Study of the effect of the Empire on the development of the NT

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MrMacSon
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Study of the effect of the Empire on the development of the NT

Post by MrMacSon »

Adam Winn has a few publications that focus on the relationship between the formation of the New Testament, particularly the Gospel of Mark, and the Roman Empire: contributing to the growing subfield of New Testament studies known as Empire Studies -

1 The Purpose of Mark's Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda, 2008, Mohr Siebeck;

In this book, Adam Winn addresses the long debated question of the purpose of Mark's gospel. After placing the composition of Mark in Rome at a time shortly after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, he seeks to reconstruct the historical situation facing both the Markan evangelist and his community. This reconstruction focuses on the rise of the new Roman Emperor Vespasian and the aftermath of the Jewish Revolt in Rome. A significant feature of this reconstruction is the propaganda used to gain and secure Vespasian's power - propaganda that included oracles and portents, divine healings, and grand triumphs. Of particular interest is the propagandistic claim that Vespasian was the true fulfillment of Jewish messianic prophecies. Winn argues that such a claim would have created a christological crisis for the fledgling church in Rome - a crisis that called for a compelling Christian response. Winn seeks to demonstrate that Mark's gospel could be read as just such a response. He demonstrates how the major features of Mark's gospel -his incipit, Christology, teaching on discipleship, and eschatology- can be read as a counter resume to the impressive resume of Vespasian. In the end, this project concludes that Mark was composed for the purpose of countering Roman imperial propaganda that had created a crisis for its author and community.


2 Tyrant or Servant? Roman Political Ideology and Mark 10.42-45, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 2014, 36(4): pp.325-52 -

Mark 10.42-45 presents a political contrast between the rulers of the Roman world and Jesus and his disciples. Through careful analysis of the strategy of recusatio as employed by Roman emperors, this article considers the expectations of the Romans regarding their rulers as well as the political ideology that birthed those expectations. The article then seeks to offer a new reading of Mk 10.42-45 in light of this Roman political ideology and to consider how this reading (a) eases perceived tension in the Gospel’s narrative and Christology, and (b) contributes to the Gospel’s subversion of Roman imperial power.


3 Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology, 2018

The Gospel of Mark has been studied from multiple angles using many methods. But often there remains a sense that something is wanting, that the full picture of Mark's Gospel lacks some background circuitry that would light up the whole. Adam Winn finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God’s Son appointed to rule the world? Winn considers how Mark might have been read by Christians in Rome in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. He introduces us to the propaganda of the Flavian emperors and excavates the Markan text for themes that address the Roman imperial setting. We discover an intriguing first-century response to the question “Christ or Caesar? "


And he edited An Introduction to Empire in the New Testament, SBL Press, 2016

.
In the last three decades, significant attention has been given to the way in which New Testament texts engage and respond to the imperial world in which they were written. The purpose of the present volume is to introduce students and non-specialists to the growing subfield of New Testament studies known as empire studies. Contributors seek to make readers aware of the significant work that has already been produced, while also pointing them to new ways in which this field is moving forward. The contributors are Bruce W. Longenecker, Richard A. Horsley, Warren Carter, Adam Winn, Eric D. Barreto, Beth M. Sheppard, Neil Elliot, James R. Harrison, Harry O. Maier, Deborah Krause, Jason A.Whitlark, Matthew R. Hauge, Kelly D. Liebengood, and Davina C. Lopez.

Features:
  • Essays from a diverse group of interpreters who at times have differing presuppositions, methods, and concerns
  • Articles introduc[ing] students & non-specialists to the Roman imperial realities regularly encountered by 1st and 2nd century Christians
  • Contributions [which] explore the strategies employed by early Christians to respond to the Roman empire

Last edited by MrMacSon on Wed Apr 07, 2021 12:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

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Adam Winn finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God’s Son appointed to rule the world?

Thanks McMacSon, that's interesting. I can only respond to the clips you've provided, but I have to wonder why the Christians of that time felt they had to respond to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem? There is something missing there, that perhaps Winn covers elsewhere.

Josephus seemed to think that God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed due to the wickedness of the Jews and their profaning the Temple grounds, to the point that God was heard to say "I'm outta here!" Tacitus records the same event.

But I don't see how Christians, believing that God was coming personally to establish God's kingdom on earth, would be affected by that. Were there groups of Jews who thought that Vespasian might have been the prophesied Messiah? Josephus hints at the idea, but not to the point that it set up a compelling challenge to Christians IIUC. Or am I reading things wrong?
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

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GakuseiDon wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:30 am
Adam Winn finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God’s Son appointed to rule the world?

