Historically, the metaphor of slavery “was capable of multiple connotations.” It is sometimes used as “servants of God” (δούλους – Acts 2:18), “fellow servants” (σύνδουλοι – Rev. 6:11), in the singular “slave” (doulē – Luke 1:38), “slaves of Christ” (douloi Christou – Eph. 6:6) and “fellow- slave” (syndoulou – Col. 1:7). It is defined as “someone whose person and service belongs wholly to another,” resulting in “the total subjection of the slave and the absence of the slave’s freedom to choose his action or movement.”
The two types of slavery concerned with this discussion are: (1) physical/literal – the actual imposition over a person; and (2) metaphorical/spiritual – “an inward relationship in which a person is under the influence of another.” Keep in mind that first century Christianity was primarily influenced by Judaism; therefore any use of the slave motif would have first a Jewish bent, then the historical Greek/Gentile meaning. However, Harris contends that the reader should consider the slave motif within the framework of Jewish, Greek and Roman conceptual backgrounds.
Based on the historical use of the slavery motif, we can therefore conclude that the New Testament (N.T.) neither endorses nor reject slavery, and draws both positive and negative images from it.