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The Bible and slavery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

11th-century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible with Targum, Exodus 12:25–31
The Franks Casket is an 8th-century Anglo-Saxon whalebone casket, the back of which depicts the enslavement of the Jewish people at the lower right.

The Bible contains many references to slavery, which was a common practice in antiquity. Biblical texts outline sources and the legal status of slaves, economic roles of slavery, types of slavery, and debt slavery, which thoroughly explain the institution of slavery in Israel in antiquity.[1] The Bible stipulates the treatment of slaves, especially in the Old Testament.[2][3][4] There are also references to slavery in the New Testament.[5][6]

Many of the patriarchs portrayed in the Bible were from the upper echelons of society, owned slaves, enslaved those in debt to them, bought their fellow citizens' daughters as concubines, and consistently enslaved foreign men to work on their fields.[7] Masters were usually men, but the Bible portrays upper-class women from Sarah to Esther and Judith with their enslaved maids.[8][9][10], as do the Elephantine papyri in the 400s BC.[7]

It was necessary for those who owned slaves, especially in large numbers, to be wealthy because the masters had to pay taxes for Jewish and non-Jewish slaves because they were considered part of the family unit. Slaves were seen as an important part of the family's reputation, especially in Hellenistic and Roman times, and slave companions for a woman were seen as a manifestation and protection of a woman's honor.[7] As time progressed, domestic slavery became more prominent, and domestic slaves, usually working as an assistant to the wife of the patriarch, allowed larger houses to run more smoothly and efficiently.[7]

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Slavery in antiquity

Slaves performed a variety of tasks. To determine what a slave's task was, many scholars look at repetitive descriptions which are contained in texts that were written around the same time and they also look at well-documented reports about other cultures which were written by authors who were raised in the Greco-Roman culture.[7] One of the main functions of slaves was to serve as status symbols for the upper members of society, especially when it came to the acquisition of dowries for their daughters. These slaves could be sold or given away as needed, and they also showed that the family was capable of providing generous amounts of money to their daughters when they were married off. They also catered to the needs of the temple and they performed more domestic tasks such as keeping up the household, raising farm animals and growing small amounts of crops. Masters frequently took advantage of their slaves who were 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 from the private sphere to the public sphere.[7] In addition to showing luxury, the possession of slaves was necessary for a good family background, and many wealthy men viewed their colleagues who only possessed a few slaves as the type of individual who needed to be pitied.[7]

Old Testament

War captives

The Israelites did not generally get involved in distant or large-scale wars, and apparently capture was not a significant source of slaves.[11]

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.[12] Whitworth University professor Ken Brown claims that since the army did not receive a direct instruction to take the virgin girls captive from Yahweh, this action cannot be justified as obedience of a divine order; instead, the Israelites enslaved the virgin women on their own initiative.[13]

In the Deuteronomic Code, enemy nations that surrendered to the Israelites were required to serve the Israelites as tributaries. However, if they decided to wage war against Israel, all of the men would be killed and all of the women and children would be considered spoils of war.[14]

If the soldier desired to marry a captured foreigner, he was required to take her to his house, shave her head, pare her nails, and discard her captive's garb. She would remain in his house for an entire month, mourning the loss of her father and mother, after that, he could go in to see her and become her husband, and she could become his wife. If he later wished to end the relationship, he could not sell her into slavery.[15]

Harold C. Washington, a professor at the Saint Paul School of Theology cites Deuteronomy 21:10–14 as an example of how the Bible condones acts of sexual violence which are committed by Israelites; they were taking advantage of women who, as war captives, had no recourse or means of self defense.[16]

M. I. Rey, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at Boston University, argues that the passage is an endorsement of sexual slavery and genocidal rape, because the capture of these women is justified on the ground that they are not Hebrew. Rey also argues that these women were not considered the equals of Hebrew women, instead, they were considered war trophies, and thus, their captors had no qualms which would have prevented them from engaging in acts of sexual violence.[17] 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,[18] and several wars between Israelite armies are recorded in the Bible.[19]

