Maria Pascuzzi, The Battle of the Gospels The Apostle Paul   Imperial Politics


If I could have your attention for a few moments. Before I introduce Maria, A couple housekeeping duties. First, as always, we should be giving words of thanks. Of course thanks to Maria, but also thanks to my friend, Father Tom McElligott who faithfully recorded to use for students who cannot make it or don’t have a chance to that or you to use that of later tonight we should have this posted online so you can study.. uh make all the notes you want to make Let me introduce Maria But just one other housekeeping piece If you do have a cell phone, if you could do us a favor of please turning it off. I understand it’s almost irresistible But even if you put it on vibrate, everyone is going to be distracted for the next five minutes, watching to see how long it takes for you to check it. So, you know that’s just how it goes. So please do that. Now we’ve scheduled this talk to not just be a talk but a question period, so don’t think it’s over that time period. Most of us that ask for write-ups, usually ask that you talk about the questions that were asked and even pose one of your own questions. So, be thinking that while the talk is going on. Anyway, let me now introduce our speaker tonight: We are very fortunate, not only for tonight, but this year we have Marica Pascuzzi I want to make sure I get the Italian correct As a visiting professor here. Now, prior to this, she taught from 2000-2012 as a tenured associate professor at the University of San Diego, which you have probably heard of. Just before this time she was the Dean of the school of Theology [INAUDIBLE] Uh, prior to this year she was the Dean of the school of Theology and Ministry at the school of Saint Thomas University in Florida and she taught from 2000-2012 at the University of San Diego. She has her Doctoral degree in the [INAUDIBLE] University in Rome and she is also one of the most published authors we have here on campus. She has a book forthcoming, this coming year I believe. This December. Called ‘A Companion to Paul: Windows on his word and thought’ A few years ago she wrote ‘First and Second Corinthians’ a commentary for the college bible series. And just this last year, she wrote an article you might find fascinating for your own classes, ‘Did Paul Condemn Homosexuality?’ in Chicago studies.. Let me, with no further ado.. Now if we get distracted, we can just simply turn up our microphones. Unfortunately, there are lot of scheduling things tonight, thanks for coming here tonight rather than the basketball game. Thanks for coming here rather than the jazz concert and we might hear bits of the jazz concert but we are going to try to keep on going. So, Maria, it’s a pleasure, please welcome! [clapping] Ok Supposedly, at 8 O’clock in that room a jazz concert is going to start with about a 25 piece band and a sound system so I’m from Brooklyn, I talk fast, I am going to talk a little bit faster because I like to get through this So, tonight, we are going to talk about the thought and practice of a man known as Paul of Tarsus. If you are in the introduction to the bible classes, I am assuming that you up to studying Paul right now, you know he was a first century Jew he self-identified as a devout pharacy and an expert in interpretation of Jewish law. He also admitted to being the most zealous leader of the Jesus movement but after an experience on the road to demascus, which is usually referred to as his conversion, he became one of the most devout believers in Jesus and one of the most zealous preachers of the gospel He traveled thousands of miles around the Mediterranean basins, surviving beatings, he had a great story of imprisonments shipwreck, hunger, starvation, sickness avoidance in established communities and believers in Jesus mostly among gentiles, and by gentiles we mean non Jews, Pagans. During his 30 or so years of missionary work which ended with his arrest and his execution Sometime around 64 in Rome. He always considered himself a dedicated missionary. who was above reproach, above blame and in his own words, he said he worked harder than any other apostles and became all things to all people, so he could save everyone. Despite his glowing self-perception to other people he was a controversial figure he was very disliked and often opposed Jews considered him an Aposte, a turncoat many Jewish believers in Christ were suspicious of this form of persecuted Apostle and opposed his outreach to Pagans without demanding that they become circumsized and follow the Mosaic law code Paul was also a target of controversy in Pagan cities. Where his conversions of Pagans were cutting into the business of local artisans who made and sold statuettes of the local patriots and goddesses Paul was even denounced for political treason by the Thessalonians who claimed that he acted contrary to the decrees of the emperor saying that there was another king Jesus Despite all the opposition, Paul fought on to proclaim the gospel message, which he said was entrusted to him by no one but God He boasted about telling Peter off for his apparent hypocrisy and was known to tell opponents to go castrate themselves. In short, Paul was a force to be reckoned with. However, over the centuries this larger than life, feisty Jewish first century man and his world and his battles were largely forgotten as data interpreters domesticated Paul and portrayed him in ways that accommodated their own needs and their own battles and their own assumptions. The result, the Paul of history, who was jailed multiple times, beaten up, stood up to religious and political opponents who collected money for the poor and shared his ministry with women, began to fade from view. As first century Paul faded, so did attention to the unique, historical, social, and political circumstances within which he worked and the