B635 Roman Slavery, the New Testament, and Contemporary Slave Narratives

The historical-political context in which Jesus lived and the biblical writers wrote was the Roman Empire, and Rome was an ancient slave society in which slavery was a pervasive reality. The course will explore slavery under the Roman Empire as a significant context for critically reading certain New Testament texts. How can Roman slavery help us understand certain NT texts? And what might the NT reveal about slavery and its authors?  Focused attention will be on Philemon, 1 Corinthians, Galatians and the Gospels. The course will compare ancient Roman slavery with slavery in the antebellum South, observing the similarities and differences. The continuities allow students to place NT texts in conversation with antebellum texts and to imaginatively fill gaps in the former. Spiritual slave narratives and other historical documents demonstrate how slave masters used the NT to support slavery and how enslaved and freed Africans interpreted NT scripture based on their own experiences.

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