Tag Archives: Revelation

Quotable Quotes-Jesus for President

21 Mar

Jesus for President-Shane Claiborne
Section III: When the Empire Got Baptized pI
jesus-for-president.jpg

The more the early Christians reflected on the life and message of their rabbi-messiah, and the more they tried to live the way of the gospel, the harder they collided with the state and its hopes and dreams, militaries and markets. In fact, Christians in those first few hundred years were called atheists because they no longer believed in the Roman gospel; they no longer had any faith in the state as savior of the world. p141

“We are charged with being irreligious people and, what is more, irreligious in respect to the emperors since we refuse to pay religious homage to their imperial majesties and to their genius and refuse to swear by them. High treason is a crime of offense against the Roman religion. It is a crime of open irreligion, a raising of the hand to injure the deity…Christians are considered to be enemies of the State…we do not celebrate the festivals of the Caesars. Guards and informers bring up accusations against the Christians…blasphemers and traitors…we are charged with sacrilege and high treason…we give testimony to the truth.”-Tertullian

“He called Abraham and commanded him to go out from the country where he was living. With this call (God) has roused us all, and now we have left the state. We have renounced all the things the world offers.”-Justin

[Origen, quoting Celsus:] “If everyone were to act the same as you Christians, the national government would soon be left utterly deserted and without any help, and affairs on earth would soon pass into the hands of the most savage and wretched barbarians.” [Origen:] Celsus exhorts us to help the Emperor and be his fellow soldiers. To this we reply, “You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests.” We do not go forth as soldiers with the Emperor even if he demands this. [Origen goes on to say that if the Romans followed the teachings of Jesus, there would be no barbarians.]-Origen

“I do not wish to be a ruler. I do not strive for wealth. I refuse offices connected with military command. I despise death.”-Tatian

“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools…now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the expectation of the future given us through the crucified one…the more we are persecuted and martyred, the more do others in ever increasing numbers become believers.-Justin, martyred in 165 AD

“The professions and trades of those who are going to be accepted into the community must be examined. The nature and type of each must be established…brothel, sculptors of idols, charioteer, athlete, gladiator…give it up or be rejected. A military constable must be forbidden to kill, neither may he swear; if he is not willing to follow these instructions, he must be rejected. A proconsul or magistrate who wears the purple and governs by the sword shall give it up or be rejected. Anyone taking or already baptized who wants to become a soldier shall be sent away, for he has despised God.”-Hippolytus, 218 AD

For some early Christians, a true conversion meant that they became a new kind of tax collector or business person, and for others it meant that they would get fired. In the young Jesus movement, if you worked in the brothels and decided to give your life to Christ and his kingdom, then you needed to rethink you career. But it wasn’t only people in the brothels who needed to do this reevaluation; so did folks who worked in the imperial games, made idols, served in the military, or worked in the imperial courts, jails, and markets. And it was the responsibility of the Christian community to support these young converts as they rethought their lives outside the empire.p144

“You who are God’s servants are living in a foreign country, for your own city-state is far away from this city-state. Knowing which is yours, why do you acquire fields, costly furnishings, buildings, and frail dwellings here? Anyone who acquires things for himself in this city cannot expect to find the way home to his own City. Do you not realize that all these things here do not belong to you, that they are under a power alien to your nature? The ruler will say you do no obey my laws, either observe my laws or get out of my country. Take care lest it prove fatal to you to repudiate your own laws. Acquire no more here than what is absolutely necessary. Instead of fields, buy for yourselves people in distress in accordance with your means.”-Hermas, 140 AD

The globalizing economy in the first-century Roman Empire was exploitative and unsustainable. Some of the best anti-imperial and pro-kingdom images we have from the early church are from John’s book of Revelation…the careful scrutiny of those in power while he was in exile forced him to write using poetry, symbols, and images…John’s writing in Revelation is filled with bizarre beasts like those we read about in Daniel. But John offers another image of the global market and the kingdom of Caesar…”the great whore.”(cf. Rev 18:2-5, 11-14) p148

Claiborne prefers the term “whore” to “prostitute” because prostitute implies a context of poverty and male-domineering sexual exploitation, whereas whore implies seduction and adulterous licentiousness.

Babylon (Rome) was considered to be great. John’s point was to reveal as a fraud what was every day considered normal, insisting that normal is not the same as good. p151

The supermarket of the day was called the agora…to enter the agora, in order to buy and sell, one needed to pledge allegiance, so to speak, to the economy patronized by Caesar…After affirming the center of the imperial economy, the person visiting the market would receive a mark on their right hand, allowing them to enter and to buy or sell:
“[The Beast] forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave to receive a mark [charagma] on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.”-Rev 13: 16-17

“The mark [charagma] of ancient Rome was not some esoteric symbol but a stamp used to certify deeds of sale, and the impress of the emperor’s head on the coinage…John new that while the right hand was holding the Roman coin, empire would transfix the mind of the bearer.”-Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther

[John] did not simply argue that various aspects of the market exploit this or that; rather he placed his concerns in light of a cosmological struggle between right and wrong…is is possible we can’t see the destructiveness of our economy not because we don’t know it’s terrible but because deep down, we feel that it’s necessary and that therefore it’s hopeless to criticize it?p153

Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Daniel had seared into Israel’s consciousness the sense of empires as “beasts”. 1) John alludes to this, naming the beast 666, the number of the beast who began the long drama of killing the people of Jesus…the Antichrist isn’t who any of us grew up thinking it is. Just as the letter X in Roman numerology stands for ten and V stand for five, so too do Hebrew letters hold numerical calue, and the letters of Nero Caesar add up: nrwn qsr = 666. Of course, this took a bit of calculation to figure out, as John warned, but it would not have been too hard to see what he was alluding to….We might even say that, in some sense, John was rewriting history from the perpective of the Lamb of God – Rome is no longer the prestigious guarantor of freedom at the height of its prosperity (as historians might read the times of John’s writing) but is the power that conspires to slaughter God’s love in the world. p154

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