The Bible's views on Slavery

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by crouchin_baboon, May 13, 2002.

  1. crouchin_baboon

    crouchin_baboon
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    Why is it that in Exodus, it says, "Eye for an eye" but if you put out your slaves eye, then you set him free? Why doesn't he get to put the other person's eye out? Why doesnt it say anywhere in the Bible that slavery is wrong? How can slavery NOT be wrong?
     
  2. Larry

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    You have to compare apples to apples. Under the O/T economy, God set things up where if you sold all your land and could not get by, you could sell yourself into slavery. Guess what? After seven years… you go free and get your land back! Sure beats setting up a socialist welfare state. Understanding the “Jubilee system” will open up a lot of the mystery in the OT: Kinsman Redeemer’s, Brothers marrying his brothers widow, why it made God so mad when a cretin brother “cast his seed on the ground”, why it’s a big deal that Jesus lineage be traced back to David and Eve. Etc etc .

    On the other hand, God did say, “Thou shalt not steal”
     
  3. crouchin_baboon

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    Thanks for informing me. I admit, I do not know much about the class system, where can I read up more it? Or if you could enlighten me, for one, could you be born into slavery then?
     
  4. Larry

    Larry
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    You’re welcome.

    You can read more about it in the first five books of the Bible. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with these foundational books before you head off into the quagmire of “I think this. What do you think?”

    On second thought,

    You seem like a nice enough young man and I have some advice that, if followed, will make you wise fare beyond your pears. In fact if you will do this with all your heart… man by the time you get to be my age (35) you will be THE MAN. Are you interested? Ok if you want to relay do something that will give you WISDOME (how to chose a mate, how to make lifelong friends, what kind of occupation should you peruse, how to know if someone is giving you “the business” what to do if you are asked to co-sign a bank note, how to handle office gossips and on and on. Read the book of Proverbs over and over and over and over and over, you get my point. Get an Alexander Scorby Dramatized KJV Bible on CD and keep Proverbs on continuos play.

    At this point, your probably thinking “it hasent helped you” if so I would point out two things: you don’t know how I was before I got started AND you ought to see me when the Lord gets done with me ;)
    :cool:
     
  5. crouchin_baboon

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    Oh boy.....As if I wasn't already spending too much time reading post on BB, now I have to fit reading proverbs over and over and over. It really has caught my interest though, and as soon as I catch up on this calculus homework......proverbs, here I come [​IMG] It has been a long time. Being the pastors son, I have only been told the stories of the Bible, because attempting to understand the Bible at a younger age proves difficult and the inventions of nintendo didnt help either. High school comes along and you become too busy with homework and athletics. Now I'm in college and luckily I found this board. I dont really have the time to research and read all I want, and my grades have suffered for the short time that I've been a member on BB [​IMG] . Thank you for the postive post, and I will read Proverbs and will reply with my thoughts.
     
  6. Larry

    Larry
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    That’s good.

    Don’t expect to be an overnight sensation. Think of it (wisdom) more along the lines of an anti virus program for your brain. You don’t even realize the program is running until you’re about to open a corrupt file, then you get an alert. Mix that with the skills of an artist, quietly creating a masterpiece and a general, whose power of presence inspires his men and strikes fear in the hearts his enemies.

    I’m excited for you. You are about to do what countless old men have lamented over having not done, at your age.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. OSAS

    OSAS
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    Do you think Mastercard & Visa would let me do that today?
    :D

    -Guy
     
  8. Larry

    Larry
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    The slave part, Yes

    The go free part, No
    :D
     
  9. LP

    LP
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    The Bible and Slavery is largely still as muddled with incorrect thinking as it was during pre-emanciapation US days when many of us Baptists split our churches over the idea that God was pretty much ok with slavery and us holding slaves. I will keep my comments to the NT and Slavery out of practical necessitiy in what follows.

    There are two bottom line things we need to keep in mind to guide our thinking regarding the NT and slavery.

    (1) Given the time in history and social context of the NT, and seminal period of the NT Church, the NT authors were radically, radically anti-slavery.

    (2) Given our significant historical distance from the NT world and the socio-cultural inculcation we have into our own world, we tend to severely lack a deep understanding of Roman slavery to guide our thinking.

    Now, we ourselves hear point #1 and say, "No the NT authors were not at all radically anti-slavery. They, in fact, upheld Roman slavery."

    But we say that because we associate "radically anti-slavery" with things like the Haitian Revolution, the US Civil War, and things like John Brown's activities during the era--things nearly 2000 years after the fact of the closing of the NT cannon. But we have to keep in mind that we are talking about Rome about 2000 years ago to determine our definition of "radically anti-slavery." Not keeping this in mind indicates the lack we have just mentioned in point #2.

    We must now give an overview of Roman slavery, and how a Roman slave could gain the types of manumission that were available to him or her under or apart from Roman law. These types of release from slavery are:

    (1) Becoming a freedman

    (2)Becoming adopted as a son

    (3) Escape

    The following discussion of types of manumission will serve as backdrop for the comments at the core of my argument that will follow.

    TYPES OF MANUMISSION

    FREEDMAN

    A slave could work his way out of slavery and into the status of a freedman; but this was usually extremely, extremely difficult, since slaves typically worked from the moment they awoke till the moment they collapsed into sleep for the night. Consequently, this meant for many slaves that they simply would not be able to sleep during the times they worked for money to purchase freedom for themselves. And in some sense, when they did purchase their freedom, they were simply purchasing a replacement slave for themselves, since the master would frequently do this with money received in the transaction.

    Because of this, many masters with slaves that expressed desire to become freedman worked out "deals" with their slaves. For many this meant the worst forms of abuse and exploitation. For example, female slaves might be required to have several children, sired usually by a male slave, and these children would then become the slaves of the master in exchange for the woman's freedman status.

    Many male slaves simply traded sleep for work, which of course had its obvious drawbacks, not the least of which was their being unable to perform their duties in either place at peak performance because of sleep deprivation. Other times, the master would release slaves, particularly skilled ones, as freedman, and require a hefty percentage of all they made for the rest of their lives or else many, many years. This "slave on a leash" arrangement was almost always done solely because the master would obtain more benefit in the long run. Rarely would a master simply release his slave as a freedman and bid him farewell.

    It is vital to note that slave names were immediately recognizable by all. And in the freedman type of release from slavery, the slave's name was not changed. Instead, it was retained in full, and the Greek word Libertinus, ("freed" in English) was simply added to it. In translation, the name of a freedman might read, "Worthless, the Slave of Thedosius Hasmius of Corinth, Freed." This was the legal name, and the legal name was documented and had to be authenticated in Roman society for transactions to take place. Hence, freedman would always have much fewer legal rights and social ability and mobility than Roman citizens could have.

    ADOPTION AS SONS

    But whenever adoption as a son of a slave (as opposed to one becoming a freedman) by a Roman citizen occurred, that slave legally became a citizen and was given a new name. This adoption as a son was the only legal means out of slavery and into citizenship under Roman law. Again, legal adoption was the only way out of Roman slavery and into Roman citizenship for a slave.

    In adoption as a son, someone--a Roman citizen master, or another citizen he would permit--literally and legally adopted the slave as their son or daughter, irrespective of chronological age. As a point of common reference, one might recall in the classic movie Ben-Hur that exactly this happened, after Judah Ben-Hur saved the life of his master.

    Now, look at the text of Philemon.

    Note the following:

    (1) That this was Paul's child denoted adoption as a son.

    (2) That Paul changed the slaves name to Onesimus denoted adoption as a son.

    (3) That Philemon's receiving the newly named Onesimus as a brother in the flesh denoted adoption as a son.

    (4) That Paul meant the newly named Onesimus to be received as he himself would be received (Paul was not a slave, he was a Roman citizen) denoted adoption as a son.

    Hence, what this passage is saying, if understood in its context and time, becomes clear. Onesimus was no longer a slave, and he utilized the only legal means at his disposal under Roman law to obtain it. What was that means?

    Under Roman law, slaves had very, very few rights. One of the few rights they had was that in case of real issue with his master, the slave was permitted to "Flee to the Friend of his Master" (phrase from Roman law) so the friend could make an appeal to his master on his behalf. And this is exactly what Paul did for Onesimus : "I (Paul), appeal to you (Philemon, the master) for my child, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, Onesimus." This "appeal" was as plain as can be and instantly recognizable to Philemon as to exactly what was going on. And it is interesting to note that, barring Philemon simply doing what was proper in permitting Onesimus his new status, the Apostle Paul could have simply ordered it so: "Though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper...." And if he could have, we must assume that without Philemon's willingness, Paul may well would have. In essence, "If you do not release him based upon friendly appeal in love and the very doctrine of Christian redemption, you will release him based upon an Apostolic order from me."

