The Bible both prohibits certain kinds of slavery, and permits other kinds, and so does America's own U.S. Constitution by the 13th Amendment, which abolished only certain forms of slavery but permitted some slavery.
- The Bible condemns kidnapping as a capital crime, and kidnapping is what fueled the African slave trade to America from the 1500s to 1800s. Therefore, because the Old and New Testaments (Ex. 21:16; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; etc.) condemn kidnapping, the teaching of Scripture condemns virtually the entirety of American slavery.
- Condemnation of kidnapping includes for the purpose of selling into slavery. “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death. Ex. 21:16
- And again, this is an Old Testament and a New Testament crime: "[T]he law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless... for murderers... for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers..." 1 Tim. 1:9-10
The Bible shows the wickedness of enslaving a race of people by kidnapping through the Israelites bondage to the Egyptians, and that lesson is also reinforced by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, all of which comprise a major portion of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Bible speaks of justifiable forms of servitude as punishment for crime (Ex. 22:1-3), for unpaid debt (Lev. 25:39), and as a deterrent against warfare. Consider a similar testimony from an anti-biblical source. Charles Darwin inherited the anti-slavery attitude of his parents (and even their parents supported the Christian abolitionist William Wilberforce). Yet even Darwin wrote in Descent of Man that "slavery" was "in some ways beneficial during ancient times..." Sadly though, the Darwin-inspired hatred for minorities and indigenous peoples was spurred on by grotesque, openly racist comments, and also to an extent by his own comments in Origin of Species, including his claim that, "...it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as... ants making slaves... not as specially endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die."
The Bible teaches that Hebrew slaves are to be released in their seventh year (Ex. 21:2), and at the year of Jubilee, and that they could be redeemed.
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution did not abolish slavery but retained justifiable slavery, which is moral, biblical, and avoids the tragedy of widespread bankruptcy and epidemic incarceration.
"Section 1--Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,
shall exist within the United States…" Amendment XIII, 1865
In contrast with the criminal ownership of blacks as slaves by Europeans, by American Indians, etc., the Bible taught the ancient Israelites that if a man knocked out the tooth of his servant, he must set his slave free for the sake of the tooth (Ex. 21:27).
Scripture prefaces commands of kindness toward slaves with a reminder that the Jews were slaves in Egypt (Lev. 25:42), and the Bible commands us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Lev. 9:18; 25:43; Mark 12:31).
Because of Israel's national covenant with God, the Mosaic Law allowed foreigners to sell themselves as permanent slaves (Lev. 25:44) to the Jews, and they could also sell their own children (Lev. 25:45) to the Hebrews, which culturally seems unjust today, but this did deliver children from unfit parents. Also, in ancient times, mere survival was often nearly impossible, and scriptural regulations for polygamy and slavery would have mitigated the death rate.
The New Testament teaches equitable treatment of bondservants: Col. 4:1; Eph 6:9 (and see 1 Cor. 7:21-23 and Mat. 7:12).
Yes, historically and tragically, Christians have justified ownership of black slaves, and yet, it was practicing evangelical Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Harriet Tubman who heroically led the fight to end slavery.
* Slavery in Ancient Rome: From Plutarch's Life of Numa, said to be the second king of Rome after Romulus: "Praise is also given to that measure of his whereby the law permitting fathers to sell their sons was amended. He [Numa] made an exception of married sons, provided they had married with the consent and approval of their fathers. For he thought it a hard thing that a woman who had married a man whom she thought free, should find herself living with a slave."
Mohammad Owned Slaves, etc: While America engages in 2017 in the reasonable task of condemning those in this age, the New Testament period, who owned slaves, let's remember to condemn also American Indian slave owners (including the Freedmen "Cherokees" from the Trail of Tears, etc.) and various Muslim leaders, including Mohammad himself, who owned slaves and who was specifically a black slave trader.