Does the Bible support Slavery? (read the OP first before posting)

I am a black man. So its very important that I get an honest reasonable response and not a cover up.

First of all, I don’t support slavery because it evidently destroys the dignity of the human person. Thus I think it is extremely unlikely if not evidently impossible that there is an argument in existence that can prove to me that slavery conforms to the nature of love.

Secondly; when I speak about slavery, I am not talking about prisons for criminals. I am not even talking about the labour of criminals doing time in prison or captivity. I am not against community service. That to me is not necessarily slavery, but rather payment for a crime. But even in that case perhaps even the criminal should be paid a wage. Slavery is when somebody dominates and takes the freedom of somebody weaker and forces them into extreme labour. In the case of black people, slavery was often justified by the fallacious excuse that we are less human than the Europeans who enslaved us. We were considered as sub human creatures with enough intelligence to use tools. This kind of slavery is relatively recent; and slavery is still happening to day in some parts of India and other places, if I am not mistaken. The early Jews in the days of Moses were themselves slaves.

So when I say, is slavery justified in the Bible, I mean the kind of slavery that happened to black people.

My mother and others are constantly telling me that the bible and thus the catholic faith justified slavery. They say that saint Paul said that the slave should remain with the slave owner. As a black man this obviously raises a problem since I do not want to support anybody that supports slavery. But I am hesitant to leave the faith because I see good in it, and people have said things before which I have found to be false on close examination. There are some-things I am willing to take faith on. But my faith stretches only so far.

Answers please.

My friend if you expeceting a comfortable answer, one that will satisfy the opinions of those who wish to look no further into history, you’re not going to find it. Sorry.
A few years ago I watched a doc on the History Channel about some of the great ancient philosophers, Plato, Socrates and a few others. The narrator lamented the fact that, though these men were great thinkers and ahead of their time, they NEVER addressed the ‘issue’ of slavery, and were critisized for not doing so. Why did they not condemn it?
Slavery was not condemned because it was not considered evil.
You can scour through ancient records and you will never find one great ancient thinker opposed to slavery. Why? Because it simply never occured to them to do so, it was part of societal makeup. The ancient Jews had a far humane practice of slavery than did their pagan counterparts. In fact, this might be shocking to modern liberal sensibilites, there were those who CHOSE to be slaves.

But if the slave plainly says, “I love my master, my wife, and my
children; I will not go out as a free man,” then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. (Exodus 21:5-6).

The slave in this passage, after his ear was pierced, was commonly referred to as a “bondservant”. The slave’s decision to “go under the awl” was a voluntary one and greatly influenced by the type of person the master was. His life proclaimed his love for his master. His life, and now his piercing, left no doubt about his undivided and intense loyalty.
We sit on our high horses thinking ‘oh those poor ancient fools, lost in slavery’. Have you ever stopped to consider slavery has NEVER stopped in our society? How many are slaves to debt and see most of their paychecks going to pay it off? Or slaves to drugs, alcohol, sex, ect.
You were all slaves to something.
It’s just a matter of historical perspective.

To give ones self as a “servant”, is not the same as being sold in to slavery like cattle.

Its really sad and suspicious that you have not taken this issue of slavery seriously enough to post something genuine. Instead you have tried to justify slavery.

Thank God something told me to google this issue outside of this forum

The Catholic Faith seems to think differently to you.
*Eugene IV: Sicut Dudum, 1435

On January 13, 1435, Eugene IV issued from Florence the bull Sicut Dudum. Sent to Bishop Ferdinand, located at Rubicon on the island of Lanzarote, this bull condemned the enslavement of the black natives of the newly colonized Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The Pope stated that after being converted to the faith or promised baptism, many of the inhabitants were taken from their homes and enslaved:

“They have deprived the natives of their property or turned it to their own use, and have subjected some of the inhabitants of said islands to perpetual slavery (subdiderunt perpetuae servituti), sold them to other persons and committed other various illicit and evil deeds against them… Therefore We … exhort, through the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ shed for their sins, one and all, temporal princes, lords, captains, armed men, barons, soldiers, nobles, communities and all others of every kind among the Christian faithful of whatever state, grade or condition, that they themselves desist from the aforementioned deeds, cause those subject to them to desist from them, and restrain them rigorously. And no less do We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex that, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their pristine liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands … who have been made subject to slavery (servituti subicere). These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money.”

The date of this Bull, 1435, is very significant. Nearly 60 years before the Europeans were to find the New World, we already had the papal condemnation of slavery as soon as this crime was discovered in one of the first of the Portuguese geographical discoveries. *

How embarrassing that you didn’t pick up on this in your historical research. Lucky for me I haven’t been brainwashed. This seems to support my hope that the Catholic faith is against slavery as I defined it in the OP, if you bothered to read it.

