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C O U R S E 
Letters of the Apostle Paul
Laura Nasrallah, Harvard University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Intertwining of Religion and Politics in the Roman Empire
Notes taken on March 5, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
1. local leaders nurture patron/client relations with Rome
mutual benefaction, gift exchange
time and space are marked in provinces in Rome
calendar changes in Asia
cult for the goddess Roma and honoring the imperial family
we shouldn't think as provinces and cities outside Rome as on the margin, but as areas appealing to make a connection to Rome to tie themselves into Roman governance
some provinces mixed more easily than others with Rome's culture
provinces benefited in terms of trade, taxes, and cultural exchange
2. border between religion and politics doesn't really exist in the Roman Empire
emperor is celebrated as a Savior
Tacitus writes that Vespasian healed a blind man, just as Jesus heals a man in the Gospel of John
the boundary between human and divine were thinner in the ancient world
wise men, philosophers, and emperors are often described as divine or nearly so
3. Christian testament language is adopting language of its time and environment: Roman imperial rhetoric
evangelium, or good news
soter, savior, healer
not only associated with emperors such as Augustus or religious leaders like Jesus, but also with cults of the god Asklepios (a god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion)
peace and universality was terminology of the times which Christian picked up to talk about their own religious life
4. religion and politics are mixed in cities in civic assemblies
*** our term "religion" and our term "politics" don't map well as separate spheres onto the ancient world
in Paul's letters we find language that is simultaneously religious and political
this is to be expected in a context where the imperial family was recognized as divine or like the gods
it's hard to know if Paul and those he wrote to stood for or against the Roman Empire
Romans 13: "the person who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment, for rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad"
yet also Paul represents the Roman officials as fundamentally mistaken: if they had understood God's hidden wisdom, they would not have crucified Jesus
*** Paul is isn't writing systematic theology or even writing systematically. He is writing occasional letters to particular communities.
at the time of writing his letters, there is no larger context