> <<3. Actium happened and life under Rome switched from being subjects
> of a fairly loose Republic to being under the Imperial thumb that
> claim divine authorization, a son of God, a savior.... This "good
> news" was stamped in some way on every coin of the realm.>>
> Does Augustus ever call himself 'Son of THE god'? He certainly
> the title 'Divus Filius' on some of his coins, but this surely
> means 'Son
> of a god', ie son of the divine Julius Caesar, his adoptive
> father. A very
> far cry from being the son of, say, Zeus or Jupiter!
Good point of clarification. We're dealing with polytheistic
culture, of course. In the Republican era, almost all the coins show
a god's face on the obverse. This changes with Julius Caesar and
there afterwards. The gods are relegated to the reverses and on the
coins you find all of these statements like, "Divi Filius," and
"Father of the Fatherland," etc. And there is the language of Caesar
as a title and then Octavian's claim to be "the August" one. Such
language did claim lineage from the divinized Julius Caesar. But
then Augustus had the Senate vote him as "a divine son of... a god"
while he was quite alive. Just checking out eBay, the inscription on
the denarius minted between 7 and 5 B.C.E where his two young sons
are on the reverse, the obverse description reads: Caesar Augustus,
Divi F. Pater F. Patriae. Another denarius features the bull
representing Jupiter and, in a butting stance, hence the claim of
divine military power and the obverse reads Augustus Divi F
(filius). At his death the Senate voted full deification. Later
imperial coins, show this divinization power claim by the living
emperors. A favorite coin is one where Gordian III is on the obverse
and he stands "at the right hand" of Jupiter on the reverse (the
right hand holding the thunderbolt). Leaving all thoughts of
metaphysics aside, this was all Divine Power claiming language and
> Soter was used as a
> title by some Greek kings, usually by the founders of dynasties,
> ie Ptolemy
> Soter, who took power in Egypt following the death of Alexander.
> The sense is
> surely that he has 'saved' the people from the bad rule of his
> predecessors. So Augustus could claim to be the 'saviour' who had
> rescued the
> Romans from the upheavals of the Imperatorial period. It's a far
> cry from
> the claims made for Jesus, yet I think there is a connection.
One question is when/ where/ by whom the various claims were made. A
second question is what was originally being affirmed by that
language and how did that affirmation develop over time. The first
place I want to look in the Jewish tradition is to the internal
received traditions (the Torah, Nevi'im and Ketu'vim). The second
place is to look at the broader religious, social and cultural world
at the time of the writings, and then move forward from there to
think about developments. I say this because often people claim that
assigning certain titles to Jesus, like "Son of God" (meaning
specifically son of the Jewish God) was a metaphysical claim from the
beginning. I think that is simply wrong. Psalm 2, for instance,
makes the claim about David, [God says] "You are my son: today I have
begotten you." This is not a metaphysical claim, it is a political
power claim." Interest in metaphysics is later in the Christian
tradition, when the Church Fathers were up to defining and defending
their faith in terms of the pagan philosophers. At the outset, such
language was all about making Scriptural fulfillment claims. We see
this clearly in the little formulas like the one we find as
buttressing Paul's "Grace and Peace to you..." words in Romans.
As for connection? I think the writers were quite intentionally
pouring over the scriptures to talk about fulfillment and doing so
with a clear eye on the current Roman theology in order to make
distinct counter claims. "Who really rules" is far from an abstract
question. It had to do with "to whom do you bow the knee," "to whom
do you pay taxes," "to which temples must I go?" etc. etc.
Thanks for your note!
> Robert Brenchley
> Birmingham UK
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