Article: Slavery In The Bible (1/5)

July 12, 2007

Due to the infamy of New World slavery, particularly the plantation slavery practiced in North America between the 17th and 19th centuries, the terms ‘slave’ and ‘slavery’ invariably invoke images of precisely that form of servitude. Readers both Christian and non-Christian alike recoil from any passage of the Bible in which these words appear. It is wrongly assumed that any reference to ‘slaves’ or ‘slavery’ in the Bible necessarily refers to the New World ‘chattel slavery’ of the plantations. This is simply not the case.

The following article is an examination of the various forms of servitude described in the Bible. It addresses the topic as it is presented in the Old and New Testaments, within their historical and cultural background, together with the Biblical instruction regarding servitude in its various forms.

Considerable use has been made of Glenn Miller’s excellent studies of servitude in the Old and New Testaments.

The Definition Of Slavery

Various forms of servitude existed in the Ancient Near East, all of which are described in the Bible and most of which are commonly translated ‘slavery’ (largely inaccurately). In the list which follows they are described in general terms without reference to the specific manner in which they were addressed by different ANE law codes:

* Chattel slavery

* Indentured service

* Bride sale

* Vassalage

Article here.


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