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Why is doulos translated slave sometimes and bond servant others?

Romans 1:1 in the NASB is translated Paul, a bond servant. "bond-servant" is a translation of the Greek word "doulos" Strongs 1401. Why is it translated slave usually, but in other places (like Ro 1:1) it is translated bond-servant?

Romans 1:1

NASB - 1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Clarify Share Report Asked November 03 2013 Mike subway Mike walker

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Open uri20130622 23898 8dsex Kelli Hamann Supporter Pastor's Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Teacher, Writer, Cellist
Translation is a complicated process. Not only does it involve translating words, but the ideas behind the words, which are greatly shaped by culture, every day life, and tradition. 

While the scholars who work to accurately translate the original text of the Bible are very knowledgeable and informed, sometimes there simply is no word in our modern language that suffices as a substitute from one language to another. This could be the case with "doulos."

The Greek word "doulos," numbered 1401 in Strong's Concordance, has these meanings:
1. a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
2. a slave
3. metaph., one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men
4. devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests
5. a servant, attendant

You can see by looking at these different definitions that translators of the Bible have a few choices, and they use them as they see fit as they translate. With so many different versions of the Bible now, we're bound to see different words used from one version to another.

In addition, people translating the Bible sometimes use their creative license to express an idea in the way in which they believe it will best be understood by the intended audience. This could also explain the usage of the two different words you mentioned.

November 03 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Ezekiel Kimosop - Pastor & Bible Scholar
Titus 2:9-10 says “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

The Greek word doulos for slaves is also translated servants but some scholars have argued that the context of Titus suggests real slaves. 

During Paul’s time there were 9 slaves for every one free man and scholars have estimated that the number of slaves could have been as high as 60 million in Europe. Slaves who were purchased by their master but could buy their freedom after some years of service or and good conduct. 
Ordinary slaves had no legal rights under Roman law and slave masters had absolute control over their lives. 

Some slaves were however bondservants who served for a period of time to redeem a debt. This was common in Old Testament Judaism (Lev. 25:29) if a person was unable to repay a debt. Genesis 21:10 (KJV) designates Hagar as the bondwoman. Israelites were however warned never to treat their brothers as bondservants if they were sold to them on this basis because God would not permit an Israelite to treat their fellow brother as a slave (Lev. 25:29), knowing that they suffered under Egyptian slavery for 400 years. 

In New Testament times, many slaves came to Christ at the preaching of the gospel and there was a challenge about how they should relate to their masters in the light of their freedom in Christ. Paul did not want to upset the social order and encouraged slaves to remain faithful to their masters. Some slaves believed that they should have their freedom while others rebelled against their masters (Philemon case). 

However, we cannot rule our the context of servant or domestic worker rather than ordinary slaves under some circumstances because the name could carry both meanings but the historical and socio-cultural context should guide the interpretation to determine what is most likely implied. 

In modern day we may no longer have slaves within the ordinary context but workers or servants and the dynamic equivalent for a slave or bondservant is modern employee. 
We must also never forget that we believers are slaves of Christ in the context of our obedience and reverence for him and the fact that Christ had purchased our atonement with God by his own blood. This implies that we are forever beholden to his amazing grace and love for us and should dutifully seek to obey and please him in all ways.

November 04 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Tim Darden Retired from corporate America
I believe the word slave may be more accurate. Servants can be hired, but slaves are owned by their master. I base this on I Corinthians 6:19-20. We were "bought with a price".

February 26 2018 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Donald F Brown
I have studied this "koine" Greek word for more years than I care to admit as I prepare a manuscript for publication. In my study and research I have come to the understanding that we MUST not tamper with God's word and exegetically impose on the text our views, cultural or otherwise, especially our modern understandings. The word that the Holy Spirit gave the New Testament authors was and is "doulos." If we desire to add to the literal meaning we can always use footnotes or some other means of explanation. The correct translation is slave, not servant, because of the power God has infused the word with. The correct translation in all cases of doulos is slave. Full stop.

In Christ,
Don Brown +

sundoulos Christou

September 08 2018 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Image Aaron Ham
My theory is this, it is cultural and what the language of the day in which the letter was written in that will dictate what the meaning and understanding of the word is,

What also will give meaning to the word is what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit give meaning to the word.

Paul in this case as given himself to Christ as a servant who is will to do what ever The Lord Jesus Christ has instructed for him to do as guided by the Holy Spirit.

This in turn seems as if Paul has made himself a servile slave that is doing the bidding of his master which is The Lord Jesus Christ. But Jesus Himself has told that we are His friends and that slaves do not know the plans of their masters as we know or able to the plans of our great God and King.

Therefore the description of Paul being a bond servant is more accurate, in that it describes a person who bound them self to some one who has authority, power and ability to make and accept such service and dedication.

September 22 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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