of multiple wives is recorded many times.   An Israelite father could sell his unmarried daughters into servitude, with the expectation or understanding that the master or his son could eventually marry her (as in Exodus 21:7-11.) It is understood by Jewish and Christian commentators that this referred to the sale of a daughter, who "is not arrived to the age of twelve years and a day, and this through poverty." 
And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.
The code also instructs that the woman was to be allowed to be redeemed  if the man broke his betrothal to her. If a female slave was betrothed to the master's son, then she had to be treated as a normal daughter. If he took another wife, then he was required to continue supplying the same amounts of food, clothing, and conjugal rights to her.  The code states that failure to comply with these regulations would automatically grant free manumission to the enslaved woman,  while all Israelite slaves were to be treated as hired servants. 
The betrothal clause seems to have provided an exception to the law of release in Deuteronomy 15:12 (cf. Jeremiah 34:14), in which both male and female Israelite servants were to be given release in the seventh year. 
The penalty if an Israelite engaged in sexual activity with an unredeemed female slave who was betrothed was that of scourging, with Jewish tradition seeing this as only referring to the slave,   (versus Deuteronomy 22:22, where both parties were stoned, being free persons), as well as the man confessing his guilt and the priest making atonement for his sin. 
Permanent enslavement Edit
As for Israelite slaves, the Covenant Code allows them to voluntarily renounce their seventh-year manumission and become permanent slaves (literally being slaves forever).  The Covenant Code rules require that the slaves confirmed this desire "before God",  a phrase which has been understood to mean at either a religious sanctuary,   before judges,  or in the presence of household gods.  Having done this, slaves were then to have an awl driven through their ear into a doorpost by their master.  This ritual was common throughout the Ancient Near East, being practiced by Mesopotamians, Lydians, and Arabs  in the Semitic world, the ear symbolised obedience (much as the heart symbolises emotion, in the modern western world), and a pierced earlobe signified servitude.
Slave trade Edit
The Holiness code of Leviticus explicitly allows participation in the slave trade,  with non-Israelite residents who had been sold into slavery being regarded as a type of property that could be inherited.
Working conditions Edit
The Ten Commandments make clear that honouring the Shabbat was expected of slaves, not just their masters.  The later    The book of Deuteronomy, having repeated the Shabbat requirement, also instructs that slaves should be allowed to celebrate the Sukkot festival. 
Leviticus instructs that during the Sabbatical Year, slaves and their masters should eat food which the land yields, without being farmed.  This commandment not to work the land is directed at the landowner and does not mention slaves, but other verses imply that no produce is sown by anyone in this year,  and command that the land must "lie fallow".  It is not mentioned whether slaves receive rest from non-agricultural work during this year.
Unlike the other books, Leviticus does not mention the freeing of Israelite slaves after six years, instead simply giving the vague instruction that Israelite slaves should not to be compelled to work with rigour  Maimonides argues that this was to be interpreted as forbidding open-ended work (such as keep doing that until I come back), and that disciplinary action was not to include instructing the slave to perform otherwise pointless work.  
A special case is that of the debtor who sells himself as a slave to his creditor Leviticus instructs that in this situation, the debtor must not be made to do the work of slaves, but must instead be treated the same as a hired servant.  In Jewish tradition, this was taken to mean that the debtor should not be instructed to do humiliating work - which only slaves would do - and that the debtor should be asked to perform the craft(s) which they usually did before they had been enslaved, if it is realistic to do so.  
Injury and compensation Edit
The earlier    Covenant Code provides a potentially more valuable and direct form of relief, namely a degree of protection for the slave's person (their body and its health) itself. This codification extends the basic lex talionis (. eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. ),  to compel that when slaves are significantly injured by their masters, manumission is to be the compensation given the canonical examples mentioned are the knocking out of an eye or a tooth.  This resembles the earlier Code of Hammurabi, which instructs that when an injury is done to a social inferior, monetary compensation should be made, instead of carrying out the basic lex talionis Josephus indicates that by his time it was acceptable for a fine to be paid to the slave, instead of manumitting them, if the slave agreed.  Nachmanides argued that it was a biblically commanded duty to liberate a slave who had been harmed in this way. 
The Hittite laws and the Code of Hammurabi both insist that if a slave is harmed by a third party, the third party must financially compensate the owner.  In the Covenant Code, if an ox gores a slave, the ox owner must pay the servant's master a 30 shekel fine. 
The murder of slaves by owners was prohibited in the Law covenant. The Covenant Code clearly institutes the death penalty for beating a free man to death  in contrast, beating a slave to death was to be avenged only if the slave does not survive for one or two days after the beating.  Abraham ben Nathan of Lunel, a 12th-century Provençal scholar, Targum, and Maimonides argue that avenged implies the death penalty,   but more recent scholars view it as probably describing a lesser punishment.  A number of modern Protestant Bible versions (such as the New Living Translation, New International Version and New Century Version) translate the survival for one or two days as referring to a full and speedy recovery, rather than to a lingering death, as favoured by other recent versions (such as the New Revised Standard Version, and New American Bible).
