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Museum highlights ‘Slave Bible’ that focuses on servitude, leaves out freedom

The Slave Bible exhibit at the Museum of the Bible features a version of the holy book that excluded major portions of the Old and New Testaments. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) — On display on the ground floor of the Museum of the Bible there is a lone volume that stands out from the many versions shown in the building devoted to the holy book.

It’s a small set of Scriptures whose title page reads “Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands.”

The so-called Slave Bible, on loan from Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., excludes 90 percent of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and 50 percent of the New. Its pages include “Servants be obedient to them that are your masters,” from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but missing is the portion of his letter to the Galatians that reads, “There is neither bond nor free … for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The Slave Bible exhibit at the Museum of the Bible features a version of the holy book specifically printed for converting slaves to Christianity. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Since opening more than a year ago, the museum has featured this 15-inch-by-11-inch-by-4-inch volume in an area that chronicles Bible-based arguments for and against slavery dating back to the beginnings of the abolition movement.

But in anticipation of next year’s 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves in the New World, in Jamestown, Va., the Slave Bible will be on special view until April in an exhibition developed with scholars from Fisk and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“We feel it’s an opportunity to contribute to important discussion today about the Bible’s role in relationship to human enslavement and we know that that connects to contemporary issues like racism as well as human bondage,” Seth Pollinger, director of museum curatorial, told Religion News Service.

“We’ve had such visitor interest in this book, probably wider interest in this single artifact than any other artifact in the museum.”

The rare artifact is just one of three known across the world. The other two are housed at universities in Great Britain.

Fisk’s scholars believe its version may have been brought back from England in the late 19th century by the school’s famed Jubilee Singers, who sang spirituals to Queen Victoria during their European tour.

The exhibition draws on the dichotomy of coercion and conversion, keeping slaves in their place while also attempting to tend to their souls. On two walls portions of the Bible that were excluded from the slaves’ text are juxtaposed with verses determined to be appropriate for them.

“Prepare a short form of public prayers for them … together with select portions of Scripture … particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters,” said Anglican Bishop of London Beilby Porteus, founder of the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves, in 1808.

Anthony Schmidt, curator of Bible and religion in America for the Museum of the Bible, said that quote “kind of shatters our ideas of these abolitionists being so progressive. Porteus held to very racist views even as he fought for the freedom of enslaved Africans in these colonies.”

A London publishing house first published the Slave Bible in 1807 on behalf of Porteus’ society.

Absent from that Bible were all of the Psalms, which express hopes for God’s delivery from oppression, and the entire Book of Revelation.

“That’s where you really have the story of the overcomer, and where God makes all things right and retribution,” Pollinger said of the final book found in traditional versions of the Christian Bible.

The Slave Bible’s Book of Exodus excludes the story of the rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the liberation that gives the biblical book its title.

“It’s conspicuous that they have Chapter 19 and 20 in there, which is where you got God’s appearance at Mount Sinai and he gives his law,” said Pollinger. “The Ten Commandments would be Exodus 20 but missing is all of the exodus from Egypt.”

Holly Hamby of Fisk University. Photo by Vando Rogers/Fisk University Photographer

Scholars acknowledge that the little-known Bible can be a shocking discovery for students and museum visitors alike.

“When they first encounter the Slave Bible, it’s pretty emotional for them,” said Holly Hamby, an associate professor at Fisk who uses the artifact as she teaches a class on the Bible as literature. Many of the students at the historically black university are Christian and African-American, most of whom are descendants of slaves, including those in the West Indian colonies.

“It’s very disruptive to their belief system,” said Hamby, who is currently teaching from a digitized version of the Slave Bible.

Some students wonder how they could have come to the Christian faith with this kind of Bible possibly in their past. Others dive deeper into the complete Bible, including the Exodus story.

“It does lead them to question a lot but I also think it leads them to a powerful connection with the text,” she said. “Very naturally, seeing the parts that were left out of the Bible that was given to a lot of their ancestors makes them concentrate more on those parts.”

The museum has plans for conferences and panel discussions to further explore the unusual artifact and its complex meanings.

Pollinger hopes it will offer a chance for a more diverse range of visitors, black and white, to join in discussions, just as white and black scholars have worked in recent months on the exhibit.

“This exhibit is going to destabilize people; it’s going to disturb people and it’s not necessarily one group rather than the other,” said Pollinger, who hopes that learning about this piece of Bible history will foster greater understanding.

Seth Pollinger, director of museum curatorial, at the Slave Bible exhibit. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

In a quotation displayed in the exhibit, Brad Braxton, director of the NMAAHC’s Center for the Study of African American Religious Life, says: “This religious relic compels us to grapple with a timeless question: In our interpretations of the Bible, is the end result domination or liberation?”

Hamby suggested that the exhibit should feature current Fisk students’ voices, so it includes a video of them discussing questions surrounding the controversial take on the Bible.

“My favorite question is the last question on the list that we asked them, which is: Do you think that this Bible is still the good book?” she said of questions the students were asked and the public will have an opportunity to answer for themselves.

For her part, Hamby, a United Methodist, says: “It’s a good book. I still believe in the Bible on the whole but not this version of it.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

101 Comments

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  • You are too late. A couple of hundred years ago your local Southern Baptist bookstore may have had a copy or two.

    Check with the current Republican candidate for the Senate in Mississippi. She may know where some are available.

  • Actually I think “serving” should be emphasized all the more.

    A modern saint said: Love claims no rights; it seeks to serve.

  • Shocking that man would distort the word of God to feed his worldly desires.
    I do believe we see similar instances today in the hierarchy of the RCC.

  • “Shocking that man would distort the word of God to feed his worldly desires.”

    Really??? How so???

    Reread Luke 12:35-46.

    Therein, Jesus approves of slavery, including the right of a “master” to “beat” or “severely beat” disobedient slaves, depending on the situation.

