Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bible and Slavery

All of my life, but especially down here in the southern United States, I’ve heard that the Bible never condemns the institution of slavery. I guess because I’ve heard it so often, I never questioned the statement’s veracity. I read the Bible through every year and have never noticed anything that would specifically challenge that teaching.

Until today. Look at 1 Timothy, verses 8 through 10 in your Bible. Of the translations I have, all but two of them render the Greek noun, ἀνδραποδιστής (andrapodistais) in verse 10 as “kidnappers” (NKJV, NASB, RSV, NAB, CEV), or “menstealers” (KJV).  

Only the New International Version and the English Standard Version correctly translate ἀνδραποδιστής as “slave traders” (NIV) or “enslavers” (ESV). The ESV’s note on “enslavers” reads, “That is, those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery.”

According to The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary, edited by Thoralf Gilbrant, the word ἀνδραποδιστής “…is used of those who trafficked in human beings whether by enslaving free men or stealing the slaves of others for resale.” It has no other meaning.

In 1 Timothy 1:8-10 the Apostle Paul is lumping slave traders in with “the ungodly and sinners…the unholy and profane,…those who strike their fathers and mothers,…murders, the sexually immoral,…liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.…” (ESV).

It seems to me that if Paul is condemning those who enslave, then the whole institution of slavery is tainted as well. Those are my thoughts on ἀνδραποδιστής. What are yours?

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