In a parallel with the shmita system the Covenant Code offers automatic manumission of male Israelite slaves after they have worked for six years  this excludes non-Israelite slaves, and specifically excludes Israelite daughters, who were sold into slavery by their fathers, from such automatic seventh-year manumission. Such were bought to be betrothed to the owner, or his son, and if that had not been done, they were to be allowed to be redeemed. If the marriage took place, they were to be set free if her husband was negligent in his basic marital obligations.  The later    Deuteronomic Code is seen by some to contradict  elements of this instruction, in extending automatic seventh year manumission to both sexes. 
The Deuteronomic Code also extends  the seventh-year manumission rule by instructing that Israelite slaves freed in this way should be given livestock, grain, and wine, as a parting gift  the literal meaning of the verb used, at this point in the text, for giving this gift seems to be hang round the neck.  In Jewish tradition, the identified gifts were regarded as merely symbolic, representing a gift of produce rather than of money or clothing  many Jewish scholars estimated that the value of the three listed products was about 30 shekels, so the gift gradually came to be standardised as produce worth this fixed value.  The Bible states that one should not regret the gift, for slaves were only half as expensive as hired workers  Nachmanides enumerates this as a command rather than merely as a piece of advice. 
According to Jeremiah 34:8–24, Jeremiah also demanded that King Zedekiah manumit (free) all Israelite slaves (Jeremiah 34:9). Leviticus does not mention seventh-year manumission instead it only instructs that debt-slaves, and Israelite slaves owned by foreign residents, should be freed during the national Jubilee  (occurring either every 49 or every 50 years, depending on interpretation). 
While many commentators see the Holiness Code regulations as supplementing the prior legislation mandating manumission in the seventh year,    the otherwise potentially long wait until the Jubilee was somewhat alleviated by the Holiness Code, with the instruction that slaves should be allowed to buy their freedom by paying an amount equal to the total wages of a hired servant over the entire period remaining until the next Jubilee (this could be up to 49 years-worth of wages). Blood relatives of the slave were also allowed to buy the slave's freedom, and this became regarded as a duty to be carried out by the next of kin (Hebrew: Go'el). 
In the Old Testament, the differences between male and female enslavement were vast. Deuteronomic code applied mostly to men, while women were able to be subjected to a much different type of slavery that encompassed permanent, sexual enslavement. Deuteronomy 15:17 and Exodus 21:5-6 outline such a code in which women's slavery became more permanent by way of voluntary extension.  Both women and men are able to be used as sexual slaves, effectively to breed more slaves however, such sexual use requires change in status for female slaves, but not for male slaves. This change in status would require a female debt slave to become a permanent fixture of the household: by way of marrying the father or the father's son. Deuteronomy 21:9 states that the female slave must be treated as a daughter if such permanent status is to be established.  The Covenant Codes were thus insufficient in protecting the manumission those who are forced into sexual slavery, whether male or female.
Abolition of slavery Edit
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the slavery of Israelites was abolished by the prophets after the destruction of the Temple of Solomon.  The prophet Nehemiah rebuked the wealthy Israelites of his day for continuing to own Israelite slaves. 
Slavery is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. The word "servant" is sometimes substituted for the word "slave" in English translations of the Bible.
The Bible claims that Jesus healed the ill slave of a centurion  and restored the cut off ear of the high priest's slave.  In his parables, Jesus referenced slavery: the prodigal son,  ten gold coins,  unforgiving tenant,  and tenant farmers.  Jesus' teaching on slavery was metaphorical: spiritual slavery,  a slave having two masters (God and mammon),  slavery to God,  acting as a slave toward others,  and the greatest among his disciples being the least of them.  Jesus also taught that he would give burdened and weary laborers rest.  The Passion narratives are interpreted by the Catholic church as a fulfillment of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah. 
Jesus' view of slavery compares the relationship between God and humankind to that of a master and his slaves. Three instances where Jesus communicates this view include:
Matthew 18:21-35: Jesus' Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, wherein Jesus compares the relationship between God and humankind to that of a master and his slaves. Jesus offers the story of a master selling a slave along with his wife and children.
Matthew 20:20-28: A series of remarks wherein Jesus recognizes it is necessary to be a slave to be "first" among the deceased entering heaven.
Matthew 24:36-51: Jesus' Parable of the Faithful Servant, wherein Jesus again compares the relationship between God and humankind to that of a master and his slaves.
