When Rhoda Opens the Door:
Reimagining Ancient Households from the
Perspective of the Least for the Least
Batanayi I. Manyika
South African Theological Seminary1
1 Batanayi I. Manyika recently completed a Ph.D. in NT with focus on Paul’s letter to Philemon.
His dissertation is titled: “Philemon: A Transformation of Social Orders.” He is an academic at the
South African Theological Seminary (SATS).
2 Elna Mouton is professor emerita in NT at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
Neotestamentica 53.2 (2019) 311–337
© New Testament Society of Southern Africa
This article brings first-century Graeco-Roman slavery, ancient
household systems and gender into focus through an analysis of Acts
12:12–17. By retracing Rhoda’s social location and efficacy in Mary’s
οἰκία, the παιδίσκη is brought to the fore in a hermeneutical agenda that
seeks to unmute utility from the interpretive margins. Using a sociology
of knowledge, Rhoda’s profile in the ancient world is painted in vivid
vogue, demonstrating the social maze she had to navigate for her to be.
From here, the slave’s social performance is considered in the same
context as her unrelenting herald of Peter’s emancipation. From this
position, a critical correlation is drawn between the Rhoda of the text
and Southern African Rhodas in front of the text with the hope of
reimagining ancient households. Finally, it is posited that hearing the
narratives of both categories of “Rhodas” enlivens the text, unmuting
the slaves occupying the margins to the benefit of contemporary groups
shaped by this tradition.
Graeco-Roman slavery; Haustafeln; running slaves; Southern Africa;