The New Testament Background: Selected Documents

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9780061300868: The New Testament Background: Selected Documents

C.K. Barret's classic work presents 280 ancient writings that bring the spiritual world of first century vividly to life.

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About the Author:

C. K. Barrett is Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham, England. He has established himself it the front rank of contemporary New Testament scholars by such works as The Holy Spirit in the Gospel Tradition, Commentary on St. John, and The New Testament Background.

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Chapter One

1. The Roman Empire

Augustus and the Imperial Settlement

The roots of that Empire in which the Christian faith was born ran deep and in many directions, not only into the Roman Republic but also into the Macedonian Empire of Alexander, and the Greek city states. Eventually, the Empire was able to seek philosophical justification in the cosmopolitanism of developed Stoicism (see 73-81); but at first it needed no justification beyond its own achievements. A world weary of civil war with its attendant social and economic disturbance and distress was prepared to welcome the victor of Actium as a saviour -- after all, what more did the average man ask of his gods than the peace, security, and social welfare Augustus gave him? Of course, there were some malcontents. The senatorial families deplored changes which deprived them of the substance of power and placed it in the hands of one man, armed with an Ultimate, if generally veiled, authority over life and property. But to the majority the Senate mattered little, and the provinces knew that they were far better governed than ever they had been under the Republic.

The character, motives, and intentions of Augustus; the political basis of the imperial constitution; the varying relations between the Emperors and the Senate -- these all present historical problems of unusual depth and complexity. Here, at the risk of undue simplification, will be given only a few passages illustrating the work of Augustus and some of the succeeding Emperors.

1

Res Gestae Divi Augusti 12f., 24-7, 3 4 f

Towards the close of his life, Augustus deposited with the Vestal Virgins four documents. One was his will, disposing of his personal property. Of the remaining three, one contained directions for the celebration of his funeral, another an account of the things he had done (rerum a se gestarum; Suetonius, Augustus 1 0 1), and the third a military and financial account of the state of the Empire. The brass tablets on which, pursuant to Augustus's instructions, the Res Gestae were engraved have not been found; but the greater part of the document has been recovered from a bilingual (GreekLatin) inscription in the temple of Rome and Augustus at Ancyra (the Monumentum Ancyranum), now supplemented by a Greek text found at Apollonia (in Pisidia) and a Latin found at Pisidian Antioch. There can be little doubt that the Res Gestae were compiled partly for the purposes of propaganda; but the substantial accuracy of the facts contained in them seems to fail only through a few small lapses of memory.

At the same time, by decree of the Senate, a portion of the praetors and tribunes of the plebs, together with the consul, Q. Lucretius, and other men of note, were sent as far as Campania to meet my arrival, an honour which up to this day has been decreed to none other but myself.

When in the consulship of Tiberius Nero and P. Quintilius I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul after settling the affairs of those provinces with success, the Senate, to commemorate my return, ordered an altar to Pax Augusta to be consecrated in the CampusMartius, at which it decreed that the magistrates, priests, and Vestal Virgins should celebrate an anniversary sacrifice.

Whereas our ancestors have willed that the gateway of Janus Quirinus should be shut, whenever victorious peace is secured by sea and by land throughout the empire of the Roman people, andwhereas before my birth twice only in all is it on record that the gateway has been shut, three times under my principate has the Senate decreed that it should be shut....

After my victory I replaced in the temples of all the communities of the province of Asia the ornaments which my adversary in thewar had, after despoiling the temples, taken into his own possession.

Silver statues of myself, standing or on horseback or sitting in a chariot, were set up in the city to the number of about eighty, which I myself took down, and out of the money value I set up gifts of gold in the temple of Apollo in my own name and in the names of thosewho had honoured me with the statues. I conquered the pirates and gave peace to the seas. In that war I handed over to their masters for punishment nearly 30,000 slaves who had run away from their owners, and taken up arms against the republic.

The whole of Italy of its own free will took the oath of fidelity tome, and demanded me as its leader in the war of which Actium was the crowning victory. An oath was also taken to the same effect by the provinces of Gaul, Spain, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia.

Among those who at that time served under my standards were more than seven hundred senators; out of that number, either beforethat date or afterwards, up to the day on which these records were written, eighty-three attained the consulship, and about one hundred and seventy were elected to priesthoods.

I extended the frontiers of all the provinces of the Roman people, which had as neighbours races not obedient to our empire.

I restored peace to all the provinces of Gaul and Spain and to Germany, to all that region washed by the Ocean from Gades to the mouth of the Elbe.

Peace too I caused to be established in the Alps from the region nearest to the Hadriatic as far as the Tuscan sea, while no tribe was wantonly attacked by war.

My fleet sailed along the Ocean from the mouth of the Rhine as far towards the east as the borders of the Cimbri, whither no Roman before that time had penetrated either by land or sea. The Cimbri and the Charydes and the Semnones and other German peoples of....

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