Boxing Pythagoras

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Regarding Biblical Slavery

In general, I attempt to avoid topics of morality in my discussions of theology and religion. This is not because I think the topic is too difficult or too complex to discuss, but rather because it seems like an exercise in futility to argue about morality when the foundational metaphysical views upon which we frame morality differ so greatly. I’ve found that such discussions very frequently either end up with one person expounding on the virtues of apples while the other extols the dangers of oranges; or else they end up regressing backward until we are discussing the foundational metaphysics instead of the moral topic.

However, today, I’m going to break that trend. I was recently directed to an article written in November of 2017 entitled Nine Points about Biblical Slavery and Skeptics’ Condemnation of the Bible. The author of the article intends the piece to be a defense of the Bible against complaints regarding the manner in which its constituent documents treat the institution of slavery. The topic is an understandably sore one for a great number of people. Opponents of religion are quite often quick to point out that the Ten Commandments, a list of some of the supposed most important tenets of morality, includes things like, “Keep the Sabbath holy” and “Honor thy father and mother,” but omits something like, “Thou shalt not own another person as your property.” In fact, the Bible never offers any clear proscription against slavery, and indeed seems to sanction the practice in a number of places. Given the incredibly strong modern moral aversion to the idea of slavery, Christian apologists have attempted to take up the task of showing that these modern detractors hold deep misunderstandings of what the Bible actually says about slavery.

The reason I’m breaking my usual avoidance of topics of morality to discuss this one is that I honestly don’t care about the metaphysical foundations of our ethics, in regards to slavery. All I care about, regarding this topic, are the answers to two, simple questions.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

Even before the author gets into any of the titular “Nine Points,” a rather curious statement is made.

The horrific treatment of slaves in the United States between 1619 and 1865 has led many Bible skeptics to question the often-mentioned practice of Biblical slavery, with the assumption that the systems of the U.S. were similar to those in Biblical times.

Even if there are skeptics who assume that “the systems of the U.S. were similar to those in Biblical times,” focusing on the American institution of slavery is a complete Red Herring. Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

  1. The Bible is an historical textbook, which documented actual events in our history.

If we wanted a book devoid of actual events and our sometimes ugly history, the Bible would have been a fairy tale instead of an historical text.

While I would disagree with the flat, categorical assertion that “the Bible is an historical textbook,” I will agree that there are certainly texts within that anthology which are intended to convey historical events. The article is absolutely correct to note that a discussion of history which glosses over the negative parts would be far less trustworthy. However, it is quite curious, indeed, that the article seems to be admitting that the discussion of slavery in the Bible amounts to a discussion of “our sometimes ugly history.”

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

  1. Slavery was an integral part of the functioning of societies in Biblical times.
  • “As much as two thirds of the Roman empire were slaves (before the first century it was as high as 90%). By the first century AD an increasingly large number of slaves were being freed—so much so that Caesar had to write up laws that governed the procedure!” (Wallace, 2004).
  • Ancient people would have had a difficult, if not impossible time of building societies without the manpower of slaves.

It seems that our Christian Apologist feels the need to be an apologist for slavery in order to defend the faith. Yes, a great deal of ancient society was built upon the backs of slaves. One could certainly build a strong argument that the cultural progression we now know from history would have been severely retarded without the institution of slavery. Is it the author’s intention to imply that this fact therefore implies that slavery is ethically vindicated?

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

  1. Slaves were captives of war, children of slaves, abandoned children, criminals, or debt-servants. Slavery was not due to skin color.

Does the author intend to imply that only slavery based on race is immoral? Are we to believe that enslaving captives of war, children of slaves, abandoned children, criminals, and debt-servants is completely ethical behavior? Is it the author’s belief that slavery is justifiable, but racism is abhorrent?

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

4. Three provisions for slaves in Israel differ markedly from the rights afforded them in the New World (see above source for additional details).