specific issues he addressed in his own day So tonight, as part of recent scholarly efforts to reanchor Paul and his message within his own first century world I’m going to take you back to that world into an understanding of a few things he said and did in light of that world So, That’s a mosaic of Paul in full color and as I said over the course of time Paul’s memory and what he did has begun to fade. Paul, the first century Jew So hopefully by the end of the lecture we are going to get back to the full blown color Paul So, let’s go back to his world Paul and the people that he talks about in his letters, both his friends and his foes all come from a shared past as we all do That past was lived down in the large urban centers around the mediterranean and it was no less pluralistic and bustling with conflicting ideas and opoions than our world is there was no end of politicians philosophers and teachers of religion. some of them were wise and some of them were frauds, they were all lying to be heard. As today, people in Paul’s time argued about life’s purpose. How to live? How to overcome fear of death? and many other questions of ultimate concern There were political and economic realities that also shaped peoples lives in Paul’s day And without a doubt, the macro reality that most impacted the life and times of Paul and Jesus and Na Pierce was roman imperial rule. By the time Paul began his missionary career in the mid to late 30’s of the first century Rome had been ruling the mediterranean world for almost 60 years The empire came about after decades of civil war had brought to ruin the Roman Republic. In 42 B.C. a man named Octovian and Marc Antone fought together to avenge the murder of Julius Cesar but ten years later Octavian eliminated Marc Antone and he become the uncontested ruler of Rome you might know Octovian better by his other name, Cesar Agustus he was a very politically astute man though he claimed he was not the emperor but only Rome’s chief citizen, or its princeps in reality he was the absolute ruler from 31 BC until 14 CE over a vast empire of ethnically and culturally diverse conquered peoples Onto Augustus and his successes the empire roots become the greatest economic military and political power the world had ever known And if you are not familiar with the extent of the Roman empire That’s what it was in Paul’s day and of course a little bit later on it moved up and also, um, had overtaken Britain. Poets, such as Virgil idealized this new period of peace and prosperity known as the Pax Romana or “The Peace of Rome.” As the restoration of a lost [inaudible] The Roman people were tired of war and corruption And they accepted Octavian’s [inaudible] political, cultural, and religious reform. And they granted in many, many hours including the title, Augustus or “The Revered One.” Augustus celebrated his accomplishments in a first-person account that he wrote called “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus” If you go to Rome today, and you ever get a chance to visit the Ara Pacis The Great Altar of Peace that was built in Augustine’s day which stands over the Tiber River In the millennium year, in 2000 they put a new wall outside and they carved The Deeds of Augustus on. In this account and other accounts about his reign and what they tell us is that indeed he did do many positive things especially for the city and the people of Rome However, for the majority of the population spread across the Mediterranean This was no golden age of peace Rome resorted to violence reinstated Imperial rule and to bring the so-called peace But now the subjugated peoples were deceived by Rome’s propaganda As evident from this remark which comes from a late first-century inhabitant He said, “To [inaudible], to slaughter, to plunder They give the lying name of Empire And yet they make a wasteland but they call it peace. Many conquered peoples revolted but the empire used its massive military power to put down the revolts slaughter insurgents who rejected the “divine gifts of peace and freedom” offered to them through Rome’s agency. Clearly, Roman imperial rule was imposed through violence However, It took a lot more than violence to allow Roman civilization to take hold Three other factors were about the unification and the acculturation that allowed Roman civilization to embed itself across a vast empire These three factors of a social system of patronage The imperial use of rhetoric to spread its propaganda And the spread of Imperial cult and Theology So let’s talk about patronage The patronage system was an elaborate spiderweb where relationships between the imperial family and the elite members of the local cities of the empire. So, local elites It’s like, if you’ve ever seen The Godfather I’m from Brooklyn, so we know The Godfather and the [inaudible] approach to things So local elites say they cultivated the personal favor of the emperor who was the [inaudible] patron. And he protected their financial and social interests So, in return, the local elites placed themselves, as you might expect to advance the interests of Rome. And by promoting Rome and erecting monuments and public works, to the glory of Rome they won honors and appointments to higher office as well as the esteem and the envy of the local folks. This exchange of favors was replicated in every level of the society Anyone of inferior status latched onto a local elite and remained indebted to this person. In this hierarchically structured patronage system of mutual obligations with all the lesser subjects depending on local patrons and all the local patrons depending on the patronage of Rome Everyone was either directly or indirectly obligated to the emperor who was the chief benefactor and the father of this whole global household. Seneca, the local statesman and philosopher Commented, that the emperor never had any need of guards