One of the more interesting developments in New Testament studies is called “empire criticism” and one of the finer expositions of the approach can be found in John Dominic Crossan’s God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. The “now” bit is about America. A careful analysis of what “empire” means and how Rome was an empire and how America (USA) is an empire, and how they differ … not to be found in this book. Instead, there’s a level of assumption in this book that Rome and America are parallel empires. My long time friend, Joe Modica, and I are co-editors of a book about to be released called Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not, so the discussion will have to wait.
Is it accurate to compare the Roman empire and America, or any of today’s superpowers?
But for today I want to post some of my favorite statements made by Crossan in his inimitable style:
So beneath the problem of empire is the problem of justice, but beneath the problem of justice is the problem of violence (5).
… the sequential program of Rome’s imperial theology: religion, war, victory, peace — or more briefly, peace through victory (23).
There was a human being in the first century who was called “Divine,” “Son of God,” “God,” and “God from God,” whose titles were “Lord,” “Redeemer,” “Liberator,” and “Savior of the World.” … all those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus (28).
… civilization itself, as I am using that term, has always been imperial — that is, empire is the normalcy of civilization’s violence (30).
It is a strange God, by the way, who punishes Christian secularism with Islamic terrorism (71).
… the Bible proposes the radically of a nonviolent God struggling with the normalcy of a violent civilization (88).
If the Bible were only about peace through victory, we would not need it. If it were only about peace through justice, we would not believe it (94).