  • Anti-harm laws: When an employer accidentally harmed a slave, the slave was to go free, as per Exodus 21: 26-27. Further, in the same passage, if an owner put a slave to death, the owner was to be put to death. In the New World, slaves did not have such rights and owners were not punished for harming slaves.
  • Anti-kidnapping laws: Kidnapping was condemned and punishable by death, as per Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7. In the New World, slavery began by the kidnapping of people in Africa.
  • Anti-return laws: Deuteronomy 23: 15-16 states that Israel is to offer a safe haven to harbor runaway slaves, which strongly contrasts the “Fugitive Slave Law” of the United States.

The article’s treatment of what it classifies as “anti-harm laws” is extremely misleading. The passage in question doesn’t make reference to “an employer” or “accidental harm,” at all. Rather, the passage explicitly refers to a slaveowner deliberately striking a slave in such a way as to cause that slave to lose an eye or a tooth. In such an instance, Exodus calls for the slave to be freed. However, there is absolutely no proscription against the slaveowner injuring the slave in other ways, whether intentionally or accidentally. Further, the article completely mischaracterizes the punishment for a slaveowner killing a slave. I’ll let the actual passage speak for itself, here:

When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.–Exodus 21:20-21 (NRSV)

The discussion of anti-kidnapping laws are completely beside the point. Whether a person enters into slavery by having been kidnapped or by some other means, that person still becomes the property of the slaveowner.

Yes, Deuteronomy 23:15-16 states that slaves who escape foreign countries are to be allowed to reside in Hebrew lands and are not to be oppressed. This does not, in any way, require Hebrew slaves to be freed, nor prevent the Hebrews from acquiring new slaves, nor discourage the Hebrew institution of slavery in any way.

On the contrary, Exodus and Deuteronomy explicitly sanction the purchase and acquisition of slaves. Exodus 21:2-6 and Deuteronomy 15:12-18 set down the rules by which slaves are to be acquired if they are Hebrews. Leviticus 25:44-46 give provisions for acquiring foreign slaves, who can be willed to one’s children as inherited property and are slaves for their whole lives.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

5. We should consider the New Covenant of the New Testament when discussing Biblical Slavery.

The article’s implications, here, seem to be that the New Covenant causes God’s moral prescriptions to change. I don’t have any problem with this, in and of itself, but it does seem to contradict the usual Christian position that morality is objective and immutable.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

6. The New Testament treatment of slaves demonstrated kindness

  • In the book of Philemon (15-21), we see that Philemon owned a slave – and the fine treatment Paul afforded the slave
  • “Some critics claim, “Jesus never said anything about the wrongness of slavery.” Not so. He explicitly opposed every form of oppression in His mission ‘to proclaim release to the captives … to set free those who are oppressed’ (Luke 4:18 NASB1; cp. Isaiah 61:1)” (Copans, 2011).
  • “The New Testament presupposes a fundamental equality because all humans are created in God’s image (James 3:9). Yet, an even deeper unity in Christ transcends human boundaries and social structures: no Jew or Greek, slave or free, no male and female, as all believers are all ‘one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28; cp. Colossians 3:11)” (Copans, 2011).
  • Unlike Christians, Romans believed slaves were a “living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave. Therefore, there can be no friendship with a slave” (Nichomachean ethics 8.11).
  • Christians freed slaves with estimates of at least 15,600 between 95 and 400 A.D. (Lecky, 1927).
  • With the emergence of Christianity came the belief that Christians wouldn’t enslave other Christians (Rutgers, n.d.).

The book of Philemon is quite an interesting one, as regards slavery. It is a very short letter written by Paul to a fellow Christian named Philemon. In the epistle, Paul implies that Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus and that the slaveowner had given Onesimus in service to Paul since Philemon had no use for the man. Paul is returning the slave, Onesimus, to his owner, Philemon, accompanied by this letter. Paul tells Philemon that he has become very close to Onesimus– so close, in fact, that he has adopted Onesimus as his son. He implores– and even threatens to command– Philemon to treat Onesimus no longer as a slave, but rather as a brother.

While this book is often cited by apologists as evidence that slavery was opposed in the New Testament, the simple fact of the matter is that it does not evidence this, at all. Paul does not ask Philemon to free all of his slaves; he only cares about a single, particular slave. He does not implore that Onesimus be freed because slavery is immoral; he asks that Onesimus is freed because he has become extremely close with the man. Paul is asking Philemon to free Onesimus, but he sends the slave back to his owner still a slave and with no guarantee that Philemon will actually grant freedom.

