A Week in the Life of a Slave
"I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me."
These words, written by the apostle Paul to a first-century Christian named Philemon, are tantalizingly brief. Indeed, Paul's epistle to Philemon is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible. While it's direct enough in its way, it certainly leaves plenty to the imagination.
A Week in the Life of a Slave is a vivid imagining of that story. From the pen of an accomplished New Testament scholar, the narrative follows the slave Onesimus from his arrival in Ephesus, where the apostle Paul is imprisoned, and fleshes out the lived context of that time and place, supplemented by numerous sidebars and historical images. John Byron's historical fiction is at once a social and theological critique of slavery in the Roman Empire and a gripping adventure story, set against the exotic backdrop of first-century Ephesus.
"There's no one better to take us into the daily plight and experiences of a first-century Roman slave than John Byron, who has distinguished himself as a specialist in this area through two important academic books and several articles. Here he blends expertise and imagination together in a winsome invitation into the lives of Paul, Philemon, and, most importantly, Onesimus, the slave whose coming to faith challenged Philemon to live up to his own."
"We underestimate the power of a well-told story in order to reconstruct the historical drama of the New Testament. John Byron shows himself not only to be a fantastic storyteller but a creative scholar who provides cultural insights into Paul's world that we would not otherwise understand. We follow the slave Onesimus as he leaves his home, meets Paul, and eventually becomes a Christian leader renowned in Asia Minor. Any student studying the New Testament will find this book both riveting and a rich invitation to enter the New Testament world."
"John Byron has written an imaginative and historically informed novella about slavery in the ancient world, specifically in the early church. He takes you into the story of Paul, Philemon, Onesimus, the cities of Asia Minor, and the plight of slaves. It is filled with information about the ancient world, living conditions, gods and deities, travel, and what it was like to be a slave in the first century. Byron is one person I know with the knowledge of Greco-Roman slavery and the literary brilliance to make a book like this both fun to read and genuinely educational. A must-read!"
"In the New Testament, Paul's letter to Philemon is rather small—a mere page or two. But Byron has managed to reveal a massive world of Paul's imprisonment, busy ministry work in the Lycus valley, broken relationships, new friendships, and the messy reality of life in first-century churches, full of both mundane problems but also great beauty and grace. Learning through story is a gift for the learner, and Byron is an excellent teacher."
1. Ephesus: The Interview
2. Laodicea: The Report
3. Ephesus: Paul in Prison
4. Colossae: The Flight
5. Ephesus: Life as a Slave
6. Laodicea: The Pursuit
7. Ephesus: Attending Church
8. Colossae: The Freedman
9. Ephesus: Slave of Christ
10. Laodicea: The Decision
11. Ephesus: Discussing the Law
12. Ephesus: The Letter
13. Colossae: Home
14. Ephesus: Epilogue
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