According to many Jewish commentators, the laws which regulate the treatment of female captives are not intended to encourage the capture and forced marriage of women, instead, they view it as inevitable in wartime and they also seek to minimize the occurrence and brutality of it.[20][21] 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".[22]

Fugitive slaves

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.[23] 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.[24][25]

Blood slavery

It was also possible to be born into slavery.[26] 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 owner, according to the Covenant Code.[27] Although no nationality is specified, 18th-century theologians John Gill (1697–1771) and Adam Clarke suggested this referred only to Canaanite concubines.[28][29]

Debt slavery

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.[1] 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.[1]

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."[30]

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. 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.[7]

The earlier[31][32][33][34] 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.[35]

Sexual and conjugal slavery

Tapestry depicting Rachel, Dan and Bilhah. Jacob was Rachel's husband, and Bilhah was Rachel's handmaid; Rachel "gives" Bilhah to her husband and he has two sons by Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali.

There were two words used for female slaves, which were amah (אָמָה) and shifhah (שִׁפְחָה).[36] 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.[36] These slaves had two specific roles: a sexual use and companionship.[36] 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 of the family than other slaves which may have been because of, according to some scholars, their sexual role, which was particularly to "breed" more slaves.[36]

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.[37][38] 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."[39]

And if a man sells his daughter to be a 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 allowed to be redeemed[40] 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.[41] The code states that failure to comply with these regulations would automatically grant free manumission to the enslaved woman,[42] while all Israelite slaves were to be treated as hired servants.[43]

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.[44]

The penalty if an Israelite engaged in sexual activity with an unredeemed female slave who was betrothed was referred to as scourging, with Jewish tradition seeing this as only referring to the slave,[45][46] (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.[47]

Permanent enslavement

As for Israelite slaves, the Covenant Code allows them to voluntarily renounce their seventh-year manumission and become permanent slaves (literally being slaves forever).[48] The Law require that the slaves confirmed this desire "before God",[48] a phrase which has been understood to mean at either a religious sanctuary,[49][50] before judges,[51] or in the presence of household gods.[52] Having done this, slaves were then to have an awl driven through their ear into a doorpost by their master.[48] This ritual was common throughout the Ancient Near East, being practiced by Mesopotamians, Lydians, and Arabs;[52] 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

The Holiness code of Leviticus explicitly allows participation in the slave trade,[53] where Israelites were allowed to buy non-Israelites as property that could be inherited. In context, it addressed the dilemma on who should become slaves if Israelites were excluded, including those that sold themselves due to poverty.[54][55] Isaac S.D. Sassoon argued that it was a compromise between anti-slavery commoners and pro-slavery landowners in Israel.[56]

Some believe that the non-Israelites refer to neighboring Gentile nations, except for Canaanites who were doomed to destruction,[57][58] and foreigners who refused to join Israel (Isaiah 60:1–6).[59] Others believe that ethnic divisions were effectively meaningless in the Old Testament. For example, non-Israelites became Israelite if they lived in their territory, which was believed to “reflect early Israelite practices” (Ezekiel 47:21–23).[60] In addition, Israelites were commanded to celebrate Passover, including slaves (Deuteronomy 16). But slaves could only celebrate if they were circumcised, which made them equivalent to the native-born Israelite (Exodus 12:48).[61]

Working conditions

The Ten Commandments make clear that honouring the Shabbat was expected of slaves, not just their masters.[62] The later[32][33][34] book of Deuteronomy, having repeated the Shabbat requirement, also instructs that slaves should be allowed to celebrate the Sukkot festival.[63]

Leviticus instructs that during the Sabbatical Year, slaves and their masters should eat food which the land yields, without being farmed.[64] 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,[64] and command that the land must "lie fallow".[65] 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 be compelled to work with rigour;[66] 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.[32][67]

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.[68] 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.[32][67]

Injury and compensation

The earlier[32][33][34] 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...),[69] 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.[70] 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.[71] Nachmanides argued that it was a biblically commanded duty to liberate a slave who had been harmed in this way.[32]

