“The Slave Bible?”
Folks: I’m having a happy Saturday so far. Guess what I just found this morning in an online archive and repository?
Did you know that there was such a thing as a “Slave Bible” ? I’m not talking about the Thomas Jefferson’s Bible nor a Christian Religious Manual for the enslaved!!!! The latter was a common tool for the religious instructions of African slaves in colonial America.
The Slave Bible was published for the enslaved African population in the British colonies. In fact, the Slave Bible was published in 1807, only three years after the Haitian Revolution ended in 1804 and only sixteen years (August 1791) when Dutty Boukman called upon the enslaved Africans to put an end to the unholy trinity of the West: slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy, and ultimately to reject the god of their masters and to listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in their hearts.
The full title of the Slave Bible is called “Select Parts of the Holy Bible, For the Use of the Negro Slaves (this is italicized in the original) in the British West-India Islands.” The Slave Bible was published in London by an English company called “Law and Gilbert.” Interestingly, the two key phrases are “Select Parts” and “Negro Slaves.” Both terms indicate a complex relationship between the Bible and slavery, and the ambivalent rapport between colonial christianity and the ideological religious education of the enslaved population.
Now, I’m happy to say that I own a personal copy of the “Slave Bible” in my personal library. For further research, I need to investigate what is included and what’s been removed. Interestingly, the first passage I quickly checked in the Slave Bible was Genesis 1:26-27. I was both stunned and confused that those two verses were not removed. Did the slave masters make a mistake for retaining the cardinal verse in the Bible? I do not know the answer. The slaves would have (or must have!) to rethink about their “christian masters’ Christianity and humanity” and the relationship between slavery and christianity after they have read that God affirmed their dignity and humanity:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27)
***Some Updates about the Slave Bible:
The book of Exodus ends in chapter 20; hence, Exodus 21-40 are missing . The famous anti-slavery passage in Ex. 21:16 is omitted.
“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”
The entire book of Leviticus is omitted. The first three chapters of Deuteronomy are missing. The famous Exodus 3 passage in which God declared to Moses that he will end slavery and oppression, and Pharaonic colonialism and imperialism in Egypt is not there.
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:7-10).
Here are a photo of the front page and some random passage shots from the Slave Bible:
**** Yet consider my final words below:
Five Theses about God, Christianity, Jesus, slavery, and colonization
1. The God of the slave masters and European colonialists is not the true God of the Bible nor the God whose preferential option is for the poor and oppressed.
*The Biblical God is a God of love, freedom, and justice. God’s ultimate desire for every individual is to experience freedom, peace, and love—in relationship with him and in relationship with each other.
2. The Jesus of the slave masters and European colonialists is not the real Christ nor the biblical Jesus.
*While “Christ” means “the anointed one” or “messiah,” the Christ was a historical person the same was Jesus was a historical figure. Interestingly, both early and contemporary Christians believe that “Jesus was/is the Christ/Messiah.”
3. Colonial Christianity is a false religion and not true or biblical Christianity.
*Colonial Christianity enslaved people and did not liberate them from oppression and the labyrinth of slavery. Colonial Christianity was an oppressive religion that failed to promote equality, justice, human dignity, reconciliation, and shalom.
- Christianity as a religion was misused to enslave, subjugate, and colonize African slaves and other colonial subjects.
*One should not equate the use of a religion as a tool or instrument with the essence and teaching of that religion. Any system or institution could use any religion to carry out any desirable goals or intended objectives. This principle also applies to the misapplication of the name of God and the name of Jesus. Therefore, it is a logical fallacy to state that black people in the African Diaspora, whose African ancestors have been victims of colonial Christianity and Christianity of the slavers, should not become Christians or worship the God of their ancestors’ masters.
- Black Christians do not worship a “dead Messiah,” but one who is living and has conquered death on the third day. Correspondingly, Black Christians do not follow a “blind faith,” but one that is grounded both in faith and reason, what many thinkers have phrased “reasonable faith.” One should separate the cultural construction of Christianity and biblical Christianity; in the same vein, one should not equate the cultural construction of the person and deeds of Jesus Christ in Western societies and history of thought with the biblical and Palestinian Jewish brown-skinned male named Yeshua.