Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Ben C. Smith
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Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

Post by Ben C. Smith »

I am accumulating examples of Roman imperial propaganda or similar concepts to which various Christian texts may be responding.

My Lord and My God

Propaganda:

Suetonius, Life of Domitian 13.1-2: 1 Principatum vero adeptus neque in senatu iactare dubitavit et patri se et fratri imperium dedisse, illos sibi reddidisse, neque in reducenda post divortium uxore edicere revocatam eam in pulvinar suum. Adclamari etiam in amphitheatro epuli die libenter audiit: "Domino et dominae feliciter!" Sed et Capitolino certamine cunctos ingenti consensu precantes, ut Palfurium Suram restitueret pulsum olim senatu ac tunc de oratoribus coronatum, nullo responso dignatus tacere tantum modo iussit voce praeconis. 2 Pari arrogantia, cum procuratorum suorum nomine formalem dictaret epistulam, sic coepit: "Dominus et deus noster hoc fieri iubet." Unde institutum posthac, ut ne scripto quidem ac sermone cuiusquam appellaretur aliter. Statuas sibi in Capitolino non nisi aureas et argenteas poni permisit ac ponderis certi. Ianos arcusque cum quadrigis et insignibus triumphorum per regiones urbis tantos ac tot exstruxit, ut cuidam Graece inscriptum sit: "Arci." / 1 When he became emperor, he did not hesitate to boast in the senate that he had conferred their power on both his father and his brother, and that they had but returned him his own; nor on taking back his wife after their divorce, that he had "recalled her to his divine couch." He delighted to hear the people in the amphitheatre shout on his feast day: "Good Fortune attend our Lord and Mistress." Even more, in the Capitoline competition, when all the people begged him with great unanimity to restore Palfurius Sura, who had been banished some time before from the senate, and on that occasion received the prize for oratory, he deigned no reply, but merely had a crier bid them be silent. 2 With no less arrogance he began as follows in issuing a circular letter in the name of his procurators, "Our Lord and God bids that this be done [[dominus et deus noster hoc fieri iubet]]." And so the custom arose of henceforth addressing him in no other way even in writing or in conversation. He suffered no statues to be set up in his honour in the Capitol, except of gold and silver and of a fixed weight. He erected so many and such huge vaulted passage-ways and arches in the various regions of the city, adorned with chariots and triumphal emblems, that on one of them someone wrote in Greek: "It is enough."

Domitian calls himself "Lord and God" (dominus et deus).

Response?

John 20.24-29: 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." 26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus comes, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then He says to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God [ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου, dominus meus et deus meus]!" 29 Jesus says to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

Thomas affirms that it is Jesus who is "Lord and God" (ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου).

Gospel

Propaganda:

Priene calendar inscription, circa 9 before Christ: Ἔδοξεν τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς Ἀσίας Ἕλλησιν, γνώμῃ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως Ἀπολλωνίου τοῦ Μηνοφίλου Ἀζανίτου· ἐπε[ιδὴ ἡ θείως] διατάξασα τὸν βίον ἡμῶν πρόνοια σπουδὴν εἰσεν[ενκαμ]ένη καὶ φιλοτιμίαν τὸ τεληότατον τῶι βίωι διεκόσμη[σεν ἀγαθὸν] ἐνενκαμένη τὸν Σεβαστόν, ὃν εἰς εὐεργεσίαν ἀνθρώ[πων] ἐπλήρωσεν ἀρετῆς, <ὥ>σπερ ἡμεῖν καὶ τοῖς μεθ’ ἡ[μᾶς σωτῆρα χαρισαμένη] τὸν παύσαντα μὲν πόλεμον, κοσμήσοντα [δὲ εἰρήνην, ἐπιφανεὶς δὲ] ὁ Καῖσαρ τὰς ἐλπίδας τῶν προλαβόντων [εὐανγέλια πάντων ὑπερ]έθηκεν, οὐ μόνον τοὺς πρὸ αὐτοῦ γεγονότ[ας εὐεργέτας ὑπερβαλόμενος, ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ἐν τοῖς ἐσομένοις ἐλπίδ[α ὑπολιπὼν ὑπερβολῆς,] ἤρξεν δὲ τῶι κόσμωι τῶν δι’ αὐτὸν εὐανγελί[ων ἡ γενέθλιος ἡμέ]ρα τοῦ θεοῦ, τῆς δὲ Ἀσίας ἐψηφισμένης ἐν Σμύρνῃ.... / [Ben C. Smith:] It was seemly to the Greeks in Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since providence, which has ordered all things of our life and is very much interested in our life, has ordered things in sending Augustus, whom she filled with virtue for the benefit of men, sending him as a savior both for us and for those after us, him who would end war and order all things, and since Caesar by his appearance surpassed the hopes of all those who received the good tidings, not only those who were benefactors before him, but even the hope among those who will be left afterward, and the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of the good tidings through him; and Asia resolved it in Smyrna.... / [Craig Evans:] It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance excelled even our anticipations, surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him, which Asia resolved in Smyrna....

