Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Are There Imperial Texts in the Class? Intertextual Eagles and Matthean Eschatology as "Lights Out" Time for Imperial Rome (Matthew 24:27-31)

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Are There Imperial Texts in the Class? Intertextual Eagles and Matthean Eschatology as "Lights Out" Time for Imperial Rome (Matthew 24:27-31)

Article excerpt

That the Gospel will also employ the second part-that God will save the people from the imperial power by bringing about Rome's demise. Matthew 24:27-28 depicts this eschatological victory at Jesus' return. This victory is consistent with the Gospel's perspective on Rome's empire as an empire under judgment. Space prevents a detailed discussion, but two examples will suffice. In the first, Satan asserts control over, and offers to Jesus, "all the kingdoms/empires ([beta][alpha][sigma][iota][lambda][epsilon]i[alpha][final sigma]) of the world" (4:8).51 In the Gospel's late-first-century context, the dominant [beta][alpha][sigma][iota][lambda][epsilon]i[alpha] is Rome, here asserted to be under the devil's control, the opponent of God's purposes (4:1-11; 13:28, 38-39). That Rome's order is opposed to God's purposes is indicated by Gods commissioning of Jesus (1:21-23) to proclaim another empire, the [beta][alpha][sigma][iota][lambda][epsilon]i[alpha] [tau][omega][nu] [omicron][upsilon][rho][alpha][nu][omega][nu] (4:17). Second, in 20:25-28, Jesus speaks against "the rulers of the Gentiles [who] lord it over" others. In effect, he is condemning the imperial status quo in which the elite, about 5 percent or so of the population, "lord it over" the rest for the benefit of their small number.52 Jesus declares that Rome's social-economic-political order, sanctioned by religious claims about Jupiter's will, is contrary to God's purposes, which can be discerned in the alternate community ol his followers, "It shall not be so among you . . . ." Like Assyria, Babylon, and Antiochus Epiphanes before it, Rome has not honored God's purposes. Judgment follows. The scene in 24:28 of the corpse and the Roman eagles "gathered together" when the Son of Man returns presents the punishment of the punisher. …

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