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.