since his benefaction was his greatest protection. So he gave so many good things to people He never had to worry because everybody was beholded to him The comment that is a bit exaggerated however, it underscores the dependence that was generated by the patronage system which was a very significant piece of glue that held the empire together. As one scholar observed, it was the basis of control and power that allowed a very small imperial administration to rule an entire empire. First. Second piece of good: rhetoric Rhetoric, just refers to the art of speaking well with the focus of persuasion. When democracies and democratic institutions arose in Syracuse and Athens in the fifth-century B.C. and people began to realize that society was better ordered by reason than by force, politicians needed to learn to speak well in order to persuade people as politicians do to a greater or lesser degree today depending on who you listen to We said of local citizens met it was expected that everyone would participate in political debates and decide what courses of action people would take so pursuasive speech played a very critical role in these deliberations But with the emergence of the empire decisions were made at the imperial level and were passed down through imperial appointees in the city So this eliminated the need for local meetings of people since imperial decrees determined how people were going to live So what happened to rhetoric? under the Romans rhetoric was used for imperial propaganda at public festivals and sporting events And whatever public things Rome did trained speakers used the power of word to persuade audiences to believe that the imperial gospel was what benefited them And the imperial gospel was essentially this: The empire was the agent of God’s divine plan of salvation and all the beneficiaries, that means all the people who were the recipients of Rome’s good benefactions all their gratitude and their allegiance to Rome and the emperor So in other words the message was that the empire is good for you and you actually are better off now than you were before As biblical scholar Walter Wint noted empires depend on rhetoric to legitimate themselves and to persuade people to believe that they benefit from the system that is in fact harmful to them that no other system is fesible that god has placed the divine seal of approval on this system and no other system 3rd, the spread of imperial cult and theology as with patronage and rhetoric the cult of the emperor with its accompanying theology proves very critical to the cohesion of the empire you can kind of call this the super glue over the other two things which sealed it all together what Agustus accomplished was called the evangelion Has everybody already heard the word evangelion in class? No, ok. evangelion is the greek word from which we get the English word evangelist meaning the writer of the evangelion ok and evangelion would translate into English as the good news or the gospel So, Rome had an evangelion it had a good news it had a gospel what the emperor accomplished was referred to as the good news and since he did in the eyes of many people what no human being was capable of doing they considered it very appropriate to call him the divine one and so began in the empire the worship of augustus who was called the divi filius the son of the divine one the son of god and not only the emperor but living and deceased members of the imperial family were worshiped the imperial cult or religion took root at various times and places in various forms throughout the empire the Greek peoples of the eastern empire had already practiced rule worship with Alexander the Great and they had very little trouble at all beginning the worship of the Roman emperor and this cult was as much about politics as much it was religion through it through the worship of the emperor subjects of the roman empire expressed their allegiance to both deified human rulers and to a deified cultural and political entity which they personified and called the Goddess Rome If you don’t understand what that means, I’ll explain it to you I went to live in Rome in the early 1980s and I didn’t know a whole lot of Italian then and I used to hear people say all the time oosa, oosa and I used to look it up in the dictionary and and oosa was part of the verb oosati, to use and I couldn’t understand But what I came to realize after awhile was ‘oosa’ stood for the United States of America, ‘oosa’ Ok, everybody in italy worshipped ‘oosa’ when I used to come home in the summers people that I knew in Rome, wanted me to bring them Crest toothpaste, Colgate toothpastse Jack Daniels, Timberland boots listerine it was unbelievable I mean if I could have brought a thousand tons of stuff, I would be the richest person in the world and would not be standing here because everyone adored ‘oosa’ so the idea is everybody took the culture of Rome and they turned her into a Goddess and they called her Roma you go to Rome today you can actually see statues of the Goddess Roma in Piazza de Copola and up all over important political sights in Rome so they worshipped not only the emperor but they worshipped the culture, Roma Eventually, The worship of both Roma the culture and Augustus the person comprised the kind of official imperial cult it was practiced in every major city of the empire the Jewish historian, Josifas, tells us that Harrah the great made sure that Palestine all on Jesus’ land had cities, temples, and public games dedicated to the emperor By the time Paul evangelized all around the Mediterranean basin the architecture of the imperial cult has transformed the mediterranean landscape Many cities had brand new enormous temples built in the center to Augustus and to Roma every city visited by the first Christian missionaries had coins with images of the emperor and Roma Most cities added new festivals