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Chance Everett Bonar

“Enslaved to God: Slavery and the Virtuous Life in the ‘Shepherd of Hermas’”

Chance Bonar.

William R. Tyler Fellow

Bonar’s research examines the language of enslavement to God and its effects in the Shepherd of Hermas, a second-century visionary and parenetic narrative. Building upon the work of postcolonial historiography, womanist biblical criticism, and slavery studies in the Roman imperial world, Bonar argues that the Shepherd envisions enslavement to God as the proper relationship between human and deity. He questions how previous scholarship has overlooked enslavement in the Shepherd and other early Christian literature due to both translational euphemisms and scholarly discomfort with acknowledging the atrocities of ancient practices of enslavement. Bonar analyzes particular characteristics expected of God’s enslaved—loyalty, utility, functioning as property, and bodily extensions of the enslaver—and interrogates how early Christian literature often upholds divine and human institutions of enslavement.

Chance Everett Bonar is a PhD candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University, focusing on the New Testament and early Christianity. He holds a BA from St. Olaf College, an MAR from Yale Divinity School, and an AM from Harvard University. Chance works broadly on the first through eighth centuries CE, producing scholarship on Byzantine Greek apocryphal dialogue literature, Christian responses to colonialism and healthcare practices in the Roman imperial period, Coptic language and literature, and practices of authorship and attribution.