Article Review:

Gail E. Bowman's "Better Than A Slave"
Christian Century

Offered by JA.

      Gail Bowman brings to light an African-American's perspective on the book of Philemon. As a campus minister and instructor in religion at Spelman College in Atlanta, she speaks to the problem of slavery alienating Christian fellowship with a freedom that comes from cultural and ancestral wounds both experienced and remembered. However, her sermon does not serve well as an article for historical-critical biblical research - this was not her intention. She gives a plain language account of the story of the slave Onesimus. Indeed, details from speculation are treated as part of the story in a manner that might frustrate those seeking a scholastic treatment of the text. However, the content of the article is a sermon. She injects details to make the story flow and bring to life the story of Onesimus. The biblical material is enlivened as she explores possibilities surrounding the facts.

      She provides great insight on the loss of relationship that Philemon may have suffered because he was too caught up in the role of master. She points to the problem people have when they discount another human being's worth, especially when they make a child of God into a thing. Philemon missed out on the joy of knowing his brother Onesimus. He was too busy owning his slave to meet his brother.

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