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Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship Paperback – May 22, 2013

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About the Author

Hector Avalos (Ames, IA) is associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, the author of four books on biblical studies and religion, the former editor of the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, and executive director of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd (May 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909697184
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909697188
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John W. Loftus VINE VOICE on November 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I cannot recommend this book more highly than to say that anyone who wants to deal with the issue of slavery in the future must deal with it. It is so well-informed and argued that Biblical scholars and Christian apologists might hope to ignore it if they could get away with it. ;-) This is a wonderful and extremely needed work.

In his earlier book, "The End of Biblical Studies," Dr. Avalos shows how biblical scholars have tried to maintain the Bible is relevant to modern society but their efforts have actually done the opposite. In this new book he shows how biblical ethics are irrelevant to a modern society by focusing in on just one issue, slavery. He writes:

"My basic premise is that if slavery is not regarded as wrong, then little else can be. And if slavery is regarded as inexcusably wrong, then biblical ethics stands or falls on its attitude toward slavery. As such, this book is a critique of the broader idea that the Bible should be the basis of modern ethics." (p. 1)

The main point of his book, he tells us,

"...is that reliance on biblical authority was instrumental in promoting and maintaining slavery far longer than might have been the case if we had followed many pre-Christian notions of freedom and anti-slavery sentiments." (p. 4)

His work contains three elements:

1) Biblical scholarship generally functions as an apology for biblical views now deemed unethical, and slavery is a primary example.
2) Reliance on biblical ethics generally has delayed the abolition of slavery and any progress toward freedom in the manner the latter is currently conceived.
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Format: Hardcover
As a Christian thinking critically about my faith, this book perhaps more than any other has challenged it at its deepest roots. Avalos displays a carefulness with the biblical texts that matches that of any Christian biblical scholar, and makes an incredibly strong argument that slavery is frequently justified by biblical authors and, at many other times, if not justified then at least not considered sin. I have some specific complaints about the parts of the book, but none to warrant anything but a 5-star, must-read review. While expensive, this book can best be ordered through any library with an inter-library loan service.
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Format: Paperback
In recent years, there has been a major increase in so called `New Atheist' literature. Critics of these authors contend that the authors know little about the Bible and don't know much about Biblical scholarship in general. This, as the critics contend, is a major reason not to take the `New Atheists' seriously. Well, Hector Avalos is here to answer those critics and be one of many non-Christian Biblical scholars (others include Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, etc.) to take Biblical studies seriously.

In "Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship," Avalos makes the compelling case that the Bible does indeed endorse and promote slavery. One major flaw Avalos points out when it comes to Biblical slavery discussions is scholars have decided not to just describe Biblical norms but defend them. Scholars have opted for apologetics and not objective Biblical analysis.

The book is broken up into two parts: the first deals with the Biblical scholars who have tried to reinterpret certain passages or offer up excuses when it comes to Biblical sanctions on slavery. Avalos also does an in-depth treatment of all the passages related to slavery, offering up (in the original Greek) clear interpretations of each passage. The second part deals with the historical claim that the Bible helped support and maintain slavery in the Christian world.

Though I wouldn't call this a light read, Avalos is clear, concise, and thorough. This book offers up a clear indictment of Christianity on a pretty simple question, i.e., is it okay to own people?

I'll let Avalos himself sum it up:

"The book began with the premise that, if slavery is regarded as inexcusably wrong, then biblical ethics stands or falls on its attitude toward slavery . . .
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What's fascinating about Dr. Avalos' book is that this is a debate that many secularists have simply handed to the religious for many years: "Yeah, you really helped get rid of slavery. Thank you. Are you happy now?" And during a time when the ongoing historical debate between these groups seems to be whether or not Hitler was an atheist (or Christian), Dr. Avalos decided to stir the pot a bit more as he did with his previous book The End of Biblical Studies and comes out saying what he says on page 284 of this book, "The Bible and Christian ethics had been available for some 1800-1900 years, and no significant advancements toward abolition were made until the late eighteen and early nineteenth centuries." So, if this is the case, then how can we honestly say that the Bible was a major factor that lead to abolitionism?

Not only does Dr. Avalos address this question with great scholarly detail, but he also gives a surprising argument: the bible and Christianity are what sustained slavery for thousands of years. Using his vast knowledge of the literature of the Old and New Testaments, the history and cultures of the Ancient Near East and being well-versed in the ancient languages, Dr. Avalos delves into a very systematic study of what the bible really says or doesn't say about slavery and the effects it had on future generations.

Many won't be surprised to hear that in the OT, slavery is either encouraged in some situations or spoken about as if it's just a normal institution, given the culture of that time. What is surprising is that this attitude toward slavery in the OT actually gets worse in the NT. On page 96, Dr. Avalos writes, "Christians regard the New Testament as their primary code of ethics.
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