Callia Rulmu, «Between Ambition and Quietism: the Socio-political Background of 1 Thessalonians 4,9-12», Vol. 91 (2010) 393-417
Assuming the Christian group of Thessalonica to be a professional voluntary association of hand-workers (probably leatherworkers), this paper argues that 1 Thessalonians in general, and especially the injunction to «keep quiet» (4,11), indicates Paul’s apprehension regarding how Roman rulers, city dwellers, and Greek oligarchies would perceive an association converted to an exclusive cult and eager to actively participate in the redistribution of the city resources. Paul, concerned about a definite practical situation rather than a philosophically or even theologically determined attitude, delivered precise counsel to the Thessalonians to take a stance of political quietism as a survival strategy.
406 CALLIA RULMU
period Thessalonica shared with Rome the veneration of a number
of divinities. For instance, there is evidence that the Greek gods
Castor and Pollux were venerated in both the Capitol and in the
Macedonian city (cf. Suetonius, Tib. 20, and Dio Cassius
55.27.4) 53. Modern critics unanimously agree that the Cult of the
Emperor was widespread in Asia Minor. Donfried reiterates the
â€œ three pieces of evidenceâ€ already mentioned by Judge 54 some
fifteen years before: (i) an oath of loyalty by the inhabitants of
Paphlagonia to the Caesarian house: â€œI swear ... that I will
support Caesar Augustus, his children and descendants, throughout
my life, in word, deed and thought ... that in whatsoever concerns
them I will spare neither body nor soul nor life nor children ...
that whenever I see or hear of anything being said, planned or
done against them I will report it ... and whomsoever they regard
as enemies I will attack and pursue with arms and the sword by
land and by seaâ€; (ii) a Cypriot oath to Tiberius on his
enthronement : â€œwhat is new here are the specific pledges to
reverence (Sebasesuai) and obedience (ypakoysesuai and
Â¥ ÃŸ Â¥
peiuarxesein) â€ ; Judge concludes that â€œa formula of this kind
might be sufficient to lead to the Thessalonians treating the oath
as a â€˜decreeâ€™ of Caesarâ€ 55 ; (iii) an inscription from Samos which
suggests that local magistrates were administering the oath of
loyalty and even receiving complaints if offence were perceived to
have occurred against the abovementioned oath 56.
As for the evidence of an actual presence of the Cult of the
Emperor in Thessalonica in Paulâ€™s time, Jim R. Harrison 57 draws
our attention to an epigraphic record and some numismatic
evidences : an inscription, which belonged to a temple to Caesar,
witnessing the presence of a designated priest and superintendent
Romanisierung Nordmakedoniens im Spiegel der GÃ¶tterkulteâ€, Ancient Mace-
donia III (Institute for Balkan Studies. Papers read at the Third International
Symposium, 21-25 September 1977; Thessaloniki 1983) 77-87.
J.S. KLOPPENBORG, â€œFILADELFIA, UEODIDAKTOS and the Dios-
curi : Rhetorical Engagement in 1 Thessalonians 4.9-12â€, NTS 39 (1993) 285.
E.A. JUDGE, â€œThe Decrees of Caesar at Thessalonicaâ€, RTR 30 (1971)
JUDGE, â€œThe Decreesâ€, 7.
DONFRIED, â€œThe Cultsâ€, 33.
J.R. HARRISON, â€œPaul and the Imperial Gospel at Thessalonikiâ€, JSNT
25 (2002) 71-96.