The birthday of Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings (= gospel, in the plural) for the world.

Response?

Mark 1.1: 1 The beginning of the gospel [ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Not to mention other uses of the term "gospel" in Christian texts.

Peace and Safety

Propaganda:

Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.98.1-3: 1 Dum ea, quae diximus, in Pannonia Germaniaque geruntur, atrox in Thracia bellum ortum, omnibus eius gentis nationibus in arma accensis, L. Pisonis, quem hodieque diligentissimum atque eundem lenissimum securitatis urbanae custodem habemus, 2 virtus compressit (quippe legatus Caesaris triennio cum iis bellavit gentesque ferocissimas plurimo cum earum excidio nunc acie, nunc expugnationibus in pristinum pacis redegit modum) eiusque patratione Asiae securitatem, Macedoniae pacem reddidit. De quo viro hoc omnibus sentiendum ac praedicandum est, esse mores eius vigore ac lenitate mixtissimos 3 et vix quemquam reperiri posse, qui aut otium validius diligat aut facilius sufficiat negotio et magis quae agenda sunt curet sine ulla ostentatione agendi. / 1 While the events of which we have spoken were taking place in Pannonia and in Germany, a fierce rebellion arose in Thrace, and all its clans were aroused to arms. It was terminated by the valour of Lucius Piso, whom we still have with us today as the most vigilant and at the same time the gentlest guardian of the security of the city. 2 As lieutenant of Caesar he fought the Thracians for three years, and by a succession of battles and sieges, with great loss of life to the Thracians, he brought these fiercest of races to their former state of peaceful subjection. By putting an end to this war he restored security to Asia and peace to Macedonia. Of Piso all must think and say that his character is an excellent blend of firmness and gentleness, 3 and that it would be hard to find anyone possessing a stronger love of leisure, or, on the other hand, more capable of action, and of taking the necessary measures without thrusting his activity upon our notice.

IMT Skam/NebTaeler 324, Troas, century I before Christ:

1 ὁ δῆμος κα[ὶ οἱ ν]έοι
2 [Γναῖον Πο]μπήιον, Γναίου [ὑ]ιόν, Μάγνον, τὸ τρίτον
3 [αὐτοκράτ]ορα, τὸν πατρώνα καὶ εὐεργέτην τῆς πόλεως
4 [εὐσεβεία]ς ἕνεκεν τῆς πρὸς τὴν θεὸν τὴν οὖσαν αὐτῶι
5 [...]ν καὶ εὐνοίας τῆς πρὸς τὸν δῆμον, ἀπολύσαντα
6 [τοὺς ἀ]νθρώπους ἀπό τε τῶν βαρβαρικῶν πολέμων
7 [καὶ τῶν π]ιρατικῶν κινδύνων ἀποκαθεστάκοτα δὲ
8 [εἰρ]ήνην καὶ τὴν ἀσφάλειαν καὶ κατὰ γῆν καὶ κατὰ θάλασσαν.

[My own translation:] The People an[d the Y]ouths (honor) [Gnaeus Po]mpey the Great, [s]on of Gnaeus, [Autocrat] for the third time, the Patron and Benefactor of the city on account o[f his piety] toward the goddess who is [...]n for him and of his goodwill toward the people, having released [h]umans from barbaric wars [and from] dangers from [p]irates, and having restored [pea]ce and safety both by land and by sea.

