I have inadvertently found myself in a debate on Twitter about the differences of the term 'slavery' in the biblical sense and the way that we think of it today. Does anybody have any proof that this word has changed definitions over the past 2000 years? 

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The post does address your point.  For the purpose of the Greek under discussion and for hundreds of years they have been defined as both being slavery.  What is under discussion is what the bible says about slavery.

Saying slavery and servitude are not the same, ignores that for the subject matter at hand, they must be.

So if you were making a point about English definitions, it is very off topic.  When you are dealing with multiple languages, one language's definition is more of an opinion than a fact.  Since we are discussing more than English here, English is not definitive.

But saying slavery is different kind of misses the point that for hundreds of years, it wasn't to a large chunk of civilization that did more than pontificate on it, but rather actually practiced both and saw servants as slaves.  This is also the case for the Hebrew language and the word Ebed, so it wasn't just Greece.  The world that practiced slavery saw them as falling both under the umbrella of slavery.  

But you are saying that they aren't the same thing.  Both essentially own a person, and there is much to be said as seeing them them as both being related on principle as the Greeks clearly made no distinction.  

There was a time when a wife was considered property as well.  That isn't what a wife is defined by.  The essence of a slave isn't that the slave is your property.  It is that they are at your beck and call and may not refuse an order.  It is you owning their lives, more than it is you owning them specifically as persons.  Anyone in the military who doesn't think the government owns their lives to do their bidding for the duration of their enlistment is kidding themselves.

But this is certain.  Indentured servitude and slavery is the same thing according to  Koine Greek.  It is one word.  The thread is about what the bible says about slavery. In the passages under scrutiny, indentured servitude and slavery are the same word, as are masters also. 

Saying military service is not a type of indentured servitude is a dismissal of the obvious.  Saying that indentured servitude is not a type of slavery is also a dismissal of the obvious.  Slavery concerns owning ones life for the purpose of labor far more than it does concern owning one as property for the purpose of being a trade-able commodity.  The latter is an afterthought compared to the former.

In this, modern English definitions fail to grasp the essence of what a slave has been through history.  They are more interested in pointing out what in slavery appears most offensive to modern understanding, than the essence of slavery that slave-holding cultures saw more clearly.

Kris argued that his original objection was not ignoring thought progression as it was a context-free observation about the definitive meaning of the term, when he then appealed to its modern definition in our language.

I can see why you might think that, but that's not the case.  That's just where the tangent headed at that point in the conversation.  This is indicated when I sad the following:

If we consider every form of indentured servitude across all history, there are lots of variations in contract details and the rights and treatment of servants, I'm sure, but if, at this moment, we're talking about colonial America…

My point is still simpler than specifics about practices in Colonial America.  I worded my initial statement shortly, but that apparently offends you, so here it is long.  It's about proper use of language and not equivocating.  Before we get to 'doulus', let's start with a different example of my objection.  Your comments indicate that you might already grasp the following, but seeing as you need everything to be explicit else you'll use it as an excuse to speculate about nonsense, I'm going to explain at greater length until I get bored.

In German, the word 'Affe' can mean monkey or ape.  Just because that can be done in German, doesn't mean the reverse is true in English.  In English, they are two separate things.  Let's say a friend and I read a German passage in which a traveller describe having his wallet stolen by an 'Affe'.  The following conversation ensues:

Me: That's pretty scary.  I wouldn't want my wallet stolen by an ape.

Friend: Well, the ape they are referring to in the story is a monkey.

Me: I'm not so sure about monkeys either.

Friend:  You like lemurs though, right?  Same thing.  Both are about the same size, have tails and fur.

That conversation would be incorrect, even if the gist of the conversation isn't so far off.  Apes aren't monkeys, even if the word 'Affe' describes both.  Lemurs aren't monkeys, even if they have some characteristics in common.  To me it looks kind of like this:

(My example does not well illustrate equivocation, but only because I'm trying to conserve time and space).  

It could have just as easily been phrased correctly like this:

Me: That's pretty scary.  I wouldn't want my wallet stolen by an ape.

