Category Archives: Publications and Papers

is Galatians written against the Roman imperial cult?

What follows is an unedited portion of my dissertation. In the larger context, I am trying to establish that the particular image for the death of Christ would have been known by the people(s) of Galatia. In the end, I believe the image would have been, but the use of an image does not mean St. Paul was writing against the image, rather, like others, he was using the image familiar to others — an image that carried significant weight. Admittedly, I am more surprised over the connection between Galatians and the Celts, not the mention human sacrifice. 

The Pergamon Altar in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin
The Pergamon Altar in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent Scholarship on The Imperial Cult and Galatians

With the act of the devotio seemingly drawn from Roman sources, it behooves me to mention the current state of scholarship around the imperial cult and the Epistle to the Galatians. While I will not pass judgment on the rise and use of Empire as a lens in reading the New Testament, mainly in American scholarship, one must remember the use of an image found in other cults does not mean Paul is using it to counter or otherwise overtake he previous cult. While devotio as an image is one primarily associated with Roman imperial ideology, I maintain this does not mean Paul used it as an argument against Rome. However, it is necessary to examine recent scholarship, if for nothing else but to show Paul’s audience would have at least known the religious and political implications of the image.

In the recent decade, there have been two major works examining the connection of the imperial cult to the epistle. The first is Galatians Re-Imagined by Brigitte Kahl, a work removing the Judaism of Paul’s opponents, replacing it with a juxtapose against Roman views of law and order.[1] The second work, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, sees the argument of Galatians something akin to a civic rebellion.[2] Rather than delve into the merits and conclusions of their argument, I will examine their evidences of the imperial cult with the corollary that context does not mean argument, rather only serves as an allowance for the use of known images.

Kahl avoids the distinction between North and South as the province of the letter, going much further and connecting it to the whole of the Gaul-Galatia bloodline. She bases this on history as well as the linguistic plight in not separating the Gauls inhabiting the area now known as France and the descendants of the Celtic diaspora occupying an area in Asia Minor as well as a post-Constantinian interpretative strategy she abhors. After promoting her view by using binaries and other linguistic turns, Kahl finally delves into re-imagining Galatians. She removes the Jewish ethnocentrism that is the usual exegetical framework only to replace it with the visual images of the Great Altar of Pergamon.[3] Because of this, she is able to then compare each statement by Paul against Roman images of somewhat equal standing. For instance, God is juxtaposed against the Emperor while the freedom promised by the Gospel is contrasted with Roman (and not Jewish) law. Of course, as usual with Empire critics, “gospel” becomes solely the answer to the Emperor’s news of victory. Kahl adds to the discussion of the possible imperial cult in Galatians only what we already know, that as a Roman province, it was prevalent; however, she does add the ability to see cultic images in Galatians, even if the caol áit are too thin.

One particular image is the use of gladiatorial games as a form of human sacrifice. As often is the case, Kahl begins with the Great Altar where the images of human sacrifice are explicit and then moves to Galatians. She notes the arena is bereft of the usual connotations of ritual sacrifice such as the absence of priests and the need for the community to be reconciled with the deities. However, what are present are segregated spaces, a well-regulated public stage, mythological overtones of blood, and the act of a sacrifice meant to bind the community together. She notes, “the games can be seen to have a cathartic effect by vicariously eliminating violence and evil dwelling not only outside but also inside the social body, for example, in terms of slave or gladiatorial rebellions, treachery, and civil wars (emphasis mine).”[4] The battle becomes a sacrifice to purify the community of violence, reuniting the community after a struggle. That the Galatians were not foreign to human sacrifice is forever recorded by Diodorus.[5] The act of human sacrifice had become abhorrent to the Romans, but was still welcomed and proclaimed among the Galatians.[6]

