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If the Bible is from God why did it tolerate the institution of slavery The slavery tolerated by the Scriptures must be understood in its historical context Old Testament laws regulating slavery are troublesome by modern standards but in their historical context they provided a degree of social recognition and legal protection to slaves that was advanced for its time Exodus 2120-27 Leviticus 2544-46 In ancient times slavery existed in every part of the world Slaves had no legal status or rights and were treated as the property of their owners Even Plato and Aristotle looked upon slaves as inferior beings As inhumane as such slavery was we must keep in mind that on occasion it was an alternative to the massacre of enemy populations in wartime and the starvation of the poor during famine It was to the people of this harsh age that the Bible was first written In New Testament times slave labor was foundational to the economy of the Roman empire About a third of the population were slaves If the writers of the New Testament had attacked the institution of slavery directly the gospel would have been identified with a radical political cause at a time when the abolition of slavery was unthinkable To directly appeal for the freeing of slaves would have been inflammatory and a direct threat to the social order 1 Consequently the New Testament acknowledged slaverys existence instructing both Christian masters and slaves in the way they should behave Ephesians 65-9 Colossians 32 41 1 Timothy 62 Philemon 110-21 at the same time that it openly declared the spiritual equality of all people Galatians 328 1 Corinthians 720-24 Colossians 311 2 The gospel first had the practical effect of outmoding slavery within the community of the Church 3 and carried within it the seeds of the eventual complete abolition of slavery in the Western world The fact
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