Psalms of Solomon 8.18 [speaking probably of Pompey]: 18 εἰσῆλθεν ὡς πατὴρ εἰς οἶκον υἱῶν αὐτοῦ μετ᾽ εἰρήνης· ἔστησεν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ μετὰ ἀσφαλείας πολλῆς. / 18 He went in as a father into the house of his sons with peace; he established his feet with much safety.

Praeneste was "a town that also featured altars celebrating Pax Augusta and Securitas Augusta and was a favorite retreat of both the emperors Augustus and Tiberius" [link].

Claudius Pax coin:

Image

Nero Securitas coin:

Image

"Peace and safety" (pax et securitas) seems to have almost been a slogan for imperial control.

Response?

1 Thessalonians 5.1-3: 1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, "Peace and safety [εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια, pax et securitas]," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Nuh uh, says the apostle.

Savior of the World

Propaganda:

IG II2 3273, Attica, years 49-53:

1 Τιβέριον Κλαύδιον Καίσαρα Σεβαστὸν
2 Γερμανικὸν αὐτοκράτορα σωτῆρα
3 τοῦ κόσμου ἡ βουλὴ ἡ ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγου
4 [κ]αὶ ἡ βουλὴ τῶν ἑξακοσίων καὶ ὁ δῆμος,
5 στρατηγοῦντος ἐπὶ τοὺς ὁπλείτας τὸ δʹ
6 [Τιβερίου Κ]λαυδίου Νουίου ἐξ Οἴου.

[My own translation:] The Council of the Areopagus [a]nd the Council of the Six Hundred and the People (honor) Tiberius Claudius Caesar Sebastos Germanicus, Autocrat, Savior of the World [σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου], while [Tiberius C]laudius Novius is serving as General of the Hoplites from Oeum.

Apparently Claudius Caesar is the savior of the world.

Response?

John 4.42: 42 And they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world [ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου]."

Philippians 3.20: 20 For our citizenship [πολίτευμα] is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior [σωτῆρα], the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 4.10: 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men [σωτὴρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων], especially of believers.

Well, actually, Jesus is the savior of the world.

Advent

Propaganda:

Craig Evans, Commentary on Mark 8.27-16.20, pages lxxxvii-lxxxviii: The anticipated arrival of the emperor was referred to as a παρουσία (Latin adventus). In honor of the Roman emperors, "advent coins" were struck; e.g., a coin struck in 66 C.E. in honor of Nero reads adventus Augusti, "the coming of Augustus." An inscription in honor of Hadrian speaks of the "first παρουσία of the god Hadrian" (both examples from Deissmann, Light, 371-72). P.Teb. 48 announces the παρουσία of the king to the forum. This manner of speaking is known to Judaism of late antiquity, as seen in Josephus, who also speaks of the "παρουσία of the king" (Ant. 19.8.1. 340; cf. 3 Macc 3:17; T. Abr. 13:4-6). [Papyrus Tebtunis 48 is dated to the second century before Christ.]

Adventus coin (Nero):

Image

F. F. Bruce, Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, page 57: The παρουσία (Lat adventus) of a very important person might inaugurate a new era, as happened with the visit of Hadrian to Athens and other Greek cities in A. D. 124--an inscription of A. D. 192/3 at Tegea is dated "in the year 69 of the first παρουσία of the god Hadrian in Greece...." Not long after 1 Thessalonians was written, coins bearing some such legend as adventus Augusti were struck at Corinth and Patras to commemorate an official visit of Nero.

N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, page 341: Parousia means 'presence' as opposed to apousia, 'absence'; hence it denotes the 'arrival' of someone not at the moment present; and it is especially used in relation to the visit 'of a royal or official personage' [note 95: Liddell-Scott-Jones, page 1343].

Response?

