Slavery and the Pauline Churches
In the urban settings of Paul's ministry, slaves he encountered were likely to be engaged in a variety of occupations, from production of commodities to bookkeeping to domestic service. Because slaves were sexual property, a slaveholder had the right to force a slave into prostitution, and indeed, most prostitutes were slaves. In 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians, Paul decries porneia, or sexual immorality, but he does not define porneia. Slaves were not in a position to protect the sexual boundaries of their bodies, a limitation that requires us either to reconsider the receptivity of the Christian body to slaves or to reformulate our understanding of expectations for sexual purity among the membership of Pauline churches.
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