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.[72] In the Covenant Code, if an ox gores a slave, the ox owner must pay the servant's master a 30 shekel fine.[73]

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;[74] 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.[75] Abraham ben Nathan of Lunel, a 12th-century Provençal scholar, Targum, and Maimonides argue that avenged implies the death penalty,[32][67] but more recent scholars view it as probably describing a lesser punishment.[76] 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 prescribes automatic manumission of male Israelite slaves after they have worked for six years;[77] 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.[78] The later[32][33][34] Deuteronomic Code is seen by some to contradict[32] elements of this instruction, in extending automatic seventh year manumission to both sexes.[79]

The Deuteronomic Code also extends[80] 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;[81] the literal meaning of the verb used, at this point in the text, for giving this gift seems to be hang round the neck.[32]The Gift is described in The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia as representing a gift of produce rather than of money or clothing;[32] 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.[82] The Bible states that one should not regret freeing the Slave, for slaves were worth Twice the Hired hand to The Master;[83] Nachmanides enumerates this as a command rather than merely as a piece of advice.[32]

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[3] (occurring either every 49 or every 50 years, depending on interpretation).[52]

While many commentators see the Holiness Code regulations as supplementing the prior legislation mandating manumission in the seventh year,[84][85][86] 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).[87]

In the Old Testament, the differences between male and female enslavement were vast. Deuteronomic code applied mostly to men, while women could be subjected to a much different type of slavery. 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.[88]

Abolition of slavery

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the slavery of Israelites was abolished by the prophets after the destruction of the Temple of Solomon.[89] The prophet Nehemiah rebuked the wealthy Israelites of his day for continuing to own Israelite slaves.[90]

New Testament

Slavery is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament.


The Bible says that Jesus healed the ill slave of a centurion[91] and restored the cut off ear of the high priest's slave.[92] In his parables, Jesus referenced slavery: the prodigal son,[93] ten gold coins,[94] unforgiving tenant,[95] and tenant farmers.[96] Jesus also taught that he would give burdened and weary laborers rest.[97] The Passion narratives are interpreted by the Catholic Church as a fulfillment of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah.[98]

When questioned about the hierarchy of his followers, Jesus responds that "whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (Matthew 20:27).


In Paul's letters to the Ephesians, Paul motivates early Christian servants to remain loyal and obedient to their masters like they are to Christ. In Ephesians 6:5–8, Paul states "Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ".[99] Similar statements regarding obedient slaves can be found in Colossians 3:22–24, 1 Timothy 6:1–2, and Titus 2:9–10.[100][101][102] 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."[103] 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."[104][105] Also in Galatians, Paul writes on the nature of slavery within the kingdom of God. Galatians 3:28 states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."[106] 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."[107] In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul condemns the sexually immoral, abusers of themselves with mankind, liars, perjurers, those that kidnap innocents and sell them into slavery,[108] 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.[109][110] 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.[111] According to Catholic tradition, Philemon freed Onesimus.[112]


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).[88] 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. 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 to pay a "fee" for Onesimus's escape has been discussed as a possible latent form of manumission.[113] 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.[113] 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.[113] 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.[113] 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".[114]

1 Peter

In 1 Peter 2:18-20, slaves are ordered to "in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."

Book of Revelation

Revelation 18 lists enslaved people as one of the "excessive luxuries" of "Babylon the Great" which it says will fall when God judges its "sins" and "crimes".[115]

Slavery and Bible translations

Translations of the Bible intended for popular and liturgical use rather than merely scholarly use have to contend with readers not knowing the details of ancient slavery and its points of differences with the modern harshly negative implications of the term "slave." The Hebrew term `ebed is usually used for slave or bondsman (fellow Jews controlled for a period of time in a state closer to indentured servitude), but it can also refer to servants. Naaman the Aramean is referred to as an `ebed, for example, yet is clearly a person of high status and rank. The Greek term doulos (δοῦλος) more directly refers to slaves (diakonos is a separate word for "servant"); however, the Septuagint frequently translates the Hebrew `ebed to Greek doulos in senses where the original meant "servant", leaving it not entirely clear. More generally, favored slaves in antiquity could receive some of the status of their owners, could accumulate wealth and property, hold their own slaves, and so on. Thus, the slave of someone sufficiently exalted such as a king or emperor could well have a social status higher than a common free man; Paul's introduction of himself in Romans 1:1 as a doulos of Jesus Christ was probably not meant to be as humbly as a modern English sense of "slave" would be. These considerations mean that most translations tend to favor using "servant" and equivalents in other languages, although some translations will have a footnote that the Greek is literally "slave".[116]