The article then moves to referencing Luke 4:18 as an example of Jesus condemning slavery. However, a simple reading of the passage in its actual context disconfirms that eisegetical interpretation of the text. Neither Jesus nor the passage from Isaiah which Jesus quotes are discussing the notions of slavery or oppression or captivity as a whole. They are both referring directly to Israel and God’s chosen people. The Lukan passage is intended to show that Jesus is claiming the mantle of the Messiah, the anointed one of God sent to redeem God’s people. It is certainly not a flat proscription against slavery.

On the contrary, Jesus never offers a single objection to slavery, as an institution, but rather discusses it as a perfectly normal and acceptable occurrence. A number of Jesus’ parables make reference to slaves and their masters, and never in any way which might imply that the practice of slavery is immoral. According to the author of Luke, Jesus proclaims, “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes” (12:37, NRSV). Other New Testament authors are even more forceful in their acceptance of slavery. Both Ephesians 6:5 and 1 Peter 2:18 exhort slaves to obey their masters, and explicitly denote that they should be glad to do so because it is the morally correct thing to do.

While some New Testament authors most certainly did claim that slaves and free-men were spiritual equals, this does not imply that they are societal equals or that the practice of owning another human being as property is, in any way, immoral.

The article’s remaining claims on this subject– that Roman law viewed slaves in a worse light than Christians, that Christians freed 15,600 slaves over the course of three centuries, and that Christians adopted a policy of not enslaving other Christians– are all Red Herrings. None of these things are related in the Bible, itself; and even if they were, none of these things are a condemnation of the practice of slavery, as a whole.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

7. Judging God’s actions to permit slavery or to terminate a particular society is faulty when we lack God’s omniscience and presence in the past, present, or future.

God’s omniscience and omnipresence are entirely irrelevant.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

8. Judging the practice of slavery in the Old Testament or New Testament requires assessing it against an objective moral standard, not a relative (society-specific, fluctuating) standard.

Judgment does not require an objective moral standard. Judgment can most certainly be passed on a relative moral standard, and is done so all the time. However, that is entirely irrelevant. Right now, I’m not attempting to judge the practice of slavery, at all. I’m asking two very simple questions regarding one’s view on the topic.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

9. Before judging societies for what they were during Biblical times, which consisted of high slavery populations and harsh conditions, consider the true message of the Bible and its entire purpose, which was to pave the path for Jesus.

Is the implication, here, that slavery is perfectly ethically sound so long as it is a tool for paving the path to Jesus? Are we to believe that the practice of slavery was absolutely necessary for the message of the gospel and salvation? Is the gospel necessarily predicated on the practice of slavery?

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

 

“…for the slave is the owner’s property.” –Exodus 21:21

When skeptics point to the practice of slavery in the Bible as an example of something disagreeable, I will most certainly agree with the author that these skeptics are often doing so based on a very modern sense of morality which finds the very notion of slavery to be completely abhorrent, and which has been fostered by the still-fairly-recent history of horrific slavery in modern nations like the United States of America.

So what?

If one’s goal is to argue that these detractors are mistaken to condemn the Bible for its sanctioning of the practice of slavery, then there are only two real ways in which this can be done. Either one must argue that there are situations in which slavery is a perfectly ethical practice or else one must argue that the Bible does not establish laws and processes by which slavery could be instituted.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

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7 thoughts on “Regarding Biblical Slavery

  1. tyler scollo on said:

    There are lots of things wrong with this. Your first paragraph is mystifying to me.

    1. No analysis of the idea of property. No analysis of the idea of ownership. (I was in the military. I was owned by the government. I was government property. I couldn’t just leave the military base without going AWOL and subject to the UCMJ, court-martial, confinement, Article 15, etc. I couldn’t do what I wanted. I was subject to superiors. I freely signed up for 6 years. I exchanged my freedom for lodging, food, money, and other benefits. When the 6 years were up, I was set free. Does that mean the military is an immoral institution? Are convicts owned? Are they property? Do they labor? Is that immoral? I mention all this because this is what happens when you just throw around Dillahunty-type questions that are evocative and not analytical. Being a mathematician, you should know this. You have to do your homework: pin down an immoral WAY in which a person is owned or in which a person is property and show that THAT WAY is promoted by the Bible. But even if you show that (!), then the conversation shifts to Biblical Innerancy.)

    2. No analysis of the accurate translation of כָּ֫סֶפ (keseph) in Exodus 21:21. It’s ‘silver’, not property.

    3. No analysis of the chiasmus in Exodus 21:21. The punishment of the slave is no more severe than the punishment of a non-slave. The intent isn’t homicidal but disciplinary. The ancient method of punishment was rod-beating: Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Proverbs 10:13, Proverbs 26:3, Proverbs 13:24, 2 Samuel 7:14, et al. (This means the slave or the non-slave did something that had juridical implications: it’s NOT some ‘Kunta Kinte’ sadism in view at all. This shifts the debate over to whether capital punishment is morally permissible. A huge literature is out there defending it so you have you’re work cut out for you.

    4. No citations from anthropologists on why ‘slavery’ isn’t an analytical term but an evocative one.

    5. No analysis of buying/selling transactions in other cultures that bought and sold both slave and free (as noted by said anthropologists).

    6. Annoying little jabs at psychological motive (that type of rhetoric is nauseating to me).

    7. No analysis of the nature of ancient vassal treaties and how the juridical parts of the Pentateuch are in that vein. As such, they’re not meant to clarify every nook and cranny of ethical casuistry; they’re meant to be general maxims considered by the elders for specific cases. The elders weren’t dolts. If an owner struck a slave in such a way that the latter lost an eye (and the slave was set free as a result), even if it’s not explicit in the treatise that the owner wouldn’t incur penal consequences, the probability that the elders wouldn’t take this into consideration is so low as to be negligible.

    8. Committing the sin of engaging in ‘analysis’ of an ancient text by thinking that the culmination of research on a passage means quoting it in English like it was written for us yesterday. You’re better than that.

    9. A one-sentence analysis of Lev. 25: 44-46. Yawn. Per scholarship, who are these foreign slaves, how were they acquired, and why would the GENERAL maxim (you can hand them down to your children) be the way it is? Please do research. You’re better than the typical village-atheist out there.

    I’ll skip the rest for now.

    • Thanks for your comments, Mr. Scollo! I’ll do my best to respond, but if I leave anything out, please forgive me. There is a lot to discuss, here.

      I was in the military. I was owned by the government.

      No, you had a contractual obligation to the government. You were not the government’s property. There are a few significant differences between these concepts. You entered into your contract willingly and voluntarily, as opposed to being purchased or pressganged into service against your will. The government could not sell you to another buyer, as it might sell property like vehicles, weaponry, or real estate. The government could not sell your wife or your children. Yes, military service involves a great deal of restriction of freedom as compared to civilian life, but that restriction is still a voluntary endeavor. It is not the result of your being owned as property.

      You have to do your homework: pin down an immoral WAY in which a person is owned or in which a person is property and show that THAT WAY is promoted by the Bible.

      As I mentioned in my initial paragraph, this post is not intended to make moral pronouncements one way or the other. The purpose was to ask whether or not owning another human being as property is moral. If your answer to this question is that there are situations in which it is moral to own another human being as property, then we can continue by exploring those situations.

      No analysis of the accurate translation of כָּ֫סֶפ (keseph) in Exodus 21:21. It’s ‘silver’, not property.

      This is a fair criticism. It is true that ךסף literally translates as “silver” or “money.” It is, in fact, translated as such somewhat often– for example, in the King James Version and the English Standard Version. However, other translations– eg, the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh and the New Revised Standard Version– prefer to translate the word with the English “property.” The question, then, is whether or not use of the English “property” over against “money” is idiomatically misleading. Are you arguing that it is? Given the context of Exodus 21:21, are you claiming that ךסף is not indicative of something owned by a person?