to their liturgical calendar to celebrate the emperor’s birthdays, his deeds, his decrees, his victories, his titles The imperial cult existed alongside all the other cults and it functioned as an important tool to unify all of these desperate people from all over the empire and link them to the emperor Now here’s the important thing the imperial cult had its own good news gospel salvation story and it was rooted in two important theological convictions One The emperor was divinely appointed and two Rome under the emperor was the divinely chosen instrument through which God realized God’s plan of salvation for the world That story was told to all the media of the day coins, inscriptions literature statues, monuments There’s an inscription that was found relatively recently from 9 BC from a city called Priene, which is on the West Coast of Turkey today if you ever go there, you can visit the city of Priene and this these two fragments of an original inscription tell us something about what people thought about the emperor One fragment calls for a change to the calendar so that the new year can begin with the birthday of Cesar Augustus so look at what it says the birthday of the most divine Cesar is the day we just might leave set on par with the beginning of everything with Genesis with the beginning of creation in that he restored order when everything was disintigrating and gave a new look to the whole world a world which would have met destruction had Cesar not been born as a common blessing to everyone for that reason, one might justly think this to be the beginning of life and living and the end of regret at having been born The second part of the inscription says since the providence that has divinely ordered our existence has brought to life the most perfect good in Augustus whom she filled with virtues for the benefit of mankind bestowing him upon us and our descendants as our saviour He who put an end to war and brought peace Cesar who by his epiphany exceeds the hopes of all previous and it goes on and on and on about why we should start the calendar with the birthday of this guy Now These inscriptions attest that Augustus was considered the source of life and the saviour of the world who was responsible for its reconciliation its restoration its redemption His deeds and benefactions went beyond what anything and anyone could hope for that was Rome’s gospel that was Rome’s good news and it began with the birth of Augustin The poet Virgil said of Augustus it is a God who brought for us this peace and God he shall ever be to me In short the imperial salvation story proclaimed Cesar Augustus Lord savior son of God and a God himself his imperial rule brought to fruition the divine plan of salvation evident in the peace and abundance that everyone was said to enjoy We Americans are used to thinking of the terms separation of church and state However it should be clear to you that Rome made no pretense that religion and politics were distinct Rather it unapologetically proclaimed that the empire this political machine was divinely ordained Now As spokesmen for the emperor left Rome and traveled east along the great highways that were built by Rome proclaiming the imperial good news another group traveling west along those same highways towards Rome preached an alternative gospel For Paul, and all of the missionaries who were traveling with him towards Rome God had absolutely, absolutely, and emphatically not acted through the violent power of Rome and the Cesars but through Christ They believed and they announced that long awaited time of redemption renewal, abundance that the time of peace and salvation had indeed come but through Christ a powerless crucified messiah, the true son of God and the savior of the world If you have not knockered out yet and youve been listening to what I’ve been saying then you should realize this this was no minor difference of theological opinion about who God was and about how god acted in the world to bring about his salvation It was battle, it was a struggle for the hearts and minds of men and women who would have to choose Between two mutually exclusive gospels The gospel of Caesar or the gospel of Jesus Christ With that said, lets take a look now at some of Paul’s preaching and some of Paul’s practice and see how we can understand it in light of this Roman-Imperial context Although Paul never specifically states in his own letters That he intended his gospel to be a statement against Rome Or to stand as a counter-imperial proclamation The fact that he proclaimed Jesus of nasiryth a crucified criminal. Crucified by Rome as the true son of god and the lord of the world to whom everybody owed allegiance and not to Caesar Must’ve struck everybody who was listening to Paul and watched how he operated as very anti-Imperial As one scholar remarked many years ago, the new testament that we hold in our hands in our bible is a book of the Imperial age It applied to Jesus terms that were already in use in the imperial world for the emperor believers could not have missed the implications They were used to hearing that Caesar was the true son of god and savior of the world So lets consider some examples to impulse preaching an apostolic practice which kind of contained an anti imperial drift that would have been picked up by the people of his day so let’s start with something in the letter to the Philippians by the time Paul preached in a city called Philippi and you see Philippi up there on the Aegean Sea was a major port city by the time he preached there in 49 CE that once Greek coastal city had become thoroughly Romanized it’s too long a story but you know, they had sided with Marc Antone and when Octovian defeated Marc Antone they lost and they become a Roman colony and basically most of the citizens here were deported and Rome brought in Roman soldiers and Roman magistrates to run the