Onesimus Our Brother

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Noel and Johnson make the point that Philemon is as important a letter from an African-American perspective as Romans or Galatians have proven to be in Eurocentric interpretation. Here they gather critical essays by a constellation of African-American scholars, highlighting the latest in interpretive methods and troubling scholarly waters, interacting with the legacies of Hegel, Freud, Habermas, Ricoeur, and James C. Scott as well as the historical experience of African American communities. Onesimus Our Brother opens surprising new vistas on Paul's shortest and, in some ways, most troubling letter.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780800663414
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/2012
  • Series: Paul in Critical Contexts Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew V. Johnson is Senior Pastor at Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in College Park, Georgia, and co-editor of The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections (Fortress Press, 2005)

James A. Noel is the H. Eugene Farclough California Professor of African American Christianity at San Francisco Theological Seminary, coeditor of The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections (Fortress Press, 2005), and contributor to True to Our Native Land (Fortress Press, 2007).

Demetrius K. Williams teaches in the Theology Department at Marquette University and is the author of An End to This Strife: The Politics of Gender in African American Churches (2004).

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Table of Contents

Contribution vii

Introduction: Paul's Relevance Today 1

Traditional Biblical Criticism 2

The Reorientation of Reader Perspectives: Reading "from the Margins" 3

Origins of the Present Volume 5

Overview of the Volume 7

1 "No Longer as a Slave": Reading the Interpretation

History of Paul's Epistle to Philemon Demetrius K. Williams 11

Overview and Approach: An Ideological Optic/Option 11

Reading Philemon from the Early Church to the Reformation 15

Reading Philemon in the Modern Era 20

Newer Readings of Philemon from the Margins 35

2 Utility, Fraternity, and Reconciliation:

Ancient Slavery as a Context for the Return of Onesimus Mitzij. Smith 47

From Useless to Useful: Slave Productivity 48

I Am My Brother's Keeper: Familial Slavery and Fictive Kinship 51

Fugitive Slaves and Reconciliation 55

Conclusion 57

3 Nat Is Back: The Return of the Re/Oppressed in Philemon James A. Noel 59

Slavery in the Greco-Roman World 61

Slavery in Paul's Letters 63

The Occasion of Philemon 64

Dred Scott 65

American Slavery and the Legal Construction of Race 67

White Supremacist Religious Discourse 69

Turning Again to the Mis-Reading of Paul and the Gospels 73

Taney's Freudian Slip 75

Nat Turner's Voluntary Return 78

Nat Is Back in the Repressed 82

Conclusion 87

4 Onesimus Speaks: Diagnosing the Hys/Terror of the Text Matthew V. Johnson 91

Missing the Mark 91

Contra Paul 94

The Hys/Terror of the Text 97

5 "Ain't You Marster?": Interrogating Slavery and Gender in Philemon Margaret B. Wilkerson 101

Philemon Today 102

Dutchman 103

The Drinking Gourd 105

ABlack Woman Speaks 108

Banished 113

Traces of the Trade 115

Philemon Meets Onesimus 118

6 Enslaved by the Text: The Uses of Philemon James W. Perkinson 121

Exegetical Background 122

Homiletic Middle Ground 124

Abolitionist Common Ground 126

Legal Ground 127

Slave "Black"-Ground 129

Stereotypic Foreground 131

Erotic Underground 133

Ground Cover 135

Groundwork 137

Grunt Work 139

7 "Brother Saul": An Ambivalent Witness to Freedom Axlen Dwight Callahan 143

Apostle of Freedom? 143

Freedom for Women 146

Hearing Paul Correctively 148

Paul and Jesus 151

Paul and Black Theology 154

Conclusion 257

Notes 161

Index 175

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