The Gospel is that God hasn’t given up on the world.
It all sounds very good, but why is it so new? Where is the scholarship that supports this? Why, apart from Revelation, is the NT not more explicit about this (if Revelation can be said to be explicit anyway)?
I like his sentiments, but does it have a credible argument?
Which bits are you talking about John? The stuff he begins with (Attis, Mithra, Caesar) is pretty well known. We were taught about “Mystery Religions” and the “Roman Imperial Cult” at Uni.
Which bit of Revelation are you talking about?
(sorry took so long to reply to this. Initially couldn’t figure out HOW to reply then the message got lost in my inbox!)
As I re-listen to the video there are these bits.
*Mithra born of a vigin, ascended to heaven. Addis similarly.
*Comet for Julius Caesar, Son Of God, ascending to the right hand of God.
*Euangelions from Caesar
*Roman ecclesia worshipping centres.
Please point me to the relevant scholarship or credible articles/books on these Mystery Religions and the Roman Imperial Cult.
Mystery Religions and Roman Imperial cult come under “social context of the New Testament”.
My introductory textbook at Uni was “The New Testament: History, Literature, and Social Context” by Dennis C. Duling (published 2003). He has a few paragraphs on contemporary religions (but not heaps). On the Roman emperor cult (pg 32) he discusses the titles “son of God” and “good news” as it was applied to the Caesar.
Any other good Introduction to New Testament would probably have this stuff in it. Raymond Brown does a good one. Or anything by Oxford University Press or Cambridge or SCM Press will be good.
I suspect Rob Bell has been listening to/reading some stuff from Bishop of Durham, NT Wright. He is part of a movement called “New Perspectives on Paul” that discusses the importance of the Imperial Cult for Paul’s gospel. Here is a link to an article and I’ll copy and paste the some bits:
“This feature of the Roman empire has been extensively studied, and the continuing debates — on, for instance, the precise relationship between this cult and that of earlier Eastern rulers — do not affect the basic point I am making. The religious world of the day was of course thoroughly pluralistic, and there was no expectation that this new cult would displace, or itself be threatened by, the traditional Graeco-Roman religions in all their variety. Indeed, frequently the two were combined, as demonstrated by statues of the emperor in the guise of Jupiter or another well-known god. But, whereas traditional books and lecture courses that cover the religious world of late antiquity tend to add the emperor-cult simply as one element within a treatment of the multiple religions, philosophies and theologies of the ancient world, giving students the impression that it was a relatively insignificant addition to more important aspects of pagan thought and life, it is increasingly apparent that to many ordinary people in Greece, Asia Minor, the Middle East and Egypt — with the exception of the last, the focal points of Paul’s missionary work — the Caesar-cult was fast-growing, highly visible, and powerful precisely in its interweaving of political and religious allegiance. As various writers have recently urged, you don’t need such a strong military presence to police an empire if the citizens are worshipping the emperor. Conversely, where Rome had brought peace to the world, giving salvation from chaos, creating a new sense of unity out of previously warring pluralities, there was a certain inevitability about Rome itself, and the emperor as its ruler, being seen as divine. Rome had done — Augustus had done — the sort of thing that only gods can do. Rome had power: the power to sweep aside all opposition; the power, in consequence, to create an extraordinary new world order. Rome claimed to have brought justice to the world; indeed, the goddess Iustitia was an Augustan innovation, closely associated with the principate. The accession of the emperor, and also his birthday, could therefore be hailed as euaggelion, good news (we should remember of course that most of the empire, and certainly the parts of it where Paul worked, were Greek-speaking). The emperor was the kyrios, the lord of the world, the one who claimed the allegiance and loyalty of subjects throughout his wide empire. When he came in person to pay a state visit to a colony or province, the word for his royal presence was parousia.
With all this in mind, we open the first page of Paul’s letters as they stand in the New Testament, and what do we find? We find Paul, writing a letter to the church in Rome itself, introducing himself as the accredited messenger of the one true God. He brings the gospel, the euaggelion, of the son of God, the Davidic Messiah, whose messiahship and divine sonship are validated by his resurrection, and who, as the Psalms insist, is the Lord, the kyrios, of the whole world. Paul’s task is to bring the world, all the nations, into loyal allegiance — hypakoē pisteos, the obedience of faith — to this universal Lord. He is eager to announce this euaggelion in Rome, without shame, because this message is the power of God which creates salvation for all who are loyal to it, Jew and Greek alike. Why is this? Because in this message (this ‘gospel of the son of God’), the justice of God, the dikaiosynē theou, is unveiled. Those of us who have read Romans, written essays on Romans, lectured on Romans, preached on Romans, written books about Romans over many years, may be excused if we rub our eyes in disbelief. Most commentators on Romans 1:1-17 insist that it forms the thematic introduction to the whole letter. None that I know of (myself included) have suggested that it must have been heard in Rome, and that Paul must have intended it, as a parody of the imperial cult.”
Hope that helps!
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