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Social Justice and the Legitimacy of SlaveryThe Role of Philosophical Asceticism from Ancient Judaism to Late Antiquity$
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Ilaria L.E. Ramelli

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777274

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198777274.001.0001

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Patristic Thinkers’ Positions toward Slavery, Social Justice, and Asceticism

Patristic Thinkers’ Positions toward Slavery, Social Justice, and Asceticism

Chapter:
(p.121) 3 Patristic Thinkers’ Positions toward Slavery, Social Justice, and Asceticism
Source:
Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery
Author(s):

Ilaria L. E. Ramelli

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198777274.003.0004

Chapter 3 analyses patristic thinkers’ positions on slavery, their links with views concerning social injustice, and the role of asceticism in this connection. It opens with methodological questions about the perpetuation of slavery in early Christianity; when slavery began to decline in the Latin West; the dichotomy between the juridical and religious status of slaves; sources of slave supply; and positions against some of them. Second- and third-century authors such as Ignatius, Cyprian, Tertullian, Clement, Bardaisan, the Shepherd of Hermas, some ‘apocryphal acts’, Aphrahat, and Jacob of Sarugh are examined. Many were more interested in moral/metaphorical than legal slavery. Clement did not advocate rigorous asceticism or the renunciation of slave ownership or wealth. This contrasts with Origen’s rigorous asceticism and condemnation of wealth as tantamount to theft. Origen’s philosophical asceticism was continued by Evagrius and others. Lactantius and Ambrose are shown to display Stoic, Philonic, and Origenian ideas about slavery.

Keywords:   slavery, early Christianity, slave supply, moral/metaphorical vs legal slavery, ‘apocryphal acts of apostles’, Bardaisan, Aphrahat, Jacob of Sarugh, Lactantius, Ambrose

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