Now on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.is a rare Bible from the 1800s that was once used to convert slaves to Christianity while omitting key passages that could’ve led to mass rebellion.
Anthony Schmidt, associate curator of Bible and Religion in America at the museum, confirms that the holy text entitled, Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands is missing large portions that could’ve inspired liberation among the enslaved.
“About 90 percent of the Old Testament is missing [and] 50 percent of the New Testament is missing,” Schmidt told NPR. “Put it another way, there are 1,189 chapters in a standard protestant Bible. This Bible contains only 232.”
One verse that was removed was taken from Galatians 3:28, reading, “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.”
The abridged Bible was sure, however, to keep verses that promoted the institution of slavery, like Ephesians 6:5, which reads, “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.”
“It was intended for use among enslaved Africans in the British West Indies, which is modern day Caribbeans, so Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua,” Schmidt said.
The historian believes British missionaries used this Bible to placate plantation owners who were wary of allowing their slaves to interact with outside influencers.
“This can be seen as an attempt to appease the planter class saying, ‘Look, we’re coming here. We want to help uplift materially these Africans here but we’re not going to be teaching them anything that could incite rebellion,'” Schmidt says. “Coming in and being able to educate African slaves would prepare them one day for freedom, but at the same time would not cause them to seek it more aggressively.”