Monday, December 09, 2019

Greater than the emperor

As we have seen, Roman claims about the emperor include notions that the emperor is creator of the new world, that his rule is divinely sanctioned, that he reveals the will of the gods, and that he is a gracious benefactor. The [Johannine] prologue shows instead that Jesus takes precedence over the emperor in each of these domains. The prologue demonstrates Jesus’ priority over the emperor by starting its hymnic acclamation not with his birth but rather much, much earlier: “in the beginning” (Jn 1:1). This appeal to antiquity prior to Rome follows a strategy used by other subjects of Rome’s rule who sought to show that their way of life preceded the rise of Rome. The prologue presents Jesus as God’s agent of creation in all that exists, including benefactions to humanity such as life, light, grace, and truth. As such his actions and benefactions are unmatched by the emperor.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 166

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