Augustine and Theodoret, Basil and John Chrysostom
This chapter analyses patristic authors who discussed juridical slavery, examining the endorsement of slavery by Augustine and Theodoret (and Theodore of Mopsuestia) and the more critical positions of Basil and John Chrysostom. These thinkers’ views concerning legal slavery are compared with their ideas on social justice, and with their behaviour regarding slave ownership and wealth. For Augustine, slavery is God’s right punishment for sins; it is not evil, but just, and must not be abolished before the end of time. Augustine did not fight for the termination of slavery or social injustice (just recommending almsgiving and donations as a means of saving one’s soul). Nor, significantly, did he embrace or advocate strict asceticism. Chrysostom recommended keeping very few slaves, out of philanthropy and self-sufficiency. He suggested buying slaves, teaching them a job, and emancipating them. John praised his teacher Diodore for his ascetic poverty; he did not own slaves either.
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