Graduation is always a very special moment in the academic year and this year was no exception. It is wonderful to celebrate with a group of people that over the past three years you have come to love and respect. Each one has their own story; the personal mountains, stressful nights of worry, the struggles to understand ideas and concepts that, at first, seem so incomprehensible and alien, all those times of self-doubt, and times of sheer tiredness. Yesterday, each one had their own reason to be proud of what they achieved and it was a joy to celebrate it with them.
Gaining any degree is an achievement. However, what, for me, is such a privilege in working with theology and philosophy students is that for many of them this is far more than an academic journey. That is not to say that there is not a immense amount to learn and information to process. At Newman, we cover key theologians from antiquity to the present, learn AND apply philosophical and theological methodologies and systems of thought, address the main issues facing life in the contemporary world, as well as trying to understand the worlds of the past. The subjects sweep from global issues to individual personal reflection. All of this can be very demanding not just intellectually, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually (I use that term in the widest sense). Over the last three years we have dug deep into their personal core values, got them to question the compasses they have trusted to guide their lives, looked deeply into the darkness of human nature and behaviour. We have all walked outside our comfort zones (lecturers included), learnt new things and challenged each other. We could only do that together; listening to each other, sharing, encouraging each other to find our voices, understanding and, above all, making each other brave. The class of 2017 excelled at doing all these. Continue reading →
Great news – Issue 4 of the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS 4-2017), from Eisenbrauns, is now out. This is an extremely valuable (if not essential) resource for anyone with an interest in the forming church and New Testament studies.
JJMJS’s editor in chief, Anders Runesson, introduces this edition with these words:
“To whom is Paul’s letter to the Romans addressed, how do we know, and what difference does it make for our understanding of Paul’s position on the salvation of ‘all Israel’ (Rom 11:26)? In the 4th issue of JJMJS, John W. Marshall approaches these and related issues starting not with ‘heavyweight’ themes like faith, works, law, and gospel, but rather with smaller words of great significance for language-making, such as ‘all,’ ‘we,’ ‘thus,’ and ‘you,’ as well as Paul’s characteristic expression μὴ γένοιτο! (‘Certainly not!’) These are words, he claims, that “determine the course of Paul’s eschatological, mystical flow of big concepts.” Continue reading →
In this final excerpt from Newman Graduand, Isabella Wray’s, dissertation on Paul’s use of the term apeleutheros, ‘freedperson’, in 1 Corinthians 7 she explores the wider context and implications of Paul’s advice. In the earlier excerpts (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), the socio-political function of manumission and the place of the freedperson within Roman society were examined. In part 5 Isabella began to unpack why Paul might have used this term and the significance it held for him and the recipients of this letter. This section fleshes this out further asking whether Paul’s instruction subverts the Roman social structures and what its implication might be for the church in Corinth.
Once again we would like to thank Isabella for her generosity in letting us post these excerpts here. Isabella will be graduating in a couple of weeks time and this is therefore one of her final weeks as a graduand! She is currently enrolled in postgraduate studies at the University of Birmingham, taking a MA degree in Religion, Politics and Society. We wish her continued success in all her work and look forward to more fruits of her research!
Finally, we hope that you have enjoyed these posts and that you have learnt a little more about Paul, Corinth and the church that he founded there. Continue reading →
Having explored the socio-political status of former slaves (the apeleutheroi or ‘freedpersons’) and the function of manumission within the Roman world (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), Isabella Wray begins to address Paul’s use of apeleutheros within the context of the Corinthian community. One of the things that intrigued Isabella is that, although Paul frequently refers to slavery, liberation and being free, he only uses the term apeleutheros once (1 Corinthians 7: 22) – fans of University Challenge will know that a singular instance of a word in a text or corpus is sometimes referred to as a ‘hapax legomenon’.
Isabella is a graduand ofNewman University(graduating in October 2017) and we are very grateful for her generosity in allowing us to post excerpts from her BA dissertation. Continue reading →
Earlier this year, due to ill health, we sadly had to cancel a public talk by Dr Jim West on the relationship between the academic study of the Bible and the Church. We are delighted to announce that Jim has very graciously offered to come to the UK specifically to give this talk. We are both touched and extremely grateful for such a generous gesture and we would like to invite you to come to what promises to be an informative and fascinating talk on a subject that will be close to the heart of many people.
The Intersection of Academic Biblical Studies and the Life of the Church
In his surviving writings, Paul’s preferred term for people who are not slaves appears to be ἐλεύθερος (eleutheros); ‘free’. However, in 1 Corinthians 7:22, Paul uses a more specific term ἀπελεύθερος (apeleutheros), ‘freedman/feedperson’, referring to slaves who had been emancipated through the civic and legal process of manumission. Although it was a relatively common word, Paul only uses it once. Newman University graduand Isabella Wray explored what may have prompted Paul to use it here and what his readers may have understood by its use.
