Lincoln observed that both slaveholders and abolitionists appealed to the Bible to make their case—but who was right, and why? Slaves appear throughout the Old Testament, yet the core story is the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The Pauline and Petrine letters exhort peace and fair treatment between masters and slaves, but do not openly advocate for manumission. In Paul's shortest letter, a personal address to Philemon, he sends home a (runaway?) slave, Onesimus, not making it clear what Philemon ought to do with him—and yet, at the same exact time, Paul radically transforms the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus, and between the two of them and Paul, too. Joyful exchanges abound in these twenty-five verses, which proved to be a leaven in the lump of toxic human social systems.
1. Saarinen, The Pastoral Epistles with Philemon and Jude
2. Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon
3. Ruden, Paul among the People
4. Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church
5. Here's a few of me moonlight on Fresh Text podcast (highly recommended if you're a lectionary preacher): Psalm 37, 2 Corinthians 5, James 5.
6. Zahl, The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience
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