Date of Award


Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Edward Lee

Committee Member

Dr. Jason Silverman

Committee Member

Dr. David Mitchell


Slavery, Bible, Debate, Abolition, Southern, Northern, Leviticus, Philemon, Exodus


In assessing antebellum, Southern attitudes towards slavery, no assessment is complete without examining Christianity’s influence on southerners. Nearly every document southerners put forward that supported slavery made a reference to a biblical sanction of slavery. In studying the Southern use of the Bible to sanction slavery, many historians such as Hector Avalos and Molly Oshatz have argued that southerners were within their rights to use the Bible to sanction slavery. At the same time, they have castigated abolitionist efforts to argue that the Bible did not sanction slavery. In assessing this debate, this thesis will argue in contrast to these scholars that southerners were not unquestionably justified in using the Bible to sanction slavery, specifically as it was practiced in the American South. While a case can certainly be made that the Bible sanctions slavery in general, abstract terms given the presence of laws and passages within the Bible that regulate slavery; a deeper comparison of Southern laws, practices, and attitudes concerning slavery to biblical laws, practices, and attitudes concerning slavery suggests that southerners were in violation of the biblical model of slavery in at least four major ways. These violations include not legally permitting Southern slave masters to manumit their African slaves, legally enabling Southern slave masters to murder and abuse their African slaves and face no punishment, legally enabling Southern slave masters to punish and murder their fugitive slaves, and basing their system of slavery upon the inferiority of the African race.