This excerpt from her dissertation, introduces us to a freedperson who, like Babbius Philinus (see part 2), rose to become an influential figure in Corinthian society. What is particularly intriguing about this person, however, is that he may also have also been a member of the Corinthian church…
Paul’s Liberating Theology in 1 Corinthians 7:21-24: The Freedperson’s Journey to Liberation
BACHELOR OF ARTS (SINGLE HONOURS) DEGREE IN THEOLOGY
In parts oneand twoof Isabella Wray‘s dissertation (BA) exploring Paul’s use of the term ‘feedman’ (ἀπελεύθερος – apeleutheros) in 1 Corinthians 7:22, Isabella has drawn our attention to the importance of status within Roman society. She makes the point that how one was even treated in the law courts was dependent upon one’s status and rightly noted that this would have informed Paul’s instruction against their use for disputes among assembly members (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).
Furthermore, the relatively recent re-establishment of Corinth created a rather unique environment which resulted in some of the legal obstructions to influential civic/political posts being lifted – even to those who were once slaves. The lure of upward mobility in Corinth was a very tangible and visible possibility; even someone who was a slave could rise up the social ladder, command respect of their peers, and acquire great wealth and power. At the best of times, the promise of freedom for slaves must have been very attractive, but in Corinth there was an added incentive. Was this, partly, behind Paul’s aside concerning whether the members of the Corinthian church who were slaves should remain enslaved or attain the status of an apeleutheros?
In this section Isabella examines the legal process by which a slave could become free (manumission). Continue reading →
InPart 1of Newman graduand Isabella Wray‘s examination of Paul’s use of ‘slave’ and ‘freedman’ in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 she described the geopolitical setting of Corinth and emphasised how the tumultuous events of the re-establishment of this Roman colony contributed to creating a climate in which social advancement was made possible even for those who would normally have been excluded by law from it – namely freed slaves (the apeleutheroi). This excerpt develops this theme by including an example of just such a freedman, Babbius Philinus.
As Isabella remarked during one tutorial, people like Babbius must have sprung into the minds of the Corinthian readers at his mention of ἀπελεύθερος(apeleutheros), in v.22…
One of the highlights each year is working with undergraduate students on their dissertations. It is the time when they choose the topic they want to research – rather than it being imposed upon them – and apply all their learning and skills that they have gained throughout their three years with us. I have had the pleasure of supervising some excellent work this year. One of the dissertations, by graduand Isabella Wray, is particularly suited for this blog and, I think, many will find it interesting and add a new dimension to your reading of 1 Corinthians 7.
With Isabella’s generous permission, I thought that it would be fun to post excerpts from her work. It is not just a great example of the types of questions and issues that students can explore in our degree programme, but I am also sure that a number of people will appreciate learning a little more about Paul, Corinth and the church that he founded there.
Why ‘slaves’ and ‘free’?
Isabella was intrigued by this text that we had studied in class in relation to Paul’s attitude to women and his community ethics within the Corinthian assembly. Why did Paul suddenly stop halfway through his teaching about marriage (7:1-16) to address circumcision and slavery, only to then pick up the theme of marriage once more (7:25-39)? Isabella was particularly interested in the references to slavery and manumission (the process through which a slave became a freedperson) and was not entirely convinced with my, rather off-hand, remark that this was just Paul, typically, getting side-tracked and his attempt to provide further examples of the principle he was attempting to present. Moreover, Isabella noted that the text relating to slavery and manumission was extremely ambiguous. Furthermore, she was struck by Paul’s language in this section, not just his use of δοῦλος(doulos) , ‘slave’, but also his singular use of ἀπελεύθερος(apeleutheros) , ‘freedman’ in 7:22. Paul uses this term only once in his entire writings; why here and what would it have meant to his Corinthian readers? Isabella’s interest in post-colonialism suggested to her that there might be a far deeper issue behind Paul’s choice of topic and words. The question that Isabella wanted to explore was how would these words have been understood by Paul’s readers? Why would someone who had ‘fought’ for their freedom want to then end up being a slave of Christ (7:22)? Was there anything specifically about the socio-political context of Corinth that would make these terms particularly pertinent and add to their rhetorical power? Continue reading →
Did you know that, in the Roman Period, it would take you roughly eight and half days to travel from Jerusalem to Damascus in the summer time (July) or that if you traveled from Antioch to Thessalonica during the winter it would have taken you only eleven days, which is four and a half days quicker than the same journey in summer? What if your journey from Jerusalem to Damascus entailed a lot of luggage? Travelling by oxcart would take you twenty-one and a half days and set you back nine denarii per kg (based on transporting wheat)!