Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Bible on Slavery: The Bottom Line

I understand the desire to whitewash the Bible's ugliness by use obfuscation and chaff because I understand, albeit without finding it reasonable, that people want to cling to cherished beliefs. Still, the fact is, inasmuch as we know him through the written works commonly attributed to him, the god of the Bible regulated, but did not forbid, slavery. This same god found it worthwhile to outlaw many things, and to do so clearly -- homosexuality, shellfish-eating, the wearing linen-wool mixes, cross-dressing, and much more. This god said these things clearly and much more besides, but could not be bothered to state a clear ban of slavery.

Christians and Jews and "Judeo-Christians" claim to love, and to be loved by, a god who condones slavery. This god condones slavery notwithstanding his alleged omniscience. Neat!



Anders said...

The Jewish Bible doesn't advocate slavery. Slavery was yet another example of evil men perverting Scripture to justify their evil actions. Using supposed Biblical advocacy of slavery as justification to reject part of the Bible is based on a false premise. Even when taking enemies, rather then imply enslavement, the Biblical instruction is to treat them, and ensure their welfare, as an eved, employee.
[Quote Pishtah Keihah; author: Paqid Yirmeyahu Ben Dawid;]

Also, in (left menu) you will find one proof for an Intelligent and logical Creator and also what His purpose is for humankind.

Have a nice evening! Anders

Dale said...

Anders, Jeepers! I don't know if to be insulted or amused by your comment.

My claim was that "the god of the Bible regulated, but did not forbid, slavery." This is true. This is true of the Jewish Bible.

Apparently you missed my link:

Among the many passages that substantiate my claim found at that link, there is this one from Leviticus (25:44-46): "However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you. You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way."

The bolding is all mine, but the wording is commonly attributed to your favorite god.

Feel free to check the many available translations of this and the other passages available at Many translations use "forever" rather than "permanent" to characterize the form of servitude being explicitly sanctioned.

If you're betting your peas and carrots on "advocates" versus "condones," I have to say that's a sad bit of equivocation. Had I claimed that "the god of the Bible advocates slavery," your reply would at least be on point.

Frankly, I don't care if the god of the Bible "advocated" slavery or not. That he couldn't be bothered to ban it says all I need to know about his justice, mercy, love, and overall fitness as moral agent.

Anders said...


I already wrote: "Even when taking enemies, rather then imply enslavement, the Biblical instruction is to treat them, and ensure their welfare, as an eved, employee.

Slave is a mistranslation. It is always good to careful examine the application and the reasons of verses, and not assuming that they are injust. One must never rely on translations - especially not inaccurate Christian translations. The solution is an etymological lexicon.

The beginning of the quote of the same book: "Every Orthodox Jew I've met believes the whole Jewish Bible. Yet, I've never met an Orthodox Jew who believes in slavery. The apparent conundrum is an illusion. There are five words that, with their cognates, are translated in English versions of the Jewish Bible as servant:

1.אנוש (enosh; homo sapien)

2.נער (na·ar; youth, boy)

3.עבד (eved; worker, apprenticed-employee), with its cognates

4.שרת (sharat; minister)

5.שכיר (sakhir; temp, hireling, mercenary)

There is no word in the Jewish Bible that can be properly rendered as slave!"


Dale said...

Anders, the equivocation is neither convincing nor charming. "Slave" means "slave," and has been so translated countless times over centuries. Moreover, in the passage of Leviticus I cited -- part of the Jewish Bible -- the condition of these slaves is described as "forever" or "permanent" (depending on the particular translation). They are also explicitly called property.

The situation where a human being becomes the inheritable property of another human being on a "forever" or "permanent" basis is slavery. Period. Re-labeling it, or squinting over translations, does not change it.

I'm delighted to hear you've never met any Jewish people who believed in or practiced slavery. I can say the same. These facts have no bearing on the meaning of the words in the Bible.

larryniven said...

If I could interject - and it looks very much like I can - the following question may clarify things:

Anders, would you consent for yourself or any of your loved ones to be a "servant" as described in the relevant verses in Leviticus?

Remember when you answer that these people could (according to the Bible) be beaten or raped with no legal consequence. Even taking the charitable view of a years-long contract, which of your relatives or close friends would you abandon to this situation? If the answer is "none of them," your little adventure with vocabulary is just a distraction from the fact that the God of your holy book shrugs at a situation that you find morally reprehensible.