slavery churchI received an email yesterday concerning an article I wrote some time ago. The person asked me so many interesting and thought-provoking questions in that email. In this follow-up post, I will try to answer some of those questions to the best of my knowledge.

What role did the church play in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade? What exactly does the Bible say about slavery? Is Christianity a “slave religion”? Why so many black people love the church and the Bible?

According to Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father and first president of Kenya, “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible”.

That was the beginning of the European colonization of Africa. As I said in my other post, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was introduced by the coming of the Europeans. The Europeans came with the Bible the same way the Arab raiders and traders from the Middle East and North Africa introduced Islam and the Quran through the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade. So yes, the church did play a major role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In fact, the church was the backbone of the slave trade.

In other words, most of the slave traders and slave ship captains were very “good” Christians. For example, Sir John Hawkins, the first slave ship captain to bring African slaves to the Americas, was a religious gentleman who insisted that his crew “serve God daily” and “love another”. His ship, ironically called “the good ship Jesus,” left the shores of his native England for Africa in October 1562.

The church, especially the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches, had plantations with slaves working on them. For example, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) – the world's oldest Anglican mission agency, owned several acres of slave plantations. It has been documented that the 800 acre Codrington slave plantation in Barbados was owned and operated by the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) during the 18th and 19th centuries.

One may ask, why would the church condone such barbaric acts as slavery? Well, the answer lies in the Bible the same way the answer for extremist Islamic terrorism in the world today lies in the Quran. Yes, slavery isn't just "normal" in the Bible. It is perfectly OK (or can be interpreted so) according to the scriptures. There are several chapters and verses supporting slavery in both the old and new testaments of the Bible.

Exodus 21 of the old testament of the Bible for example, gives clear instructions on how to treat a slave. Both Deuteronomy 20:10-14 and Leviticus 25:44-46 also give clear instructions on who should be slaves, how and where to buy slaves, etc.

Some Christians argue those chapters and verses are in the old testament and therefore don’t count but that is heresy. Also, there are several chapters and verses supporting slavery even in the New testament of the Bible. For example, the book of Ephesians 6:5 of the New Testament clearly states “Slaves, Obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ”. Not just that, 1 Timothy 6:1 of the New Testament also clearly states “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed”. I can go on and on.

Slavery existed during the time of Jesus and continued after Jesus. Slavery got abolished nearly 2000 years after the death of Jesus. Jesus had every chance to speak against slavery. The question is, did he do it? And if Jesus did speak against slavery then why did his followers twist his words? If Jesus did speak against slavery then why does the New Testament of the Bible support slavery? And if the Bible got twisted along the way then does it make much sense for us to put our trust in it?

Now back to the question, "Is Christianity a slave religion?" Well, I am not that great with the Bible so I will leave that to the experts to answer.

Reverend Richard Furman, President of the South Carolina Baptist convention 1823 said, “The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the holy scriptures, both by precepts and by example”.

In a letter to the Emancipator in 1839, the Reverend Thomas Witherspoon of the Presbyterian church of Alabama in the USA wrote, “I draw my warrant from the scriptures of the old and new testaments to hold the slave in bondage”.

"The extracts from Holy Writ unequivocally assert the right of property in slaves"--Rev. E.D. Simms, professor, Randolph-Macon College.  I can go on and on.

So as we can see, the church and the early Christians saw nothing wrong with slavery and fully engaged themselves. Most churches and cathedrals owned several acres of slave plantations and owned several slaves. Even when slavery was abolished, most churches had to be compensated for setting their slaves free.

Yes, one of the ironies of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act was that, it was slave owners, not the slaves, who were compensated at the emancipation of slaves. The Anglican Church received 8,823 pound sterling in compensation for its loss of over 400 slaves. The Bishop of Exeter, along with three of his colleagues received some 13,000 pounds in compensation for over 660 slaves. All these have been documented and I can go on and on.

Why so many black people love the church and the Bible? Well, that is a question I cannot answer all alone.

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Obaje Manasseh
Well, I must commend the writer of this piece for his historical and intellectual approach towards explaining the concept of the 'Christian slavery', well to a great extent you were right, but I think some kinds of insight is needed towards understanding and interpreting of what the Bible really says about slavery, the Bible instructed 'servants to obey their masters'. I think you will agree with me that even in our modern contemporary societies today, the servant-master role is still in play for instance you have apprentice under a master in a trade or one expertise or you have people working for some other superior persons to earn a living and so on, so I think as a historian you should know that the address of the Holy Bible was specific to times and ages, in the old testaments owing a menservants, or a maid servant was quite a norm of the time so the Bible only gave an admonition to facilitate quality relationship amongst the parties.

