The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in its Social and Political Context

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9780199933655: The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in its Social and Political Context

Winner of the 2013 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise

Michael Peppard examines the social and political meaning of divine sonship in the Roman Empire. He begins by analyzing the conceptual framework within which the term ''son of God'' has traditionally been considered in biblical scholarship. Then, through engagement with recent scholarship in Roman history - including studies of family relationships, imperial ideology, and emperor worship - he offers new ways of interpreting the Christian theological metaphors of ''begotten''and ''adoptive'' sonship.

Peppard focuses on social practices and political ideology, revealing that scholarship on divine sonship has been especially hampered by mistaken assumptions about adopted sons. He invites fresh readings of several early Christian texts, from the first Gospel to writings of the fourth century. By re-interpreting several ancient phenomena - particularly divine status, adoption, and baptism - he offers an imaginative refiguring of the Son of God in the Roman world.

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About the Author:


Michael Peppard is Assistant Professor of Theology at Fordham University.

Review:


"Fine debut monograph...This is an admirable and enjoyable monograph: thoroughly scholarly, full of ideas, carefully argued, and beautifully written." --Journal of Theological Studies


"Too many authors writing on the first through the fifth centuries C.E. exhibit something of a disciplinary monomania, unwilling to incorporate insights from another academic field. Not so Michael Peppard...Throughout, he deftly makes use of recent scholarship and methodologies from Roman history, religious studies, and Patristics. This interdisciplinary approach contributes to the work being well-grounded socially and chronologically and also having new things to communicate." --Journal of Early Christian Studies


"Peppard has written a stimulating and eminently readable book that courageously cuts through established theological conventions and presents new scholarship in a careful and nuanced way without ever becoming tedious...In an exemplary way, this book shows that a fruitful encounter between critical biblical scholarship and dogmatic tradition does not lead to skepticism but instead breathes fresh air into those compartments of Christian doctrine where rethinking and reimagining, instead of reciting old formulas, is urgently needed." -- America Magazine


"Michael Peppard's monograph presents an enviably cogent rereading of the motifs of
sonship and adoption in Roman society and Mark's Gospel...thorough and commendable... highly recommended." --Review of Biblical Literature


"An important contribution a very learned and engaging book, which is based on recent research in various languages and disciplines. It offers a fresh approach to the problem of the divine sonship of Jesus. The eminent Protestant scholar Adolph von Harnack would have loved this book with its broad learning about classical cultures and its theological subtext which wants to free early Christianity from later alterations." --Journal of Roman Studies


"Michael Peppard's engaging book is a focused, extensively researched study of a title that has played a major role in the development of Christology... Peppard's book offers intriguing insights." --Church History


"Michael Peppard excavates the pre-Nicene meaning of Jesus as 'son of God,' showing that Mark's baptism can only be understood through a rethinking of divinity in ancient terms and an appreciation of the imperial title divi filius and adoption as central to the political repertoire of the Roman emperors. This is an engaging and carefully detailed work, indispensable to studying the gospels and the origins of christology."--Mary R. D'Angelo, Associate Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, University of Notre Dame


"How did the earliest believers in Jesus hear and understand his designation as 'son of God?' Peppard's is a 'must-read' book for all interested in this question. Exposing the weakness of scholarly treatments of this first- and second-century idea of divine sonship that resort, anachronistically, to philosophical concepts and terminology from much later church debates and creeds, Peppard retrieves the Roman context in which Christianity originated-especially the father-son theology and ideology of emperor worship. An incisive, compelling argument!"---Robert C. Gregg, Teresa Hihn Moore Professor, Emeritus, Religious Studies, Stanford University


"A solid scholarly contribution to the subject. Peppard situates the concept of 'the son of God' in its original Roman context and steers clear of anachronisms and facile agendas. His study will be a valuable and informed guide for both classical and biblical scholars."
--Karl Galinsky, author of Augustan Culture


"This volume by Peppard demands the attention of scholars of Christian origins, theologians, and classicists."--CHOICE


"This book is a great study. If you want to understand how Jesus is portrayed as the son of God in the Gospel of Mark and earliest Christianity, then forget the christological orthodoxy of Chalcedon, the philosophical foundations of Nicaea, the logos Christologies of John and Justin, and the virgin birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. Instead, read this book and be enlightened!"--Diglotting


"There is much to like in this monograph. The method is clear as he seeks to understand how early Christian texts would resonate with audiences; he brings the best of recent scholarship on Roman religion and social practice to his interpretation of the early Christian writings... The work is highly readable, engaging, helps to fill a lacuna in our understanding of the term 'son of God,' and will serve as an important dialogue partner for my teaching and research." --Themelios


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