- Slavery and religion
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Slavery in the Bible
The Genesis narrative about the Curse of Ham has often been held to be an aetiological story, giving a reason for the enslavement of the Canaanites. The word ham is very similar to the Hebrew word for black/hot, which is cognate with an Egyptian word (khem, meaning black) used to refer to Egypt itself, in reference to the fertile black soil along the Nile valley. Although many scholars therefore view Ham as an eponym used to represent Egypt in the Table of Nations, a number of Christians throughout history, including Origen and the Cave of Treasures, have argued for the alternate proposition that Ham represents all black people, his name symbolising their dark skin colour; pro-slavery advocates, from Eutychius of Alexandria and John Philoponus, to American pro-slavery apologists, have therefore occasionally interpreted the narrative as a condemnation of all black people to slavery. A few Christians, like Jerome, even took up the racist notion that black people inherently had a soul as black as [their] body.
Slavery was customary in antiquity, and it is condoned by the Torah, which occasionally compels it. The Bible uses the Hebrew term ebed to refer to slavery; however, ebed has a much wider meaning than the English term slavery, and in several circumstances it is more accurately translated into English as servant. It was seen as legitimate to enslave captives obtained through warfare, but not through kidnapping. Children could also be sold into debt bondage, which was sometimes ordered by a court of law.
As with the Hittite Laws and the Code of Hammurabi, the bible does set minimum rules for the conditions under which slaves were to be kept. Slaves were to be treated as part of an extended family; they were allowed to celebrate the Sukkot festival, and expected to honour Shabbat. Israelite slaves could not be compelled to work with rigour, and debtors who sold themselves as slaves to their creditors had to be treated the same as a hired servant. If a master harmed a slave in one of the ways covered by the lex talionis, the slave was to be compensated by manumission; if the slave died within 24 to 48 hours, he or she was to be avenged (whether this refers to the death penalty or not is uncertain).
Israelite slaves were automatically manumitted after six years of work, and/or at the next Jubilee (occurring either every 49 or every 50 years, depending on interpretation), although the latter would not apply if the slave was owned by an Israelite and wasn't in debt bondage. Slaves released automatically in their 7th year of service, which did not include female slaves, or did, were to be given livestock, grain, and wine, as a parting gift (possibly hung round their necks). This 7th-year manumission could be voluntarily renounced, which would be signified, as in other Ancient Near Eastern nations, by the slave gaining a ritual ear piercing; after such renunciation, the individual was enslaved forever (and not released at the Jubilee). Non-Israelite slaves were always to be enslaved forever, and treated as inheritable property.
In several Pauline epistles, and the First Epistle of Peter, slaves are admonished to obey their masters, as to the Lord, and not to men; however these particular Pauline epistles are also those whose Pauline authorship is doubted by many modern scholars. By contrast, the First Epistle to the Corinthians, one of the undisputed epistles, describes lawfully obtained manumission as the ideal for slaves. Another undisputed epistle is that to Philemon, which has become an important text in regard to slavery, being used by pro-slavery advocates as well as by abolitionists; in the epistle, Paul returns Onesimus, a fugitive slave, back to his master nature, which was opposed to the equality in which mankind was created. However, more mainstream forms of first century Judaism didn't exhibit such qualms about slavery, and ever since the 2nd century expulsion of Jews from Judea, wealthy Jews have owned non-Jewish slaves, wherever it was legal to do so; nevertheless, manumissions were approved by Jewish religious officials on the slightest of pretexts, and court cases concerning manumission were nearly always decided in favour of freedom, whenever there was uncertainty towards the facts
The Talmud, a document of great importance in Judaism, made many rulings which had the effect of making manumission easier and more likely:
- The costly and compulsory giving of gifts was restricted the 7th-year manumission only
- The price of freedom was reduced to a proportion of the original purchase price rather than the total fee of a hired servant, and could be reduced further if the slave had become weak or sickly (and therefore less saleable).
- Voluntary manumission became officially possible, with the introduction of the manumission deed (the shetar shihrur), which was counted as prima facie proof of manumission.
- Verbal declarations of manumission could no longer be revoked.
