Category Archives: Doctoral Work

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.



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:


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

did jesus kill himself (or, maybe, have himself killed)?

The Death of Jesus
The Death of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jerad and Amanda Miller, the two who ambushed and killed two on-duty (and on lunch) police officers over the weekend are said to have had a death wish. I think this is abundantly clear. But, so do some martyrs (suicide bombers are on an entirely different scale). If you look at the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, you will get the real sense that man desired nothing more than to die.

But, what about Jesus? Famously, some liberal theologians suggest Jesus only submitted to the cross after his example was wasted on the folk. Or, some suggest he was the first martyr. Neither of this, I think, does justice to what I am going to propose in my new dissertation.

If we allow for the moment that devotio means, in its simplest form, “self-sacrifice,” then we can allow for an exploration of suicide as a form of devotio even if the proper term is not used.[1] With this in mind, we turn to two authors, one making use of the other. Jack Miles, in his seminal work, Christ, a Crisis in the Life of God, posits the death of Jesus as a suicide. In his story, God has abandoned Israel and as such, remembers that he must honor his promise. To do so, God becomes human in the person of Christ.[2] Miles uses Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzat’s work, “Le suicide du Christ: Une theologie,” to buffer his work. In this work, Dauzet calls attention to the text, specifically the Gospel of John, and the early interpretation to show that the death of Jesus as a suicide is allowable. But, he goes further. Dauzet states, “The idea of the suicide of Christ will have been, before all else, a Christian if not indeed a Christological idea.”[3]

What if the death of Jesus was by his own choosing? I don’t mean the “Jesus loved us this much he died for us.” No, I mean, Jesus said, “The only way to renew this covenant and force God to act is to for me to die. I have to die.” In working on this, I am left to focus on suicides today as well as those who have themselves killed (death by cop). I am also worried that this line of thinking is making me a more conservative theologian (or theology guy). I mean, it is getting brutal in my head. I also contend that if Jesus did in fact seek to kill himself in such a manner then it is possible, almost required, that the earliest Christology was pretty high, that Paul didn’t invent as much theology as we’d like to think, among other things I’m not ready to put into words yet.

[1] The term “suicide” is a relatively new concept; the idea of a taking one’s life for issues not related to honor, or any of the other ancient reasons, is even newer. However, I believe the anachronistic term is best and will be used periodically given it’s emotional charge and his direct connotation of free will.

[2] Jack Miles, Christ, A Crisis in the Life of God. (Vintage, 2002).

[3] Miles, Christ, A Crisis in the Life of God,, 164–67.See, Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzet, Le suicide du Christ: Une theologie (Perspectives critiques), (Presses universitaires de France, 1998).

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The Use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel, Part 3 (former prospectus)

English: beginning of the Gospel of John
English: beginning of the Gospel of John (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am changing my dissertation focus from a literary analysis of the Fourth Gospel’s use of Deuteronomy to something else. Therefore, I am posting what I have already written. I’ll upload it on later. Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.

3.         Goal

3.1       Statement of Purpose

As noted above, Deuteronomy is recognized by scholars as the book most used by Jewish exegetes of the Second Temple Period. Equally noted is the lack of pointed scholarship investigating the use of Deuteronomy by the Fourth Gospel. While there are studies meant to engage the Mosaic role of Jesus, drawn from Deuteronomy 18, in the Fourth Gospel, along with Christology, monotheism and a few other Deuteronomic artifacts are easily accessible, there is no monograph examining the role Deuteronomy as a whole plays in the Fourth Gospel. We have such studies on various other books, such as Ezekiel, in John, but nothing as of yet for Deuteronomy, clearly the exegetical muse of the cognitive environment of the Second Temple authors. This is a problem I propose to solve.

I propose the author of the Fourth Gospel used Deuteronomy with a discoverable intention. While we cannot fully know the author’s mind, we can attempt to place the author of the Fourth Gospel next to similar authors in hopes of narrowing in on the author’s intention. The goal of this work is first to examine and catalogue the myriad ways the Evangelist may have used Deuteronomy as an intertext and then to propose a literary connection between the two books, a connection I propose is a stark difference between the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel and that of all of the other literary sources John employs to fashion his Gospel. The Fourth Gospel does not merely use Deuteronomy to validate messianic claims or other theological tenants, but develops a distinctive interpretative instantiation of Deuteronomy so that the fifth book of Moses is the key to the Fourth Gospel. To that end, I will examine the Johannine use of Deuteronomy on three levels. The first will examine unique features, such as word choice and use of unique stylistic features. The second will examine both books for a shared literary imagery including theological constructs. The third will examine the designs of both books, looking for a pattern to be used by and then argue for its use in the Fourth Gospel. This third level, rightly falling after the other two, will make use of the ground work laid in the previous, to suggest John is intimately familiar with Deuteronomy and, like other Jewish exegetes, uses the end of the Pentateuch to buttress his own work.

