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The Lord of the Entire World: Lord Jesus, a Challenge to Lord Caesar?

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How would the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord’, have been understood in the first-century Roman world? Was it more than a statement of one’s devotion to Jesus? Was it also an implicit challenge to the living Caesar, the lord of the Roman empire?

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How would the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord’, have been understood in the first-century Roman world? Was it more than a statement of one’s devotion to Jesus? Was it also an implicit challenge to the living Caesar, the lord of the Roman empire?

There were many lords in the first century and the use of the title kyrios was complex. Clearly Paul was influenced by the use of this title for Yahweh in the Greek Old Testament. But he was also part of a culture in which the title was used for many persons, including fathers, slave owners, government officials —and the emperor.

However, the title kyrios was used sparingly of emperors in the early and mid-first century. On the basis of the extant evidence, scholars since Deissmann have come to differing conclusions as to whether a challenge to the emperor is contained in the phrase.

Fantin proposes a more powerful method of resolving the question, drawing upon the insights of relevance theory. He examines a whole range of persons referred to with this title, and evaluates the potential influence of such contexts on Paul’s usage. Only then is it possible to draw compelling conclusions on whether any challenge is likely to be implied.

In The Lord of the Entire World, Fantin shows that the living Caesar was indeed acknowledged in Paul’s time as the supreme lord of the Roman world. Key New Testament texts such as Romans 10.9, 1 Corinthians 8.6 and Philippians 2.11 show that in all likelihood the Christian confession was in fact a challenge to imperial authority.

Additional information

Table of Contents

Prologue
PLACE: CORINTH. DATE: MID 50s CE

Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION
1. Towards Defining ‘Polemic’
2. The Need for and Value of the Study
3. Previous Studies of Importance
4. Method
5. Limitations of the Study
6. Paul and Politics

Chapter 2
PAUL AND HIS WORLD: SOURCES AND THEIR USE
1. Paul: The Authenticity and Date of the Letters
2. Paul’s Thought: From Bousset to Engberg-Pedersen
3. Paul’s Thought: My Approach
4. Sources and their Use

Chapter 3
IMPERIAL CULTS AND EMPERORS: THE PRESENCE OF CAESAR
1. Imperial Cults: History of Research
2. Imperial Cults and Roman Religious Experience
3. Imperial Cults and Emperor Worship: A Survey
4. The Emperor in the Roman World
5. Cities
6. Conclusion

Chapter 4
KYRIOS IN THE FIRST CENTURY: MEANING, REFERENTS
AND RANGE OF USAGE
1. Towards the Meaning of Kyrios in the First Century
2. Semantics 1: Internal Considerations and Potential Referents
3. Semantics 2: External Considerations
4. Relational Nature of Kyrios
5. Kyrios at the Conceptual Level

Chapter 5
KYRIOS CHRISTOS AND KYRIOS KAISAR:
CHRIST’S CHALLENGE TO THE LIVING CAESAR
1. Kyrios Caesar
2. Caesar as the Supreme Lord
3. The Need for a More Powerful Method
4. The Nature of the Polemic
5. The Polemic Revealed
6. Conclusion

Chapter 6
CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVE

Reviews

  1. Michael Bird, Review of Biblical Literature.

    For many the living Caesar was the default referent for the conception of one as kyrios, and the application of relevance theory to Paul’s letters shows that Paul intended a polemic against the living emperor … Fantin has put together a convincing and compelling thesis about the polemical transcript operating, with varying degrees of clarity, in Paul’s letters. The Pauline letters have a lucid political and counter imperial texture, even though cultivating social dissent against imperial authorities was not their primary aim … Fantin has produced a study of Paul’s counter imperial discourse that must be reckoned with in future studies on the subject.

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Book information

Author
Joseph D. Fantin
List Price
£70 / $120 / €80
Series
New Testament Monographs, 31
Scholars' Price
£35 / $60 / €40
ISBN 13 hardback
978-1-907534-12-6
Format
Hardback
Page Extent
xxiii + 327
Publication Date
August 2011
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