Friend:  In this context, the author meant 'Affe' in the sense of 'monkey'.

Me: I'm not so sure about monkeys either.

Friend: You like lemurs though, right?  Monkeys and lemurs are quite similar, and you have no more reason to be cautious about one over the other.

So, in the same sense 'doulos' can mean slavery or bond slave/ indentured servant, but in English the terms have certain distinctions, even if they have some overlapping characteristics.

What I am accusing you of doing is this:

Why bother to say anything at all?  Two reasons.  

i) You've talked in this thread about being clear with the term 'doulos' as is contextually valid.  You seem to state disagreement with sloppily slapping the term 'slave' into a common atheist argument when correctly recognizing the nuances of the language at play considerably changes the character of the argument (thus weakening it).  Later on in the thread, however, you are getting far less accurate with terms when it suits your position.  Personally, I think it's good practice to exercise the same standard you would like others to uphold.

ii) But even that wouldn't be of much concern if it was just wording I, personally, found a bit too sloppy, and I would say it is more sloppy than outright wrong.  Taking both terms in their broadest senses, slavery has a certain set of traditions and practices, and indentured servitude has a certain set of traditions and practices.  Both terms overlap in some aspects, but not in others.  It is worth maintaining distinctions for the sake of accuracy.  If you don't, your meanings can start broadening out to the point of being flat out wrong.  And in linking slavery to indentured servitude to military service, you have crossed that line.  

When you mentioned military service at the point I entered the conversation, you were using it as an example of something your audience can relate to.  As such, I am mostly concerned with military service in the sense that people are most likely to relate to it, which is modern military, most likely American.  I do recognize that you mentioned 'history-wide' military service earlier, but that's too large and unwieldy a thing to address.  History-wide, armies have held in their ranks slaves, freemen, mercenaries, indentured servants, nobles, citizens, reservists, militia… I'm sure there's more.  Some of history-wide militaries will resemble indentured servitude and others will not.

The current American military (as well as a many other modern militaries) has some things in common with indentured servitude, but then again, it also has many things in common with regular employment contracts.  The fact is, it is neither indentured servitude nor an employment contract.  As I stated, indentured servitude is constitutionally banned, and the enlistment form explicitly states that it is more than an employment agreement.

You claim that the government owns enlisted men, but this statement makes little sense to me.  An enlisted person does not bear any of the legal attributes of property.  An enlisted person can be (and very likely is) a citizen.  That enlisted person holds the rights of a citizen tempered by the military regulations by which they agreed to abide.  Soldiers have human rights and do not exist in a master and servant/ slave relationship.  They exist in a chain of command through which they themselves can advance under the terms of their contract.  Soldiers cannot be ordered to die.  Not even the Commander and Chief can walk up to the lowliest private and say, "I'm bored today.  Just for shits and giggles, shoot a bullet through your brain".  They can be ordered into extremely hazardous situations where they are very likely to die, but the same is true of firemen and police officers.  The reason all three groups can be ordered as such is because that is an intrinsic risk of the positions they signed on to, not because they are owned.  A soldier can also leave combatant roles as a contentious objector.  While this may be very difficult to do, the fact that it is even there as a consideration and an entitlement is a significant distinction between servant and slave status.  What servant or slave has a legal right to conscientious objection?

And there are still more differences, especially if we get more and more granular, but if you're content to operate from the loosest possible definitions of words, that's your business.  I said my piece.

This is the end of my participation in this tangent.  I started it, so I'll stop my role in perpetuating it.  Obviously you are free to do as you please.

I also need to point out that indentured servitude isn't merely "the most lenient" intepretation, it is a frequently appropriate interpretation at the same time.  Everyone, from indentured servants, to lifelong mine workers were all called slaves.

In Feenstra's defense, I'M the one who began discussing English indentured servitude, it's the form with which I'm most familiar --

Yeah, but I am talking English as in the language and it's definitions, rather than British.  Kris argued that his original objection was not ignoring thought progression as it was a context-free observation about the definitive meaning of the term, when he then appealed to its modern definition in our language.

