Good question...

...Does God condone slavery in the Bible?




Created Dec 30, 1999

[This is a continuation of the question of Slavery. The Intro and OT discussion is at www.Christian-thinktank.com/qnoslave.html.]

 
The issue of 'slavery' in the NT/Apostolic world (esp. Paul)
 
 

Now, when we come to the NT situation, the situation gets somewhat more complex, but we will STILL have the issue of "how slavery was NT slavery?"...

Remember, most people assume that the slavery of the Roman Empire at the time of Paul's writings was at least as bad as New World Slavery, with all its horrors, injustices, and atrocities. For us to be able to lodge the ethical objection of "the NT condones slavery" against the Christian worldview, we will have to demonstrate that what the NT calls "slavery" is equivalent to what we would understand by that term, and we will have to show that NT teaching 'condones' that practice. In the case of the OT/Tanaach, we saw that the two different systems of 'slavery' were not even close enough for meaningful comparison. We will need to compare and contrast Roman slavery and New World slavery here too, to insure that we are not committing crimes of equivocation.

So, our method here will be to first determine to what extent 'slavery' in the Roman Empire in the mid-first century exemplified the oppressive character of later New World slavery (of Brazil, the Caribbean, and the USA).

Then, we will ask what type of responses to this should have issued from Paul's pen (in light of general NT ethics and worldview) and what type of responses actually showed up in his writings. [We can then consider how much this position might be considered "condoning slavery"--the original objection.]

Then, we need to look at any theoretical/theological concepts and historical realities that might have informed these responses, and finally, what evidence we have about the early church's actions in this area.

Our order of investigation would be something like this:

1. The question of identity--does the slavery of the NT-period Roman Empire resemble New World slavery enough for the objection to have its customary force?

2. Given the actual character of NT 'slavery', what SHOULD HAVE BEEN a Christian response to it in the first century AD?

3. What actual response do we find in the writings of the NT--esp. Paul?

4. To what extent could this be considered "condoning slavery", as voiced in a typical objection?

5. What theoretical/theological concepts (e.g. example of Jesus, equality in Christ) and historical situations (e.g., church size and political visibility in 1st century AD) might have informed this response?

6. What evidence do we have about the early church's actions in this area?

........................................................................................................................................
 
 

1. So, our first topic concerns the question of identity--does the slavery of the NT-period Roman Empire resemble New World slavery enough for the objection to have its customary force?
 
 

The data is quite strong that the two systems are substantially different, especially in the areas most troubling to modern minds--the abuse, the oppression, the future prospects of the slave.

I have summarized the data in this comparative chart, and adduce the detailed data for each of these issues below it:
 
 

Issue
Roman
New World
1
Motive 
Social Status
Economic Advantage
2
Entry
Mixed, mostly involuntary
All involuntary
3
Treatment
Wide variance, depending on owner
Narrow variance, depending on owner
4
Living conditions
Rural, mixed; domestic, good
Mostly very bad
5
Legal controls on masters
Medium
None
6
Legal recourse of slaves
Medium/high
None
7
Legal agent status
Medium (e.g., slaves could own slaves)
Virtually none
8
Legal Exit
Customary/Frequent
Virtually never
9
Occupation types
Very wide range
Medium range
10
Social status
Very wide range
Mostly very low
11
Economic plight relative to poor free labor
Better to much better
Same or worse
12
Social advancement opportunities
Excellent
Poor
13
Incentives to perform
More positive (e.g., economic, manumission) than negative (e.g., punishment)
Mostly negative and coercive (e.g. physical abuse)

 

1. Motive -- the differences in this category are very considerable.

"Yet it does not follow that landowners sought the greatest possible levels of profit from their possessions in the capitalistic manner of New World slaveowners. The aim of production was to provide food mostly for household and local needs, not to produce crops for sale on highly competitive world markets with profits automatically reinvested to increase yields and the margins of profit still further. Many slaves, moreover, were not directly involved in primary production at all. Domestic slaves furnished their owners with services that often had nothing to do with generating revenue; in fact domestics tended to consume wealth rather than produce it, and revenue-earners, slaves such as field hands, accountants, managers of apartment blocks, bailiffs, even doorkeepers and weavers, were distinguished from those who were kept simply for their owners' personal needs, cooks, bedroom attendants, masseurs and the like.[HI:SASAR:15] "In many real-life contexts there may equally have been little material incentive to protest. Imagine, for example, how slaves fared within a large domestic household such as that of Augustus' wife Livia. First the immense size of the familia was predicated on the fact that the slaveowner was a person of enormous wealth who was always able to control resources grand enough to maintain a household in a manner that continuously proclaimed the owner's renown and richness. To those comprising Rome's social and political elite, therefore, for whom slaveholdings were a mechanism of competitive display and a means of rivalry, it made little sense to allow the familia to deteriorate in any significantly noticeable way, which automatically meant that the slaves, who made up such holdings--subject to the constraints that affected society at large-- were never likely to find themselves hungry or without clothes and a roof over their heads. [HI:SASAR:102]

"The writers and framers believed that adequate social and political remedies were available to curb possible abuses. A number of examples spring to mind. A slave might seek asylum in an appointed temple or may request that a third party intervene on his behalf. The social stigma of either remedy may have sufficed to inhibit the misdemeanors and offences of a status-conscious master. [NDIEC7:195f]

"At the opposite extreme, however, domestic slaves who worked as ministratores and pedisequi had special liveries or uniforms, in addition to their everyday clothes, to wear on those occasions when their owners wanted to advertise their wealth and taste, including plentiful amounts of jewelry." [HI:SASAR:87]

"Some men manumitted slaves in order to impress their friend with their generosity and their wealth; since the loss of a slave involved the loss of a capital investment, a man who freed many slaves would appear quite wealthy." [ATRD:191]
 
 
 
 
2. Entry into slavery was similar, but with significant differences: 1. Roman military conquests (but these declined around the NT period):

"Much is heard in the sources of enslaving a vanquished enemy en masse, a habit the Romans probably acquired as their military and political influence spiraled throughout the Italian peninsula in the fourth and early third centuries BC." - Rival Etruscan city of Veii (10,000 slaves--entire city)
- Siege of Aspis in Carthage's territory in 256 BC (20,000)
- Third war against Carthage in 146 BC (55,000)
- Campaign against the Alpine tribe of Salassi in 25 BC (44,000)
- The city of Ctesiphon in Parthian war of 198 AD (100,000)

"It does not follow, however, that all war captives were automatically conveyed from the site of capture for disposal in the marketplaces of the Roman heartland. At times Roman commanders allowed prisoners to be ransomed, so freedom might be recovered fairly quickly if relatives or friends were available to pay the necessary price. Likewise captives were often sold off on the spot to itinerant dealers or distributed to the troops as a form of payment or bonus." [HI:SASAR:33]

In the Jewish war of AD66-70, Josephus tells us of:

- 2,130 women and children enslaved at Japha
- 30,400 at Tiberias in Galilee
- 97,000 at Jerusalem
- 700 sent to Rome for the victory march
 
 
Cato "especially bought prisoners of war when they were still little so that they could be raised and trained like young dogs or athletes" (Plutarch, Cat. 21.1)

"Often in antiquity wars were waged to acquire laborers, and the armies were followed by slave merchants. The axiom occurs constantly: "The one who is taken in war belongs to the conqueror" (Aristotle); the law of war transformed prisoners into slaves (Heliodorus, Philo). The prisoner, who was like captured booty (Plato) took on an exchange value and would not be freed except for ransom." [TLNT:spiq, 427]

cf. 2 Peter 2.19: "for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved"

cf. Rom 7.23: "but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members."
 
 

2. Natural reproduction: Vernae were born into slavery, and were often preferred for important tasks. They were more "expensive" (e.g., infancy and childhood costs), but were not 'troublemakers' often.

"But having children could bring slaves certain benefits in real terms. Columella believed that female salves should be rewarded for bearing children and said that he himself had given a mother of three time off from work and a mother of more than three children her freedom as well." [HI:SASAR:34]

3. Rescue from Exposure (intended infanticide): "Another professor of literature included in Suetonius' collection who was also once a slave was C. Melissus, a teacher and author who flourished in the Augustan era and who once actually received a commission from Augustus himself. But Melissus was not a verna. He was born of free parents but was exposed as an infant and then brought up in slavery by the man who reclaimed him after his parents had abandoned him. At all levels of society, whether due to poverty or fears of overburdening a patrimony with too many heirs, infant exposures was a widespread fact of life in the Roman world. But because those who chose to rescue abandoned children were free to raise them as slaves if they wished, infant exposure was also another important means of replenishing the slave supply. The Christian polemicist Tertullian (Apol. 9.7) condemned pagans for abandoning their children to certain death from cold, starvation or being eaten by dogs." [HI:SASAR:35]

4. International trade: "It appears therefore that Roman merchants were constantly traversing the spiderweb of trading routes that crossed the Mediterranean in search of slaves from locally powerful, distant rulers who were willing to exchange captives, or even the weaker members of their own communities, from the material goods the merchants carried." [HI:SASAR:37]

5. Piracy: "Piracy within the sphere of Roman influence, finally, must be acknowledged as a major means of generating new slaves. At the beginning of Rome's central period the pirates of Citicia were already notorious for the scale on which they conducted kidnap- ping and trafficking activities: the island of Delos, where they dumped their victims because they knew Roman merchants were waiting there to receive them, is said to have turned over tens of thousands of slaves daily in the early second century Bc. What the pirates' activities involved, however, is graphically illustrated by a piece of evidence from late antiquity, one of the newly discovered letters of Augustine, which shows among other things that at the turn of the fifth century AD piracy was still a scourge in the Mediterranean. Augustine spoke in his letter (Epistulae 10*) of the formidable presence along the coasts of North Africa, and especially at Hippo Regius, of itinerant slavedealers (mangones), Galatians in particular, who were buying up as slaves freeborn people captured by independent marauders who made it their business to undertake forays from the coast into remote rural villages in order to hunt down and kidnap as many victims as possible. In one village, the rumour went, they had carried off all the women and children of the community after murdering all the men. Some local people, Augustine continued, were conniving with the invaders: there was a woman who had a clandestine business specialising in young girls from the interior; there was a man (a Christian at that) who had sold his wife into slavery because he preferred to have the cash; and there were indigent parents selling their children because they needed the cash. Augustine said that it was the practice of the Christian community to use its funds to redeem as many of the kidnapped victims as possible, and in one recent episode 120 'slaves' whom the Galatians were boarding, or were preparing to board, onto their ships had been saved. But the trade itself was so lucrative that there were advocates on hand who wanted to try to recover the reclaimed victims for the slavedealers, so their safety was in real jeopardy. It was a desperate situation, and one that must have been far from uncommon throughout the whole of the central period." [HI:SASAR:37f]
 
 
6. Some people actually sold themselves into slavery, for differing reasons:

"Some ambitious men did the same [sold themselves] in the hope of becoming the stewards of noblemen or imperial treasures. This, in my view, was the story of the all-powerful and extremely wealthy Pallas, scion of a noble Arcadian family, who sold himself into slavery so that he might be taken on as steward by a woman of the imperial family and who wound up as minister of finance and eminence grise to the emperor Claudius." (A History of Private Life:I, p.55)

"Even more, the law itself might create a situation that casts doubt on the distinction between free and slave. What are we to make of the perfectly possible case of an elder brother who is a slave and a younger brother who is freeborn because the father had freed their mother, his slave, in the interim? The elder would thus not only be the servus of his father but could become the property of this brother at the father's death. Or what are we to think of free men who voluntarily became slaves, on one end of the scale, in order to be eligible for an important administrative post or, on the other (a more frequent case), because they were miserable wretches reduced to selling themselves in order to survive?" [HI:TR:168)