Thanks McMacSon, that's interesting. I can only respond to the clips you've provided, but I have to wonder why the Christians of that time felt they had to respond to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem? There is something missing there, that perhaps Winn covers elsewhere.

Josephus seemed to think that God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed due to the wickedness of the Jews and their profaning the Temple grounds, to the point that God was heard to say "I'm outta here!" Tacitus records the same event.

But I don't see how Christians, believing that God was coming personally to establish God's kingdom on earth, would be affected by that. Were there groups of Jews who thought that Vespasian might have been the prophesied Messiah? Josephus hints at the idea, but not to the point that it set up a compelling challenge to Christians IIUC. Or am I reading things wrong?

I think one would need to read most of those books +/- the journal article +/- others' writings to know.

The key excerpts from those summaries for me are

... This reconstruction focuses on the rise of the new Roman Emperor Vespasian and the aftermath of the Jewish Revolt in Rome. A significant feature of this reconstruction is the propaganda used to gain and secure Vespasian's power - propaganda that included oracles and portents, divine healings, and grand triumphs. Of particular interest is the propagandistic claim that Vespasian was the true fulfillment of Jewish messianic prophecies ... [Winn] demonstrates how the major features of Mark's gospel -his incipit, Christology, teaching on discipleship, and eschatology- can be read as a counter resume to the impressive resume of Vespasian. In the end, this project concludes that Mark was composed for the purpose of countering Roman imperial propaganda that had created a crisis for its author and community.
for The Purpose of Mark's Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda, 2008

and

in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 ... [t]he gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? ... [Winn] introduces us to the propaganda of the Flavian emperors and excavates the Markan text for themes that address the Roman imperial setting. We discover an intriguing first-century response to the question “Christ or Caesar?"
for Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology, 2018

It'd be interesting to read all that he says in those two books published a decade apart, especially in light of what's said in the 2016 intermediate multi-author book, An Introduction to Empire in the New Testament.

While it's feasible that Mark's gospel could be read as a response to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple or to the messianic prophecies and/or claims about Vespasian, or both, there would still seem to be questions raised. Such as
  • Why would accounts in the gospel/s mimic accounts of Vespasian's divine healings as recorded by Tacitus and Suetonius?
  • What other oracles and portents, divine healings, and grand triumphs of Vespasian might have found their ways into the gospel/s?
  • Where did the accounts of Jesus in the gospel or Mark come from?
  • Why were they not recorded earlier?
  • Why would 'Mark' have written the Gospel bearing his name as is, ie. without reference to contemporaneous events: events just before or as he was writing?
  • Why is there not a tradition documenting Christian community responses or attitudes to various significant events ?
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

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MrMacSon wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:10 pm
GakuseiDon wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:30 am
Adam Winn finds a clue in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. For Jews and Christians it was an apocalyptic moment. The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? Could a messiah crucified by Rome really be God’s Son appointed to rule the world?

Thanks McMacSon, that's interesting. I can only respond to the clips you've provided, but I have to wonder why the Christians of that time felt they had to respond to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem? There is something missing there, that perhaps Winn covers elsewhere.

Josephus seemed to think that God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed due to the wickedness of the Jews and their profaning the Temple grounds, to the point that God was heard to say "I'm outta here!" Tacitus records the same event.

But I don't see how Christians, believing that God was coming personally to establish God's kingdom on earth, would be affected by that. Were there groups of Jews who thought that Vespasian might have been the prophesied Messiah? Josephus hints at the idea, but not to the point that it set up a compelling challenge to Christians IIUC. Or am I reading things wrong?

I think one would need to read most of those books +/- the journal article +/- others' writings to know.

The key excerpts from those summaries for me are

... This reconstruction focuses on the rise of the new Roman Emperor Vespasian and the aftermath of the Jewish Revolt in Rome. A significant feature of this reconstruction is the propaganda used to gain and secure Vespasian's power - propaganda that included oracles and portents, divine healings, and grand triumphs. Of particular interest is the propagandistic claim that Vespasian was the true fulfillment of Jewish messianic prophecies ... [Winn] demonstrates how the major features of Mark's gospel -his incipit, Christology, teaching on discipleship, and eschatology- can be read as a counter resume to the impressive resume of Vespasian. In the end, this project concludes that Mark was composed for the purpose of countering Roman imperial propaganda that had created a crisis for its author and community.
for The Purpose of Mark's Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda, 2008

and

in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 ... [t]he gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews. Could it be that Mark wrote his Gospel in response to Roman imperial propaganda surrounding this event? ... [Winn] introduces us to the propaganda of the Flavian emperors and excavates the Markan text for themes that address the Roman imperial setting. We discover an intriguing first-century response to the question “Christ or Caesar?"
for Reading Mark's Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology, 2018

It'd be interesting to read all that he says in those two books published a decade apart, especially in light of what's said in the 2016 intermediate multi-author book, An Introduction to Empire in the New Testament.

