The Birmingham Research Network on the Bible and Culture: enslavement and incarceration

This research theme aims to bring recent work on enslavement and incarceration to bear on our understanding of the ancient world and early Christianity in particular. It explores the effects of inequality, incarceration, enslavement, and power on ancient Christians and aims to identify the presence and unacknowledged contributions of enslaved workers to ancient literary culture, technological developments, bureaucracy, theology, and philosophy.

Members of the group work with a variety of different methodologies and forms of evidence including ancient archaeology, epigraphy, literature, and papyrology. We utilize theoretical frameworks drawn from studies of antebellum slavery, sociology and psychology, spatial theory, disability studies, and literary and philological analysis.

We are interested both in the uncredited contributions of enslaved and formerly enslaved workers to early Christianity and Roman society in general. Simultaneously, it explores the effects of carceral structures like enslavement and incarceration on the lives, literature, and mental health of early Christians. It explores how Christianity was shaped by enslavement and incarceration, and how Christianity has perpetuated and shaped those same punitive practices ever since.



  • September 29-October 1, 2022: Writing, Enslavement, and Power Workshop. Co-organized with Joseph Howley (Columbia University) and Jeremiah Coogan (University of Oxford).

  • January 6, 2022: “Enslavement and Literary Work in the Roman Mediterranean” Panel, Society of Classical Studies Annual Meeting, Co-organized with Jeremiah Coogan and Joseph Howley.


Select publications

  • Moss, C. R. “The Secretary: Enslaved Workers, Stenography, and the Production of Early Christian Literature,” Journal of Theological Studies, forthcoming.
  • Moss, C. R. “Reading Between the Lines: Looking for the Contributions of Enslaved Literate Laborers in a Second Century Text.” Studies in Late Antiquity 5:3 (2021): 432-52.
  • Moss, C. R. “Fashioning Mark: Early Christian Discussions about the Scribe and Status of the Second Gospel.” New Testament Studies 67:2 (2021): 181-204.
  • Wenell, K.  'Kingdom, not kingly rule: assessing the Kingdom of God as sacred space', Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches, 25. 2 (2017) 206–233