"Government service was not the only area that offered such opportunities for slaves. There were as many or more for those employed in the running of businesses or of great households, the sort of post that gave Trimalchio his start. Slaves in such positions who had managed to accumulate enough money to serve as investment capital could work not only for the master but with him: they could become his partner in trade, in the holding of real estate, and so on. Posts of this sort were so sure a way of getting ahead that free men with bleak prospects would sell themselves into slavery in order to quality for them. The free man who was a Roman subject living in one of the conquered lands could figure that, by so doing, he would eventually earn manumission and, with it, the citizenship." [HI:ELAR:61]
 
 
 
 

3. Treatment--was more varied: "Wealthy private homes also employed large numbers of slaves as nurses, tutors, paedagogues, litter-bearers, secretaries, cooks,"' gardeners, dishwashers, housecleaners, hairdressers barbers, butlers, laundrywomen, seamstresses, and so on. It was not unusual for a wealthy man or woman to own several slaves. The situation of slaves in a large Roman household might be compared to the situation of servants in a large eighteenth- or nineteenth-century British household. The treatment of slaves varied according to the disposition of their masters. ...Since slave ownership involved an outlay of capital, one might expect slave-owners to protect their investments by keeping their slaves in good health. However, the treatment of slaves varied considerably, depending on the disposition and personality of the master or mistress. Some masters were more cruel or thoughtless than others. In general, however, slaves working in private homes were better treated than slaves working on farms and ranches or in factories and mines. Also, slaves born in the master's home were probably better treated than slaves brought to Rome from foreign countries. And slaves from "civilized" areas, Greece or Egypt, for example, were less likely to be bought for farm, factory, or mine work than were slaves from "uncivilized" areas, such as Gaul or Germany.. .. City slaves, then, were generally better off than farm slaves. Indeed, in Roman comedy a frequent threat made to city slaves who have misbehaved is: "I'll send you to work on the farm! [ATRD:170-171

"Scholars have often noted an essential difference between rural slaves and those employed in the city, particularly when the latter worked in their master's household. This notions seems to hold true: the countryside rose up in the great servile revolt led by Spartacus, but these seems to be have been little or no reaction from urban slaves. This is quite understandable. Most of the slaves used in the country were put to hard labor.," [HI:TR:141]

"Jurists such as Paulus and Ulpian, who both lived in the age of the Severi, state that slaves must be fed and clothed according to the rank" [HI:TR:145]

"In the Roman Empire the emperor's slaves and freedmen played a role analogous to that played in French history by such illustrious royal ministers and advisers as Colbert or Fouquet. Most of those whom we would call functionaries or bureaucrats were also imperial slaves and freedmen: they handled the administrative chores of the prince, their master. At the opposite end of the spectrum were slaves who worked as agricultural laborers. To be sure, the age of "plantation slavery" and Spartacus' revolt belonged to the distant past, and it is not true that Roman society was based on slavery. [HPL:55]

"The treatment of slaves varied enormously, depending on their employment and their owner. Harsh treatment was often restrained by the fact that the slave was an investment, and impairment of the slave's performance might involve financial loss." [HI:HLAR:342]

"The Roman slavery system cannot be understood, therefore, without at once acknowledging its enormous diversity and variability, and any attempt to define its general features must constantly allow for the unanticipated and the exceptional." [HI:SASAR:4]

"At Rome the slaves who enjoyed the most elevated rank in the hierarchy were those like the father of Claudius Etruscus who belonged to the greatest and most powerful slaveowner in the world and who played a role in governing the Roman empire. Their standing was such that they were commonly able to take as wives women of superior juridical status, women that is who were freed or even freeborn. Many of them lived in relatively secure material surroundings, enjoying wealth and power which others could come to resent. And often they were slaveowners themselves." [HI:SASAR:70]

"The material life of the slave in the Roman world, as in later slave societies, was determined on the one hand by the slave's function, standing and relationship with the master and on the other hand by the degree of responsibility with which the master met his (or her) material obligations to the slave." [HI:SASAR:89]

"To judge from evidence in the Digest on arrangements owners made for their slaves' welfare once they - the owners - were dead, it must be inferred that many men and women took their material responsibilities very seriously. One owner for example imposed a testamentary charge on an heir for supporting slave temple guardians as follows: 'I request and impose on you afidei commissum to give and supply in my memory each of my footmen (pedisequi) whom I have left to take care of the temple with monthly provisions and a fixed amount of clothing per annum' (Dig- 34- I. i 7). Another set free in his will the grandson of his nurse, provided him with an annual allowance of cash, and conferred ownership upon him of his own slave wife and children, together with 'the things he was accustomed to provide for them in his lifetime' (Dig- 34.1-20 pr.). Such liberality to slaves or former slaves was by no means extraordinary: alimentary arrangements, as they are called, appear in the well known Will of Dasumius, and the younger Pliny as seen earlier provided in his will for the maintenance after his death of one hundred of his freedmen's [HI:SASAR:99]

"In many real-life contexts there may equally have been little material incentive to protest. Imagine, for example, how slaves fared within a large domestic household such as that of Augustus' wife Livia.... Secondly, Livia's household staff provided many services that were available not simply to the owner and her immediate family but to the slaves (and freedmen and freedwomen) who made up the familia as well:, the cooks, caterers and bakers, fullers, wool-weighers, clothes-menders, weavers and shoe-makers, nurses, pedagogues, midwives and doctors - these were all functionaries whose labour contributed to the material well-being of the familia as a whole.[HI:SASAR:102]

"There were multitudes of Greek and Roman slaves--the gangs in the mines or on the vast ranches--who lived lives as hopeless and full of hardship as the slaves on the sugar plantations of Brazil or the cotton plantations in the American south. But in the days of the Roman Empire there were also many, a great many, who were able to escape from slavery and mount the steps of the social ladder, in some cases to the very top. [HI:ELAR:64]

"whether the slaves in the workhouses are carefully fettered ... and whether the manager has chained or released any without authorization....should inquire not only of the inmates but also of the slaves not in shackles--who are more to be believed--whether they are getting what is their due, should sample the quality of their food and drink by tasting it himself, should check on their clothing, mittens, and foot coverings. What is more, he should give them frequent chances to register complaints against those who treat them cruelly or dishonestly." Selection from Columella, who wrote a book on agriculture in middle 1st century ad [HI:ELAR:27]
 
 

4. Living conditions: "In the Roman Empire the emperor's slaves and freedmen played a role analogous to that played in French history by such illustrious royal ministers and advisers as Colbert or Fouquet. Most of those whom we would call functionaries or bureaucrats were also imperial slaves and freedmen: they handled the administrative chores of the prince, their master. At the opposite end of the spectrum were slaves who worked as agricultural laborers. ..These slaves lived in dormitories under the authority of a slave overseer or steward, whose official concubine prepared meals for all the slaves. Philostratus tells the story of a modest vintner who resigned himself to tending his vineyard by himself because his few slaves cost too much to keep.[HPL:55]

"At Rome the slaves who enjoyed the most elevated rank in the hierarchy were those like the father of Claudius Etruscus who belonged to the greatest and most powerful slaveowner in the world and who played a role in governing the Roman empire. Their standing was such that they were commonly able to take as wives women of superior juridical status, women that is who were freed or even freeborn. Many of them lived in relatively secure material surroundings, enjoying wealth and power which others could come to resent. And often they were slaveowners themselves." [HI:SASAR:70]

"Rural salves, Varro suggests (R. 1.19.3), regularly kept livestock, more or less their own, from which to supplement their rations, and field hands who had only portions of bread and olives were able to gather as many wild greens as they wished to eat with. Both in the city and the country, kitchen-gardens produced a wide range of vegetables--onions and lettuce, beets and artichokes, peas and beans--which not only gave extra food but allowed the chance of extra cash from sale of the surplus." [HI:SASAR:83]"Most domestics, that is to say, lived under the same roof as their owners. Within the housing complex the wealthy owner, Pliny for instance (Ep 7.27.12-14), was able to close himself off from the slave quarters when he wished to maintain his privacy, but it was thought odd nonetheless that the slave quarters should be absolutely separate from the owner's living space as among the tribes of Germany." [HI:SASAR:84]
 
 

5. Legal controls on masters--this is an area of immense difference: "Certain slave-owners abandoned their sick and worn-out slaves on the island of Aesculapius since they were loathe to provide them with medical care. Claudius ordered all slaves so abandoned to be granted their freedom. And if they recovered, they were not to be returned to the control of their master. He also decreed that anyone who chose to kill a slave rather than abandon him should be arrested on a charge of murder." (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars: Claudius 25)  
 
"Hadrian forbade masters to kill their slaves; capital charges against slaves were to be handled through official courts and execution, if necessary, carried out by these courts. He forbade a master to sell a male or female slave to a pimp or to a gladiator trainer without first showing good cause. ... He forbade private prisons" Scriptores Historiae Augustae (Aelius Spartianus, The Life of Hadrian) 18.7-1 1

"The ease with which the slaveowner could freely abuse the slave was diminished by a sequence of laws that, for example, made murderous masters liable for homicide, proscribed castration, and outlawed ergastula; and through recognition of rights of asylum and appeal to magistrates and governors slave victims in the imperial age came to have some means of relief against abusive owners." [HI:SASAR:171]

 
 
"the slave in Athenian law was considered the private property of his master to do with very much as he wished and only in exceptional circumstances did the state interfere in the master-slave relationship. The situation changed, however, in the Hellenistic kingdoms. Increasingly, both the master and the slave were perceived to be subjects of the state and the state began to intervene in the relationship. For example, in the Ptolemaic kingdom the following acts of intervention are noted: (a) the annulling of acts of enslavement; (b) the forbidding of slaves to be branded or sold overseas without the sanction of the sate; (c) the registration of both sold or homeborn slaves and the collection of revenue from them; (d) the grant of freedom to slaves who denounced the acts which their masters had committed against certain royal ordinances; and (3) the right of asylum in certain temples."[NDIEC7:169]

"The royal diagramma will have intervened in the legal procedure possible exempting certain types of slaves from prosecutions, e.g. state salves, slaves belonging to officials or slaves employed in vital occupations." [NDIEC7:172]

"In other words, the state intervened in the master-slave relationship to limit and control punishment." [NDIEC7:175]

 
 
"It is true that from the first century AD legislation which had the effect of ameliorating the slave's situation began to be passed." [NDIEC6:51]  
 
"Indeed, Roman law permitted disinheriting an heir to the profit of an adopted slave (who was thus freed)..." [HI:TR:144]  
 
"Jurists such as Paulus and Ulpian, who both lived in the age of the Severi, state that slaves must be fed and clothed according to their rank" [HI:TR:145]  
 
"After all, a decree of Tiberius guaranteed asylum to servi next to images of the emperors, not only in public places but also in private house (Tacitus Annales 3.36)." [HI:TR:162]
   
"measures to protect the slave from the violence of the owner: limits to torture, regulations concerning slaves condemned to combat with wild animals; prohibitions against killing a slave incapable of working (Claudius), then any slave (Hadrian); liberty granted to slaves who were abandoned by their master because they were ill. In the second and third centuries, this protective legislation was reinforced, increasingly taking the slave's family ties into account and backing his manumission when he was the object of juridical controversy." [HI:TR:163]  
 