    We do not know upon which basis Philemon complied—whether by love or order. But we do know that the book of Colossians was written after the book of Philemon, and this is in Colossians:

    With “adoption as a son” came all the attendant familial rights of a son upon the former slave. This includes an exculpation (forgiveness) of all prior wrongs done, the receiving of an inheritance from the family’s wealth (riches), and in short, a whole new beginning and the full entering into the position of being full heir to all the family’s goals and purposes.

    ESCAPE

    We must mention escape from slavery to be complete and to appreciate the full value of freedman and adoption as a son by way of contrast. Simply put, escape rarely happened. First, as mentioned prior, legal documentation was necessary for employment or other societal transactions to take place. And the penalty for harboring a fugitive was death. Returned slaves would usually be branded with a "Fugitive" mark on their foreheads. Too, Roman masters had Roman law on their side. Roman law permitted masters to kill their slaves for many reasons. One of these was to kill slaves upon their return after an escape attempt. In fact, it was even worse, and it was all by design. In many instances, the entire household of slaves was killed when an escape by one slave occurred. Roman law and the masters reasoned that a slave could not escape without other slaves at least hearing of the plan, and possibly aiding in it. So if they did not warn the master, it was assumed by masters to be conspiracy and in the compelling state interest of Rome. Thus, whole households of slaves labored under the cloud that if one of their number escaped, the whole household of slaves might be put to death; so other slaves were vigilant for their lives in reporting possible escape plans to the master by other slaves. Too, slaves rarely even attempted escape, since a slave's fellow slaves in a household were frequently his family members. No matter how badly slaves may have wanted to escape, they did not want the possibility of their whole family being slaughtered. There is even clear record of entire households of Roman slaves being crucified where revolts of the whole household of slaves occurred. Of course, Philemon was under Apostolic command to treat slaves in a radically new way—a way when, coupled with the implications of Christian redemption, would ultimately end the institution of slavery wherever it existed, which was the goal all along.

    ALL ARE SLAVES

    To show this, consider the very language in which Paul framed his soteriological doctrine. The very core of the discourse of Pauline soteriology came straight out of the discource of the Roman slave culture, and its legal ins and outs. The following gives the most clear displaying of it. As you read it, keep in mind what you now know about the Roman slave culture, and imagine you are a slave hearing this read.

    CONCLUSION

    Hopefully, you will by now have seen the radical implications contra slavery inherent in Paul articulating the doctrine of Christian redemption with the discourse of the Roman slave culture and its legal norms. We are all "slaves" and have been "redeemed" by the very method that Roman slaves could be redeemed. All of us, slaves every one of us, have now been "chosen" by "the Father," "rich in mercy," "kind" and "loving," who has "predestined us to adoption as sons". We have "the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." This has been "freely given us" and we need not "work" our way out of slavery. Those adopted as sons have the full rights of sonship: "we have obtained an inheritance" and all its "riches," a new purpose and "works" to do within a new family. And even better, this is all "sealed with a promise." and we have even been given "a new name" (Rev. 2:7), and all that entails. In short, we have been redeemed.

    By Paul taking up Roman slavery discourse to articulate Christian redemption, he is showing that slavery and Christian redemption are fundamentally and ultimately incompatible, temporary concessions within it notwithstanding. Paul simply knew that once Christian redemption took hold within cultures, slavery would by default fade away. It was an incredibly wise, long-term strategy to do away with slavery the world over that only God could have inspired. Though actual redemption may not have come to many slaves in Paul's time, he knew the redemption would indeed come "in the fullness of time." And for the very most part, slavery in its worst forms have indeed disappeared the world over because of applied Christian redemption.

    But there are many lesser forms of slavery the world over. Consider debt peonage and land-tenure systems that keep millions of peasants in the developing world enslaved. Also consider systems of prostitution-slavery within SE Asia, India, and Eastern Europe. Too is the enormous debt that most third-world countries are saddled with--they need a jubilee. And what about the fact that young families in the US must pay two to three times for their house because of present mortgage practices? And why must poorer students have to indenture themselves to investment bankers (student loans) to go to college so they can prepare to make their contributions to society? Indeed, we yet have many "good works" to do in seeing lesser forms of slavery abolished from cultures through the applied implications of Christian redemption. The abolition of such slavery systems awaits our fullest Christian attention. The warning is that we as Baptists need to be utterly careful to not repeat our history of defending practices of slavery, whatever their from or type, which we most certainly will in the end regret, as history has already shown us. Because one way or another, the abolition of slavery forms and systems in the world through the works of Christians must, and indeed will, continue to march on. God has predestined it to be so, and predestined to do it through us.

    Amen.

    [ May 16, 2002, 03:12 PM: Message edited by: LP ]
     

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