In Paul's letters to the Ephesians, Paul motivates early Christian slaves to remain loyal and obedient to their masters like they are to Christ. Ephesians 6:5-8 Paul states, “Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ” which is Paul instructing slaves to obey their master.  Similar statements regarding obedient slaves can be found in Colossians 3:22-24, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, and Titus 2:9-10.    In Col 4:1 Paul advises members of the church, who are slave masters, to "treat your slaves justly and fairly, realizing that you too have a Master in heaven.”  Adding to Paul's advice to masters and slaves, he uses slavery as a metaphor. In Romans 1:1 Paul calls himself “a slave of Christ Jesus” and later in Romans 6:18 Paul writes “You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness.”   Also in Galatians, Paul writes on the nature of slavery within the kingdom of God. Galatians 3:27-29 states “there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  We find similar patterns of speech and understanding about slavery in Peter's epistles. In 1 Peter 2:18, Saint Peter writes “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.”  In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul condemns enslavers with the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
The Epistle to Philemon has become an important text in regard to slavery it was used by pro-slavery advocates as well as by abolitionists.   In the epistle, Saint Paul writes to Saint Philemon that he is returning Saint Onesimus, a fugitive slave, back to him however, Paul also entreats Philemon to regard Onesimus, who he says he views as a son, not as a slave but as a beloved brother in Christ. Philemon is requested to treat Onesimus as he would treat Paul.  According to Catholic tradition, Philemon freed Onesimus. 
The prospect of manumission is an idea prevalent within the New Testament. In contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament's criteria for manumission encompasses Roman laws on slavery as opposed to the shmita system. Manumission within the Roman system largely depends on the mode of enslavement: slaves were often foreigners, prisoners of war, or those heavily indebted. For foreign-born individuals, manumission was increasingly amorphous however, if subject to debt slavery, manumission was much more concrete: freedom was granted once the debt was paid. Children were often offered to creditors as a form of payment and their manumission was determined ab initio(at the outset) with the pater(family head).  This manicipia(enslavement) of children by the pater did not exclude the selling of children into sexual slavery. If sold into sex slavery, the prospect of complete manumission became much less likely under the stipulations of Roman Law. Much like the stipulations of the Covenant Code, being sold into sexual slavery meant greater chance of perpetual servitude, by way of explicit enslavement or forced marriage.
One of the first discussions of manumission in the New Testament can be seen in Paul's interaction with Philemon's slave Onesimus. Onesimus was held captive with Paul, as he was a fugitive, run-away slave. Paul proceeds to baptize the slave Onesimus, and then writes to his owner, Philemon, telling him that he will pay whatever fee Onesimus owes for his fugitive status. Paul does not explicitly ask Philemon for Onesimus's manumission however, the offer a "fee" for Onesimus's escape has been discussed as a possible latent form of manumission.  Paul's treatment of Onesimus additionally brings into question of Roman slavery as a "closed" or "open" slave system. Open slave systems allow for incorporation of freed slaves into society after manumission, while closed systems manumitted slaves still lack social agency or social integration.  Roman slavery exhibited characteristics of both, open and closed, systems which further complicates the letter from Paul to Philemon regarding the slave Onesimus.
In the time of the New Testament, there were three modes in which a slave could be manumitted by his or her master: a will could include a formal permission of manumission, a slave could be declared free during a census, or a slave and master could go before a provincial official.  These modes of manumission lend evidence to suggest that manumission was an everyday occurrence, and thus complicates New Testament texts encouraging manumission. In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul encourages enslaved peoples to pursue manumission however, this manumission could be connoted in the boundaries of a closed slave system in which manumission does not equate to complete freedom.  Modes of manumission, in the New Testament, are once again disputed in a letter from Paul to Galatians in which Paul writes "For freedom Christ has set us free".  This declaration explicitly implies that Christ has manumitted his apostles however, it is unclear as to whether this manumission is fleeting, and that Christ has now purchased them. The parables present within the Gospels further complicate ideas of manumission. Christ vividly outlines the actions of dutiful slaves, but these dutiful actions never warrant a slave's manumission from his or her master. Jesus thus never explicitly states that slaves should be manumitted for being consistently dutiful, but he is, however, complicit in violence shown towards unruly slaves, as seen in Matthew's parable of the Unfaithful Slave.  This seemingly perpetual dutifulness is also shown to be expected in Ephesians: "Slaves, obey your masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart".  Such sentiments in the New Testament suggest that dutiful work and obedience was not for the hope of manumission, but rather a necessary symbol of obedience in the eyes of God.
An argument made repeatedly is that the slavery mentioned in the Bible is quite different from chattel slavery practiced in the American South, and that in some cases the word "slave" is a mistranslation. For example, Hebrew slaves in Biblical and Talmudic times had many rights that slaves in the American South did not have, including the requirement that slaves are freed after 7 years of servitude. (Israel's foreign slaves, by contrast, were enslaved for life.)
How Christian Slaveholders Used the Bible to Justify Slavery
During the period of American slavery, how did slaveholders manage to balance their religious beliefs with the cruel facts of the “peculiar institution“? As shown by the following passages &mdash adapted from Noel Rae’s new book The Great Stain, which uses firsthand accounts to tell the story of slavery in America &mdash for some of them that rationalization was right there in the Bible.
