Is there evidence that people used the Bible to justify American slavery?

Probably bound for GD or the dustbin…but either way…

It is often said that the Bible was used to justify slavery. There are any number of passages that expressly or tangentially condone the institution of slavery.

Many abolishonists were unabashed in their use of scipture to decry slavery as evil and intolerable in the eyes of God.

Is there any evidence that anti-abolishonists used scripture to justify owning slaves?

What I am looking for here is a quote or documented circumstance in which this happened.

I was reading about this recently because I was thinking about the book Roots and remember reading it in there also, how some Southerners stated it was right by God to hold slaves.

Here goes:

Biblical Justification for Slavery

And more sickening, from here :

I can’t give you examples where it happened but the Bible has been used to justify manner of nasty things so why not that?

Lot’s of characters in the Bible owned slaves so if it’s good enough for Abraham, it’s good enough for me. There are places in the Bible outlining how one should treat slaves so why would that be there is slavery was bad? Paul told Philemon to take back his slave and not kill him.

I know that these are very weak arguments but they undoubtably were used.

Well, here’s a speech by escaped slave and noted black abolitionist Frederick Douglass to an English audience where he discusses pro-slavery sermons made to slave audiences:

While this is a Jewish use of scripture to justify slavery (although crticizes some aspects of slavery as it is practiced) rather than a Christian one, here’s a speech by Rabbi Moses Raphall at Congregation B’nai Jeshrun in New York City, called “The Bible View of Slavery”

And another, by Rabbi Isschar ber Illowy at Lloyd Street Synagogue in Baltimore:

Going back to Christianity,. here’s a copy of Thornton Stringfellow’s “Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery”, published in 1860:

A two-part Staff Report on the Hamitic curse and its historical use as a justification for slavery.

Here’s a related thread on this: How did Christians justify slavery back in the day?

Ah, crap. First link should be this.

The Bible has been used and/or misused to justify all kinds of thihgs right and wrong. Slavery not excepted.

Just out of curiosity, why do you need documentation? Did you doubt that this occurred? Is there a specific book/blog/show/etc. that denied this that made you wonder?

And it’s abolitionist, just so you can search on the term more easily.

Project Gutenberg contains “Speeches of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi; delivered during the summer of 1858.” (

That contains several such quotes. For example:

I don’t really need any documentation. I have heard that people used the Bible to justify slavery in many debates, but never an example. As a Christian I am baffled that it could happen. I mean I KNOW the Bible COULD be used this way, but who would?

I shouldn’t say baffled. I know creepy people can use religion for nasty things. But slavery seems like something Christians should CERTAINLY be against. Jesus was sorta big into the social justice thing.

But it does reaffirm a belief I have long held. Christians, myself often included, worship our economic interests first, and Christ second.

Many bad things perpetrated in history have at some point been justified by Christians, usually using using the Bible. Examples include the Spanish Inquisition, the Drogheda Massacre, British colonialism, Apartheid south africa, US segregation, and lately the Lord’s Resistance Army.

This is not saying Christianity is worse than other religions; just that bafflement shouldn’t be the reaction to this sort of stuff.

My reading of the teachings of Jesus call me to actively work for social justice. It calls me to love my enemies. It calls me to condemn war. It calls me to work on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society. It calls me to demand my government eliminate poverty and hunger, to the best of our ability. It calls me to lay down my own life rather than take that of another.

So, when I see your list of things people have done after reading the same collection of books, I am still baffled. :confused:

This is getting dangerously into IMHO territory, but I might suggest you’re bringing your contemporary cultural baggage to your interpretation.

As an exercise, try putting yourself in the mindset of someone who really, really wants slaves to run their plantation. Should be enough material in the Bible to help, particularly in the Old Testament; try Leviticus.

Yeah this could get IMHOish. But I have to go to work so I can’t continue this today anyway. But I think wether we admit it or not, we have to look at the Bible through a contemporary lense. Well, I guess you don’t have to do anything.

And your second statement reiterates my above post, we serve money first, God second.

There’s nothing in the Bible, said by Jesus or anyone else, that’s against slavery per se.

My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong): The law books of the Old Testament assumed the existence of slavery and put some conditions on it. Jesus didn’t really talk about slavery. Paul mentioned slavery a few times in his letters (along the lines of how slaves and masters ought to behave towards one another) but didn’t really take sides about slavery as an institution. Some Biblical scholars claim this is because, in the early days of Christianity, Christians expected the world, or at least society as they knew it, to end soon, and so weren’t all that motivated toward societal reform. Or it might just have been so much a part of their culture that it didn’t occur to them to question it.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that slavery as it existed in both Old Testament and New Testament times was different from the Peculiar Institution of the American South (one difference being the way American slavery was racially-based).