  • Wow. NO ONE can edit the Bible, according to the Biblical literalists. And yet for a reason like this, it turns out “they” could and did.

  • In your rush to kick the SBC, you failed to note that the text in question was not American but from the British West-India Islands, divided early in the 20th century into the Bahamas, Barbados, Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica (with its dependencies the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands), Trinidad and Tobago, the Windward Islands, and the Leeward Islands.

    Therefore it could hardly have a thing to do with the Southern Baptists or Mississippi.

  • For several generations there has been a misconception concerning slavery in the Bible that is often compared to abuses in many cultures, including the U.S.A.
    Exodus 21:7-11 Employment / Wage earner / Laborer; selling daughter as a slave or laborer for relief from poverty. Moses’ Law does not treat slaves as property, but as a person to be protected from abuse. It’s nothing like slavery as we understand it today! Ex. 21:7–11 If a poor family could not afford the costs of a normal wedding, the father might “sell” his daughter to a rich man as his “slave,” i.e., as a secondary wife like Zilpah and Bilhah (Gen. 29:24, 29). As wives from poor families, they could face exploitation—which these laws aim to prevent. Even Jesus’ reference to “abuse” in Luke 12:35-46 is a metaphorical reference to his judgment upon his return to the abusive slave-servant of the household. The ultimate “slave” was Jesus himself! Jesus was a slave to His Heavenly Father and to Moses’ Law. Each person committed to Jesus Christ is also a servant to Jesus!

  • There are plenty of evangelical leaders doing this very thing today, and in many other denominations of Christendom. No reason to pick on the RCC exclusively.

  • Rebecca the church (and Jacob) still use the goodly raiment of Esau since they think Isaac (our LORD Jesus) is blind.

  • “is the end result domination or liberation?” How many verses would one have to read to be saved by God? The answer is; one. This is the Power of God. Read John 3:16 again. It is a very good book, all by itself.

    “The Ten Commandments would be Exodus 20, but missing is all of the exodus from Egypt” Luke 10:41-42 “Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled by many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” This is a very good book, all by itself. This is the Power of God.

    The Ten Commandments: this is a very good book, all by itself. This is the Power of God.

  • “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, his eternal power and Godhead: so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

  • The set of those who edited the Bible is a subset of the class of Biblical literalists, for not all Biblical literalists at that time were slavers who would have approved of this editing -a number of them did not support slavery. Some were even abolitionists.

    So, to be correct, you final sentence should read: “And yet for a reason like this, it turns out SOME of them could and did.”

    Otherwise you are condemning a whole class for the actions of only some of its members, which would be text book case of bigotry which (I would hope) was not your intent.

  • Yes, I would agree with you that there were then a number of Bible people who clearly understood that slavery was wrong—-period—– completely unconscionable. Oddly, there were more of them in the North than in the South. It’s my opinion that the Christians who most have consciences operating in such manner (then and now) are those who “feel” the Spirit of the Bible more than they dwell on “every word” construction. It’s a great curiosity that there was ANYONE who wanted slaves to know about the Bible at all, who simultaneously thought it “best” if the version for blacks just had certain parts excised. Amazing stuff.

  • Thank you. The church is saved. It is just that “Because thou say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” holding on the goodly raiment of Esau….. with Jacob. Not cleared to take off or grounded until metanoia..

  • Fry: The worst thing about being a slave is they make you work long hours and don’t pay you.

    Leela: That is the only thing about being a slave.

  • None of this exegesis and creative interpretation changes the fact that the Southern Baptist was founded specifically to use Christian belief to support chattel slavery. Nor does it refute or deny how the Bible was used here for such purposes.

  • Yes, it is amazing stuff. But I don’t think “feeling the spirit of the Bible” necessarily contrasts with “dwelling on every word”. The two can and should go together.

  • Therefore it could hardly have a thing to do with the Southern Baptists or Mississippi.

    On the other hand, not too many antebellum Baptist slave-owners would cotton letting their slaves listen to a sermon on the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. For all practical purposes, the Bible that the slaves were orally exposed to would have been just as much edited as the Bible on display at the museum.

  • Likewise, Jonah was not cleared to go until Tarshish. God grounded him thoroughly in the belly of the great fish.

  • I’m sure you are aware that verses can be found in several NT letters advising slaves to be respectful of masters, and some advising masters to treat such servants reasonably. These have the effect of normalizing slavery as Bible-approved, or God-approved, when any such thing in a modern era is (or should be) considered despicable—–full stop. People who are in the Spirit of the Bible have to resist some of the things which could otherwise be justified by messing around with an “every word” approach.

  • Just think what the name “Jesus” means and what this man taught in Luke 15. God’s love is unconditional, i.e., “no strings attached”.

  • Re: “Anthony Schmidt, curator of Bible and religion in America for the Museum of the Bible, said that quote ‘kind of shatters our ideas of these abolitionists being so progressive. Porteus held to very racist views even as he fought for the freedom of enslaved Africans in these colonies.'” 

    Of course some Abolitionists were racists! It’s anachronistic to expect none of them would be. They were, first of all, products of their own times, with all the attendant beliefs, prejudices, etc. which saturated the world around them. Second, their opposition to slavery was basic and philosophical, and race wasn’t relevant. They didn’t oppose slavery because black Africans were the majority of slaves. They opposed it because they found it reprehensible that human beings were owned by other human beings. 

  • What this so-called “Slave Bible” and all our English bibles don’t get is that all born-from-above, fired-up and die-hard followers of THE Christ Jesus of the gospels, epistles and revelation – secular slaves and the secular free alike – are all spiritual slaves to Masser Christ Jesus! LITERALLY.

    The New Testament Greek word for that, occurring more than 110 times, is δουλος, meaning someone who, having no ownership rights of her or his own, belongs to Another – living under Masser Christ Jesus’ authority as His devoted follower from day 1 and to the end!

