A rare and extremely controversial 19th century Bible on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., was a powerful tool of propaganda, a mind control device, and a generator of ‘ Fake News’ once used by British missionaries to convert slaves to Christianity.
The rare Bible is on loan from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee and been exhibited in the Washington museum since it opened in November 2017. According to a Fisk University paper, “Only three copies of this Bible are known to exist” and the example on display in Washington is “the only copy in the U.S.”
Anthony Schmidt is associate curator of Bible and Religion in America at the Washington museum and he told reporters at NPR “the first instance of this abridged version titled, Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves , in the British West-India Islands , was published in 1807.” It was compiled with the intention of being read to African slaves in the British West Indies; the modern day Caribbean.
Slave Bible is Mass Editing of The Holy Book
In our modern society the term ‘ Fake News’ describes not only the reporting of inaccurate facts, but also the omission of important facts that are essential in forming a balanced view of any given story. The Slave Bible is a special historical artifact because it has been so gravely edited that any stories which might have inspired the slaves to rebel, were completely omitted.
Among the omitted verses was:
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.” Ephesians 6:5.
And we are not talking about editors just dropping a word here and adding a comma there. They wholly altered the entire structure of the Christian holy book . Schmidt estimated that about “90 percent of the Old Testament” and “50 percent of the New Testament” are missing. In terms of readable content, while a protestant Bible has 1,189 chapter the Slave Bible has a mere 232!
The title page of the Slave Bible. Passages such as the Book of Exodus are removed. (Blythwood / Public Domain )
What Inspired The ‘Editing’ of the Bible into the Slave Bible?
Several theories exist to account for the inspiration behind the omission of so much of the standard protestant Bible, but most specialists agree that farmers in the West Indies were probably opposed to the arrival of the Christian missionaries who worked with the enslaved Africans on their plantations. Schmidt says, “Coming in and being able to educate African slaves would prepare them one day for freedom, but at the same time would not cause them to seek it more aggressively.”
An article on Ghanaweb presents another, even more sinister angle on what was essentially a mind control program. The editing exercise was a double edged sword and not only were rebellion inspiring verses omitted, but pro- slavery verses were ‘deliberately’ left in to enhance the propaganda machine .
For example, Ephesians 6:5:
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”
The Slave Bible was edited to enhance propaganda of submission and for mind control. (Internet Archive Book Image / Public Domain )
Washington Raises Awareness And Does Not Hide From The Past
The museum in Washington decided to exhibit “The Slave Bible: Let the Story Be Told,” in response to the amount of attention visitors gave the artifact. Schmidt believes “people don’t look at the Bible or approach the Bible or read the Bible in a vacuum, but that it always has “social and economic context.”
This Bible is intended to give people a chance ‘to reflect’ and visitors are being encouraged to write down their reactions with prompts from the museum such as “What questions does the Slave Bible raise about how the Bible is used today?”
Brad Braxton, the director of the NMAAHC’s Center for the Study of African American Religious Life, said “This religious relic compels us to grapple with a timeless question: In our interpretations of the Bible, is the end result domination or liberation?”
An article in RNS (Religion News Service) quotes Holly Hamby of Fisk University. Hamby, a United Methodist, who suggested that the exhibit should include videos of people questioning the controversies of the Slave Bible.
- Stolen 1200-Year-Old Bible with Gold-Encrusted Motifs Recovered in Anti-Smuggling Raid in Turkey
- Forgery or a Lost Account? Examining the Authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
- The Benin Bronzes: A Tragic Story of Slavery and Imperialism Cast in Brass
The Slave Bible does not include Exodus where God said, “Let my people go.” (Brock Hall / YouTube)
Hamby’s ‘favorite question’ is the last and most thought provoking one on the list, which is: “Do you think that this Bible is still the good book?” She is quick to add “It’s a good book. I still believe in the Bible on the whole but not this version of it.”
Taking all things into account, in the dry light of reality, this ‘book’ can hardly be called a Bible. If I was to take an apple and throw 90% of it in the bin and give you a handful of pips, would you thank me for giving you an apple? If I was to take a bicycle and throw 90% away and gave you a wheel, would you high-five me for giving you a bike?
Top image: The Slave Bible omitted 90 percent of the Old Testament and 50 percent of the New Testament. Source: Leonid Pavlov / Adobe.