Historical reception

James W. Watts argued that Hellenistic culture and Roman law played a more significant role than the Bible in late antique and medieval Jewish and Christian slave-owning practices. In the early modern period, mercantilism was another factor, with John Calvin declaring that "economic circumstances rendered the biblical laws redundant". Nonetheless, pro-slavery Europeans defined the "non-Israelites" of Leviticus 25:44-46 as non-Christians and, later, as non-white people. Watts suggested that they used the Bible's two-tier model to justify enslaving Africans and Native Americans while limiting white forced laborers to indentured servants and prisoners.[117]

In the debate over slavery in Britain and the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, both supporters of slavery and abolitionists cited the Bible as support for their views.[118][119][120] The Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:18–27) was a passage particularly used by Christian slave owners to justify their enslavement of black people. This justification has been criticised extensively as a misinterpretation.[121] The Epistle to Philemon was also used as evidence by both sides of the debate. It is commonly suggested that Biblical slavery and early Christian slavery was less brutal than modern slavery (as compared with the African slave trade), however according to Chance Bonar, this is a faulty assumption, and there is ample historical evidence for extreme cruelty in ancient Mediterranean slavery, including that practiced by early Christians.[122]

In the 19th century United States, abolitionists and defenders of slavery debated the Bible's message on the topic.[123][124] Abolitionists used texts from both the Old and New Testaments to argue for the manumission of slaves, and against kidnapping or "stealing men" to own or sell them as slaves, while pro-slavery pastors used biblical texts to legitimize the institution of slavery.[125][126]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Tsai, Daisy Yulin (2014). Human Rights in Deuteronomy: With Special Focus on Slave Laws. BZAW. Vol. 464. De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-036320-3.
  2. ^ Exodus 21:2–6
  3. ^ a b Leviticus 25:39–55
  4. ^ Deuteronomy 15:12–18
  5. ^ Ephesians 6:5
  6. ^ 1 Timothy 6:1
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Hezser, Catherine (2005). Jewish Slavery in Antiquity. Oxford. ISBN 9780199280865.
  8. ^ Genesis 16:1
  9. ^ Esther 15:2
  10. ^ Judith 16:23
  11. ^ Anchor Bible Dictionary, David Noel Freedman (main ed.), DoubleDay:1992
  12. ^ Numbers 31:17–18
  13. ^ Brown, Ken (Spring 2015). "Vengeance and Vindication in Numbers 31". Journal of Biblical Literature. 134 (1): 65–84. doi:10.15699/jbl.1341.2015.2561.
  14. ^ Deuteronomy 20:10–15
  15. ^ Deuteronomy 21:10–14
  16. ^ Washington, Harold C. (1998). "Lest He Die in the Battle and Another Man Take Her: Violence and the Construction of Gender in the Laws of Deuteronomy 20–22". Gender and Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East: 186–213.
  17. ^ Rey, M.I. (2016). "Reexamination of the Foreign Female Captive: Deuteronomy 21:10–14 as a Case of Genocidal Rape". Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 32 (1): 37–53. doi:10.2979/jfemistudreli.32.1.04.
  18. ^ 1 Samuel 18:29, 25:22; 1 Kings 21:20; etc.
  19. ^ Judges 20; 1 Kings 12:21, 15, etc.
  20. ^ Kiddushin 22a; Rashi Deuteronomy 21:11 ("The Torah only spoke to oppose the evil inclination: if [God] did not permit her, he would take her in violation of the law")
  21. ^ Israel Zvi Gilat, "'Conquest by War' in Jewish Law: The Beautiful Woman Case", Netanya Academic College School of Law
