Best of AW

Friday, March 15, 2013

Slavery in the Bible and in Atheist Thinking

....I had a big debate on slavery in the Bible. Those always run on and on becuase they atheist just cherish that argument. They hope for a slam dunk big victory, one argument that will wipe out as much of Christianity as possible. This is one of three or four that they think is a slam dunk. They will fight for it tenaciously and never admit it's beatean.
....My strategy is to minimize it. I can't wipe it out and I can't argue the kind of shlock that made me retreat from fundamentalism in my youth, such as "O they deserved to be slaves because they were pagans," or "slaves were really happy." No one makes that one much any more it was big in the south at one time. I am not an inerrentist so I don't mind arguing that a lot of the Biblical use of the concept is based upon tainted views of temporal power and not divine. I also take a progressive stand, in other words, God is revealing morality progressively through history, he's allowing the growth of social consciousness over time. The atheists argue "well id the Bible was divinely inspirited and if God is good then he would have a denunciation of slavery in the OT." My answer is the times were not right for it. They weren't sufficiently evolved socially to understand the evils of slavery. So God reveals these things over time as humans grow into a position where they can understand it. So you don't have a sharp denunciation in the OT. But It's not as though there's no denunciation. It does condmen kidnap slavery. It says not to kidnap someone and make them a slave."He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:16). It doesn't say this is limited to Hebrews.
....Another argument I make as evidence of the progressive outlook stems around the fact that Hebrew slaves were given rights while slaves in other cultures were not. In that same vain I argue that there was chattel slavery in Hebrew culture. The difference being "chattel" slaves had not right of any kind. Hebrews slaves had rights. Now the atheists argue that he rights were only for Hebrews who were salves (they were actually of Hebrew blood). That's not true. It is true that a distinction was made and it is true that slaves belonging to Hebrews who were of Hebrew blood were not slaves but merely bond servants. what is not true is the idea hat the basic rights didn't pertain to Hebrews owned slaves descended from other cultures. Foreign slaves belonging to the Hebrews did have rights. The atheists raised a real stink arguing that there's no such thing as Chattle slavery. AT one point they said I just made it up. That seems to be one of their favorite ploys when they are confronted with documentation they don't have. Here's the quote I used:

Johnathan Burke

Chattel slavery did not exist under the Law of Moses. There was no form of servitude under the Law of Moses which placed them in the legal position of chattel slaves. Legislation maintained kinship rights (Exodus 21:3, 9, Leviticus 25:41, 47-49, 54, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), marriage rights (Exodus 21:4, 10-11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage), personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract (Exodus 21:8, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind, and Leviticus 25:39-41, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), freedom of movement, and access to liberty (Exodus 21:8, 11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Leviticus 25:40-45, 48, 54, providing for Hebrew intendured servants, and Deuteronomy 15:1, 12; 23:15, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind).
The source for this quote: Peter Garnsey, ‘Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine’, 1996, page 1, as quoted by Glenn Miller, ‘Does God condone slavery in the Bible?’, 2005. Garnsey is not a Bible Scholar but a historian. As a history he's a qualified expert on the life and hsitoyr of ancinet Israel but he's also sans the biases of the fundamentalist that atheists fear from every qualified Bible scholar.
....Yet in this debate they refused to even admit that I had quoted him! Several of them just flat out denied that I ever quoted this source. I quoted it several times.  Even the guy who is billed (self billed) as a professional scholar (he actually is just a grad student with an Masters degree--like me) says I didn't quote it. Then when I confront him on the fact that I quoted the same guy seveal times he says:

Originally Posted by Ben Hakkore View Post
I don't have the time to read every post in the thread. Your opening post contains nothing more than a link to an apologetics website, no citations of your own of scholars whatsoever. You later provided a handful of snippets, primarily from Westbrook's 2003 edited volume A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law here, none of which support the statements of yours I have critiqued. If there is something else to which you refer, kindly use the link feature and I'll review them. Thanks.

If you don't have time to erad it maybe you shouldn't make accusations you have not checked out.

Ben says:

Sorry, Meta, but the texts cited are clear that poor treatment of slaves, specifically foreign ones who may be enslaved perpetually, is an acceptable practise in ancient Israelite law. None of your interlocutors here, myself included, has argued or needs to argue that the texts prescribe the brutal treatment of slaves in order to draw the sound conclusion that the texts cited (Exod 21.20, 21; Lev 25.44-46) allow for such.
That's exactly what they said because that's the issue of chattel slavery in a nut shell. I said Israel didn't have it, the meaning of the term is no right at all the whole way (50 posts) they have been insisting that Israel didn't have it. In other words I was arguing my position they didn't have chattel slavery which is slaves have no rights at all of any kind. The atheists had been saying of cousre they had that for about 50 posts. He comes on and says "no one has argued that." that's what the whole thread was about at that point. He says: "I've nowhere asserted that foreign slaves had no rights at all.." Everyone else has.