"Awareness of the sexual dangers to which slaves were exposed was thus very sharp. Even a slave overseer might be a threat. Yet because proprietary rights were absolute, there was nothing the law could do to prevent slaveowners themselves abusing their slaves if they wished to do so. A tension developed consequently between the need to uphold the rights of ownership on the one hand and a need to punish such obvious injustices as rape on the other. The dilemma is visible in a directive given by the emperor Antoninus Pius (Dig. i.6.2) for cases of abuse, including sexual abuse, of slaves, in which sale of the slaves concerned to a new household was recommended: 'The power of masters over their slaves certainly ought not to be infringed and there must be no derogation from any of man's legal rights. But it is in the interest of masters that those who make just complaint be not denied relief against brutality or starvation or intolerable wrongdoing' - the latter to include impudicitia, sexual wrongdoing. [HI:SASAR:49] "But it [Ulpian's ruling] indicates that in some circumstances the law could operate to the advantage of the slave. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that legal judgements were regularly made in favour of slaves whose manumission was obstructed by adverse factors, the operative principle being favor libertatis, giving the slave the benefit of the doubt when a claim to freedom was not clear cut." [HI:SASAR:162]

"The principle of favor libertatis was very old, perhaps, like the convention of conditional manumission, as old as the Twelve Tables. Certainly in AD 19 a lex Junia Petronia established that freedom was to be favoured when judges in a suit for freedom were equally divided." [HI:SASAR:162]

 
 
 
 
6. Legal recourse of slaves: practically non-existent in New World Slavery, but substantial in NT times "In the law of GR Egypt the slave could own property and could enter into legal transactions such as loans, leases or paramone (i.e., service) contracts...A slave could also act on behalf of a master in his business dealings, e.g. loans, sales, issuance of receipts etc....In terms of litigation the slave was also considered as more than n object in the law of GRE. For example, in matters of personal injury or damage of property the slave could litigate (i.e. sue) and act on his own behalf or represent another....In this instance not only does it appear that the slave had entered into a contract with a certain villager but also when assaulted and robbed by this same villager lodged a petition against him."" [NDIEC7:165]
 
 
"the slave in Athenian law was considered the private property of his master to do with very much as he wished and only in exceptional circumstances did the state interfere in the master-slave relationship. The situation changed, however, in the Hellenistic kingdoms. Increasingly, both the master and the slave were perceived to be subjects of the state and the state began to intervene in the relationship. For example, in the Ptolemaic kingdom the following acts of intervention are noted: (a) the annulling of acts of enslavement; (b) the forbidding of slaves to be branded or sold overseas without the sanction of the sate; (c) the registration of both sold or homeborn slaves and the collection of revenue from them; (d) the grant of freedom to slaves who denounced the acts which their masters had committed against certain royal ordinances; and (3) the right of asylum in certain temples."[NDIEC7:169]
 
 
"The writers and framers believed that adequate social and political remedies were available to curb possible abuses. A number of examples spring to mind. A slave might seek asylum in an appointed temple or may request that a third party intervene on his behalf. The social stigma of either remedy may have sufficed to inhibit the misdemeanors and offences of a status-conscious master. Again, the state itself intervened at times in the master-slave relationship. For example, slaves could denounce certain offences of their masters and gain their freedom (breaches of particular royal ordinances). Seneca, De Beneficiis 3.20, observes: "For neither can we command everything nor are slaves compelled to obey in everything. They will not act on orders against the public interest; they will not lend a hand to any crime." [NDIEC7:195f]
 
 
"One important turning point, both political and military, occurred with Marius, placed in command of the African war, restricted recruitment for the campaign of 107 BC to volunteers, thus opening the legion ranks to the poorest citizens...the army became a means of advancement for the destitute...As early as the Social War, 21,000 slaves were freed to combat the socii, and later Sulla and Pompey had little scruples about similar sorts of recruitment, particularly when the need was urgent, as it often was. On occasions the slave could even obtain his liberty without having to serve in the army. Thus after the death of Caesar the triumvirs who inherited power published a list of proscribed political enemies, promising a reward to anyone who would give information on them or kill them and promising liberty to a slave who did so. Thus slaves, like other disinherited groups, found service to political leaders a more efficient way out of the condition than widespread revolt." [HI:TR:154f]
 
 
"If asylum was sought [in temple] because of the master's cruelty or severity, the slave was to be sold and the price paid to the master. The reason for the intervention is given, namely that it was in the state's interest that no one use his property badly." (see Justinian, Institutes 1.8.1)

"In doing so [fleeing], he might hope to be lost in the subculture of a large city, for example, or to find work in another region or he might resort to brigandage. Alternatively, he might seek the assistance of a person of social standing to advocate his cause or seek asylum in an appropriate temple (and later in a church or monastery) and have its priests decide his fate." [NDIEC6:58]

"After all, a decree of Tiberius guaranteed asylum to servi next to images of the emperors, not only in public places but also in private house (Tacitus Annales 3.36)." [HI:TR:162]
 
 

"The suggestive fact remains that it was one of the functions of the city prefect, once the office of the prefect had been established by Augustus, to hear allegations from slaves that they were suffering from starvation caused by their owners." [HI:SASAR:100]

"Awareness of the sexual dangers to which slaves were exposed was thus very sharp. Even a slave overseer might be a threat. Yet because proprietary rights were absolute, there was nothing the law could do to prevent slaveowners themselves abusing their slaves if they wished to do so. A tension developed consequently between the need to uphold the rights of ownership on the one hand and a need to punish such obvious injustices as rape on the other. The dilemma is visible in a directive given by the emperor Antoninus Pius (Dig. i.6.2) for cases of abuse, including sexual abuse, of slaves, in which sale of the slaves concerned to a new household was recommended: 'The power of masters over their slaves certainly ought not to be infringed and there must be no derogation from any of man's legal rights. But it is in the interest of masters that those who make just complaint be not denied relief against brutality or starvation or intolerable wrongdoing' - the latter to include impudicitia, sexual wrongdoing. [HI:SASAR:49]
 
 

"A slave was usually a master's largest investment apart form his investment in land. If the runway slave was not recovered, the master's loss might be substantial. Even if recovered, the loss might not be inconsiderable. Not only did the owner face a reduced resale value (contracts of sale included clauses concerning the slave's propensity to run away) but he may also have incurred costs associated with the finding and apprehension of the runaway." [NDIEC6:57]

"The non-compliance of salves manifested itself in several ways, from the most drastic, like slave rebellion and murdering one's master, to the more subtle, like careless workmanship and tardiness. No doubt the frequency and type of non-compliance were correlated; it is reasonable to assume that the more drastic the non-compliance the rarer its occurrence and the more subtle the non-compliance the more frequent its occurrence." [NDIEC6:57f]

"Roman lawmakers regarded attempts at self-destruction on the part of slaves as commonplace to judge from information in the Digest. When a slave was sold the aedilician edict required the seller to declare whether the salve had ever tried to hill himself (Dig. 21.1.1.1)..." [HI:SASAR:112]"The jurists, recalling Apuleius' brigand, used the phrase 'domestic thefts' to refer to this sort of pilfering, misdeeds that were too trivial to justify prosecution, but which must have been deleterious to slaveowners in their overall effects." [HI:SASAR:116]"Literate slaves were able to falsify records and documents to the disadvantage of their owners." [HI:SASAR:116]"Truancy, dilatoriness, lying, dissembling, stealing, causing damage, feigning sickness--at the strictly factual level these types of slave behaviour are all well in evidence." [HI:SASAR:117]"Roman slaveowners acknowledged from time to time that their slaves behaved 'badly' because of the way they were treated and not because of inherent character flaws. It was conceded that the master's threatening words could force the slave to run away, that the dispensator might embezzle because he needed food, that the slave might lie to avoid torture, that apparent greed might have something to do with the slave's hunger. Cruelty, fear, deprivation--these are recurring elements in the record of master-slave relations in the Roman world, and practical slaveowners could see that injustice caused resentment." [HI:SASAR:124]

 
 
 
 
7. Legal agent status (and operating autonomy)--huge differences here, also: "In the law of GR Egypt the slave could own property and could enter into legal transactions such as loans, leases or paramone (i.e., service) contracts...A slave could also act on behalf of a master in his business dealings, e.g. loans, sales, issuance of receipts etc...." [NDIEC7:165]

"A parallel phenomenon was an increased number of slaves who played an important role in the management of such properties, supervising their exploitation and handling money, or even farming land that they rented from the owner. Thus, along with the traditional vilici, who were simply agents carrying out the owner's will, there appeared vilici who managed the land on their own account on payment of a fee and who might farm the land themselves or rent it out in small parcels to slaves. As a general rule, supervision of the master's holdings was entrusted to an entire hierarchy of financial agents working in both city and country, who carried out the wishes of their dominus and whom we know from inscriptions-procuratores, actores, dispensatores, cellarii, arcarii, and so forth. [HI:TR:155]
 
 

"For one thing, a number of urban slaves escaped all direct, permanent control when their master charged them with the management of a range of businesses--shops or crafts operations--for his benefit. The autonomy such slaves enjoyed was without parallel in country areas, except perhaps in the case of shepherds." [HI:TR:142]

"A parallel phenomenon was an increased number of slaves who played an important role in the management of such properties, supervising their exploitation and handling money, or even farming land that they rented from the owner. ... As a general rule, supervision of the master's holdings was entrusted to an entire hierarchy of financial agents working in both city and country, who carried out the wishes of their dominus and whom we know from inscriptions-procuratores, actores, dispensatores, cellarii, arcarii, and so forth.[HI:TR:155]

"The urban milieu underwent a similar change. There were some specifically urban varieties of slaves such as the insularii, who managed the owner's rental properties, and increasing numbers of physicians and intellectuals. More generally, however, the manufacturing mode of production was in decline in the city as well as in the country. It became customary to permit a slave craftsman an autonomous activity, and masters relied on institutores (usually slaves) to run a workshop, supervise the sale and purchase of merchandise, handle loans, arrange transportation, and so forth. As in country areas, these practices were probably not absolutely new, but when they became widespread they took on a new meaning.[HI:TR:155f]

"In the Roman Empire the emperor's slaves and freedmen played a role analogous to that played in French history by such illustrious royal ministers and advisers as Colbert or Fouquet. Most of those whom we would call functionaries or bureaucrats were also imperial slaves and freedmen: they handled the administrative chores of the prince, their master.[HPL:55]

"Among the Romans, especially during the flourishing period of the Roman Empire under discussion, slaves enjoyed more and more chances to lead comfortable lives and at the same time move toward gaining their freedom. This came about because of a vast increase in these years in the size and complexity of businesses and of the government bureaucracies and with it a corresponding increase in the number of white-collar jobs. Since native Romans had no taste for trade or commerce (aside from investing in them) and took a dim view of the routine of desk work, they turned over the tasks involved to slaves, and, since they were generous in granting manumission, particularly to the slaves who worked in their offices and homes, the white-collar slave worker could be fairly sure of eventually gaining it...Throughout the Roman Empire slaves staffed the offices of towns and cities, and in Rome itself they staffed all the ranks of the emperor's bureaucracy: they were the nation's civil service. Those who demonstrated satisfactory ability could expect manumission by the age of thirty to thirty-five; after manumission they would carry on their duties as freedmen...The paths, in the imperial administration led right to the very top, to posts that today would be held by department heads, even cabinet ministers. During Claudius's reign, Pallas, a freedman, served as his secretary of the treasury, and Narcissus, another freedman, as his secretary of state. Both used their position to line their pockets and both became so incredibly rich...[HI:ELAR:60]
 
 