The argument I made is that one can't use a singular language or the language of a singular era as a definitive boundary-setter when the use of a term spreads across centuries and multiple languages and the conversation itself concerns multiple languages and eras. 

No, not off the top of my head.  I have been searching.  While it's not difficult to find references to what I'm talking about, it's not necessarily the best resources or content that makes the clearest argument.  For example:

This mentions the selling of indentured servants in the manner I described, but mentioning that it happens doesn't establish it as the norm.


The following talks abuot it, but I don't know enough to vouch for the resources used.


In practice, the servant would sell himself to an agent or ship captain before leaving the British Isles. In turn, the contract would be sold to a buyer in the colonies to recover the cost of the passage. The crossing in steerage was grim. One indentured servant, Thomas Morally, was given three biscuits a day to eat and each mess of five men was given three pints of water per day.

Apparently you've gone to some effort to research this topic, and I don't mean to minimize the significance of it, but it's late here and I have a big day tomorrow that involves getting up early. I would not do justice to it if I tried to read and respond to it tonight - I will have to continue this later tomorrow, most likely in the evening.

@Kris Feenstra - sorry for the delay, but even a fossil needs, once in a while, to take a day off and have some fun, which I did.

I read both of your articles, and in the second one, though I found that in the case of debtors, those people might have been sold into indentured servitude to repay debts, and prisoners scheduled to die for crimes as petty as stealing a single shilling, could opt for indenturhood (is that even a word?), the majority, in fact, voluntarily sold themselves, albeit in some instances to the captain, to be resold later.

"In practice, the servant would sell himself to an agent or ship captain before leaving the British Isles. In turn, the contract would be sold to a buyer in the colonies to recover the cost of the passage."

I don't follow you.  I don't contest that it could be done voluntarily.  I was simply trying to illustrate that the contracts were transferrable to new owners.

Apologies if I've misunderstood you here.

I've never known you to apologize for anything, but I was under the impression (without going back and recovering your original post) that you were saying that as it was involuntary, it was slavery, and it was my intention to prove that it was not, in every case, involuntary.

Not that any of this has anything to do with the original premise, which, as I recall, was how has the concept of slavery changed since Biblical times.

No apology is necessary.

To me, it's religion's dogmatic view that we should not ask certain questions that is part of the slave condition. Any system of knowledge that tells me not to question something is an asshole system.

This is how I think about it:

Anyone who tells me I should not question something, is telling me not to think...

Anyone who tells me not to think, is trying to do my thinking for me...

Anyone trying to do my thinking for me, is trying to take away my ability to tell when I'm being lied to...

Anyone trying to take that ability away from me, is trying to control my mind...

Anyone trying to control my mind is trying to enslave me...

And anyone trying to enslave me, is an asshole...

Pardon my foul language, but I'm very defensive when it comes to my right to think. Nobody or no thing will will ever get my mind. No God, no government, no political party, etc. The only thing that will get it, is disease and death. Until then, the slaveholders can kiss it...

Kris, I said that because the word in the Greek could mean either slave or indentured servant, the quality of care given to the slave/servant largely determined whether it was bad slavery or a different kind of job.

Then I clearly pointed out the passage that demands good quality of care.  

From there, we were in the middle of a conversation about after it was Karen I believe who essentially said "Owning anyone, indentured servitude or slavery is always wrong".  At that point we progressed to discussing owning people via indentured servitude.  In fact, I even make it crystal clear that was what I had started to discuss by stating "lets focus on this concept of owning people for a short time"  Then you came in and said "indentured servitude is not slavery". We were talking about owning people via indentured servitude at that point, and not about slavery.  Anytime after that when I say slavery, it is for the sake of the word translated to either in the NT, not for the term.  I pretty clearly spell that out that what you read in the NT text as slavery, isn't to be read with modern eyes.  We work with that broad definition I provided about doulos in future references to slavery.

If you had have read the progression, you would not have made this argument, so I stand by my original accusation about your comment.  It could only have come from not having read the progression.  It is all still there in the text.  


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