A Glance at the 1851 Book Bible Defence of Slavery

Reader Verimius alerted me to this 1851 book called Bible Defence of Slavery by Josiah Priest.

As you can imagine, it’s critical of abolitionists and offers Biblical reasons to support slavery — all before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, of course.

And it’s full of gems worth quoting to anyone who says the Bible was never used to support slavery, like this one from page 558:

If you get a chance, look through the book and leave any other interesting excerpts in the comments below.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    In my view, slavery was a perfectly acceptable system, and fully ethical in most societies where it has existed. When such a system is supported by a society, you don’t find much in the way of arguments either supporting or rejecting it. Those arguments come when societal ethics are shifting. This is apparent in the interesting example you bring to our attention here, it was apparent 50 years ago in the matter of inter-racial marriage, and it’s apparent today in the matters of women’s rights and same-sex marriage.

    Of course, with so many Christians in this country, it’s not surprising that during times of social shift, the Bible would be used to generate arguments and bolster positions. But what strikes me is the degree to which the Bible is so regressive: it is used mainly by those who seek to resist change, not by those who promote it. The Bible was used to argue for slavery when society was moving towards the new view that slavery was wrong. The Bible was used to argue against interracial marriage. The Bible is used today to argue against women’s rights and gay rights.

    Always, it seems, the Bible is trying to hold society back. The good thing is that history reveals it has never been very successful at doing so. It may slow change, but it never stops it.

  • CanadianNihilist

    The New testament doesn’t specifically say anything against a lot of stuff.

  • Ryan Jean

    That is pretty much in line with the theory that religion is fundamentally a construct for maintaining a particular social order, using dogmatic belief as a method of attracting new adherents and maintaining old ones. When society shifts in a way that threatens the construct, the natural response by the religion is to resist the disruption, whether through violence or rationalizations. When society shifts enough that the construct cannot hold, the religion ultimately either breaks entirely (as has happened to most over time) or adapts just enough to encompass the change and direct its energy away from challenging the central framework. This well explains why the Bible (and every other religious holy book) has been used almost exclusively as a regressive method of pushing back against major shifts in society. (For America: breaking from England, adoption of the Constitution, non-land-holder suffrage, slavery, racial suffrage, non-religious rights, weakening robber-barons, women’s suffrage, teaching evolution, racial suffrage again, allowing interracial marriage, teaching evolution again, women’s bodily autonomy, teaching evolution yet again, decriminalizing homosexuality, etc. And it continues today once again for teaching evolution, women’s bodily autonomy, homosexual rights, non-religious rights, climate change, and weakening robber barons. This is, of course, a heavily-abridged list.). This also explains why after the shift occurs despite push-back, those same elements often quickly turn around and claim the progressive advance was perfectly fine with them, or even that it was really their idea after all.

  • http://twitter.com/EdwardFalzon Edward Falzon

    This is gold! Here’s a fragment from page vi of the Publisher’s Preface:

    “… the relation of master and servant harmonizes strictly with the best interests of the inferior or African race in particular, in securing to him that protection and support which his native imbecility of intellect disqualifies him from securing for himself …”

  • http://twitter.com/EdwardFalzon Edward Falzon

    This is gold! Here’s a fragment from page vi of the Publisher’s Preface:

    “… the relation of master and servant harmonizes strictly with the best interests of the inferior or African race in particular, in securing to him that protection and support which his native imbecility of intellect disqualifies him from securing for himself …”

  • HannibalBarca

    No True Scotsman incoming from one of our regular apologists in 3…2…1…

  • Octoberfurst

     I have had debates with Christians online who try to say that the Bible condemns slavery.  So I point out all the passages in the Old Testament that support it. That usually elicits one of two responses. They either say that was Old Testament law and we are under the New Testament or they say that slavery in the Old Testament wasn’t like slavery in the American south. The 2nd group  says that slavery in the OT was an act of benevolence—seriously. They claim that people willing became slaves because they could not find work and had to agree to work for their master for 7 yrs and were set free.
      For the first group I point out that Paul in the New Testament tells a slave to return to his master and that when Jesus heals the Centurions servant–i.e. slave—he doesn’t tell the Centurion to free him.
      For the second group I point out that according to the OT slaves could be used for sexual pleasure, beaten or sold at the whim of the master. (It’s all written down in black and white.)  So it is hardly benevolent.
        At this point people in both groups start telling me I don’t understand the “context” of those passages and that I need to pray to God to understand its “true meaning.” They also accuse me of “twisting scripture” and other such nonsense.  They then usually go on a rant about how I need to be “saved” and that I am doing the Devil’s work by questioning God, blahh, blahh, blahh.  Idiots.