Now talking about Jesus and the New Testament, if you are careful in your search enough, you will find out that Jesus frowned at human slavery, somewhere in Mathew while addressing his disciples, He told them that 'the people of the world like to rule over people and them their benefactors, but it shall not be so with me.... the greatest amongst you must become the servant of all, again somewhere in the new testament you will hear him make some assertions like 'if the son shall make thee free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:36)', 'where there is neither Greek nor jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, bondman or free man, but Christ the all in all (col 3:11)' and so on, so if you take a careful look of the entire ministry of Jesus it was that of freedom and liberty.

Now not to discredit your view of Christianity from the historical perspective, if you follow the history of the Christian faith from the time Jesus left you will find out that the early days of Christianity was a perverse one full of oppression and apostasy, all manner of barbaric doctrines that ripped men of their dignity and freedom in Christ, and those moments of apostasy and false doctrine thrived for a long time owing to the fact that the Bible was only available to the priesthood which afforded them the opportunity of preaching lies and overturning the Bible to suit their carnal lost until the bright days of revolutionaries like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin, etc. If you drew your inspiration from primitive Christianity then I think you were right in your description of Christianity as a slavish religion, but since you know that knowledge and revelation is progressive, I urge you to take a proper look at the true Christianity as it may hold some eternal benefits to your soul. Thank you very much.

What I never understood why people call themselves Christians when Jesus wasn’t even a Christian nor did he have a religion, if the man was Ever real. I have not seen that one verse in the Bible stating that Jesus was a Christian or his religion of choice
Festus Sowah
Does ministering to poor people mean Christianity supports poverty? Does ministering to the sick mean Christianity supports sickness/illnesses? The example of slaves being ministered to as a sign that Christianity supports slavery is a poor one. The reality was that there were slaves and they needed to be ministered to and some of those words might have made their lives easier. The fact of the matter is humans will twist things for their own good. That's what the so-called Christians did.
Omo Omoregie
Church of England aka Anglican Church actually owned and dealt on slaves. They recently (2023 ) set up £100 million funds to compensate the communities that were impacted by their roles in slavery. They admitted and apologized for their shameful behavior. Yes, they supported slavery. They invested and owned their own slaves. The Jesuit Priests in 1838, sold 272 of their slaves to fund Georgetown University. In 2021, they also apologized for their shameful and shameless behavior. Read the book titled "The 272 slaves sold by the Catholic Church to fund Georgetown University" Enjoy your read.
Oyinkansola Ladipo
In the Old Testament God's chosen people, the Israelites were slaves. They were slaves, we were slaves, there are still slaves all over this planet. People are slaves to money, power, sex, drugs etc. But in the New Testament, "Christ has set us (you & I) free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and do not submit to the bondage of slavery again" Galatians 5 v 1 (CEB). God brought his own people out of the land.
Food for thought. From a Wikipedia entry: Jubilee (Hebrew: יובל‬ yōḇel; Yiddish: yoyvl) is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath's Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year. Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights.

According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. Leviticus 25:8-13 states: You shall count off seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; and there shall be to you the days of seven Sabbaths of years, even forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement, you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. You shall make the fiftieth year holy and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you; and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee to you. In it you shall not sow, neither reap that which grows of itself, nor gather from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat of its increase out of the field. In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his property.

Benyam Malawi
It is very inspiring article. I like the way you describe the relation between the bible, Church and Slavery. However, I don't quite agree with the notion that Bible is in support of slavery. It is how we perceive and understood or even we want to interpret it, but the actual truth is different from what we think. Christ did not teach us to torture, abuse and belittle human beings as the way slave dealers did in the past and still doing it in a systematic way currently with different names and fashion. With the regard to our friend here, Jonas. We do not call Jesus is a Christian, for He is believed to be the son of God who descended from heaven in Human flesh to save us. He doesn't need to worship God, but he did everything on earth except sin for us so that we can do the same in our earthly life, it was an exemplary life and religious act.

In my point of view, slavery still exist on this planet in various fashion and given variety of names and cover up. People, mainly Africans, are still under slavery behind privately owned prisons in western countries. We are victims of asylum and at the same time labelled as economic migrants while we fill up the chores and menial tasks which cannot be touched by natives. Etc.

The Catholic Church and other denominations are still engaged in systematic slavery, color-based discrimination and exploitation to this day. I am not dermatologist, but I can't see the difference between white or black outer layer tissue covering our body which has nothing to do with mental excellence unless we accept it ourselves.

