the cover of the slave bible
The Slave Trade, 1791. Print made by John Raphael Smith and George Morland

Throughout history, the Bible has been edited and rewritten by individuals trying to advance particular points of view.

And we’re not just talking about King James. Since the Bible’s existence, countless individuals have molded the Bible to fit their individual worldviews. 

There’s the Jefferson Bible, for example, edited by Thomas Jefferson to remove all supernatural elements from Jesus’ story. There’s a Gen-Z edition of the Bible that rewrites the entire holy text in Gen-Z vernacular (it is reportedly bussin’).

There’s even a Duck Dynasty edition of the Bible, with editorial notes from the stars of Duck Dynasty within.

But perhaps the most controversial edition of the Bible ever created just went on display in a Dutch museum: the Slave Bible.

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" – was first published in 1807 for use by Christian missionaries in the British West Indies. Missionaries wanted to Christianize and educate the enslaved Africans in these Caribbean nations, and the Bible was a common tool for both. But they also wanted to quell any pesky thoughts the slaves might have about freedom or rebellion.

Enter: The Slave Bible. With all passages relating to freedom, slave rebellion, or revolts excised, this majorly abridged version of the Bible was intended to be used by colonizers to convert slaves to Christianity without provoking any thoughts of slave liberation.

the cover of the slave bible

And we are talking majorly abridged. There are 1,189 chapters in a typical Bible… the ‘Slave Bible’ cuts that down to a measly 232. Such removals include some of the most famous parts of the Bible; entire passages of Exodus, where Moses demands the Israelites’ freedom, are removed, for example.

Of course, not every verse relating to slavery was omitted. Some, like Ephesians 6:5, made the cut:

‘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.’

Distorting Faith

One of only three known copies of this incredibly rare book is now on display at the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, Netherlands. It so badly deteriorated that it requires special handling.

Scholars say that the Slave Bible, likely directly inspired by the Haitian Revolution, should help us understand the lengths some will use to distort faith for their own benefit.

"In omitting all references to freedom, it is a powerful and chilling reminder of how white Christians manipulated and misused even sacred texts to control the enslaved and legitimize slavery," says Julie Gardham, a senior librarian at the University of Glasgow. 

The creators of the Slave Bible were “really highlighting portions that would instill obedience,” explains Anthony Schmidt, curator at the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible.

Despite the slavers’ best efforts, the endeavor to keep the word ‘freedom’ off the tongues of slaves was ultimately a failed one.

As one spokesperson for the Catharijneconvent museum explained, “[the omissions] did not prevent faith from taking root on the plantations… The passages about freedom that were omitted turned up in spirituals, the songs of enslaved people in the United States.”


  1. Krystina S.'s Avatar Krystina S.

    This is a disgusting and hideous example of the amazing hypocrisy of slave-holding "Christians." It also serves to demonstrate how cherry picking select translations of select verses of the Christian Bible, as well as other sacred texts, only serves the ends of the cherry pickers. Whichever sect they may be, they will fight and torture and kill and hate over often-grievously inaccurate and inappropriate "interpretations" of their self-same texts. It is madness. It is religion. It is NOT "godly," but, sadly, HUMAN. Our relationship to our religion is a direct result of our relationship with other humans, other sentient beings, and the natural world. We are incredibly flawed and shamelessly perverse. This is why so many eschew religion for spirituality, which emphasizes the relationship of the self to others and to the cosmos.

    1. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

      Krystina S., please do not condemn all Christian foir the shameful ones. Remember Mother Theresa was a Christian too.

      1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

        Maybe read up on how 'good' she actually was(n't)

        1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

          Since even Jesus was slandered by the scribes and Pharisees as "casting out devils by the prince of devils Beelzebub" and "a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of the harlots and tax collectors", there isn't anyone, including Mother Theresa, who is going to escape that slander from some other people, no matter how much good they try to do, because they don't do it to some people's satisfaction or the way that they think it should be done or they make human mistakes or for some other reason. And so that mud and filth that is just thrown indiscriminately at everyone doesn't really prove anything against Mother Theresa, anymore than it did against Jesus. Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone and First remove the beam from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

      2. Robert James Ruhnke's Avatar Robert James Ruhnke

        Mother Theresa was as disgusting as the Slave holders, Mr. Day.

