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I. Why did Luke reshape Christian eschatology so that he could defer the expectation of the day of judgement to an indefinite future (Luke 21:24d; Acts I:7)? 2. Why, furthermore, did Luke, a deutero-Paulinist in the generation after the death of his community's founding apostle, and writing for a Gentile audience, stress that Christianity was the fulfilment of Judaism in a way that was even more sympathetic to the latter than Paul's final position in Rom. 9-12?
The traditional answer to 2 has been that Luke's two-volume work was intended to be an ecumenical document, reconciling differences between Paul's churches and the original Jerusalem community. We could respond by pointing out that Paul never really attacked Judaism in the way this view presupposes, but in fact stressed its continuity with Christianity in terms of fulfilment. Moreover, the traditional answer does not explain why Luke should stress that continuity when writing for a Gentile audience. At all events, the emphasis on differences between Paul and the Jerusalem community, allegedly transcended by Luke, has always been suspect in terms of historical method. Such a view implies that late-first century communities developed according to the logic of their internal discourse in a way that was only minimally historically related to the development of wider, pagan culture.(1) More recent literature has, moreover, acknowledged that Israel is recognized in Luke--Acts in a way that surpasses even Paul as the necessary precursor to Christianity.(2) Luke 1--2 locates the origins of Christianity in the circle of priests and prophets of the Jerusalem Temple such as Zachariah and Anna. In order to explain such features in Luke Houlden is led to postulate the existence of `pre-Marcionite Marcionites' against whom the significance of the Temple in Luke-Acts is directed.(3) I reject as pure hypothesis such an undocumented movement within the Church. I propose instead to claim the fulfilment of the objects of republican religion by Augustus as the real counterfoil to Luke's picture of Christianity as Temple Judaism fulfilled.
The traditional answer to I is that the delay of the Parousia caused Luke to reshape primitive eschatology so as to provide a space for the Church in normal history.(4) But a phenomenon such as Montanism or other millenarianist groups demonstrates that the delay of the Parousia did not of itself necessarily produce such a perceived need for a space for the Church in normal history.
Esler's recent study into the immediate historical and social background to Luke--Acts has focused on the need to replace the thesis of Luke--Acts as apologia, founded on the dubious legal notion of the quest for status as a religio licita, with a thesis about legitimation.(5) Focusing on Luke's gospel in the present article, I wish to argue that the legitimation thesis is only partially true and possibly misleading. Legitimation in sociological discourse normally refers to the way in which one group, in its own self-interests, justifies its privileged position in power relations to another. I wish to emphasize rather that the theology of Luke is a political theology in terms of which Theophilus and his group did not simply justify their position to others but to themselves.
The immediate historical and social context in which Theophilus and his circle found themselves was one in which the values of Imperial Order were reflected in the developing Imperial Cult in Asia Minor. That continuing development reinforced, under Domitian in the last quarter of the first century, the ideology of a religious reformation that had accompanied a political revolution from 31 BC onwards.(6) That religious reformation emphasized the religious role of the Emperor as the fulfilment of the Republican cult (as opposed to its abrogation), originally conducted by elected magistrates who also held its priesthoods. Christianity, as commended by Luke to Theophilus' circle, was Judaism fulfilled.(7) But Luke envisaged that fulfilment, to use Bovon's phrase, as `une contrepartie religieuse' specifically to the religious claims implied by Augustus' constitutional reforms. But it was not simply a general parallel with Imperial universalism, as Bovon claimed.(8) We need, as recent classical scholarship suggests, to take the imperial cult seriously as a religious phenomenon against the view, attributed by Etienne to Latte, that it was `une invention des peres de l'Eglise'.(9)
Theophilus' circle inherited the values of an imperial order and peace that bore the form of a Stoic metaphysics in which nature and society were one. Its members accepted the imperial values, deified as Virtues, of Victoria, Pax, Concordia, Salus etc., since they had been conditioned socially to take seriously the claim that an originally imperfect republican religious cultus had been reformed and perfected by the Augustus as princeps. In consequence of that social conditioning, they shrank with horror at the prospect of a return to civil chaos marked by the events that led to Actium (31 BC), which they saw as the culmination of a century of increasingly devastating civil wars. Under the influence of such a historiography of decline, they experienced the metaphysical terror associated with the ira as opposed to the pax deorum.
Luke's solution was to encourage them to see Christianity as the fulfilment of Judaism which paralleled Augustus' fulfilment of that to which the religious practices of Republican magistrates had aspired, namely the divine pax in both nature and society. The Order of the Christian community, constituted by an apostolate whose [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] continued the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus along with the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42), was the true means of producing the pax dei, in contrast to Augustus' pax deorum (the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Luke 2:24; 19:38). Here we find, in the context of imperial order, a refashioned Christian version of the Augustan saeculum aureum. Consequently Luke 1--2 reshaped the themes of tribulation, chaos, and judgement in primitive Christian eschatology so as to produce, for Theophilus' circle, a Christian, present and future counterpart to the imperial peace, and the religious means for securing this.
