Pauline Slave Welfare Ethics in Historical Context: An Equality Analysis
AuthorsThompson, William H. P.
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AbstractWhile many assume that human equality is incompatible with slavery, equality theorists argue that any equality claim must be further defined. They also claim that every coherent ethical system presupposes an implied equality and inequality when it requires “identical” treatment for those it considers similar enough and “different” treatment for others it views as dissimilar. This thesis deploys a heuristic equality analysis to distinguish between the different kinds of equality that may be implied by a text’s ethical reasoning—a text’s equality ethic. It distinguishes between an egalitarianism that seeks to eliminate certain differences between persons; the “identical” treatment of “numerically-equal” persons regardless of those differences; the “variable” treatment, proportionate to a particular attribute, of persons who share that attribute to a variable degree; and “different” treatment between persons who are deemed dissimilar because of those differences. The equality analysis in this thesis on slavery compares how slaves and free persons were treated in antiquity. It demonstrates how Pauline scholarship on slavery neither defines nor consistently reasons about equality. While scholarship has stressed Pauline exhortations for slave obedience, the thesis focuses on scholarship’s neglect of Paul’s exhortations for slave welfare. The thesis reconstructs the equality reasoning of Paul’s possible ethical sources—Aristotelian natural slavery, Seneca’s slave welfare, the Torah’s slave welfare texts (Exod 21; Deut 5:12–15; 15:12–18; 21:10–17; 23:15–16; 24:7; Lev 19:20–22; 25), and Philo. The thesis reconstructs a Jewish numerically equal treatment ethic between slave and free that imitates Yahweh’s impartiality, and demonstrates its best conceptual fit for Paul’s slave welfare ethics. The thesis justifies Paul’s inclusion of the slavery pair in his unification formula of Gal 3:28 and argues that Paul’s unification formulae (also 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:11) imply the numerically equal treatment of their ethnic and slavery pairs. The thesis argues that Paul’s exhortations for slave welfare in the Colossian and Ephesian Haustafeln (Col 4:1; Eph 6:9) place the Jewish numerically equal treatment and imitation ethic into a Christological framework that urges slave-masters to imitate how God is impartial between slave and free in their treatment of their slaves. The thesis also argues that Paul’s twofold purpose in composing his epistle to Philemon was to urge Onesimus’s inclusion within Philemon’s pre-existing slavery ethos, which was already compliant with Paul’s ethics on slave welfare, and for Philemon to send Onesimus back to Paul. Paul did not need to specify a new slave welfare ethic for Philemon to adopt.
CitationThompson, W. H. P. (2021). Pauline slave welfare ethics in historical context: An equality analysis [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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