Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ephesians and Slavery

Why do people only quote the beginning of this Ephesians passage and not the whole thing? 
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

The Ephesians passage is interesting because it starts by affirming the institution of slavery and then forbids masters from threatening their slaves. What??? What kind of slavery do you have if you can't threaten your slaves???? Paul would NOT be happy with the way slavery was practiced in the antebellum South, even if you get an approval for slavery out of his statement.
In American history, freed slaves lived a better life, even though they suffered as second class citizens until the Civil Rights movement. It is not clear that this would have worked in the first century. The evidence suggests they would have starved. Eliminating slavery within the church would not have helped slaves in the wider society. 

26 comments:

oozzielionel said...

The passage does not "affirm the institution of slavery."

John Moore said...

What are you supposed to do when your slave disobeys? Be loving and forgiving, of course! But eventually you must punish your recalcitrant slaves, just as God will punish hard-hearted sinners with eternal damnation.

Ephesians makes it clear that the earthly master-slave relationship is just like the spiritual God-man relationship. Certainly we should not free our slaves, just as God should not "free" us from our obligation to worship him. Slavery is good for slaves, just as pious worship is good for us wretched humans.

What a blasphemous and atheistic idea this is, to free the slaves!

Mortal said...

I'm with Victor on this one. In 1st Century Rome, a freed slave faced starvation.

Interesting that in the Middle Ages, no fate was considered to be worse than to not be subject to a Lord, and no man was to be feared more than one who had no Lord.

I'm not opining here on which system is better, the Medieval one or ours. But we do need to keep in mind when reading texts from another era that there's not always an easy one-to-one correspondence between ideas.

Mortal said...

A far more difficult, even troubling, passage to me in the letters of Paul is Romans Chapter 13, in which he tells his readers, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad."

Yikes! Obviously Paul is writing in the midst of a relatively benign Roman Empire, which had established peace and prosperity throughout the known world. He's not writing from within Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, or North Korea.

And that has to be kept in mind when interpreting this passage.

grodrigues said...

"What a blasphemous and atheistic idea this is, to free the slaves!"

Since atheists believe there is no God, it follows logically that we cannot be His slaves, and therefore they cannot be freeing anyone.

If on the other hand one starts from the assumption that God does exist, then almost by definition, it is indeed blasphemy. Atheist commentary would be a tad slightly less vulgar if they at least realized that this particular argument was already made, in more eloquent and persuasive terms that they can ever achieve, and by none other than Satan himself. It is in a stodgy old book called The Bible, which also happens to be the master piece of the western canon. And then said book goes on to conclusively refute it -- although it takes some pages and atheists might not have the attention span to get it.

That last sentence was an ill-humored attempt at a joke.

Joe Hinman said...

John Moore said...
What are you supposed to do when your slave disobeys? Be loving and forgiving, of course! But eventually you must punish your recalcitrant slaves, just as God will punish hard-hearted sinners with eternal damnation.

Ephesians makes it clear that the earthly master-slave relationship is just like the spiritual God-man relationship.

no it doesn't where do you see that?

Certainly we should not free our slaves, just as God should not "free" us from our obligation to worship him. Slavery is good for slaves, just as pious worship is good for us wretched humans.

What a blasphemous and atheistic idea this is, to free the slaves!

I think your exegesis's fallacious. In Galatians we are told there is no slave for nor free in Christ, reconciling thees two passages is to understand the bit a out obeying as ad hoc social situation not an ideal testament of theology supporting slavery.

John Moore said...

Ephesians makes it clear that the earthly master-slave relationship is just like the spiritual God-man relationship. For example, it says slaves should obey their masters "just as you would obey Christ." It says slaves should obey their masters "as slaves of Christ." Slaves should serve their masters "as if you were serving the Lord." This seems rock solid just based on the wording of the Biblical text.

If you want to dispute the idea that worshiping God is like a slave willingly serving his earthly master, maybe you could just point out that both the earthly slave and master must worship God, so they are equal in God's eyes.