New Testament usages (ordinary):
  • 1 Corinthians 16.17.
    2 Corinthians 7.6.
    2 Corinthians 7.7.
    2 Corinthians 10.10.
    Philippians 1.26.
    Philippians 2.12.
New Testament usages (eschatological):
  • Matthew 24.3.
    Matthew 24.27.
    Matthew 24.37.
    Matthew 24.39.
    1 Corinthians 15.23.
    1 Thessalonians 2.19.
    1 Thessalonians 3.13.
    1 Thessalonians 4.15.
    1 Thessalonians 5.23.
    2 Thessalonians 2.1.
    2 Thessalonians 2.8.
    2 Thessalonians 2.9 (the advent or presence of the man of lawlessness).
    James 5.7.
    James 5.8.
    2 Peter 1.16.
    2 Peter 3.4.
    2 Peter 3.12 (the advent of the day of God).
    1 John 2.28.
Ignatius to the Philadelphians 9.2: 2. But there is something distinct about the gospel — that is, the coming [παρουσίαν] of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, his suffering, and resurrection. For the beloved prophets made their proclamation looking ahead to him; but the gospel is the finished work that brings immortality. All things together are good, if you believe while showing forth love.

Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 9.3 (long recension only).

Shepherd of Hermas, Parable 5.5.3: "The fence posts are the Lord's holy angels who surround his people. The weeds that were removed from the vineyard are the lawless deeds of the slaves of God. The foods that he sent to him from his dinner are the commandments he has given his people through his Son. The friends and advisers are the holy angels who were created first. And the absence of the master is the time that remains until his coming [παρουσίαν]."

Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 52.3: 3 For the prophets have proclaimed two advents [παρουσίας] of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonoured and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils.

Refer also to Dialogue with Trypho 14, 32, 40, 52, 110, 121.

Eusebius, History of the Church 5.24.1-8: 1 But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: 2 "We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming [παρουσίας], when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. 3 He fell asleep at Ephesus. 4 And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. 5 Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? 6 All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. 7 I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said, 'We ought to obey God rather than man.'" 8 He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows: "I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus."

Further context:

Judith 10.18: 18 There was great excitement in the whole camp, for her arrival [παρουσία] was reported from tent to tent, and they came and stood around her as she waited outside the tent of Holofernes while they told him about her.

2 Maccabees 8.12-13: 12 Word came to Judas concerning Nicanor's invasion; and when he told his companions of the arrival [παρουσίαν] of the army, 13 those who were cowardly and distrustful of God's justice ran off and got away.

2 Maccabees 15.21: 21 Maccabeus, perceiving the coming [παρουσίαν] of the hosts and the varied supply of arms and the savagery of the elephants, stretched out his hands toward heaven and called upon the Lord who works wonders; for he knew that it is not by arms, but as the Lord decides, that he gains the victory for those who deserve it.

3 Maccabees 3.17-18: 17 They accepted our presence [παρουσίαν] by word, but insincerely by deed, because when we proposed to enter their inner temple and honor it with magnificent and most beautiful offerings, 18 they were carried away by their traditional conceit, and excluded us from entering; but they were spared the exercise of our power because of the benevolence which we have toward all.

The following instances of παρουσία are the only three in the Wars, and all refer to the presence or coming of a military leader or force:
  • 2.21.6 §79, of Josephus with his army.
    4.5.5 §345, of the Idumeans.
    5.9.4 §410, of Titus.
The following instances of παρουσία in the Antiquities refer to the presence or coming either of human beings (including royal personages or official dignitaries) or of things:
  • 1.8.2 §168, of Abraham.
    1.19.1 §281, of good things.
    1.19.3 §287, of Jacob.
    1.19.5 §296, of Esau.
    2.3.1 §20, of Joseph as housemate.
    2.13.1 §279, of Aaron and Moses.
    4.8.2 §180, of things lacking.
    5.1.26 §109, of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
    5.8.10 §304, of Samson.
    5.11.2 §355, of the ark of the covenant.
    6.4.2 §102, of Samuel.
    8.13.3 §325, of Elijah.
    11.8.4 §328, of Alexander the king.
    12.2.11 §86, of gift-bearers.
    12.2.11 §93, of elders from Jerusalem.
    12.6.2 §160, of an ambassador.
    12.8.6 §352, of Judas Maccabeus to a military encampment.
    13.9.2 §266, of ambassadors homeward.
    18.6.4 §161, of Tiberius Caesar.
    19.8.1 §339, of a king.
    20.2.2 §31, of Izates, king-to-be.
    20.2.2 §32, of Izates, king-to-be.
The following instances of παρουσία in the Antiquities refer to the presence or coming of God himself:
  • 3.5.2 §79, on Sinai.
    3.8.5 §202, in the tabernacle.
    3.8.5 §203, in the tabernacle.
    9.4.3 §55, to the servant of Elijah. Elijah asks God "to make apparent his power and presence [παρουσίαν]" to his servant in the face of a humanly superior force. This is the clearest theophanic usage of the term in Josephus, in my judgment, in which the presence of God is set parallel to his power.
Testament of Judah 22.1-3: 1 And the Lord shall bring upon them divisions one against another. And there shall be continual wars in Israel; 2 and among men of another race shall my kingdom be brought to an end, until the salvation of Israel shall come, until the appearing [παρουσίας] of the God of righteousness, that Jacob may rest in peace, and all the Gentiles. 3 And He shall guard the might of my kingdom for ever; for the Lord sware to me with an oath that He would not destroy the kingdom from my seed for ever.