  • http://twitter.com/EdwardFalzon Edward Falzon

    Here’s the PDF download: http://www.archive.org/download/bibledefenceofsl00inprie/bibledefenceofsl00inprie.pdf

  • DougI

    The book is correct, nothing in the Bible condemns slavery, but it does have regulations.  One regulation is that if you beat your slave senseless and he dies then you’re in trouble.  But if after two days he’s still breathing then you were being a good Christian with your discipline.  But we know how Republicans hate regulations so they’ll probably disregard the Bible as a book written by liberals and against the “free market”.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Unless your slave survives for just three days.   If he dies afterwards it’s okay, because he was just property.

  • C Peterson

    I’m not sure I’d agree with the premise that religion is a construct for maintaining a particular social order, but I don’t think there’s much doubt that in the vast majority of cases, that is a consequence of the way it works, intended or otherwise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

    There’s also a copy at Google Books, for those who might prefer that.

    I’ll note that around p. 181, there’s a discourse on Ezekiel 23:20, which is an oft-popular verse with the godless.

  • http://www.imagesandmeanings.com/ Gary Hill

    Well I’ve just been debating with a fundie who told me “there’s not a particle of scientific evidence to prove God doesn’t exist” so using his own backward logic I might see if he’ll accept that “there’s not [a particle of] a sentence in the New Testament which expressly forbids the having and holding of a slave”.

    He won’t buy it of course, he’s a veritable master of doublethink.

    Anyway, thanks to Hemant for the post and to Mr Falzon for the PDF link, duly downloaded.

  • The Other Weirdo

    All I got out of that was that, man, those guys knew how to typeset in the old days. Too bad their content wasn’t better.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    They then usually go on a rant about how I need to be “saved” and that I am doing the Devil’s work by questioning God, blahh, blahh, blahh. Idiots.

    Thanks for the laugh…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510326816 Kaleigh Snow Breedlove

    I love these “you are taking that out of context” or “you are twisting it to fit your needs” arguments. I got into a religious argument with my sister and she flung that one at me. I gave a direct quote (Lev 20:13) and asked her to explain exactly how I could have possible misunderstood the meaning. There was no response.

  • Octoberfurst

     When confronted with facts Christians respond like a deer in headlights.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    C Peterson,
    “In my view, slavery was a perfectly acceptable system, and fully ethical in most societies where it has existed.”
    wtf?!  please go back to stone age and get kidnapped and forced to work for someone then come back and let us know how ‘ethical’ it was.  Seriously such trolling is lame for a human.

  • C Peterson

    It’s not trolling. I’ve never heard a rational argument against slavery in the abstract. It all comes down to the ethics of a society, and what works. I don’t think there is any behavior that is intrinsically unethical, because I consider ethics to be a purely human invention. There are no natural “goods” or “bads”.

    If you believe that slavery is intrinsically bad, then you believe that billions of people and thousands of entire societies have been bad as well. I don’t happen to think that is the case.

  • napoleonsolo

    The killer NT passage that shows that Jesus himself had no problem with slavery is the Parable of the Faithful Servant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Faithful_Servant) There Jesus not only compares himself to a slavemaster, he compares himself to a slavemaster that is particularly unjust:

    “That servant, who knew his lord’s will, and didn’t prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didn’t know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes.”

    Apparently ignorance is no excuse to the Lord. 

    Anyway, it’s pretty hard to argue that Jesus had a problem with slavery when he puts himself has the slavemaster.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    And now I have to disagree. It is inherently of The Bad to claim ownership of another sentient being, because by owning this person, you are saying that their freedom, their rights, don’t matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    Yes slavery is horrible and evil.  My ancestors were black slaves in america.  We know nothing about our hertiage, where we are from, or what are family name was.  Family was bought and sold like property.  It was unacceptable then as it is now.  Owning another person is bad!!