Although I believe that this case holds equally for Acts as well as the Gospel, I propose confining my remarks in this paper almost exclusively to the latter, for the sake of space. Let us now examine how my case will hold for the Gospel.
I. AUGURY, THE AUGUSTAN REVOLUTION AND THE SAECULUM AUREUM
Pax, in the words of Tacitus (Ann. I) written c. AD 115, required a princeps after a century of civil discord marking the failure of Republican, constitutional government. The inevitable character of that failure was the common historiographical construction of his contemporaries. But it is important that we do not secularize or demythologize the concept of pax thus achieved. The princeps was not to be justified in terms of the utility of a single ruler harmonising a state machine from which divine life was absent.
The consuls under the republican government had religious as well as political responsibilities. Civil disorder, defeat against external foes etc. were reflections of cosmic disorder. Throughout his history of Rome, Livy repeatedly lists in lurid detail portents and prodigies calling for expiation by the Roman magistrates through their presidency over the rites of augury.(10) The peace of nature was of a piece with the peace of society. In such a matrix we find also the republican origin of the cult of virtues in which as a result of the restoration of both the social and natural order the virtues of Victoria, Pax, Concordia, Salus, Fortuna, etc. ceased to be abstractions and were given a concrete divine shape.(11)
Cicero makes it clear that the intellectual justification of the republican practice of augury and the taking of auspicia by elected magistrates was to be found in Stoicism.(12) It was in terms of Stoic metaphysics that the political and constitutional requirements which a magistrate like Cotta found so bewildering could be intelligibly explained. One could therefore read the future, rationally determined by the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] on the lining of a sheep's stomach or in the flight of birds.(13) The cultic acts performed to secure this objective were justified in terms of reintegrating the chaotic natural and social order into the harmonious metaphysical Order.
The final breakdown of Republican peace which the constitution could not prevent was therefore to be mirrored in the final breakdown of a republican religion which could not maintain the pax deorum. The cultic religious acts of republican magistrates were finally to be found to have been as ineffective as their religious ones. The pax deorum, like the civil peace, had lasted under the republic only for a time and on an ad hoc basis. Lucan in Pharsalia, 1, 522-605, written shortly before AD 65, describes the natural turmoil of the civil war but also emphasizes its supernatural counterpart. The chaos of society was, mirrored in a chaos in nature marked by monstrous prodigies, `which nature, at variance with herself, had brought forth (discors protulerat natura)' (589-90). Clearly the ratio or [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that follows a progression of ordo was not now present in an upset pax of Nature.
It is against such a backcloth of cultic republican failure that we should understand the reorganization of the state religion around the figure of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus in the Res Gestae. The reformed republic has as its counterpart a reformed religion. In Res Gestae 13 the closing of the Temple of Janus for a third time indicated a remarkable peace. But Dio has a most significant commentary on the significance of this event. Dio 37,25, I records the failure to obtain successfully the augurium salutis, during the first triumvirate in 63 BC due to the occurrence of too many unlucky omens. Only when the senate closed the gates of the temple of Janus under Augustus as augur was the ritual successful (51,4). Thus the religious achievement of Augustus is an act of successful augury that had failed under the Republic. Indeed Suetonius Augustus 7 claimed that in augurium was the significance of Augustus' name.
The erection of the Ara Pacis is to be seen therefore in the context of securing pax through an extraordinary act of augury. Res Gestae 12 records the erection of an altar not simply to Pax but to Pax Augusta. The iconography of the altar's relief shows `the epiphany of Pax, Felicitas, Concordia and Pietas in the person of Augustus and his restoration of the Roman and universal order'.(14) An extraordinary pax deorum was required by the extra-ordinary convulsion of nature as well by the convulsion of society in the civil war. Augustus achieved this extraordinary pax through his association with these divine entities, derived from the cult of virtues, and held to reside exclusively in himself alone. Tiberius was to provide the final consummation of this development in AD 10, when he rededicated the temple of Concordia specifically as the Concordia Augusta. We find such adjectival qualifications such as Juno Sospita or Janus Quirinus now being applied so as to designate the Emperor's person `as the sphere, functional or temporal, in which the deity has manifested her characteristic power'.(15) From Tiberius onwards we find examples of the continued qualification of each individual deity in the cult of virtues so as to appropriate them to the godhead of the Imperial Cult. Such virtues had thereby ceased to be separate divinities, but now became as it were simply persons within the corporate godhead of the divine Emperor.
The transformation of society was to be accompanied by a transformation of nature into a saeculum aureum. Virgil's fourth Eclogue, written in the consulship of Asinius Pollio (40 BC), had referred originally to the expected child of Octavian and Scribonia as the divine child whose birth would be accompanied by a miraculous transformation of nature.(16) By the time that Virgil had written Georgics 1, 24-42 (29 BC) he had become friend of …