While it's feasible that Mark's gospel could be read as a response to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple or to the messianic prophecies and/or claims about Vespasian, or both, there would still seem to be questions raised. Such as
  • Why would accounts in the gospel/s mimic accounts of Vespasian's divine healings as recorded by Tacitus and Suetonius?
  • What other oracles and portents, divine healings, and grand triumphs of Vespasian might have found their ways into the gospel/s?
  • Where did the accounts of Jesus in the gospel or Mark come from?
  • Why were they not recorded earlier?
  • Why would 'Mark' have written the Gospel bearing his name as is, ie. without reference to contemporaneous events: events just before or as he was writing?
  • Why is there not a tradition documenting Christian community responses or attitudes to various significant events ?
Well, all that but mostly this:
The gods of Rome seemed to have conquered the God of the Jews.
That's exactly it. But again, we need to start backwards: the God of the Jews is defeated once again, or he allowed the Romans to so very severely punish the Jews.
No temple, no capital - the Judean worshiping is fatally wounded, its entire design and build decapitated.
Surely that called for a reaction, a counter action. One of which would be the appearance, creation, of the view that the god of the Romans defeated that of the Jews

But this is the very confrontation, after more than a century of Romans owning (sic) Jews. Look at WW II and the resistance movement, then imagine that lasted not 5 years but 125 and more.
This is it, the war is over, game over, the Jews are once more humbled beyond belief, and still don't concede - and it is Kokhba that annihilates them completely, because nothing will make them learn their lesson

Those are the sentiments of that time, I think

And of course the Jews would get daily reminders that their asses had been whooped by the great and glorious Romans. Surely the Roman leaders were magnified, glorified, and the Jewish ones belittled. Take your average football match and all the back-and-forth going on afterwards between the supporters of both teams - that is only human, and this just another example of hoe putting down others raises your own self esteem

That's when Mark gave them two birds with one stone: a new religion, safe to practice, and an explanation for the punishment of the Jews. And he built on top of the Thomasine community and their story, their text, of people rejecting everything Judaic including its religion

And then the Jews must have flocked towards it, haughtily objecting to its contemporary followers, how they were not Jewish. And then Paul was invented and created, who tried to identify with them by purporting himself as a Jewish convert, initially opposed to Christopher as well.
It was not a Jewish religion at that point being flocked by Gentiles, thus causing resistance among the incumbent - it was exactly the other way around
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

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where i'm stuck is these 'Judaisers' supposedly contemporary with Paul. it's very easy to see Paul emerging directly from a prior movement directly, but where did 'Judasiers' come from? i don't believe they were anything to do with any genuine apostles. Either they are a creation of the 2nd century to give a pious backstory to Jesus and Paul's conflict with them represents 2nd century battles - or they were an offshoot like Paul himself in the other direction. I suspect the latter is more likely. The 'Judaiser' version of Christianity might well have been acceptable to Judaism, all must follow Torah, circumcise, Jesus just a man, etc. It seems like they omitted almost all that is distinctly Christian so how could they have been original?
To explain both Paul and these Judaisers there had to have been something prior they both came from which later had to be denied
Mark is a 'Judaiser' account combined with Pauline theology built on top of 'Thomas' (in spirit if not literally)
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

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davidmartin wrote: Wed Nov 25, 2020 3:20 am ... but where did 'Judasiers' come from? i don't believe they were anything to do with any genuine apostles. Either they are a creation of the 2nd century to give a pious backstory to Jesus and Paul's conflict with them represents 2nd century battles - or they were an offshoot like Paul himself in the other direction. I suspect the latter is more likely.
  • I suspect the former, though I don't think Jesus would have been involved (other than accounts about Jesus being more Judaized)

davidmartin wrote: Wed Nov 25, 2020 3:20 am To explain both Paul and these Judaisers there had to have been something prior they both came from which later had to be denied
  • I suspect it would have been a response to Marcion

davidmartin wrote: Wed Nov 25, 2020 3:20 am Mark is a 'Judaiser' account combined with Pauline theology built on top of 'Thomas' (in spirit if not literally)
  • That's feasible. Martijn Linssen might agree.
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

Post by Charles Wilson »

MrMacSon wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 3:25 pm
davidmartin wrote: Wed Nov 25, 2020 3:20 am ... but where did 'Judasiers' come from? i don't believe they were anything to do with any genuine apostles. Either they are a creation of the 2nd century to give a pious backstory to Jesus and Paul's conflict with them represents 2nd century battles - or they were an offshoot like Paul himself in the other direction. I suspect the latter is more likely.
I suspect the former, though I don't think Jesus would have been involved (other than accounts about Jesus being more Judaized)
Nicely done, MrMacSon. There's a lot here to digest but there is a somewhat submerged idea seen with "Judaizers" after the Fall of the Temple.

