The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. is currently home to a special exhibit which displays a rare 1800s Bible that was curated for those who were enslaved by British missionaries.
And by curated, the Bible, titled Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, specifically excluded verses that could inspire rebellion while centering around those that enforced slavery.
“About 90 percent of the Old Testament is missing [and] 50 percent of the New Testament is missing,” Anthony Schmidt, the associate curator of Bible and Religion in America told NPR. “Put in another way, there are 1,189 chapters in a standard protestant Bible. This Bible contains only 232.”
In one example, Schmidt offered, the Bible, which was published in 1807, excludes Galations 3:28, which reads, “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.”
One verse that was kept intact however, was 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 explained.
Only three copies of this edited Bible are known to exist, and the one currently in D.C. is the only one in the U.S.
The museum decided to build an exhibit around the Bible after noticing how much attention it got from visitors.
“From the very beginning people have been shocked to see it,” he said. “It’s drawn a lot of interest. In fact, of all the items we have on display here it’s probably been the most talked about among our guests.”
The exhibit not only details what is inside the Bible, but also gives visitors share their reactions with prompted questions.
“One of the points of the exhibit is that time and place really shape how people encounter the Bible,” Schmidt says. “What I mean by that is people don’t look at the Bible or approach the Bible or read the Bible in a vacuum. They’re shaped by their social and economic context.”
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