First century wives and slaves: No legal recourse for either


 5: Slaves obey lords according to the flesh with fear  and trembling[1] in singleness of your hearts as [to] Christ

Ephesians 6:5

[1] The apostle meant what he said to Christian slaves about fear and trembling before their masters. Slaves were considered sub-human, and Roman Lords could do anything they liked with their slaves. They could harm or kill them in any manner they chose. Paul was not condoning slavery when he wrote this but rather was intent on the physical safety of those in his congregations who were slaves.

The standing of women in Roman society [and in Jewish tradition] was only slightly higher than that of slaves. Women were honored and respected in the Hebrew scriptures, but not in the Tradition’s. Jesus had nothing good to say about the Traditions, so Paul would have been concerned for the physical safety of the wives in his congregations as well, hence his warning for wives to fear their husbands.

Christian women of the first century experienced an equality of the sexes almost unheard of in all of history [before and after that era]. This liberty would certainly pose a physical threat to wives of violent controlling husbands. Such men would not tolerate wives who dared to exhibit personal autonomy. This liberty among early Christians would naturally have the effect of escalating tension. Violence would have increased in such marriages. 

One shudders to think what the domestic violence mortality rate of first century women must have been. The apostle knew this. He also knew there was no [or limited] legal recourse in cases of violence against women, as “domestic violence” was not part of first century legal jargon.

This is an excerpt from The Hungry Hearts Bible Commentary edited by this author.

Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery & the Evangelical Caste System: Andersen, Jocelyn: 9780979429323: Books

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Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery & the Evangelical Caste System: Andersen, Jocelyn: 9780979429323: Books

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