Now all I need is a defence of the Bible. Thanks for your help.

It seems to me that people are taking the world is their primary teacher. look to God for answers through His Church. good is only measured by God’s standard and not by the world standard. we must understand that the world is against God and the world is trying to tell us that God has done evil. which is not possible. the world has slaved people by their own standard and did evil to slaves. we are slaves to Christ. what is wrong with that? the world is trying to free us from God. dont be naive. we cant eliminate evil from the world. dont even try. slavery was not a bad thing if they follow the laws of God. the problem is that we dont always follow God’s Laws. that is when we get into trouble. dont think of slavery is something of black skin people. it is not really what is about. remember that Israel the people of God became slaves to egypt for hundreds of years. if America mistreated people while they served them, that was not mandated by God. God has nothing to do with such thing.

Being cattle for human desire and financial power is completely and utterly different from being a servant to God. God did not give the Americans permission to enslave black people. You are trying to justify something completely unjustifiable in the context that i am speaking about slavery. We are not slaves to God, unless you are using the word slave in a different context to the way i am using it. See my my response to the other poster before you.

The level of thinking on this forum has become dismal:(.

and i thought i had understood you.

my point is that the world is arrogant yet the world is trying to show itself to be better than God. God gave laws in slavery. slaves have been a part of Israel life. slave is nothing new. if americans mistreated slaves, they did on their own accord. the CC has condemned slavery because the Church saw what they were doing was evil by mistreating the workers. dont try to equate slavery in america with slavery in Israel.

I’m curious about this statement of yours. It’s obvious your mother (and others) are trying to turn you away from Catholicism. Are they Christian themselves? I ask because other Christian religions use the bible as their only authority, which they say condones slavery.

Slavery was an accepted institution long before the Bible was written. The law of Moses in the Old Testament permitted the Jews to own slaves but we should look upon this as merely an accomodation to the people and times and not as a divine endorsement of slavery, as divorce was permitted the Jews though it wasn’t part of God’s original plan for marriage.

Jesus Christ didn’t address the issue of slavery directly but he did say, “…whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them…” (Matthew 7:12), which logically concludes in the abolition of slavery.

In the early years of Christianity, when masters and slaves started to convert to Christianity, St. Paul advised those slaves who had become Christians to dutifully obey their human masters and he advised those masters who had become Christians to treat their slaves decently and to treat their Christian slaves as beloved brothers in the Lord. St. Paul’s advice to the new converts should be looked upon as an accommodation to the people and times and not as a divine endorsement of slavery.

The Catholic Church’s present teaching against slavery seems to have developed over a long period of time. The Catholic Church seems to have been fairly quick to forbid Christians from owning other Christians as slaves. However, it seems to have taken much longer for the Catholic Church to forbid Christians from owning non-Christian slaves. See the article on “Slavery” in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Concerning slavery, the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2414. The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian - lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother,… both in the flesh and in the Lord.” [Philemon 1:16]

You may have found this already in your search, but in case you haven’t here is an article on slavery and Christianity in the New Advent encyclopedia. Here’s a quote

Christianity accepts society as it is, influencing it for its transformation through, and only through, individual souls. What it demands in the first place from masters and from slaves is, to live as brethren — commanding with equity, without threatening, remembering that God is the master of all - obeying with fear, but without servile flattery, in simplicity of heart, as they would obey Christ (cf. Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:22-4; 4:1).

Primitive Christianity did not attack slavery directly; but it acted as though slavery did not exist. By inspiring the best of its children with this heroic charity, examples of which have been given above, it remotely prepared the way for the abolition of slavery. To reproach the Church of the first ages with not having condemned slavery in principle, and with having tolerated it in fact, is to blame it for not having let loose a frightful revolution, in which, perhaps, all civilization would have perished with Roman society.

You are contradicting yourself. The church has condemned slavery because slavery as i have defined it is wrong; it is not because of the mistreatment of workers. This is evidently shown in the link that i have posted. When your ready to be honest with yourself give me a post.

This is from another thread. Despite the humor, it is a demand that any who believe the Bible was dictated by an unchanging God must justify how some verses could possibly come from His mouth. I’ve knocked out bits that might throw the thread off track, and not linked it for the same reason.

*Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can … I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
    … 5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
    … 10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.
    Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
    Your adoring fan,…
    PS. It would be a dammed shame if I couldn’t own a Canadian.*

The Bible contains verses that were used by some Christians to justify the slave trade. I don’t think that included the Church.

All the books in the Bible were written by fallible men, even unto Paul, and so it must be interpreted in its entirety through the Spirit.

