Reverend Rudd’s addition to the apocrypha

“Kevin Rudd delivers same-sex smackdown on Q&A” ran the headline in The Age. “Some have accused him of bullying but others have hailed Kevin Rudd’s fiery response to a Christian pastor as ‘the answer of the century’ and a ‘historic moment’ in Australian politics,” gushed reporter Rachel Olding. “The Prime Minister’s three-minute answer to a New Hope Church pastor Matt Prater’s question on homosexuality has ignited voters just when they seemed to be losing steam in the final five days of the federal election campaign.”

Pastor Prater’s quoted the Bible saying heterosexual marriage was the natural condition, asking: “If you call yourself a Christian, why don’t you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?" Rudd responded: "Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition.” This was met with loud applause from the audience, The Age reported.

Your average Q&A audience wouldn’t know, but even on this issue Rudd couldn’t tell the truth. The Bible doesn’t actually say what he claimed. According to biblehub.com, the closest phrase in the Bible to what he claims is from Colossians 3:22 which some translations render as: “Slaves, obey in all things your masters”. However, the most authoritative versions of the Bible in English do not use the word “slaves” in this passage but rather translate the statement as: “Servants, obey in all things your masters”. Here are the Bibles that use “servants”: 

King James Bible
King James 2000 Bible
English Revised Version
American King James version
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Douay-Rheims Bible
Webster’s Bible Translation
World English Bible
Young’s Literal Translation

Here are the Bible translations that give the first word as “slaves”:

GOD’S Word Translation
Holman Christian Standard Bible
Jubilee Bible 2000
NET Bible
English Standard Version
International Standard Version
New International Version
New American Standard Bible
New Living Translation
Waymouth New Testament

And one other, the Darby Bible Translation, renders it as “Bondmen, obey in all things your masters”. 

I don’t know who all these different versions were written for, or who reads them now, but it’s clear that professed Christian Kevin Rudd not only doesn’t know his Bible very well but had to stoop pretty low to make the crack he did.

This is particularly so given the historical track record of Christianity in opposing slavery. In the English-speaking world the two great milestones were, first, when in 1102 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm, called a national church council and persuaded it to make slavery illegal and, second, when in 1807 the English Evangelical Christian movement led by William Wilberforce persuaded Parliament to make the slave trade in the British Empire illegal. [see my review of William Hague’s great biography of Wilberforce.]

Rather than seeing it as natural, Christianity has been history’s most formidable opponent of slavery.

Keith Windschuttle is the editor of Quadrant

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