The Term “Redemption” is a Metaphor Related to Slavery in the Ancient World

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1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. (NASB95)
In 1 Timothy 2:6, the noun antilutron means “substitute-ransom” and like Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28, it describes Jesus Christ’s spiritual and physical deaths on the cross as a substitutionary ransom for the benefit of each and every member of the human race.
These unique substitutionary deaths redeemed the entire human race out from the slave market of sin in which they were born physically alive but spiritually dead.
This noun antilutron and the word group to which it belongs would have been a very meaningful to Paul’s Christian readers in the Roman Empire as there were by some accounts up to 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire.
Many of these slaves became Christians and fellowshipped in the local assemblies.
In Paul’s day, a slave could purchase his own freedom, if he could collect sufficient funds or his master could sell him to someone who would pay the price and set him free.
Redemption was a precious thing in Paul’s day.
In the ancient world, slaves were objects of the law, and not its subjects and the slave much like an animal was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did.
He was not personally liable for contracts.
In most ancient societies, slaves had rights and there were not many that did not have any rights for slaves.
There were many ways in which one became a slave in the ancient world: (1) Capture in war (2) Kidnapping on slave raiding or piracy expeditions (3) One was an offspring of a slave (4) Punishment for crimes or debt (5) Sold into slavery by parents, relatives, or spouses (5) Sold into slavery to satisfy debts (7) To escape starvation (8) Self-sale to escape destitution or gain an elite position in society.
Slavery has existed in nearly every society throughout human history: (1) China (2) Korea (3) India (4) Thailand (5) Burma (6) Philippines (7) Indonesia (8) Japan (9) Turkey (10) North and South America (11) England (12) Scandinavia (13) France (14) Germany (15) Poland (16) Russia (17) Babylon (18) Africa (19) Greece (20) Rome.
Nearly every society in the ancient world that practiced slavery wrote laws concerning the treatment of slaves.
The Roman law of slavery was extremely elaborate.
The master-slave relationship was the cornerstone of the law of slavery and the subordination of the slave to his owner was supposed to be complete.
Some societies allowed slaves to be killed but in others that was not the case.
The Israelites, Athenians and Romans restricted the rights of slave owners to kill their human chattel.
In every ancient society, there was absolutely no sympathy or mercy extended to the slave who killed his master.
In fact, Roman law stated that all slaves who lived under the same roof were to be put to death along with the slave who had murdered his master.
In some societies, there were sexual relationships between master and slaves and some slave owners married their slaves.
Some societies gave the slaves the ability to purchase their freedom after a period of time.
The treatment of slaves varied from society to society since some slaves as in the Roman Empire were treated as members of the family and were employed to bring up children and to teach them.
All societies had provisions for runaways.
Most societies impose sanctions upon slave owners who stole the slaves of other slave owners.
This was a capital offense in some societies because it involved the stealing of someone’s “property.”
Laws of manumission varied widely from society to society.
Some societies as in Israel freed their slaves after a prescribed number of years.
Some legal systems prescribed manumission of the slave who adopted the religion of his owner.
Also, birth could be a way to freedom.
There have been two basic types of slavery throughout recorded history: (1) Household (2) Productive.
Household or domestic slavery was the most common form of slavery.
The primary function was to perform menial tasks since they would at times when needed perform tasks outside of the home such as harvesting or military service.
Household or domestic slaves were often merged with the families of their owner.
Boys often became adopted sons such as in Rome and girls would become concubines or wives to their owners.
Productive slavery was relatively infrequent and occurred primarily in classical Greece and Rome.
Productive slavery pertained to plantations and mines.
Slavery had a significant impact on the society’s institutions, such as: (1) Family (2) Law (3) Economy (4) Social thought.
Occupations of slaves: (1) Temple or slaves who worked in the government (Babylon and Rome) (2) Soldiers (3) Estate managers (4) Merchants (5) Shopkeepers (6) Craftsman (7) Farmers (8) Household tasks (cooking, cleaning, waiting on tables, and child-care)
Slavery was a major institution in the Roman Empire.
Enslavement for debt was the primary means in which Rome acquired slaves in the early days of the Republic, but as the Empire expanded so did the influx of slaves into Rome.
From the third Century B.C. onward slaves flooded into Rome from all quarters as a result of their victories in wars.
For example, there were 75,000 enslaved prisoners from the 1st Punic War who came from the city of Tarentum and in the Second Punic War, 150,000 were enslaved from Epirus in 167 B.C. and almost the same number arrived from Marius’s victory over the Germans in 102-101 B.C.
Nearly, half a million slaves arrived into Rome from Caesar’s Gallic Wars.
Great slave markets such as Capua and Delos were set up to handle the tremendous influx of slaves into the Roman Empire and it was not unusual for 10,000 slaves to be auctioned off at Delos in a single day.
These markets were also provided with slaves by pirate kidnappers who infested the Mediterranean.
Every week slave dealers brought their human “merchandise” in from areas such as Africa, Spain, Gaul, Germany, the Danube, Russia, and Asia and Greece to the ports of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Only the best qualified slaves and their children were given civic or domestic jobs.
Some slaves became professional men such as: (1) Philosophers (2) Teachers (3) Artists (4) Architects.
Criminals and the unfortunate were employed in the gladiatorial schools and some worked the mines and quarries.
The last two centuries B.C. saw the economies of Sicily, North Africa and Italy totally dependent on slave labor.
Italy was the chief slave center until the second century A.D., but by this time the influx of slaves was drying up.
The emperor Trajan’s Dacian Wars in the years 101-106 A.D. provided the last big arrival of slaves into the Empire.
There was a great distinction in Roman society between slaves and freeman since the Roman law of persons states that all men are either free or slaves.
Capital punishment such as crucifixion was employed as punishment to deal with slave rebellions in both the days of the Republic and during the days of the Emperors.
As the treatment of slaves became more relaxed so did the laws of manumission.
The manumission of slaves occurred frequently during the days of the Emperors though Augustus did enact legislation to curb the liberality of many slave owners.
He fixed eighteen as the minimum age at which a master could exercise his right to free a slave, and thirty as the minimum age at which a slave could be manumitted.
The Romans treatment of slaves in the early days of the Republic was brutal but in the days after the Republic, this attitude towards slaves softened.
Slaves were treated more humanely by the time of Augustus.
The Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) also enacted legislation for the protection of the slave population and ended the right of the slave owner to kill a slave without magisterial sanction.
Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) encouraged owners to bring before the courts damages sustained from their slaves rather than punish the slaves themselves.
He did this so that the law would take precedence over brutality and cruelty and private revenge.
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