  • Scooby Don’t

    Me no like your response. Me thinks you over philosophical and no fun to be around…. let’s toss you in cage

  • WoodwindsRock

    Of course the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery (and, by that, supports it). It comes from a time where people didn’t know any better. It annoys me to no end that when a Christian sees that in the Bible instead of thinking “How could this have possibly been authorized by a God who is supposed to be all loving and hold the highest authority over the definition of morality?” they instead start trying to twist it around: “Oh, that’s just the Old Testament”, or “It’s not slavery as we knew it in more modern cultures”.

    No, no, no. There is no excuse that could even possibly justify this. The Bible is not the word of any God. It’s the word of sexist, homophobic, and racist people from thousands of years ago.

    It bothers me even more, that after all of this, the Bible is still considered a ‘moral guide’. If the Bible is really somebody’s moral guide, I wish to stay away from them for my own safety. Good thing I know it’s not. Now if only everybody could recognize this so prejudices like homophobia wouldn’t be accepted as  “deeply held religious belief”s.

  • Miss_Beara

     “It’s not slavery as we knew it in more modern cultures.”

    My born again fundie cousin once said this. I weep. 

  • Miss_Beara

    “We are not under the Old Testament. We are under the New Testament…

    Until it supports something we are vehemently against. The hooray for the Old Testament!” 

  • Willy Occam

     …except then you will have voided the warranty.

  • C Peterson

    I’d be happy to discover a rational reason that slavery is intrinsically wrong. But I haven’t heard one, and I can’t come up with one. I feel quite strongly that it’s wrong, but that’s just my feeling, and informs my personal ethos. I don’t consider personal feelings about right or wrong to be valid indicators of any absolute morality (if they were, we’d have to accept the possibility that homosexuality is wrong simply because many people find it “icky”).

    What I believe is that most people are good. I know that slavery has been the norm in many cultures throughout history, and has often served those cultures well, socially and economically. Certainly, in many societies, you were far better off being a slave than you were a simple commoner. There’s a good chance that a slave was healthier, happier, and had more real freedom than many non-slaves. Slavery in America seems so starkly different in part because it was found in a very free society- not something typically the case throughout history. And I think this contrast was one of the factors that drove our society towards the position that slavery is a bad thing. And so it is… but only by our present standards. Not by the standards of a couple hundred years ago… neither the standards of society, nor those of most individuals.

  • Alvin-ogarro

    Your argument is partially based on the notion that humans are inherently good, which is quite wrong. By what standards to you call humans “good” if you don’t even define what constitutes as moral behavior. Additionally, the “slavery” you describe is actually indentured servitude, which, admittedly, isn’t inherently wrong, but can encourage abuse that is inherently wrong.

    Slavery is morally wrong because it violates the “self-evident” equality shared by all humans. Now, if you don’t believe that all humans are equal, as in deserving of equal treatment, then say so. Admittedly, human equality is questionable. But to say that slavery, as in owning another person against their will, is perfectly acceptable defies basic human rights.

  • Pseudonym

    It’s not true that “the Bible condemns slavery”. In fact, the Bible rarely gives a single opinion on any topic, hence any statement of the form “the Bible says X” is likely to be misleading.

    However, It’s also not true that the New Testament condones slavery. At best, it treats it as a fact of life that you can’t do anything about. It actually has practically nothing to say about civil law, which makes sense when you consider that Christianity was not supposed to be a state religion. “Christian nation” is, in a sense, a contradiction in terms.

    It does have something to say about the conduct of Christians and Christian communities, and here there’s some stuff which informs what at least some biblical writers thought about slavery; Philemon is probably the most famous example of Paul of Tarsus passively-aggressively condemning a slave owner while not outright condemning slavery.

    Moreover, it is also true that slavery in the Ancient Near East (and the rest of the classical world, for that matter) was very different than slavery in the American South.

    There was always a path for a slave to emancipate themselves, such as buying their freedom, or having a hard expiration date. Moreover, taking slaves was considered a humane alternative to killing every male of soldier age when you captured a city.

    By modern standards, it’s rightly considered barbaric, just like gladiatorial combat and capital punishment. Our ethics certainly evolve over time. Nonetheless, slavery in the classical world was arguably morally “better” than American slavery, even though no slavery at all is morally “better” than both.

  • Stefan

    What if you take his argument to the extreme? Is anything inherently good or bad in the world? I don’t really think so. Ethics are just a common agreement among people. Is killing someone inherently wrong? No. I’d argue that it’s actually in your own interest to kill anybody you can. I’d also argue that it’s in society’s interest to prevent that. Ethics are what happen when these two ideas collide, personal and global success. It seems that right now we heavily weight global success over personal, but I’d hardly say that’s always been the case. Is hurting another person for no reason wrong? Yes, but only because we believe it is. Absolute ethics don’t exist; everything is based on opinion and belief.

  • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

    Wait.. Louisville Ky? Ah shit. Why did it have to be published in my state?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty


    I can’t tell if you’re just being deliberately obtuse, or you’re really stupid enough to argue that slavery was a good deal for the slaves.

  • Octoberfurst

     But if we now know that slavery is evil shouldn’t God have figured that out long ago?  Why didn’t he just tell the Israelites that slavery is wrong–period? 
      Saying that slavery was “a humane alternative to killing every male” is like saying that the Israelites taking the virgin girls of  people they conquered  as sex slaves was more humane that killing them. It’s still friggin’ barbaric.

  • C Peterson

    Learn a little history. There is absolutely no doubt that in many societies being a slave was a better deal then many other social states people might find themselves in.

    I’m not using that as some sort of justification of slavery, because I think slavery justified itself in those societies by being accepted and functional. I’m only disputing the notion that being a slave was necessarily a horrible thing- a fiction that comes from trying to interpret something that existed then through our modern world view, which almost never works.

  • C Peterson

    I do believe that most humans are inherently good- a belief that is, to me, pretty much a truism given that I define “good” as the ethical standard adopted by consensus in a society.

    I don’t recognize that human equality is “self-evident”, and I’ve never encountered a rational argument that convinced me that all humans are equal, or deserve equal treatment. I don’t believe there are any such thing as basic human rights, except as a society defines them.

    I like the nature of a society that defines its ethics around the idea of human equality and equal rights. But just because I prefer that sort of society, it doesn’t make other societal solutions more or less ethical.

  • C Peterson

    Is hurting another person for no reason wrong? Yes, but only because we believe it is. Absolute ethics don’t exist; everything is based on opinion and belief.

    That is certainly my view of ethics. I don’t know that I’m right, but I do know that I’ve seen no argument that makes me think I’m wrong.

  • Verimius

    I suppose you could ask the slaves if they’d rather be free or not.

  • Dan

    So do you also think female circumcision is good, as long as it is “the ethical standard adopted by consensus in a society?” How about denying women equal rights? If killing all atheists was adopted as the consensus of our society you would also find that ethical? Is denying gay people equal rights ethical, as long as it is the consensus view? And I’ll even go into Goodwin territory, according to your tautological defintion of good, the Nazis were good since the extermination of Jews and gays was a consensus ethical standard in Germany.

    It’s weird to see an atheist be so illogically post-modern and hold such an ambivalent attitude toward the institutional racism and bigotry of slavery.

  • Dan


    You might need to study the Bible a bit more if you think your statement that “There was always a path for a slave to emancipate themselves, such as buying their freedom, or having a hard expiration date” is actually consistent with the Bible. You are buying into the apologist’s trick of just looking at how slavery was practiced between the Jewish male population, which was more like indentured servitude, and totally ignoring how the Bible treats non-Jewish slaves. Non-Jewish slavery couldn’t buy their freedom and there was no expiration date; the slavery they suffered was lifelong, lineage-based slavery, and the system was rigged so that even Jewish slaves could be tricked into having to stay in slavery (For starters, see Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:2-6). Also, beating your slave to death wasn’t even punished, as long as the death was probably an accident (Exodus 21:20-21).

    So according to the clear teachings of the Bible, when the same God the Christian’s worship set up a society from scratch, he allowed life-long lineage-based slavery for non-Jews, specifically says beating slaves is fine, and creates a system where only male (not female) Jewish slaves’ term of service expired, and in some situations the master could even claim the male Jewish slaves for their whole life. Hardly the less bad than the South situation you envision for the ANE.

  • pRinzler

    One has to wonder why.

  • Foster

    If you’re going to state that there is an objective “of the Bad,” you need to posit a lawgiver outside of mankind, since mankind disagrees on what “good” and “bad” are while the natural world has no morality.  I think  C Peterson instinctively recognizes this, which is why she opts for moral relativism, which is a legitimate, if somewhat scary (because it means no one really has the moral high ground) philosophical move.  

    This argument is different from that of EC, to head off objections at the pass, because I recognize that moral relativism is a legitimate philosophical way to justify your beliefs.

