How did Christians justify slavery back in the day?

You know unless the Bible has been rewritten since then I can’t seem to remember not one spot in the Bible where it says its O.K. to impose slavery.

However, I’m not a Bible buff so maybe theres something I’m missing?

The Bible does not condemn slavery. You can see more slavery Bible quotes here. Instead, it urges slaves to obey their masters, and be submissive unto them. It also urges masters to be kind to their slaves, but that’s all.

Ephesians 6:5 - 7

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;
6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Leviticus 25:45 - 46

45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that [are] with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit [them for] a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

Many Christians felt that their slaves were like helpless, stupid children that had been given to them by God to “take care” of, and had no problem with requiring them to work to earn their keep. Some Christains took this “spiritual” duty seriously, holding church services for their slaves, and disciplining them for “immoral” conduct.

I’ve read that slave Bibles were carefully edited so that passages like “Let my people go” were deleted.

The justification offered by the verkrammpte Dutch Reformed Church for apartheid was something along the lines of: blacks have the “mark of Cain” and therefore are fit only to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” i.e. menial servitude. Undoubtedly the preachers who supported the “peculiar instutution” argued along similar lines.

There was also the bit about the African “savages” being granted the magnanimous gift of Christian salvation and “civilization” thanks to the kindly graces of the slavers. (Never mind that the captured Africans came from centuries-old civilizations and many were Islamic scholars literate in Arabic.)

With a selective reading of out-of-context Bible passages (“even the Devil may quote Scripture for his own purpose”), you can “justify” practically any damn’ thing.

These passages are from the Old Testament, before Christianity existed. The Old Testament is Jewish.

Why did Jews justify slavery back in the day?

Ephesians is New Testament. There are also these NT passages:

The Bible was written by people who addressed issues of their times. Slavery was an institution that was firmly entrenched in the societies of both Old and New Testament times. The Bible therefore deals with questions of how slaves should be treated and how they should act, but it doesn’t question the existence of slavery.

Um, Hermann, Ephesians is indeed from the New Testament…one of the many letters written by the Apostle Paul after his conversion from Judaism.

George MacDuffie, early governor of South Carolina: “Under both the Jewish and Christian dispensations of our religion, domestic slavery existed with the unequivocal sanction of its prophets, its apostles, and finally its great Author. The patriarchs themselves, those chosen instruments of God, were slaveholders…” [That is: If it was good enough for Abraham, it’s good enough for me.]

Massachusetts judge John Saffin: “[Back in the Biblical days, both before and after the time of Christ] There were Bond Men, Women and Children commonly kept by good and holy men, and improved in service…” [That is: Besides, it was good for them.]

Both of these views were widespread in the pre-Civil War South.

Well then, I apologize for that. I was wrong for identifying Ephesians as Old Testament.

But Lissa is also wrong for suggesting that only Christians are hypocrites for slavery.

Heck, slavery was wrong period. No matter if the slaves were White or Black or any other race. No matter if the slaves were held by Christian, Jew or Muslim. No matter if the slaves were sold by Christian, Jew or Muslim.

And, as a slight hijack, here are two Jewish perspectives on slavery, one for and one against, before the Civil War.

The first essay, for slavery, “The Bible View of Slavery”, is by Dr. Morris J. Raphall, the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City. (Dr. Raphall is famous as the first rabbi to offer an invocation before the House of Representatives)


And, as an answer to Raphall’s essay, and essay by Dr. David Einhorn, Rabbi of Congregation Har Sinai in Baltimore. (Einhorn actually was fired by his congregation for being an abolitionist)


I didn’t mean to imply that at all. The OP asked about Christians, so that’s who I discussed, though I’m aware that the practice was much more wide-spread.

Well , if the bible is the word of God arent you going against God by not owning slaves?? If God condones slavery then it must be O.K… To say slavery is wrong , when in both the new and old testament it is allowed and encouraged, is to say that God is wrong.

Nothing in the bible commands any one to own slaves.

Given the existence of slaves, the bible sets forth rules to prevent harsh treatment. It does not order people to engage in slave holding.

I also seem to recall something about one of Noah’s son or, unless his wife was a total tramp, his sons-in-law, being black and having a curse put on him for something he did in the Ark. It was called ‘The curse of Ham’.

Surely? I distinctly remember Jesus taught people how to beat up slaves (“servants”) with rods.

No offense, but you remember incorrectly.

Ham was supposed to have fathered the peoples to the west and south (with some people to the north and east through Cush and Nimrod). This included the Canaanites and the Cushites (associated with Egypt), the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Originally, this curse of Ham was probably intended to pass down to the immediate enemies of the Hebrews. When the slavery apologists looked on the bible, they decided that more of Ham’s children probably kept going through Egypt to become the sub-Saharan Africans. They then used any curse associated with Ham, Canaan, and Cush to justify the oppression of the blacks of Africa.

Ham incurred the curse (or passed it on to his son) by seeing Noah drunk and naked and going to his brothers and laughing about it instead of respecting his father.

You’re probably thinking of Luke 12:47-48:

This is part of a longer passage–Luke 12:35-48–which uses examples taken from the slave-holding culture of the day–without really questioning that culture or commenting on its morality one way or the other–to make various points about divine judgement and punishment.

umm… i could be mistaken… but i swear i remember something in history class about black africans holding slaves, and selling slaves into the slave trade…

like i said, i could be remembering wrong… but i was pretty sure that “white people” and muslims werent the only people involved in promoting slavery…

The idea of having to justify slavery would not have occurred to them. In Biblical times, every major culture known to the Jews – Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Greece, the Roman Empire, etc. – practiced slavery.

something clever: You are correct, but I suspect Hermann Cheruscan wasn’t limiting his comments to just the categories he listed, but rather was making a general point by citing a few examples.

  • Tamerlane