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Slavery in Bible Times Was More Like Indentured Servanthood

[Slavery in the Greco Roman cultures of the New Testament] is more like indentured servanthood. It's not what we think of as slavery. When you and I see the word "slave" in the Bible, you immediately think of 17th, 18th, and 19th century New World slavery: race-based, African slavery. When you do that, when you read it through those blinders, you aren't understanding what ...

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Confused II

January 05, 2011  8:33am

Barclay continues: The law was quite clear. Gaius, the Roman lawyer, in the Institutes lays it down: We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave. If the slave ran away, at best he was branded on the forehead with the letter F for fugitivus, which means runaway, at worst he was killed. The terror of the slave was that he was absolutely at the caprice of his master. Augustus crucified a slave because he killed a pet quail. Vedius Pollio flung a slave still living to the savage lampreys in his fish pond because he dropped and broke a crystal goblet. Juvenal tells of a Roman matron who ordered a slave to be killed for no other reason than that she lost her temper with him. When her husband protested, she said: You call a slave a man, do you? He has done no wrong, you say? Be it so; it is my will and command; let my will be the voucher for the deed.

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January 05, 2011  8:06am

Your blog confuses me... William Barclay, in The Daily Study Bible Series, The Letter to the Ephesians,p. 178-180 says that: "basically the life of the slave was grim and terrible. In law he was not a person but a thing. Aristotle lays it down that there can never be friendship between master and slave, for they have nothing in common; "for a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave." Varro, writing on agriculture, divides agricultural instruments into three classes - the articulate, the inarticulate and the mute. The articulate comprises the slaves; the inarticulate the cattle; and the mute the vehicles. The slave is no better than a beast who happens to be able to talk. Cato gives advice to a man taking over a farm. He must go over it and throw out everything that is past its work; and old slaves too must be thrown out on the scrap heap to starve. When a slave is ill it is sheer extravagance to issue him with normal rations."

sylvia P. Wright

August 26, 2010  10:34pm

This is a timely topic! You have handled it well academically and theologically. It is a good read.

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