Testament of Abraham 13: 13 And Abraham said, "My Lord chief-captain, who is this most wondrous judge? And who are the angels that write down? And who is the angel like the sun, holding the balance? And who is the fiery angel holding the fire?" The chief-captain said, "Do you see, most holy Abraham, the terrible man sitting upon the throne? This is the son of the first created Adam, who is called Abel, whom the wicked Cain killed, and he sits thus to judge all creation, and examines righteous men and sinners. For God has said, I shall not judge you, but every man born of man shall be judged. Therefore he has given to him judgment, to judge the world until his great and glorious coming [παρουσίας], and then, O righteous Abraham, is the perfect judgment and recompense, eternal and unchangeable, which no one can alter. For every man has come from the first-created, and therefore they are first judged here by his son, and at the second coming [παρουσίᾳ] they shall be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel, every breath and every creature. But the third time they shall be judged by the Lord God of all, and then, indeed, the end of that judgment is near, and the sentence terrible, and there is none to deliver. And now by three tribunals the judgment of the world and the recompense is made, and for this reason a matter is not finally confirmed by one or two witnesses, but by three witnesses shall everything be established. The two angels on the right hand and on the left, these are they that write down the sins and the righteousness, the one on the right hand writes down the righteousness, and the one on the left the sins. The angel like the sun, holding the balance in his hand, is the archangel, Dokiel the just weigher, and he weighs the righteousnesses and sins with the righteousness of God. The fiery and pitiless angel, holding the fire in his hand, is the archangel Puruel, who has power over fire, and tries the works of men through fire, and if the fire consume the work of any man, the angel of judgment immediately seizes him, and carries him away to the place of sinners, a most bitter place of punishment. But if the fire approves the work of anyone, and does not seize upon it, that man is justified, and the angel of righteousness takes him and carries him up to be saved in the lot of the just. And thus, most righteous Abraham, all things in all men are tried by fire and the balance."

Lives of the Prophets (recensio anonyma), Jeremiah 9-10: 9 This prophet, before the destruction of the temple, took possession of the ark of the law and the things within it, and caused them to be swallowed up in a rocky cliff, and he said to those who were present, 10 "The Lord departed from Sinai into heaven, and he will again come with might; and this shall be for you the sign of his appearance [παρουσίας], when all the Gentiles worship a piece of wood."

Meeting

Propaganda:

Colin R. Nicholl, From Hope to Despair in Thessalonica, Situating 1 and 2 Thessalonians, pages 43-44: As Peterson demonstrated at some length, ἀπάντησις was often used in Greek papyri, epigraphs and literary texts in a technical sense of an important dignitary’s reception (Einholung) by the inhabitants of a city, who come out of the city to greet and welcome in their honoured guest with much attendant fanfare and celebration. In the case of 1 Thess. 4:16–17a, ἀπάντησις would conjure up a picture of the dead and living leaving their polis, the earth, to form a reception party to welcome their Lord. This proposal is compelling. This technical usage of ἀπάντησις/ὑπάντησις is found elsewhere in the New Testament in Matt. 25:1, 6; John 12:13; and Acts 28:15. That this technical sense of ἀπάντησις applies in the case of 1 Thess. 4:16–17a can hardly be doubted in view of close correspondences between verses 16–17a and secular Einholungen, especially the presentation of the Lord as a particularly important figure, as demonstrated by the αὐτός. Some in the first centuries of the church seem to have read ἀπάντησις in this way, most notably Chrysostom and the copyist(s) responsible for the ὑπάντησις variant reading of manuscripts D∗, F and G. Certainly it would have been difficult for the original Greek readers not to read ἀπάντησις according to its technical usage, especially where Jesus is being presented as κύριος, an imperial title, and his coming as his παρουσία, a title for a dignitary’s official visit to a city in his jurisdiction. Moreover, it is more likely that the direction of the saints would conform to the direction of their Lord than the converse. Further, since the context (esp. verse 15b) confirms that verses 16–17a refer to the ‘parousia’ and since the παρουσία in eschatological contexts in the New Testament is frequently used as a technical term for Jesus’ future coming to earth, it seems preferable to understand the next movement as downward.