    Here, do the math. δουλος is used:

    30x in Matthew
    5x in Mark
    27x in Luke
    9x in John
    3x in Acts
    5x in Romans
    4x in 1 Corinthians
    1x in 2 Corinthians
    4x in Galatians
    3x in Galatians
    2x in Philippians
    4x in Colossians
    1x in 1 Timothy
    1x in 2 Timothy
    2x in Titus
    1x in Philemon
    1x in James
    1x in 1 Peter
    2x in 2 Peter
    1x in Jude
    13x in Revelation.

  • John MacArthur did a Grace To You study of the Greek word doulos. Check it out. His rebuttal to your point would be, No, Jesus is kyrios, we are doulos. Master/slave relationship is gone now in God’s kingdom on earth, because the church has forgotten they’re slaves and their lord and savior is Masser Jesus.

  • 120 times usage of the New Testament Greek word doulos prove you ain’t no slave to Masser Jesus, but I am. Not to be confused with Secular Slave, though, mind. Then again you wouldn’t know what the gospel is talking. SO NEVER MIND, FREE BIRD. Fly off now.

  • Who cares. δουλος (doulos – bondslave) is still in the New Testament in 120 places and there to stay to set you free.

  • I don’t believe there is any evidence to support a conclusion on whether the slaves of antebellum Baptist slave owners did or did not hear sermons on the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

    Your speculation is just that.

    I do note that their spirituals, like “Go Down Moses”, seem to reflect familiarity with Pharoah, Egypt, and the Exodus:

    When Israel was in Egypt’s land

    Let my people go

    Oppress’d so hard they could not stand

    Let my people go

    Refrain:

    Go down, Moses

    Way down in Egypt’s land

    Tell old Pharaoh

    Let my people go

    The sheet music when the song was published indicated it originated in Virginia around1853.

  • I’m sure some did hear sermons about Exodus, and some could read the Bible for themselves.

    On the other hand:

    “In Prince George County there were two meeting-houses intended for public worship. Both were occupied by the Baptist denomination. These houses were built by William and George Harrison, brothers. Mr. G. Harrison’s was built on the line of his brother’s farm, that their slaves might go there on the Sabbath and receive instruction, such as slaveholding ministers would give. The prominent preaching to the slaves was, “‘Servants, obey your masters’. Do not steal or lie, for this is very wrong. Such conduct is sinning against the Holy Ghost, and is base ingratitude to your kind masters, who feed, clothe and protect you.” All Gospel, my readers! It was great policy to build a church for the “dear slave”, and allow him the wondrous privilege of such holy instruction!
    ….
    Mr. James L. Goltney was a Baptist preacher, and was employed by Mr. M. B. Harrison to give religious instruction to his slaves. He often used the common text: “Servants, obey your masters.” He would try to make it appear that he knew what the slaves were thinking of–telling them they thought they had a right to be free, but he could tell them better–referring them to some passages of Scripture. “It is the devil,” he would say, “who tells you to try and be free.” And again he bid them be patient at work, warning them that it would be his duty to whip them, if they appeared dissatisfied–which would be pleasing to God! “If you run away, you will be turned out of God’s church, until you repent, return, and ask God and your master’ s pardon.” In this way he would continue to preach his slave-holding gospel.
    This same Goltney used to administer the Lord’s Supper to the slaves. After such preaching, let no one say that the slaves have the Gospel of Jesus preached to them.”

    Peter Randolph (1893) From Slave Cabin to the Pulpit: The Autobiography of Rev. Peter Randolph: The Southern Question Illustrated and Sketches of Slave Life, pp. 196-201

  • The Last Judgment is when God will render to us what we are owed, i.e., justice. God’s justice is our salvation. That’s the whole point of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 15. This understanding is reinforced by the USCCB’s commentaries that address the context of Luke 13:22-30 and 14:15-24, to wit:

    + [13:22–30] These sayings of Jesus follow in Luke upon the parables of the kingdom (Lk 13:18–21) and stress that great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom (Lk 13:24) and that there is an urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter because the narrow door will not remain open indefinitely (Lk 13:25). Lying behind the sayings is the rejection of Jesus and his message by his Jewish contemporaries (Lk 13:26) whose places at table in the kingdom will be taken by Gentiles from the four corners of the world (Lk 13:29). Those called last (the Gentiles) will precede those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended (the Jews). See also Lk 14:15–24.

    + [14:15–24] The parable of the great dinner is a further illustration of the rejection by Israel, God’s chosen people, of Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet in the kingdom and the extension of the invitation to other Jews whose identification as the poor, crippled, blind, and lame (Lk 14:21) classifies them among those who recognize their need for salvation, and to Gentiles (Lk 14:23). A similar parable is found in Mt 22:1–10.

    I suggest you read the Linns’ GOOD GOATS: HEALING OUR IMAGE OF GOD.

  • To be honest, I never knew that until today. This changes everything for me. For instance, I thought calling Rick Brant & HpO fellow servants of Christ was most appropriate, but now, what, you & I are fellow slaves of Christ?

    I have lost so much all this time from not knowing this gospel truth. Still shaken, befuddled, etc. by it, actually.

    Thanks for reaching out to me about this. Thanks for the affirmation!

  • Is there a link to a larger paper or lecture with these citations. This looks interesting and I want to check out more of it.

  • You’re very welcome!

    Although doulos is slightly ambiguous, it almost always refers to slaves.

    And slave should be the proper translation in the NT when doulos is applied to Christians. Paul tells us “You were bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20); slaves are bought, not servants.

