Slavery in Early Christianity

Slavery in Early Christianity

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Slavery was widespread throughout the Mediterranean lands where Christianity was born and developed. Though Christians were both slaves and slaveholders, there has been surprisingly little study of what early Christians thought about the realities of slavery. How did they reconcile slavery with the Gospel teachings of brotherhood and charity? Slaves were considered the sexual property of their owners: what was the status within the Church of enslaved women and young male slaves who were their owners' sexual playthings? Is there any reason to believe that Christians shied away from the use of corporal punishments so common among ancient slave owners? Jennifer A. Glancy brings a multilayered approach to these and many other issues, offering a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence pertaining to slavery in early Christianity. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Glancy situates early Christian slavery in its broader cultural setting. She argues that scholars have consistently underestimated the pervasive impact of slavery on the institutional structures, ideologies, and practices of the early churches and of individual Christians.
The churches, she shows, grew to maturity with the assumption that slaveholding was the norm, and welcomed both slaves and slaveholders as members. Glancy draws attention to the importance of the body in the thought and practice of ancient slavery. To be a slave was to be a body subject to coercion and violation, with no rights to corporeal integrity or privacy. Even early Christians who held that true slavery was spiritual in nature relied, ultimately, on bodily metaphors to express this. Slavery, Glancy demonstrates, was an essential feature of both the physical and metaphysical worlds of early Christianity. The first book devoted to the early Christian ideology and practice of slavery, this work sheds new light on the world of the ancient Mediterranean and on the development of the early Church.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 161.5 x 244.9 x 22.4mm | 530.71g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New
  • 0195136098
  • 9780195136098

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Bodies and Souls: The Rhetoric of Slavery ; 2. Body Work: Slavery and Pauline Churches ; 3. Body Language: Corporal Anxiety and Christian Theology ; 4. Parabolic Bodies: The Figure of the Slave in the Sayings of Jesus ; 5. Moral Bodies: Ecclesiastical Development and Slaveholding Culture
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Review quote

Glancy's book ranges widely across a large number of ancient Christian and other writings, but she writes clearly and always quotes in English. Therefore her work is readily accessible to a wide range of Christian readers interested in how we make moral decisions in a society whose norms, values and expectations may be far removed from our own ... she raises a number of important questions that have been overlooked by others. * Church of England Newspaper * ... the book is well-written and provides a good introduction to ancient slavery in general and Christian attitudes toward slaves in particular. It may also attract the non-specialist reader interested in ancient society and Christian origins. * Scripta Classica Israelica * ... for providing a much more complex and morally troubling picture of the intersection of developing Christianity and the institution of slavery, this book is to be commended. * Journal of Biblical Literature * Glancy's book is clear, forceful, and important; it belongs on the shelves of scholars and in classrooms, both graduate and undergraduate. * Journal of Biblical Literature *
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About Jennifer A. Glancy

Jennifer A. Glancy is Georg Professor of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. She holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Columbia University. Her numerous articles cover topics including gender studies in the apocrypha and early Christian writings, the Bible and cultural studies, and slavery in Hellenistic Judaism and the New Testament. She is a co-author of Introduction to the Study of Religion. She currently chairs the Bible and
Cultural Studies section of the Society of Biblical Literature.
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Rating details

46 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
5 17% (8)
4 50% (23)
3 24% (11)
2 7% (3)
1 2% (1)
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