Biblical Archaeology Review 45:3, May/June 2019

Biblical Views: Paul, the Python Girl, and Human Trafficking

By John Byron

For some Bible readers, passages describing slavery sound like ancient history. The practice of kidnapping, selling, and exploiting human beings echo a bygone era. But, although no longer sanctioned by governments, slavery still exists. Today slaves are not identifiable by their skin color and ethnic origin. In this new era of slavery, the oppressed and exploited are all around us, only more hidden. We may pass them on the street and not even know who they are—much less that they are victims of human trafficking.

With much needed attention being given to human trafficking, I began to wonder how the Bible, although bound by time and culture, might speak to us on this subject. Since modern-day slavery disproportionately affects women and children, I decided to study stories of slave-girls in the Bible, in particular the slave-girl in Philippi (Acts 16:16–24).1 As I read the story, I sought to learn what might be relevant to the topic of human trafficking. The results are both enlightening and disturbing.

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