"Before their manumission, a minority of wealthy (or at least well-off) slaves built up a patrimony that faithfully reproduced prevailing structures. They might themselves own salves--vicarii--who acted as procuratores or institutores to manage the slave's holdings, just as those slaves managed their masters'. The law specified that such slaves of slaves belonged to the latter and not to his dominus, and the relations between the slave and his vicarii were modeled on those that pertained between a free man and his slaves...But vicarii might also belong to the privileged slave minority, and their own peculium could includes slaves--that is, vicarii who belonged to a vicarius. These cascading relationships within the servile world are the best testimony to the success of the policy of social integration of the slave elites." [HI:TR:159]

"Although himself a slave, that is to say, Musicus Scurranus had a personal slave retinue of his own, and his inscription actually continues with the names and job-titles, save in one case, of sixteen of its members. They include a business agent, an accountant, three secretaries, a doctor, two chamberlains, two attendants, two cooks and three slaves who were respectively in charge of Scurranus' clothes, gold and silver....Ownership of slaves by slaves seems strange at first sight, but in societies like that of Rome where slaveowning was a critical mark of an individual's social standing it has been far from unusual." [HI:SASAR:2-3]
 
 
 
 

8. legal exit/manumission--this is an area of MAJOR discontinuity: "A freedman was a slave who had been manumitted, that is, freed. Manumission was widely practiced in ancient Rome, and it is an aspect of Roman society which sets it apart from other slave-owning societies. For example, very few slaves in the American antebellum South were ever manumitted by their owners. In Rome, however, slaves were not only freed but were also given Roman citizenship and thus assimilated into Roman society and culture. Yet, although manumission was a common practice, not every slave could hope to be manumitted. Wealthy slave-owners could much better absorb the cost of manumission (loss of property) than could moderate-income slave-owners. And slaves working in a private household, whose job had been to attend to a master's personal comfort and who were therefore known well by the master, were the most likely to receive freedom. Slaves whose work brought profit to an owner--that is, slaves working on a farm or ranch in a mine or factory, as a prostitute or gladiator--were least likely to be manumitted. Such slaves had been chosen for their physical stamina rather than their intellect, and it was thus easy for Roman owners to adopt the same protective attitude used by slave-owners of the American South: "He's not bright enough to do anything else; if I freed him, he would never make it on his own." Slaves owned by a city or corporation, rather than by a private individual, were also poor candidates for manumission.[ATRD:190-19]

"The efficacy of this policy depended on a remarkable characteristic of the Roman city--its capacity to remain open to foreign elements--that Greek cities did not share. In classical Greece, the citizen body was a closed world extremely difficult to break into. The Roman city, which often granted the freed slave citizenship, offered a social model radically different from that of the Greek city. The Roman system implied channels that led slaves to manumission and then to access to all economic activities, landownership included--something nearly unknown in the Greek world, but that in Rome underlay the efficacy of the policy of social integration of the slave elites." [HI:TR:159]

"Manumissions were fairly frequent.." [HI:HLAR:342]

"It was possible for such men, whether born into the imperial familia or recruited from outside, to advance through what loosely resembled a career structure, beginning with subordinate positions while still young and proceeding to positions of greater authority after manumission, which typically came when they were about thirty. For some, especially in the first century AD, the way was open to participate directly in the highest levels of Roman government." [HI:SASAR:69]

"Although there were a number of ways by which a slave might be legally manumitted, two were most common: (1) the slave and master would appear before a magistrate (either praetor or consul) who would touch the slave with a rod or wand and thus signify that he was now free; or (2) the master would state in his will that he wished some or all of his slaves manumitted upon his death. The advantage of the latter procedure was that the owner enjoyed the use of his slaves right up to his death, but still appeared to be a generous man. Some owners would free slaves only if the slaves could buy their freedom, that is, pay back the original purchase price or whatever price the owner deemed reasonable. Most slaves would save up the money from occasional gifts and tips; slaves employed in the civil service had the advantage of receiving bribes. Sometimes freedmen who were friends or family members would buy the slave from the owner and then manumit him.[ATRD:190-19]

"Government service was not the only area that offered such opportunities for slaves. There were as many or more for those employed in the running of businesses or of great households, the sort of post that gave Trimalchio his start. Slaves in such positions who had managed to accumulate enough money to serve as investment capital could work not only for the master but with him: they could become his partner in trade, in the holding of real estate, and so on. Posts of this sort were so sure a way of getting ahead that free men with bleak prospects would sell themselves into slavery in order to quality for them. The free man who was a Roman subject living in one of the conquered lands could figure that, by so doing, he would eventually earn manumission and, with it, the citizenship." [HI:ELAR:61]

"Among the Romans, especially during the flourishing period of the Roman Empire under discussion, slaves enjoyed more and more chances to lead comfortable lives and at the same time move toward gaining their freedom. This came about because of a vast increase in these years in the size and complexity of businesses and of the government bureaucracies and with it a corresponding increase in the number of white-collar jobs. Since native Romans had no taste for trade or commerce (aside from investing in them) and took a dim view of the routine of desk work, they turned over the tasks involved to slaves, and, since they were generous in granting manumission, particularly to the slaves who worked in their offices and homes, the white-collar slave worker could be fairly sure of eventually gaining it. ...Throughout the Roman Empire slaves staffed the offices of towns and cities, and in Rome itself they staffed all the ranks of the emperor's bureaucracy: they were the nation's civil service. Those who demonstrated satisfactory ability could expect manumission by the age of thirty to thirty-five; after manumission they would carry on their duties as freedmen. [HI:ELAR:60]

"In urban areas, the locale of most business and government offices, manumission was so common that ex-slaves came to make up a high proportion of the Roman citizenry." [HI:ELAR:62]

"There were multitudes of Greek and Roman slaves--the gangs in the mines or on the vast ranches--who lived lives as hopeless and full of hardship as the slaves on the sugar plantations of Brazil or the cotton plantations in the American south. But in the days of the Roman Empire there were also many, a great many, who were able to escape from slavery and mount the steps of the social ladder, in some cases to the very top. [HI:ELAR:64]
 
 

"In 2 B.C., under the emperor Augustus, a law was passed prohibiting a master from freeing more than a hundred slaves in his will, although apparently no limit was placed on the number of slaves he could free during his lifetime." [ATRD:194]

"The Augustian laws were a reforming response to the haphazard manumission practices of the pre-imperial era...the lex Aelia Sentia of AD 4 set minimum age requirements of twenty for the slaveowner and thirty for the slave before a living owner could formally manumit a slave..." [HI:SASAR:156]
 
 

"Some men manumitted slaves in order to impress their friend with their generosity and their wealth; since the loss of a slave involved the loss of a capital investment, a man who freed many slaves would appear quite wealthy." [ATRD:191]  
 
"Some men fell in love with slave women and freed them so that they could then legally marry them. Some men became very attached to slave children born in the household and freed them so that they could adopt them as legal heirs." [ATRD:191-192]  
 
"One important turning point, both political and military, occurred with Marius, placed in command of the African war, restricted recruitment for the campaign of 107 BC to volunteers, thus opening the legion ranks to the poorest citizens...the army became a means of advancement for the destitute...As early as the Social War, 21,000 slaves were freed to combat the socii, and later Sulla and Pompey had little scruples about similar sorts of recruitment, particularly when the need was urgent, as it often was. On occasions the slave could even obtain his liberty without having to serve in the army. Thus after the death of Caesar the triumvirs who inherited power published a list of proscribed political enemies, promising a reward to anyone who would give information on them or kill them and promising liberty to a slave who did so. Thus slaves, like other disinherited groups, found service to political leaders a more efficient way out of the condition than widespread revolt." [HI:TR:154f]
 
 
"There were baser reasons, too, for manumission ... And some men freed old or sick slaves because they no longer wanted to feed and clothe them. Since such slaves had no resale value, it was cheaper to free them and let them fend for themselves (thought it is unlikely that an old or sick slave could support himself, most probably starved to death)."[ATRD:192]

"Certain slave-owners abandoned their sick and worn-out slaves on the island of Aesculapius since they were loathe to provide them with medical care. ." (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars: Claudius 25)
 
 

"But it [Ulpian's ruling] indicates that in some circumstances the law could operate to the advantage of the slave. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that legal judgements were regularly made in favour of slaves whose manumission was obstructed by adverse factors, the operative principle being favor libertatis, giving the slave the benefit of the doubt when a claim to freedom was not clear cut." [HI:SASAR:162]

"The principle of favor libertatis was very old, perhaps, like the convention of conditional manumission, as old as the Twelve Tables. Certainly in AD 19 a lex Junia Petronia established that freedom was to be favoured when judges in a suit for freedom were equally divided." [HI:SASAR:162]
 
 
 
 

9. Occupation types--quite varied in NT times; less so in New World "Slaves in the city were employed in many different ways. Some were owned by the city and worked on city construction projects, such as roads and aqueducts, or on the cleaning crews which maintained public buildings, such as the baths and temples, or on the clerical staff. Other slaves were purchased by factory owners or shop owners, and set to work in the factories and shops. Transportation firms would buy slaves to haul both raw and manufactured materials from one part of the city to another. Among the most unfortunate of slaves were those purchased to serve as gladiators or prostitutes...Wealthy private homes also employed large numbers of slaves as nurses, tutors, paedagogues, litter-bearers, secretaries, cooks,"' gardeners, dishwashers, housecleaners, hairdressers barbers, butlers, laundrywomen, seamstresses, and so on. It was not unusual for a wealthy man or woman to own several slaves. The situation of slaves in a large Roman household might be compared to the situation of servants in a large eighteenth- or nineteenth-century British household. ...And slaves from "civilized" areas, Greece or Egypt, for example, were less likely to be bought for farm, factory, or mine work than were slaves from "uncivilized" areas, such as Gaul or Germany. [ATRD:170-171]

"A parallel phenomenon was an increased number of slaves who played an important role in the management of such properties, supervising their exploitation and handling money, or even farming land that they rented from the owner. Thus, along with the traditional vilici, who were simply agents carrying out the owner's will, there appeared vilici who managed the land on their own account on payment of a fee and who might farm the land themselves or rent it out in small parcels to slaves. As a general rule, supervision of the master's holdings was entrusted to an entire hierarchy of financial agents working in both city and country, who carried out the wishes of their dominus and whom we know from inscriptions-procuratores, actores, dispensatores, cellarii, arcarii, and so forth.[HI:TR:155f]

"The urban milieu underwent a similar change. There were some specifically urban varieties of slaves such as the insularii, who managed the owner's rental properties, and increasing numbers of physicians and intellectuals. More generally, however, the manufacturing mode of production was in decline in the city as well as in the country. It became customary to permit a slave craftsman an autonomous activity, and masters relied on institutores (usually slaves) to run a workshop, supervise the sale and purchase of merchandise, handle loans, arrange transportation, and so forth. As in country areas, these practices were probably not absolutely new, but when they became widespread they took on a new meaning. [HI:TR:155f]

"Most artisans seem to have been slaves." [HPL:55]

"In the Roman Empire the emperor's slaves and freedmen played a role analogous to that played in French history by such illustrious royal ministers and advisers as Colbert or Fouquet. Most of those whom we would call functionaries or bureaucrats were also imperial slaves and freedmen: they handled the administrative chores of the prince, their master. At the opposite end of the spectrum were slaves who worked as agricultural laborers. To be sure, the age of "plantation slavery" and Spartacus' revolt belonged to the distant past, and it is not true that Roman society was based on slavery. The system of large estates cultivated by slave gangs was limited to certain regions such as southern Italy and Sicily. (The slave system was no more essential a feature of Roman antiquity than slavery in the southern United States prior to 1865 is an essential characteristic of the modern West.).[HPL:55]

35 different rural jobs listed in the Digest 33.7 and 37 from Columella [HI:SASAR:59,60]50 domestic classes in Livia (p.61) and 39 more from other elite households [HI:SASAR:63]

