Jesus and slavery

When explaining the Church’s position on women and priestly ordination, I have frequently pointed out that Jesus never “caved in to the culture.” However, I wonder if I have found a weak point in my argument: did Jesus “cave in” and tacitly accept the institution of slavery? I have found no evidence that he condemned slavery, and he did heal the centurion’s slave in Luke 7 without freeing him or commenting on his enslavement. St. Paul also exhorted slaves to “obey your masters” in Ephesians 6, and made other comments elsewhere, but I cannot find where he disapproved of slavery.

Can anyone help me out?

I think you first have to understand that slavery of the ancient times was very different from the slavery of the American South. Slaves, although not magnificently treated, were in most cases adequately treated. In fact, the famous Aesop was a slave, and yet he knew how to write Greek.

Many slaves in ancient times were the survivors of cities destroyed in wars. It was far less uncommon that “slave traders” would capture individuals simply for slavery, as the Portuguese did much later.

So, in short, I think that the slavery in the New Testament was not quite as harsh as the slavery in the American South.

Another thing: The Bible, besides telling slaves to obey their masters, also tells masters to treat their slaves with kindness. Therefore, Jesus indirectly through Scripture does condemn unfair slavery.

Hope that helps

because Jesus’ mission was not to overturn the system by political action, which abolition of slavery would be, nor did he come to liberate those under Roman rule, which the Jews expected, nor did he come to establish “social justice” or “liberation theology”. He came to teach and “be” the gospel, enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount and expanded on in his ministry, and demonstrated in his salvific action. he left if for us to internalize, believe and act on his message since it is we who are to further the kingdom on earth. he came to change individual hearts, not political systems.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit