What’s in a Name or a Title?

With the number of Net Prophets postings having reached twenty I can turn my attention back to my  book list on “Kingdom or Empire”. What I want to do is revisit these two terms and see if I can get a better grip on this new Biblical Interpretation. I want to begin with looking to see if the latter term “Empire” is still sufficient to use.

I thought I would start with an an analysis of the pertinent words in the 90 books I have as “Book List” in the side bar of the blog. Authors and publishers often spend significant time in coming up with the titles and subtitles for their books. If they are successful the titles and subtitles will point clearly to what is significant or new in the book so as to encourage readers to be interested and thus buy it.

Take, for example, the very popular current book  on economics. Look at the book’s cover. http://www.amazon.com/Capital-Twenty-First-Century-Thomas-Piketty/dp/1491534656

All that you find, besides the author’s name, is the title and subtitle: “Capital” in very large letters, followed in much smaller letters by “in the Twenty-first Century”. Each word has been carefully chosen. ‘Capital’ not only tells you the author’s main word for describing economics today (‘in the twenty-first Century’) but we are reminded of possibly the most significant book on economics in the 19th century, “Capital”, “Das Capital” in its German form, by Karl Marx.

Likewise, take the first book I have listed below, Horsley’s 2008 book. It indicates that it is about a new or different way of looking at the Bible (Biblical interpretation), and the basis for this new view is seeing Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament writers through the lens of their living under the omnipresence of the Roman Empire. Yet the author makes the claim that this approach to the Bible is not really new. ‘Reclaiming’ infers that this way of looking at the Bible is looking at it through the eyes of the Biblical persons and writers.  It is just that we have gone through a long time where Biblical interpreters have ignored the setting in which the Biblical faith was lived. ‘Faithful Resistance’ is a clue to indicate how Horsley thinks Christians today need to respond to this new/old view of the Bible.

All the rest of the books in this list are really saying the same thing but taking one aspect or another of the persons in or portions of the Bible to say it.

I’ve grouped the titles by some key words:  I’ve selected books with the words empire, imperial, Roman, and Caesar, where they are in the title or subtitle. I began with books having “and Empire” in the title and cross-referenced them with persons and books in the Scriptures. I ended up with a good share of Biblical books covered, particularly in the New Testament: one book on the whole Bible, one on the New Testament, four on God, Jesus and Paul. Then one book on each of the four Gospels, four on Pauline texts, and finally one each on Revelation and Hebrews. That’s a significant cross-section of the New Testament covered. That’s a total of sixteen books.

There follow a total of eight more with “empire” found in their title or subtitle; then eight more with “imperial”, “Roman”, or “Caesar” in the title. That is a total of thirty two books. So on the first count, ‘empire’ seems fairly logical as a term for the reality for the new Biblical interpretation. It gives a name to what the first century Christians and church struggled with and had to oppose.

That covers the ‘Empire” aspect of my thesis. What about “Kingdom” or “Kingdom of God”? That doesn’t appear in many titles or subtitles. Well, no and yes. No, literally you don’t see it in the title. But yes it is implied. You won’t find that out until you read the book. It’s implied in many of those terms, for instance, that come before …”and Empire”. This “Jesus” of “Jesus and Empire” did not primarily shed his blood for our sins. This Jesus died because the empire saw and heard him as a threat to their power through his preaching about a different Kingdom. “Paul” has had a lot of time in our pulpits to preach about our being “justified by grace through faith”. But the Paul of “Paul and Empire” saw Christ as Lord, not Caesar. Because of this he kept ending up in jail and finally martyred for it.

So how did the writers on this book list come up with this new old message? I’m going to use title and subtitles to point toward the answer to that in my next posting.

NOTE: If you write a book, once it’s published you can’t change your mind. Or once you finish a service, you can’t go back to the pulpit and correct a point of the sermon. That’s why I like blog writing.           Ignore the previous paragraph. In my next posting I’m going to dig deeper into the use of  the term “empire”. Is there any critique of the empire critique, and are there other alternative terms that might be used instead?

In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance  Richard Horsley 2008

The  Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide  Warren Carter  2009

God and Empire John Dominic Crossan 2009

Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times  by Joerg Rieger, 2007.

Jesus and Empire: Kingdom of God & the New World Disorder  Richard Horsley 2002

Mark and Empire: Feminist Reflections,  Laurel Cobb 2013

Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter 2001

Luke-Acts and Empire: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Brawley 2011

John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter  2008

Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in  Imperial Society Richard Horsley 1997

Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, household, and empire in 1 Corinthians 1-7. by Ok-Pil Kim 2011 (Doctoral Thesis)

Paul in Empire: Imperial Image, Text and Persuasion in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles by Harry O Maier 2013

Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire, Walsh and Keesmaat 2004

Unveiling Empire:  Reading Revelation Then and Now, Howard-Brook and Gwyther  2013

Resisting Empire: Rethinking the Purpose of the Letter to “the Hebrews” by Jason Whitlark 2014

Being the Church in the Midst of Empire by Karen L. Bloomquist 2005

Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse , Averil Cameron 

Come Out, My People! God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond by Wes Howard-Brook 2012

Faith in the Face of Empire: the Bible Through Palestinian Eyes Mitri Raheb  2014

Empire and the Christian Tradition: New Readings of Classical Theologians 2007

The Politics of Heaven: Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Joseph Marchal  2008

The Arrogance of Nations: Readings in the Shadow of Empire (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Neil Elliot 2008

Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies  Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica 2012

Paul and the  Imperial Order by Richard Horsley 2004

Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins by Steven Friesen 2006

Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ by Klaus Wengst 1987

Christian Origins and Greco-Roman Culture by Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts 2012

World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age by Kavin Rowe 2009

Render to Caesar: Jesus, the Early Church, and the  Superpower Christopher Bryan  2005

Greater Than Caesar: Christology and Empire in the Fourth Gospel by Tom Thatcher 2009

To Caesar What Is Caesar’s: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early  Palestine, Fabian Udoh  2005


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