- Putting phylacteries on the slave, or making him publicly read three or more verses from the Torah, was counted as a declaration of the slave's manumission
- Extremely long term sickness, for up to 4 years in total, couldn't count against the slave's right to manumission after six years of enslavement
Jewish participation in the slave trade itself was also regulated by the Talmud. Fear of apostasy lead to the Talmudic discouragement of the sale of Jewish slaves to non-Jews, although loans were allowed; similarly slave trade with Tyre was only to be for the purpose of removing slaves from non-Jewish religion. Religious racism meant that the Talmudic writers completely forbade the sale or transfer of Canaanite slaves out from Palestine to elsewhere. Other types of trade were also discouraged: men selling themselves to women, and post-pubescent daughters being sold into slavery by their fathers. Pre-pubescent slave girls sold by their fathers had to be freed-then-married by their new owner, or his son, when she started puberty; slaves could not be allowed to marry free Jews, although masters were often granted access to the services of the wives of any of their slaves
According to the Talmudic law, killing of a slave is punishable in the same way as killing of a freeman, even it was committed by the owner. While slaves are considered the owner's property, they may not work on Sabbath and holidays; they may acquire and hold property of the own.
Several prominent Jewish writers of the Middle Ages took offense at the idea that Jews might be enslaved; Joseph Caro and Maimonides both argue that calling a Jew slave was so offensive that it should be punished by excommunication. However, they did not condemn enslavement of non-Jews. Indeed, they argued that the biblical rule, that slaves should be freed for certain injuries, should actually only apply to slaves who had converted to Judaism; additionally, Maimonides argued that this manumission was really punishment of the owner, and therefore it could only be imposed by a court, and required evidence from witnesses. Unlike the biblical law protecting fugitive slaves, Maimonides argued that such slaves should compelled to buy their freedom.
At the same time, Maimonides and other halachic authorities forbade of strongly discouraged any unethical treatment of slaves. According to the traditional Jewish law, a slave is more like an indentured servant, who has rights and should be treated almost like a member of the owner's family. Maimonides wrote that, regardless whether a slave is Jewish or not, "The way of the pious and the wise is to be compassionate and to pursue justice, not to overburden or oppress a slave, and to provide them from every dish and every drink. The early sages would give their slaves from every dish on their table. They would feed their servants before sitting to their own meals... Slaves may not be maltreated of offended - the law destined them for service, not for humiliation. Do not shout at them or be angry with them, but hear them out." In another context, Maimonides wrote that all the laws of slavery are "mercy, compassion and forbearance"."
Slavery in different forms existed within Christianity for over 18 centuries. Although in the early years of Christianity, freeing slaves was regarded as an act of charity, the actual institution of slavery was rarely criticised. Indeed, in 340, the Synod of Gangra condemned the Manicheans for their urging that slaves should liberate themselves; the canons of the Synod instead declared that anyone preaching abolitionism should be anathematised, and that slaves had a Christian obligation to submit to their masters. Augustine of Hippo, who renounced his former Manicheanism, argued that slavery was part of the mechanism to preserve the natural order of things; John Chrysostom, regarded as a saint by Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, argued that slaves should be resigned to their fate, as by obeying his master he is obeying God but also stated that Slavery is the fruit of covetousness, of extravagance, of insatiable greediness in his Epist. ad Ephes.
In the 15th century, some of the Popes legitimized slavery, at least as a result of war. In 1452 Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas, which granted Afonso V of Portugal the right to reduce any "Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers" to hereditary slavery. The approval of slavery under these conditions was reaffirmed and extended in his Romanus Pontifex bull of 1455.
In 1488 Pope Innocent VIII accepted the gift of 100 slaves from Ferdinand II of Aragon and distributed those slaves to his cardinals and the Roman nobility. Also, in 1639 Pope Urban VIII purchased slaves for himself from the Knights of Malta.
Other Popes in the 15th and 16th century denounced slavery as a great crime, including Pius II, Paul III, and Eugene IV. In addition, the Dominican friars who arrived at the Spanish settlement at Santo Domingo in 1510 strongly denounced the enslavement of the local Indians. Along with other priests, they opposed their treatment as unjust and illegal in an audience with the Spanish king and in the subsequent royal commission. As a response to this position, the Spanish monarchy's subsequent Requerimiento provided a religious justification for the enslavement of the local populations, on the pretext of refusing conversion to Roman Catholicism and therefore denying the authority of the Pope.
Some other Christian organizations were slaveholders. The 18th century evangelical Protestant Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts owned the Codrington Plantation, in Barbados, containing several hundred slaves, branded on their chests with the word Society. George Whitefield, famed for his sparking of the so-called Great Awakening of American evangelicalism, overturned a province-wide ban against slavery, and went on to own several hundred slaves himself.
