Tag Archives: Masters

New Testament Slavery: A User-Friendly Guide

Why you shouldn’t be troubled by the New Testament’s failure to challenge the first century institution of slavery.

Modern readers are often troubled by the New Testament’s failure to criticize the first century institution of slavery.

This concern is often born of the idea that first century slavery is like pre-Civil War American slavery.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

First Century Slavery v. 18th Century: Major Differences

Even though first century slavery was widespread (half of Rome’s approximately  [warning: PDF]), slaves were often highly educated, permitted to own land and could expect emancipation.

Furthermore, slaves and masters were often of the . In other words, they were indistinguishable from each other.

Seneca records that a proposal was put forth to have slaves wear distinctive clothing. The proposal was shot down when someone pointed out that slaves would then see how numerous they were. []

Finally, because slaves supported the personal economy of masters, masters invested in their slaves. Owners often provided medical care and sufficient housing and food for their slaves and family.

This explains why slaves often chose to remain with their masters. A free man couldn’t take those things for granted [ Between Slavery and Freedom, M. I. Finley].

Treatment of Slaves

Naturally, the ideal slave owner was a benevolent patriarch who ruled justly and fairly.  he treated his slaves fairly, going as far as sending one to a friend’s villa on the French Riviera to recuperate from an illness.

Yet, since the treatment of slaves depended on the character of the master, mistreatment was rampant. Emperor Claudius passed laws that limited and forbid masters to punish or kill their slaves.

How to Become a First Century Slave

There were five main ways a person could become a slave during Jesus’ life.

1. Debt. People who couldn’t pay their debts offered themselves as slaves.

2. Retribution. A thief who couldn’t repay what he stole could be sold as a slave.

3. Parents. As a last resort, a  into slavery to pay off a debt.

4. Birth. Children born to slave parents became property of the masters. These children were known as “house born slaves.”

5. Conquest. A person could become a slaved when their nation was conquered by another nation.

Three Ways a Slave Could Buy His Freedom

What’s unique about the first century institution of slavery versus the 18th–especially in the Jewish context–is that a slave could eventually go free. That freedom came in three fundamental ways:

1. After six years, a slave was to be released. For nothing. 

2. In the , all slaves were released, no matter how long they’d been slaves.

3. Finally, slaves could buy their freedom–or someone could buy it for them.

Naturally, . As I mentioned above, there was great incentive for a slave to stay with his master.

Why Paul Didn’t Condemn Slavery

Slavery was such an essential, fundamental part of first century society–much like our current minimum-wage labor–that it was difficult for anyone embedded in the culture to call for the actual abolition of the institution. Instead, more emphasis was put on its reformation.

In that context, rather than call for an out-right rebellion, . But he also urged masters to treat their slaves with compassion.

There’s no doubt about it: Slaves in New Testament times stood at the bottom of the social scale.

Yet, the thrust of the New Testament is a new standing–neither free nor slave–but . In other words, slaves are no longer second class citizens, but brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore, even though there isn’t a direct call to abolish slavery in the New Testament, the implication of the gospel–especially it’s ethic of love–stands in opposition to slavery.

Final Thoughts

In the end, Paul was more concerned about people apart from Christ–people who were slaves to sin. He understood: Change a person’s heart and you change the way they treat slaves.

And the beauty of the gospel is that  from the bondage of sin.

All Christians–especially ministers–are servants of Christ. Bondservants. Rather, slaves. Slaves do not manage their lives. Neither do Christians. We acknowledge that the Savior has power over us. And so joyfully embrace this institution of slavery.

Why I Blog (It’s the New M. A., Dummy)

Where you learn how to blog your happy self to a Master of Arts. Or something. 

Did you know you can earn a Masters degree by blogging?

Okay…you can’t really. But you can come really close.

Let me show you how.

The Three Types of Bloggers

There are three types of bloggers.

1. Journalists

2. Diarists

3. Educationalists

Andrew Sullivan is your journalist. He follows political and cultural events as they develop and writes about them on his blog .

Mommy bloggers like the  are diarists. They write exquisite, entertaining and personal posts about the unpredictable drama of being a mother.

Finally, there’s your educationalist. Marc McGuiness at  is an educationalist. He writes thoughtful blog posts designed to teach or inform.

Earn a Masters

Each blogger type has its place and function. I simply chose one over the other because of my goals. My goals are simple: I want to earn a Masters of Art in Theology. Without having to .

How am I going to do that? Write content that centers around theology, philosophy and literature.

Now, part of my plan for this blog as an M. A. was to treat it as a terminal task. Two reasons for this.

1. This means in two years I can stop blogging. If I want to. I have a destination in mind and I can get off the bus respectfully if I need to. Kind of like enlistment.

2. I’ve got to really focus on my content. Treating this blog like a theology M. A. means I’m pouring myself into one narrow subject for two years.

Now, in two years I doubt anyone will reward me with a M. A. I may not even pass an exit exam. Nonetheless, I’ll be a lot smarter than I was.

Besides, I’ll have a volume of writing that prepares me for my next point.

Write a Book

Get this: Blogging is nothing more than writing a book one page a day. Rand Fish at .

He says that bloggers should write like they’re preparing for a book. It’s a great way to show a potential publisher or agent that you can write. And that you actually have a built in audience.

Furthermore, a blog’s content can serve as the foundation for a future book. Just look at  and his .

Articulate. Organize. Sharpen My Thoughts.

Blogging also helps me articulate, organize and sharpen my thoughts. Those cloudy, opaque ideas become crystal clear arguments. In the meanwhile, my brain builds muscle.

This was the case when I wrote my review for The Shack.

See, after reading the book I knew that something was godawfully wrong. But I had trouble articulating it to people. It wasn’t until I sat down and grouped my thoughts together that I truly understood what was wrong with the book. And how to say that.

Now I’ve got 7 clear bullet points where I once had a dim blob.

Practice Writing

Finally, blogging just flat-out makes you a better writer. Especially if you have an agressive content schedule.

Brian Clark at  summed it up best when he said to become a better writer simply .

Naturally, my first 10,000 posts will be dung. But anyone is bound to become at least marginally better if he writes 10,000 posts.

If they’ve got talent. Watch out.

Just look at the masters: , , . Their early stuff is a joke compared to their later stuff.

Writing more means perfecting the craft. Blogging is my tool to do that.

What’s Your Excuse for Blogging?

Do you write a blog? Why? What got you into it? Do you have a goal? Do you even care?