        Many Christians are decent people. Too bad right wing dogma chasers don’t follow their example,

        1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Know your American History, it was slavery and Manifest Destiny that made America Great. When you hear "Let's Make America Great Again" it's Christian code for we need to bring back slavery.

    1. Rev Nolan's Avatar Rev Nolan

      Spot on, Spindler. I don’t like that fact, but I certainly cannot disagree with it either.

    2. Daniel Ginther's Avatar Daniel Ginther

      MAGA is awesome, any American who disagree is " Free" to leave....and really should !

      1. Robert Frizzell's Avatar Robert Frizzell

        The problem with "Make America Great Again" comes from perception. I am sure there are times we can look at America as great, but great for who? Has there been a time when America has been great for everyone? Has there ever been a time in America's history were at least one race or ethnic group hasn't been somewhat oppressed? Visit a Native American reservation and go past the tourist portion. Talk to people that are different from you. Acknowledge that there are very real things called white privilege and systemic racism. Once we start seeing and acknowledging instead of denying, then we can make America great.

        1. Martin L Stigleman's Avatar Martin L Stigleman

          The "tourist" areas of a reservation can show the worst of what has been done to Native Americans. I visited the Pine Ridge Reservation a few years back. We stopped in a "Trading Post" that was run by a white family who proudly advertised their store as being open "For over 90 years". Inside were tables filled to overflowing with beadwork items, ceremonial dresses, pottery, and hand made tools and weapons...and behind the counter was an 8 foot tall, 12 foot long shelf filled with whiskey bottles...the product for their "Trades". The implications were horrible at the time, and thinking back on it now is still sickening.

      2. Ronaldo's Avatar Ronaldo

        Two major indicators of just how great America once was are WWI and WWII, both happening long after slavery was ended. Making this nation self-sufficient, with decent jobs and opportunities for all who seek them, is a good goal. It's too bad that so many hate the concept because it was proclaimed by a businessman rather than a career politician.

  1. Geoffrey C. Olive's Avatar Geoffrey C. Olive

    Just more evidence of how vile, inhumane and evil the xtian religion was and still is! Not to say that other religions (and regimes) weren’t, just that xtianity has led the pack of causing human suffering for about 2000 years!👎

    1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

      Christianity led the pack of human suffering for the last 2,000 years? You're kidding, right?

      Let's see who is in charge as Christianity was becoming a thing? oh yeah, the Romans? Lovely chaps. Not at all engaged in slavery and human suffering without the help of Christianity. Well that takes care for about the first 300 years until 323 when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. But even then a goodly number of people did not give up the "old gods" for quite some time.

      Then of course in the early 600s Islam started to become a thing. Of course there were no Muslim slave slaveholders and slave holders. Oh wait... they were the biggest purveyor at holders of slaves in the Middle East for a few hundred years.

      Then in the late 1100s you had Genghis Khan and his merry band of Mongols who had the largest Empire the world had ever seen until about the mid 1300s. They built that Empire by sneaking up behind people and tickling their ass with a feather until they were laughing so hard they submitted to the Mongols there's only if they would stop the tickling.

      Yeah, not really? It was through brutality and slavement and oppression of everybody who was not a Mongol. And the Mongol religion? Well they basically were nature worshipers. But eventually Islam and Christianity is sleep in there.

      And then they were at the Japanese of World War II fame. When they started their Rampage through Asia and parts thereabouts in thev1930s ~0.5% of their population was Christian. Vastly Shinto with a Buddhist minority.

      And let's not forget our African tribal leader friends. Not a lot of Christians in that bunch. For about 300 years from the mid 1500s onward, the Atlantic slave trade absolutely could not thrive anywhere near the level that it did if not for those jovial fellows catching other black Africans to sell to the white man.

      Those were just some highlights. That does not count all the people throughout the world that were not Christians that were doing horrendous things to other human beings over the last 2,000 years where conquest and slavery was was the general norm in every society.