      No analysis of the chiasmus in Exodus 21:21. The punishment of the slave is no more severe than the punishment of a non-slave.

      Are you trying to claim that if one free man beat another free man with a rod such that the victim survived a day or two before dying the attacker would not have been punished?

      No citations from anthropologists on why ‘slavery’ isn’t an analytical term but an evocative one.

      I’m not sure what relevance this is supposed to have to the questions which I pose.

      No analysis of buying/selling transactions in other cultures that bought and sold both slave and free (as noted by said anthropologists).

      I’m similarly not seeing the relevance, here. I don’t usually consult anthropologists with my questions on ethics and morality, and I’m fairly certain you do not, either. “Is X moral?” is a question one might ask of an ethicist or a philosopher or a theologian, but it’s not really one with which anthropologists would generally concern themselves.

      Annoying little jabs at psychological motive (that type of rhetoric is nauseating to me).

      Which of my statements would you classify as “annoying little jabs at psychological motive?”

      If an owner struck a slave in such a way that the latter lost an eye (and the slave was set free as a result), even if it’s not explicit in the treatise that the owner wouldn’t incur penal consequences, the probability that the elders wouldn’t take this into consideration is so low as to be negligible.

      I’m honestly not sure I understand what you are attempting to say, here. Are you saying that if a slaveowner put out his slave’s eye and was forced to free that slave then the owner would likely have suffered further punishment for the act? If that is what you are saying, I’m not sure how you would defend that claim. If that is not what you are saying, I’m afraid I really don’t understand your meaning.

      Committing the sin of engaging in ‘analysis’ of an ancient text by thinking that the culmination of research on a passage means quoting it in English like it was written for us yesterday.

      This short post is not intended as a scholarly commentary on the texts in question. That said, if you feel that my interpretation of a passage is wildly inaccurate or eisegetical, I’ll certainly welcome the criticism.

      A one-sentence analysis of Lev. 25: 44-46. Yawn.

      Again, this was not intended to be an analysis of the passage from Leviticus. It was simply meant to be a summary of that passage. And, again, I welcome any criticism should you feel I misrepresented that passage.

      Per scholarship, who are these foreign slaves, how were they acquired, and why would the GENERAL maxim (you can hand them down to your children) be the way it is?

      I’m not sure how any of this is relevant. Presumably, these foreign slaves were human beings. Who they were, how they were acquired, and the reasoning behind the general maxim are, at best, discussions to be had AFTER we answer the question of whether or not it can be moral to own another human being as property.

  2. tyler scollo on said:

    How do you quote?

    • How do you quote?

      Blockquote tags. EDIT: Thought a code tag might let me type out other tags for showing. Sorry! It’s a blockquote HTML tag, so you start with the word blockquote enclosed in angle brackets (that is, < and >), then paste the quote, and end with /blockquote in angle brackets.

      BETTER EDIT: <blockquote> Quoted text goes here. </blockquote>

  3. tyler scollo on said:

    Huh? Your tags have no periods. There’s nothing in this box that lets me choose the tags. In case you can’t see it, all I see in your response is ‘Quoted text goes here’. I’m confused. It just says ‘leave a reply’ and it’s a blank, white box.

  4. tyler scollo on said:

    No, you had a contractual obligation to the government. You were not the government’s property. There are a few significant differences between these concepts. You entered into your contract willingly and voluntarily, as opposed to being purchased or pressganged into service against your will. The government could not sell you to another buyer, as it might sell property like vehicles, weaponry, or real estate. The government could not sell your wife or your children. Yes, military service involves a great deal of restriction of freedom as compared to civilian life, but that restriction is still a voluntary endeavor. It is not the result of your being owned as property.

    You still need to define property and ownership. Consider this:

    The definition of slaves as property runs into conceptual as well as empirical problems. ‘Property’ is a shorthand and abstract term for a bundle of very specific and relatively exclusive rights held by a person (or group) relative to a thing (or person). To say that in any given society, something (say, a person) is ‘property’ has meaning only to the extent that the rights involved are specified and understood in the context of other rights prevalent in the society. For example, in many precolonial African societies, the kin group had the right to sell equally its slave and nonslave members, it had equal control over the wealth acquired by either of them, it extracted (or failed to extract) as much labor from one as from the other, and the majority of slaves were quasi-relatives or actual relatives, and, if prosperous enough, could acquire slaves of their own. Here, obviously, one must look at other features to find the difference between the slave and the ‘free’.

    – Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (4 vols), David Levinson and Melvin Ember (eds)

    1. You could SELL slaves and non-slaves in precolonial Africa. Property means something different here.

    2. Slaves could have slaves. Here, there are nested notions of property.

    3. Slaves as property is too simplistic. It’s connected to rights.

    Also consider:

    A better criterion for a legal definition of slavery is its property aspect, since persons were recognized as a category of property that might be owned by private individuals. A slave was therefore a person to whom the law of property applied rather than family or contract law. Even this definition is not wholly exclusive, since family and contract law occasionally intruded upon the rules of ownership. Furthermore, the relationship between master and slave was subject to legal restrictions based on the humanity of the slave and concerns of social justice.

    A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2 vols). Raymond Westbrook (ed)

    4. FAMILY AND CONTRACT LAW occasionally intruded upon the RULES OF OWNERSHIP. This is what I’m talking about with the military. You can’t just uncritically distinguish property and contractual agreement without first giving me an analysis of property and ownership.

    5. There were LEGAL RESTRICTIONS based on the HUMANITY of the slave and concerns of SOCIAL JUSTICE.

    Some other comments:

    6. The Hebrews DID ENTER THE CONTRACT VOLUNTARILY! The military analogy is unscathed. The entered it voluntarily to escape debt and poverty, kind of like me with the military. If you DENY this is property, you owe me an analysis of ‘property’ and ‘ownership’, which I’ve provided from the anthropologists above.

    As I mentioned in my initial paragraph, this post is not intended to make moral pronouncements one way or the other. The purpose was to ask whether or not owning another human being as property is moral. If your answer to this question is that there are situations in which it is moral to own another human being as property, then we can continue by exploring those situations.

    Yes, there are moral and immoral ways to own (needs an analysis) another human being as property (needs an analysis). Depending on the analysis, the ownership of the property will be moral or immoral.

    The question, then, is whether or not use of the English “property” over against “money” is idiomatically misleading. Are you arguing that it is? Given the context of Exodus 21:21, are you claiming that ךסף is not indicative of something owned by a person?

    ‘Property’ is just an incorrect translation. It has to do with the master’s loss of money. The slave is a financial investment. If the slave is incapacitated due to disciplinary rod-beating (used on the non-slave as well!), the overriding guideline (because the master is PAYING the slave since the slave VOLUNTARILY exchanged his freedom to work off debt or escape poverty) is that the master wouldn’t have homicidal intent and so wouldn’t incur punitive consequences from the community. It’d be like punishing a judge for sentencing a convict to a jail cell. It was motivated by social justice and fair legal application of punishments for serious, semi-serious, or very serious crimes (it had nothing to do with whimsical sadism). The general nature of ancient near eastern vassal treaties wouldn’t get into what the punishment would be for a sadistic master because it’s just obvious how the case would be handled if brought before the elders (not to mention that the master literally had NOTHING in it for him to be sadistic since the slave is easing burdens in the household; there’s a sort of symbiotic relationship going on). If the master did take a turn for the worst, the slave could literally run away whenever he wanted and the slave wasn’t to be returned (how on earth is this property?)!

    Are you trying to claim that if one free man beat another free man with a rod such that the victim survived a day or two before dying the attacker would not have been punished?

    No, no. The non-slave, disciplinary rod-beating would be in a juridical context. Ideally, rod-beating wasn’t so severe that the punished couldn’t walk around for a couple days (that’s excessive and would involve paying the injured party’s medical expenses and their loss of time). Didn’t you read the whole context? There’s intentional chiasmus here. Look at Exodus 21:18-21:

    18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist[a] and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.

