Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Remember those in prison

The officials detaining people in the ancient world had little interest in their welfare, and less accountability. They provided few if any resources—things like water, food, fresh clothing, bedding, and so on. Prisoners might hope for a daily cup of water and a slice of bread from their jailers and that was it, and they didn’t always get even this. People in prison in Paul’s day were primarily supported by their friends and family on the outside. But this was expected, and facilitated by bribes, and Christians developed a reputation for being involved with their imprisoned brothers and sisters to a positively irritating degree. Lucian, a cynical Roman writing in the second century CE, wrote the following about a Christian leader who had been imprisoned: “from the very break of day aged widows and orphan children could be seen waiting near the prison, while their officials even slept inside with him after bribing the guards. Then elaborate meals were brought in, and sacred books of theirs were read aloud, and excellent Peregrinus—for he still went by that name—was called by them ‘the new Socrates.’” In view of this practice, a likely explanation for the epithet “fellow-POW” switching between Aristarchus and Epaphras in Colossians and Philemon is that the two men are taking turns sitting with Paul through his incarceration and probably staying overnight, thereby sharing in its conditions.“ When he wrote Colossians 4:10 Aristarchus was staying with him; when he wrote Philemon 23 Epaphras was.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 82

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