Harold Hoehner unfolds the nature of adoption in the Roman world: “Under Roman law the procedure of adoption had two steps. In the first step, the son had to be released from the control of his natural father. This was done by a procedure whereby the father sold him as a slave three times to the adopter. The adopter would release him two times and he would automatically again come under his father’s control. With the third sale, the adoptee was freed from his natural father.

“Regarding the second step, since the natural father no longer had any authority over him, the adopter became the new father with absolute control over him, and he retained this control until the adoptee died or the adopter freed him. The son was not responsible to his natural father but only to his newly acquired father. The purpose of this adoption was so that the adoptee could take the position of a natural son in order to continue the family line and maintain property ownership.”

Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2002) p. 196.

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Brian Hedges is Senior Pastor of Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in Niles, MI.


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One of the greatest films ever made was Cecil B. DeMille’s Ben Hur, based
on the novel by Lew Wallace. The main character, Judah Ben Hur,
played by Charlton Heston, is a Jewish prince who is falsely
imprisoned by his childhood friend who has become a bitter Roman
centurion. Ben Hur is consigned to a Roman war ship as an under-rower
in the galley. When the ship is sunk in battle, Ben Hur rescues a
Roman consul who tries to commit suicide. Later, the Roman consul,
Quintus Arias, discovers that though his ship was sunk, the battle was
won. He was not defeated after all. And to honor Judah Ben Hur, he
adopts him into his family.

 

From that
moment forward, Ben Hur is known by the name of Quintus Arias. From
that moment on, he wears a ring given to him by his new father. From
that moment on, he is a citizen ofRome . Quintus Arias’ adoption of
Judah Ben Hur illustrates the cultural background behind the familiar
image which the Apostle Paul applies to the spiritual status of
believers as God’s adopted children.

_________________
Brian Hedges is Senior Pastor of Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in Niles, MI.


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