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 →
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 →
Most readers of the New Testament are familiar with the idea that Paul used the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). However, they might be more surprised to realise that he also makes frequent use of a range of Jewish religious writings that are not included in the Hebrew Bible (sometimes referred to as ‘apocryphal’). Which apocryphal book did he use the most and which of his letters reflect the influence of this group of writings?
Which book of the Hebrew Bible do you think Paul used most?
I produced this wordcloud for one of the modules that we are just beginning at Newman. However, I thought it may also be of interest to other visitors to this site.
The purpose of the wordcloud is to give a visual impression of the range of texts used (either direct quotations or allusions) by Paul and their frequency of use. Letter sizing relates to the frequency of which each book has been used. Continue reading →
The keynote session of the 2015 Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception conference (Dead Letters and Living Words) was given by Dr Lloyd Pietersenwho presented a paper on ‘An Anarchist Reading of Romans 13’ (video and notes below).
The question about what is the relationship between church and state is one that has repeatedly been raised throughout Christian history. Romans 13 is a key passage in this debate and is often quoted to endorse a pacific and accepting attitude by the church towards state authority and rule.
Is Paul, a frequent and hostile critic of the Roman Empire who spends much of the time contrasting it unfavourably with the new empire being established through Jesus Christ in the church, really saying that either the church should accept the dictates and of the state? Pietersen’s paper challenges this reading. Continue reading →
It was a great pleasure to have one of our Visiting Professors, Steve Moyise, with us the other week to present a couple of papers to students, staff and members of the public.
His first paper assessed NT Wright’s understanding of Paul’s use of scripture in his recent book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, (PFG), published by SPCK in 2013.
Steve has generously allowed us to upload his handout(link below) as well as an audio recording of this session.
Professor Steve Moyise, Newman University, 12th Feb 2015
Steve makes particular note of Wright’s methodological framework for arguing that Paul’s theology was thoroughly ‘biblical.’ Steve noted Wright’s appeal to a “controlling narrative or worldview” (for example, the ‘end of exile’ theme) as key to understanding Paul’s use of the Hebrew scriptures. Furthermore, Steve argues that, from Wright’s perspective:
Professor Steve Moyise has recently become a Visiting Professor of Biblical
Studies at Newman and will be giving two lectures/seminars on campus on Thursday 12th February 2015, to which all are most welcome. Professor Moyise is a world-leading expert in the area of the use of scripture in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Revelation and Paul’s letters. His most recent books include: Evoking Scripture. Seeing the Old Testament in the New; Paul and Scripture; and Jesus and Scripture. A number of students will be familiar with Professor Moyise’s work through his Introduction to Biblical Studies. Further details of his work can be found by clicking here.
We are really pleased to announce that Professor Moyise will be giving a short lecture and lead a Q and A session (from 15.00-16.00) on the subject of
the use of scripture in Paul’s letters, with particular reference to the current work of another leading New Testament scholar, Tom Wright.
This will be followed from 16.30-17.30 by a research seminar entitled “Was the Birth of Jesus According to Scripture?” which is the focus of Professor Moyise’s most recent book. This session will be particularly interesting for those who came to our Advent Seminars in December.