city. So, it was a whiling Roman city the imperial cult was practiced there um there was a huge temple to Augustus that was found there that was also to his wife, Livia Livia was declared a goddess in 42 just six or seven years before Paul was there while Paul was in Philippi he was arrested and was beaten up and was thrown in jail and he and his companion were charged with disturbance disturbance in aggregating customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept whatever he said we don’t know but apparently they perceived him as speak against Rome Some years later while he was in prison in another place he wrote a letter to the people in Philippi who were suffering on account of their belief in Jesus and reminds them in this letter that that’s ok that they belong to another, another state and they are waiting the coming of their savior Jesus Christ but that in the meantime they needed to take on the mind and the character of their savior Jesus and so Paul introduces into his letter, a very famous passage that you may have heard of I’m not going to read it to you just take a moment to read it to yourself It’s from the second chapter of Philippians and it’s called the Philippians hymn it’s been interpreted to mean many things but when you consider it agains the background that I have just laid out to you of the imperial cult and the practice of honoring the emperor with special titles I think that you can begin to see that Paul is drawing a contrast between the emperor and Christ Especially because of that phrase He did not be god equality with god In Greek the phrase is isa theo equality to god What’s that got to do with anything? Well in the world in which Paul ministered The pursuit of honor was an obsession both men and women sought recognition and they used money and power to gain it and influence People with money did what people with money always do they build things theaters, markets, fountains and they put their names on it If you look around this campus everything got a name on it, somebody paid for it the idea is we are supposed to think they are important and we are supposed to remember them people in Paul’s day who did that received honorary titles and they enjoyed the respect of others. The highest honor a person could receive was to be considered isa theo equal to the Gods The very expression that we find in Philippians in the eastern part of the roman empire the title isa theo equal to god Was usually given to someone who had demonstrated characteristics characteristics not normally associated with human beings So for example, somebody saved a city from war or from famine or from pillage or from some other natural disaster Something that people thought only a god could do So that person got the title isa theo equal to the gods However when César Augustus became the emperor and a new political climate came into existence almost everybody realized that only the emperor should be given that title But look at this hymn of early Christianity The Philippians hymn proclaims another lord who unlike the emperor does not grasp after divine honors Yet in the end Jesus receives the Devine honors from God Notice that Jesus’s name God exalts that name and Jesus’s name every knee is going to bend and every one is going to confess that only Jesus is Lord according to this hymn the Devine honors come to Christ who seeks no honor and asserts no power over anyone. But obediently submits himself to death, even death on a cross which of course was the icon of Rome’s ruthlessness and terrorization of people with the cross Yet neither death nor Rome has dominion over Christ whom God exhalus and enthrones as the true ruler of the world as one New Testament scholar remarked the scope of the submission to Christ which is envisioned in this hymn includes going beyond the emperor’s realm it refers to a realm and a lordship not only over things on Earth but also things in Heaven now if you look at the political climate of the things I’ve just told you about for the last half hour it would be very hard to ignore the hymn’s anti imperial key by insisting that Christ alone was equal to God the earliest Christians, I guess you could say, they sang the hymn of protest against the imperial deification practices against the emperor cult and against the social standards used to measure and give divine status Moreover, if as the hymn insists Christ is above the emperor then for believers Christ imperatives and his model of humility and unity out rate the imperials’ societies imperatives which work against these The polemical conflictual intent of this hymn was not lost on one scholar who said this Quote We cannot escape the conjecture that Christians who heard Saint Paul preach in the style of this hymn must have found in his proclamation as Jesus as Lord a silent protest against other Lords and against the Lord as people were beginning to call the Roman emperor Let’s take another example Paul and the patronage system the social system of patronage structured imperial society and it had one purpose if you read the classicist who study the purpose was to bind the receiver of the benefit who was called the client to the giver of the benefit who was called the patron No amount of gratitude on the part of the client could repay the patron for his help in fact any demonstration of gratitude was really just an acknowledgement of the client’s inferior states so whether practiced at the imperial level or at the local level the patronage system served to reinforce inequality and dependency It just said, I have nothing I depend on you Patronal relations, language, and ideology permeated society at every level via a constant flow of favors even philosophers and teachers and other men of arts and letters sought patrons and if you go back and read a lot of the Roman writings they give you many satirical accounts of these people who they call