Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Does Scripture condemn slavery?

Does Scripture condemn slavery?

The first rule in answering a question is in knowing where to look for an answer. If you were looking for a Biblical condemnation of slavery, where would be the logical place to find it?

Well, if it’s a condemnation you’re searching for, don’t you just suppose that an oracle of judgment might be the first place to look?

After all, that’s what oracles of judgment are for. Meting out condemnation.

In Ezk 27, we have an oracle of judgment against Tyre. And the slave-trade is placed in the emphatic position at the outset of the catalogue of vices for which Tyre is culpable (v13).

Tyre, as a seafaring power, was central to the ANE slave-trade.

This oracle is then picked up by John in his eschatological oracle of judgment against Roman, under the pseudonym of Babylon.

Once again, the slave-trade is placed in the emphatic position, but this time at the conclusion of the catalogue of vices for which imperial Rome is culpable (18:13).

Cf. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy (T&T Clark), 350-71.

Thus, Ezk 27 and Rev 18 form two matching and opposing panels of judgment, with slavery accentuated at either end.

Now, if you were a slave-master who found your occupation prominently displayed in oracles of the great assize, then that might send just a wee bit of a hint that a career change was highly advisable.

Well, that’s if you could read the Bible—unlike John Loftus.


  1. Not to mention Exodus 21:16.

  2. The question is loaded. Without getting into details there are legitimate forms of slavery.