"No commercial activities, it must be repeated, were the exclusive domain of slaves: 'If a master frees a slave whom he has appointed to manage a bank and then continues the business through him as a freedman, the change of status does not alter the incidence of risk' (so Papinian: Dig. 14.3.19.1)." [HI:SASAR:76]

"Among the Romans, especially during the flourishing period of the Roman Empire under discussion, slaves enjoyed more and more chances to lead comfortable lives and at the same time move toward gaining their freedom. This came about because of a vast increase in these years in the size and complexity of businesses and of the government bureaucracies and with it a corresponding increase in the number of white-collar jobs. Since native Romans had no taste for trade or commerce (aside from investing in them) and took a dim view of the routine of desk work, they turned over the tasks involved to slaves...Throughout the Roman Empire slaves staffed the offices of towns and cities, and in Rome itself they staffed all the ranks of the emperor's bureaucracy: they were the nation's civil service.[HI:ELAR:60]
 
 
 
 

10. Social status--considerable difference here, also: The social status of slaves was highly variable, and could range from positions of extreme power and respect, to that of the typical New World slave: "The situation of slaves in a large Roman household might be compared to the situation of servants in a large eighteenth- or nineteenth-century British household. [ATRD:170-171]

"In the Roman Empire the emperor's slaves and freedmen played a role analogous to that played in French history by such illustrious royal ministers and advisers as Colbert or Fouquet. Most of those whom we would call functionaries or bureaucrats were also imperial slaves and freedmen: they handled the administrative chores of the prince, their master. .[HPL:55]
 
 

(Beginning with early 1st century AD) "This change is clear in the countryside, where a number of landowners tended to abandon direct exploitation of their land, split it up, and give it over to dependents to exploit. Some of these dependents were slaves, for whom the management of a parcel of land implied relative autonomy and responsibility. The life of these slave tenant farmers was radically different from that of slaves caught in a system that demanded of them only that they stay alive to work on tasks assigned to them day by day. Their juridical status aside, slave farmers were in practice very close to the free men who also worked a portion of an estate in exchange for carefully specified obligations. This type of sharecropping was highly constricting for the working farmer though it guaranteed him certain rights over the land he farmed; but with its spread, by the second and third centuries, agricultural lands were in large part worked by dependents--coloni--whose personal juridical status became secondary to their real social position. The specificity of the slave gradually weakened, and Ulpian, a jurist of the Severan age (citing first-century predecessors), speaks of servi qui quasi coloni in agro sunt (slaves who are in the field like coloni, Digest 33.7-12-3). Thus we arrive at a regrouping, into one category, of free men and nonfree men who were still slaves but were not part of the instrumentum fundi (the property's equipment) because they farmed under a sort of conventional agreement. [HI:TR:157] "This change contributed greatly to a growing heterogeneity in the slave world. From the first century, the theme of the wealthy and insolent slave paralleled that of the freedman who surpassed the aristocrat in his life-style and his power. The phenomenon was considerably intensified by the rapid rise in the number of slaves who belonged to the emperor. Not only were such slaves endowed with specific rights that distinguished them from private slaves, but also the proximity of power offered a few of them greater opportunities for social promotion, in particular, in the management of the enormous imperial patrimony or in the service of the state.[HI:TR:157] "Before their manumission, a minority of wealthy (or at least well-off) slaves built up a patrimony that faithfully reproduced prevailing structures. They might themselves own salves--vicarii--who acted as procuratores or institutores to manage the slave's holdings, just as those slaves managed their masters'. The law specified that such slaves of slaves belonged to the latter and not to his dominus, and the relations between the slave and his vicarii were modeled on those that pertained between a free man and his slaves...But vicarii might also belong to the privileged slave minority, and their own peculium could includes slaves--that is, vicarii who belonged to a vicarius. These cascading relationships within the servile world are the best testimony to the success of the policy of social integration of the slave elites." [HI:TR:159]

"The efficacy of this policy depended on a remarkable characteristic of the Roman city--its capacity to remain open to foreign elements--that Greek cities did not share. In classical Greece, the citizen body was a closed world extremely difficult to break into. The Roman city, which often granted the freed slave citizenship, offered a social model radically different from that of the Greek city. The Roman system implied channels that led slaves to manumission and then to access to all economic activities, landownership included--something nearly unknown in the Greek world, but that in Rome underlay the efficacy of the policy of social integration of the slave elites." [HI:TR:159]

"A handful were richer and more powerful than most free men." [HPL:52]

"Although himself a slave, that is to say, Musicus Scurranus had a personal slave retinue of his own, and his inscription actually continues with the names and job-titles, save in one case, of sixteen of its members. They include a business agent, an accountant, three secretaries, a doctor, two chamberlains, two attendants, two cooks and three slaves who were respectively in charge of Scurranus' clothes, gold and silver....Ownership of slaves by slaves seems strange at first sight, but in societies like that of Rome where slaveowning was a critical mark of an individual's social standing it has been far from unusual." [HI:SASAR:2-3]

"At Rome the slaves who enjoyed the most elevated rank in the hierarchy were those like the father of Claudius Etruscus who belonged to the greatest and most powerful slaveowner in the world and who played a role in governing the Roman empire. Their standing was such that they were commonly able to take as wives women of superior juridical status, women that is who were freed or even freeborn. Many of them lived in relatively secure material surroundings, enjoying wealth and power which others could come to resent. And often they were slaveowners themselves." [HI:SASAR:70]
 
 
 
 

11. Economic plight relative to the free poor (another major difference): "Even more, the law itself might create a situation that casts doubt on the distinction between free and slave. What are we to make of the perfectly possible case of an elder brother who is a slave and a younger brother who is freeborn because the father had freed their mother, his slave, in the interim? The elder would thus not only be the servus of his father but could become the property of this brother at the father's death. Or what are we to think of free men who voluntarily became slaves, on one end of the scale, in order to be eligible for an important administrative post or, on the other (a more frequent case), because they were miserable wretches reduced to selling themselves in order to survive?" [HI:TR:168]

"Large landowners used slaves to cultivate portions of their estates not rented to sharecroppers. These slaves lived in dormitories under the authority of a slave overseer or steward, whose official concubine prepared meals for all the slaves. Philostratus tells the story of a modest vintner who resigned himself to tending his vineyard by himself because his few slaves cost too much to keep.[HPL:55]

"This points to a paradox at the heart of the slave system. Slavery is the most degrading and exploitative institution invented by man. Yet many slaves in ancient societies were more secure and economically better off than the mass of the free poor, whose employment was irregular, low-grade and badly paid." [HI:ISAA:5]

"At Rome the slaves who enjoyed the most elevated rank in the hierarchy were those like the father of Claudius Etruscus who belonged to the greatest and most powerful slaveowner in the world and who played a role in governing the Roman empire. Their standing was such that they were commonly able to take as wives women of superior juridical status, women that is who were freed or even freeborn. Many of them lived in relatively secure material surroundings, enjoying wealth and power which others could come to resent. ." [HI:SASAR:70]

"It would be wrong, however, to claim that servile living conditions were uniformly and generically worse than those of all other groups in Roman society..." [HI:SASAR:90)

"In comparison with the free poor, therefore, slaves may often have been at something of a material advantage: given that they were to some degree provided for, they must in many cases have enjoyed a security in their lives that the free poor could never have known." [HI:SASAR:92]

"In many real-life contexts there may equally have been little material incentive to protest. Imagine, for example, how slaves fared within a large domestic household such as that of Augustus' wife Livia. First the immense size of the familia was predicated on the fact that the slaveowner was a person of enormous wealth who was always able to control resources grand enough to maintain a household in a manner that continuously proclaimed the owner's renown and richness. To those comprising Rome's social and political elite, therefore, for whom slaveholdings were a mechanism of competitive display and a means of rivalry, it made little sense to allow the familia to deteriorate in any significantly noticeable way, which automatically meant that the slaves, who made up such holdings--subject to the constraints that affected society at large-- were never likely to find themselves hungry or without clothes and a roof over their heads. Secondly, Livia's household staff provided many services that were available not simply to the owner and her immediate family but to the slaves (and freedmen and freedwomen) who made up the familia as well:, the cooks, caterers and bakers, fullers, wool-weighers, clothes-menders, weavers and shoe-makers, nurses, pedagogues, midwives and doctors - these were all functionaries whose labour contributed to the material well-being of the familia as a whole... For great numbers of Roman slaves, over time, there must have been every practical reason to display to their owners the unswerving loyalty and obedience that ideally all owners sought from those in their possessions' [HI:SASAR:102]

They were, more often than not, materially, economically, and socially superior to the free poor!
 
 

12. Social Advancement opportunities (virtually none in New World slavery; ubiquitous in Roman Empire):

"There were many freedmen in a large city such as Rome. Though freedmen could vote, they could not run for public office, nor could they be officially enrolled in the equestrian or senatorial orders even if they became wealthy enough to meet the property qualifications for these orders. However, only one generation of a family was "freed." The sons of a freedman were "free" citizens; they did not owe their father's patron a certain number of working days a year (though they might choose to be his clients), and they were eligible for public office and equestrian and senatorial rank (should they be lucky enough to meet the property qualifications).[ATRD:195]

"Indeed, Roman law permitted disinheriting an heir to the profit of an adopted slave (who was thus freed)..." [HI:TR:144]

"The social situation of such financial managers was enviable, but it implied servile status, which gave security to the master. In this case, entering into slavery became a means of social promotion. [HI:TR:157]

"This change contributed greatly to a growing heterogeneity in the slave world. From the first century, the theme of the wealthy and insolent slave paralleled that of the freedman who surpassed the aristocrat in his life-style and his power. The phenomenon was considerably intensified by the rapid rise in the number of slaves who belonged to the emperor. Not only were such slaves endowed with specific rights that distinguished them from private slaves, but also the proximity of power offered a few of them greater opportunities for social promotion, in particular, in the management of the enormous imperial patrimony or in the service of the state. [HI:TR:157]

"The efficacy of this policy depended on a remarkable characteristic of the Roman city--its capacity to remain open to foreign elements--that Greek cities did not share. In classical Greece, the citizen body was a closed world extremely difficult to break into. The Roman city, which often granted the freed slave citizenship, offered a social model radically different from that of the Greek city. The Roman system implied channels that led slaves to manumission and then to access to all economic activities, landownership included--something nearly unknown in the Greek world, but that in Rome underlay the efficacy of the policy of social integration of the slave elites." [HI:TR:159]

" Or what are we to think of free men who voluntarily became slaves, on one end of the scale, in order to be eligible for an important administrative post" [HI:TR:168]

"Some ambitious men did the same [sold themselves] in the hope of becoming the stewards of noblemen or imperial treasures. This, in my view, was the story of the all-powerful and extremely wealthy Pallas, scion of a noble Arcadian family, who sold himself into slavery so that he might be taken on as steward by a woman of the imperial family and who wound up as minister of finance and eminence grise to the emperor Claudius." [HPL:55]

"In Roman Italy of the first century BC, it was evidently possible for the slave to achieve individual distinction despite his lowly origins and to be happily received into the free, civic community."[HI:SASAR:1]

"It was possible for such men, whether born into the imperial familia or recruited from outside, to advance through what loosely resembled a career structure, beginning with subordinate positions while still young and proceeding to positions of greater authority after manumission, which typically came when they were about thirty. For some, especially in the first century AD, the way was open to participate directly in the highest levels of Roman government." [HI:SASAR:69]One captured slave from Smyrna "served as a young administrator in the household of the emperor Tiberius, by whom he was set free. He accompanied Caligula when the emperor traveled north in AD 39 and was probably promoted to a provincial financial posting under Claudius and Nero before eventually becoming a rationibus, secretary in charge of the emperor's accounts, under Vespasian. Vespasian indeed conferred upon him the rank of eques, second only to that of senator and his marriage, under Claudius, to a woman of free birth produced two sons who also gained equestrian standing." [HI:SASAR:69f]