kept men and they were kind of reduced to pandering to their patrons they would get up in the morning and be with them follow them around the city uh, say nice things about them Marshall who is a famous Roman poet in Satres compared the patron client relationship to a master slave relationship so if you receive patronage effectively, you were owned you gave up your freedom Acts of the apostles reports that Paul worked he worked as a tent maker and in his own writings he reports and confirms that he actually worked with his own hands in the past scholars assumed that most early Christians were from the local classes but today more scholars agree that Paul was a very cultured man who chose to lower himself to do manual labor in order to be self-sufficient the question is why? Why would he do that? Paul tells us himself in the letter to the Corinthians in ch 9 where he states that he chose self-sufficiency so that he would be under obligation under no one and so that he could preach the gospel free of charge to everyone Paul’s renunciations of the community’s financial support to which he and every apostle had a right If you preached the gospel your community was obliged to take care of you Paul said he chose to work with the [inaudible] and even refused to get letters of recommendation which we use through the imperial citizen to get you in to different places He rejected this, he refused it and this reflects his voice to avoid entanglement in the patronage system that structured civic and social relationships Paul preferred to be a slave to physical work rather than run the risk of being a slave to a patron and not being free to proclaim the gospel Paul’s refusal of this social system of patronage and the dependent status that he could have forced on him caused him a great deal of trouble during his lifetime some saw it as proof that he was not an authentic apostle if you were an authentic apostle and you were worth your pay then you should have taken the money It seemed to have raised a lot of suspicions about Paul In fact one suspicion that was raised about Paul, was that while he was saying openly that he wasn’t taking money he was really stealing money from the collection for Jerusalem This probably explains why in a second letter he wrote to the Corinthians in chapter 8 he said that if the Corinthians would only come through on the collection that he wanted he would not touch the money but send it to Jerusalem to the people that they trusted Paul reminds the Corinthians that he took these steps so that no one would blame him about how he administered the money so despite being misunderstood Paul never caved into societal patronage expectations but we affirmed his unique obligation to the Lord at the service of the Gospel where he sensed no threat of being under obligation he took money if you read the letter to the Philippians, you’ll see that he took money from that community But even when he writes to the Philippians he informs them at the end of the letter that while he appreciated their existence he didn’t ask for it and so he makes it clear to them that he is under no obligation Now, we started a little bit late and I am afraid the trumpets are going to start blasting in a minute So I am going to skip over Paul’s no to persuasive rhetoric and I am going to go to my final example which is Paul offering an alternative economic system so I want to skip ahead to slide 10 Ok, one final thing A count to imperial strategy to consider is Paul’s efforts to involve believers in an alternative economic system that would have rendered the Christian movement distinct and independent from Rome and the imperial way of doing things, ok according to one scholar of classical antiquity the story of the Roman economy can be told along two lines the aggregate income of the empire and the per capita income So, the whole aggregate economy, everything that was Rome’s economy and then what individual people got measured by the aggregate income Roman economy was fairly healthy and everybody could have enjoyed a respectable standard of living Had the resources been evenly divided but they were not Incomes were functions of land ownership and vast estates remained in the hands of an elite few both in Rome and in the provinces a small percentage of the population, maybe 2% became wealthy from tennage, ranks, and taxes the economic inequality was a major cause of social inequality and instability Within ever smaller elite controlling an ever larger part of the economy so as one scholar said the wealth of the elite may not have been a sign of the prospering economy of which Romans historians boasted But instead of the effective exploitation of the poor, it sounds like something you could read today about American economy So, these people the poor, comprised the majority of the population, they lived in subsistence levels And they bore a huge tax burden To support the empire especially the military These observations serve as a reminder That standards of living never depend on the growth of an economy but on how resources are distributed And who gets them and who gets to decide who gets them Paul’s old letters testified to his involvement in a very ambitious project that he called the collection If you read his letters you see that he mentions it in Galatians in Romans, and first Corinthians and second Corinthians Besides Galatians, he mentions the collection in these other letters And he is clearly concerned to make sure he got the collection This was a big part of his missionary life Because the collecting of money is so routine today in churches Go to church and put money in
It’s easy to overlook, how revolutionary this practice was in his day So think about this, in a world structured by patronage, With all the inequality and obligation that it entailed Paul was asking communities of believers in one city, to share their money Without expectations of any return or any dependency With poor people in other cities like Jerusalem, And throughout the Mediterranean basin,
