Jesus' Followers and the Roman Empire

Christopher Bryan

in Render to Caesar

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780195183344
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835584 | DOI:
Jesus' Followers and the Roman Empire

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Paul writes within the biblical tradition, regarding the state as God’s minister for God’s purposes: therefore the state’s authority is legitimate but open to prophetic challenge. Paul urges Christians to pay tax and respect the state’s right to execute “wrath.” Probably he also urges wealthy Christians to benefaction, thereby seeking the good of the city. All this is with a view to the new age that Paul believes is dawning in Christ. Much rhetoric of Pauline proclamation—Jesus as “lord” and “son of God”—resonates with Roman imperial rhetoric: such resonance does not necessarily imply confrontation and may imply approval. Suggestions that Christians’ claims to heavenly “citizenship” were denials of their Roman citizenship involve a failure to understand metaphor. Mere constraints of language obliged Paul to use at times the same vocabulary to speak of the divine as did others. Paul writes only once directly of the Roman state (Rom 13.1–7), and there he is generally positive.

Keywords: Citizenship; Imperial rhetoric; Lord; Metaphor; Minister; New age; Prophetic challenge; Son of God; Wrath

Chapter.  7750 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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