Out of the more than three quarters of a million words in the Bible, Christian slaveholders&mdashand, if asked, most slaveholders would have defined themselves as Christian&mdashhad two favorites texts, one from the beginning of the Old Testament and the other from the end of the New Testament. In the words of the King James Bible, which was the version then current, these were, first, Genesis IX, 18&ndash27:
&ldquoAnd the sons of Noah that went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole world overspread. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: and he drank of the wine, and was drunken and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father&rsquos nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.&rdquo
Despite some problems with this story&mdashWhat was so terrible about seeing Noah drunk? Why curse Canaan rather than Ham? How long was the servitude to last? Surely Ham would have been the same color as his brothers?&mdashit eventually became the foundational text for those who wanted to justify slavery on Biblical grounds. In its boiled-down, popular version, known as &ldquoThe Curse of Ham,&rdquo Canaan was dropped from the story, Ham was made black, and his descendants were made Africans.
The other favorite came from the Apostle Paul&rsquos Epistle to the Ephesians, VI, 5-7: &ldquoServants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ not with eye-service, as men-pleasers but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.&rdquo (Paul repeated himself, almost word for word, in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Colossians.)
The rest of the Old Testament was often mined by pro-slavery polemicists for examples proving that slavery was common among the Israelites. The New Testament was largely ignored, except in the negative sense of pointing out that nowhere did Jesus condemn slavery, although the story of Philemon, the runaway who St. Paul returned to his master, was often quoted. It was also generally accepted that the Latin word servus, usually translated as servant, really meant slave.
Even apparent abuses, when looked at in the right light, worked out for the best, in the words of Bishop William Meade of Virginia. Suppose, for example, that you have been punished for something you did not do, &ldquois it not possible you may have done some other bad thing which was never discovered and that Almighty God, who saw you doing it, would not let you escape without punishment one time or another? And ought you not in such a case to give glory to Him, and be thankful that He would rather punish you in this life for your wickedness than destroy your souls for it in the next life? But suppose that even this was not the case&mdasha case hardly to be imagined&mdashand that you have by no means, known or unknown, deserved the correction you suffered there is this great comfort in it, that if you bear it patiently, and leave your cause in the hands of God, He will reward you for it in heaven, and the punishment you suffer unjustly here shall turn to your exceeding great glory hereafter.&rdquo
Bishop Stephen Elliott, of Georgia, also knew how to look on the bright side. Critics of slavery should &ldquoconsider whether, by their interference with this institution, they may not be checking and impeding a work which is manifestly Providential. For nearly a hundred years the English and American Churches have been striving to civilize and Christianize Western Africa, and with what result? Around Sierra Leone, and in the neighborhood of Cape Palmas, a few natives have been made Christians, and some nations have been partially civilized but what a small number in comparison with the thousands, nay, I may say millions, who have learned the way to Heaven and who have been made to know their Savior through the means of African slavery! At this very moment there are from three to four millions of Africans, educating for earth and for Heaven in the so vilified Southern States&mdashlearning the very best lessons for a semi-barbarous people&mdashlessons of self-control, of obedience, of perseverance, of adaptation of means to ends learning, above all, where their weakness lies, and how they may acquire strength for the battle of life. These considerations satisfy me with their condition, and assure me that it is the best relation they can, for the present, be made to occupy.&rdquo
Reviewing the work of the white churches, Frederick Douglass had this to say: &ldquoBetween the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference&mdashso wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity…&rdquo
What The Bible Really Says About Slavery
Slavery stands as the single most contested issue in the history of biblical interpretation in the United States. Not only did the nation fracture over slavery, denominations did too. Northern and Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists remained divided until well into the twentieth century in fact, Southern Baptists still represent the nation's largest Protestant denomination. What did slavery mean in the biblical world, and how did biblical authors respond to it?
Don't let anybody tell you that biblical slavery was somehow less brutal than slavery in the United States. Without exception, biblical societies were slaveholding societies. The Bible engages remarkably diverse cultures -- Ethiopian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman -- but in every one of them some people owned the rights to others. Slaveowners possessed not only the slaves' labor but also their sexual and reproductive capacities. When the Bible refers to female slaves who do not "please" their masters, we're talking about the sexual use of slaves. Likewise when the Bible spells out the conditions for marrying a slave (see Exodus 21:7-11).
The occupations and experiences of slaves varied greatly. Many performed manual labor in horrid conditions, perhaps living only months after beginning their work. Some highly valued slaves attained wealth and status, a possibility reflected in Genesis' account of Joseph. Perhaps the story of the centurion who highly valued his slave connotes an erotic relationship, likely one-sided (Luke 7:1-10). In all cases the owners' right to use a slave as the owner sees fit, including the right to punish slaves severely, remain unquestioned.