Whom they had never met and from whom they could not get anything in return. Biblical scholar Richard Horsly
Noted that the international character of the system and its economic reciprocity, were not only unusual but were unique in the ancient world, no body did this, nobody had a horizontal movement of resources among a community of equals with no expectations of getting anything back And here was Paul structuring this system to create a separate economic system based on mutual care and concern And what was the purpose of the collection to achieve equality iso tatos Paul makes this explicit in second Corinthians 8, where he states I don’t mean that others should be eased and you should be burdened but that it is a matter of equality your abundance should supply their world You have a lot, I am not asking you to get poor and starve, I am just saying you have more spread your money out so that everybody has enough and what was the impetus for this what was the reason for it Paul gives the example of the lord Jesus Christ who he says voluntarily impoverished himself to benefit other people Though he was poor, he became rich Excuse me. Rich he became poor for your sake so that by his poverty you might become rich the equality envisioned by Paul implies more than a one time act of generosity and in the collection he sought to realize the social ideal of equal distribution and the permanent sharing of material wealth based on the imitation of Christ this was incredibly radical it would be radical in our own day nobody gives money out without expecting something in return No bank gives you money without charging you interest No government gives you student loans without expecting you to pay a huge amount of interest Initially, on the Philippian community seemed to have adopted this proposed system other communities Paul had to coax over and over again But the system eventually evolved over time and allowed the early Christians to establish themselves as an independent movement operating apart from the imperial system with its inequitable distribution of resources so the collection was a tangible expression of the unity of the church which emphasized social obligation on behalf of those who have less Today, this Christian ideal threatens to be swept away by capitalism and the resurgence of the same type of systemic poverty that prevailed in the Roman empire which we see in our own world today So, let me just wrap it up now In brief In his own preaching lifestyle and in practices he promoted among believers Paul fostered a number of ideas, a number of values and a number of practices that ran counter to the practices and ideals fostered in imperial society He expected believers to live differently from the society established by the Roman imperial order and to be governed by another vision of reality another set of values another Lord and another King When we put Paul back into his own world. The color comes back in his portrait. And we begin to realize the challenge set forth for the first believers. We understand that he was presenting belivers with a stark choice. God’s way or Caesar’s way. Today, no less than in the first century there are competing gospels. There are new imperial powers and new injustices perpetrated by new Imperial systems and there’s new persuasive rhetoric that tries to legitimate war, injustice, poverty violations of human rights and a host of other practices that guarantees the well-being of a few people at the expense of the many. So today, no less than the first century world of Rome a choice is asked of you We are either for the Imperial gospel of the Ceasars or we’re Jesus and his good news. Thank you. I know we started a little late because of some technical difficulties So if you have any questions I’m glad to answer them Or comments. You could say you didn’t like it, or you don’t understand it, whatever. I’ll be happy to entertain your questions. Yes. Were there other people other than the ones we know about that were doing this, going around, getting money being or whatever, other than the ones that we know about? Well we know what we know about Paul because we have evidence from the New Testament. It was in an agreement he made between the head apostles in Jerusalem. He would preach to the gentiles and he would go on missions to the circumcised that pleased the Jews and that the only thing that they asked of him Paul was to get the collection. As early as Christianity moved up, now we’re moving out of the New Testament. This idea of the collection continued. So the sharing of goods. You even read if you open up Acts of the Apostles a kind of idealized version of what the community of believers liked where they shared all their goods. So it’s not something that was unique to Paul but it was certainly a unique and radical vision that he brings to the world of early Christianity. Somebody else over there have a question? You mentioned at the beginning how Paul’s ideas kind of faded after his death Would you suggest that maybe we should look closer into them and based on the ideas of his economic system and the collection ideas that maybe he’s more important than we give him credit for than he should be Well, he is so important. The reason why he kind of faded out of existence is this Ok so how do we know about him. Well he wrote him seven letters that are in the New Testament that presumably you’re studying or atleast have heard of. But the letters that he wrote were very specific to groups of people within the Mediterranean base. So as I said the other day in class after he preached and set up a community he moved on. And then if there were troubles or questions within that community he wrote back to them. So his letters were very group specific. You know, if