Justin K. Hardin’s work fleshes the imperial cult out, adding another dimension. Hardin writes, “It is clear that often the public worship of the emperor, rather than supplanting the local pagan religions in the Greek East, was simply amalgamated with it.”[7] Galatia was a unique province within the Roman Empire. Augustus colonized both north and south, although the southern portion of the province required quelling (c. 5 BCE).[8] Because of this, unlike other Greek ruling cults brought in with various new rulers, the Roman imperial cult began by Augustus, moved into all realm of the public and private life exactly because it was designed too.[9] It “superseded traditional religious worship with a uniform system of religious devotion” binding the colonized lands with the Emperor, rather than other forms of Roman religion. While the people inhabiting the province of Galatia had long roots back to Gaul, with those roots transporting and preserving their native religion, their indigenous deities and temples were replaced (at least in importance) with the Roman ritualistic caste. For instance, Pessinus, while often thought to be the temple of Cybele (who will factor into our discussion later) is devoted instead to the Roman cult.[10] While this substitution took place, the people of the province were able to avoid assimilation. Even at the Pessinus temple, Celtic priests still performed rituals making use of both Rome and indigenous cultic aspects.[11]

While both Kahl and Hardin go one to reinterpret Galatians in light of the surrounding, provincial, imperial cult they see, they both fail to make use of the non-assimilationist stance held by the non-Jewish population of Galatia. If the native religion could prevent assimilation, then it is more than likely the Jews (with their imperial protection) would not feel the overall pressure as both Kahl and Hardin suggest they do, even a new sect within Judaism. However, what both show is that the imperial cultic images were prevalent in Galatia while not acting as a major threat and at times were themselves transformed to aid the local religion. This allowed other images to be used in dialogic currency. Further, while Hardin does not focus on it, Kahl does mention the very visual presence of human sacrifice in the public arena, and it is a sacrifice used for both civic and cultic binding. Finally, neither sees the death of Christ as any particular theological or ideological turn in Paul’s letter. It is imply another part.

[1] Brigitte Kahl, Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading With the Eyes of the Vanquished (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010).

[2] Justin K. Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul’s Letter (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).

[3] For instance, Kahl attempts to compare Paul’s prologue (Galatians 1.1–9) with the physical image of the Great Altar (246–47). It is based on the imagery of war and wrestling.

[4] Kahl, Re-imagining Galatians, 163.

[5] Kahl connects the human sacrifices of the Gauls/Galatians to the sacrificial act of sacking Rome as well as the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (42–3). Of a particular note is the sacrifice of a Galatian man and woman (as well as Greek pairing) twice in Rome during the Second Punic War in a devotio meant to save the city from devastation. Hannibal, the threat to Rome, never managed to sack Rome, but would soon find Carthage itself sacrificed to the gods in the place of Rome. See James Smith Reid, “Human Sacrifices at Rome and Other Notes on Roman Religion,” in Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 2. (1912), 34­–52 and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi, “The Specters of Roman Imperialism:The Live Burials of Gaulsand Greeks at Rome,” Classical Antiquity. Vol. 26. (2007), 277–304.

[6] Kahl suggests Nero reenacted the return to human sacrifice on behalf of easing social tension and creating a new social order (or city, in this case) when he charged the Christians with setting Rome on fire (296).

[7] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 40. Unlike either the Roman imperial cult or the indigenous Celtic cults, Judaism was not local, but rather focused back to Jerusalem.

[8] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 49, 56.

[9] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 47.

[10] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 41. See also Marc Waelkens, “The Imperial Sanctuary at Pessinus: Archaeological, Epigraphical and Numismatic Evidence for Its Date and Identification.” Epigraphcia Anatolica, Vol 7 1986, 37–72; and, John Devreker, Thoen Hugo, and Vermeulen Frank, “The Imperial Sanctuary at Pessinus and its Predecessors: A Revision.” Anatolia Antiqua, Tome 3, 1995. 125-144.

[11] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 69. Hardin mentions the use of sacrifices performed by the priests, much as Kahl above. What not as clear as Kahl, Hardin notes that the Temple had as part of its complex a Roman-style arena. These priests would provide gladiatorial games and other hecatombs during their tenure, allowing the priest to offer sacrifices that combined civic and cultic intents. See Stephen Mitchell, “Galatia under Tiberius,” Chiron, Vol 16., 1986, 17–33.

