Rich Household Hosts
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Saturnalia Festival 130

Upside Down Relationships

Once annually on December 17th, at the Saturnalia Winter solstice festival, social relationships were turned upside down without regard to rank, family, or wealth. It was a time for feasting, goodwill, giving to the poor, gift giving and even the decoration of trees. At the Saturnalia feast, each servant or slave took whatever couch he for she wished, drank the same wine as the host, ate the same food, and the host and his friends served the household slaves. Because they rejected slavery, the Therapeutae, who were a Jewish sect in Alexandrian described by Philo (BC 20-50 AD) in "The Contemplative Life", went even further and slaves didn't even serve at their feasts.✞

Rejected Slavery

Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch tell us in "Families in the New Testament World - Households and House Churches" that the wealthy appointed the most virtuous young men to serve the others, which surely means that the young aspired to perform this service. How did the Pauline church resolve these tensions? Unlike the Therapeutae, they seem to have continued their former customs, maintaining distinctions between rich and poor, masters and slaves. The Therapeutae flourished in Alexandria and other parts of the Diaspora of Hellenistic Judaism in the final years of the Second Temple period.✞

"Rich Household Hosts"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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