Fact CheckKevin Rudd correct on Paul's references to slavery in the Bible

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s fiery defence of gay marriage on Q&A went viral, but his comments have faced scrutiny by religious leaders and theologians.

Mr Rudd was asked by a pastor how he could support gay marriage and call himself a Christian.

“I just believe in what the Bible says and I’m just curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don’t you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?” pastor Matt Prater asked.

Mr Rudd responded: “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition,” he said, receiving a loud applause from the audience.

“Because St Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves be obedient to your masters’. And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war. I mean, for goodness sake, the human condition and social conditions change.”

  • The claim: Kevin Rudd says St Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves be obedient to your masters’.
  • The verdict: Mr Rudd is correct. There are two statements from Paul in the New Testament which call on slaves to be obedient to their masters. But the Bible does not present a single view on slavery.

ABC Fact Check considers Mr Rudd’s statement about the New Testament is assessable, as it was clearly referenced and defined.

However his first statement – that the Bible says “slavery is a natural condition” – is so broad that assessing it would involve reading and interpreting the entire bible. This makes it unsuitable for a fact check.

‘Slaves be obedient to your masters’

Two verses from Paul in the New Testament – Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 – call on slaves to be obedient to their masters.

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” – Ephesians 6:5-9

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 3:22

Professor Andrew McGowan, warden of The University of Melbourne’s Trinity College, says Mr Rudd has “accurately conveyed” these statements.

See also  Rob Gronkowski House: Photos of his Homes in Boston, Miami & More

Associate Professor Rick Strelan, from the University of Queensland’s School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, agrees these verses support Mr Rudd’s claim that Paul said in the New Testament, “slaves be obedient to your masters”.

“Rudd is right that the Bible urges slaves to be obedient to their masters,” he said.

ABC Online Religion and Ethics editor Scott Stephens is less supportive of Mr Rudd’s claim, as he says it does not tell the full story.

“It is… correct that the New Testament doesn’t do much explicitly to oppose or overturn the largely accepted Graeco-Roman understanding of slavery,” he said.

“Neither Paul nor Peter, for instance, urge slaves to defy or break away from their owners.”

But Stephens says the context in which the statements appear is important.

He says Ephesians 6:5-5, for example, neither condones slavery nor completely abrogates it.

“Rather, St Paul is here trying to take the antagonism out of slavery – resentment on the part of the slave; brutality and abuse on the part of the master – and turn it into something more like what we would call wage labour,” he said.

Paul’s writings

There is debate among scholars about whether or not Paul wrote the letters to the Ephesians or Colossians.

“In the cases of Ephesians and Colossians however – the two letters where I indicated the slave/master quote came from – there are very significant scholars on both sides of the debate, and no consensus,” Professor McGowan said.

“But I don’t regard it as an error on any speaker’s or scholar’s part to attribute the ‘slaves obey your masters’ quote to Paul – only that there are differing opinions.”

Associate Professor Strelan agrees.

“When Rudd says ‘St Paul says’, he’s following the popular conception that they are both authentic; and a number of academics – albeit conservative ones – would hold the same position,” he said.

See also  Top 5+ Golf Balls For Slow Swing Speeds (2023 Updated)

Slavery as a ‘natural condition’

The day after the Prime Minister’s appearance on Q&A, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, told ABC News that Mr Rudd’s comments were wrong.

“I can only say that Kevin Rudd was profoundly wrong in his understanding of the Bible and he misquoted the Bible,” Archbishop Davies said.

“He attributed to the Bible something that Aristotle said, that slavery was part of the human condition or natural condition.”

Stephens says Archbishop Davies is correct when he attributes “slavery as a natural condition” to Aristotle.

He referred to Book one, chapter five, of Aristotle’s Politics:

“But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature? There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.”

Associate Professor Strelan says “there’s no doubt that Rudd got it wrong on the Bible saying slavery is a ‘natural condition'”.

Professor McGowan says “Aristotle does say something closer to Mr Rudd’s suggestion, in explicit terms at least, than any biblical text”.

But he says this does not necessarily mean a misattribution by Mr Rudd.

“Strictly speaking Mr Rudd overstated the case regarding biblical attitudes to slavery,” he said.

“There is no specific indication in any biblical text that slavery is a ‘natural’ condition, however many biblical texts treat it as a normal one, and as an expected part of human society.

“There are New Testament texts – 1 Peter 2:18-25, 1 Timothy 6:2 – where the status of slaves is presented as having a similar normality to familial relationships.

“However it must also be noted that the different documents of the Bible come from different times and places, and do not present one single view regarding slavery.”

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:18-25

“Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.” – 1 Timothy 6:2

Professor McGowan says there are also New Testament texts which encourage people to seek freedom from slavery, to avoid being enslaved, and which promote the possibility of freeing slaves.

“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” – 1 Timothy 1:8-11

“Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.” -1 Corinthians 7:21

The verdict

Mr Rudd is correct in saying “St Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves be obedient to your masters'”.

See also  Free Solitaire Games

However, the Bible does not present a single view on slavery.

The other part of Mr Rudd’s claim, that the Bible says “slavery is a natural condition,” is a matter of interpretation.


  • Kevin Rudd, Q&A, September 2, 2013
  • Glenn Davies, ABC News, September 3, 2013
  • Biblia.com, English Standard Version
  • Aristotle, Politics

Comments are closed.
Ky Phu,Nho Quan,Ninh Binh, Viet Nam Country
+84.229 6333 111


[formidable id=8 title=true description=true]
Trang An Golf and Resort