SBL 2014 Interviews

SBL 2014 was great and I had the opportunity to interview three scholars for MAP.

Dr. Yael Avrahami is the author of the award-winning book Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible. In our discussion, she addresses why the 5 senses alone don’t hold up in the epistemologies of the Hebrew Bible. Yael is also one of the creators of Hendrickson’s new Reader’s Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Bob Bascom is a Hebrew Bible scholar and Bible translator. Bob is a friend who has taught me a lot about life and love. Literally. He’s a cognitive linguist who can tell you about love in the brain and what kind of love it is. And he does here in the interview.

Dr. Chip Hardy has recently completed his PhD at the University of Chicago on the diachronic development of biblical Hebrew prepositions. In our discussion, he lays out the basic principles of grammaticalization theory.

@dageshforte

 

Judges 5.2

A bit ago, David M. posted a question about Judges 5.2 on Facebook. As you know, I am currently researching a “unique” view of the death of Christ so when I read this, it immediately jumped out to me as something I could use. Judges 5.2 is set within a larger poem detailing the victory of Deborah when she was a judge in Israel. It is a very old portion of the Hebrew Bible, among the oldest some scholars believe.

The Hebrew (into English) reads,

‘For the leaders, the leaders in Israel, for the people who answered the call, bless the Lord. (REB)

While the the LXX(b) reads,

A revelation was uncovered in Israel when the people ignorantly sinned: praise the Lord!

Ἀπεκαλύφθη ἀποκάλυμμα ἐν Ἰσραήλ· ἐν τῷ ἀκουσιασθῆναι λαὸν εὐλογεῖτε Κύριον.

The key word in the LXX is:

ἀκουσιάζομαι

Going further, the word is used in Numbers 15.28 (LXX):

Hebrew Alignment1

שׁגגcommit error unintentionally (1): Nu 15:28

נדבoffer willingly (1): Judg 5:2G

Numbers 15.28 in the Hebrew (via REB English) and then in the LXX (and LS English):

and the priest will make expiation before the Lord for that person, who will then be forgiven.

….

Then the priest will make atonement for the person who inadvertently sinned and erred involuntarily before the Lord, to make atonement for him.

καὶ ἐξιλάσεται ὁ ἱερεὺς περὶ τῆς ψυχῆς τῆς ἀκουσιασθείσης καὶ ἁμαρτούσης ἀκουσίως ἔναντι Κυρίου, ἐξιλάσασθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ.

The key word, ἀκουσιάζομαι, is connected to the sin in ignorance found in Numbers 15.28 as well as the Greek words ἀκουσίως and ἀκούσιος also in Numbers 15.24-28. This section enumerates the required sacrifices for those, individual and congregation, who have committed a sin that could not be helped (either through ignorance or against their will). As I read this passage, I do not see a heavy line drawn through the different words, but rather seem them as synonyms.

Let me show you why I think they are all related, if not simply complimentary:

septuagint logos lexicon numbers 15.24-28

So, here is my thinking about Judges 5.2 LXX(b). The march to war, which required soldiers to volunteer themselves (to die), was a sin (albeit one of ignorance/against the will/necessary) because it involved the sacrifice of the person to the deity. However, because it was required, it was forgiven and rather celebrated. Because of the (self-)sacrifice of the soldiers, God awarded Israel victory. In Rome, you’d call this a devotio. In LXX Israel, you call it a revelation.