  • Fascinating point, HpO! Your source is admirable. MacArthur’s exegesis is top quality. Here is what MacArthur says about the Exodus 21 slavery issue (לְאָמָ֑ה Hebrew slave woman):
    Ex. 21:2–11 The law of the slave guaranteed freedom after a specified period of 6 years unless the slave himself elected permanent servitude, but this would be service in a context not of abuse but of love (v. 5). Any permanent, involuntary servitude for a Hebrew slave to a Hebrew master was obviously undesirable for Israelite society and was unknown in Israel (cf. Lev. 25:39–55). Provision was also made to ensure the proper treatment of female slaves, who could not deliberately be left destitute by wrongful action on the part of their master.
    MacArthur’s statement on Luke 12:37:
    Luke 12:37 awake. The key here is readiness at all times for Christ’s return. See note on Matt. 25:1–13. dress himself. I.e., he will take the servant’s role and wait on them. This remarkable statement pictures Christ, at his return, ministering as a servant to believers.
    MacArthur’s statements on Luke 12:45-46: Luke 12:45 to beat the . . . servants. This wicked manager’s unfaithfulness and cruel behavior illustrates the evil of an unbelieving heart.
    Luke 12:46 cut him in pieces.I.e., utterly destroy him. This speaks of the severity of final judgment of unbelievers.
    HpO, you are correct concerning the Koine Greek cases of: ὁ δοῦλος & the τοῦ δούλου references!

  • Spuddie, thanks for your comment. Yes, throughout history, some church leaders-scholars tried to change, or reinterpret some Bible references to suit their pet theologies, or social justifications of sins in various communities. This does not make honorable practice before the Lord Jesus. They, each, will give an account to Him for textual abuses causing out-of-balance social injustices. Yet, scholars following the Righteousness of Jesus are morally bound to correct such errors. Spuddie, I always try my best to be accurate and as honorable as possible before the Lord Jesus. He requires this of me. Thank you, Spuddie!

  • “Yes, throughout history, some church leaders-scholars tried to change, or reinterpret some Bible references to suit their pet theologies, or social justifications of sins in various communities. ”

    But they are clearly not real Christians like yourself, whose opinion differs on such subjects. Therefore it is not a Christian belief. Despite the fact that it is a belief by Christians. /s

    You are playing a cheap denial game here of trying to distance the entire faith of Christianity based on your personal interpretations. Essentially pretending to speak for all adherents or childishly trying to exclude their existence when their ideas are different from your own. Sorry but the entirety of Christian belief does not revolve around your opinion and interpretations of its scripture.

    A mature and honest response would acknowledge that ideas have differed across sectarian lines rather than pretend those other sects neither exist nor need to be noted.

  • Spuddie, as I am sure you have noticed by my current and previous posts, I make an effort to exegete the references I cite. Ostensibly, contextual understanding, less personal opinion. Nevertheless, there are differences of opinions, different from mine. I’m disappointed in you, Spuddie. You missed my point, it seems to me. “the entirety of Christian belief does not revolve around your opinion and interpretation of it’s [sic] scripture.” I did not say that. I did not imply that. May I make my point crystal clear to you, Spuddie. The entirety of Christian belief revolves around Jesus Christ of the Gospels … including proper interpretations of Scripture, he, himself taught. This has little to do with my personal interpretations. This is all about Jesus Christ, not about me, Spuddie.

  • I also see you make no effort to claim that you are solely giving personal views either.

    Only that they are somehow indicative of all Christianity. Which by such measure only seems to be people who agree with you, as opposed to any objective and reasonable definition of the term Christian.

    “Ostensibly, contextual understanding, less personal opinion.”

    Every fundamentalist makes such claims about their take on scripture. Yet somehow it always reflects their personal views.

    “The entirety of Christian belief revolves around Jesus Christ of the Gospels … including proper interpretations of Scripture, he, himself taught. This has little to do with my personal interpretations. ” (emphasis added)

    “Proper” being the self-serving dishonest term being used here. Somehow the entirety of belief in the sect of Christianity is only proper if it follows your own personal version of it (or the standard one for your sect). It is entirely personal interpretation (or a sectarian leader’s) but basically lying about it.

    Again cheap denial. A more honest way of handling it is to acknowledge that sects varied wildly on the subject. Southern Baptists and all most European state established churches supported slavery while other sects/groups such as Anabaptist sects were notably abolitionist. But to claim one group was Christian and the other was not is a flat out lie.

  • The sacred literature of any religion (at least any with serious history and depth) is complex and resists simplistic, self-serving interpretation. When a few “enlightened” individuals presume to redact Scripture for their own self-serving purposes, that’s always an open door to abuse.

    In every age the temptation is strong to interpret religious teaching through the lens of politics and economics. It was that way in Biblical times and it’s that way today. If you want evidence, look no further than the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.”

  • Even the most up-to-date translations are not clear from this problem. The tendency to whitewash the radicalness of the gospel is still with us! Example – Matt 3:15, Jesus’ first words in Matthew (and therefore very important words): In Greek, the verse reads “αφες αρτι ουτως γαρ πρεπον εστιν ημιν πληρωσαι πασαν δικαιοσυνην τοτε αφιησιν αυτον.” Now this is very radical – too radical for all the translations I’ve seen (which is many). It says “Release (or forgive, or liberate – it’s the same verb in the Lords Prayer for release of debts) now, for this is fitting (or proper) for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he released him.” The Greek here isn’t difficult or obscure, but it is radical. Jesus is proclaiming the release of debts and slaves foretold in Dt 15, Lev 25, and Is 61 – along with the release of possessions. But none of the translations will hear of it. They all say something like the NRSV: “”Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness. Then he consented.” That is, they all render it as a ghastly Alphonse and Gaston routine, a misunderstanding about who is supposed to go first, John or Jesus. Such foolishness is not there in the Greek at all. Jesus’ words are a ringing statement of liberation, as befits the Messiah. But we can’t be that honest, nor that radical, in what we tell the people Jesus says.

  • The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 34. That contains the only list in the bible identified as the “Ten Commandments.” It is even more worthless than the preferred list.

    And even the traditional, unofficial 10 Commandments is complete crap as a guide to morality.

    Example (not original):

    A wealthy man travels to region with a poor indigenous tribe. He gives a large sum of money to the tribal leaders and in exchange is allowed to marry 10 girls aged 11 to 12. For the next several decades, every day except Saturday he rapes one girl and brutally beats another. Every so often he marries another 11 year old.

