There’s no doubt about it – the New Testament letters justify slavery. If one regards the New Testament as the ‘word of G_d’, then one has some explaining to do!
Keeping slaves was a common practice in Greek and Roman society, and the coming of Christianity made virtually no difference.
The most important letters in the New Testament are those attributed to Paul of Tarsus. Paul’s letters have been used to support many things, among them misogyny, sexual abstention, gender inequality, self-flagellation (more of these later) and slavery. However, scholars believe only seven of these letters were actually composed by him, including his letter to Philemon. Here he pleads with the addressee to take back a former slave ‘no longer as a slave but as .…. a beloved brother’ (Philemon 15-16).
The author of the First Letter of Peter (1 Peter 2: 18-24) urged Christian slaves to accept the authority of their masters with all deference and take whatever punishment they were handed out whether they had ‘earned’ it or not.Note – the disciple Peter who knew Yeshua in his lifetime was not the genuine author.
Neither letter said that slavery was wrong.
These letters were widely used to justify slavery, especially the kind of racial slavery seen in the Americas and Caribbean in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries where it was used to advance European economic interests. Thankfully slavery is not sanctioned in most Christian countries today, but it has never been entirely eliminated and still has its apologists in some Christian circles.
©David Lawrence Preston, 5.3.2016
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