  1. Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint

Working on my #SBLAAR (2014) paper, “There and Back Again, A Jesus Tale: The Poetics of Apologetic Reversal”

The romanticized woodcut engraving of Flavius ...
The romanticized woodcut engraving of Flavius Josephus appearing in William Whiston’s translation of his works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will propose Mark is borrowing two well-known and horrible entries into Jerusalem. First up, Mark 11.1-17:

Καὶ ὅτε ἐγγίζουσιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς Βηθφαγὴ καὶ Βηθανίαν πρὸς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν, ἀποστέλλει δύο τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ 2 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν κώμην τὴν κατέναντι ὑμῶν, καὶ εὐθὺς εἰσπορευόμενοι εἰς αὐτὴν εὑρήσετε πῶλον δεδεμένον ἐφʼ ὃν οὐδεὶς οὔπω ἀνθρώπων ἐκάθισεν· λύσατε αὐτὸν καὶ φέρετε. 3 καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ· Τί ποιεῖτε τοῦτο; εἴπατε ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει· καὶ εὐθὺς αὐτὸν ἀποστέλλει πάλιν ὧδε. 4 καὶ ἀπῆλθον καὶ εὗρον πῶλον δεδεμένον πρὸς θύραν ἔξω ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀμφόδου, καὶ λύουσιν αὐτόν. 5 καί τινες τῶν ἐκεῖ ἑστηκότων ἔλεγον αὐτοῖς· Τί ποιεῖτε λύοντες τὸν πῶλον; 6 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτοῖς καθὼς εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ἀφῆκαν αὐτούς. 7 καὶ φέρουσιν τὸν πῶλον πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἐπιβάλλουσιν αὐτῷ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐπʼ αὐτόν. 8 καὶ πολλοὶ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν ἔστρωσαν εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, ἄλλοι δὲ στιβάδας κόψαντες ἐκ τῶν ἀγρῶν. 9 καὶ οἱ προάγοντες καὶ οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἔκραζον· Ὡσαννά· Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου· 10 Εὐλογημένη ἡ ἐρχομένη βασιλεία τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Δαυίδ· Ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.

11 Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς τὸ ἱερόν· καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντα ὀψὲ ἤδη οὔσης τῆς ὥρας ἐξῆλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα.

12 Καὶ τῇ ἐπαύριον ἐξελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ Βηθανίας ἐπείνασεν. 13 καὶ ἰδὼν συκῆν ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ἔχουσαν φύλλα ἦλθεν εἰ ἄρα τι εὑρήσει ἐν αὐτῇ, καὶ ἐλθὼν ἐπʼ αὐτὴν οὐδὲν εὗρεν εἰ μὴ φύλλα, ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς οὐκ ἦν σύκων. 14 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῇ· Μηκέτι εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἐκ σοῦ μηδεὶς καρπὸν φάγοι. καὶ ἤκουον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

15 Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ τοὺς ἀγοράζοντας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, καὶ τὰς τραπέζας τῶν κολλυβιστῶν καὶ τὰς καθέδρας τῶν πωλούντων τὰς περιστερὰς κατέστρεψεν 16 καὶ οὐκ ἤφιεν ἵνα τις διενέγκῃ σκεῦος διὰ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, 17 καὶ ἐδίδασκεν καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· Οὐ γέγραπται ὅτι Ὁ οἶκός μου οἶκος προσευχῆς κληθήσεται πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν; ὑμεῖς δὲ πεποιήκατε αὐτὸν σπήλαιον λῃστῶν.

Thanks to Rick from Logos and an experimental feature, I got a jumpstart. This is what the search for literary connections looks like:

Dataset Canonical Reference Relationship Noncanonical Reference
Josephus Mark 11:1 Phrase Wars 2.262
Josephus Mark 11:1 Remove Wars 2.261–263
Josephus Mark 11:1 Remove Ant 20.169–170
Josephus Mark 11:1 Topical Ant 20.169
Josephus Mark 11:1 Remove Life 269
Josephus Mark 11:2 Remove Wars 2.261–263
Nag Hammadi Codices Mark 11:8 Allusion NHC II 2, 39:29–NHC II 2, 40:2
Apostolic Fathers Mark 11:9 Topical Did 12.1
Apostolic Fathers Mark 11:9 Echo Did 10.6
Apostolic Fathers Mark 11:9 Remove Barn 6.4
Josephus Mark 11:9 Remove Wars 1.673
Josephus Mark 11:9 Remove Ant 7.40–41
Nag Hammadi Codices Mark 11:9 Allusion NHC II 2, 39:29–NHC II 2, 40:2
NT Apocrypha Mark 11:9 Remove APt 24
Dead Sea Scrolls Sectarian Material Mark 11:10 Topical 4Q174
NT Apocrypha Mark 11:10 Remove Acts Pil. 1
Josephus Mark 11:11 Topical Ant 18.90
Josephus Mark 11:11 Topical Ant 15.405

 

Mark came before some of the material here, so you have to mark that out…mark that out, I slay me… I am looking at Wars in particular.

