I am listening to a sermon by John MacArthur titled “Slaves of Christ.” He claims that bible translators did not properly translate the word slave, doulos, in the New Testament. He says they should have used the word “slave” not “servant.” Is this true? Why didn’t the KJV use the right word? Thanks. — Kristin, Hoschton, Georgia
Doulos is a legal status, making one person the property of another person who has all rights to the labor and production of his property. Hence the doulos serves his owner. Contrary to common belief, the doulos was well cared for, was often better skilled and educated than his master, enjoyed great freedom of trade and mobility, and was able to rise to high posts of power, respect, and influence. It was common for a person to sell himself into doulos in order to improve his position in life. The abject slave was more often a prisoner of war or a criminal.
At the time of the writing of the KJV, the two terms — slave and servant — were not as carefully distinguished as they are today.