The first has been your continued insistence that foreign slaves were not chattel. The comment you made here that I initially responded to was this: "even foreign ones had rights and could be freed. so that means they can't be chattel by definition." That is clearly not the case as foreign slaves were bought and sold, bequeathed to successive generations and are expressly referred to as possessions (Hebrew: אֲחֻזָּה) in Lev 25.45, 46. Your second problematic assertion was made here when you stated: "you have no passage that [sic] says 'the passage about rights going to foreigners does n' [sic] apply to foreign slaves.'" It is implied (feel free to correct if that is not the case) that you think the protections afforded free foreigners do apply to foreign slaves. Well, they don't... slaves, foreign or otherwise, are not afforded the same protections as free Israelites and non-Israelites, as I demonstrated by the failure of the law to apply the lex talionis on behalf of slaves who are seriously injured.


Notice the problem with that? He still has not produced a passage that says "foreign slaves will have no rights at all." That's the whole issue in a nut shell that we are arguing about. He asserts they don't and acts huffy like I'm obviously wrong, but where's the evidence? He still doesn't quote a passage. I contend that the general injunctions about treating foreign with the same rights would still apply even to slaves. Besides he just got through saying "I never said foreign slaves have no rights at all." That's the definition of chattle! That would mean he agrees with me that they didn't have Chattle, yet here he says they did. This guy is the best they have! The worst, silliest argument, I said chattle means they are just animals, total property you could kill one if you wanted to, and the atheist says "animals have protected rights now."
....One standard ploy they tried throughout the debate is to refuse to accept the fact that historians and anthropologists use the definitions such as bond slave or chattle. They claimed I made it up. That's their move to assert that they had chattle slavery, to deny that such a thing exists so a slave is a salve is a slave. That's the major context in which they tried to deny that I even quoted my main source Garnsey.
Gary Harris quoted a dictionary but didn't document which one saying that Chattle means property and all slaves are property, therefore, all slaves are chattel. Of cousre historians using that term are just speaking in a special sense. That's why the Clark article started out laying out the definition of the terms. That's why they asserted that I didn't quote Garnsey because he says they didn't have chattle, becuase the way he's using the term it means no rights at all. That's part of being property. There's really no conflict and Harris's dictionary is acutely backing up my view: chattel means property with no rights.


‘A [chattel] slave was property. The slaveowner’s rights over his slave-property were total, covering the person as well as the labor of the slave. The slave was kinless, stripped of his or her old social identity in the process of capture, sale and deracination, and denied to capacity to forge new bonds of kinship through marriage alliance. These are the three basic components of [chattel] slavery.’
Peter Garnsey, ‘Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine’, 1996, page 1, as quoted by Glenn Miller, ‘Does God condone slavery in the Bible?’, 2005
They claim I didn't quote this guy. One of them,"nonprofit" says "Have you any sources with out a decided bias and interest in whitewashing biblical history?" I've already told them Gersney is a historian not a Bible scholar. That's a good example of atheist sloughing off evidence. anything that contradicts their BS is automatically "that's whitewashing."Nothing can ever count against their view, if it does that's sure proof of bias. There can be no such thing as a Bible scholar who doesn't hate Christianity. Of course when you quote a scholar who is not a Bible scholar they don't know you quoted it.
 They also tried confusing idealized history with historical fact.  They quoted from the conquest of canon where they are taking women and children captive after destroying their cities, yet we know form history that most of that never happened. Those are idealized accounts written by slaves in Babylon. The real irony of all of this is these passage about slaves are written by slaves. They are talking about how to treat foreign slaves, while they were owned themselves by foreigners in a foreign land. They could not distinguish between the conquest of canon and the latter period.
....None of them ever even acknowledged my arguments about progressive revelation or dialectics. My argument was that there is no wholesale denunciation of slavery in the OT because people weren't ready for it. There is in the new testament where the slave trade is classed with the worst of sinners:

1 Tim 1:

We know that the law is good when used correctly. For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. 10 The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders[c] liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching 11 that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God.

