Slavery in the Old and New Testament Bible
1. Biblical Slavery in the Old Testament
Slavery is recorded in the Old Testament as a form of “indentured servitude with regulations,” including the release of Hebrew slaves after six years and the Jubilee Year’s emancipation.
Old Testament slavery differs from later forms of slavery and is rooted in the context and moral values of its time.
The Hebrews became enslaved people under the Assyrian, Babylonian, and the Roman empire.
2. Biblical Slavery in the New Testament
The Jews saw Jesus as the hero who would emancipate them for good from the bonds of institutional slavery. Yet, no scriptures say Jesus spoke against these atrocities against His people.
Similarly, the apostle’s indirect approach against slavery was strategic, as open opposition would have been met with swift, deadly force. Over time, these subversive efforts contributed to a slavery-free Europe.
Paul Copan argues that ‘IF’ the apostles and Christ’s disciples had been explicit about overthrowing Rome’s slavery system, it would have prevented the gospel from spreading because the government would have quashed any such flagrant opposition with speedy, lethal force.
Centuries after, Christians took a more subversive strategy by opposing oppression, the slave trade, and treating humans as cargo — which eventually led to a slavery-free Europe a few centuries later.
After all, the anti-slave movers were primarily politicians and were not devoted to spreading the gospel but ensuring service and justice to society.
3. Comparing slavery in the Bible and American slavery
Paul Copan challenges the common understanding of Biblical slavery by distinguishing it from how we understand black slavery in America and likened it to debt-servanthood or indentured servitude.
Slaves in the Old Testament were cared for, and harming them led to their immediate freedom. The New Testament addressed slavery with an emphasis on equality and compassion.
Christianity was the driving force against modern slavery
Christianity was a major force in the lives of the enslaved Africans in America because they found hope in Christ’s deliverance, just as God did when He sent the Israelites free from Eygpt’s bondage.
They called Harriett Tubman their Moses, whose faith in Christ encouraged her to help her people.
The point of correlation between Biblical and American slavery was that they were different and from different times when God allowed these things for a greater purpose.