Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 8. Christian life in Contrast with Pagan Corruption.” Sections 88-103, Loc. 16158-17158.
§ 97. The Church and Slavery.
Schaff observes a lack of regard for natural human rights among pagans (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16653). The essential relationship in society was one of power which would oppress others. Those not in power were considered the enemy to those in power. Enslavement of the poor and of enemies was the norm (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16658). Christianity fought against slavery by a moral argument of the equal dignity of all men (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16663). Due to the large number of enslaved people, there was no mass movement to end slavery. The eschatological views of the Church may also have contributed, as most would look to a future hope and not worry about earthly bondage (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16673). From the time of Constantine, some legal changes enforced more humane treatment and made it easier for a mster to formally release a slave (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16687). Conversion of slaves to Christianity was very common in the early period (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16691). Christians who were slaves could rise even to roles such as bishop. They also were recognized among the martyrs (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16691). Schaff’s conclusion is that those slaves who were Christians lived in a spiritual and moral freedom which allowed for life in society regardless of their state of enslavement (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16701). When slave owners became Christians there was a radical change in relationship as well (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16706). The equality found in Christ tended to make the master/slave relationship more like that of an employer and employee relating more or less as equals (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16715). Slaves were often set free by Chrsitian masters. Owners of large numbers of slaves are mentioned in catacomb inscriptions as releasing thousands of slaves (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16725).