In classrooms, in faith communities, in the public square, Shaner challenges leaders to listen for the voices of people who are usually left out of the stories in our biblical texts and in our histories of justice. She works with archaeological materials from modern-day Turkey, Greece, and Israel to help better understand the full context of the earliest Christian communities. She teaches courses across the New Testament and early Christian history that explore the theological, social, and political implications of biblical interpretation for contemporary communities. Throughout her teaching and scholarship she examines the intersections of race, class, and gender as well as the ethics of contemporary biblical interpretation. Her course offerings include Women and Slaves in Early Christianity, Multicultural Biblical Interpretation, The Material World of the New Testament, Revelation, and introductory courses. Shaner’s book, Enslaved Leadership in Early Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2018), challenges readers to re-think common perceptions about how enslaved persons participated in early Christian communities. She is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). She lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with her Facebook-famous dog, Karl Bark (who is finishing his own version of Dog-matics fur Everyone).
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
The (In)Visible City: Foregrounding Enslaved Infrastructures in Ancient Cities and New Testament Texts
Enslaved people are often invisible in the literature and scholarship associated with ancient cities. While their ubiquity is a given, most scholars have insisted on their invisibility. Such invisibility, however, is not only a literary construction, it is a construction of the built environment as well. Using archaeological evidence from first- and second-century CE Ephesos and other cities in Asia minor, this lecture will introduce multiple loci for understanding enslaved life in ancient cities. Inscriptions, elite housing, and imperial reliefs construct ancient (and modern) expectations concerning enslaved invisibility in religious and civic life. These expectations are not unlike those found in Pauline legacy texts (1 Timothy and Titus) and even in portions of the canonical gospels (Luke 17:7–10). Yet it is precisely slaves’ visibility in the archaeological record that “proves” their invisibility. Foregrounding enslaved perspectives reveals both the necessity of enslaved presence for religious practices (including early Christian practices), and the contradictions that an insistence upon enslaved invisibility creates when turning to early Christian texts.