Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This project combines social-science methodology with a narrative critical reading strategy in order to explore the use of slave language in the Gospel of Matthew. I argue that the core of Matthew's slave metaphors is not the rendering of service (to God or to others) or “slave” as an honorific title but rather "slavery" serves primarily as a metaphor for obedience and radical humility. Adopting sociologist Orlando Patterson's definition for slavery as a base model, I show that Matthew's portrayal of enslaved characters tends to conform to the prevailing views of the larger Hellenized Roman world (that is, slavery is marked by domination, natal alienation, and a lack of honor). I then use Matthew's own portrayal of enslaved persons/slavery as the hermeneutical lens through which the audience should understand this gospel's three slave metaphors (believers as slaves to God, as slaves to Christ, and as slaves to one another). The introductory chapters set out the project's methodological framework (chapter 1) and then survey the history of scholarship on first-century slavery in Roman, Jewish, and Christian contexts (chapter 2). The next two chapters establish that Matthew's characterization of enslaved persons conforms to Patterson's model, looking first at enslaved characters in the narrative passages (chapter 3) and then in the narrative parables (chapter 4). After a brief excursus on slave language in biblical quotations, the final chapter utilizes Matthew's image of enslaved characters and slavery, established in chapters 3"4, as the basis for interpreting the gospel's slave metaphors.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.