Recent Biblical scholarship has rediscovered the central importance of the Roman Empire in understanding the struggles of the early church in living and proclaiming the Kingdom or Commonwealth of God, a major message, if not THE major message, of Jesus.
All the people living in the first century lived “In the Shadow of Empire”, as the title of one book puts it. Here are some questions that are relevant for the contemporary church to consider growing out of this new scholarship.
I Why has the role of the Roman Empire been reassessed in its impingement upon the beginning of the movement begun by Jesus?
II What is the nature of (the Roman) Empire?
III Where do we find the message of the Kingdom as conflicting with Empire in New Testament writings?
IV How did the early followers of Jesus deal with the Kingdom/Empire conflict?
V In order to begin answering these questions, I am reviewing a number of the many books of the last 20 years on Empire Criticism. These books should help in answering questions about the significance of the Roman Empire on the New Testament writings and on the Christian community of the first two centuries.
A Two blog postings on The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide, by Warren Carter published in 2009
1. Empire: Foreground of the New Testament found here
2. Kingdom: Alternative to Empires found here
B A blog posting on two anthologies about the New Testament and Empire (found here)
1. In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful
Resistance, Richard Horsley editor, published in 2008
2, Empire in the New Testament editors: Porter and Westfall, published in 2011