    Here is a list of the commandments he violated:

    (crickets)

    Your book does not prohibit child abuse, child marriage, spousal rape, or even sex without consent unless the victim is someone else’s property.

    But that’s okay. We have clear guidance on tattoos and what day not to gather firewood.

  • What about evangelicals who totally blow of commands to welcome aliens?

    With apologies to Claud Raines, I’m shocked, shocked, to find cherry picking going on in this establishment.

  • It’s okay.

    The truth is that the bible is a test to weed out those lacking critical thinking skills. Anyone who thinks the bible is moral or the deity described therein worthy of worship goes straight to hell for an eternity of Leave It to Beaver reruns.

    Heaven is reserved for those who respect creation by affirming science including the Theory of Evolution and who reject religious con men.

    If you don’t believe me, prove me wrong. With evidence.

  • Yeah, it wasn’t a thing in the US because slaves in the US were severely punished if they tried to learn to read. That is hardly something to admire.

  • You write, “I assume you’re talking to someone who cares what you think.”

    If you didn’t “care what [I] think,” you’d not react to my comments!!!

    (think b4 u write)

  • I put the statement about Exodus 20 in quotation marks. This means I took it right from the article, however I did go to Exodus 20 to make sure the author quoted correctly.

    You only went further down hill after your opening line. If this was 1900 you would only need an eighth grade education to see your error. Of course in 2018 even a four year college degree is no guaranty you would not make the same mistakes.

    “Many are called, but few are chosen” this is the Power of God. Your comment is a lark. Hint ( it’s not a bird )

  • Of course in 2018 even a four year college degree is no guaranty you would not make the same mistakes.

    I think you meant guarantee, which is not spelled “guaranty.”

    Did you read Ex 34? That is the list the “very good book … the power of God” says are the 10 Commandments. Is the book wrong?

    And please answer my question. Please provide the book, chapter and verse references for the commands violated in the hypothetical example.

    You twice made the claim “This is a very good book, all by itself. This is the Power of God.”

    You really ought to read past the pretty soundbites.

  • Despite anti-literacy laws in the South, particularly after the Nat Turner revolt, a low estimate of slave literacy is 10%, which is about the same rate as among the sharecroppers in the same states.

    An entire class of slaves, tradesmen, openly read and wrote, maintained their own premises in towns, conducted their businesses independently, and remitted a percentage of their proceeds to their owners.

  • If the test is to weed out those lacking critical thinking skills, we won’t be reading another of your posts.

  • Again, based on evidence, prove your interpretation of the bible is correct and mine is not.

    You can’t. And you know you can’t.

    You think that if you are rude and dish out insults nobody will notice that you totally cannot defend your religion against even the mildest of questions. But we did notice. And every insult only confirms you’ve got nothing.

  • Of course we know the drill.

    Religions in general, and Jews and Christians particularly, believe in a spiritual reality.

    That spiritual reality transcends the natural laws (supernatural) and in Judaism and Christianity is actually the source of the natural laws (the deity).

    Some buffoon prances about and says “You can’t PROVE the existence of this supernatural reality using science.”

    Science, of course, relies on the assumption that there are physical laws and that experiments can be conducted on physical realities to test hypotheses.

    The buffoon demands that the supposed supernatural reality be proven with science.

    What that proves is that the buffoon is a buffoon.

    And has got nothing.

  • Decisions. Decisions.

    Accept reality based on evidence.

    Or

    Believe patently absurd myths created by unknown people with unknown motives, and hand over chunks of money to self appointed deity spokesmen who say “Trust me. God said you need to give me money.”

    You can’t prove your deity exists, using any means whatsoever.

    Yet how much money have you given to self appointed deity spokesmen over the years, with no documentation whatsoever as to where that money goes? Yet they keep assuring you that you don’t need no stinking evidence. How convenient, huh?

    Reality just fine with me. And I don’t even need to stoop to insults to make my point.

    (I wonder how many people who see you call someone else a buffoon, after you declare that you need no evidence for your beliefs, will say “oh oh oh I want to be just like that.”? Some where in the vicinity of zippobits, I would think.)

  • “Accept reality based on evidence.” = scientism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

    It is based on the a priori assumption that the only things which exist are physical and follow physical laws.

    And for that you need no stinking evidence. How convenient, huh?

    If you were one-third as smart as you think you are, Einstein would have nothing on you.

    You aren’t and he did.

  • If you wish to block me, that’s your business, not mine. I shall still reply, as appropriate, to your comments. Your blocking me is no skin off my back.

  • In context of the slave bible, it was “written” (curated) to maintain control over the slaves. Do you think the slaveholders themselves would have seen themselves as slaves? Most certainly not in the context of the people they owned.

    You are also hijacking a story to talk about a soteriological truth that glosses over a real problem – slavery and the denigration of humanity. You’re missing the point by disconnecting biblical soteriology from biblical anthropology. Blacks/slaves created in the image of God deserving far more than they were given and treated. And, you make light of this injustice by ignoring something that God doesn’t overlook with his gift of salvation. Why do you do something God doesn’t?

  • You tell me. When “dcpdx [wrote] 3 years ago … Historically, the US Supreme Court passed Dred Scott (African-Americans are not citizens and can be enslaved)” – “[were] you saying the slaves were reading [‘Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857) … a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on U.S. labor law and constitutional law’]”?!

  • The 2nd draft, as my comment on Friendly Atheist’s article, “The ‘Slave Bible’ Is a Stark Reminder of How the Holy Book Can Justify Evil”, condemns “slavery and the denigration of humanity”, on the one hand; and condemns the suppression of the gospel truth of the kyrios/doulos, or the masser/slave, relationship between The Christ Jesus and His true followers. There’s a hint in there to suggest that the latter might’ve been the preconditions of existence for the former. The former was what had happened when His false followers experimented with turning the gospel into social gospel. The ‘Slave Bible’ was invented by social gospel activists during The Era of Slavery, in other words!

