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Will anyone recognize Onesimus as a slave, or worse, as an escaped slave?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Onesimus attempts to lose his identity. part two

Onesimus awoke to hear voices jabbering in Greek, Latin, and languages he didn’t know. Stores were opening.

He muttered, “Cool watermelon and a public water fountain! That’s what I want.” He swatted a fly and wiped his sweaty face. “Rome sure is hot in July.”

He rolled his belongings together and went outside. No one paid attention to him. He was tense and alert and wondered: Will anyone recognize me as a slave, or worse, as an escaped slave?  He found a public fountain and was able to clean his face. His sleeveless tunic looked decent and his hair was short. Nothing about him drew attention.

This afternoon I’ll go to a public bath. The money I stole from my master Philemon should last me a few more days. I’ll sleep and eat cheap.

He began walking. Hours later he had learned Rome was a gigantic city. He heard sightseers say that one million people lived there and there was one slave for every two free men. He had become blurry-eyed with all the spectacular sights and noisy people swarming the streets.

Onesimus saw the gigantic Circus Maximus, the entertainment center for rich and poor. It provided chariot races, gladiator combats, wild animal hunts, and parades. He heard that the Circus sat 150,000 people. Others said 250,000. Spectators sat for hours delighting in cruelty and skill. Often the entertainment was in the name of a Roman god and typically had a wealthy Roman sponsor.

Onesimus was impressed with the water supply system. The Romans had built nine aqueducts which brought water from hills 20 and 30 miles away. The Tiber River which ran through the city was polluted with sewage, as were wells and springs.  He noticed poor people getting water from fountains.

How different this city is from where I was a slave to Philemon in Colosse, Turkey! I will disappear into Rome and live like a free man.

About 2:00 P.M. Onesimus went to a large cheap public Roman bath. The bath covered several city blocks. He had used public baths in his hometown and knew the routine. He cleaned, went to the warm room, then a hot bath, swam in an outdoor pool, and finally dove into a pool of cold water. Around him men and boys talked, played games, exercised, and ate food. He listened to two young men talking.

“My cousin is an imperial guard. He has been telling me about a prisoner he often guards. The prisoner is named Paul. He lives in his own rented house near the palace of the emperor. He is a well-educated Jew. Because he appealed to the emperor to judge his case, he was brought to Rome. As a Roman citizen he has the right of appeal.

“Paul welcomes people and talks freely to them about a man named Jesus Christ.”

Instantly Onesimus remembered his master who believed that Jesus had been crucified and arose from his grave. Onesimus thought: I want to visit Paul.

This is Barbara Steiner planning to return soon with part three. Details about how Onesimus met Paul are not in the biblical record in the book of Philemon.

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