November 5, 2023

The Roman Imperial Cult

An excerpt from, "The Worship of the Roman Emperors" By Henry Fairfield Burton, The Biblical World, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Aug., 1912):

The growth of emperor-worship was contemporary with the rise and spread of the Christian doctrine of the deity of Jesus. The question of a possible relation between the two movements is an interesting one. The points of contrast are obvious and striking. The emperor, standing at the summit of worldly greatness, was deified by official decree as the incarnation of political power, regardless of his character or worth. Jesus, rejected by his countrymen and condemned by the state, was venerated by his disciples as the ideal of purity, spirituality, and divine love. That the belief in the divinity of Jesus can have been suggested by the prevalent worship of the emperors is highly improbable, especially as that belief originated precisely in those circles in which the most bitter hostility had always been felt toward emperor-worship. But it is not at all impossible that, as Christianity became known throughout the Roman world, the acceptance of Jesus' divinity by converts from paganism may have been facilitated by their familiarity through the imperial cult with the idea that one who lived on earth the life of a man might at the same time possess a divine personality which was destined to survive in the life after death.

"Christianity in an odd way is simply a Judaic version of the Imperial cult. It's really all it is. It's not a whole lot more than that. I mean the literature, when you see it, as the writers produced it, they were trying to bring into the fold, into Roman theological control, people who had been rebelling. They weren't trying to convert zealots. They were trying to keep this religion from spreading. So the idea was, here's your messianic Judaism and it's pro-Roman, give to Caesar what is Caesar's, this kind of stuff is embedded in it. And it has this character, the Son of Man, who is going to come in the future, and he's going to deliver justice to the rebellious Jews, right? Well, that's the same position that the Imperial cult had. There's no difference here. It's the same intellectual vision that produces the pseudo theology." - Joseph Atwill, author of "Caesar's Messiah." The quote is from this interview.

Video Title: The Roman Imperial cult (II century AD): the Augustan legacy and the Jovian theology. Source: Schwerpunkt. Date Published: September 21, 2023.