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 8.16[.1]: See how they are rushing to meet Caesar, and parading their loyalty to him! Why, the country towns are offering him prayers as though he were a god, and not sham ones, as those offered on behalf of the other when he was ill. But the simple fact is that whatever mischief this Pisistratus abstains from doing is as much a subject for gratitude as if he had prevented some one else from doing it. They hope the one will be lenient; they believe the other to be enraged. What processions do you suppose there to be from the towns [quos fieri censes ἀπαντήσεις ex oppidis], and what honors!

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 16.11.6: The municipal towns show astonishing enthusiasm for the boy. For instance, on his way into Samnium he came to Cales and stopped at Teanum. There was a wonderful procession to meet him, and loud expressions of encouragement [mirifica ἀπάντησις et cohortatio].

Josephus, Wars 7.5.2 §100: But when the people of Antioch were informed that Titus was approaching, they were so glad at it, that they could not keep within their walls, but hasted away to give him the meeting [ἐπὶ τὴν ὑπάντησιν].

Response?

1 Thessalonians 4.17: 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet [א, A, B: εἰς ἀπάντησιν; D, F, G: εἰς ὑπάντησιν] the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Further context:

Jeremiah 41.6 [48.6 LXX]: 6 Then Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet [εἰς ἀπάντησιν] them, weeping as he went; and he said to them, "Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam!"

Tobit 11.15b-16 (Sinaiticus version): 15b And Tobit went in rejoicing and blessing God with all his body. And Tobias told his father that his journey was successful and that he brought money and how he wed Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, and that behold she is arriving and is near the Gate of Nineveh. 16 And Tobit went out by the gate of Nineveh to meet [εἰς ἀπάντησιν] the bride, rejoicing and blessed God. And the men of Nineveh marveled, seeing him proceeding and walking along with all his strength and being led by the hand by no one.

Matthew 25.1: 1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet [D, W, Byzantine: εἰς ἀπάντησιν; א, B: εἰς ὑπάντησιν] the bridegroom."

Matthew 25.6: 6 "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet [א, B, D, W, Byzantine: εἰς ἀπάντησιν] him.'"

John 12.12-13: 12 On the next day the great multitude who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet [A: εἰς ἀπάντησιν; א, B, W: εἰς ὑπάντησιν; D: εἰς συνάντησιν] Him, and began to cry out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel."

Acts 28.15: 15 And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet [A, B, Byzantine: εἰς ἀπάντησιν; א: εἰς ὑπάντησιν] us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

What other examples are there? Please be as specific as possible, and give examples. Thanks.

Ben.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:22 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Celsus thought "you can't have two masters ..."
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Ben C. Smith wrote: [My own translation:] The People an[d the Y]ouths (honors) [Gnaeus Po]mpey the Great, on of Gnaeus, [Autocrat] for the third time, the Patron and Benefactor of the city on account o[f his piety] toward the goddess who is [...]n for him and of his goodwill toward the people, having released [h]umans from barbaric wars [and from] dangers from [p]irates, and having restored [pea]ce and safety both by land and by sea.


