Beyond Slavery pp 143-158 | Cite as

Early Christianity, Slavery, and Women’s Bodies

  • Jennifer A. Glancy
Part of the Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice book series


Early Christian practices of slaveholding disturb me. I began to write about slavery in early Christianity because I wanted to know how it could happen that, twenty centuries ago, my fellow Christians saw nothing wrong with owning slaves. In the course of my research, I encountered the writings of many Christian scholars who asserted that slavery in the Roman Empire wasn’t that bad. I knew that wasn’t true. Roman slavery was different in significant respects from the images of plantation slavery familiar to most Americans. Roman slavery was not based on race, for example, and Romans ultimately freed a higher percentage of their slaves than Americans. Nonetheless, Roman slavery was brutal, vicious, and dehumanizing—a system of corporal or bodily control sustained by violence and the threat thereof. One dehumanizing practice common in the Roman Empire as well as the Americas was the treatment of slaves as the sexual property of their owners.


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© Bernadette J. Brooten 2010

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  • Jennifer A. Glancy

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