Galatians & the Imperial Cult
A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul's Letter
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Series 2. No. 237


By Justin K. Hardin
March 2008
Mohr Siebeck
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9783161495632
204 pages, 6 x 9"
$87.50 Paper Original


Justin K. Hardin assesses the imperial cult as the background for understanding the social setting of Paul's letter to the Galatians. After providing a new reading of certain sections of the letter, he offers a fresh hypothesis for the situation of the Galatian churches. Thus, he contributes to the ongoing debate on the importance of the imperial cult for the social and religious setting of the New Testament era.

The argument is advanced in two parts. In Part One, 'The Imperial Cult and Ideology in the Roman World and in Galatia', the author undertakes a thematic sketch and assessment of emperor worship and imperial ideology during the Julio-Claudian period, including a detailed study on the province of Galatia.

In Part Two, 'The Imperial Cult in the Galatian Letter', he then turns to Paul's letter in order to evaluate the imperial cult as a backdrop from which to understand the crisis in Galatia. First is a discussion of Paul's claim in Gal 6:12-13 that the 'agitators' were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised only that they (the agitators) might avoid persecution for the cross of Christ.

Hardin evaluates whether the Jesus-believers were being persecuted by the civic authorities in Galatia for not observing the imperial cult. The initial point of reference in the subsequent chapter is the statement in Gal 4:10 that the Galatian Jesus-believers were observing 'days, months, seasons, and years'. Here, Hardin evaluates the recent suggestion that Gal 4:10 refers to the imperial cultic calendar. After a careful exegesis and a fresh reading of the broader passage (4:1-11) is undertaken, the author provides a new understanding of the situation in the Galatian churches at the time of Paul's letter.

Religion; Theology


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