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Preaching Bondage

John Chrysostom and the Discourse of Slavery in Early Christianity

Chris L. de Wet (Author)


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Preaching Bondage introduces and investigates the novel concept of doulology, the discourse of slavery, in the homilies of John Chrysostom, the late fourth-century priest and bishop. Chris L. de Wet examines the dynamics of enslavement in Chrysostom’s theology, virtue ethics, and biblical interpretation and shows that human bondage as a metaphorical and theological construct had a profound effect on the lives of institutional slaves. The highly corporeal and gendered discourse associated with slavery was necessarily central in Chrysostom’s discussions of the household, property, education, discipline, and sexuality. De Wet explores the impact of doulology in these contexts and disseminates the results in a new and highly anticipated language, bringing to light the more pervasive fissures between ancient Roman slaveholding and early Christianity. The corpus of Chrysostom’s public addresses provides much of the literary evidence for slavery in the fourth century, and De Wet’s convincing analysis is a groundbreaking contribution to studies of the social world in late antiquity.

1. Introducing Doulology
2. Divine Bondage: Slavery between Metaphor and Theology
3. Little Churches: The Pastoralization of the Household and Its Slaves
4. The Didactics of Kyriarchy: Slavery, Education, and the Formation of Masculinity
5. Whips and Scriptures: On the Discipline and Punishment of Slaves
6. Exploitation, Regulation, and Restructuring: Managing Slave Sexuality
7. Conclusion: Preaching Bondage and the Legacy of Christian Doulology

Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Index of Ancient Authors
Index of Ancient Terms
Index of Subjects
Chris L. de Wet is Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies at the University of South Africa.
"De Wet’s study is an essential contribution to understanding slavery in antiquity."—Journal of Global Slavery
"Offers a major contribution to the history of ideas in western thought, delineating how a core set of ideas, transformed through a Christian lens, led to the passive acceptance of the (gendered) oppression of other human beings.... This is a book to be read by scholars across a wide range of interests and disciplines."—Acta Classica
"Highly refreshing and a great contribution to the study of Chrysostom."—Relegere
"de Wet’s outstanding monograph is a major contribution to the cultural history of late antiquity."—Journal of Early Christian Studies
"Comprehensive, reliable and informative...I predict it will become a reference or even a compulsory reading material for early Christian approaches to slavery."—Augustiniana
“Adding unprecedented depth to analysis of the ancient rhetoric of slavery, Chris de Wet develops a coherent and convincing argument about the biopolitics of ancient slavery through the thought of one major Christian thinker. Preaching Bondage will prove to be a generative work of scholarship, and not only for those concerned with the fourth century. Flat out, there are no comparable works.”—Jennifer Glancy, Professor of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College and author of Slavery in Early Christianity and Corporal Knowledge: Early Christian Bodies

Preaching Bondage is the first accessible, book-length study of John Chrysostom’s thoughts on slavery. While slavery in the ancient world has been a topic of scholarly interest for some time, its late antique version has been less addressed. De Wet’s study is very welcome and will fill a real need. The work positively bristles with fascinating connections and intriguing insights.”—Blake Leyerle, Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame

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