Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Slave Parables in the Gospel of Luke

It is disturbing that any Biblical passage has been used to support the institution of slavery and violence against slaves. The slave parables (Luke 12:35-48; 17:3-10 and 19:11-27) were so utilized in defense of slavery in the United States by Christian clergymen. In fact clergymen owned slaves. One such example, his name escapes me, was the president of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Luke did not defend slavery but rather was following scriptural tradition that those belonging to the people of God are slaves of God. However, as slaves, they are not subjected to other human beings. The Lucan Jesus addressed the community with a message of liberation linked to the Exodus. The clue to this interpretation is provided by verse 35. “Let your loins be girded” is a citation to Exodus 12:11. This verse provides special instructions: “In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's passover.” These instructions of the manner in which the people are to eat the Paschal Lamb serve as a reminder of the escape from slavery in Egypt.

Mary Ann Beavis summarized her observations on the slave parables as follow: “The slave parables . . . do not directly attack the institution of slavery, but their tendency to dignify the role of the slave and to suggest that the slave owner identify with his/her human property might have been perceived as radical social teaching by ancient authors.”

Parables are the expressions of the radical nature of Christ’s works. I intend to return to the slave parables to demonstrate this point.

Copyrighted 2006


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