How did people become slaves? Slavery did not accompany a particular racial status, as it eventually did in the United States, but the Hebrew Bible stipulates preferred treatment for Israelite slaves (see Exodus 21:1-11 25:39-55 Deuteronomy 15:12-18). Crushing debt forced many into slavery, with some people selling themselves and others selling their children. Military conquest contributed greatly to the slave market as well.
The Bible does not attempt to hide the presence of slaves. Beware modern translations that use "servant" to cover up slave language. Slaves were ubiquitous in the ancient world. Imagine ancient Rome, where slaves made up between one-third and one-half of the inhabitants -- perhaps half a million people! The Senate once considered requiring slaves to wear identifying marks, but they stopped short in the face of a chilling realization: if slaves could recognize one another, what would prevent them from organizing and pillaging the entire city?
In the New Testament, Jesus frequently refers to slaves in his parables, the witty stories that marked his most distinctive teaching style. He never addresses slavery as an institution, though unfortunately one of the parables assumes that beating a slave is acceptable (Luke 12:47-48). More controversial is the apostle Paul, often blamed for promoting or condoning slavery. The great African-American theologian Howard Thurman recalled how his illiterate formerly enslaved grandmother would not allow him to read Paul to her. Slave owners, she said, constantly employed Paul's letters to promote docility among the slaves.
However, more recent scholarship suggests that Paul may have resisted -- or at least undermined -- slavery. Many scholars believe Paul did not compose six of the thirteen letters attributed to him in the New Testament. It so happens that the most restrictive passages regarding slaves occur in those six disputed letters (see Ephesians 6:5-8 Colossians 3:22-4:1 Titus 2:9-10), while the remaining seven letters leave open the possibility that Paul sided with slaves. One letter calls the slaveowner Philemon to welcome back a certain Onesimus "no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother . both in the flesh and in the Lord" (Philemon 1:16). Is Paul calling for Onesimus to be set free, or simply for his master to receive him with love? Likewise, it strains the imagination that two modern translations of 1 Corinthians 7:21 could vary so greatly, but consider this example.
|English Standard Version||New Revised Standard Version|
|Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.||Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.|
Does Paul encourage slaves to embrace their captivity or to gain their freedom?
While we may debate whether Paul encouraged the manumission of Onesimus and other slaves (I think he did) one thing is certain. Some ancient Jews and Christians did resist the practice. The Essenes, likely responsible for our Dead Sea Scrolls, apparently forbade members from owning slaves. The book of Revelation lists slaves among the luxury items that Roman commerce generated by exploiting other societies (18:13). Most touchingly, very ancient documents indicate that some Christians literally sold themselves into slavery to purchase the freedom of others (1 Clement 54:4-5), while some churches collected money to buy slaves' freedom (Ignatius to Polycarp 4:8-10 Shepherd of Hermas 38.10 50.8).
There's a simple explanation for nineteenth century debates on slavery and the Bible: the Bible isn't exactly clear on the subject. If anything, the Bible made it easier for slavery's advocates than for its opponents. On the other hand, Robert E. Putnam and David E. Campbell suggest that while religion contributed greatly in the motivation of abolitionists, their adversaries would have promoted slavery with or without religion.
19th-cent. Slave Bible that removed Exodus story to repress hope goes on display
WASHINGTON — To Jews, a Bible without the story of the Exodus from Egypt is unthinkable: No plagues, no bondage, no liberation — no Passover. To Christians, a New Testament without the Book of Revelation is equally preposterous, as the apocalyptic text occupies a central place in Christian theology.
But English missionaries seeking to convert enslaved Africans toiling in Britain’s Caribbean colonies around the beginning of the 19th century preached from Bibles that conveniently removed portions of the canonical text. They thought these sections, such as Exodus, the Book of Psalms, and the Book of Revelation, could instill in slaves a dangerous hope for freedom and dreams of equality.
Now, one of three so-called “Slave Bibles” known to exist — the only one in North America — is on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. The artifact is on loan from Fisk University, a private historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee.
Printed in London in 1807, the Slave Bible excludes 90 percent of the Hebrew Bible and 50% of the New Testament. Of the 1,189 chapters in a standard Protestant Bible, the Slave Bible contains only 232.
“A volume like this would have been used for manipulative and oppressive purposes,” said Seth Pollinger, the curatorial director of the Museum of the Bible. He told The Times of Israel that his staff recently located two early 19th century letters talking about these Bibles being distributed in the British West Indies.
“So not only do we now have evidence they distributed these volumes along with other literature, but we also notice from the letters that there was a purpose attached to it: teaching those who were enslaved how to be obedient to their masters and what their duties to their masters were,” Pollinger said.
In an 1808 missive discussing the printing of these Bibles, Anglican Bishop of London Beilby Porteus wrote, “Prepare a short form of public prayers for them… together with select portions of Scripture… particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters.”
