Conspiracy? That's a pretty big stretch. Cover up? I doubt it. Mistranslated because of negative societal perception? Now that's a rationale I can buy into.
John MacArthur's newest book entitled Slave: The Hidden Truth about Your Identity in Christ explores the mistranslation of the Greek word for "slave" "in almost every English version" throughout history. Going as far back as "the King James Version and the Geneva Bible that predated it," translators substituted the word "servant" where the original text's wording should have been interpreted as "slave."
With the word (in all its forms) mistranslated almost 150 times in the New Testament, it's easy to see how this change significantly impacts a Christian's understanding of how he should relate to Christ.
MacArthur's overall point is that while the early Christians understood this distinction of their relationship to the Master, modern-day Christians' view of themselves as "servants" instead of "slaves" has distorted their relationship to God.
Although MacArthur is extremely long winded and repetitive in sections (and his huge footnotes are extremely distracting such that they would have been better as end notes), he is fairly easy for the layperson to read. He also does a good job of exploring the differences between slavery in Jesus' day versus the slavery in the more modern world. Once one understands in Scripture what slavery meant to Jesus, one can then understand how a Christian is intended to be a permanent slave "of God, for Christ, to righteousness" (175).
I found most interesting MacArthur's description of what happens when a slave is adopted. He contends that even though we are friends of Christ and adopted sons of God, the paradox is that we are still slaves. This section was where I felt he rushed, not fully exploring this concept and merely writing it off as a paradox in a Bible full of paradoxes.
Overall, though, the text was quite enlightening to the reader who only knew of the abuses with slavery over the past few centuries.
**I receive no payment for this book review. Thomas Nelson merely provides me with a free copy of the text.