A Week in the Life of a Slave (A Week in the Life #5)

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


A Week in the Life of a Slave (A Week in the Life #5)


John Byron


IVP Academic (InterVarsity Press)

Publication Date:

July 2, 2019




168 pages


What did slavery look like in the Roman world? When Paul wrote about slaves obeying their masters, was he talking about a slave system as harsh as American slavery or something more like indentured servitude? John Byron answers those questions in A Week in the Life of a Slave, imagining what it looked like when Paul met Onesimus, a runaway slave mentioned in the book of Philemon. Drawing on historical sources, he describes where Paul was likely imprisoned and the city Onesimus ran away from, imagining Paul’s relationship with the early church and its attempts to understand his teaching about masters and slaves. As Byron tells the story, he also includes sidebars with facts about the historical figures referenced and about ancient Roman slavery in general.

Writing about a novel that must capture a historical setting takes unusual skill. The author must shift from storytelling to describing the background in detail and back again, all while keeping readers interested. Byron doesn’t have the practiced novelist’s writing style that animates every scene, so the descriptions often feel slow. However, he chooses each of those scenes well and creates interesting conflicts between characters, which means even if the descriptions feel stiff the plot is still fascinating enough to keep reading.

Byron particularly excels at showing how harsh Roman slavery really was and how radical Paul’s teaching about slavery would have felt. While Byron doesn’t go beyond the clearly established facts and present Paul as an abolitionist (which evidently wasn’t a seriously considered position in that era), he shows how Paul’s teaching on being “slaves for Christ” and “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free” would have hugely shifted master-slave relations. Even though readers seeking an exciting novel will be somewhat disappointed, readers seeking a story that really captures ancient Roman slavery and the early church’s discussion about it will enjoy this book.


Rating (1 to 5 stars):

3.5 out of 5 stars

Intended Audience:

Readers interesting in stories about ancient Rome, Roman slavery customs and their impact, or Paul’s role in the early church.

Christian Impact:

This book will give readers a much better understanding of what slavery looked like in the time of the apostles and help them truly appreciate the magnitude of Paul’s teachings on the subject.


Readers seeking other fact-based historical novels about the early church may enjoy previous books in InterVarsity Press’s “A Week in the Life Series” (A Week in the Life of Corinth, A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion, a Week in the Fall of Jerusalem, A Week in the Life of Rome). 

A Week in the Life of a Slave

About Ceil Carey

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: