As a reminder that the Bible has been used to justify atrocities, the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. is now featuring an exhibit with what is known as the “Slave Bible”: a heavily censored version of the holy book that highlights the necessity of slavery… while leaving out every verse mentioning freedom.
According to Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service notes that seeing this exhibit can be jarring to people who are used to seeing the Bible in only a positive light:
Scholars acknowledge that the little-known Bible can be a shocking discovery for students and museum visitors alike.
“When they first encounter the Slave Bible, it’s pretty emotional for them,” said Holly Hamby, an associate professor at Fisk who uses the artifact as she teaches a class on the Bible as literature. Many of the students at the historically black university are Christian and African-American, most of whom are descendants of slaves, including those in the West Indian colonies.
“It’s very disruptive to their belief system,” said Hamby, who is currently teaching from a digitized version of the Slave Bible.
The book excludes about 90% of the Old Testament and 50% of the New Testament.
Its pages include “Servants be obedient to them that are your masters,” from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but missing is the portion of his letter to the Galatians that reads, “There is neither bond nor free … for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“We feel it’s an opportunity to contribute to important discussion today about the Bible’s role in relationship to human enslavement and we know that that connects to contemporary issues like racism as well as human bondage,” Seth Pollinger, director of museum curatorial, told Religion News Service.
Give credit to the museum for showing an incredibly cherry picked version of the book. This edited version even takes out the entire Exodus story of the Israelites fleeing slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt… which makes little sense, given how that mass “exodus” is how the book got its name.
The question is how this kind of exhibit will force viewers to reexamine their own beliefs. They may scoff at the Slave Bible, but how is that sort of selective editing any different from what so many conservative Christians do today when it comes to highlighting, say, the “clobber verses” against LGBTQ rights?
The same thing happens with the current refugee crisis. Those Christians talk about the importance of following the law and obeying the government, conveniently ignoring the parts of the Bible that command citizens to love and accept foreigners and where Jesus unabashedly bucked the system by claiming that true power is found in weakness.
If you see the exhibit without making that connection, it really misses the point, doesn’t it?
(Screenshot via YouTube)