Framed within a discussion on the use of biblical texts for reasoning about social, cultural, and political realities, Roman Self-Representation and the Lukan Kingdom of God explores the construction of the kingdom of God in Luke and Acts through the lens of Rome’s presentation of its own empire. By evoking the audience’s lived experience of Roman rule—its stories, works of literature, monuments, and images—the Lukan narratives communicate about God’s kingdom in a culturally meaningful way, sometimes mirroring, sometimes diverging from, and sometimes subverting the logic of these expressions of Roman rule. Touching on a wide range of issues—including gender, ethnic representation, status disparities, economic and military imperialism, and violence—this book is suggestive regarding both the Lukan vision of the kingdom of God and Lukan dispositions toward aspects of Roman rule.
Michael Kochenash is postdoctoral research fellow in Christian studies at Hunan University’s Yuelu Academy.
List of Figures
List of Abbreviations
Part I: Introduction
1. Reading Luke and Acts within the Context of the Roman Empire
Part II: Juxtaposing Foundational Figures
2. Imperial Genealogies and Adam as God’s Son
3. Movement of Capital and Jesus’s Teachings
4. Commissions for Violence and Jesus’s Ascension
Part III: Juxtaposing Expressions of Inclusion
5. Aeneas: A Roman Way to Structure Luke’s Narrative
6. Imperial Violence and the Resuscitation of Tabitha
7. Status Inequality and Cornelius’s Obeisance
8. Divine Duplicities and Luke’s Union of Jews and Gentiles
Part IV: Epilogue
9. Summary and Reflections
About the Author
Classicists and ancient historians will benefit from Kochenash’s summary studies of various aspects of Roman imperial ideology (some deserving monographs in their own right) and exercise of power and one New Testament voice on these issues. They might be surprised to what extent primarily religious books like the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles reflect their historical origin and background and participate in their own way in ancient discourses about power and rule.
Roman Self-Representation and the Lukan Kingdom of God is well organized, written with a clarity that would make Luke himself proud (see Luke 1:3), and adds to the mounting evidence that the author of Luke and Acts may not have been as deferential toward the imperium as scholars once supposed. Perhaps Kochenash’s most valuable contribution to the discipline, however, is his careful maintenance of the distinction between the form and content of narrative, which allows him to avoid some of the obstacles inherited from oversimplified scholarly binaries (Jew or gentile; Christian or pagan).
In his new book, Roman Self-Representation and the Lukan Kingdom of God, Michael Kochenash has effectively vaulted the barriers between disciplines and produced a work with something new and significant to say to Classicists and ancient historians—and perhaps even to literary critics, political scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists—as well as to Lukan scholars and historians of religions. Well-researched, well-argued, well-written.
Kochenash has found an intriguing and challenging way of shedding new light on the old conundrum of Luke’s attitude to empire. Rather than a monochrome ‘for’ or ‘against’, he invites us to read Luke’s depiction of the basileia of God in the light of Roman self-representation of Caesar’s basileia. Using coins and monuments as well as literary texts, Kochenash shows how Luke offers a subtle but potentially radical subversion of the empire’s propaganda machine. And along the way, he challenges our own attitudes to empire as well. An essential addition to the study of imperial ideology in Luke-Acts.
Michael Kochenash’s reading of Luke-Acts and its relationship to Rome urges scholars to move beyond traditional debates whether the work was for or against the Roman Empire. Through attention to popular legends spread widely across the Roman Empire and appropriated to serve Roman rule, he considers Luke-Acts as complexly entangled in the material and literary culture of Rome’s imperium. With the help of material culture that includes inscriptions and iconography, Kochenash presents fresh readings of Lukan texts and finds striking parallels with literature and imagery outside the Jewish canon. His arguments will encourage New Testament scholars to reconsider their exegetical frameworks and will prompt lively debate over the interpretation of Lukan texts for some time to come. I highly commend this daring study.
This ground-breaking book began as a superb Ph.D. dissertation and has blossomed into a brilliant and overdue reassessment of Luke-Acts and Roman imperial ideology, especially as glorified in Vergil’s Aeneid. Kochenash brackets his scholarly achievement—peppered with extensive and masterfully selected bibliographic footnotes—with a new introduction and epilogue that explore his interpretation’s devastating critique of abuses of the Bible to reinforce American imperialism. Between the introduction and epilogue one will discover on nearly every page original and compelling insights into Luke’s rivalry with Roman imperialism. No future treatment of this important topic dare ignore this foundational study.
Michael Kochenash has written a helpful, well-reasoned, nuanced intertextual study of Luke-Acts and possible connection points to Roman literature, myth, and symbolism.
Interview with the author on the New Books Network: https://newbooksnetwork.com/roman-self-representation-and-the-lukan-kingdom-of-god .