Monday, December 07, 2009

Differences Between New World Slavery and Greco-Roman Slavery

I'm not talking about the New World Translation, but the slavery that existed when America (the New World) was first founded.

There are many errors in interpretation that happens when we read of slavery in Paul's letters and attribute the slavery of a few hundred years ago. Slavery was tremendously different from these two different periods of history. When you get asked why Paul speaks of slaves obeying their masters instead of fleeing their cruelty you will be able to explain the differences between these different eras of slavery:

New World Slavery vs. Greco-Roman Slavery

1a. Slavery was a permanent condition, a "life sentence" with no hope of freedom.
1b. Unless a criminal, a slave had every hope of emancipation - usually after a 10 to 20 year condition after reaching adulthood.

2a. Slavery was racially delineated: Negro slaves, white masters.
2b. Impossible to distinguish a slave on the basis of color, clothing or race.

3a. Slaves were segregated socially.
3b. Usually unable to distinguish a slave from others by friends, occupation or worship patterns. As a tentmaker Paul probably worked alongside slaves, who could join the same clubs as freed people and free people.

4a. Slaves had no legal rights.
4b. Slaves had many legal rights, including the right of appeal to a higher authority in the case of unfair treatment.

5a. Slavery was the lowest rung of society.
5b. Slaves were often of higher status than the free, depending on who their masters were. A slave of Caesar, the largest slave owner by far, could command significant power and prestige. From this high status, there was a continuum down to the very lowest rung of society.

6a. Slavery was degrading and dehumanizing.
6b. Slavery was viewed as an opportunity. Large numbers of persons sold themselves into slavery to find a better life than they had as free people and to secure special jobs and to climb socially.

7a. Slaves were confined to menial work.
7b. Slaves held high positions in civil service and in the business world. Attended their owners as doctors and nurses, taught and advised their young owners and acted as companions and protectors to elderly owners. were writers, accountants, bailiffs, overseers, secretaries and sea captains. For example, Marcus Antonius Felix, the Judean procurator who judged Paul (Acts 23:23 - 24:27). was a freed person of Claudius's mother, Antonia.

8a.Illegal to educate slaves.
8b. Slaves often highly educated, acting as tutors and advisers for their owners.

9a. Slaves not able to own property.
9b. Slaves could own property, could maintain savings for the day of their manumission (emancipation/freedom) and even owned their own slaves.

10a. The slaves had no hope of normal family life.
10b. Slaves often maintained a separate existence from their masters, even holding down outside work to increase their savings.

11a. Slavery was wholly detestable, as a result of kidnapping.
11b. Slavery was often preferred and chosen. Manumission was frequently a disadvantage for the slave and financially advantageous for the master.

Unlike the New World slaves, the Greco-Roman slaves could realistically expect faithful service to be rewarded with freedom and concomitant Roman citizenship, usually within 10 to 20 years after achieving adulthood.

Now you can know what Paul meant when he wrote about slavery like in passages like 1 Corinthians 7:22 - "For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave."

\\ Ephesians 4:11-12 \\ For The Equipping of the Saints.

Source: The Problem with Paul. Author: Brian J. Dodd

1 comment:

everyneveris_now said...

All of them mentioned "slavery was". In your opinion, what is it now?