NAYLOR, Michael - The Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation.pdf

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Description   Currents in Biblical Research The online version of this article can be found at:   DOI: 10.1177/1476993X09349160 2010 8: 207 Currents in Biblical Research Michael Naylor The Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation     Published by: can be found at: Currents in Biblical Research Additional services and information for  Email Alerts:
Transcript    Currents in Biblical Research online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1476993X09349160 2010 8: 207 Currents in Biblical Research  Michael Naylor The Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation  Published by:  can be found at: Currents in Biblical Research  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations:  at CAPES on November 12, 2010cbi.sagepub.comDownloaded from   The Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation MICHAEL NAYLOR  University of Edinburgh  Edinburgh, UK  ABSTRACT The question of the relationship of the Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation has occupied the attention of scholars throughout the past one hundred years. During this time, major shifts have taken place  both in the assessment of the Roman Imperial Cult in the context of the Roman Empire and in the interpretation of its role with respect to the book of Revelation. This article surveys and assesses these trends. It begins with a discussion of studies on the Roman Imperial Cult from the standpoint of classical studies. Next, texts within Revela-tion typically cited as indicating a response to emperor worship are introduced. The third and final section focuses upon studies on Revelation, with particular focus given to interpretive approaches, Christology, and the question of persecution under Domitian. Keywords: imperial cult, persecution, Revelation, Roman Empire  Introduction Within recent years, interest in the relationship between the Roman Impe-rial Cult and certain New Testament documents has produced a number of articles and monographs. While much of the current interest has focused upon the Pauline epistles and the Gospels, the book of Revelation has long  been seen as a key text indicating the relationship of early Christianity to Currents in Biblical Research © The Author(s), 2010. Reprints and Permissions: Vol. 8.2: 207-239ISSN 1476-993X DOI: 10.1177/1476993X09349160  at CAPES on November 12, 2010cbi.sagepub.comDownloaded from   208   Currents in Biblical Research 8.2 (2010) this institution of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Although certain strands of interpretation have emphasized purely future or spiritual/symbolic read-ings of Revelation, most modern critical studies have sought to link the  book of Revelation to the larger context of the first century. Albeit with some major exceptions, many commentators have attempted to connect the  book with the Roman Empire and the Roman Imperial Cult.This present article is intended to serve as an introduction for research-ers to these various studies on Revelation and the Roman Imperial Cult. The first section of this study will introduce major works in the field of classics that deal with Roman emperor worship. Next a brief introduction will be given to the evidence within Revelation seen as indicating the influ-ence of Roman emperor worship. The third section will consider the major studies on Revelation and Imperial Cult.Before moving to discuss classical studies on Roman emperor worship, a few words must be offered in way of definition. ‘Roman Imperial Cult’ and ‘emperor worship’ are used to refer to the honors offered to the Roman emperor, such as the construction of temples and altars, the offering of various kinds of sacrifice, the establishment of priesthoods, the attribution of certain qualities, and the use of various titles, that may be seen as having religious overtones. As will be noted, the exact nature and meaning of these honors have been greatly contested in the past hundred years. Next, the terms ‘provincial’ and ‘municipal’ will be used to distinguish between the honors given in the wider provincial context that were negotiated with Rome and the honors granted by individual cities largely apart from Roman authority. Finally, attention will be directed primarily to the context of Asia Minor. Studies focusing upon other regions will be noted, but priority will be given to the context addressed in the book of Revelation. Comparison with other regions within the empire will indicate features and nuances unique to each context. 1. Classical Studies on the Roman Imperial Cult  As may be expected, the secondary literature in the classics discipline related to Roman emperor worship is rich and immense. The following discussion is not intended be exhaustive; rather, it will seek to introduce a number of significant sources in the discussion so as to aid those con-sidering the relationship between the Roman Imperial Cult and the book of Revelation. By way of organization this section will consist of three  portions: First, major interpretative approaches to the Roman Imperial Cult will be examined. Next, studies focused upon particular regions will be at CAPES on November 12, 2010cbi.sagepub.comDownloaded from      N AYLOR    The Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation   209 considered, with preference given to the context of Asia Minor. Finally, specialized studies related to particular aspects of the Roman Imperial Cult will be introduced. a. Evaluation of the Roman Imperial Cult  Within the field of classics, the various works related to the evaluation of the Roman Imperial Cult prove to be the most significant in assess-ing the nature of the situation faced by John’s readers. In many ways, one may observe two divergent approaches to the nature of the Roman Impe-rial Cult. First, one approach makes a strong distinction between politics and religion, with the Roman Imperial Cult falling into the former cat-egory. Religious elements, according to this approach, are merely the garb in which this institution is dressed. Second, another more recent group of scholars would challenge such a distinction and would situate emperor worship within the wider religious context. In many ways, the publication of Price’s  Rituals and Power   (1984b) may be seen as the dividing point in the history of research. As such, sources prior to 1984 will be considered first before evaluating Price and the sources published in the last twenty-five years. i. Politics and religion During the first part of the twentieth century and up until the early 1980s, the question of whether the emperor cult should rightly be considered ‘politics’ or ‘religion’ dominated the conversation. In this approach, scholars drew upon statements from certain ancient sources, such as Tacitus’s characterization of it as ‘flattery’ (Ann. 6.18), as well as from theories about the function which it served in providing benefits for  both Rome and the provinces. In addition, certain differences were noted  between emperor worship and the cults for the traditional gods, such as an emphasis upon sacrifices for the emperor, the lack of votive offerings, and the subservient place occupied by the emperor when honored within the temple of another god.Amongst these works on the Roman Imperial Cult, Kornemann’s ‘Zur Geschichte der antiken Herrscherkulte’ (1901) and Sweet’s  Roman Emperor Worship  (1919) provide good starting points. Kornemann surveys the prec-edents from the time of Alexander and the Diadochi (1901: 52-95) before moving to consider developments in the Roman Empire (1901: 95-142). Sweet’s work assesses emperor worship with an eye toward Christian responses to emperor worship and thus serves as an important early twen-tieth-century work on the relationship between the two. His assessment of the Imperial Cult as the ‘final and supremely characteristic product’ of  paganism (1919: 129) gives some indication of the contrast which he drew at CAPES on November 12, 2010cbi.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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