"These remarks imply that it was perfectly possible at Rome for the socially inferior to win the esteem of their superiors and for the latter to draw the former firmly into society..." [HI:SASAR:78]

"Cultural and psychological dislocation of this kind must have been commonly endured by the great numbers of slaves brought from the fringes of the Roman world, those for instance procured from the regions that bordered on the Black Sea or from within the Asian interior. The results were not of course always permanently damaging, and it is possible to find success stories showing how the victimised were sometimes capable of adapting their new circumstances to their personal advantage. For example, the freedman Licinus, who came to hold a procuratorship in Gaul under Augustus and whose name became a byword for great wealth, had originally been captured in war in Gaul, where he was born, but fell into the ownership of Julius Caesar and was fortunate enough to be manumitted by him. Then there was Cleander, the notorious freedman who in the reign of Commodus held the high office of praetorian prefect and exercised enormous political influence; he was a Phrygian by birth who had been brought to Rome as a slave where he was sold on the block. At a more humble level one might notice a pair of freedmen who as slaves had originated from Cilicia and Paphlagonia respectively, the cloak dealers L. Arlenus Demetrius and L. Arienus Arternidorus.[HI:SASAR:47]

"I was no bigger than this candlestick here when I came out of Asia Minor .... For fourteen years I was the master's little darling. The mistress' too .... The gods were on my side--I became the head of the household, I took over from that pea-brain of a master. Need I say more? He made me co-heir in his will, and I inherited a millionaire's estate." The speaker is Trimalchio, the character in Petronius's novel, The Satyricon, who made it from the rags of a slave to the riches of a billionaire...A slave becoming a master's heir and inheriting an estate worth millions? It seems unbelievable. Not in the Roman world of the first century A.D., when Petronius wrote. He was, to be sure, a novelist and not a historian, but his portrait of Trimalchio is based on reality. Though the slave was at the opposite end of the social spectrum from the likes of Pliny, thanks to certain Roman attitudes and ways, avenues of upward mobility bridged the gap between these extremes, and there were many slaves who made it part way across and some who, like Trimalchio, made it all the way. [HI:ELAR:57]

"There were multitudes of Greek and Roman slaves--the gangs in the mines or on the vast ranches--who lived lives as hopeless and full of hardship as the slaves on the sugar plantations of Brazil or the cotton plantations in the American south. But in the days of the Roman Empire there were also many, a great many, who were able to escape from slavery and mount the steps of the social ladder, in some cases to the very top. [HI:ELAR:64]

"Among the Romans, especially during the flourishing period of the Roman Empire under discussion, slaves enjoyed more and more chances to lead comfortable lives and at the same time move toward gaining their freedom...the white-collar slave worker could be fairly sure of eventually gaining it. Moreover, manumission among the Romans brought with it a precious gift--citizenship. Thus the freedman stood politically higher than the multitudes of freeborn peoples who lived in the lands Rome had conquered and were only Roman subjects, not citizens, and hence were denied the vote, marriage with a Roman citizen, access to Roman courts, and other privileges....The paths, in the imperial administration led right to the very top, to posts that today would be held by department heads, even cabinet ministers. During Claudius's reign, Pallas, a freedman, served as his secretary of the treasury, and Narcissus, another freedman, as his secretary of state. Both used their position to line their pockets and both became so incredibly rich...[HI:ELAR:60]

"Slaves in such positions who had managed to accumulate enough money to serve as investment capital could work not only for the master but with him: they could become his partner in trade, in the holding of real estate, and so on. Posts of this sort were so sure a way of getting ahead that free men with bleak prospects would sell themselves into slavery in order to quality for them. The free man who was a Roman subject living in one of the conquered lands could figure that, by so doing, he would eventually earn manumission and, with it, the citizenship." [HI:ELAR:61]

It might also be pointed out that skill development, education, and life-care support during formative periods were also provided to household slaves. Unlike New World Slavery, in which the vast majority of the 'skills' required were for simple agricultural tasks, household slaves received training in specialist skills, which became marketable after manumission. And these were not always 'core only' skills: one document from Roman Egypt of the period contains a case where a mistress is sending a slave girl to a foreign city for music lessons!
 
 

13.Incentives for the slave to perform: In New World slavery this was largely punitive, coercive, and quite negative. In Roman slavery of our period, this element was certainly there, but it was overshadowed generally by the 'profit motive'. The slave could earn money and often had a profit-sharing arrangement with the master (e.g., slave bankers). Incentives to perform were often structured in these more positive ways. This is another vast difference between the two systems.
 
 
.................................................................................................................................................

It should be apparent from this detail that these two systems are hardly comparable, and one could wonder along with Usry and Keener if we should even call these by the same name[TH:DBF:37] :

"The slaveholders [of the New World period] severely misrepresented Paul. First, Paul was addressing nonracial Roman household slavery, a situation quite different from the slavery practiced in the Americas. Household slaves had greater opportunities for freedom, status and economic mobility than did the vast majority of free peasants in Paul's day; one wonders whether the same term should apply to both U.S. slavery and Roman household slavery." [The Roman term was actually servus, from which we get "servant", and many bible translations used this word rather than "slave" for the relevant translation. The English word "slave" comes from the middle Latin "Slav"; the connection being that during the eastward expansion of the Germans in the Middle Ages the Slav populations were enslaved or destroyed, something much closer to the horror of New World slavery.]
 
 

Any socio-economic class that:

1. people would voluntarily join to achieve greater social status than they could being free;

2. allowed a servant legal rights against their 'owner';

3. gave the servant the ability to force a change of owner by seeking asylum;

4. created a realistic expectation of freedom WITH ROMAN CITIZENSHIP around the age of 30 years of age;

5. provided much greater material comforts, security, and earning potential than free status

6. provided access to educational training often unaffordable by the free poor
 
 

can hardly be called 'slavery' in any New World sense! [It looks so much more like the rigor, discipline, and submission to superiors that shows up in modern military enrollments, in which people submit to military life for a fixed time, in exchange for training, post-service educational payments, medical care, and the like AFTER their term of military service.]

Accordingly, I have to conclude that the NT-period "slavery" in the Roman Empire is not similar enough to New World slavery for this objection to have its customary force. The gap between NT 'servanthood' and New World 'slavery' is simply too great for us to identify them with each other.

In spite of this inappropriate use of the word 'slavery' to describe this phenomena, I will generally still use the term below, but it should be remembered throughout that this is NOT your normal meaning of 'slave' or 'slavery'.

...........................................................................................................................................

2. Given the actual character of NT 'slavery', what SHOULD HAVE BEEN a Christian response to it in the first century AD?
 
 

Now, here we have to determine 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' in Roman servitude.

As a socio-economic institution, it had a massively ambiguous character:

Freedom was thus not always 'good' and 'slavery' was not always 'bad', and what to 'legislate' about this institution--given its amazing variety and ethically polymorphous character--might be incredibly difficult to determine and perhaps even vary case-by-case!

Some of the more obvious things we might expect to find in the NT would be these:

..........................................................................................................................................................

3. What actual response do we find in the writings of the NT--esp. Paul?

Now, when we compare this expectation-grid with actual NT teaching, we find a good bit of overlap:

As far as I can tell, the blanket statements against 'bragging' are never applied to this specific area, but neither are they to ANY area. This ethical principle is to be applied to ALL things, and this would include grandiose displays of slave retinues or over massive manumissions as a Public Relations ploy. The closest we get to this is Paul's injunction to free people to "do not become slaves of men" (1 Cor 7.23), which would certainly preclude becoming slaves for reasons of selfish ambition.
 
This is very strongly stated by Paul: "We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers -- and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (I Tim 1.9-10)
This shows up in the 'household codes' of Paul, in which the role enactments are required to be characterized by goodness and high-ethics:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. (Eph 6.5ff)

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. 4.1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, (NIV: Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair) knowing that you too have a Master in heaven. (Col 3.22ff)

And let those who have believers as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved (I Tim 6.2)

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. (Titus 2.9f)

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5.21, which introduces the household code section)
 
 

This is quite clear in Paul. The unity in Christ obliterated social/ethic/gender barriers:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3.28)
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Col 3.11)
These were contrary to much of his Pharisaical upbringing (esp. as regards Gentile and women!), but even the slave class was despised within first-century Judaism [ Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, Dutton:949, p.203]:

"Nevertheless, the slave class was despised and credited with certain faults. Slaves were generally supposed to be lazy. 'Ten measures of sleep descended into the world; slaves took nine of them and the rest of mankind one' (Kid. 49b); 'A slave is not worth the food of his stomach' (B.K. 97a). They were untrustworthy: 'There is not faithfulness in slaves' (B.M. 86b). Their moral standard was low: 'The more maidservants the more lewdness, the more menservants the more robbery' (Aboth II.8); and 'A slave prefers a dissolute life with female slaves (to a regular marriage)' (Git. 13a)."  
 
This was clear from some of the above passages, in which masters were supposed to provide what is 'right and fair' to the slave, and the slave was supposed to follow the owner's instructions faithfully and without deceit.
 
 
This is definitely the case, because Paul centers each aspect of the slave-owner relationship around their individual accountability to the Lord:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. (Eph 6.5ff)   Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. 4.1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, (NIV: Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair) knowing that you too have a Master in heaven. (Col 3.22ff)  
 
We do find statements that 'move' the church away from general slave-system orientation:
        1. Paul explicitly denounces slave-trading, which would have restricted the supply of slaves to Christian households [1 Tim 1.9-10]
        2. Paul tells free people to NOT become slaves [1 Cor 7.23]
        3. Paul tells slaves to become free, if they can [1 Cor 7.21]
        4. Paul encourages Philemon to 'free' Onesimus in that epistle [verse 21]
But the historical situation was too complex to issue such a blanket 'free them all' statement: "The cruel views of Cato, who advised to work the slaves, like beasts of burden, to death rather than allow them to become old and unprofitable, gave way to the milder and humane views of Seneca, Pliny, and Plutarch, who very nearly approach the apostolic teaching." [Schaff]

"At the opposite end of the spectrum were slaves who worked as agricultural laborers. To be sure, the age of "plantation slavery" and Spartacus' revolt belonged to the distant past, and it is not true that Roman society was based on slavery." [HPL:55)

Even abuse of slaves was frowned upon (and legislated against) and deplored, as when Pliny the Elder speaks of the cruelty of Vedius Pollio in the manner of execution of condemned slave criminals, or when Seneca describes the beating of a slave by a master for a simple sneeze. These were NOT accepted practices of the time, and it is simply false to assert that owners had complete authority over their slaves.

From a practical standpoint alone, it would have been impossible to have issued some unilateral emancipation command to the Christian community.
 
 
This situation seems to be what is illustrated in the book of Philemon.

The general consensus is that Paul is writing to Philemon to accept his runaway slave Onesimus back as a freedman, but the historical and legal context for this is quite precarious.