Missionaries were exhorted by farmers in the British West Indies (modern-day Jamaica, Barbados, and Antigua) to steer clear of any text with revolutionary implications. At stake was Britain’s massive overseas empire, powered by millions of enslaved Africans forced to work on sugar plantations.
Examples of the excluded passages in the Slave Bible include:
“He who kidnaps a man — whether he has sold him or is still holding him — shall be put to death.” (Ex. 21:16)
“You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases you must not ill-treat him.” (Deut. 23:16-17)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye all are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Pollinger told The Times of Israel that omitted portions of the Bible such as the Book of Psalms, the first 19 chapters of Exodus, and the Book of Revelation share the common theme of a hopeful future.
“In the Book of Revelation, for example, it’s a story about the Overcomer,” Pollinger said. “You have vivid language about God’s presence coming to dwell again with his people and the end of darkness, the end of pain, and many of these different longings and hopes of what this prophetic restoration looks like.”
On the other hand, the Slave Bible emphatically includes those passages which stress a servant’s obligations to his master:
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)
“But the seventh day is Sabbath of the LORD your God: you shall not do any work — you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave…” (Ex. 20:10)
“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things.” (Titus 2:9)
Many of the students at the historically black Fisk University are Christian and African-American. Holly Hamby, an associate professor at Fisk who teaches a class on the Bible as literature, said “it’s pretty emotional” for students who first encounter the Slave Bible.
“It’s very disruptive to their belief system,” she said. “It does lead them to question a lot but I also think it leads them to a powerful connection with the text… Very naturally, seeing the parts that were left out of the Bible that was given to a lot of their ancestors makes them concentrate more on those parts.”
Rena Opert, the Museum of the Bible’s director of exhibitions, told The Times of Israel, “The exhibit shows the power people think the Exodus story has.”
As a practicing Jew, Opert says she can’t imagine her tradition without Passover.
“In fact, we’re actually going to have a haggadah exhibit next year and I’ve been thinking about how we have an entire holiday completely dedicated to something that isn’t even in the Slave Bible,” Opert said.
“The Slave Bible: Let the Story Be Told,” is presented by the Museum of the Bible with the cooperation of Fisk University and the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibit runs through August 31, 2019.
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God's 12 Biggest Dick Moves in the Old Testament
Before Jesus arrived and his divine father chilled out, the Old Testament God was, ironically, kind of a hellraiser. He was not a nice guy. He really liked killing people. And he may have actually been insane, if his willingness to randomly murder devout worshippers like Moses was any indication. Here are the 12 craziest, most awful things God did in the Old Testament, back before that wacked-out hippie Jesus softened him up.
1) Sending Bears to Murder Children
So a guy named Eliseus was traveling to Bethel when a bunch of kids popped up and made fun of him for being bald. That had to suck, and you can't blame Eliseus for being pissed and cursing them to God. But God had Eliseus' back, by which I mean he sent two bears to maul 42 of these kids to death. For making fun of a bald dude. I have to think Eliseus was looking for something along the lines of a spanking, or maybe the poetic justice of having the kids go bald, but nope, God went straight for the bear murder. But on the plus side, that pile of 40+ children's corpses never made fun of anybody again. ( 4 Kings 2:23-24 )
2) Turning Lot's Wife to Salt
Most folks know about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities of sin God decided to kill everyone in instead of, you know, making them not full of sin. But this was a town that, when two angels were staying at Lot's place, gathered en masse and asked if they could rape them. I repeat: They wanted to rape angels. So they kind of had their destruction coming. Lot and his family were sent from the city before things went down, and Lot's wife looked back, and God turned her into a pillar of salt. It's generally understood that Lot's wife was looking back in a wistful kind of way at her angel-raping hometown, but the fact is there's nothing in the Bible to suggest this. Nor was Lot's family warned about looking back. Maybe Lot's wife wanted to see Sodom and Gomorrah get what was coming to it. Maybe she was thinking wistfully of the things she had to leave behind. Maybe she wondered if she left the oven on. We'll never know, because God turned her into seasoning for breaking a rule she didn't know existed. (Genesis 19:26)
3) Hating Ugly People
In what should be good news for intolerant religious conservatives, God really does hate people who are different from the norm. Of course, God isn't as worried about skin color or sexual orientation as he is about whether you're ugly or not. Because if you're ugly, you can just go worship some other god, okay? (Even though God will punish you if you do and also they don't exist.) Here's the people God does not want coming into his churches: People with blemishes, blind people, the lame, those with flat noses, dwarves, people with scurvy, people with bad eyes, people with bad skin, and those that "hath their stones broken." Given that God is technically responsible for giving people all of these afflictions in the first place, this is an enormous dick move. (Leviticus 21:17-24)
4) Trying to Kill Moses
In terms of people who God likes, youɽ think Moses would be pretty high up on the list, right? I mean, God appointed him to lead the Jews out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea for him, and even picked him to receive the 10 Commandments, right? Yet this didn't stop God from trying to kill Moses when he ran into him at "a lodging place." There is literally no explanation given in the Bible for God's decision to murder one of his chief supporters. The line is "At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him." The only sensible explanation for this is that God was drunk out of his mind and looking for a bar fight, and you better hope that's correct because the alternative is that God's a psychopath. How was God stopped from murdering his #1 fan? "But [Moses' wife] Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it . So the Lord let him alone." Either the sight of a very unexpected circumcision sobered God up quickly, or he didn't want to touch a dude who just touched a severed foreskin. Still, it's Moses' son who's the real victim here. (Exodus 4:24-26)
5) Committing So Much Genocide
God has killed so many people, you guys. Okay, I mean technically, God has killed everyone if you subscribe to Judeo-Christian thought, but I'm not talking about indirect methods, I'm talking about God murdering countless people in horrible ways simply because he's pissed off. God drowning every single person on the planet besides Noah and his family is pretty well known, but he also helped the Israelites murder everyone in Jericho, Heshbon, Bashan and many more, usually killing women, children and animals at the same time. Hell, God once helped some Israelites kill 500,000 other Israelites. God's crazy.