At other times, Christian groups worked against slavery. The seventh century Saint Eloi used his vast wealth to purchase British and Saxon slaves in groups of 50 and 100 in order to set them free. The Quakers in particular were early leaders in abolitionism, attacking slavery since at least 1688. In 1787 the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed, with 9 of the 12 founder members being Quakers; William Wilberforce, an early supporter of the society, went on to push through the 1807 Slave Trade Act, striking a major blow against the transatlantic slave trade. Leaders of Methodism and Presbyterianism also vehemently denounced human bondage, convincing their congregations to do likewise; Methodists subsequently made the repudiation of slavery a condition of membership.
In the southern United States, however, support for slavery was strong; anti-slavery literature was prevented from passing through the postal system, and even sermons, from the famed English preacher Charles Spurgeon, were burned due to their censure of slavery. When civil war broke out, to settle the question of the limits of federal power, slavery became one of the issues which would be decided by the outcome; the southern defeat lead to a constitutional ban on slavery. Despite the general emancipation of slaves, members of fringe Christian groups like the Christian Identity movement, and the Ku Klux Klan (a white supremacist hate group) see the enslavement of Africans positive aspect of American history.
In the United States Christianity not only held views about Slavery but Slaves practiced their own form of Christianity. Prior to the work of Melville Herskovits in 1941 it was widely believed that all elements of African culture were destroyed by the horrific experiences of Africans forced to come to the United States of America. Since his groundbreaking work scholarship has found that Slave Christianity existed as an extraordinarily creative patchwork of African and Christian religious tradition. The slaves brought with them a wide variety of religious traditions including both tribal shamanism and Islam. Beyond that, tribal traditions could vary to a high degree across the African continent.
There were, however, some commonalities across the majority of tribal traditions. Perhaps the primary understanding of tribal traditions was that there was not a separation of the sacred and the secular. All life was sacred and the supernatural was present in every facet and focus of life. Most tribal traditions highlighted this experience of the supernatural in ecstatic experiences of the supernatural brought on by ritual song and dance. Repetitious music and dancing were often used to bring on these experiences through the use of drums and chanting. The realization of these experiences was in the "possession" of a worshipper in which one not only is taken over by the divine but actually becomes one with the divine.
Echoes of African tribal traditions can be seen in the Christianity practiced by slaves in the Americas. The song, dance, and ecstatic experiences of traditional tribal religion were Christianized and practiced by slaves in what is called the "Ring Shout."  This practice was a major mark of African American Christianity during the slavery period.
In certain circumstances, Islam allows for slavery. Such slaves are to be able to purchase or acquire their freedom in various ways. The prophet Muhammad had several slaves himself. He himself said one of the best deeds is to free a slave. In total his household and friends freed 39,237 slaves. One of them bore him a son, who died as an infant. The slavery endorsed by the Qur'an limited the source of slaves to the children of two slave parents and non-Muslims captured in war. The Qur'an provides for emancipation of a slave as a means (or in one case, a requirement of) demonstrating remorse for the commission of certain sins. Proclamations of emancipation and repudiations of participation in slave trafficking did not occur in Muslim lands until after the Christian-European Colonial era - as late as 1962 in Saudi Arabia, 1970 in Oman and Yemen, and 1981 in Mauritania.
The Caste system in India has often been compared to slavery or slave-like practices. In ancient and medieval times, lower caste Hindus (dubbed "Untouchables" or, more recently Dalits) have had reduced social statuses similar to slaves. Lower Caste Hindus' lives incorporated rigid segregation and bonded labor practices. Justification for such acts was often provided through the use of careful selection of scripture from the vast plethora of Hindu religious literature. However, mainstream Hinduism never condoned or accepted outright slavery.
The purported slavery-like status of the lower Castes, while distinct from others as in ownership - nonetheless permitted freedom for them. Hindus and scholars debate whether the caste system is an integral part of Hinduism sanctioned by the scriptures or an outdated social custom. The most ancient scriptures place little importance on caste and indicate social mobility (Rig Veda 9.112.3), while later scriptures such as the non sacred Manusmriti state that the four varnas are created by God, implying immutability. Manusmriti, (dated between 200 BCE and 100 CE), contains laws that codified the caste system, reducing the flexibility of social mobility and excluding the untouchables from society, yet this system was originally non-heritable (Manu Smriti X:65). It is uncertain when the caste system become heritable and akin to slavery.