Revelation 10: 1 (RSV):

[1] Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.
[2] He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land,
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Bloom thinks sayings interpreted as expressing secret antinomianism/Gnostic dualism expressed closeted anti-Imperialism. Jews were often accused of hating the human race/the world. Belief in a god of the Jews who is secret or concealed is similarly rooted. The Jewish theophanies in the Pentateuch are that of a secret god. Pharaoh's heart is hardened to the existence/presence of Yahweh. He passes through the field unknown to the other brothers of Joseph. Even when dining with Abraham it is a private affair. Against the usual say of thinking of god, a god against the world, the world order. A god of a shitty mountain (not very impressive heighr; more of a hill). A god of magic, occultated in humility, meagreness
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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To Ben C. Smith

Thank you for your great OP, and congratulations. The Jewish/Essene antagonism against Rome in general and Roman imperial propaganda more specifically is an all-important line of inquiry in the study of the origins of Christianity.

You quote Nicoll, who says that κυριος is an imperial title. I think this is an important element to be added to your list. When in the NT Christ or Jesus Christ is called κυριος, this is meant as opposition against the emperor, in other words: Christ or Jesus Christ are presented not only in opposition with the emperor but also an incomparably superior alternative.
Κυριος Χριστος in Lk 2:11, Ro 16:18, Col 3:24, 1Pe 3:15.
o Lk 2:11: ‘For to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.'
o Col 3:24: ‘Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance of your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.'
Κυριος Ιησους Χριστος: numerous occurrences, see the Concordance.
See also the paragraph ‘ “Jesus Christ is Lord!” as an anti-Roman cryptogram’ in Norman A. Beck, Anti-Roman Cryptograms in the New Testament, p. 67.

Three small comments:
1. The translation of 1 Thess 5:3: When people say, “There is peace and security”, … misses an essential point. The verb is in the third-person plural, so ‘They’ as translation is OK and in this instance more specific than ‘the people’: ‘they’ are the boasting Romans.
2. The Neronian ‘adventus’ coin is quite clarifying. The arrival of the conquering Nero is symbolized by a horseman who subdues a fettered woman, with the woman as a symbol for subdued peoples or nations. The Jews/Essenes imagined the parousia/adventus of the Christ in the same way: as they were now subjugated by the Romans, at his arrival the Christ would reverse the roles and subjugate the Romans.
3. In note 54 ( p. 33) of his Galatians and the Imperial Cult Hardin quotes from Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East (1927): Deismann 1927:342 employs the phrase ‘polemical parallellism: ‘Thus there arises a polemical parallelism between the cult of the emperor and the cult of Christ, which makes itself felt where ancient words derived by Christianity from the treasury of the Septuagint and the Gospels happen to coincide with solemn concepts of the Imperial cult which sounded the same or similar.’
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Well, hey, FransJVermeiren, for once we agree on things. :)
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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An inscription in Pergamum (IvP II 381), from during the lifetime of Augustus Caesar (also given by Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, page 350):

[Αὐτοκράτ]ορ[α Κ]αίσαρα [θ]εοῦ υἱὸν θεὸν Σεβαστό[ν, πάσης] γῆ[ς] κ̣αὶ θ[α]λάσσης ἐ̣πό̣[π]τ[ην].

[Autocrat, C]aesar, son of [g]od, the god Augustu[s,] ov[er]s[eer of all] la[nd a]nd s[e]a.

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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Ben C. Smith wrote: Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:58 am An inscription in Pergamum (IvP II 381), from during the lifetime of Augustus Caesar (also given by Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, page 350):

[Αὐτοκράτ]ορ[α Κ]αίσαρα [θ]εοῦ υἱὸν θεὸν Σεβαστό[ν, πάσης] γῆ[ς] κ̣αὶ θ[α]λάσσης ἐ̣πό̣[π]τ[ην].

[Autocrat, C]aesar, son of [g]od, the god Augustu[s,] ov[er]s[eer of all] la[nd a]nd s[e]a.


You are all Caesar to me!

Galatians 3:26: Παντες γαρ υἱοι θεου εστε δια της πιστεως ἐν Χριστου [Ιησου]*.

If the Roman emperor is θεου υἱος, who then are the υἱοι θεου in Gal 3:26? Could the plural Paul uses for his Galatian readers find its origin in the singular the Romans used for their emperor? Maybe the comparison is one of importance. The Romans deem their ruler so important as to worship him as the son of a god, and for Paul his Galatian readers thrusting in Christ are more important than the Roman emperor he is fighting. Remember Deissmann’s ‘polemical parallellism’ between emperor and Christ.
In paraphrase 3:26 could sound like this: By your thrust in the Christ, any one of you is more important to me than the Roman emperor.

