Many modern readers assume that slavery in the New Testament is equivalent to the race-based slavery of the African slave trade. While not defending the Greco-Roman institution of slavery, Tim Keller and Don Carson explain why it’s important not to equate it with the race-based slavery that we may be more familiar with.
Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (New York: Dutton, 2012), 213–14, 280–83.
Paul is speaking to servants and masters [in Ephesians 6:5–9], and this raises many questions in the minds of modern readers about the Bible’s depiction of the evil of slavery. While much can be said about this subject,* it is important to remember that slavery in the Greco-Roman world was not the same as the New World institution that developed in the wake of the African slave trade. Slavery in Paul’s time was not race-based and was seldom lifelong. It was more like what we would call indentured servitude. But for our purposes, think of this passage as a rhetorical amplifier and consider this: If slave owners are told they must not manage workers in pride and through fear, how much more should this be true of employers today? And if slaves are told it is possible to find satisfaction and meaning in their work, how much more should this be true of workers today? Continue Reading…