Saturday, May 12, 2007

Renewing Creation: Jesus vs Caesar

Rob Bell, in his book "Velvet Elvis", has this to say:
In the first century, the claim [made by early Christians] of restoration [of the originally-created paradise cosmos] had numerous social, political, and economic dimensions to it. The world was ruled by the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire was ruled by a succession of emperors called caesars. The ceasars claimed they were sent by the gods to renew creation. Caesar Augustus believed that as the son of god, he was god incarnate on earth, the prince of peace who had come to restore all of creation. He inaugurated a twelve-day celebration called Advent to celebrate his birth. Sound familiar? His priests offered sacrifices and incense to rid people of their guilt. One of his popular slogans was "There is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved than that of Caesar." Another phrase they used often was "Caesar is Lord." Throughout the Roman Empire, the ceasars called on people to worship them as the divine saviors of humankind, and a city that acknowledged Caesar as Lord was called an ekklesia.
Christians will recognize how the early church co-opted these phrases for their own new Lord, Jesus, and even called their assemblies by the name ekklesia (church), thereby contrasting the claims of the caesars with the claims of Jesus.

Rob then goes on to point out the stratified nature of Roman society, with Roman citizens ranking higher than non-Roman citizens, men ranking higher than women, free persons ranking higher than slaves, etc. Then Rob writes:
...Paul claimed that "in Christ" ... there was "neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female". He is calling the entire culture into question, insisting that through this risen-from-the-dead Jesus, the whole world is being reorganized. And in this new reality, every person is equal. Everybody. Paul is the first person in the history of world literature to argue that all human beings are equal.
Wow. Kindda makes you appreciate the contributions of Christianity to world culture, huh?

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