Galatians 4:8-10 is also a concentrated anti-Roman fragment:
(8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were subjected to those who by nature are not gods; (9) but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and miserable founding elements, whose slaves you want to be once more? (10) You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years!

In Galatians and the Imperial Cult Hardin pays a lot of attention to verse 10, which he convincingly explains as referring to the imperial cult calendar that dominated social life in Galatia. But verse 8 and 9 are also immersed in anti-Roman sentiment. The subjection to ‘those who by nature are not gods’ (but who are nevertheless worshiped as gods) are the Roman emperors and their close family members. The ‘weak and miserable founding elements’ of verse 9 are also mentioned in Galatians 4:9, but there they are the στοιχεια του κοσμου – the founding elements of the Roman empire. It is not difficult to think of polytheism and the imperial cult as these ‘founding elements’.

Summarized:
• Verse 8: against the worship of the emperor
• Verse 9: against the founding elements of the Roman empire: polytheism and imperial cult
• Verse 10: against the civil calendar choked up with festivities and celebrations of the imperial cult.

* In my opinion ‘Jesus’ is always interpolated in Paul.
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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Ben C. Smith wrote: Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:58 am An inscription in Pergamum (IvP II 381), from during the lifetime of Augustus Caesar (also given by Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, page 350):

[Αὐτοκράτ]ορ[α Κ]αίσαρα [θ]εοῦ υἱὸν θεὸν Σεβαστό[ν, πάσης] γῆ[ς] κ̣αὶ θ[α]λάσσης ἐ̣πό̣[π]τ[ην].

[Autocrat, C]aesar, son of [g]od, the god Augustu[s,] ov[er]s[eer of all] la[nd a]nd s[e]a.

FransJVermeiren wrote: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:08 am You are all Caesar to me!

Galatians 3:26: Παντες γαρ υἱοι θεου εστε δια της πιστεως ἐν Χριστου [Ιησου]*.
Google Translate gives me "All of you are gods through faith in Christ [Jesus]"

FransJVermeiren wrote: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:08 am If the Roman emperor is θεου υἱος, who then are the υἱοι θεου in Gal 3:26?
Google Translate gives 'υἱοι θεου' as 'Gods of god' - I presume it could/should be 'God of gods'.


Which makes this interesting -
FransJVermeiren wrote: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:08 am Could the plural Paul uses for his Galatian readers find its origin in the singular the Romans used for their emperor? Maybe the comparison is one of importance. The Romans deem their ruler so important as to worship him as the son of a god, and for Paul his Galatian readers thrusting in Christ are more important than the Roman emperor he is fighting. Remember Deissmann’s ‘polemical parallellism’ between emperor and Christ.

In paraphrase 3:26 could sound like this: By your thrust in the Christ, any one of you is more important to me than the Roman emperor.

Galatians 4:8-10 is also a concentrated anti-Roman fragment:
(8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were subjected to those who by nature are not gods; (9) but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and miserable founding elements, whose slaves you want to be once more? (10) You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years!

In Galatians and the Imperial Cult Hardin pays a lot of attention to verse 10, which he convincingly explains as referring to the imperial cult calendar that dominated social life in Galatia. But verse 8 and 9 are also immersed in anti-Roman sentiment. The subjection to ‘those who by nature are not gods’ (but who are nevertheless worshiped as gods) are the Roman emperors and their close family members. The ‘weak and miserable founding elements’ of verse 9 are also mentioned in Galatians 4:9, but there they are the στοιχεια του κοσμου – the founding elements of the Roman empire. It is not difficult to think of polytheism and the imperial cult as these ‘founding elements’.

Summarized:
• Verse 8: against the worship of the emperor
• Verse 9: against the founding elements of the Roman empire: polytheism and imperial cult
• Verse 10: against the civil calendar choked up with festivities and celebrations of the imperial cult.

* In my opinion ‘Jesus’ is always interpolated in Paul.
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Re: Christian responses to imperial propaganda.

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The Greek is very clearly "sons of god" and not "gods of god" (whatever that would mean).
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