Dissertation: Impact of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon on Slavery

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¶ … Epistle of Paul to Philemon on Slavery

This paper will be focused on the Impact of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon on Slavery. The paper will start off (chapter 1: introduction) with an overview of the historical context in which slavery has existed over the years in the world. The historical context will be taken from the Americas, the Roman Empire as well as the theological and religious content available. The purpose of the introduction being designed this way is to provide the reader with a general idea of how slavery was structured during the time Apostle Paul had written to Philemon. The second chapter will be the literature review where the first few pages will give more insight on slavery as it had been treated in different cultures and then will take a more specified route talking particularly about the letter between Paul and Philemon. This will be done to analyze the ways in which Paul had, before his time, stood up against slavery and the harsh laws on it to take a humane stand for a slave Onesimus. This will be followed by a brief chapter on methodology where the process of the data collection for the literature review will be given and the process through which the purpose of the study is fulfilled will be explained. The last chapter in This paper will be a discussion of all the relevant text available on the topic as well as the impact that Paul's letters to Philemon had indeed made on slavery at the time and in the years to follow. The paper will end with an all-encompassing conclusion and all works cited at the end.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Talking about the concept of slavery, it is important to highlight it long and rich history in the different civilizations over the many past decades. Slavery has a part in the oldest of annals with minor changes and modifications as the times and reigns/governments changed. Whether we take the history of the Americas or the European states or go down to Rome, Greece and Africa, slavery has always played a major part in the social structure and cultural framework. In fact, slavery has existed dominantly in the history books from the beginnings of the 1900 B.C. there is a pattern of reliance on the "Sumerian Code of Law" when dealing with the attitude towards slaves, their contributions as well as their rights. For the large part, slaves were treated as the loners or the outsiders from the normal social gatherings; more specifically, the slaves and their owners were always from very different or opposing backgrounds even with regards to their religions, ethnic group, ancestors or even traditional standards or structures. There have been only a small number of communities who have had the strength in their social and political structures to stand the apparent civil disruptions that can surface with the enslaving of the citizens. The slaves were either thrust into their lifestyle due to inheritance i.e. they were born into a family or slaves, or were exchanged as part of a triumph/barter system. There are records that show how individuals were forced into adopting the lifestyle of a slave (forcibly or otherwise) usually because of the inability to survive as anything but a slave or due to pressure of paying off debts. Analyzing the historical accounts from Christianity, Genesis 12:16 does discuss the numerous slaves owned by Abraham, namely the popular ones like Eliezer and Hagar. Also, the Genesis (20) shows accounts of how slaves were traded between Abraham and Abimelech as a form of gift. Furthermore, there are more instances in the Genesis where the trade of slaves has been discussed, for instance: the sale of Joseph who was the favorite child of Jacob, as explained in Genesis 37 (Cole, 1995).

The history books show that the entire industry of slavery was in truth authorized by the governing party or group within the community where slaves were hired for work. This is one of the many reasons why we see such diversity in the laws and perceptions towards the concept across the different communities, sometimes even within one state. Perhaps the communities with the least amount of laws were the ones where the owners of the slaves were given all the power and control over the slaves that they owned. Unfortunately, the situation of the owners having complete control over the slaves was dominant across a majority of communities across the Americas, Europe and Rome (Cole, 1995).

"The Mosaic Law had quite a bit to say about slavery in Exodus 21. It allowed a slave to keep his dignity as a human being. Stealing or selling a fellow Israelite into slavery was a capitol offense. No Israelite could be forced into slavery, but he could contract himself into servant-hood for a seven-year period. If he chose, he could bind himself permanently by allowing the master to bore his ear with an awl against a door before God. The Israelites could have foreigners as slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46). A slave would become in essence a member of the Israelite household with the rights of any other family member except the right of inheritance. The owner could circumcise the male slave and invite him to worship with other Jews (Exodus 12:44-49). Cruelty to a slave was forbidden and punishable. If an owner punished a man to death, the law branded him a murderer. An owner could use corporal punishment, but remember Exodus 21:21 says the slave is the master's money and few masters wanted to damage their money. If a master permanently injured a slave, destroyed an eye or knocked out a tooth, the slave could go free. These regulations reminded the Israelites that every person was created in the image of God - even the slave" (Cole, 1995).

The law implemented by the Israelites to have a citizen Hebrew be employed as a slave by his/her owner over a period of seven years was interestingly played out in the region and sis gain success. However, it wasn't a practice that proved to be very popular amongst many of the neighboring communities in the region as it was believed to be unconstructive and not lucrative enough for the owners. It is important to note here though that the law, with few amendments, was adopted by Islam after quite a few decades. The law while successful in Israel did have its downside: there would be decrease in the number of slaves available near and/or after the designated time had elapsed which always led to higher demand of slaves in the society forcing many to adopt the lifestyle of slavery to fill the demand/supply gap (Cole, 1995).

The fact of the matter is this: slavery has been accepted as a natural part of the social structure by many communities since its inception. It is also a condition that is believed to exist naturally for the individuals in the society who face financial depletions of difficulties or are exchanged during takeovers or conquests of territories. Most of the theories that have existed in the Americas with regards to slavery and all its relevant laws have been designed since their days of colonization and the civil wars. This us perhaps why their history shows such a vast difference of social standing between the slaves and their owners with differences ranging from race, culture, traditions, to religion, education and moral grounds. Hence, the history of the slavery patterns in the Americas has been based around one format of culture taking over another form of cultural standards. Even the color of their skins proved to be a major criterion behind the hiring of slaves and those who were accepted as part of the society's higher classes. This is why the huge black community was enslaved for a majority of the American history. Much of the discussions on history of slavery have asserted that it is by far the harshest form of slavery as everything is foreign and hence leaves no motivation for the locals to provide the basic rights of life to these slaves even (Cole, 1995).

"The Roman slaves, however, were of a different nationality, but usually of the same race. They absolutely adored their Greek slaves and would pay handsomely for them and take good care of them. When discussing their assets with others, they might mention their "48 slaves, 13 of which are Greek." If you were a good asset to your master, he would take good care of you. Also keep in mind that material and sometimes other conditions of slaves were frequently better than those of free people. Good food and housing were quite often preferred over freedom. Occasionally, someone would volunteer to become a slave. This was an acceptable form of social welfare. Buying oneself out of slavery was frequent" (Cole, 1995).

As highlighted above, there were four different castes or classes that the Roman natives were divided into. Similarly, there were also different classes structured for the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Impact of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon on Slavery.  (2010, December 31).  Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/impact-epistle-paul-philemon-slavery/3594

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"Impact of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon on Slavery."  Essaytown.com.  December 31, 2010.  Accessed May 20, 2019.