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
SUBMITTED IN PART FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE AWARD OF NEWMAN UNIVERSITY
2.5 Erastus of Panaeus
The inscription translates: “Erastus, Procurator and Aedile, laid this pavement at his own expense.”
In parts one and two of 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