British colonialists, in the 19th century, exploited these divisions by mistranslating scriptures in Hinduism (such as the Manusmriti) and attaching undue weight to its importance over other more normative religious scripture in the religion in order to foster sectarian divisions among Hindus as part of the Divide and rule strategy employed by the crown. Nonetheless, a large number of Hindu reform movements in the 19th century metamorphosed the landscape of Hindu thought. Hindu reformers aggressively campaigned against any slavery of the lower castes and rendered the idea abhorrent to most mainstream Hindus.
In contemporary times, allegations of apartheid are often drawn against Hindus by partisan political activists. These charge are debunked by academics and scholars, given India's commitment to affirmative action. Substantial improvements have taken place in the rights of Dalits (former "Untouchables") enshrined in the Constitution of India (primarily written by a Dalit, Ambedkar), which is the principal object of article 17 in the Constitution as implemented by the Protection of Civil rights Act, 1955  and the fact that India has had a Dalit, K.R. Narayanan, for a president, as well as the disappearance of the practice in urban public life.Thus, mainstream sociologists such as Kevin Reilly, Stephen Kaufman, Angela Bodino, while being critical of Casteism, conclude that modern India does not practice any "apartheid" since there is no state sanctioned discrimination. They write that Casteism in India is presently "not apartheid. In fact, untouchables, as well as tribal people and members of the lowest castes in India benefit from broad affirmative action programs and are enjoying greater political power."
Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith, commended Queen Victoria for abolishing the slave trade in a letter written to her majesty between 1868-1872. Bahá'u'lláh also forbids slavery in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas written around 1873 considered by Bahá'ís to be the holiest book revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in which he states, "It is forbidden you to trade in slaves, be they men or women".
- ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Ham
- ^ Origen, Homilies, on Genesis 16:1
- ^ (edited by Ciala Kourcikidzé), The cave of treasures: Georgian version, translated by Jean-Pierre Mahé in The written corpus of eastern Christianity 526-27, part of Scriptores Iberici 23-24 (Louvain, 1992-93), 21:38-39
- ^ Goldenberg, D. M. (2003). The Curse of Ham. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, page 141.
- ^ (edited by J.P. Migne), Complete course in Patrology…Greek series, (Paris, 1857-66), on Annals 111:917B:41-43
- ^ A. Sanda, Opposcula Monophysitica Johannes Philoponi (Beirut, 1930), page 96
- ^ Haynes, S. R. (2002). Noah's Curse. New York: Oxford University Press, page 71.
- ^ Felder, C. H. (2002). Race, Racism, and the Biblical Narratives. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress, page 8.
- ^ Jerome, Homilies, 1:3:28
- ^ Exodus 22:2-3
- ^ Deuteronomy 21:10-11
- ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Slaves and Slavery
- ^ Deuteronomy 20:10-16
- ^ Deuteronomy 24:7
- ^ Exodus 20:10-16
- ^ Leviticus 25:44
- ^ Isaiah 22:2-3
- ^ 2 Kings 4:1-7
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Slaves and Slavery
- ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible (1962), on Exodus 21:18-27
- ^ a b Deuteronomy 16:14
- ^ Exodus 20:10
- ^ Leviticus 25:43
- ^ Leviticus 25:53
- ^ Leviticus 25:39
- ^ Exodus 21:26-27
- ^ Exodus 21:20-21
- ^ a b c d e f g Maimonides, Mishneh Torah
- ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Avenger of Blood
- ^ Leviticus 25:47-55
- ^ Exodus 21:7
- ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Law, Codification of
- ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible (1962), on Exodus 21:2-11
- ^ Deuteronomy 15:12
- ^ Deuteronomy 15:13-14
- ^ Thomas Kelly Cheyne and John Sutherland Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica (1903), article on Slavery
- ^ Exodus 21:5-6
- ^ Thomas Kelly Cheyne and John Sutherland Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica (1903), article on Slavery
- ^ Leviticus 25:44-46
- ^ Ephesians 6:5-8
- ^ Colossians 3:22-25
- ^ 1 Timothy 6:1
- ^ Titus 2:9-10
- ^ 1 Peter 2:18
- ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. ISBN 0-19-515462-2. , page 385
- ^ Udo Schnelle, Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology (2003), [english translation published 2005]
- ^ Hermann Detering, The Falsified Paul (1995)
- ^ Stephen G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles (1979)
- ^ Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction (1974)
