A Week in the Life of a Slave

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

This book attempts to 'make alive' the story of Onesimus. Paul's letter to Philemon is quite short yet its impact is far reaching. Thus, John Byron takes on the task to imaginatively recreate what it would have been like to live in the Roman empire under the shackles of slavery. This historical fiction is written to give social and theological critique whilst also enabling readers to enter the strange world of the NT.

Highly recommended.
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"A Week in the Life of a Slave" follows characters found in the book of Philemon as they navigate social class systems of the ancient world in which the early church was founded and flourished.  John Byron masterfully weaves together Scriptural references, historical context, and scholarly allusions to how the writing of Philemon came about.  

The story of the runaway slave Onesimus, the evolution of their Colossian church to include slaves within church gatherings, and Paul's teaching on forgiveness are masterfully written. The additional historical context blurbs and clues are helpful to further understand the world at the time that Paul wrote his letter to Philemon and will help the reader understand the cultural taboos that the Biblical authors navigated.  

If you desire to understand the world in which the Bible was written, I recommend picking up this book.  It will help you easily reach new levels of understanding of the text and help lead you to yearn for more.
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I must admit I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters.  It's very dry, dull reading.  I think it would've reading easier if the information about the time period and religious information were placed in an index at the end of the book.  I love reading fictionalized bible stories, but the story lacked warmth.
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What was it like to be a slave in Roman times? What was it like to be a slave or slave owner in a Christian home during that time? These are questions that John Byron attempts to answer in A Week in the Life of a Slave. This new book, mostly fiction with sidebars of facts and the author’s opinions, is based upon Paul’s letters to the Colossians and Philemon in the New Testament. The letter to Philemon is an oddity; it’s a personal letter written by Paul about a runaway slave named Onesimus who had run away from his master. Byron’s book speculates as to how this letter came to be, along with his opinion that Paul was actually in prison in Ephesus at the time he wrote it. 

The story itself is fairly straightforward. It covers Paul’s interactions with the runaway, and also includes a storyline about whether or not slaves should attend meetings of the early church and eat besides their masters. That was a controversial issue at the time: when Paul spoke of being brothers and sisters in Christ, did he also mean slaves being on the same level as their masters? While slavery in Roman times was much different to the form of slavery we’re familiar with in this country’s sad history, Byron is careful to note that this doesn’t mean it was better. Slavery is slavery, no matter where it happens or when it happens.

A Week in the Life of a Slave is easy to read and digest. The factual sections do intersect the narrative, so I’d recommend reading in paper form, when you can place a finger or a bookmark wherever you come across these sections and return to them at a more suitable moment. But then, I’m still a lover of the traditional book and have never quite mastered the skill of skipping back and forth while reading on a screen. Regardless of which format you go for, however, you’ll enjoy this informative component of the A Week in the Life series of which this is part.

Thank you to IVP for my complimentary electronic copy of A Week in the Life of a Slave.
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I've read Paul's letter to Philemon, but this book combined information about the time period and background with a brief retelling of Onesimus' story. Thus, it's probably about 2/3 semi-Bible-based fiction and 1/3 factual background information - more textbook style. I generally enjoyed the mix, though at times the information boxes got in the way of my reading of the story. The textbook part was interesting and informative - and I'm unlikely to get around to reading a book with only that sort of content, so it taught me things in a way I probably wouldn't learn otherwise. However, I found the story part (a) fairly surface-only, and (b) not necessarily very Bible based in places. For example (and this was my biggest question), I don't know whether the author had a reason for portraying the Lycus valley ecclesias' attitudes to slaves the way he did, but I don't think I can come up with any evidence in the Bible for such an opinion, nor do I recall it being explained in the book (might be just my bad memory?).

So, overall, I found it interesting and informative, as well as thought-provoking - but I'd definitely like to come across a better/more satisfying retelling of the story of Onesimus.

Note that I received a complimentary copy of the book from NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and this is my considered opinion of the book.
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This is an excellent offering by John Byron in the “A Week in the life of…” series. This is a fictional rendering of the life of Onesimus a runaway slave who is mentioned in the book of Philemon. The book has lots of historical nuggets in side panels offered throughout. It offers an eye opening look into what it meant to be a household slave in the first century and it offers some insight into Paul’s situation as a prisoner at that times. If you read this book go back and read the book of Philemon with new eyes.

Thanks to #Netgalley for the ARC copy.
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A short but excellent book that constructs a back story to St. Paul's letter to Philemon. In it, one of Philemon's slaves runs away and ends up in Ephesus where he encounters Paul & the Christian community there. In the course of his time there he is converted and is sent back to his master along with a letter that later became incorporated into the Bible.

Not only was the story delightful, but I also liked that Byron helped modern readers understand the context with many sidebars that provided illumination into both Roman society and its slaves. It's an excellent book illuminating this letter to laypeople.
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The “Week in the Life” books are an excellent, pain free way to learn about the context around the New Testament, and this book is no exception.  Perhaps better than others, John Byron manages to keep the interest and tension of the plot going, while still covering a lot of ground around the background of slavery in the time when the letter of Philemon was written.  The side boxes are interesting and informative, not only for understanding Philemon, but also providing a light into many of the New Testament writings.

The only thing I found a little disappointing was the sudden finish.  The book is short and pacey, and I would have liked an expansion on the resolution.

I would recommend this book to anyone keen to learn more about the social context of the New Testament.
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As with previous books, this is a great way to understand the slave situation in biblical times. The author takes a narrative approach and does a good job. I think he achieves his intent.
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The book of Philemon is often used in studies on forgiveness. Not much is written for us to know the backstory. All we know is that Onesimus was absent from the house of Philemon, and Paul wrote on his behalf. One might wonder what happened to lead up to the letter. In A Week in the Life of a Slave, John Byron writes a scenario that could have happened, based on what is known.

Besides the story, the book contains small sections that tell more about life in the time the events take place. How slaves were treated, what life was like for people, and other information is provided that give you a better understanding of what happens in the plot. They add another level to what you can get out of the book.

I enjoyed reading A Week in the Life of a Slave, but not just for the story. I've read Philemon several times, but this gave me something more to consider. Throughout the New Testament, there are warnings about showing favoritism and treating others how you want to be treated. This book can make you stop and think about how you are treating fellow believers.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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This book is partly fiction and partly nonfiction. It read like a documentary show that's primarily made up of fictional reenactments to illustrate the points. The purpose was to educate readers (in an entertaining way) about the social and cultural background to Paul's letter to Philemon so that we can better understand it.

The story followed a week in the life of a runaway slave, Onesimus, as well as details about Paul's life in prison and the people in Ephesus who owned slaves. A lot of educational material was worked into the story, but additional information was provided in "sidebars" (which could take up whole pages) that were placed within the story. The book included some pictures of archaeological artifacts that illustrated information in the non-fiction sidebars or events in the story. Overall, I'd recommend this book to people interested in the insights gained from cultural background information.
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