Sheffield Scholarly Press has just announced Hector Avalos’ forthcoming book, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship. The announcement blurb alone will stir the pot. Here’s the last paragraph from the blurb.
Avalos’s close readings of the writings of major abolitionists such as Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce and Frederick Douglass show an increasing shift away from using the Bible as a support for abolitionism. Biblical scholars have rarely recognized that pro-slavery advocates could use the Bible just as effectively. According to Avalos, one of the complex mix of factors leading to abolition was the abandonment of the Bible as an ethical authority. The case of the biblical attitude to slavery is just one confirmation of how unsuitable the Bible is as a manual of ethics in the modern world.
Abnormal Readers can read the first two paragraphs of the blurb themselves but I do think this from the first paragraph deserves repeating, “Such a claim [that biblical ethics supports the abolition of slavery], he argues, is characteristic of a broader phenomenon in biblical scholarship, which focuses on defending, rather than describing, the ethical norms encountered in biblical texts.”
I haven’t read Avalos’ book and am not meaningfully familiar with either the biblical scholarship in this area or the writing of the abolitionist to have a reflected opinion on the specifics of this one way or the other. I do believe that the adoption of any ethic of authority constitutes an abdication of moral responsibly. So I guess I’m predisposed to Avalos’ position. Being predisposed for or against a position does not relieve one of a responsibility to critically address that position. So I, like most of you, I must await the book. We may need to wait until the fall.