Paul Did Not Teach "Stay in Slavery"

UPDATED: I’ve embedded the PDF for Professor Bartchy’s paper in a PDF viewer below.

The following is an important study, making very clear that lexicons are not always reliable guides to the meaning of Greek words, and that Paul’s teaching on slavery is in fact less conventional by Greco-Roman standards than is often thought,  and finally that Luther’s theology of vocation, and the subsequent development of that theology by later Lutheran scholars is based on a misunderstanding of the use of the Greek term for calling.

This paper should not be copied or used without the express written permission of Professor Bartchy.    BW3

[scribd id=63215038 key=key-1cdwhymqih5rwyo0tf36 mode=list]

[© 2008: reproduction in any form only by written permission of the author]

  • Dennis

    I was present in the session when this paper was presented and am glad to see it so I can review Professor Bartchy’s argument. Thank you for posting this.

  • Dillon Burroughs

    Love it! Thanks for posting.

  • James Korsmo


    Thanks for posting this. Bartchy seems to pretty effectively dismantle the received wisdom about this verse. And that has some wide-ranging implications for the corresponding received wisdom about Paul and social change, especially with regard to slavery, an issue that is particularly timely as that seems to be a key hermeneutical bedrock for contemporizing Paul’s ethical reasoning today. Luther, for all of the substantial gifts he gave the church, even on this particular issue of vocation, seems to have led us down a blind alley here. So I appreciate the opportunity to see this. I’ll certainly never look at that passage quite the same way again. (I also wonder about the implications a reunderstanding of 1 Cor 7:20 in this way has for the way we formulate Paul’s eschatology.)

  • Anonymous

    Hi James: Thanks for your good comment. I agree. In regard to the eschatology of 1 Cor. 7 two points: 1) Paul does not say ‘the time is short’, he says the time has been shortened (by the Christ event). It is a retrospective comment not a prospective one; 2) Paul does say the ‘schema’ of this world is passing away, and that surely refers to institutions like slavery and even marriage.

  • Matteo Masiello

    I always thought Paul was playing smart when he told slaves to stay in slavery, for people to obey the authorities, for people to not quit their jobs and get married, if it means being sexually immoral. He didn’t know when Jesus would be returning. Albert Schweitzer states that the early church was “in an enthusiastic state of intense eschatological expectation. We must picture that among the people, who were filled with pentitence for their sins and with faith in the Kingdom, and the revelation of Jesus as the Son of Man, seeing in the eager multitude itself a sign that their reckoning of the time was correct…”

    Now, add onto that the fact that the teachings of Paul and any of the other apostles throughout the world with suspicion amongst Jews and Gentiles, as well as a genuine lack of understanding (after all, if the Twelve didn’t get Jesus while he was with them, then how could anyone really expect “average” folk, who were illiterate and under the stress of Roman occupation, to just get the gospel, as well as there being people who were shrewd enough to see how they could take advantage of the flock for economic gain or some other nefarious purpose), as well as the day-to-day preaching, traveling under the threat of harm or death by almost everyone, rebuking, correcting, teaching, while trying to tolerate and love people (like Moses), as well as perhaps drag people to salvation kicking and screaming, not to mention that while Paul was a Roman citizen, he had to be very, very careful to not annoy people (which he did anyway), and trying to convey a systematic theology (without calling it that) based solely on your revelation (not to mention any effort to make sense of it yourself for your own peace of mind).

    Taking all of that and more into account, do you really think it would be prudent to say that you should ask slaves to openly defy their masters and to openly defy the Roman government, and to openly defy the local gentile and jewish customs governing marriage (there is no evidence that a new ritual of marriage was developed – or is there)? Not to mention that eternity matters much more than this mortal coil. I don’t believe that Paul endorsed slavery even if terms were misinterpreted.

  • Anonymous

    Matteo I am afraid you’ve rather badly misunderstood the article by Scot. Paul is not counseling defiance. He is counseling taking advantage of their situation, including if the opportunity is offered for manumission.

  • Jonathan Oskins

    I cannot seem to see the embedded scribd viewer. Is it possible that the link changed?

  • Jonathan Oskins
  • Jonathan Oskins

    Ignore the previous post- Here is the direct link to Dr. Bartchy’s paper “Paul Did Not Teach “Stay in Slavery”” in .pdf format- enjoy!