      And then we look at the other side of the coin where it was Christians who rose up as abolitionist, some more strident than others (hello John Brown), who put a stop to slavery in Europe and America.

      In 1807 the British made the slave trade illegal in a year later in 1808 the United States follow suit.

      Unfortunately in the case of the US that only covered the importation of New Slaves. Those who were currently slaves within the country and their descendants were still considered chattel. It took a little bloody thing called the Civil War to put it into it. Lots of people who called themselves Christian we're on the wrong side of that conflict, but even more we're on the right side of it and that's how slavery was ended in the United States.

      And don't give me any malarkey about the Civil War not being fought to free the slaves. That's a technical, philosophical argument. The issue of slavery was the core issue that led to the Civil War.

      So before anyone says that Christians were the primary cause of suffering for humanity for over the last 2,000 years, particularly as it relates to slavery, they need to have a better understanding of world history.

      1. Vicki's Avatar Vicki

        I would probably put it this way: All religions have been used by power-seeking people to advance their own agenda - some more successfully than others.

      2. Geoffrey C. Olive's Avatar Geoffrey C. Olive

        So maybe I was incorrect about xtianity LEADING the pack as the primary cause of human suffering. I’ll rephrase it and say ALL religions are equally responsible for human suffering over the ages! They all claim to be right which doesn’t make rational sense. As an afterthought, maybe we should just blame humans for human suffering! At least that’s more rational than believing in a sky daddy!

        1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

          That is correct. Blame humans. Because they have had a variety of motivations for doing what evil they have done down through the Millennia to each other.

      3. Russell D. Hall's Avatar Russell D. Hall

        Let it be known the first Slave owner was a Black man by the name of Johnson.

        1. Henrietta Hodge's Avatar Henrietta Hodge

          The truth is that Hugh Gwyn, the man who enslaved the African man named John Punch, is first recognized slaveholder. It is a spurious claim that a Black man innovated the North American system.

    2. Russell D. Hall's Avatar Russell D. Hall

      95% of Christian 'religionists' do not preach and teach the bible to get people saved. They preach Apostacy.

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    This is the evil side of humanity. We all need to admit to past sins and go forward and try to do better. We can't really make up for those sins but we can strive to avoid committing them again.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    Christians are slaves to their god and like to control others. It's part of the evil that is Christianity.

    1. Bishop William Dusenberry, DD's Avatar Bishop William Dusenberry, DD

      Assuming Matthew is a fellow ULC clergy-person, he’s right on when he states that Christians (not political-types who call themselves Christians in order to get Christians to vote for them) — actual “believing” Christians (who actually believe that their Christian God drowned upwards to 12 million pregnant women during the Noah’s Ark extermination— and who arranged to have his only son tortured to death) such Christians use Christianity as the opium of the masses — and once addicted to the narcotic of religion, they are virtual slaves.

    2. Bishop William Dusenberry, DD's Avatar Bishop William Dusenberry, DD

      Assuming Matthew is a fellow ULC clergy-person, he’s right on when he states that Christians (not political-types who call themselves Christians in order to get Christians to vote for them) — actual “believing” Christians (who actually believe that their Christian God drowned upwards to 12 million pregnant women during the Noah’s Ark extermination— and who arranged to have his only son tortured to death) such Christians use Christianity as the opium of the masses — and once addicted to the narcotic of religion, they are virtual slaves.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Im flabbergasted that such a so called slave Bible ever existed.I can not read it apart from a quick glimpse. Nearly made me sick .We are all brothers and sisters no matter what colour our skin is.No one should be reminded about blacks being used as slaves.

  1. Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.'s Avatar Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.

    A much more evil version of the Bible is being rewritten by the Chinese Communist Party with the Pope's "blessing".

    1. Henrietta Hodge's Avatar Henrietta Hodge

      Both are evil versions of the Bible. One isn’t more evil than the other.

      1. Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.'s Avatar Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.

        Edited version: Another evil version of the Bible is currently being rewritten by the Chinese Communist Party with the Pope's "blessing".

