Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading by Steven J. Friesen

By Steven J. Friesen

After greater than a century of discussion in regards to the value of imperial cults for the translation of Revelation, this is often the 1st examine to ascertain either the archaeological facts and the Biblical textual content extensive. Friesen argues certain research of imperial cults as they have been practiced within the first century CE within the area the place John used to be energetic permits us to appreciate John's feedback of his society's dominant values. He demonstrates the significance of imperial cults for society on the time while Revelation was once written, and indicates the ways that John refuted imperial cosmology via his use of imaginative and prescient, fable, and eschatological expectation.

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I am committed, however, to supporting its extreme message as an unexpendable voice in the contrapuntal Christian canon. If I thought that an examination of the relationship between imperial cults and Revelation should be limited to readers with a Christian commitment, however, I would have written a very different book. The pagan phenomenon and the Christian text, both of which seem bizarre to modern sensibilities, touch on central issues in the meaning of human experience. All governments validate their power by claiming to be operating in the best interests of those governed.

For Romans living abroad, Augustus established in both provinces a temenos with a double dedication: to Rome and to the hero Julius. This modification of the system for Rome did not include honors for the living Augustus but rather for his divinized adoptive father Julius and for the city of Rome. This implied fidelity to Augustus, and equated it with fidelity to Rome. The foreign Hellenes were allowed to establish a third imperial cult system that Dio thought would be scandalous if practiced in Rome because it included worship of Augustus and of the goddess Rome.

From this official Roman perspective, the world was in disarray and headed for ruin until Augustus restored and transformed the world. Therefore, his birth was the most appropriate symbol for New Year’s Day. The old world was given a fresh start, a new origin (ajformhv). Another reason given for the proconsul’s proposal was that local officeholders could assume their duties on the birthday of Augustus. The play on the word ajrchv (“beginning” or “rule”) in the edict was not frivolous. The “beginning” of their “rule” on September 23 affirmed the legitimacy of Roman imperialism.

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