One’s experience as a slave, then, ultimately depended on the demands and goodness of the master. The slaves of abusive and temperamental owners endured a life of misery.8 But for the slaves of reasonable and even gracious masters, the situation could be exponentially better.9 As history professor Scott Bartchy explains, “The only thing that slaves in the first century had completely in common was the fact that each of them had an owner. A person’s experience in slavery depended almost entirely upon the customs of the owner’s family, the business and the particular class of society to which the owner belonged, and the character of the owner himself.”10

Slavery in the Roman world was as diverse as the number of masters who owned slaves. Whether slaves worked in the fields or in the city; whether they became farmers, household managers, or something else; whether or not they eventually gained their freedom; and whether the quality of their daily existence was positive or negative— everything rested in the hands of the master. Each slave owner defined the nature of his slaves’ lives. For their part, slaves had only one primary objective: to please the master in everything through their loyal obedience to him. — MacArthur, John (2010-12-28). Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (pp. 28-29). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.