- ^ W. Bujard, Stilanalytische Untersuchungen zum Kolosserfrief als Beitrag zur Methodik von Sprachvergleichen (1973)
- ^ E J Goodspeed, Key to Ephesians (1956), page 6
- ^ Mitton, The Epistle to the Ephesians (1951), pages 245-255
- ^ Alfred Loisy, The Origins of the New Testament (1936)
- ^ Percy Neale Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (1921)
- ^ Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Works (1845)
- ^ also partially advocated by Desiderius Erasmus
- ^ Seven of the Pauline Epistles are regarded as genuine by most scholars; academics therefore use the term undisputed epistles to collectively refer to these seven
- ^ 1 Corinthians 7:21-23
- ^ Religion and the Antebellum Debate Over Slavery, by John R. McKivigan, Mitchell Snay
- ^ God Against Slavery, p. 140, by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D
- ^ Philo, On the contemplative life
- ^ The Minor Tractates, Abadim 9:6
- ^ Gittin 1:6
- ^ Gittin, 4:6
- ^ Gittin, 46b
- ^ Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), article on Fairs
- ^ Gittin 4:6
- ^ Gittin 4:5
- ^ Kiddushin 22a
- ^ Encyclopedia Judaica, 2007, vol. 18, p. 668
- ^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, 6:14
- ^ Joseph Caro, Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreah De'ah 334
- ^ Encyclopedia Judaica, 2007, vol. 18, p. 670
- ^ http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/305549/jewish/Torah-Slavery-and-the-Jews.htm
- ^ Slavery in the Middle Ages
- ^ Augustine of Hippo, City of God
- ^ Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988), page 114
- ^ Henri Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade (1957), page 263
- ^ http://medicolegal.tripod.com/catholicsvslavery.htm Leroy J. Pletten, Roman Catholic Church Opposition to Slavery (2005)
- ^ a b Allard, Paul (1912). "Slavery and Christianity". Catholic Encyclopedia. XIV. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14036a.htm. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
- ^ Bermejo, S.J., Luis M. (1992). Infallibity on Trial. London: Christian Classics, Inc.. pp. 315–316. ISBN 0870611909.
- ^ Alessandro Farnese, Sublimus Dei (1537) - online copy
- ^ Gabriele Condulmer, Sicut Dudum (1435) - online copy
- ^ Thomas, Hugh (2003). Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 258–262. ISBN 0297645633.
- ^ Thomas, Hugh (2003). Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 266. ISBN 0297645633.
- ^ BBC News story about a belated official apology for the Society's crimes
- ^ Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains, The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery (2005), page 61
- ^ Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth Century (1980), Volume 2
- ^ Edward J. Cashin, Beloved Bethesda : A History of George Whitefield's Home for Boys (2001)
- ^ Life in Medieval Times by Marjorie Rowling
- ^ Thoughts Upon Slavery, John Wesley, Published in the year 1774, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, 1996 Ruth A. Daugherty
- ^ Charles G. Finney, Memoirs (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1876), 324
- ^ "Westward Expansion and Development of Abolitionist Thought", Kentucky underground railroad
- ^ The Christian Cabinet, Dec. 14 1859
- ^ Charles H. Lippy, "Slave Christianity" in Modern Christianity to 1900: A People's History of Christianity, ed. Amanda Porterfield (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 291-292.
- ^ a b Charles H. Lippy, "Slave Christianity" in Modern Christianity to 1900: A People's History of Christianity, ed. Amanda Porterfield (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 295.
- ^ Charles H. Lippy, "Slave Christianity" in Modern Christianity to 1900: A People's History of Christianity, ed. Amanda Porterfield (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 299-300.
- ^ Montgomery Watt, Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman. Oxford University Press, 1961, page 226.
- ^ Alex Michaels, Hinduism: Past and Present 188-97 (Princeton 2004) ISBN 0-691-08953-1
- ^ Caste System View of Scholars
- ^ The Constitution of India by P.M. Bakshi, Universal Law Publishing Co, ISBN 8175345004
- ^ Mendelsohn, Oliver & Vicziany, Maria, "The Untouchables, Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India", Cambridge University Press, 1998
- ^ a b Kevin Reilly, Stephen Kaufman, Angela Bodino, Racism: A Global Reader P21, M.E. Sharpe, 2003 ISBN 0765610604.
- ^ "Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets to the Rulers" by Juan R.I. Cole, Department of History, University of Michigan
- ^ "A Description of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas" page 14 by Shoghí Effendí Rabbání
- ^ "The Kitáb-i-Aqdas" Paragraph 72 by Bahá'u'lláh
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