C O U R S E L E C T U R E
Slavery in First Corinthians
Notes taken on August 19, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
Rome refounded Corinth as a colony of free persons
some scholars read references to slavery in Paul's letters as metaphorical or abstract
e.g. inner freedom or slavery as sin
in Romans, "You are set free from sin and have become slaves of God"
Paul talks about himself as a slave
when he was not a literal slave
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself slave to all."
prison letter, co-authored by Paul the Apostle with Timothy, to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church
Onesimus, was a common slave name which means "useful", a nickname for a useful slave
Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But even if you can gain your freedom, rather use it.
"it" could refer to freedom or slavery
John Chrysostom wrote about this
349 – 407, Archbishop of Constantinople
perhaps the community who received this letter was unclear on it as well
perhaps they asked the deliverer to clarify, as they were expected to interpret the message's contents
we can wonder how early communities interpreted statements about slaves
you are the masters's apeleutheros [ἀπελεύθερος], or freed person
that they should become Christ's slave
in Delphi from second century BCE to first century CE
we find inscriptions that mention more than 12,000 slaves
it showed that slaves would be sold and could gain their freedom in various ways
free persons and their children could advance socially
Roman Corinth was run in part by freed persons and they continued to be prominent in the public square
there were even monuments that honored them
freedom and slavery and the various methods and procedures to pass between them were on the Corinthians minds
we can use this knowledge to understand more what Paul meant with the metaphors he used regarding slavery.