Slave Bible for the British West Indies and the Missing Parts

The Slave Bible, as it would become known, is a missionary book. It was originally published in London in 1807 on behalf of the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of enslaved Africans toiling in Britain’s lucrative Caribbean colonies. They used the Slave Bible to teach enslaved Africans how to read while at the same time introducing them to the Christian faith. Unlike other missionary Bibles, however, the Slave Bible contained only “select parts” of the biblical text. Its publishers deliberately removed portions of the biblical text, such as the exodus story, that could inspire hope for liberation. Instead, the publishers emphasized portions that justified and fortified the system of slavery that was so vital to the British Empire.
Thanks Tony Bogues who saw it on display at Glasgow University.

Slave Bible for the British West Indies. Thanks Tony Bogues who saw it on display at Glasgow University.

@museumofBible: This artifact is now in a new "artifact in focus" exhibit in the museum. This exhibit offers guests a chance to explore and respond to new research into the Slave Bible’s missionary origins and its use among enslaved Africans in the British West Indies.

Many parts of it were reportedly deleted to manipulate the slave, which shows how the Bible has suffered in the hands of man in an attempt to enslave or colonize other men.

It would be interesting to see what was left out. For centuries, the Bible has been used to spread a message of freedom in Christ.

But at some point, it was used for much darker purpose.

In Washington DC’s Museum of the Bible, a copy of the so-called “Slave Bible” sits on display.

This Bible, used by slave masters in the early 1800s, is quite different than the one used in pews today.

“The biggest thing is what it’s missing. The typical King James has 66 books, this one contains, in the Old Testament all or the parts of about 14 books,” explains Anthony Schmidt, PhD, Associate Curator of Bible and Religion in America.

Bibles like this, along with catechisms, were used to push a specific message to enslaved people.

“It starts off with the creation story…then it jumps to Joseph getting sold into slavery by his brothers and how that ends up being a good thing for him,” Schmidt told CBN News.

“We skip over the Israelites in slavery in Egypt being let out,” said Schmidt.

The story of Exodus, for example, describing the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt, is missing. The editors left out entire books and large portions of others; their selections stressed obedience, submission, and acceptance.

Other references to freedom were also omitted.

“They’re highlighting themes of being submissive, the same thing goes on with the New Testament as well,” he said.

“The whole book of Revelation is left out, so there is no new Kingdom, no new world, nothing to look forward to,” Schmidt explained.

Artifact of the Day: Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected for the Use of the Negro Slaves (AKA "Slave Bible") 1808. Though called "Holy," it is deeply manipulative. Based on the KJV, it omits all entries that express themes of freedom. #BlackHistoryMonth

Most slaves were illiterate or prohibited from reading, so what would be the point of such a Bible?

“The abolitionist movement was beginning to make waves on both sides of the Atlantic “said Schmidt.

One way slave owners could combat pressure from abolitionists was to tell them they were good Christians that taught their slaves about God.

Despite the heavy redaction's, the Gospel message would not be contained.

Schmidt says the truth of God’s word made its way on to plantations from visiting preachers and educated slaves.

“More and more denominations made a concerted effort to go and preach on plantations, “said Schmidt.

These missionaries, often Baptists and Methodists ministers, fueled the abolitionist movement.

God’s word was also spread through song.

“Through oral tradition, you might have a person who couldn’t read but heard the scripture. This was kept alive through stories or spirituals,” said Schmidt.

Many, of those songs or spirituals are still sung in churches today.

However, the Bible itself has a portion that says: "And if any man shall away from the words of the book of this prophecy,  God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

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