8.11.2021: Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture Series

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS):

Lecture (hybrid): Slavery as Path to God in Ancient Christianity

In theological and historical research, Christian talk of the „slave of God“ has so far been understood as a metaphor. Although it was oriented towards the Greco-Roman environment of early Christianity, it seemed to have no further significance for real slavery.

Starting from the asymmetrical relationship between God and man in monotheistic religions, I would like to use the supposed interdependence between discourse and reality for my historical research. I wish to pursue the problem of how far dependency relationships like slavery were further entrenched in ancient Christianity, especially in Christian family. How does the metaphorical speech of the „slave of God“ affect the structure of the Roman household and perhaps that of early Christian communities? Are their members all „slaves of God“? Or are there already asymmetrical relationships within and between these groups, between lords and slaves, fathers and children, men and women, clergy and laymen. In this context I will ask whether there were also strategies for establishing symmetrical relationships within the early Christian society and cult communities, so that God’s slaves could become brothers and sisters, i.e. children of God.