Original Research - Special Collection: New Testament landscape in Zimbabwe

Paul, the prisoner (Acts 23:34-35): An insight into 2018-2022 political prisoner’s rights in Zimbabwe

Lovejoy Chabata
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 4 | a8984 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i4.8984 | © 2023 Lovejoy Chabata | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 May 2023 | Published: 26 December 2023

About the author(s)

Lovejoy Chabata, Department of New Testament, Faculty of Theology, Ethics, Religious Studies and Philosophy, Catholic University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe; and Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Undisputed letters of Paul and Acts of the Apostles are replete with details of the Gentile Missionary’s multiple imprisonments, so much as to qualify him a ‘jailbird’ description. Paul’s incarceration in Herod’s palace for 2 years (Ac 23:34–35), his arraignment before Governor Felix and subsequent detention for 5 days before plea (Acts 24) on charges of inciting public violence, being a ringleader of a cultic faction and causing disturbances in the Jerusalem Temple, resonate with the contentious arrests and imprisonment without bail and trial of members of opposition political parties in Zimbabwe. Consistent with New Testament passages that exhort caring for prisoners and the need to grant justice to those facing trial, this study seeks to understand how inmates in Zimbabwean prisons have been on the receiving end of relics of the ancient Roman Legal system in the country’s Human Rights history between 2018 and 2022. The article demonstrates how the New Testament can be deployed to grapple with distress calls emerging from Zimbabwe’s prison walls as part of advocacy for judicial reforms in the country’s quest for rule of Law. At the end, the article recommends ways in which Churches in Zimbabwe can tap from New Testament passages how to operate an effective prison ministry in liaison with the Prisons and Correctional Services Department of the Government of Zimbabwe. The article employs qualitative methods of Socio-Historical and Ethnographic Analyses to discuss how human rights pitfalls in Paul’s imprisonments present remedial lessons in Zimbabwe’s quest for judicial reforms.

Contribution: Deployment of the Bible to redress Human Rights issues in Zimbabwe. Demonstration of how Early Christian Literature can dialogue with contemporary African Sitz im Leben for social transformation.


Prisoner Paul’s rights; Zimbabwe; political prisoners; judicial reforms; rule of law.


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