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4. “You Were Bought with a Price”: Freedpersons and Things in 1 Corinthians

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Chapter Summary

Humans have often been things, bought with a price. This chapter presents the topic of slavery and manumission by focusing on three short sentences in 1 Corinthians. It first argues that language of being bought and of being a freedperson would have been particularly significant at Corinth, a colony largely ruled by freedpersons. Second, the chapter shows the complexity of freedperson status and the pricing of slaves in antiquity. It seeks to shift New Testament scholarship away from the question of whether Paul advocated that slaves seek freedom or remain in slavery and toward the multiple ways in which those in the Corinthian assembly may have heard his injunctions. Although it is difficult to reconstruct the exact nature of the discussion, 1 Corinthians gives evidence of deliberation and debate over whether to replicate or revolutionize relations of domination naturalized by slavery and manumission practices in the 1st-century Roman Empire.

Keywords: 1 Corinthians; 1st-century Roman empire; freedperson status; human price; New Testament scholarship

10.1163/9789004261310_005
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