Research will focus on deciphering the uses of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. I will examine proposed quotations and allusions with the intention of identifying a Johannine knowledge, use, and reliance upon the fifth book of Moses. The questions here will relate to the use of Deuteronomy as opposed to the use of other books likely available to the author of the Gospel. A deeper petition will seek to examine an overarching use of Deuteronomy, for such things as structure. While it is rather easy to accept a Johannine motivation for using Deuteronomy 18 to present Jesus and other use of theological motifs, the better question is whether or not the entirety of Deuteronomy may serve as a literary infrastructure. I will suggest it does. Finally, the question of inherent authority transferred to John (and thus John’s subjects) by Deuteronomy will be explored.

3.2       Value of Research

The value of the study will be manifold. First, I will work within current models of literary imitation in the New Testament to refine a methodology and then use this methodology in investigating the hypertext for quotations and allusions to the hypotext. Second, this will serve as an explanative catalogue for quotations and allusions, providing an interpretative piece to the methodology. Finally, this work will serve to propose an addition to John’s intention in that the Evangelist’s use of Deuteronomy is significant in understanding the intention of the author’s presentation of his narrative in a way not met by the use of other sources. Simply, Deuteronomy is John’s essential shape whereby he molds the Jesus plot.

3.3       Scope of Work

This study is divided into 2 parts. In the following chapter I will examine literary theory of quotations, allusions, and echoes as well as literary designs. In the Greco-Roman world the use of previous texts as a form of rhetorical practice is named mimesis or imitatio. We have no such well-ordered designation in the Jewish world of literary traditions, although it is clear this happened.[1] The use of mimesis in Gospel criticism began with Thomas Brodie’s work on the Fourth Gospel and is currently the tool of choice for those researching the literary sources of the Gospel of Mark.[2]  It will be used here not so much as to provide for the literary sources, but for the framing quality of the Fourth Gospel as well as for the “appeal to emotion” often employed by ancient writers through this process. To follow this reasoning, in chapter 3 I will develop a more complete methodology for exploring allusions and literary designs. This methodology will work with current models while allowing for a refined process to conservatively decipher John’s use of Deuteronomy.

In Part II, I will begin by surveying the uses of Deuteronomy by other exegetes of the Second Temple Period, focusing on Deuteronomy in rewritten Scripture and the use of Deuteronomy in narratives. As Deuteronomy features heavily in Second Temple Judaism — including mainstream and the highly sectarian Judaisms — I will first posit a certain interpretative must for any exegete of the time to use Deuteronomy and then give examples of how exegetes not only employed Deuteronomy, but crafted and re-crafted it to serve a plethora of needs in manifold communities. Finally, I will closely examine the reception of Deuteronomy by Second Temple exegetes and the intentional transference of authority, e.g., validation, through their use of quotes, allusions, and literary structures drawn from fifth book of Moses in their writings.

In chapter 5 I will explore, catalogue and offer a small measure of interpretative guidance to possible quotations and allusions, focusing first on items from the Greek Deuteronomy, such as neologisms, we might expect to find in the hypertext as clues to the use of the hypotext. Much of the groundwork for this chapter is already well laid by Hans Hübner. I work with the citations he has offered and propose several more while attempting to offer a more complete literary design as to the author ultimate purpose. The following chapter will focus on comparing the structure of Deuteronomy and John and looking for overall narrative frameworks the Evangelist may have borrowed from the Deuteronomist. The discoveries made in this chapter along with shared theology will feature heavily in determining these connections.

Finally, chapter 7 will serve as the conclusion for this study. As the proposal of this work is to discover the use of ­Deuteronomy by the Evangelist, the final chapter will seek to solidify my insistence on an intimate use of Deuteronomy to provide for something more than validation, but authorization. I will first analyze and compare the two discourses, using the methodology established in the previous chapter. Then, I will propose a function of the discourses focusing instead on its use for authorial weight rather than on a message intended for the audience, natural or implied. Finally, this chapter will explore the role of Deuteronomy in final chapters of the Fourth Gospel and how it aids in understanding Gospel and its author.

3.4 Conclusion

The present study will attempt to present at length the case for a considerable useage between Deuteronomy and the Fourth Gospel that goes beyond allusions or scriptural citations. Rather, the intent of this work is to show the author of the Fourth Gospel to have used Deuteronomy to present not only Jesus in a particular view, but more importantly, this study will show the author hoped to present not only his work but himself as well in a particular light and in keeping with the tradition of Deuteronomic exegesis in Second Temple Judaism.

[1] For instance, the use of Isaiah and Exodus in the Wisdom of Solomon could certainly fit the Roman restrictions placed on mimesis. A later chapter is devoted to the exploration of the Jewish preservation of previous texts.

[2] For Brodie’s work, see The Gospel According to John: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Oxford University Press, 1997); The Quest for the Origin of John’s Gospel: A Source-Oriented Approach (Oxford University Press, 1993). For recent studies on the use of mimesis in the Gospel of Mark see Dennis R. MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (Yale University Press, 2000); Two Shipwrecked Gospels: The Logoi of Jesus and Papias’s Exposition of Logia About the Lord (Early Christianity and Its Literature) (Brill, 2012); Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?: Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles (Yale University Press, 2003); Adam Winn, Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick Publications, 2010); and Joel L. Watts, Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2013).





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