What of the Surviving Jews themselves? Were they ready to cast their lot with the Romans? Zakkai and his School at Yavneh argue against total capitulation. Zakkai was concerned with the Continuance of Godly Worship in the absence of the Temple Apparatus, the Priestly Settlements in Galilee and the acceptance of it all by the populace.

Zakkai set out the New Rules for Judaism and the ideas have continued to this day. They have been met by barely concealed hatred and less than benign tolerance by the rest of the world.

Nonetheless, Judaism has continued and the "Judaizing" mentioned outside of this Set of Ideas has little or no relation to what Zakkai offered.
Which leads me to believe that the "Judaizing" arguments offered by the newly discovered Christians are not to be accepted except in a very negative way. Christianity was to Supersede Judaism PERIOD.

No carry over allowed. Remember, Titus sacrificed hundreds of cattle after the Fall of the Temple. Animal Sacrifice was not "Done-Away-With" immediately. This is all, it appears, later material.

CW
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

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Charles Wilson wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 4:05 pm ... the "Judaizing" mentioned outside of this Set of Ideas has little or no relation to what Zakkai offered.
I agree. I doubt Zakkai and subsequent generations of Sages and Tannaim would have directly engaged with emerging Christianity at all.

Charles Wilson wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 4:05 pm Which leads me to believe that the "Judaizing" arguments offered by the newly discovered Christians are not to be accepted except in a very negative way. Christianity was to Supersede Judaism PERIOD.
I'm not sure the 'Judaizing' would have been offered or done by Christians per se. It was probably something that happened around and to a degree in groups such as the Marcionites, Sethians, Valentinians, and perhaps Basilideans and the like: processes and steps on the way to the eventual dominance of 'Orthodoxy'. I wonder if Judaizing may have been driven by diasporic Jews outside Judea and Galilee, or at best Jews or groups loosely aligned with or just supporting the Yavneh School (also likely operating outside Judea and Galilee).
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Re: Mark and the Roman Empire, Adam Winn

Post by Charles Wilson »

Thank you, MrMacSon.
MrMacSon wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 4:38 pm
Charles Wilson wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 4:05 pm ... the "Judaizing" mentioned outside of this Set of Ideas has little or no relation to what Zakkai offered.
I agree. I doubt Zakkai and subsequent generations of Sages and Tannaim would have directly engaged with emerging Christianity at all.

Charles Wilson wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 4:05 pm Which leads me to believe that the "Judaizing" arguments offered by the newly discovered Christians are not to be accepted except in a very negative way. Christianity was to Supersede Judaism PERIOD.
I'm not sure the 'Judaizing' would have been offered or done by Christians per se. It was probably something that happened around and to a degree in groups such as the Marcionites, Sethians, Valentinians, and perhaps Basilideans and the like: processes and steps on the way to the eventual dominance of 'Orthodoxy'. I wonder if Judaizing may have been driven by diasporic Jews outside Judea and Galilee, or at best Jews or groups loosely aligned with or just supporting the Yavneh School (also likely operating outside Judea and Galilee).
There is some tension here. I'm thinking of Weitzman and his posited community of "Translators", who, through time, became Christianized. Zakkai, having been given permission to live by Vespasian, realizes that Judaism must look inward:

Acts 5: 38 - 39 (RSV):

[38] So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail;
[39] but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!"

I believe this Fragment points to the creation of Rabbinical Judaism. It is reasoned, not agitated/emotional and it gives a way out for the Jews. Weitzman sees a timely Process, almost Hegelian, where what is allowed brings change through time. Perhaps the Survivors of the Fall needed to die off before the "Marcionites, Sethians, Valentinians and perhaps Basilideans" could succeed.

Nicely thought out, MrMacSon.

CW
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Re: Study of the effect of the Empire on the development of the NT

Post by MrMacSon »

This 2017 thread by Ben - Christian responses to imperial propaganda - would seem to be pertinent to 'Empire Studies'
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