So, we come up with at least one section, the entry into Jerusalem by the Egyptian. This is found in BJ 2.261-263:

τούτοις Φῆλιξ, ἐδόκει γὰρ ἀποστάσεως εἶναι καταβολή, πέμψας ἱππεῖς καὶ πεζοὺς ὁπλίτας πολὺ πλῆθος διέφθειρεν. Μείζονι δὲ τούτου πληγῇ Ἰουδαίους ἐκάκωσεν ὁ Αἰγύπτιος ψευδοπροφήτης· παραγενόμενος γὰρ εἰς τὴν χώραν ἄνθρωπος γόης καὶπροφήτου πίστιν ἐπιθεὶς ἑαυτῷ περὶ τρισμυρίους μὲν ἀθροίζει τῶν ἠπατημένων, περιαγαγὼν δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐκ τῆς ἐρημίας εἰς τὸ ἐλαιῶνκαλούμενον ὄρος ἐκεῖθεν οἷός τε ἦν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παρελθεῖν βιάζεσθαι καὶ κρατήσας τῆς τε Ῥωμαϊκῆς φρουρᾶς καὶ τοῦ δήμου τυραννεῖνχρώμενος τοῖς συνεισπεσοῦσιν δορυφόροις. φθάνει δ’ αὐτοῦ τὴν ὁρμὴν Φῆλιξ ὑπαντήσας μετὰ τῶν Ῥωμαϊκῶν ὁπλιτῶν, καὶ πᾶς ὁ δῆμοςσυνεφήψατο τῆς ἀμύνης, ὥστε συμβολῆς γενομένης τὸν μὲν Αἰγύπτιον φυγεῖν μετ’ ὀλίγων, διαφθαρῆναι δὲ καὶ ζωγρηθῆναι πλείστους τῶνσὺν αὐτῷ, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν πλῆθος σκεδασθὲν ἐπὶ τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστον διαλαθεῖν.

There are common points. Both start at the Mount of Olives. Both have friends with them. For Jesus, they are his disciples. For the Egyptian, guards. There is a multitude of people as well.

If we go further, we find a connection between Mark 11.15–17 and the siege of the Temple, with the entry by my favorite baddie, Simon bar Giora (4.570-584).

I am attracted to the Egyptian story as a literary source because of Acts 21.38–39. I think there is something in Luke, perhaps calling attention to Mark’s usage.

So, why is Mark using two literary sources, but reversed, to present the story of Jesus’s entry? Because it is apologetic. Mark does not want Jesus seen as the conquering tyrant. He wants to show how peaceful Jesus was, so he mimics (borrows) the language of Josephus so that his audience can get a sense his intent.

Jesus does not come to conquer Jerusalem. /a/Christians are not traitors or treasonous.

One of my “book notes” for Religious Studies Review is not published at Wiley Online Library

You can find it here:

A Common Written Greek Source for Mark AND Thomas. By John Horman. Studies in Christianity and Judaism 20. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011. Pp. viii + 256. Cloth, $85.00. – Watts – 2014 – Religious Studies Review – Wiley Online Library.

I can’t reproduce it yet, but… I found the concept fascinating but deeply flawed. Horman (an independent researcher, which is awesome) has a great theory, but in the end, it is a theory biased on the need to make Thomas more canonical than the other Gospels. I just don’t see it. One thing Horman does (and Francis Watson does) is to de-gnostic-fy Thomas, which is a welcomed feature.