New Testament on Slavery

tss-baseball.jpgSince we’re on the topic, I find Murray Harris’ statements helpful. Harris is professor emeritus of NT exegesis and theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In his book, Slave of Christ, He writes:

“… let us not overlook the obvious fact that Christianity did not create enslavement but inherited a deeply entrenched system of slavery. Along with almost all other contemporary religious movements, Christianity accepted slavery as an inevitable part of the social and economic status quo, without questioning or trying to justify its existence. …

Even slaves did not envision a slaveless society. None of the slave revolts during the period 140-70 BC, ending with the fall of Spartacus in 71 BC, aimed at the abolition of slavery as an institution, but only at the securing of freedom for the slaves actually involved in the rebellion. Indeed, when rebel slaves were successful in gaining their freedom, they promptly embraced the ideals and pursuits of their former owners and so perpetuated the status quo! …

But the New Testament acceptance of the status quo should not be equated with endorsement of the status quo with respect to slavery. Toleration is not the same as approval. Apostolic directives about the conditions of slavery should not be read as approval of slavery as an institution. Moreover, the silence of the New Testament writers with regard to any explicit approval of slaved should not be converted into what one writer calls ‘the clear teaching of Scripture’ [in endorsing slavery].”

– Murray J. Harris in Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ (IVP: 1999) pp. 61-62.

HT: two friends & a key

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