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Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship Paperback – May 22, 2013
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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.Read more ›
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 . . .Read more ›
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.Read more ›