Hector Avalos's New Book is a tour de force; Sure to Be A Classic

I'm very grateful that Hector send me a copy of his new book, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship. You can see the table of contents and purchase it if you follow the link. I cannot recommend this book more highly than to say that anyone who wants to deal with the issue of slavery in the future must deal with it. It is so well-informed and argued that Biblical scholars and Christian apologists might hope to ignore it if they could get away with it. ;-) This is a wonderful and extremely needed work. In this first post I'll just introduce it.

In his earlier book, The End of Biblical Studies, Dr. Avalos shows how biblical scholars have tried to maintain the Bible is relevant to modern society but their efforts have actually done the opposite. In this new book he shows how biblical ethics are irrelevant to a modern society by focusing in on just one issue, slavery. He writes:
My basic premise is that if slavery is not regarded as wrong, then little else can be. And if slavery is regarded as inexcusably wrong, then biblical ethics stands or falls on its attitude toward slavery. As such, this book is a critique of the broader idea that the Bible should be the basis of modern ethics." (p. 1)
The main point of his book, he tells us,
...is that reliance on biblical authority was instrumental in promoting and maintaining slavery far longer than might have been the case if we had followed many pre-Christian notions of freedom and anti-slavery sentiments. (p. 4)
His work contains three elements:
1) Biblical scholarship generally functions as an apology for biblical views now deemed unethical, and slavery is a primary example.
2) Reliance on biblical ethics generally has delayed the abolition of slavery and any progress toward freedom in the manner the latter is currently conceived.
3) Any credit to the Bible for ethical advances concerning freedom is usually the result of arbitrary exegesis of the Bible, reinterpretation, and the abandonment of biblical principles. (pp. 4-5)
While Dr. Avalos acknowledges "there are instances where reliance on the Bible can be credited with some ethical advance," he writes that "this study will confirm...that it was abandoning or marginalizing biblical argumentation, and shifting to secularized economic, humanitarian, legal, and practical arguments, that made a much greater impact on abolition." (p. 19)

In my opinion Avalos delivers on that which he claims, so much so that biblical scholars and Christian apologists will be running for cover, hiding from the onslaught of the Avalos intellectual machine. ;-) I wonder how long it will take for one of them to write a book on slavery that argues against him? Perhaps they will find something else to do, like going for a walk, saying they're working on something else at the moment, switching disciplines, or even retiring.

Masterful job Hector! There is no other ethical issue in the Bible that deserves our utter disgust with regard to the faith-based claim of the inspiration of the Bible. On this rock alone Christian ethics and faith die.

Click here to read part 2.