Vol.XI No.VII Pg.6
September 1974


Robert F. Turner

From LIGHT FROM THE ANCIENT EAST, by Adolf Deissmann, P.320-f., we have plucked scattered quotations re. an early social practice, which helps us understand many scriptures. The book (Baker, 1965) may be hard to find.

Inscriptions at Delphi have been the principle means of enlightening us concerning the nature and ritual of manumission with a religious object in ancient times.... Among the various ways in which the manumission of a slave could take place by ancient law we find the solemn rite of fictitious purchase of the slave by some divinity. The owner comes with the slave to the temple, sells him there to the god, and receives the purchase money from the temple treasury, the slave having previously, paid it in there out of his savings. The slave is now the property of the god; not, however, a slave of the temple, but a protg of the god. Against all the world, especially his former master, he is a completely free man; at the utmost a few pious obligations to his old master are imposed upon him.

An inscription of 200-199 B.C. on the polygonal wall at Delphi may serve as an example: Date. Apollo the Pythian bought from Sosibius of Amphissa, for freedom, a female slave, whose name is Niaea, by race a Roman, with a price of three minae of silver and a half-mina. Former seller according to the law: Eumnastus of Amphissa. The price he hath received. The purchase; however, Nicaea hath committed unto Apollo, for freedom. —Names of witnesses, etc.,follow. St. Paul is alluding to the custom referred to in these records when he speaks of our being made free by Christ. By nature we are slaves of sin, of men, of death; the Jew is furthermore a slave of the law, the heathen a slave of his gods. We become free men by the fact that Christ buys us. And He has done so: Ye we bought with a price, says St. Paul in two places, using the very formula of the records, with a price. Again For freedom did Christ set us free, . .ye were called for freedom. — In these words of St. Paul we have literally the other formula of the record.

Numerous manumissions, again, expressly forbid, sometimes under heavy penalties, that the enfranchised shall ever be made a slave again. We now see how wicked is the intention of those who. . . spy out our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus that they might bring us into bondage. And we understand warnings like this in the letters: For freedom d Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in yoke of bondage, and the still more moving exhortation: Ye were bought with a price, become not slaves of men.

We omitted scripture citations for want of space, but they are familiar and easily found. Much light is cast upon scriptures by better understanding customs and terminology of the first century. The historic setting forms a part of the context and should be remembered in interpreting current articles as well those 2,000 years old.