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Abstract

Five times in the undisputed letters Paul invokes God as guarantor of the truth of a claim with a form of the phrase “God is witness.” Interpreters have long identified these sayings as self-imprecatory oaths after a pattern attested in the Hebrew Bible. In this article, I argue that the Pauline phrase “God is witness” is not a self-imprecatory oath at all, but rather a figure of speech with roots in the rhetoric of classical Greece and a long tradition in postclassical pagan, Jewish, and Christian literature. In this figure of speech, God is not testifying against Paul in case Paul should default on a promise; rather God is testifying for Paul that Paul’s character can be trusted.

In: Novum Testamentum
Volume Editor: Matthew V. Novenson
In Monotheism and Christology in Greco-Roman Antiquity, Matthew V. Novenson brings together thirteen state-of-the-art essays by leading scholars on the various ways ancient Jewish, Christian, and classical writers conceive of God, Christ, Wisdom, the demiurge, angels, foreign gods, and other divine beings. In particular, the book revisits the “early high Christology” debates of the 1990s, identifying the lasting contributions thereof as well as the lingering difficulties and new, emerging questions from the last thirty years of research. The essays in this book probe the much-touted but under-theorized distinctions between monotheism and polytheism, Judaism and Hellenism, Christianity and paganism. They show how what we call monotheism and Christology fit within the Greco-Roman world of which they are part.

Abstract

This essay introduces the present book, the occasion for it, and its subject matter. Novenson surveys the explosion of research on early Christology from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, acknowledges the lasting contributions of that body of research, and identifies several outstanding questions and objections. He then notes some key contributions from the past twenty years, both for and against the early high Christology hypothesis, and sets up the questions to be answered in the balance of the book.

In: Monotheism and Christology in Greco-Roman Antiquity

Abstract

This essay considers Robert Parker’s theory of “the universal polytheism” in relation to the case of ancient Jews, who are widely thought to have excepted themselves from the cross-cultural translation of gods (most famously in Jan Assmann’s influential account). Here, however, Novenson surveys the mass of ancient evidence for interpretatio or translation of the Jewish god (as Zeus, Dionysus, Helios, Ouranos, Physis, and more), and conversely for the interpretatio or translation of gentile gods by Jewish writers (as the divine council, angels, demons, and more). It is argued that ancient Jews did participate, in their own way, in Parker’s universal polytheism.

In: Monotheism and Christology in Greco-Roman Antiquity