Slaves in early Christian communities basing on the North African hagiography

Alekaey Vital’evich Kargaltsev PhD in History, senior lecturer, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia (naberezhnaya reki Moiki, 48/20a, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 191186)

Kargaltsev A. V. Slaves in early Christian communities basing on the North African hagiography, Religiya. Tserkov’. Obshchestvo. Issledovaniya i publikatsii po teologii i religii [Religion. Church. Society: Research and publications in the field of theology and religious studies], Saint-Petersburg, 2022, vol. 11, pp. 150–159.

doi: 10.24412/2308-0698-2022-11-150-159

Language: Russian

The article is devoted to the analysis of the phenomenon of slavery in the writings of early Christian authors. The main attention is paid to hagiographic monuments, where the well-known maxim of the Apostle Paul that «there is neither slave nor free» (Gal. 3:28) is analyzed. It is seen not only in the traditional background of opposing the biblical ideal of social equality and the harsh truth of the life of ancient society, where slavery was the basis of economic life, but also in the light of the position of believers on the eve of suffering for the faith. This ideal seemed to find a comprehensive embodiment. It is noted that it was in the Church of North Africa, as Tertullian testifies, that the problem of slavery was no longer perceived as exclusively social and was leveled by the Christian faith. Slavery was condemned as such, since Christians themselves were servants of God, and in the pagan world it was no worse than all other social vices. The «Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity» mentions the slaves of Felicity and Revocat, but the content of the monument only emphasizes that their fate is one with their masters. In other hagiographic monuments of Roman Africa of the 3rd c. the social status of Christian heroes is completely ignored, which only emphasizes that only on the eve of martyrdom, being in prison, filled with sincere and deep faith, they could achieve the social ideal of the the Apostle Paul. Thus, the problem of the duality of social life, which obviously burdened the believers, is removed, which, among other things, explains both the popularity of martyrdom and Tertullian’s opinion that the real Church is the Church of martyrs.

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Key words: earlier Christianity, hagiography, slavery, Roman Empire, North Africa


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