The politics of inheritance? : the language of inheritance in Romans within its first-century Greco-Roman Imperial context
This thesis is an exploration of the extent to which Paul's terminology of Inheritance (κληρονόμος) in Romans, and its associated imagery, logic and arguments, functioned to evoke socio-political expectations that were alternative to those which prevailed in contemporary Roman imperial discourse. There are two parts to this study. The first is to take seriously the context of Empire and the claims being made by the Roman Empire in the first century. In particular, what were some of the messages conveyed by the Roman Empire with regard to the structure and purpose, the hopes and expectations, of first-century society? The Christians in Rome were daily exposed to the images and message of Caesar and his successors and there is therefore a need to consider how Paul's language of Inheritance would have sounded within this environment. Second, this study gives attention to the content of Paul's use of the word "inheritance" as it occurs in Romans. In order to address this question, three interrelated ideas are explored. First, for Paul, what does the inheritance consist of? The traditional understanding is that the concept is an entirely spiritualised or transcendent reality. This study proposes a more this-worldly, geographical nature to the word. Second, there is the closely related question of the political nature of inheritance. If it is the case that the language of inheritance has to do with the renewal of the land, then who inherits this land? These two questions raise a third issue-how will the inheritance transpire? Paul's inheritance language contributes to notions of lordship, authority and universal sovereignty for the people of God. Conceivably, the path to this dominion could mirror the hegemonic intentions of imperial Rome which envisages the triumph of one group of people (the strong) over another (the weak). Is this the case with Paul's inheritance language, or does it somehow undermine all claims to power and control? There are five undisputed uses of κληρονόμος and its cognates in Romans-Rom 4:13, 14; Rom 8:17 (three times) and there is one textual variant in Rom 11:1 where the word κληρονομίαν is used in place of τòν λαόν. This study finds that, to varying degrees in each of these texts, the inheritance concept is not only a direct confrontation to other claims to rule, it is also simultaneously a reversal of all other paths to lordship and rule. This study then considers the use of the concept in the two other undisputed Pauline letters where it occurs (Galatians and 1 Corinthians) and also in the disputed letter to the Colossians. The overriding impression is that there is nothing in Galatians, 1 Corinthians or Colossians which significantly challenges the this-worldly, political nature of the language of inheritance in Romans. In these epistles and in Romans Paul employs the language and politics of inheritance in order to subvert the message of Empire.
Advisor: Marshall, Chris; Trebilco, Paul
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Bible; New Testament; Romans; theology; language; style; Epistles of Paul; emperor worship; Rome; legitimacy of governments
Research Type: Thesis
xi, 340,  leaves :forms ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. University of Otago department: Theology and Religious Studies. "December 2006."