The Spirit tells us that we are all children of God and hence owning anyone else, treating anyone else as an object, or entertaining any form of prejudice is and always has been despicable to an unchanging God.

Thank you for your reply. I feel compelled to agree with you.

Thank you for posting this. It leads me to consider that paul did challenge slavery, although he did it via theological expressions rather than as a loud protest. He challenged the human heart, rather than take up arms against physical bodies.


I think it is extremely unlikely if not evidently impossible that there is an argument in existence that can prove to me that slavery conforms to the nature of love.

Agreed. Because love by definition is the willing of the good of the other person, not the willing of your own good. But “pure” slavery is when one human being is converted into the good of another without any reference to what is good for the one subjected. So what belongs to the subjected belongs to the master–from the product of his labor to his body to his life.

So when one man’s very life is unconditionally subject to the absolute will of another man–when you have “pure” slavery–it has nothing to do with love and is thus against the Gospel of love. It is rank injustice on behalf of selfishness, under cover of lies.

… black people…were considered as sub human creatures with enough intelligence to use tools. This kind of slavery is relatively recent; and slavery is still happening to day in some parts of India and other places, if I am not mistaken. The early Jews in the days of Moses were themselves slaves.

Yes, the black people in the States before the Civil War were subjected to the absolute form of slavery, as were the Jews in Egypt–that is, the master could impose anything including death at will without any restraints whatsoever. Man’s inhumanity to man. The mind-boggling injustice, not to mention cruelty, of this slavery recalls other mass enslavements and slaughters in modern times–Stalin killed millions, Mao also, millions killed in Cambodia; not to mentions Hitler’s slaughter, and not to forget our own slaughter since Roe v Wade of 45+ million of our own unborn children, treated as absolute property.

Without Christ there is no hope for fallen man; no escape from our cruelty to each other. So we look to Him and to His Church.

I am very glad you found the 1435 bull Sicut Dudum. Before this new tide of absolute slavery for the New World began to be commited upon the African peoples, the Catholic Church was already on record against such practices–which had vanished from the areas reached by Her authority. People forget to evaluate an event within its historical context. Research shows that the Church walked Europe out of slavery over time–that is, until Protestantism exterminated America’s native peoples and enslaved other peoples to build wealth in the new world.

Please note a major generalization: Why do we have what we call Mexicans today? Because, despite the bloody battles, the incoming Spanish then married the native peoples (after destroying the devil-worship). They neither exterminated nor enslaved them–I am speaking generally here. Meanwhile the Protestant Europeans did their best to wipe out the natives farther north, eventually corralling the remnants. People do not give the Catholic Church any credit, when She did in fact succeed in protecting from and putting down slavery in the lands where she had some power. It is North America which is infamous for black slavery–not South America. It is not Catholicism which settled North America, but Protestantism–let us note.

I believe the Christians in Sudan are being forced into slavery by their Islamic neighbors to this day.

They say that saint Paul said that the slave should remain with the slave owner.

We read this as “remain as Christian brother with Christian brother.” St. Paul also said, “be ye subject to one another,” why don’t we include this quote to give context for the other quote? Saying “be subject to each other” in the context of Paul’s times was revolutionary. You cannot overturn such a culture-wide financial mechanism overnight however wicked; but you can soften and discourage it such that it is on the road to extinction, as Abraham Lincoln said was a good strategy in the face of such an entrenched thing.

There are some-things I am willing to take faith on. But my faith stretches only so far.

I am not clear how this matter of slavery is a matter of faith. I think the Church has never in 2,000 years taught it was good to enslave anybody even conditionally. It is in Her teachings that we must have faith. I do know that She repeatedly acted to modify and moderate the practice (such as your Bull), and that under Her growing authority Europe emerged from the Dark Ages into the Middle Ages–and out of slavery into serfdom tending toward freedmen with large landlords. How to explain this disappearance of slavery from Europe? (Until the so-called “Enlightenment” when classical Roman values including Roman slavery re-awakened in Europe and seemed to give the newly Protestant peoples license to enslave). (I’m not saying no individual Catholic was involved in the slave trade–I’m saying it was Protestant America which formed the market for African slaves, the market being “stocked” by bad “Christians” some of whom were Catholics disobedient to their Church.)

We should notice and beware when the Church is criticized for historical events–she was/is both weaker and greater than her critics understand.

Would some reading in history be helpful, as an antidote to the slanted “history” popularly taken for granted today?

Belloc’s The Servile State is an easy read, and very illuminating. Those Terrible Middle Ages by Pernoud is entertaining in its peevishness and revolutionary if one has never heard the other side.

To go deep into history is to cease to be Protestant–I believe Cardinal Newman said that. May I say, do not fear to research this matter as much as you have to time to do–it will vindicate the Church, giving you all the ammunition you need to defend Her to your family and to stay staunch yourself.


First of all: there is no basis in the New Testament whatsoever for the idea that certain races of people are inferior or more suited to slavery. In the Old Testament, the enslaving (in the sense you define–what is often called “chattel slavery”) of fellow Hebrews is forbidden, but the enslaving of others is allowed, and of course the infamous “curse of Ham” passage in Genesis says that the Canaanites had been doomed to slavery by Noah because of the disrespectful behavior of their ancestor Ham. But this is based on the view that God had chosen Israel in a special way. Even in the Old Testament you start to see the message that God has chosen Israel for the benefit of other nations, and of course this is fully affirmed in the New Testament. Furthermore, there is no basis whatever for translating the Hebrews’ attitude to other nations into a view that one particular Christian nation has been chosen above others. It that attitude applies at all, it would apply to the distinction between Christians and non-Christians. And in fact that’s the traditional Christian view–enslaving other Christians is wrong, but enslaving non-Christians may be permissible. Repellent as this is, you can see that it doesn’t allow for the permanent enslavement of other races, because eventually the slaves would become Christians and be freed. Only in the modern era did Christian/post-Christian Westerners move away from this traditional view and start to argue that even Christians could be enslaved if they were of “inferior” races.

The New Testament does assume that some Christians own slaves, and it does not say that they should immediately free them. However, it does not in any way support the enslavement of free people. And while ancient Roman slavery could be horrific, it was often a temporary condition–the freeing of slaves was a common practice and many freed slaves became quite prosperous. So the fact that the New Testament doesn’t mandate the immediate freeing of all slaves doesn’t mean that it “supports” slavery, only that given the conditions of ancient Roman slavery it focuses on good treatment of slaves and on the truth that slaves and free are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

In short: we can’t say unequivocally that the Bible condemns slavery, but it certainly does not actively support it either, and the modern chattel slavery fueled by racism had no support in the New Testament and could only claim Old Testament support through creative misinterpretation.


God freed the Hebrew’s from slavery and reminded them often that they were once slaves.

When the Hebrews invaded the peoples of Caanan God had instructed them to wipe them out, men , women, children and livestock. There would be no spoils of war for God’s people. Because Joshua failed to enforce the ban the Hebrews were forced to manage a hostile population among them. Because of that, human beings became spoils of war. An integral economic component of western culture was born. Slavery IMO was the result of the failure to obey God’s will. If Joshua had enforced the ban on the Caananites the cultures that sprang from them would not have been polluted with instituted slavery as a vital component of their economic systems. The People of God would have been a living testimony against the kind of slavery that reduces human life to that of common livestock.

I believe the Christians in Sudan are being forced into slavery by their Islamic neighbors to this day.

Yes, this is :frowning: sadly true.
It is also (equally:( sadly) true that it was the Islamic neighbors of those African folk that ended up slaves in the Americas, who were the ones who sold them into slavery…
Islam seems to have a singularly:mad: pernicious record in regard to the treatment of those who are not part of their own “we-happy-few”.

I would also point out, that my own (Irish& hence white) ancestors, on one side of the family, were brought to America by their English (& hence white) owners…
I say this only to explain that slavery in many forms has existed throughout history. Some slaveowners were kind (though seeing their slaves as less than themsleves). Others were vicious in the extreme (and frequently vicious toward anybody else they saw as “subhuman”. This generally included their children & all their womenfolk).

I am not making excuses for slavery. I am simply saying that it is a more complex question than most people realize…Especially when you factor in the number of non-white Americans who were slaveowners.
I am truly glad to live in the present day. For all its own problems, the condemnation of slavery is a modern thing. And not before time. (The 1960s. I know: we talked about it in my high school history class when the UN passed this declaration).

Please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!! It’s tempting; but it also ignores the facts of history.

God bless all here.

Just my opinion…but some of the answers on this thread were kind of condescending. The original poster was asking for reassurance that the Catholic Church and his fellow Catholics do not condone slavery and what he got was a bunch of semantics. I am glad that at least one of the posters saw that and gave him an absolute answer that slavery is not supported or defended by the church. He even explained that as a black man the idea does not sit well with him. Most mature people would sympathize with him and give him a straight forward answer.

Anyway, I would also like to point out that whether or not Africans sold other Africans into slavery or non-whites owned slaves, has nothing to do with the question of slavery being supported by the church. If the church says it is wrong, it is wrong. Also the fact the other races have been held as slaves doesn’t justify slavery either. Again, wrong is wrong.

Just my two cents.

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