Render to Caesar: Jesus, the Early Church, and the Roman Superpower

Render to Caesar: Jesus, the Early Church, and the Roman Superpower

by Christopher Bryan

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At the end of the 20th century, "postcolonialism" described the effort to understand the experience of those who had lived under colonial rule. This kind of thinking has inevitably brought about a reexamination of the rise of Christianity, which took place under Roman colonial rule. How did Rome look from the viewpoint of an ordinary Galilean in the first century of the Christian era? What should this mean for our own understanding of and relationship to Jesus of Nazareth? In the past, Jesus was often "depoliticized," treated as a religious teacher imparting timeless truths for all people. Now, however, many scholars see Jesus as a political leader whose goal was independence from Roman rule so that the people could renew their traditional way of life under the rule of God. In Render to Caesar, Christopher Bryan reexamines the attitude of the early Church toward imperial Rome. Choosing a middle road, he asserts that Jesus and the early Christians did indeed have a critique of the Roman superpower -- a critique that was broadly in line with the entire biblical and prophetic tradition. One cannot worship the biblical God, the God of Israel, he argues, and not be concerned about justice in the here and now. On the other hand, the biblical tradition does not challenge human power structures by attempting to dismantle them or replace them with other power structures. Instead, Jesus' message consistently confronts such structures with the truth about their origin and purpose. Their origin is that God permits them. Their purpose is to promote God's peace and justice. Power is understood as a gift from God, a gift that it is to be used to serve God's will and a gift that can be taken away by God when misused. Render to Caesar transforms our understanding of early Christians and their relationship to Rome and demonstrates how Jesus' teaching continues to challenge those who live under structures of government quite different from those that would have been envisaged by the authors of the New Testament.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198040446
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 08/25/2005
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 477 KB

About the Author

Christopher Bryan is the C. K. Benedict Professor of New Testament at the School of Theology, University of the South.

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Render to Caesar: Jesus, the Early Church, and the Roman Superpower 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
moses917 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Render unto Caesar, Professor Christopher Bryan gives a good but dry read on Roman imperialism and how Christ and his followers related to each other in 1rst century context. Bryan makes two pertinent statements concerning hermeneutical study of the Bible. One we should be very cautious to not read the 1rst Century world with 21rst Century sensibilities. Secondly the authors of the Gospels and Epistles most likely meant what they said and quite probably knew what they were talking about. One statement he made about slavery in the Roman Empire concerning slavery and the point that slaves don¿t write history sounds a lot like what Dan Brown said in the DaVinci Code that only the Winners write history. In the book Bryan attempts to show that Christ and the Christians wanted for the most part to be good citizens of the Roman Empire, which they saw as ordained by God. This was illustrated when Christ stated render on to Caesar what is Caesar¿s (Matthew 22:21).This idea is very much in contrast with the popular view of Jesus among Liberation Theological Thinkers as a Revolutionary whose attempt at overthrowing the rule of the Roman Empire ended with his martyrdom on the Roman Cross. IT was the Christians stubborn refusal to participate in the rituals of state sponsored paganism and Caesar worship continually put them in the predicament against the law to worship Caesar or Christ as Lord. Bryan makes a convincing case that Jesus and the early Christians were not revolutionaries, seeking to replace the empire but instead reformers. One thing Bryan mentioned which I did not think of before is the idea that Christianity in its infancy needed the Roman Empire. Christianity spread quickly due to the already Hellenized landscape of the Empire and the security of the safe roads and harbors etc. This was illuminating to see how this aided in the spurring on of Christianity. While there is something to be gained here, unless you are well-versed in the subject matter and really wanting to put your thinking cap this book does read like a dry dissertation. IT does amongst the pages provide content that will transform our understanding of early Christians and their relationship to Rome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago