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The Colossian and Ephesian «Haustafeln» in Theological Context

An Analysis of Their Origins, Relationship, and Message


James P. Hering

In this groundbreaking study, James P. Hering investigates the theological and ethical motivation that informs the controversial New Testament household codes ( Haustafeln) found in the epistles to the Colossians (3:18-4:1) and Ephesians (5:22-6:9). Within most New Testament scholarship, the household code has been regarded as an imported element within its host letter, reflecting either pagan or embarrassingly sub-Christian values. Is the household code merely a nod to the pragmatic demands of culture, or can it be understood as a reflection of the author’s theological concerns? What can it teach us today? Hering provides a unique analysis of these passages, revealing the Haustafeln in their historical context and examining their theological roots. This book is of vital importance for courses on Christian ethics and New Testament backgrounds.


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Chapter Five: A Comparison of Household Relations 203


Chapter Five A Comparison of Household Regulations Introduction As early as the fifth century BC (and certainly earlier!), philosophers were musing over, and often energetically disputing, the very nature of household authority relationships and their regulation. Though distant from the New Testament HT in terms of time, and couched in much broader discussions of ontology, ethics and statecraft, their concerns and categories prove to be similar to those of the NT household codes. Regulations of household rela- tions continued to develop up to the time of the New Testament HT, and both periods have received scholarly treatment in light of the HT. The attention given to such material, both antecedent and contemporary to the HT, has been dominated, however, by the questions of Form- and Traditions- geschichte in an attempt to establish a “genetic link” in the HT’s evolution- ary development. Without denying the importance of these studies to the question of HT origins, it seems that a comparison of the most full-bodied and relevant sources might serve to highlight the similarities, and perhaps reveal unique characteristics of the HT form and message. The task of isolat- ing significant elements within particular Hellenistic authors may help to counteract the tendency of treating individual sources as undifferentiated constructs or representatives of a larger, political or religious phenomenon; often, a particular author may evidence remarkable independence of thought.1 The comparative analysis of several sources and periods, it is hoped, will illustrate the remarkable variety of assumptions and concerns among the Hellenistic thinkers,...

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