From Slaves Of Sin To Slaves Of God: Reconsidering The Origin Of Paul’s Slavery Metaphor In Romans 6 -- By: John K. Goodrich

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 23:4 (NA 2013)
Article: From Slaves Of Sin To Slaves Of God: Reconsidering The Origin Of Paul’s Slavery Metaphor In Romans 6
Author: John K. Goodrich


From Slaves Of Sin To Slaves Of God:
Reconsidering The Origin Of Paul’s Slavery Metaphor In Romans 6

John K. Goodrich

Moody Bible Institute

The origin of Paul’s δοῦλος metaphors has long captured the attention of NT interpreters. While many scholars maintain that these images were principally influenced by one of the modes of physical slavery practiced in the Greco-Roman world, others propose that the metaphors derive exclusively from the servant/slave of God motif enlisted throughout Jewish literature. Concentrating on Romans 6, this article provides a detailed survey of three recent contributions to the Jewish-only position (those by Richard Horsley, John Byron, and Tom Holland, respectively) before responding critically to them at three points. The article ultimately seeks to assert that Paul’s δοῦλος metaphor in Romans 6 (and elsewhere), while functioning as an extension of a Jewish theological motif, was significantly influenced by Greco-Roman notions of domestic slavery.

Key Words: slavery, metaphor, Judaism, Hellenism, Romans 6

Author’s note: I wish to thank Ben Blackwell and the BBR reviewers for their helpful comments on this article.

Introduction

Slavery is perhaps Paul’s favorite metaphor in Romans for illustrating religious and ethical devotion.1 The concept of slavery, which is cast in the epistle through numerous words, appears most frequently by way of the concrete noun δοῦλος, the abstract noun δουλεία, and the verbs δουλεύω and δουλόω. This metaphor appears, for instance, as soon as the epistle’s first verse, where, in an effort to introduce himself to a church he has not yet visited, Paul describes himself as “a slave of Christ Jesus” (δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, 1:1). Moreover, at numerous times in the middle and end of the letter Paul employs this word group to illustrate a person’s adherence to one of several personal or personified powers, including sin (6:6, 16, 20, 22; 7:25), obedience (6:16), a model of te...

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