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Slave Bible

The Slave Bible

Edited for the Use of the Negro Slaves

What Is The Slave Bible?

The “Slave Bible,” officially titled “Select Parts of the Holy Bible for the use of the Negro Slaves in the British West-India Islands,” is an abridged version of the Bible created in the early 19th century. This Bible was specifically edited for slaves and was notable for its omissions and selections that emphasized themes of obedience and submission, while entirely excluding any narratives that might inspire hope for freedom or incite rebellion.


Background and Purpose

The earliest copy of the Slave Bible was published in 1807. It contains only parts of 14 books from the standard Bible, dramatically reduced from the full text.

The Negro Bible was designed for use by missionaries in the education and conversion of enslaved Africans in the British West Indies. It was produced at a time when there was growing fear among slave owners of potential slave revolts, especially following the Haitian Revolution, which saw enslaved people successfully overthrow their European oppressors.

Notably, the Slave Bible excludes the story of the Exodus, where Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, while it retains the story of Joseph’s enslavement, as his narrative exemplifies submission being rewarded by God.


The Texts Removed and Its Influence

The editors of the Slave Bible removed “references to freedom and escape from slavery,” focusing instead on passages encouraging loyalty and submission to the slave master. This was done under the guidance of individuals like Beilby Porteus, the then Bishop of London, who played a significant role in shaping the contents of the Slave Bible.

The Bible’s selections were driven by evangelistic and Christological themes, consistent with the period’s Christian tract literature.

The Slave Bible included only about 10 percent of the Old Testament and half of the New Testament. For example, while the entirety of Ecclesiastes was included, passages like Galatians 3:28, which emphasized equality among all people in Christ, were omitted​.


Christianity and Slavery

The creation of the Slave Bible reflects a complex interplay between religious evangelism and the realities of slavery. It highlights how Christianity was used to both promote and, in some cases, justify the institution of slavery.

The Slave Bible was an evangelistic tool, but its origin in a society that largely tolerated or approved of slavery influenced its content and use. It reveals how sacred texts can be manipulated to both support human flourishing and deny basic human rights​.


The Slave Bible and Its Legacy

The Slave Bible serves as a stark reminder of how religious texts can be selectively used to support specific agendas. Its existence and the choices made in its compilation invite critical reflection on how religious doctrines have been historically used to justify and perpetuate systemic oppression.

While the Slave Bible was rooted in the goal of converting and educating slaves, it also fit comfortably within a cultural context that saw no contradiction between the Christian faith and the institution of slavery​.

The Slave Bible, therefore, is not just a religious artifact but a historical document that sheds light on the complexities of religious influence in the era of slavery. It underscores the importance of examining how sacred texts can be used in various contexts to alter beliefs and decisions, sometimes in ways that diverge significantly from their original messages or intents.

You can read the Slave Bible in its entirety here…


Quiz Time


 1. What percent of the original Bible did the Slave Bible contain? Old Testament? New Testament?

2. What did you personally learn from the Slave Bible and the use of religions to push agendas?

3. Explain how the Slave Bible emphasizes the importance of doing your own research and not accepting anything on face value.

4. What particular books were omitted? Why?

5. When was the Slave Bible published?

6. According to the video, how many official copies are there to this date? Where are they?

7. Why did the Slave Bible leave out the story of Moses?