  • C Peterson

    Yes, female circumcision, unequal rights, and killing atheists could all be ethical things depending on how society viewed them.

    I’d argue that the killing of Jews in Nazi Germany was not ethical, because those who perpetuated it hid what they were doing (knowing that it violated ethical standards), and to the extent that the public was aware of it, they pretended it wasn’t happening (also because they recognized it as unethical).

    My view is neither “post-modern” nor ambivalent. It’s mainstream moral relativism, and not remotely extreme or unusual. A good many people, perhaps a majority, of people on this forum are moral relativists. Yet, there’s a tendency to avoid where that takes us when discussing something like slavery, which so strongly violates our modern ethos. Yet talk about gay rights, and it’s no problem to be a relativist. It’s intellectually dishonest and hypocritical to cherry pick this way.

    Most of the discussion here has been unreasoned. No argument has been offered as to why these things are intrinsically unethical, or how anything even can be intrinsically unethical. “I don’t like it” just doesn’t cut it as a convincing response.

  • C Peterson

    And what would that prove? Just because a slave doesn’t want to be a slave doesn’t make slavery immoral.

  • Foster

    “Moses gave you this law because of your hardness of heart, but from the beginning it was not so…”  Christianity is centered around the person of Jesus Christ, who said that the core message of the books of the Old Testament is best summed up as “Love the Lord your God with all your self, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Confederate-Style Slavery is not loving your neighbor.  As we evolve societally, we become more aware of blindnesses we had in previous ages.  This does not mean there is no objective standard, but that our laws are only an approximation (hopefully getting better in time) of that objective standard of Love, i.e. God.  Why didn’t he tell the Israelites that slavery is wrong?  In that they had consciences, he did tell them, but they were “hard of heart” and were not able to see what righteousness implied.  That seems to be a good part of what Jesus is constantly telling the Pharisees in the gospels.

  • C Peterson

    There’s no “instinct” involved. Moral absolutism logically requires a “lawgiver”, but it need not be a deity. I see no reason that a better understanding of evolution and brain physiology couldn’t lead to the recognition of moral absolutes… it simply has failed to do that so far.

    Certainly, there are many cases where people do have the moral high ground… just not in any absolute sense. Within any society there is typically a well defined ethos, which defines who is morally right or wrong. I find nothing scary in that.

  • Octoberfurst

     That’s a nice rationalization but I’m not buying it.  So what you’re saying is that God—the omnipotent creator of the universe—hated slavery but somehow  couldn’t convince the humans he created to not do it because they had “hardness of heart.”  Uh-huh.  He’s GOD!  He could do it if he wanted to.
      I also recall that God gave instructions in the OT on how to handle slaves. How and when you could beat them or sell them. He could have said “Don’t beat your slaves” but I guess that would have been asking too much.

  • HannibalBarca

    Euthyphro Dilemma, dude. I’m already bored.

  • HannibalBarca

    So wearing blended fabric and eating pork are worthy of indisputable divine condemnation, but owning another human being as property is something He just couldn’t quite get around to abolishing.

    What a crock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    Yes it does.  Owing another person against their will is immoral.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    It does not matter how you justify slavery.  As long as you own another person and their autonmy that is immoral. 

  • C Peterson

    Thank you for your opinion. But in the absence of any additional argument, that’s all it is… your opinion.

  • C Peterson

    Only by your personal standards of morality. Your argument is no different from somebody claiming homosexuality is immoral, or abortion is immoral.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    No it is not.  One is a person choosing.  Slavery makes a person property unable to make choices like other persons.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    As is yours.  You try to justify slavery as beneficial as long as a society accepts it.  That’s just your opinion also. 

  • C Peterson

    Nobody has managed to explain why there is anything inherently immoral about one person controlling another. It’s completely normal in nature, after all- the strong control the weak.

    You may not like it, I may not like it, and we may certainly agree that by our current standards it’s unethical. But by any absolute standards? You’ve made no argument there at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    When you own a piece of property you can manipulate it anyways you want or even destory it.  Slavery allows the mentality that their slave can be tortured and killed at their whims.  Seeing someone as low as a piece of trash is not beneficial to a socitey. 

  • C Peterson

    I have in no way justified slavery on the grounds that it is beneficial. I’ve simply argued that if it is accepted by consensus, I can find no grounds to call it immoral.

    Of course that’s my opinion.

