Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins

By Steven J. Friesen | Go to book overview

12
WORSHIP AND AUTHORITY

This chapter is devoted to the distinctions in John's text between “good” and “bad” authority. It is not a chapter on the politics of Revelation; it goes deeper than politics. I have sought throughout this study to avoid applying modern notions of “political” and “religious” to the ancient data, because this pair of categories is poorly equipped to define Roman imperial societies. Our “politics and religion” suggests styles of community life that characterize modernities to various degrees, but have little to do with the Roman Empire.

So I have framed this study in terms of mythic worldviews, also a modern western category. This approach is more disciplined in its attempt to understand and represent the variety of ways in which humans know and shape the world. Furthermore, I have paid particular attention to theorists who study the nature of worldviews and experiences in areas like native South America (Sullivan), African America (Long), India (Eliade and, to an extent, Wilfred Cantwell Smith), and other decolonizing regions (Said). This method hardly guarantees objectivity. It simply expresses my bias in favor of analysis that recognizes relationships of domination and resistance in societies.

In this chapter I consider what is meant by “worship, ” compare the authority of the deified Jesus with the authority of the Roman emperors, and examine the roles assigned to the rulers of this world by Revelation.

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Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Religious Criticism 5
  • I - The Logic of Participation 23
  • 2 - Provincial Imperial Cults of Asia Under Augustus and Tiberius 25
  • 3 - Provincial Cults from Gaius to Domitian 39
  • 4 - A Survey 56
  • 5 - Two Case Studies 77
  • 6 - Groups and Individuals 104
  • 7 - Imperial Cults as Religion 122
  • II - Revelation, Resistance 133
  • 8 - Revelation in Space and Time 135
  • 9 - Space and Time in Revelation 152
  • 10 - Working with Myth 167
  • 11 - Communities Worshipping Humans 180
  • 12 - Worship and Authority 194
  • 13 - Revelation in This World 210
  • Glossary 219
  • Notes 225
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index of Ancient Sources 273
  • General Index 281
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