Monday, February 02, 2009

A Plea, A Post, and (im)Perium

So blogging is not as regular as I had hoped. I must admit that I am not as bright as most bibliobloggers, and that the process of writing is a painful art form, that i have yet to master (and don't have much realistic hope of ever mastering).  But i trudge on in the hopes that Jim West will allow me back on the bibliobloggers site (I think I was on once) even though I don't post enough for him (at least once a week).  Ok I am really hoping that Brandon Wason just uses his clout as moderator and just bypasses jim's screening process all together, sneak me in Brandon!  Either way obscurity is hard to maintain on the internet, so at least I have achieved something, Right.

Ok, now back to our synopsis of Elliott's The Arrogance of Nations. Now like Elliott, I too believe that the exigence of Paul's Letter to the Romans is found in God’s active purpose in calling himto bring about the “Faithful obedience among the nations” (1.5).  And so begins the investigation into a series of topoi that help one understand the dialogical character of Paul's letter to the Romans.

The first topoi Elliott presents is that of IMPERIUM, which loosely translates into something like "the power or status a person or group has". Imperium was very important to Rome, as it is to any government, because in the maintenance of power the consent of weaker peoples is of paramount importance to the ways in which the powerful seek to represent their rule both to themselves and also to their subjects. Elliott suggests that because the obedience of the nations was the prerogative claimed by the Roman Emperor that as a natural consequence we must situate Paul’s rhetoric in this wider field of discourse. It is here that the categories of coercion / consent / obedience / subjection become helpful in navigating imperium.  Naturally all governments, and Empires are no exception here, are systems that are always in permanent crisis of legitimation, so it is within these tensions that the rhetoric of Romans and Paul's program as the apostle to the nations promises to be fruitful.

Elliott uses James C. Scott's Hidden Transcripts as a tool in this exploration. (the Public Transcript = the direct interaction between dominant and subordinate classes and the

Hidden Transcript = the interaction between either the subordinate classes themselves, and or between the dominant classes, that they don't want the other classes to know about.) So rather simplistically (this is due to my simplifying, and is not meant as a polemic of Elliott's study) the public transcript that makes up the backdrop of Paul's letter to the Romans is essentially the idea that justice and faithfulness are the hallmarks of beneficent Roman rule.


Because this public transcript was so prevalent, Paul needed to win the hearts and minds of the Romans. He did this by offering an alternative to the official Public Transcript of Rome.  It is important then that we notice a few terms and how they were used in both the Public Transcript/and in Paul:

1.  Lord was a title for Caesar/Paul uses it to refer to the Messiah

2.  Gospel was the propaganda of the emperor’s victories and described his accession to the throne/Paul uses it to describe the power of the Messiah.

3.  Faithfulness was ones loyalty and steadfastness to the Emperor/Paul uses it to either describe ones loyalty to the Messiah, or the Loyalty of the Messiah to God's plan/promises.  (here Elliott sees faithfulness and obedience as interchangeable terms).

Elliott's reading results in some keen insights:

1.  Paul evokes imperial language, “Greeks and barbarians” in order to show that he will not be engaging in the “civilizing mission” of Rome.

2.  Paul rather playfully rejects the honor and shame codes current among the Roman elite.

Up next...JUSTITIA 


Jim said...

ok now- how can we feel good about adding you to when you dont list said site as one you read in your blogroll????


ok- i'll add you (for the moment!) (even though you don't have my blog on your list either...)

Jim said...

ok i see the problem now-- you have no name! not anywhere on the blog nor in your about section. metalepsis huh... greek then are you?

metalepsis said...

Now Jim did you require NT Wrong to give up his name? I know, I know, he was immensely more entertaining than i can ever hope to be...

And the blogroll does need to be updated.

And i'm as Greek as Wrong is Wright!

Jim said...

the only diff., dude, is that i know wrong. i.e., i know who he is.