  • The bible is edited frequently by omission. The extremely difficult bits hinting at sexism, racism, slavery and genocide are infrequently spoken in Church and in some never ever spoken (though these issues may be discussed in bible study groups or amongst theologians). And these passages are quite rarely quoted, assigned, framed, on birthday cards or event-cards, lists of passages to read, important issues to discuss etc. In some protestant denominations, usually evangelical ones, they are indeed covered in sermons or discussion or for the most dedicated they will read them and work through the very difficult issues they raise…for the average Christian they may as well not exist…as they are omitted from public discussion and personal reading. That’s not to say they are omitted on purpose, they may very well not be, but they are still omitted.

  • Smart commentary. Thanks. I would add that most people 1) don’t really know the totality of what is in what they might call the “Good Book”, sometimes assuming it all must be “good” (when it isn’t), or 2) they do sorta know and would prefer to not be asked to dwell on the negative, or 3) for some, they do really know and actually WOULD prefer to dwell on the most negative parts at all times. This latter group is the “Every Word of This Bible is True” gang, drawing such comfort from their deep dive in the scriptures that they presume permission to disregard reality and behave abominably toward those not “saved” like they claim themselves to be. For them, being “apart from the world” amounts to not having to acknowledge or tell the truth about anything.

  • I think what Spuddie here is saying is that your argument is commonly made in many contexts where one Christian will say other Christians aren’t interpreting the bible correctly. Thus committing the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    I mean here is the thing. You say it’s all about the New Testament…that’s fine, but keep in mind you can’t completely disavow the old testament, I mean if there is no prophecy of a messiah and Jesus i that messiah, that makes the story a little less impressive. So then we get to the problem of well which parts of the old testament do we keep and which ones do we ignored? If you think it’s all important then which part do you take literally and which part do you take figuratively? This applies to the new testament as well.

    You have the book which was written in a deadline language and has been translated multiple times and then you want people to believe that this is the Word of God which was originally in a language that almost no one today can understand, but that it can somehow be translated accurately enough. Especially given that there are 50% more words than the Hebrew version and almost 300% more words than in English than the ancient Greek version. That’s a lot of guess work to try and determine meaning. And that’s even if we can assume that nobody had any agenda in translating the cannon, which we also know to be false.

    The fact that your interpretation is a kinder interpretation is not because you are more scholarly about the bible, but because you place emphasis on parts of the bible that conform to your world view. Much like every religious follower.

    It seems that if God has a message through us, that he would speak through the Bible he could have been clearer…and he could have created some actual updates Himself in order to make sure there was no confusion. I mean it’s a pretty mixed message to have as one of your commandments for your followers as “Thou shalt not kill” and then Yahweh literally spends a good portion of the Bible either killing people himself or commanding his followers to kill in his name.

  • Except there you go using the word proper, which is subjective. Soooo….what you consider to be proper. Other Christians, as has been proven, also subjectively believe their interpretations are proper. You are no more correct than they are.

  • Swarn Gill, thanks for your courteous reply. I, myself try to be courteous and respectful in my replies. Not certain I always succeed. Nevertheless, I do have strong convictions, as you know. And I represent Jesus Christ the Resurrected. I’m not so sure that the history of the Bible manuscripts (MSS) is quite as cynical as you describe it. Yes, there have been some abuses, but I don’t see it as widespread as you would suggest it. Scholarly opinions differ significantly. Scholarship is not nearly as uniform and one-sided as you and others have stated it. In previous posts I have named scholars on both sides of the issue. Several, in their own biases, have rejected reputable scholars whom they disagree with, in my opinion, without good reasons. Some others choose one side only … the radical Higher Critical views. I do not because the Jesus Christ of history has changed my life for the better and I have seen some of the documents from the first several centuries posted on CSNTM.org. I am biased. I believe my bias is rooted in historical evidences. I get the impression from a few others that I am excessively dogmatic in my views. I don’t intend to convey that impression. I thought I noted that in previous posts. Nevertheless, the standard by which I measure all things is Jesus Christ as described in Luke 24:44-48. In this reference, Jesus interprets the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms-Writings to his disciples. That is what I mean by exegesis as Jesus did it. Still, yet, Jesus came to seek and save the lost from their sins and to receive Jesus into their lives. Thank you and God bless you, Swarn Gill!

  • Thank you, Christopher H, for your comment. Please note my reply to Swarn Gill above. I think it applies to your statement. Thank you & God bless you, Christopher H. Have a great day! Jesus saves from sins!

  • No, Christopher H, it’s top quality because Dr. John MacArthur is known for excellent exegesis in contextual studies. Not because he agrees with me. If anything, it’s the other way around!

  • Lark62, I think Gene Kelly is more concerned these days with his dance routine with a glorified Jesus Christ, as a former RC and later agnostic, than he is with getting his dance routine back from me! Jesus saves from sins!

  • Hi Wayne. Thank you for your response. Look I can certainly see that value Christianity has in your life and whether or not it is Christianity that has transformed you, or your own leanings that have made you interpret Christianity in the way that you do is ultimately unimportant to the fact that you are a good person. But most religions offer this same sort of value to your life. I have studied a fair bit of Sikhism, Hinduism, and Islam and there are certainly powerful portions to those texts that can help one live a meaningful life and one that is filled with charity and kindness to others. But all texts are also filled with questionable versus and claims and many religions become over ritualized over time and lose focus on what we as people should be doing to make the world a better place.

