Jesus and the pernicious, slave-based roots of private property

A new piece over at Political Theology, which explores that curious phenomenon of implacable opposition to property and wealth in the Gospels.


6 thoughts on “Jesus and the pernicious, slave-based roots of private property

  1. I was going to discuss something raised here over an alcohol-free beer in Auckland, but it now seems I will miss the fun. So anyway… the Roman jurists are interesting for Jesus, but I’m more interested in some of those earlier Jewish-Samarian books. Wasn’t there a more fundamental conflict between the emerging trade (and so, especially, slave-trade) mode of production and the previously dominant temple-state (‘Oriental despot’) mode of production a little earlier in Judea – say, in the late Persian or early Hellenistic era (in Judea, that is). That is, would the Greek introduction of chattel slavery be incredibly significant for analysing those Hebrew Bible books which were written about this time (despite the lack of attention in biblical studies)? After all, Syria-Palestine seems to have been a fertile slave-trading area. And following from all this, should we not see symptoms of such a major “transition” within the Judean social formation appearing in the literature of the period – in particular this central and major tension between the old and emerging centres of power? Obviously I have a few thoughts on this, but as you seem to be tackling the Roman slavery period, I wondered if you’d considered some of the implications of the earlier Hellenistic era?

    1. I’m about to put something up about Otago losing its mojo … but to the topic at hand: I actually trace this at the level of mediated human interchange in the LXX, often added over against the Hebrew, as a linguistic trace of slavery. Transitions like this are long and brutal so it is highly likely some earlier elements can be found. That needs to be countered by the fact that the socio-economic structures were left largely as they were by the Greeks and then early Romans, or ‘outtact’, I should say, since they squeezed pretty hard until slavery became the dominant mode in 1st century CE.

      1. Yeah. I wonder though how much of the story about the socio-economic structure remaining intact in these far-flung regions is part of the ideology of Hellenisation, though. Peter Hunt does a suspicious reading of slavery ideology in classical Greece, where he concludes that the old ideology of noble families being the backbone of society persisted, and continued to be told by the historians, long after the real switch to slave-based economies in Athens and Sparta. I’m suspicious that the role of the slave-based (and, connected with this, military-based) mode of production became a serious foundation for power among a new group of elites in Judea from the early Hellenistic era. (Old and new modes seemed to co-exist for centuries, though.) The tremendous wealth you see by the end of the third / beginning of the second century was generated by something new …

      2. Ste. Croix is still worth a read on this, notably the way old ideologies are able to adapt to new situations. On the other hand, one the reasons for Paul’s success as an ideologue was that he was able to map the passage from one mode to another ,or rather allow one to straddle both.

      3. Sure, Paul’s middle management material, but Jesus ain’t no revolutionary, bro.

        OK – I’ll finally get around to reading Geoffrey the Polymath in some depth. What’s the goss on him and Moses Finley, anyway? Surely a dogged opposition like his wasn’t just based on respectable academic grounds.

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