I found a letter that somebody wrote today that was specific to a particular community of people even if the person was famous, I might read it but I might say, “what does it have to do with me?” So, over time people began to look at his letters as too too community specific and in addition he was dealing with problems that came up in the first century which in the 500s didn’t make any sense anymore. So, over time Paul became Saint Paul and idealized person a systematic theologian then in the hands of Luther the great preacher of salvation by faith alone so it’s really only in the 20th century that people have begun to go back and try to study all of the new testament writings in the historical world in which these people lived and did their ministry not just Paul, but Jesus as well So, yeah we are trying to go back and understand what these letters and what these actions and ideas would have sounded like to the people who were living in his day and then to try to bridge these 2,000 years by asking questions about how they apply to our own day Anybody else? Yes Maria Isn’t Paul in a very radical sense and I think that is totally right. Can you say a little bit about the choices that he also made about like submitting to the government or slave state in your slavery, I mean like clearly there are two things going on, can you say a little about the other half? Well, there is a.. if you go home tonight and you have nothing to do and you open your New Testament to Romans Chapter 13 versus 1-7 um there is a passage in there that’s like the Achyllis heels of the radical readings of Paul because in it, Paul says something like:you know we all have to be subordinated to the government, to the empire and people have struggled with how can you have this really radical Paul who also says, you know, pay your taxes and also be subordinate to the government, it doesn’t seem to make any sense over the course of the interpretation of that passage um and I’ve studied and I’ve written about it there aren’t really a whole lot of satisfactory answers But, in this book that I just published I went to what’s called post colonial theory to try to understand why Paul says that Post colonial theory, um kind of investigates the mindset of people who have been colonized you know what colonized means so you know that Europeans went into Africa and believed that Africans were people without culture and civilization and they went in there to give them culture, civilization, education to colonize and enculturate them Ok, um And when you study post colonial theory, what you discover is that people who are colonized don’t have one attitude towards their colonizers Ok, now Paul was a person who lived in a colonized world, Rome took over everybody’s country, Greece, Palestine, North Africa France, Spain, and eventually Britain, parts of Germany, Austria They took over, they colonized everybody and they brought their culture So, how do people respond to colonizers this you can figure out on your own well you love them and you hate them Why? Well Rome did do a lot of good things. if you go to Israel today you can see the remains of the roads that Rome built they made the seas safe for travel the aqueducts that brought water onto places that didn’t have water it’s all there, you love them but you hate them at the same time You love them but you hate them at the same time and so sometimes you just have to suck it up and give in and in post colonia theory, the idea is that their in order to aviod certain reproccusions that would have made Rome come down with a stronger hammer on the people that are living in Rome, Paul said Suck it up, pay the taxes ok It happens it happens with teachers, suck it up, take the grade um, it’s the way it is, you love em and you hate em right? its’ that time of year when you love and you hate your teachers anybody else ok Tom, are we good to go? Sure, could I ask you a question? Sure, yeah I am waiting In the end, Christianity wins out, the Roman empire disappears do you see the roots of that in this discussion that you are talking about? In the end, say that again.. One of the big questions in early Christian history How in the world did the Christian church ultimately become what it is? Well, because I think certainly the answer that you would read in some books is that Christianity survived and flourished because it became the empire it [inadudible] the empire um, we went over this the other day in class, in 313 the edict of Constantine who says that Christians can no longer be a persecuted minority and then in 380 the emperor Theodosius says that Christianity is now the world religion so Christianity kinda for lack of a better word, kinda took over the template of the empire and became itself with imperial force in the world 300’s, 400’s, 500’s, 600’s and it became and people would say um, in some ways um, some ways in became the empire that initially it sought to oppose but some of the things in the empire became valuable tools and vehicles for spreading christianity and that’s how Christianity survived, so it didn’t really beat the empire, it kind of joined the empire So we have imperial Christianity Um, I think some people would say that as Christianity comes out of the 300, 400, 500s it begins to wear imperial dress and adopt imperial strategies and imperial structures Um, and Some people would say that kind of moved the church away from the simple gospel of Jesus Christ and the Protestants would be saying sempre reformanda, the church is always trying to reform itself and make sure it returns to the simple roots of Jesus and Paul and certainly and if you pay attention to what’s going on in Rome, we have a Pope now who certainly is advocating a return to that simplicity in the gospel values No more emperors clothes Good night everyone, thanks a lot! [Applause]




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