Biblical Archaeology Review 39:4, July/August 2013

Archaeological Views: A Tale of Two Slaves

By John Byron

A highlight of a tour of Turkey that my wife and I went on in June 2012 was a visit to the Lycus valley in ancient Phrygia, home of Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis. All three of these cities are mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:13). Laodicea is also well known from Revelation as home of the “lukewarm” church (Revelation 3:14–22). But the main attraction for me was the area’s connection with Paul’s Philemon 1. It is from this valley that the slave Onesimus fled, somehow encountered Paul in prison, was converted and eventually returned with the letter we know today as Philemon. After almost 20 years of researching and writing about slavery and the New Testament, it was exhilarating finally to see the place where it had all begun. I had thought a lot about Onesimus over the years; I felt as if I knew him.

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