Jewish Slavery in Antiquity

By Catherine Hezser | Go to book overview

earlier scholars Urbach emphasizes, however, that in none of the sources ‘is there the slightest suggestion of any notions of the abolition of slavery. On the contrary, the fundamental distinction between bond and free is present throughout. This basic fact, combined with political and economic interests, proved the decisive one.’28


SLAVERY IN JEWISH AND GRAECO-ROMAN
SOCIETY

While Urbach and Zeitlin had already pointed out that the general social and economic structures in which Jews lived necessitated their employment of slaves, Dale Martin has taken this argument one step further by maintaining that therefore there is no reason to distinguish between slavery in Jewish and Graeco-Roman society:

Jewishness itself had little if any relevance for the structures of slavery amongst
Jews. Jews both had slaves and freed persons and were slaves and freed persons.
Slavery among Jews of the Greco-Roman period did not differ from the slave
structures of those people among whom Jews lived. The relevant factors for
slave structures and the existence of slavery itself were geographical and socio-
economic and had little if anything to do with ethnicity or religion.29

His examination of slavery amongst Jews is based on epigraphic and papyrological material only, in which slaves—and Jews—are rarely identified as such. On the basis of this material he reaches the conclusion that ‘Jewish slaves and slave owners are doubly invisible in many of our sources: we may know that they are slaves or owners but not that they are Jews; we may know that they are Jews but not that they are slaves or owners’.30

With reference to McCraken Flesher’s study of slave terminology in the Mishnah Martin maintains that ancient Jewish literary sources do not reveal any particularities with regard to the subject at hand.31 McCraken Flesher had shown that the Mishnah rarely distinguishes between Hebrew and foreign slaves but is interested in the generic

28 Ibid.94.

29 Dale B. Martin, ‘Slavery and the Ancient Jewish Family’, in Shaye J. D. Cohen
(ed.), The Jewish Family in Antiquity, Brown Judaic Studies 289, Atlanta 1993, 113.

30 Ibid.114.

31 Ibid.115–16.

-7-

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Jewish Slavery in Antiquity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - The Status of Slaves 25
  • 1 - The Denationalization of Slaves 27
  • 2 - The Slave as Chattel and Human Being 55
  • 3 - Women, Slaves, and Minors 69
  • 4 - Hierarchical Equations and Differentiations 83
  • 5 - between Slavery and Freedom 105
  • Summary 116
  • Part II - Slaves and the Family 121
  • 6 - Slaves within the Household 123
  • 7 - Master-Slave Relationships 149
  • 8 - Prostitutes and Concubines 179
  • 9 - Power Relationships 202
  • Summary 212
  • Part III - Slaves and the Economy 217
  • 10 - The Sources of Slaves 221
  • 11 - The Acquisition and Sale of Slaves 247
  • 12 - Slaves as Intermediaries in Business Transactions 275
  • 13 - The Location of Slaves in Ancient Jewish Society 285
  • 14 - The Manumission of Slaves 304
  • Summary 318
  • Part IV - The Symbolic Significance of Slavery 323
  • 15 - Slavery as Metaphor 327
  • 16 - Slave Parables 346
  • 17 - Slavery and the Exodus Experience 363
  • Summary 377
  • Conclusions 380
  • Bibliography 393
  • Index of References 409
  • Index of Subjects 429
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