The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide

By Gench, Frances Taylor | Interpretation, April 2008 | Go to article overview

The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide


Gench, Frances Taylor, Interpretation


The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide by Warren Carter Abingdon, Nashville, 2006. 148 pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-0-687-34394-2.

WARREN CARTER HAS BEEN at the forefront of an emerging area of NT scholarship that views the Roman Empire as the "foreground" rather than "background" of the NT writings-the pervasive context assumed and engaged in every chapter. He maintains that the NT writings are, in fact, "hidden transcripts," written from and for communities of followers of one crucified by the empire, that assist them in negotiating Rome's imperial world. Carter rejects the notion that Jesus and the NT writings are not political, for they often "dissent from Rome's way of organizing society," "seek to shape alternative ways of being human and participating in human community that reflect God's purposes," "offer practices and ways of living that often differ significantly from the domination and submission patterns of Rome's world," and "provide different ways of understanding the world, of speaking about it, of living and relating-all the while rejecting options of total escape from or total compromise with Rome's empire" (pp. 12-13). Carter illumines the complexity and diversity of this engagement.

The first chapter provides a succinct overview of the structure and values of the Roman imperial world with its vast disparities of power and wealth. The second chapter then sketches varied ways in which NT writings evaluate this world and strategies they offer for negotiating it on a daily basis. Interestingly, different strategies, such as opposition and accommodation, can coexist in the same NT writing, for as Carter observes, "Followers of Jesus know a hybrid existence that results from their participation in two worlds, that of Roman domination and the alternative community of followers of Jesus" (p.

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