Aug 5, 2007

This post will summarize the third "theme" that NT Wright believes can be prominently identified within Paul's writings, that of Gospel and Empire.

This is a simple, fairly demonstrable theme that has radical implications. Here is how it works:

Dominating the world in Paul's day was the Roman Empire. At the head of that Empire was Caesar himself. At various points in time, Caesar had claimed to be the one who brings "peace" (remember the pax Romana?) , to be the "savior" of the peoples whose leaders he conquered, to be the "Lord" of the world, and to be the "son of God." Also, whenever a military victory was announced, people would ride through the streets of a city announcing "good news" or the "gospel" of his victory.

Do these claims sound familiar? In fact, they are the same claims that the writers of the New Testament generally, and Paul more specifically, continuously use to refer to Jesus. The claim that "Jesus is Lord" (a phrase which Wright interprets to be a summary of Paul's gospel) is, in fact, a political claim - it indicates that, as God reclaims his world, true authority is to be found in Jesus and not in Caesar or any other Emperor, king, dictator, or (in modern terms) constitutional body.

Thus, in Romans 1, when Paul says he is eager to preach his gospel (i.e., to announce that "Jesus is Lord") in Rome, and then follows that by stating he "is not ashamed of the Gospel," he means it. Paul intends, it seems, to march right into the seat of Caesar's power, and announce that Caesar is not - as he claims - in charge of the world.

There is a new Lord in the world, and anyone else who claims to hold authority over creation should take note.



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