Lifting the Yoke of Slavery: Infrapolitics and Advice to Enslaved Persons in the Pastoral Epistles.

This paper explores instructions to enslaved persons in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 and Titus 2:9-10 as test cases for interrogating the kyriarchalism in the texts. Traditional believers who read the Pastoral Epistles uncritically tend to assume that the biblical model of family entails submission of women and enslaved persons to free men. By contrast, critical interpreters who employ a hermeneutic of suspicion point out that descriptions of a well ordered household in the letters reflect Greco-Roman domestic social values. But such critics commonly argue that the Pastoral Epistles mark a retreat from the potentially liberative stances of Jesus and Paul and seek to inculcate Greco-Roman domestic values as normative for Christianity. Ironically, both sides agree that the text endorses kyriachalism. This approach is unlikely to persuade traditional believers to adopt liberationist views, nor is it likely to persuade secular critics to take the Bible seriously. In this paper, I shall apply James Scott’s theories of “infrapolitics” to argue that the Pastoral Epistles reflect a social and theological perspective of being in the world but not of the world. The letters represents a subaltern voice that works within the Greco-Roman social context but does not embrace it as normative. Instead, the author offers moral exhortation couched in deliberate ambiguity, along with a hidden transcript representing an agenda driven by Christology and apocalyptic eschatology as an alternative to Greco-Roman ideology.