6) Ordering His Underlings to Kill Their Own Children
God is obviously good at big picture dickishness, but he also took the time to be a dick on a more personal level. Abraham was another devout man who God decided to fuck with, apparently because he knew he could. God ordered him to sacrifice his son to God (God was a fan of human sacrifice at the time). We know Abraham loved his son, so he was probably kind of upset with this, but hey, God's God, right? So Abraham tricked his unsuspecting son up a mountain onto a sacrificial altar and prepared to murder him. This story actually has a happy ending, in that right before Abraham drove a knife into his son's throat, God yelled "Psyche!" and told him it was only a test. And then Abraham received some blessings after that for being willing to kill his own child at God's whim. And all it took was the dread of being forced to kill his own child on behalf of his angry deity and, presumably, a shit-ton of awkward family dinners for the rest of his life. Abraham got off better than Jephthah, who had to follow through with murdering his daughter (burning her alive, specifically) in order to get on God's good side before battling the Ammonites. (Genesis 22:1-12)
7) Killing Egyptian Babies
Let's be completely up front: The Egyptians and the Jews did not get along. According to the Bible, the Egyptians enslaved the Jews, but the Jews had God on their side, if you kind of ignore God letting his people be enslaved in the first place. Rather getting his worshippers the hell out of there, God wanted to show those damned Egyptians what for, releasing 10 plagues that began with turning the river Nile into pure blood, and ending with the slaughter of the first-born of every single Egyptian man and animal. Now, I suppose it's possible that some, or even most of these first-born were adults who were shitty to the Israelites. But some of them had to be babies who didn't even have the time to persecute the Jews yet. And what the hell did the animals do to the Jews to get caught up in this nightmare? Were there proto-Nazi cows running around who needed to be punished for their transgressions against the chosen people? And you realize there were cats in Egypt, right? Cats who had first-born? God killed kittens. (Numbers 16:41-49)
8) Killing a Dude for Not Making More Babies
So you're a dude named Onan and you have a brother named Er. God does not care for Er, and kills him. Standard God operating procedure. Then things gets weird. Onan's dad orders Onan to have sex with Er's wife — not marry, by the way, just have sex with. This is actually pretty awkward for Onan, sleeping with his sister-in-law, and rather than give her any more kids (she had two with Er already) he pulls out. God is so infuriated that Onan did not fuck his sister-in-law to completion that he kills him, too. Now, you could argue that God demands that intercourse be used specifically for procreation, but given how much God loves killing babies and children, I don't think his motives here are exceptionally pure. (Genesis 38:1-10)
9) Helping Samson Murder People to Pay Off a Bet
More evidence that God is possibly a low-level mobster: When his pal Samson got married, he was given 30 friends, and he posed them (a completely insane) riddle. Then he made a bet that if they could solve it in a week, Samson would give them all new clothes, but if they couldn't they would give Samson 30 pairs of new clothes. Well, Samson's wife wheedled the answer out of him and then told these dudes, at which point an angry Samson had to pay up. And here's where God comes in — literally, into Samson, giving him the power to murder 30 random people for their clothes. Only a true friend would help you commit mass murder to settle a completely stupid bet. (Judges 14:1-19)
10) Trying to Wrestle a Guy, Cheating, and Still Losing
And here's more evidence that God is a drunk maniac: Jacob was traveling with his two wives, his 11 kids, and all his earthly possessions and had sent them across a river. At that moment, a guy essentially leapt out of the bushes and started wrestling. It's God! They wrestle all night, and God cannot beat Jacob, so he uses his magic God powers to wrench Jacob's hip out of its socket. But Jacob still won't let him out of a headlock until God blesses him, because Jacob has figured out who this bizarre man is. God blesses him and wanders off, presumably to go get in a bar fight somewhere. (Genesis 32: 22-31)
11) Killing People for Complaining About God Killing Them
To be fair, after God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, they were extraordinarily bitchy about not instantly being in a land of milk and honey. It got so bad that God was ready to kill all of them and let Moses start the Jews over, although Moses managed to talk him out of it. But one of their more sensible complaints was that Moses was lording himself over the rest of them, which was probably true, seeing as God had given him the 10 Commandments and all that. So Moses summoned the three tribal elders who had made the complaint to a Monday morning staff meeting, but two of them didn't come. Neither Moses nor God cared for that, and God opened up the grounds beneath their people's tents, killing both tribes (God also set fire to 250 Israelite princes whoɽ made the same complaint). Having been well admonished that Moses was putting himself above the rest of the people with God's permission, a number of surviving Israelites were kind of pissed that Moses and God had killed so many of their fellow people to prove a point. God responded by killing another 14,700 of them with a plague. The complaints stopped. (Numbers 16:1-49)
