In 2018, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., exhibited a rare Bible that was purposely used by British missionaries to convert enslaved Africans in the Caribbean.
Known as the Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, it was printed by the Missionary Society For the Conversion of Negro Slaves and the first abridged version was published in 1807. This was made known to the NPR by Anthony Schmidt, associate curator of Bible and Religion in America at the museum.
The most interesting and fascinating thing about the so-called Slave Bible is that some passages that could possibly incite justifiable rebellions were intentionally omitted by the missionaries.
“What’s unique about it is that it’s an abridged version of the Holy Bible. About 90 per cent of the Old Testament is missing,” Schmidt said. “50 per cent of the New Testament is missing.”
“Put in another way, there are 1,189 chapters in a standard Protestant Bible. This Bible contains only 232,” he adds.
This comes as no surprise as those familiar with the Bible know both the Old and New Testaments contain stories and verses about slavery, emancipation and how we’re all one in God’s eyes. Long story short, they did not want the slaves to be inspired by such content.
Artifact of the Day: Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected for the Use of the Negro Slaves (AKA "Slave Bible") 1808. Though called "Holy," it is deeply manipulative. Based on the KJV, it omits all entries that express themes of freedom. #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/UxrkwgT0PP
— Museum of the Bible (@museumofBible) February 6, 2018
“You’ll see a jump from Genesis 45, and they’ve cut out all the material up to Exodus 19,” Schmidt continued. “What they’ve cut out is the story of the Israelites captivity in Egypt and their eventual liberation and journey to the promised land, and of course that was a pretty powerful story for enslaved Africans in the Caribbean but also in the Americas.”
Among some of the verses intentionally omitted according to Schmidt was Galatians 3:28 which says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
On the other hand, pro-slavery verses remained to further fuel their propaganda. 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.”
Loaned to the museum by Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, the Bible is one of the only three known Slave Bibles in existence with the other two in the United Kingdom.