  22. ^ Abarbanel, commentary to Deuteronomy 21
  23. ^ Deuteronomy 23:16–17
  24. ^ Gittin 45a
  25. ^ Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary on Deuteronomy 23, accessed 28 December 2015
  26. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible (1962), on Exodus 21:2-11
  27. ^ Exodus 21:1–4
  28. ^ "Exodus 21 - John Gill's Exposition of the Bible - Bible Commentary". Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  29. ^ "Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary - Exodus 21". Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  30. ^ A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2 vols). Raymond Westbrook (ed). Brill:2003
  31. ^ Richard Elliott Friedman, Who wrote the Bible?
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Law, Codification of
  33. ^ a b c d Anthony Campbell & Mark O'Brien, Sources of the Pentateuch (2000)
  34. ^ a b c d William Edward Addis, The Documents Of The Hexateuch (2006), Volume 2
  35. ^ Exodus 22:2–3
  36. ^ a b c d Kriger, Diane (2011). Judaism and Jewish Life : Sex Rewarded, Sex Punished : A Study of the Status 'Female Slave' in Early Jewish Law. Brighton MA: Academic Studies Press.
  37. ^ Gn. 25:1; cf. 1Ch. 1:32; Gn. 30:4; 31:17; cf. Gn. 35:22; 2Sam. 12:11; cf. 2Sam. 20:3
  38. ^ David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible, p. 273
  39. ^ "Exodus 21:7 Commentary - John Gill's Exposition of the Bible". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  40. ^ cf. Leviticus 25:47-55
  41. ^ Exodus 21:7–10
  42. ^ Exodus 21:11
  43. ^ Leviticus 25:46; cf. 1 Kings 9:11
  44. ^ Gill, Deuteronomy 15:12
  45. ^ "Leviticus 19:20 Commentary - John Gill's Exposition of the Bible". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  46. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible (1962), on Leviticus 19:20-22
  47. ^ Leviticus 19:20–22
  48. ^ a b c Exodus 21:6
  49. ^ New American Bible, footnote to Exodus 21:6
  50. ^ Thomas Kelly Cheyne and John Sutherland Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica (1903), article on Slavery
  51. ^ King James Version and the New International Version translations
  52. ^ a b c Benzinger, Immanuel (1903). "Slavery". In Thomas Kelly Cheyne; John Sutherland Black (eds.). Encyclopædia Biblica. Vol. 4. columns 4653–4658. New York: MacMillan.
  53. ^ Leviticus 25:44–46
  54. ^ Leviticus 25:35–44
  55. ^ "Rashi on Leviticus 25:44:1 M. Rosenbaum and A.M. Silbermann, London, 1929-1934".
  56. ^ Sassoon, Isaac S.D. (2015). "Did Israel Celebrate Their Freedom While Owning Slaves?". Archived from the original on March 1, 2024.
  57. ^ "Ibn Ezra on Leviticus 25:44:1 H. Norman Strickman and Arthur M. Silver. Menorah Pub., 1988-2004".
  58. ^ "Rashi on Leviticus 25:44:1 M. Rosenbaum and A.M. Silbermann, London, 1929-1934".
  59. ^ Hayes, Christine E. (2002). Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud. Oxford University Press. pp. 19–44. ISBN 9780199834273.
  60. ^ Olyan, Saul (2000). Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691029481.
  61. ^ Lau, Peter H.W. (2009). "Gentile Incorporation into Israel in Ezra - Nehemiah?". Peeters Publishers. 90 (3): 356–373. JSTOR 42614919 – via JSTOR.
  62. ^ Exodus 20:9
  63. ^ Deuteronomy 16:14
  64. ^ a b Leviticus 25:1–13
  65. ^ Exodus 23:11
  66. ^ Leviticus 25:43; Leviticus 25:53
  67. ^ a b c Maimonides, Mishneh Torah
  68. ^ Leviticus 25:39
  69. ^ Exodus 21:24
  70. ^ Exodus 21:26–27
  71. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:8:35
  72. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible (1962), on Exodus 21:18-27
