Friday, November 8, 2013

Quote of the Day: Brant Pitre on Jesus and the Roman Empire

 Brant Pitre' s outstanding entry "Apocalypticism and Apocalyptic Teaching", in the massively revised Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, has an interesting take on the topic of Jesus and the Gospels relationship to the Roman Empire:
As a general rule, apocalyptic movements are often intensely focused on earthly powers and political events, especially Gentile powers that persecute the chosen people of God (e.g., Dan 2; 7; 11-12) (Vielhauer). Despite the contention of certain scholars that Jesus is engaged in a direct and extensive critique of the Roman Empire (Wright 1996; Horsley), we do not find anywhere near the same amount of explicit attention given to political events or the pagan empires in the teachings of Jesus as we do in early Jewish apocalypses, or even in the biblical prophets. Apart from a brief teaching about giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (Mk 12:13-17), and the forecast of political strife an  'wars and rumors of wars' in the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24:3-8; Mk 13:3-8; Lk 21:5-9), Jesus' teaching in the Gospels as a whole is far more focused on the otherworldly forces behind visible personal and political events--the angels and demons, the kingdom of God, the 'kingdom' of Satan--than on the visible political forces and earthly powers themselves. Earthly political forces apparently have 'no power' except that given them 'from above' (Jn 19:11) (27).

This reminds me a bit of the Barclay-Wright discussions at SBL a few year's ago. Pitre like Barclay, seems to suggest that the "Emperor wears no clothes." What say you?

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