  • Foster

    I don’t give a fork or spoon what you buy.

    What you’re basically saying in the first paragraph is that God should have made humans without free will to disobey him.  Free will is what makes us unique and is worth the possibility of people misusing it.
    “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus 19:18) as I said above, implies “don’t beat your slaves.”  God speaks to men according to their consciences and ability to perceive his will.

  • Foster

    “I find nothing scary in that.”  That’s nice, but the fact remains that your relativism is freaking out a number of your atheist friends here.  Your hope that “a better understanding of evolution” will lead to an absolute moral framework is as misguided and unrealistic as your comment the other day that nations will stop competing with one another economically.  What would the research program even look like of an attempt to do such a thing?  You will never get an “ought” from a scientific “is.”

    What you’re basically saying, as others here have implied, is that if I live in Nazi Germany (Godwin be damned) then I am in the moral wrong in saving Jews.  That’s not the world I live in. The lawgiver must be God, because only He as creator has the authority to separate darkness from light and good from evil absolutely.

  • Octoberfurst

    No, what I am saying is that God could just have easily said “Don’t own slaves” & if they disobeyed him he could have done what he always does when he is pissed—kill off a bunch of people. But he didn’t do that. In fact, as I said before, he gave instructions on how much you can beat your slave.
      So if your God is all powerful he could have put pressure on the Israelites not to own slaves. I mean he was pretty clear about not doing thinks like picking up sticks for a fire on the sabbath. (Moses had one man stoned to death because of it.)  So I am sure he could have persuaded people not to own slaves.
      I’m sorry you can’t see what a dirtbag your God is.

  • Foster

    If you’d like to discuss, perhaps you’d like to actually form a coherent argument rather than inviting me to misunderstand you by being vague?

    Is what is good called good because God says it is so?  Yes.  It is part of his character that he has imprinted upon his creation.  

  • Foster

    Well, I have to hand it to you: at least you’re honest.

  • C Peterson

    Ethics need not be “oughts” as opposed to “is”, and there’s absolutely no reason in principle science can’t inform us.

    I’m not remotely suggesting that any lawgiver be a god, because I consider the existence of such a thing unlikely beyond reasonable doubt. The very idea is absurd in the extreme.

    I did not say you’d be morally wrong saving Jews if you lived in Nazi Germany, because I argued that Germans were ethically wrong for their actions at that time, given that what occurred violated both individual and collective ethical standards. Perpetrators knew they were wrong, as did those who stood by and took no action.

  • Pseudonym

    You might need to study the Bible a bit more if you think your statement
    that “There was always a path for a slave to emancipate themselves,
    such as buying their freedom, or having a hard expiration date” is
    actually consistent with the Bible.

    For the record, I was not describing the Bible specifically here. I was describing slavery in the Ancient Near East, and was also thinking of Greece and Rome. My specific point is that slavery in that part of the world at that point in time was very different from slavery 150 years ago in the United States.

    You’re right, I did over-simplify the situation. My bad on that one. Yes, there are certainly similarities; it’s interesting that the laws for Caananite slaves do seem to look like the racist motivations of the US South (being based, as many historians think, on the “mark of Cain” theory).

    However, I will point one important thing. What you call “the clear teachings of the Bible” is actually the Levitical laws, which were civil code of laws at some point in the history of the Hebrew people. Calling it “the clear teachings of the Bible” is implying that every biblical author had a consistent and clear teaching on these matters, which is flatly untrue.

  • Pseudonym

    Your argument assumes that the Bible is some kind of divinely-dictated perfect text dictated by an all-knowing deity, rather than a collection of independent works written and re-edited by very different people over a long period of time.

    Yeah, it’s barbaric by modern standards. But the Roman system of slavery was not barbaric by Roman standards, and they were what passed for “civilisation” at the time.

    You can’t judge people from the past by the best moral standards of today. Moral standards evolve.

  • Octoberfurst

     I don’t think the Bible is anything but fairy tales. What I am talking about is the Christian argument that the Bible is a divinely inspired book and is “perfect”. I totally agree with you that moral standards evolve.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    To be fair, chattel slavery is fairly specific to the Americas and to that era. In earlier societies like the Egyptians and Romans, slavery was less linked to race and the essential humanity of slaves was recognized.

    Doesn’t stop people from torturing and killing them back then, but nothing really stops folks from doing that now either.