Everyone knows that the bible, especially the Old Testament, condones slavery at every twist and turn. Indeed, it makes zero mentions or suggestions that slavery might be a bad thing. At every opportunity to condemn slavery, god instead condemns gathering firewood on the sabbath. But along comes the New Testament–a new enlightenment–and greatly revered men, such as Jesus and Paul, suddenly have the opportunity to correct this manifest injustice. Take Paul for example. When given the opportunity to help a runaway slave, he does the only Christian thing he could.
Paul was in prison, writing a short letter and a book of the bible to his dear Christian friend Philemon. (On a side note, has anyone ever noticed that many books in the NT are letters, most of which are incredibly short? Here we can see how literally the bible is man made. Many NT books are not literary manifestations of god’s word. They are not lyrical praises of worship. They are merely personal correspondence that, for some reason, many people worship as divine scripture.)
Anyway, so Paul is writing his letter. He’s writing because Philemon is angry that his slave, Onesimus, ran away. It’s not certain exactly what happened after Onesimus ran away. Either he found Christianity on his own, or Paul indoctrinated him. Either way, Onesimus became a Christian. So Paul wrote this letter to Philemon asking him to forgive Onesimus and to take him back without hard feelings. He gave the letter to Onesimus and convinced him to go back into bondage. Onesimus does, and that’s where the story ends.
This was the perfect opportunity for “Saint” Paul to be saintly. This is the exact moment when Paul should have condemned slavery. Instead Paul convinced a former slave to return to the conditions of slavery. It’s almost as if he was saying that running away from slavery is a moral crime!
Many people argue that we need to read the bible as a document of its time. That is, although we feel that slavery is unconscionable, back then it was normal. So we should not condemn the bible for reflecting the social conditions of the time in which it was written. I say that’s exactly why it should be condemned.
We all know that in the 1950s cigarettes were sometimes prescribed by medical doctors. Today we condemn this practice, and we condemn the medical literature that made this possible. Executing petty thieves was widely practiced in centuries past, and we had legal documents to justify this. Today we condemn those documents because our standards of decency have evolved. Just as we can condemn those as being morally ignorant, so too can we condemn the bible as being morally ignorant.