I'd reply that they are both slaves to God. Paul himself admits he is a "prisoner of the Lord" (Ephesians 4:1) so I don't understand why you guys reject this comparison so vehemently.

grodrigues said...

"Paul himself admits he is a "prisoner of the Lord" (Ephesians 4:1) so I don't understand why you guys reject this comparison so vehemently."

Not understanding seems to be a common predicament for John Moore.

grodrigues said...

'"Paul himself admits he is a "prisoner of the Lord" (Ephesians 4:1) so I don't understand why you guys reject this comparison so vehemently."

Not understanding seems to be a common predicament for John Moore.'

I suppose I ought to justify the deserved jab.

First, Ephesians 4:1 does not say "prisoner of the Lord", but "prisoner *for* the Lord". And Paul styles himself a prisoner for the lord, not because he is a slave, but because he was in actual, real prison, on account of his work for the Lord.

But while John Moore cannot seemingly even read straight the most simple Biblical passage, it is undeniable that St. Paul speaks of Christians as slaves. But if John Moore had read beyond the blurb, he would also see that for St. Paul the choice is not between slavery and freedom but between different kinds of slavery, slavery to God vs. slavery to sin.

Finally, and quite predictably, Mr. Moore is ignorant of what actual Christians take God to be. Mr. Moore thinks of God as the most powerful guy on the block, and that because of his power he gets to call the shots which sounds sooo unfair to such a freedom-loving guys everywhere (cue in "Kumbaya"). But actual Christians take slavery to God to be, not the kind of slavery or bondage to one who happens to be more powerful, but slavery to Truth and Reality -- two things that atheists have always been in flight from, just like the devil flees from the cross.

Mortal said...

"between different kinds of slavery, slavery to God vs. slavery to sin"

Que Bob Dylan, You're Gonna Have to Serve Somebody.

Mortal said...

Misprint! Meant to type "cue" instead of "que" - my fingers were probably thinking of queue.

John Moore said...

I just copy-pasted from my King James Version where it says "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you ..." It's rather uncharitable of you Christians to say I can't read "straight the most simple Biblical passage" when I'm quoting word-for-word from the best and most beautiful English Bible.

We could go back to the original Greek, I guess, but the whole question about prepositions is irrelevant because Paul wasn't in prison when he wrote Ephesians. And that's because he never actually wrote Ephesians. Look it up.

I agree with grodrigues when he says the choice is between slavery to God vs. slavery to sin. If you are religious, then slavery is unavoidable. It's just something you have to deal with. Religion and slavery go hand in hand. The only question is whether it can be a good kind of slavery.

Mortal said...

the best and most beautiful English Bible

I won't give you an argument about "most beautiful", but as to "best"? Well, that's debatable. There are numerous passages where the KJV is demonstrably wrong, and hundreds where it is frankly unintelligible to the modern reader. Examples are its use of the word "meat" where a 21st Century translator would use "grain", or its use of "prevent" to mean "go before". These aren't mistakes - they're just examples of how the English Language has changed over the past 400 years.

So it's downright dangerous in A.D. 2017 to defend any Biblical interpretation based on the wording of the KJV.

Look it up.

I did. My Ignatius Study Bible absolutely skewers the idea that anyone other than Paul wrote Ephesians, and provides convincing evidence that he did. So does my Navarre Study Bible. Look it up.

John Moore said...

I didn't say you could not find people arguing that Paul wrote Ephesians. If you look hard enough, you can find people saying just about anything. But why don't you tell me what percentage of all Biblical scholars think Paul wrote Ephesians? Isn't it only 10% or so?

grodrigues said...

@John Moore:

"It's rather uncharitable of you Christians to say I can't read "straight the most simple Biblical passage" when I'm quoting word-for-word from the best and most beautiful English Bible."

Indeed it is, so I retract my charge with an appology. The version I read had "for", and if you look at the context that is what St. Paul means.

Joe Hinman said...