1. It was a major crime to harbour a runaway (soon thereafter, it became a capital crime!):

"The same senatus consultum also appears to have prescribed a penalty for failure to hand over a fugitive to his master or to the magistrates within 20 days, if found on one's property (Dig. 11.4.1.1)." [NDIEC8:26f]

"At the same time that the privilege of asylum was conferred on the temple, a suit for compensation and penalty was instituted against any private individual who should either help or harbour a runaway. Flight of slaves was an issue to be regulated...The prosecution of persons either for persuading a slave to run away, concealing his whereabouts, or seizing, selling or purchasing him was known to Roman law from the second century BC...It became a crimen capitale no longer punished necessarily by a monetary penalty but also by banishment to the mines or crucifixion..." [NDIEC8:35, late 1st century]


2. Paul could NOT afford for the early Church to be stigmatized in this way:

"H. Bellen interprets Paul's decision to return Onesiumus as an attempt to protect Christianity from the charge of kidnapping which would have adversely affected his missionary activity. Paul sought to stop slaves from using Christianity and its call to 'forsake everything' as a way of avoiding slavery." [NDIEC6:54]


3. And he had to act quickly, because there might have been huge incentives (other than legal) for those around him to 'turn him in':

"The above evidence shows the various means available to masters to find and apprehend their runaways. These include: the posting of public notices and the use of officials as recipients of information, the offering of rewards, the hiring of a professional searcher, the prevailing on friends and acquaintances for help and the seeking of help from individuals able to exert influence on official personnel." [NDIEC8:25]   "Of interest also is the naming of the slaves' owners and their position. As this was unnecessary for the search, school surmises that such information was added to encourage persons, knowing that the reward would be paid, to assist. The reward promised in the first instance (i.e. two talents) was approximately a year's wages for an ordinary worker." [NDIEC8:13]


4. His letter makes it fairly clear that he wishes Philemon to free Onesimus upon his return (and that this is something ethically obligatory--"ought to do"):

Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good- 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,


5. He makes it clear, also, that Paul had the authority to command Philemon to do so:

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.


6. Yet Paul still seeks for Philemon's action to be conscience-driven and from the Christian ethic of love:

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love

But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.

I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask


7. There is very little ambiguity here, but Paul is clearly coaxing Philemon to make the right choice (which Paul makes clear). What he falls short of, at least in this epistle, is some authoritative command (even though he could have--as verse 8 makes clear to Philemon!) which would override Philemon's freewill/choice in the matter. Whether he is trying to let Philemon "get the credit" for the action--since it would have represented Philemon's investment--or whether he was deferring to Philemon because he would have had better knowledge of any problematic circumstances is unclear from the text [remember, at the time of the writing, Paul had only heard Onesimus' side of the story and knew that it might have involved some injury to Philemon], what IS CLEAR is that Paul wanted Philemon to take action in keeping with the general 'new creation' ethic.

In this case, Paul communicates the correct action (from the heart) without appealing to apostolic authority. This is what we might expect, given his anti-legalism and pro-Spirit teaching.

[There is also a theme in Paul that says that ONLY voluntary acts of goodness are rewarded or praiseworthy--this would certainly provide a motive for him to give Philemon the chance to act voluntarily: 

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. (1 Cor 9.16f).

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9.6)

shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily (Peter, in I Peter 5.2)]

 
 
We certainly don't have any endorsements of slavery as a human social system in Paul, but rather have numerous anti-slavery motifs (as noted above). Its ambiguous character at that juncture in history precludes a wholesale emancipation motif, but the goal of freedom for all is very clear throughout his writings.
 
 
 
 
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4. To what extent could this be considered "condoning slavery", as voiced in a typical objection?

There are three considerations which make this phrase inapplicable to our situation:

First of all, it should be obvious that this is hardly 'slavery' in the normal, horrible meaning of it, so I think the objection is misplaced to begin with.

Secondly, 'condoning' means (in a context like this) "approve or sanction, usually reluctantly" [Oxford]. The NT data we have looked at certainly doesn't "sanction" it, but rather strongly encourages the church to move away from it, and explicitly condemns those elements of it that were clearly wrong (e.g., slavetrading, deprivation, malice, anti-community social views of it)--the very elements in New World slavery that are problematic. We have seen already how a blanket emancipation would have been inappropriate (given the type of slave-system it was), and as an institution it was too ambiguous and too flexible to deserve a judgement of 'holy' (sanctioned) or 'evil' (condemned).

Finally, we shall see later that the data we have about the early church showed that they believed the institution was not evil in itself, since they could use it to free others or provide relief money for others. In the earliest non-biblical accounts we have (late 1st century), we can see this:

"We know many among ourselves who have given themselves up to slavery, in order that they could ransom others. Many others have surrendered themselves to slavery, so that with the price that they received for themselves, they might provide food for others." [Clement of Rome, c.96, 1.70] As we noted above, an institution that was flexible enough as this could not be considered evil per se--it could be used evilly by participants in that institution (e.g., abusive masters, bribe-requiring slaves, etc.)

Accordingly, I find it difficult to agree that the NT "condones slavery" in any meaningful (from a modern standpoint) sense.
 
 

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5. What theoretical/theological concepts (e.g. example of Jesus, equality in Christ) and historical situations (e.g., church size and political visibility in 1st century AD) might have informed this response?
 
 

The above data should be enough to show that a "condoning slavery" objection is simply inapplicable to biblical data. The OT and NT systems of 'slavery' addressed therein are just not close enough to New World slavery to make the objection even relevant, much less accurate. So, we could stop the discussion here.

We might profit from looking further at peripheral data, however, since the Suffering Servant motif from Isaiah was applied to Christ, and Jesus' deliberate model in John 13 of servanthood has challenged believers throughout the centuries to a life of humility, service, and other-centeredness.

So, let's look at the wider context of servant hood in the NT:

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20.25) [Note: the contrast is between elitism and service, with Jesus as the example of one working for the interests/welfare of others.]
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9.35) [Social status should NOT be an ambition of the follower!]
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs (Rom 15.8) [The servant quality in view here is that of performing work for the benefit of others.]
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! (Phil 2.5ff) [Social status was not as important as performing the will of God--whatever it took.]
 
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (I Cor 9.19) [The ideas here are those of service and humility.]
"`I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 16 `Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. (Acts 26.16) [Here servanthood is an 'appointment' by a royal figure--the Lord, and will involve the task of proclamation.]
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, (Rom 1.1) [The "status" of a servant was related to the "status" of the owner, as was commonly seen in Ancient Rome. To be a servant of the God of the Universe and of the Lord of History was quite an honor and privileged position...]
For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; (I Cor 7.22) [The status was changed in Christ.]
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. [The illusion of ownership also applied to payment!--the servant would be rewarded by Christ Himself, since HE was the actual one being served by the attitude of the worker.]
It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3.22ff)
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6.9) [Masters were clearly told here that ownership had "passed" to Jesus! And, that they now had a Master in heaven. All ownership (earthly) was at best a matter of part-time contract agreements. We don't even "own" ourselves--much less others!]
 
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. (I Tim 6.1)
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Tit 2.9)
Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. (I Tim 6.2)
This represents nothing less that a radical transformation of the master/slave relationship--when infused with the ethics of Christian love and other-centered actions (e.g. Philp 2.4)
 
 
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. (Eph 6.5f) [Notice that Paul points out that the actions of slaves (and masters!) have eternal consequences, and the slightest task done in humility before the real Master Jesus is seen and rewarded by Him!]
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3.22ff) [This "extra economic benefit" is called an inheritance here--something passed on from Jesus to the servant!]
 
 
In Romans 13, Paul argues that the Roman government should be obeyed, since it was an existing authority structure in history. The Imperial government was a mixture of both "good" and "bad", but government itself was not evil. Just as a ruler could be abusive (without the institution being evil in its nature), and a spouse could be abusive (without marriage being evil in its nature), and a parent could be abusive (without parenting being abusive--so too could an owner or servant be abusive (without the economic "contract" or arrangement being evil). [The same, by the way, would apply to employers of free people: a work contract could be 'neutral' but how the parties treated each other, and the quality of work and promptness of payment could vary in ethical appropriateness.]

According to the bible, authority structures were supposed to be ways of serving/helping others! Governments, for example, are all "ministers" of God (Romans 13, cf. Our modern phrase "public servants"), but some are useful, some are useless, and some are destructive. Authority, biblically speaking, is granted only for the good of others--it is supposed to be a vehicle for doing "distributed good," not for elitism or exploitation.

And if this analogy holds, it has important implications for how far slaves were supposed to 'submit'.

In 1 Peter 2.18ff we read:

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly


This amazing passage shows that slaves were only supposed to submit as far as their conscience allowed. We have already seen legal situations in which slaves were supposed to 'turn their masters in' for criminal behavior (setting one boundary on submission), but this passage makes it a matter of conscience before God. We certainly have known cases of where Christian female slaves of pagan masters refused to participate in immorality (and were often martyred, such as Potamiena).

This places a very definite limit on the 'authority' of masters (!), and is paralleled in known cases of 'civil disobedience' in the NT (Acts 4.19 and 5.29).

[The topic of civil disobedience is far beyond the scope of this document, but it should at least be noted here that the biblical teaching on the matter is not exhausted with a simple "bear it" theme. We know of several different themes of dealing with 'evil' authorities and responses. For examples: (1) 'suffering unjustly' is not ALWAYS the appropriate response--FLEEING sometimes is (Jesus' teaching in Mt 10.23); as can be (2) taking legal action (as Paul did often, in the Roman court system); as (3) vivid confrontation and rebuke could be (e.g., Paul and the efforts of the 'enslaving Judaizers'). Even the Romans 13 passage--often understood as a sanction of "divine right" political theory--has to be read in light of the concrete providential history of the OT. For example, when Saul had the "Romans 13 authority" and David was anointed king, David fled and even their armies fought. He did not 'submit to martyrdom' nor did he assassinate the king. When God 'raises one up and deposes another', this can often be a macro-level process that involves everything from civil factionalism (e.g., the split between the tribes after Solomon) to popular revolts (e.g., 2 Kings 21.19ff). The issue of how authorities are 'replaced' is a more complex one, than that of obedience as far as is morally right.]
 
 

As we have seen, this institution in NT times had an ethically ambiguous character: so much depended on the intentions, treatment, and coercive elements in the relationship.

If a Master forced someone into slavery (even the NT type of 'slavery'), it was seen as clearly evil by Paul (i.e., slavetraders). If a master used coercive elements (e.g., threatening, withholding material needs, abusive treatment), it was seen as clearly evil.

If, on the other hand, a person voluntarily entered into servitude, to a owner of great rank (e.g. the royal household), the status and benefits were impressive. It was a win-win situation for everyone, and the quality of life in the larger families of Rome was exceptionally high. Owners often found personal warmth in their servants (to the point of adoption or marriage!), and even manumission was easily attained once the servant had developed and mastered 'marketable' skills.

In the NT, Paul draws upon this disparity between evil/abusive masters and good/affirming masters. The evil masters he tells the believer to avoid are many:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. (Rom 7.14) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom 8.21) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Gal 4.8f) For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness (Col 1.13)

so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb 2.14f)

For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. (Rom 16.18) At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures (Tit 3.3)

These are abusive situations that are remedied in Christ, by a 'change of master' ("redemption") to Christ. We flee for refuge (asylum) to God and we experience a change of ownership from the abusive and deceitful masters, to One who cares for us--the Lord (who also provides the ownership transfer payment!).

But not only was the change supposed to be in our situation, it was also supposed to be in our character.

Commitment to serving Christ and others, humility toward Christ and others (e.g., Rom 12.10), and working for the interests of others instead of merely our own (cf. esp. Philp 2.4,21) became the highest calling of the Christian life. Jesus said 'follow my example' when he washed the feet of his companions, and urged us to take up our cross daily and follow that example. This calling considers only the welfare of others (i.e., love in action!) to be a worthy goal, when compared to social 'standing' or arrogance of the elite...

The model of Christ, faithfully and from-the-heart serving the Father and us, becomes the model for the heart of the believer.