    I don’t think I’m being cynical in regards to translation. I think we have lots of evidence of how hard it is to preserve meaning when translating. Even in modern languages people who are translators will talk about how difficult it is. The amount of diction in ancient languages was so small compared to language today so much of translation is based on how the translator interprets the text that it’s hard to imagine the word being preserved properly. I think, only as an act of faith can we think that we have a relatively similar version of the Bible than was written long ago. So to come in and say one version of Christianity is more right than another version, or that certain versus should be taken figuratively instead of literally is purely a matter of interpretation, and interpretation is largely a function of what you believe to be true going into your analysis. What you believe to be true might be a function of how you were raised, what you were told, your politics, your education, or other past experiences. The analysis of language is never a purely objective endeavor. So I guess many of atheists don’t find much value in saying someone else is practicing the wrong Christianity, because what is the right Christianity is very much a function of who has authority, and whose interpretation we want to use over another. The conversation would probably be more useful if we talked about practices being bad not because of it contradicting some verse in the bible, but rather because we can see it as being bad because of real world consequences. I can give a lot of empirical evidence about why slavery is wrong, I don’t need the bible for that. I am sure you are capable of the same. Because the fact remains that the slave bible was curated to justify the practice. Whether you leave contradictory verses in or not often doesn’t matter when many people are illiterate and you only preach the ones you want. All sorts of religion do this now and have in the past. It seems obvious we should be good and kind to each other. Every religion preaches this at some point, but many books also had other concerns that reflect the historical context of the times. Many of those things simply don’t apply, and so we are left wondering what it is the original authors meant. As an objective reader I look at Leviticus now and see it mostly as a chapter concerned with hygiene. It clearly is. What to do about skin diseases, don’t get tattoos because the needles are dirty, don’t be sexually promiscuous, don’t come in contact with blood, what are safe foods to eat.

    I grew up with two cultures and families that had two different religions. Both sides of my family had good people. It occurred to me that the details of the individual stories of their religion were simply less important than how their faith influenced their behavior in this world. And indeed I have seen many people who have no religion at all be motivated just as strongly as any religious person to do good in the world an be kind.

    In the end, regardless of which religion you are talking about, can someone claim they practice the “true faith”. This is simply an unknown. People are making their best guesses. The world is dynamic, things change, and while some moral lessons still apply today, no religion has the monopoly on kindness and compassion.

  • fair question to ask. did you note the context of my response? that should indicate whether or not it matters to slaves (literate or not).

    thank you for taking the time to read what i’ve posted in the past. does it shed light on where i’m coming from?

  • What makes you think that the group, Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves, were social gospel activists? On what basis can you transport your definition/understanding of “social justice” and make a presumption that this is what is going on in this particular artifact?

    “There’s a hint in there to suggest that the latter might’ve been the preconditions of existence for the former. The former was what had happened when His false followers experimented with turning the gospel into social gospel.”

    Would you unpack this, please? My point is that your emphasis on the slavery aspect of the Gospel has context. It is nothing like the slavery practiced in the US in the 18th and 19th C. Historically, slave holders in the US, who self-identified as Christian, twisted the Scriptures to justify their treatment of slaves.

    I could be misunderstanding what you’re pointing out, but I don’t see where you get the notion that the Slave Bible is a social gospel. Are you suggesting that what Wilberforce did concerning the abolition of slavery is social gospel? I would argue that he lived out the Gospel that is social. God is undeniably about justice (certainly, biblical justice — God’s perspective on justice versus that of men) and the injustice of slavery (specifically, as practiced in the context of the slave bible and slavery in the US — because this is what i’m referring to). It seems like you are injecting a contemporary concept, “social gospel,” into a situation that was not driven by what you suspect. If I am wrong about the historicity of this situation, then I am open to learning and reviewing evidence that shows the contrary.

    BTW, why your “masser/slave” wording? What are you trying to communicate or suggest with this wording? Is it warranted? It seems derogatory and unnecessary. Master versus “masser” has connotations concerning race and comes across as disrespectful. Here’s another way to approach how this wording might be perceived, when chatting with your black friends, if you talk about Jesus “masser” (versus master) how do they respond?

    “Who cares. δουλος (doulos – bondslave) is still in the New Testament in 120 places and there to stay to set you free.” and your comment about the # of times the word appears

    I don’t think we disagree on the problems of an incomplete Bible and Gospel and the omission of very critical issues. Nor, do I disagree that we are bondslaves to Christ (though doulos is not always translated bondslave, it can be slave or servant depending on context). But just because slave/doulos shows up in the NT, it isn’t going to mean anything to the reader (or listener) without context and more importantly, spiritual understanding which can’t be achieved apart from the Holy Spirit.

    In the context of the time of slavery, slaves weren’t going to read the Word (“doulos” or “slave”) nor would there be a understanding that their enslavement was different from that of the Scriptures. For example, it would be difficult for someone who is abused by their biological father to relate to a heavenly Father. Lacking compassion and understanding for the listener could lead to spiritual abuse by insisting that they embrace the word “father” apart from their experience and context. This holds true for slaves.

  • Strange… response didn’t post? (second try)

    What makes you think that the group, Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves, were social gospel activists? On what basis can you transport your definition/understanding of “social justice” and make a presumption that this is what is going on in this particular artifact?

    “There’s a hint in there to suggest that the latter might’ve been the preconditions of existence for the former. The former was what had happened when His false followers experimented with turning the gospel into social gospel.”

    Would you unpack this, please? My point is that your emphasis on the slavery aspect of the Gospel has context. It is nothing like the slavery practiced in the US in the 18th and 19th C. Historically, slave holders in the US, who self-identified as Christian, twisted the Scriptures to justify their treatment of slaves.

    I could be misunderstanding what you’re pointing out, but I don’t see where you get the notion that the Slave Bible is a social gospel. Are you suggesting that what Wilberforce did concerning the abolition of slavery is social gospel? I would argue that he lived out the Gospel that is social. God is undeniably about justice (certainly, biblical justice — God’s perspective on justice versus that of men) and the injustice of slavery (specifically, as practiced in the context of the slave bible and slavery in the US — because this is what i’m referring to). It seems like you are injecting a contemporary concept, “social gospel,” into a situation that was not driven by what you suspect. If I am wrong about the historicity of this situation, then I am open to learning and reviewing evidence that shows the contrary.