12) Everything He Did to Job
Oh, Job. Other than a shit-ton of babies, no one had it worse in the Bible than Job, who was a righteous, good-hearted man who believed in God with every fiber in his being — which is when God decides to see how miserable he can make this dude before he gets upset. Note: This is a result of a bet between God and Satan. Also note: The bet is God's idea. He's literally just hanging out with Satan — which is kinda weird when you think about it — when he starting bragging about how awesome Job is. Satan points out that Job's pretty blessed — he's rich, he's got a lot of kids, etc., and he probably wouldn't be quite so thrilled with God if he didn't have that stuff. God downs his bourbon, presumably, and tells Satan he can fuck with Job all he wants. Satan does. He kills all of Job's children and animals, burns down his house, destroys his wealth, and then covers him in boils. Job doesn't not curse God, but he does wish heɽ never been born (literally) and begs God to kill him, but no dice. This lasts a long time until finally Job wonders why a just God would be so shitty. This is when God pops up and basically tells him."Shut up, I don't have to explain anything to you." Job, having finally done something wrong, pleads for mercy, and God eventually gives him back animals and children — new ones, because the old ones are still dead. Because of a bet. That God made with Satan. For kicks. (Job 1)
2. The Old Testament Is Too Bloody And Violent
Let’s be honest, the Old Testament is bloody. It depicts a great deal of violence and blood shedding. All of this, we must recognize, is the result of sin. It started with Cain shedding the blood of his brother Abel. 5 God took the shedding of animal blood seriously, and the shedding of human blood (murder) even more seriously. 6
God required the shedding of blood as a sacrifice for sin.
“. . . without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
The magnitude of the blood shedding that we find in the Old Testament serves to indicate the magnitude of man’s sin, and of its consequences, as well as its cure. But do not suppose that while the Old Testament is bloody, the New Testament is not. The death of our Lord Jesus was, of necessity, bloody.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” 27 And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28).
And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your temporary residence here in reverence. 18 You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors you were ransomed– not by perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ (1 Peter 1:17-19).
They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9).
So, too, the final conflict and the defeat of Satan and his intervention in the affairs of this world will also be bloody. 7
Is the Bible Racist?
Some “white” Christians have assumed that the so-called “curse of Ham” ( Genesis 9:25 ) was to cause Ham’s descendants to be black and to be cursed. While it is likely that African peoples are descended from Ham (Cush, Phut, and Mizraim), it is not likely that they are descended from Canaan (the curse was actually declared on Canaan, not Ham).
However, there is no evidence from Genesis that the curse had anything to do with skin color. Others have suggested that the “mark of Cain” in Genesis 4 was that he was turned dark-skinned. Again, there is no evidence of this in Scripture, and in any case, Cain’s descendants were more or less wiped out in the Flood.
Incidentally, the use of such passages to attempt to justify some sort of evil associated with dark skin is based on an assumption that the other characters in the accounts were light-skinned, like “white” Anglo-Saxons today. That assumption can also not be found in Scripture, and is very unlikely to be true. Very light skin and very dark skin are actually the extremes of skin color, caused by the minimum and maximum of melanin production, and are more likely, therefore, to be the genetically selected results of populations moving away from each other after the Tower of Babel incident recorded in Genesis 11 .
The issue of racism is just one of many reasons why Answers in Genesis opposes evolution. Darwinian evolution can easily be used to suggest that some “races” are more evolved than others, that is, the common belief is that “blacks” are less evolved. Biblical Christianity cannot be used that way—unless it is twisted by people who have deliberately misunderstood what the Bible actually teaches. On top of this, rejecting the Bible , a book that is not racist, because one may think evolution is superior is a sad alternative. Recall Darwin’s prediction of non-white “races”:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes . . . will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian [aborigine] and the gorilla.8