Elise Heitikko
Thank you for this interesting and thought-provoking piece. It brings up a question for me. To me, the Bible is a collection of documents added at different times. So, if you look at the earliest versions of the New Testament there are TONS of things that aren't in there today. My question is, when did those verses that appear to justify slavery in the New Testament appear as "scripture." Mark is the oldest book, and it does not contain any verses supporting slavery. Perhaps Constantine or subsequent imperialist, slave-owning rulers found it lucrative to add these verses?
Graham Philips
It saddens me to read of how organizations have behaved under the veneer of the Bible. The Bible is a book of wonderful, wholesome promises and values expressed by God. But it is also a book recording a history of how those values were either applied or ignored. There were times of sweetness and times of sour.

May I encourage you to visit the research facility below and just type in the search "Slavery". The studious and all who enjoy learning of you will find answers that you may agree with regarding the history of slavery both from the Bible's perspective and the forms of slavery we have all come to despise. What the Bible taught when using the term "slave" is diametrically opposed to the forms of slavery we view with disgust. Please type "Slavery" in either of these informative websites.

If you would like to contact me directly for further discussion, please feel free to email me at gp90jw @ gmail . com and we can arrange further discussion either via email, Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp, etc. Stay safe.


The way Jesus the son of God; God in the flesh became the servant for the lowly and the fact that the word slave in the Bible has a broad meaning of worker or (even paid) servant nullifies the argument that Christianity is ‘for’ slavery. Jesus is the flesh-wrapped reflection of God and all he did was heal, save, resurrect, and set free. The real God: the real Jesus and the real Christian faith is not for bondage if any type.
Karl Os
The bible is a book of fairytales written by men who have used these stories to miseducate and misguide mostly Africans and their descendants. Religious bodies that sanctioned slavery used this book to perpetrate all manner of atrocities against the ancestors in the name of their god. Then turn the table to say we should forgive these heinous crimes against us. Had it been the whites who were enslaved, there would never be a call for forgiveness as they would be slaughtering their captors at the first opportunity. Black people have been so brainwashed to think that Christianity is a gift to them. Genocide is what they do. The church did not sanction it then and support the continuation of it now. Nothing has changed. "Love your enemies" Why don't these wolves in sheep clothes think about loving their enemies before slaughtering us back then and up to this day.

The church always stands as an innocent bystander with the bible in one hand and cyanide in the other.

Quote from Dr. Herik Clarke:
"A people will never be free when they worship a god ASSIGNED to them and they can never respect a black father in the home when they have a white father hanging on the wall".

Dietrea Bowers
This comment is for the author and some of the commentators. The Slavery in the Bible's purpose was for people to survive. People sold themselves to re-pay debt or to feed their families. You cannot take a verse from the bible and assume you understand without reading the entire text on the subject. For example, people could not be kidnaped, or the offender was put to death. The slaves or indentured servants had contracts for 7 years to serve then they were set free. They were treated like family members. They were also released with provisions the year of Jubilee and Sabbath year even if the seven-year period was not up. Family members could pay the debt and be released from the contract. They were not beaten or abused; it was the law. Only prisoners of war were treated unfair. The scripture about" obey the master" was about how the debt had not been repaid and the services were due. We all need to read the bible before making judgement. I teach a course on Slavery and the Bible for my ministry.
I think it should be agreed on that, the bible was written to agitate the earth's people and instruct people with false things... for reasons that are pretty apparent...Religious sects must not have liked others, so they devised a book instructing the barbarian and others to do evil things to people so that evil was done as well as put those evil doers in jeopardy with a notion of "rulership". They get people to sin through their tv and programming and then extort them as well in courts, in private, etc. making people feel bad. Even those at the top are extorted and sued and zip the lip. lol. I truly believe that what the Religions were seeking were to gather people into forced servitude, but according to law, couldn't just force people, so they brainwashed people into seeking Jesus and an invisible god to ensnare them. Worshipping a sinless god-man lol. Money, Gold, Silver and private properties are basically constantly being taken away for those that earned it in some way to perpetuate this madness. Then came up with Jesus to accomplish that. "Be good to your masters"? I have NEVER seen a person forgiven of "sins" but definitely have seen the opposite. Forgiveness doesn't hold up in court. Try it... it won't work. The thing about this world is, it requires work to survive in it and basically, they invented different methods to get people to work. Did you ever see how socially unacceptable it is to not work? Are there open fields where a person can go to plant and eat freely? Nope! Thats the programming talking to you! What God requires servants and then gets angry at the end of the bible at the merchants and people who labor, etc. If you are heavily laden with burden, you go to Jesus? More like, he is the gateway to this madness! They pick and choose what parts of the law they want people to obey and disregard the other for future extortion and ridicule because they are TERRIFIED of labor! Terrified of being ruled over. The thing about servitude is people know work sucks! They want you to put your heart into it. lol. The ultimate slave man -- Worship that man servant Jesus folks -- He's all you are trying to be!