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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

The Lord of the Entire World: Lord Jesus, a Challenge to Lord Caesar?
Fantin, Joseph D.

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2011 pp. xxiv + 327. $120.00

Series Information
New Testament Monographs, 31

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Description: How would the confession, ĎJesus is Lordí, have been understood in the first-century Roman world? Was it more than a statement of oneís devotion to Jesus? Was it also an implicit challenge to the living Caesar, the lord of the Roman empire? There were many lords in the first century and the use of the title kyrios was complex. Clearly Paul was influenced by the use of this title for Yahweh in the Greek Old Testament. But he was also part of a culture in which the title was used for many persons, including fathers, slave owners, government officialsóand the emperor. However, the title kyrios was used sparingly of emperors in the early and mid-first century. On the basis of the extant evidence, scholars since Deissmann have come to differing conclusions as to whether a challenge to the emperor is contained in the phrase. Fantin proposes a more powerful method of resolving the question, drawing upon the insights of relevance theory. He examines a whole range of persons referred to with this title, and evaluates the potential influence of such contexts on Paulís usage. Only then is it possible to draw compelling conclusions on whether any challenge is likely to be implied. In The Lord of the Entire World, Fantin shows that the living Caesar was indeed acknowledged in Paulís time as the supreme lord of the Roman world. Key New Testament texts such as Romans 10.9, 1 Corinthians 8.6 and Philippians 2.11 show that in all likelihood the Christian confession was in fact a challenge to imperial authority.

Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Literature, Methods, Linguistics, Greek, Historical Approaches, History, Greco-Roman Period

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Review by Michael F. Bird
Published 11/11/2014
Citation: Michael F. Bird, review of Joseph D. Fantin, The Lord of the Entire World: Lord Jesus, a Challenge to Lord Caesar?, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2014).

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