  73. ^ Exodus 21:32
  74. ^ Exodus 21:12
  75. ^ Exodus 21:20–21
  76. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Avenger of Blood
  77. ^ Exodus 21:2
  78. ^ Exodus 21:7–11
  79. ^ Deuteronomy 15:12; cf. Jeremiah 34:9,14
  80. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible (1962), on Deuteronomy 15:12-18
  81. ^ Deuteronomy 15:13–14
  82. ^ Kiddushin 17a, baraita
  83. ^ Deuteronomy 15:18
  84. ^ Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Lev_25:36-41
  85. ^ Dr. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Lev 25:40
  86. ^ Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible, Lev 25:39-40
  87. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Go'el
  88. ^ a b Jackson, Bernard S. "Biblical laws of Slavery: a comparative approach." Slavery and Other Forms of Unfree Labour 86 (1988): 101.
  89. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Antislavery Movement and the Jews: Emancipation in the Bible
  90. ^ Chabad: Nehemiah 5
  91. ^ Luke 7:2
  92. ^ Luke 22:51
  93. ^ Luke 15:22
  94. ^ Luke 19:13
  95. ^ Matthew 18:26
  96. ^ Matthew 21:34
  97. ^ Matthew 11:28
  98. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church 623
  99. ^ Eph 6:5-8
  100. ^ Col 3:22
  101. ^ 1 Timothy 6:1
  102. ^ Titus 2:9
  103. ^ Col 4:1
  104. ^ Romans 1:1
  105. ^ "Romans 6:18". Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  106. ^ "Galatians 3:28".
  107. ^ 1 Peter 2:18
  108. ^ "Blue Letter Bible - Strong's G405".
  109. ^ Religion and the Antebellum Debate Over Slavery, by John R. McKivigan, Mitchell Snay
  110. ^ God Against Slavery, p. 140, by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D
  111. ^ Philemon 1:1–25
  112. ^ Catholic.Com: St. Onesimus
  113. ^ a b c d Glancy, Jennifer A. Slavery in early Christianity. Fortress Press, 2002.
  114. ^ Galatians 5:1
  115. ^ Revelation 18, New International Version
  116. ^ Metzger, Bruce M.; Dentan, Robert C.; Harrelson, Walter (1991). The Making of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. pp. 17–18, 58–59. ISBN 978-0-802-80620-8.
    See also 2 Kings 5:1–6; Romans 1:1
  117. ^ Watts, James W. (2021). "The Historical Role of Leviticus 25 in Naturalizing Anti-Black Racism". Religions. 12 (8): 570. doi:10.3390/rel12080570.
  118. ^ Lowance, Mason I. (2003). A house divided: The antebellum slavery debates in America, 1776–1865. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691002282.
  119. ^ Weld, Theodore D. (1837). The Bible Against Slavery. An inquiry into the Patriarchal and Mosaic systems on the subject of Human Rights (3rd, revised ed.). New York: American Anti-slavery Society.
  120. ^ Wisner, William C. The Biblical argument on Slavery. Being principally a review of T. D. Weld's Bible against Slavery. First published in the Quarterly Christian Spectator, September 1833. New York: Leavitt, Trow & Co. Archived from the original on October 27, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  121. ^ Rae, Noel (23 February 2018). "How Christian Slaveholders Used the Bible to Justify Slavery". TIME. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  122. ^ Bonar, Chance (3 August 2023). "Dismantling the myth that ancient slavery 'wasn't that bad'". The Conversation.
  123. ^ Stringfellow, A Scriptural defense of slavery, 1856
  124. ^ Raymund Harris, Scriptural researches on the licitness of the slave, (Liverpool: H. Hodgson, 1788)
  125. ^ John R. McKivigan, Mitchell Snay, Religion and the Antebellum Debate Over Slavery
  126. ^ George B. Cheever, D.DGod Against Slavery, p. 140

External links

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