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The Letter To Philemon: A Discussion With J. Albert Harrill

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Chapter Summary

In the ancient Roman Empire the phenomenon of slavery was not only widespread, but accepted without question. J. Albert Harrill calls the ancient Roman society a "genuine slave society". In continuation of Peter Arzt-Grabner's ideas, Harrill relates the Paul's letter to Philemon to ancient "journeyman apprentice contracts" found in documentary papyri mainly from Oxyrhynchos. Harrill's argument constitutes a real exegetical and theological challenge. In this chapter, the author undertakes just a small part of this extensive task, and concentrates on Harrill's discussion of Paul's letter to Philemon. The letter to Philemon is full of statements regarding the mutual relationships between the protagonists. The author interprets these many statements not just as signs for "affective language," but as an integral part of the letter's argument.

Keywords:ancient Roman society; J. Albert Harrill; Paul's letter; Philemon; slavery



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