    20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

    Ignore ‘property’ for now (it’s the NIV). Verses 18 and 19 are dealing with two non-slaves. Verses 20 and 21 is between master and slave.
    1. Both are confined to bed (valid assumption since if you can’t get up and walk for a couple days, you’re probably lying in a bed somewhere).
    2. Both indicate that the injured party can’t walk around for a brief time (the non-slave needs a staff and, due to the chiasmus, it’s justified to assume that the slave would also need a staff due to the rod-beating).
    3. Both involve instruments of illicit injury (the non-slave is hit with a fist/stone and the slave is hit with a rod). Keep in mind that the non-slave would ALSO be hit with a rod if it weren’t a quarrel but a community-involved disciplinary action.
    4. There’s contrast with motive (one’s a quarrel and the other is disciplinary).
    5. Both involve loss of time (the belligerent non-slave pays the injured person for loss of time/medical expenses and the excessive master – due to chiasmus – pays [loses SILVER] for the slave’s loss of time/medical expenses).
    6. Both the belligerent non-slave and the excessive master are PUT TO DEATH if the injured parties died.
    7. BOTH slave AND non-slave are treated EQUALLY here.
    8. Chiasmus demands that verses 18-19 fill in the blanks where 20-21 are silent.

    I’m similarly not seeing the relevance, here. I don’t usually consult anthropologists with my questions on ethics and morality, and I’m fairly certain you do not, either. “Is X moral?” is a question one might ask of an ethicist or a philosopher or a theologian, but it’s not really one with which anthropologists would generally concern themselves.

    This is naive to me. I don’t know whether something is wrong unless I know what it is. If I need to find out what something is (relative to the particular usage) from anthropologists, I go to anthropologists. These are the experts when it comes to studying the tricky concepts of property and ownership (and how they relate to slavery in its various manifestations throughout near and ancient history). These are the folks who are going to tell me what a particular manifestation of slavery at a particular time amounts to (after I study that, I can – qua philosopher – determine whether it’s moral or immoral).

    Which of my statements would you classify as “annoying little jabs at psychological motive?”

    In your original post, you said, “It seems that our Christian Apologist feels the need to be an apologist for slavery in order to defend the faith.” If that’s not oozing with poison from a rotting well, I don’t know what it is. The rhetorical trappings of ‘apologist for slavery’ are dripping with it. This is how to manufacture conversation-stoppers. So, you’ve basically set up the conversation in such a way that any attempt to clarify slavery in the ancient near east has to first take a shower to wash off the poison from the rotting well. How about just dealing with the argument? Whatever the argument is, who cares whether or not someone is defending slavery to just defend the Christian faith. The New Atheists use this as a conversation-stopper. There literally is nowhere to go after the question, “Do you think it’s moral to own another human being as property?”, because once “Yes, but . . .” leaves our lips, we’re pretty much already denounced as moral monsters without ever hearing the case. It’s philosophical fascism.

    I’m honestly not sure I understand what you are attempting to say, here. Are you saying that if a slaveowner put out his slave’s eye and was forced to free that slave then the owner would likely have suffered further punishment for the act? If that is what you are saying, I’m not sure how you would defend that claim. If that is not what you are saying, I’m afraid I really don’t understand your meaning.

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I defended it already in what I said about ancient vassal treaties. My meaning is simply that it’s illicit to infer from the generalities of such treaties (the fact that it doesn’t explicitly say what would happen to the owner in the eye-poking scenario) that nothing probably happened to the owner punitively.

    I’m not sure how any of this is relevant. Presumably, these foreign slaves were human beings. Who they were, how they were acquired, and the reasoning behind the general maxim are, at best, discussions to be had AFTER we answer the question of whether or not it can be moral to own another human being as property.

    It’s VERY relevant. Unfortunately, it’s relevancy is nested in a high-context conceptual framework (a framework we don’t have yet because you won’t provide analyses of property and ownership – something I did above). I can’t know the MORALITY of a thing until I know what the THING is. You act like property/ownership are just obvious, univocal things without the least appreciation for how anthropological scholarship has investigated the issue! You’re reading an ancient book with modern moral intuitions in English (and you think that settles is?). No. You need to know the THING first, then we can get to the MORALITY of the thing.

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