John Moore said...
Ephesians makes it clear that the earthly master-slave relationship is just like the spiritual God-man relationship. For example, it says slaves should obey their masters "just as you would obey Christ." It says slaves should obey their masters "as slaves of Christ." Slaves should serve their masters "as if you were serving the Lord." This seems rock solid just based on the wording of the Biblical text.

there are those who feel that Ephesians was not by Paul. I don't go that far but I don't equate Obey as you would Christ with saying slavery is great we need to keep it.
I take that to mean don't look it like you are doing this for an earthly master but because your sacrifice is really to further the cause of Christ.


If you want to dispute the idea that worshiping God is like a slave willingly serving his earthly master, maybe you could just point out that both the earthly slave and master must worship God, so they are equal in God's eyes.

I reject the idea that;s a category of equal before God but not before man, Paul made it clear the freedom and acceptance of Gentiles before applied to the social situation; he chided Peter for withdrawing from fellowship with genitals when Jame's boys were near.

I'd reply that they are both slaves to God. Paul himself admits he is a "prisoner of the Lord" (Ephesians 4:1) so I don't understand why you guys reject this comparison so vehemently.

thatisn ot an endorsement of social systems of slavery set up by man,

Joe Hinman said...

Mortal, Dylan fan?

allow me,

All Along the Watchtower

Bob Dylan

There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth
No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour…






Joe Hinman said...

I just copy-pasted from my King James Version where it says "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you ..." It's rather uncharitable of you Christians to say I can't read "straight the most simple Biblical passage" when I'm quoting word-for-word from the best and most beautiful English Bible.


Yes I did not say it I just said I read it differently.

We could go back to the original Greek, I guess, but the whole question about prepositions is irrelevant because Paul wasn't in prison when he wrote Ephesians. And that's because he never actually wrote Ephesians. Look it up.

Then you have no argument about Paul. No one questions paul's authorship of Galatians. That's where he says "neither salve nor free in Christ Jesus." He also says don't withdraw from the gentles

I agree with grodrigues when he says the choice is between slavery to God vs. slavery to sin. If you are religious, then slavery is unavoidable. It's just something you have to deal with. Religion and slavery go hand in hand. The only question is whether it can be a good kind of slavery.

But Jesus said the truth set's you free.So slavery to God is freedom from sin and from the social systems based upon sin, like slavery.

Joe Hinman said...

John Moore said...
I didn't say you could not find people arguing that Paul wrote Ephesians. If you look hard enough, you can find people saying just about anything. But why don't you tell me what percentage of all Biblical scholars think Paul wrote Ephesians? Isn't it only 10% or so?

I will defend Ephesian authorship against your or anyone,

Joe Hinman said...

King James is one of the worst in terms of the manuscripts that back it up That,s because the modern translations were complied by two of the greatest scholars in modern times,Wescott and Hort and done after modern theories of textual criticism were developed. King James was complicated in the middle ages oratorically but when they were just starting to consider textual criticism,

Joe Hinman said...

But why don't you tell me what percentage of all Biblical scholars think Paul wrote Ephesians? Isn't it only 10% or so?

scholarship is not a democracy

grodrigues said...

@Joe Hinman:

"he chided Peter for withdrawing from fellowship with genitals when Jame's boys were near."

I believe you mentioned you suffered from dyslexia; this must be one of the most serendipitous, funniest slip ups I have ever read on the internet -- although it does raise some eyebrows.

bmiller said...

@grodrigues, @Joe Hinman,

Got to admit it. Now that's funny :-)

Joe Hinman said...

grodrigues said...
@Joe Hinman:

"he chided Peter for withdrawing from fellowship with genitals when Jame's boys were near."

I believe you mentioned you suffered from dyslexia; this must be one of the most serendipitous, funniest slip ups I have ever read on the internet -- although it does raise some eyebrows.

May 26, 2017 3:04 AM

God. ROTFLOL!

Joe Hinman said...

sometimes a gentile is just a gentile

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