  1. Pastor Jim's Avatar Pastor Jim

    I think I will follow this path concerning this subject... "Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence." I can't change the past but I can learn from it and carry the lessons forward in an appropriate manner. Slavery isn't good but it doesn't define us. Almost all groups and cultures practiced slavery to some degree (even Native Americans) or another. There's still slavery in the world, and there are still evil doers everywhere. We can stand on our stumps, point fingers, and bitch and moan, but who is really going to take action. Be the change that you feel is needed in our world.

  1. Geoffrey C. Olive's Avatar Geoffrey C. Olive

    Anyone who claims or says they only answer to a higher authority, such as god, jc or whatever, as do xtians, use this as an excuse to do whatever evil they want to achieve their personal power goals and go to heaven! They completely misunderstand the sanctity of human life on this tiny speck of dust in the universe, for what? The mistaken idea of a loving entity that needs to be kowtowed to the extent of killing other human beings if they don’t know or choose to have rational thoughts otherwise! Such absolute nonsense led to the crusades, human sacrifices, witch hunts, puritans, priests, monks and nuns, blasphemy trials, fatwas, and countless other persecutions in the name of religion which still happens in this modern age. Even when there is no killing, consider the power that the xtian katolick church, islam and many other religions have over millions of minions who live in poverty yet still give up some of their meagre incomes and time to support a parasitic clergy and the false promise of a heavenly afterlife or hell if they don’t!

  1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

    Cafeteria Christianity is one reason why I left that religion in March 1975.

  1. Theresa Gull's Avatar Theresa Gull

    Does not surprise me at all. People have justifying horrific behavior behind their religion for centuries.

  1. Minister Deidre's Avatar Minister Deidre

    It's worth noting that there were other Christians who were against slavery and who fought to abolish it. They also risked their lives to help those who were enslaved get to freedom.

  1. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

    We've never heard of this Bible. Sounds like more woke Jesus bashing.

    1. Robert James Ruhnke's Avatar Robert James Ruhnke

      It was a real thing, just because you’re blind to evil doesn’t others are. There’s documentation on it. Google “slave Bible,” you’ll get plenty of info on it. An realistically this isn’t a bash on Jesus, it’s a bash on those who use the Bible to justify their atrocious behavior. Good Gods get over your fragile ego.

  1. Pastor Jim's Avatar Pastor Jim

    It seems to me that a factual world history regimen would work well here.

  1. Lady Celynia's Avatar Lady Celynia

    Wow, it seems the author of this blog post dug this one up simply to pot stir.

  1. Rev Morse's Avatar Rev Morse

    I'm so glad slavery has ended in most parts of the world. End the rest!

  1. Russell D. Hall's Avatar Russell D. Hall

    We living on Planet earth are experiencing slavery in one form or another throughout our lives. We can only really know 'Freedom' through Jesus Christ our Lord. All people die. Though not all people will live. Life begins when we learn and trust the only Gospel that saves us. 1st Corinthians 15:1-4. That Christ died on the Cross, according to scripture, was buried and according to scripture arose. Preaching any other Gospel is an Apostacy, and puts people in bondage. We are not saved by works but only by Gods Grace and through faith in the finished work and blood of our Savior. Ephesians 2:8,9.... If we mix Grace and works we have neither, only Apostacy, Romans 11:6

    1. Geoffrey C. Olive's Avatar Geoffrey C. Olive

      Russel D. Hall: Xtianity is the religion of approximately one third of the world’s population. The other two thirds of the population have either no religious beliefs (atheists) or other religious nonsensical beliefs that contradict and/or conflict with all the others, such as Islam, Hindu, etc.! So don’t claim your xtian religion, with no evidence other than faith (faith = belief without evidence), is the only true one! Two thirds of the population disagree with you even though xtianity has the largest number of believers on the planet! In addition you claim that freedom can only be achieved through Jesus. Exactly how? And what more “freedom” do you as a xtian have that I as an atheist don’t have? At least on Sundays I have complete freedom to do what I want, unlike devout xtians who are obliged to kowtow to a nonexistent sky daddy, fictional son, and an imaginary ghost in money grabbing churches!

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