Of course that made no difference to the atheist. The demand a big denunciation when they get it they don't even acknowledge it. If trade in slavery is a sin then the slave trade itself is a sin, and if the slave trade is a sin then owning slaves is a sin since owning them is taking part in the trade, assuming they must be bought at some point.
....Here's the evidential block I laid down. the purpose of this block is to show that scholars see distinctions between kinds of slavery and that ancinet Hebrews didn't have the worst kind (chattel).

"Scholars do not agree on a definition of "slavery." The term has been used at various times for a wide range of institutions, including plantation slavery, forced labor, the drudgery of factories and sweatshops, child labor, semivoluntary prostitution, bride-price marriage, child adoption for payment, and paid-for surrogate motherhood. Somewhere within this range, the literal meaning of "slavery" shifts into metaphorical meaning, but it is not entirely clear at what point. A similar problem arises when we look at other cultures. The reason is that the term "Slavery" is evocative rather than analytical, calling to mind a loose bundle of diagnostic features. These features are mainly derived from the most recent direct Western experience with slavery, that of the southern United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The present Western image of slavery has been haphazardly constructed out of the representations of that experience in nineteenth-century abolitionist literature, and later novels, textbooks, and films...From a global cross-cultural and historical perspective, however, New World slavery was a unique conjunction of features...In brief, most varieties of slavery did not exhibit the three elements that were dominant in the New World: slaves as property and commodities; their use exclusively as labor; and their lack of freedom..." [Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (4 vols), David Levinson and Melvin Ember (eds), HenryHolt:1996.:4:1190f]

"Freedom in the ancient Near East was a relative, not an absolute state, as the ambiguity of the term for "slave" in all the region's languages illustrates. "Slave" could be used to refer to a subordinate in the social ladder. Thus the subjects of a king were called his "slaves," even though they were free citizens. The king himself, if a vassal, was the "slave" of his emperor; kings, emperors, and commoners alike were "slaves" of the gods. Even a social inferior, when addressing a social superior, referred to himself out of politeness as "your slave." There were, moreover, a plethora of servile conditions that were not regarded as slavery, such as son, daughter, wife, serf, or human pledge." [A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2 vols). Raymond Westbrook (ed). Brill:2003.1.40]
The definitive work on ANE law today is the 2 volume work  (History of Ancient Near Eastern Law). This work (by 22 scholars) surveys every legal document from the ANE (by period) and includes sections on slavery. A smattering of quotes will indicate this for-the-poor instead of for-the-rich purpose for most of ANE slavery:



§         "Most slaves owned by Assyrians in Assur and in Anatolia seem to have been (originally) debt slaves--free persons sold into slavery by a parent, a husband, an elder sister, or by themselves." (1.449)

§         "Sales of wives, children, relatives, or oneself, due to financial duress, are a recurrent feature of the Nuzi socio-economic scene…A somewhat different case is that of male and female foreigners, called hapiru (immigrants) who gave themselves in slavery to private individuals or the palace administration. Poverty was the cause of these agreements…" (1.585)

§         "Most of the recorded cases of entry of free persons into slavery [in Emar] are by reason of debt or famine or both…A common practice was for a financier to pay off the various creditors in return for the debtor becoming his slave." (1.664f)

§         "On the other hand, mention is made of free people who are sold into slavery as a result of the famine conditions and the critical economic situation of the populations [Canaan]. Sons and daughters are sold for provisions…" (1.741)

§         "The most frequently mentioned method of enslavement [Neo-Sumerian, UR III] was sale of children by their parents. Most are women, evidently widows, selling a daughter; in one instance a mother and grandmother sell a boy…There are also examples of self sale. All these case clearly arose from poverty; it is not stated, however, whether debt was specifically at issue." (1.199)



So this work by 22 scholars is what the atheists call "you didn't have any sources."
skylurker says:
Yes he did. You just won't listen. He answered you using primary source material. It is bit difficult to wiggly from under language such as;

"they will become your property and you may bequeath them to your children after you as property possessed, you may enslave them perpetually, but over your brothers -- fellow Israelites -- a man may not rule over his brother with violence"

This is not a leap in assumption! The contrast between countryman and slave is there clear as can be.
In in other words they quoted old testament passages that aren't specific enough to apply. That quote doesn't say the rules for having them that were already spelled out are set aside. Of cousre they are property that doesn't' mean they had no rights. the basic rights I'd already documented are not very extensive. So they are using the same quotes I've already dealt with. This what Ben Hakkore says to the evidental block above:

...quote, properly, biblical scholars who directly counter the claims made by the two scholars I (properly) cited. I'll be waiting...
Who did he quote? I can't find them.


















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