This ideal of a gentle, committed, persistent servanthood, based on affection and loyalty DID NOT, HOWEVER, legitimize slavery somehow (contra common opinion)! Paul's explicit injunctions to (1) not become slaves and (2) against slave traders, and (3) for voluntary manumission are very strong indications that preserving the status quo in favor of the masters was neither a goal, nor an acceptable stopping point for the gospel of freedom.
 
 

Although there were definite constraints on the early church as to how much change she could effect, this really didn't stop the NT writers from making bold statements where appropriate. At the time of Paul's earliest writings (mentioning 'slavery'), Christianity would have been largely a Jewish denomination, popular in the Diaspora communities, and mainly only persecuted by Judean Jews. Later in the NT period, of course, it attracted the (sometimes) hostile attention of the Roman government, and became more consistently persecuted outside of Judea.

But although this would have practically limited the effects of any Christian prophetic voice to the massive empire, the NT authors did not find this to be the limiting factor. They DID speak out against evil institutions (i.e., slave trading), evil usage of neutral/ambiguous institutions (e.g., abusive masters, pilfering servants), and even commonly-accepted morals of the surrounding cultures (e.g., sexual ethics, exploitation, fraud). But their main focus was on individual transformation of the heart, and on the growth of Christ-like community within the fellowship. Social change would be a necessary conclusion of heart-changes of people, and growth in love, kindness, forgiveness, and loyalty could only produce Kingdom-of-God-quality relationships among His followers.

To illustrate how difficult this might have been, consider that Paul had his hands full trying to get believers to understand that sacred prostitution in Corinth was wrong--a full campaign to eradicate it in the Roman Empire would have diverted his efforts from his major work of 'planting freedom' in the lives of people!

Also, we must remember that most of the NT literature deals with specific issues and occasions that came up in the beginning of the Christian expansion. It doesn't represent by any means a systematic or comprehensive critique of the cultures in which it had to live. For example, infanticide was a common practice--the leaving of infants on trash heaps to die of exposure or to be eaten by wild dogs--but the New Testament doesn't even speak about this. Later believers, however, after the church had taken root, spoke out vigorously against this practice.

The NT epistles reflect the mixture of its readership. At the time of Paul's epistles, the recipients would most likely have included household slaves, in urban settings. The number of slaves would have been much greater than the number of owners, and this would be reflected in the fact that there are more passages with instructions for servants, than for masters. Urban household slaves, we have noted often above, were NOT in a bad situation generally--certainly nothing like New World slaves or even the much earlier plantation slaves of the early Roman Republic. For these readers, the owner/slave relationship would not have been the oppressive institution that we are familiar with from modern images of New World slavery.

All in all, we couldn't realistically expect the NT to speak to every evil, or even to every evil usage of neutral structures, of the day, but in the case of NT slavery, we have enough data to confirm that it was:

1. pro-freedom
2. anti-involuntary slavery
3. anti-voluntary slavery
4. an advocate of respect, consideration, loyalty, and good-will in ALL relationships (including master/servant)
5. pro-voluntary manumission

[One could clearly, in the light of this, see how easily the pro-abolitionists of later centuries could find the anti-NewWorld slavery case in the Bible! For an excellent summary of this later debate, see the excellent books by Craig S. Keener and Glenn Usry (Black Man's Religion and Defending Black Faith), and for a careful and balanced discussion of the relationship between Christianity and social change, see Sociology Through the Eyes of Faith, by David A. Fraser and Tony Campolo.]
......................................................................................................................................

6. What evidence do we have about the early church's actions in this area?
 
 

We don't have a lot of data here, but what we do have seems to indicate that:

1. The early church saw the institution as 'neutral' enough to utilize to meet the needs of others:

"We know many among ourselves who have given themselves up to slavery, in order that they could ransom others. Many others have surrendered themselves to slavery, so that with the price that they received for themselves, they might provide food for others." [Clement of Rome (c.96) 1.70]

We know that the church was very active in social relief programs, because the church at Rome was supporting over 1,500 widows and beggars in the middle of the third century. Voluntary slavery may well have been one of the ways of funding such a large-scale relief program (among the many others done in the period, see ROC).
 
 

2. The early church apparently used their funds to procure freedom for their members (to the limit of their ability):

"Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires. (iv) " [Letter of Ignatius to Polycarp]

"As for such sums of money as are collected from them in the aforesaid manner, designate them to be used for the redemption of the saints and the deliverance of slaves and captives." [Apostolic Constitutions ( somewhat later, c.390) 7.435]
 
 

3. The data we have from this period strongly suggests that urban Christians were the most frequent manumitters in the period:

"Christian masters were not specially encouraged to set a slave free, although Christians were most numerous in the setting of urban households where freeing was most frequent: our pagan evidence for the practice is overwhelmingly evidence for the freeing of slaves in urban and domestic service...Among Christians, we know that the freeing of slaves was performed in church in the presence of the bishop: early laws from Constantine, after his conversion, permit this as an existing practice." [PAC:298]
 
 
4. This practice of manumission was widespread by the time of Constantine, which would argue that it had a history much earlier:

"A point of particular interest in Constantine's second ruling is the reference it makes to slaveowners setting free their slaves because of their religious convictions: 'religiose mente'. This suggests a possible new ideological impetus to manumission that, using the old forms, could well have been at work in the Christian communities long before Constantine's conversion. Certainly something of a demand for the new process must be inferred from the fact that Constantine's rulings were letters responding to petitions received from bishops. [HI:ELAR:158]
 
 
5. We do know that not all Christian masters freed their servants, nor that all Christian servants were honest and loyal. We have the famous case of Callistus in the third century, in which the slave Callistus was set up as a banker in Rome by his (Christian) master Carpophorus. This would have been an excellent position, with high autonomy and almost certain to have resulted in early freedom and material comforts. [This might have represented a very good 'use' of the master/servant relationship.] However, Callistus embezzled funds, ran away to avoid discovery by the bank's depositors, tried to kill himself when he thought he was about to be apprehended, created a riot in a synagogue, and was sentenced by government courts to prison. He later was freed and became Pope in 217 AD.

[We would also assume that there were Christians who abused the master/slave relationship (or even resisted the general principle toward manumission), just like there were Christians in the NT who violated other major moral principles, including major sexual ethics (I Cor 5-6!), but this is no counter-argument to the NT teaching motif itself. We also know that church leaders had household servants through most of the institutional history of the post-Constantine church, but these look so much more like the British servants or French bureaucrats than it does something nefarious like New World slavery.]
 
 

6. But we do know that there were widespread manumissions among Christian converts, esp. those of wealth. We have data about some actual manumissions in the pre-Constantine era, that indicates that the principles of the NT indeed created more and more manumissions among Christians. Phillip Schaff summaries this data [History of the Christian Church, s.v. "Christian Life in Contrast with Pagan Corruption: The Church and Slavery" in Volume II]:

"The principles of Christianity naturally prompt Christian slave-holders to actual manumission. The number of slave-holders before Constantine was very limited among Christians, who were mostly poor. Yet we read in the Acts of the martyrdom of the Roman bishop Alexander, that a Roman prefect, Hermas, converted by that bishop, in the reign of Trajan, received baptism at an Easter festival with his wife and children and twelve hundred and fifty slaves, and on this occasion gave all his slaves their freedom and munificent gifts besides. So in the martyrology of St. Sebastian, it is related that a wealth Roman prefect, Chromatius, under Diocletian, on embracing Christianity, emancipated fourteen hundred slaves, after having them baptized with himself, because their sonship with God put an end to their servitude to man. Several epitaphs in the catacombs mention the fact of manumission. In the beginning of the fourth century St. Cantius, Cantianus, and Cantiannilla, of an old Roman family, set all their slaves, seventy-three in number, at liberty, after they had received baptism. St. Melania emancipated eight thousand slaves; St. Ovidius, five thousand; Hermes, a prefect in the reign of Trajan, twelve hundred and fifty....These legendary traditions may indeed be doubted as to the exact facts in the case, and probably are greatly exaggerated; but they are nevertheless conclusive as the exponents of the spirit which animated the church at that time concerning the duty of Christian masters."

These acts of manumission are unintelligible, if the church had somehow 'sanctioned' slavery! In other words, these acts make sense ONLY IF the church had been taught that freedom was something owner-masters should pursue for their servants wherever possible. A simple "just be better to your slaves" ethic would NOT have generated such events and patterns of manumission as these.
So, overall, it seems that the Church basically 'got the message', but implemented it as the situation allowed.

As late as Augustine, we see still see efforts by the Church to free involuntary slaves:

Augustine said that it was the practice of the Christian community to use its funds to redeem as many of the kidnapped victims as possible, and in one recent episode 120 'slaves' whom the Galatians were boarding, or were preparing to board, onto their ships had been saved. " [HI:SASAR:37f] ........................................................................................................................................................

Summary and conclusions:

  1. The slave-system described in the NT period is very dissimilar to New world slavery, especially in regards to the more horrific and troubling aspects: lifetime slavery, forced/violent enslavement, no chance for improvement in conditions, no legal recourses against owners, bad living conditions, lowest possible social and economic status.
  2. As such, its ethical character relative to New World slave is very different.
  3. It was a much more neutral, flexible, varied, and ambiguous institution--blanket ethical pronouncements against it or for it would have been inaccurate.
  4. Accordingly, the institution itself could not be considered 'inconsistent with' the gospel of freedom, and the NT clearly denies the idea that a master "owns" a servant (only the Lord owns them both)!
  5. I have to conclude that the NT-period "slavery" in the Roman Empire is not similar enough to New World slavery for this objection to have its customary force.
  6. Given this character of the institution, the NT teachings address obvious problems with the praxis and role enactments.
  7. The general Christian principle of 'freedom' creates several passages that encourage the church to move away from (and avoid) the practice.
  8. The general view of the NT that change should be instituted from "the inside outward" and should be a matter of individual moral decision explains the phenomena within the book of Philemon.
  9. The complexity of the historical situation also argues against the feasibility of any 'unilateral abolition'.
  10. Accordingly, we cannot correctly accuse the NT of "condoning slavery" in any traditional sense.
  11. The use of the servant-heart of Jesus as a goal did NOT legitimize the institution in any way; the anti-slavery injunctions clearly show that.
  12. The NT does not expect unconditional obedience to masters; indeed it required disobedience in cases of moral wrongdoing (similar to cases of required civil disobedience).
  13. The NT literature is too 'occasional' and too early to be expected to deal with ALL social implications of the good news of God's action in Jesus Christ, but we do have strong pro-freedom elements and instructions therein anyway.
  14. The early church saw the institution itself as neutral/useful for raising funds for social relief, yet demonstrated a decided preference for manumission.

Now, what emerges from this rather detailed study, is that most of the passages in the NT relating to slavery were not even speaking about what we could consider 'slavery' today (i.e., New World slavery). Given what 'slavery' was like in Paul's day, we should not be morally 'surprised' at the absence of a blanket manumission statement by him, or at the absence of a major Empire-wide anti-slavery campaign on the part of the emerging church. The data that we DO have in the NT lays clear groundwork for refuting New World Slavery (almost all of which was based on slave-trading and piracy--explicitly condemned by Paul and fought by the early church). By the time slavery loses its ethically ambiguous character as an institution (i.e., in the slave trade of the New World period), it cannot legitimately 'use Paul' to defend itself, for it had mutated into something quite unlike either Hebrew "slavery" in the OT, or "household slavery" in the NT.

So, it is incorrect to say that the bible "condones slavery" (in the modern connotation of that phrase).

Glenn M. Miller
December 30, 1999


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