    BTW, why your “masser/slave” wording? What are you trying to communicate or suggest with this wording? Is it warranted? It seems derogatory and unnecessary. Master versus “masser” has connotations concerning race and comes across as disrespectful. Here’s another way to approach how this wording might be perceived, when chatting with your black friends, if you talk about Jesus “masser” (versus master) how do they respond?

    “Who cares. δουλος (doulos – bondslave) is still in the New Testament in 120 places and there to stay to set you free.” and your comment about the # of times the word appears

    I don’t think we disagree on the problems of an incomplete Bible and Gospel and the omission of very critical issues. Nor, do I disagree that we are bondslaves to Christ (though doulos is not always translated bondslave, it can be slave or servant depending on context). But just because slave/doulos shows up in the NT, it isn’t going to mean anything to the reader (or listener) without context and more importantly, spiritual understanding which can’t be achieved apart from the Holy Spirit.

    In the context of the time of slavery, slaves weren’t going to read the Word (“doulos” or “slave”) nor would there be a understanding that their enslavement was different from that of the Scriptures. For example, it would be difficult for someone who is abused by their biological father to relate to a heavenly Father. Lacking compassion and understanding for the listener could lead to spiritual abuse by insisting that they embrace the word “father” apart from their experience and context. This holds true for slaves.

  • It’s not so odd that the North was more open to seeing the evils of slavery. They didn’t have the same economic pressures. The Southerners who acknowledged slavery as evil had skin in the game. They are the same as a modern employee who quits their well paying job because their employer is intentionally exploiting the poor.
    Doing the right thing is easy when it doesn’t hurt. It’s much harder when the price is steep enough to impoverish you.

  • Acknowledging reality (being descriptive of what exists) is not the same thing as giving instruction. In this passage the Bible is being descriptive of a position (master/servant) but the prescriptive instructions (being submissive to authority) are not necessarily tied together. The master/servant relationship IS helpful when describing the believer’s relationship to God’s authority, though.

    The Bible also describes sexual infidelity in the lives of many OT hero’s, that doesn’t mean that the Bible is suggesting adultery is acceptable.

    Chattel slavery doesn’t have a “thou shalt not” but all of it’s practices and motives are soundly condemned by other instructive scriptures.

  • I’m going to stick with Jesus on this one…
    • He acknowledged there would be bad apples in the bunch and that they would be hard to tell from the good ones. (Parables: wheat & tares, sheep & goats)

    • He resolves this quite easily: by their fruits you shall know them. Those who produce good fruit are good, and those who produce bad fruit are bad. It’s as easy as that.

    • James: faith without works is dead.

    So, if you want to know the “proper” interpretation, ask those who (a) practice what they preach and (b) preach things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

    Furthermore, the idea that to be human is to worship a master of some kind permeates the entire Bible. Some choose to worship power, comfort, money, family, themselves, and/or sex. It asserts that these are dead/dying masters that lead to spiritual death. So we can be said to be “in bondage” to these false “gods.”

    To experience freedom from bondage to sin and death, the solution is to choose the one master (Jesus) that will lead you to life. His resurrection is proof of his authority/domination of death. It is possible for a slave to have a good and benevolent master; that is who/what Jesus has promised to be to those who love, trust, and serve him.

  • So you’re saying stick with the interpretation that conforms to your own worldview? Again your argument is a No True Scotsman fallacy. Many claim to be just as Christian as you claim to be. To live the way you describe you have to ignore vast quantities of the bible, or again make arbitary distinctions on what is literal and what is figurative. The entire Bible is supposed to be the word of God, not just the parts with Jesus in it.

    Personally I serve no master and feel free from bondage just fine. Ultimately your claims about everlasting life and the divinity of Jesus and his resurrection are purely matters of faith and certainly, even in a religious sense, aren’t the only paths to to freedom from bondage. I know many Buddhists who have far more compassion and love than any Christian I’ve known, and I’ve know some pretty loving Christians.

    There is no benevolence in a master whose punishment for a lack of servitude is eternal torment.

  • The people of the South had the same Bible as the people of the North, but—-alas—the marvelous economics of owning other people got out of control, but only for the ones who actually owned the slaves. Only some in the South owned any. The others were just peer-coerced into going along with the idea and culture.

  • As far as I’m concerned, the behavior or the OT heroes you mention make their example and authority (and even the veracity of the stories about them, for that matter) about as questionable as we now think Muhammad is a questionable “prophet” for Islam as a result of his words and behavior. I don’t go about insisting that those parts of the Bible suggest that adultery is acceptable for us now. I am more likely to insist that those parts of the Bible indicate that what we find in them is not what some call the “Word of God” at all—but is rather just some stuff that some men wrote and which happened to be preserved. We cannot be worshipping those WRITINGS selectively, saying that these guys are all Men of God while excusing what is actually their glaring obliviousness to any sensible idea of a moral code.

    As for Paul’s later letters appearing in NT, he wrote of slavery as something he hadn’t the slightest idea would ever be gotten rid of on earth. As a result, we needed a couple of thousand more years and some humanism to get abolition done. The Bible unfortunately did not provide the intellectual heft on its own.

    What did finally provide the heft in America was secular people witnessing the horrors of it all and finding their personal consciences—–plus the big Civil War and several hundred thousand deaths. Lincoln knew and admitted that he never could have engineered the emancipation of slaves EXCEPT within the circumstance that a bunch of the slave states had already seceded from the Union. The chances of our government allowing itself to just finally “do the right thing” were zero—–even with Bible influence all over the place in every state.

    I would have preferred a Bible which put Leviticus 19:18 at top of the commandment heap thousands of years before anyone did. Jesus inserted it as one of two commandments upon which he claimed all the others were based. But the religious leaders of his time did not believe any such thing, and unfortunately, great chunks of Church still don’t.

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