2015 Social World of the New Testament

Session 1

Dr Justin Meggitt (University of Cambridge)
Rev. Dr. Dagmar Winter (Independent scholar)
Dr Hilde Brekke Møller (MF Norwegian School of Theology)
Response by James Crossley (University of Sheffield)

Panel discussion of James Crossley, 'Jesus and the Chaos of History' (OUP, 2015).

This is a joint session between the Jesus and Social World of the New Testament seminar groups.


Session 2

Interdependence theory and the New Testament: A social psychological approach to the relational issues in the NT

If we need to point out one of the prevalent topics which could penetrate the NT in a short phrase, ‘relationality’ might be one of the candidates. For instance, Romans consists of diverse relational elements – the relationship between people (e.g. Jews and Gentiles) and between God and human beings (e.g. Rom 1-3). This would be quite natural if we grant that the NT documents were produced among the people who formed distinctive communities in which a specific belief on the divinity (especially the belief on their relationship with God) occupied a central position to establish and maintain the communities. Therefore, to understand the types of relationships mirrored in the texts would be of high importance to detect the ideology (theology) that had shaped the mode of the people’s lives and the communities.

Focusing on the prominence of relational characteristic of the NT, this essay attempts to put forward ‘Interdependence Theory (Kelley & Thibaut)’ as a framework beneficial to approach the relational issues in the NT. As a social psychological theory, interdependence theory explores how the partners in a dyadic relationship interact, resulting various qualities of ‘outcomes (i.e. reward minus cost)’. The theory points toward ‘interpersonal structure’ fashioned by such outcomes as a crucial force that influences one’s choice of behaviour. By examining various relationships in the NT through the lens of this particular framework, we could promote our understanding about the relationships in the NT as well as the driving forces implied in them. A test case (Rom 5:6-11 which deals with the relationship between God and human beings in terms of God’s sacrifice in Christ’s death) will be followed to demonstrate how the theory could be applied to and how it could bring about meaningful results for NT studies. 

Benedict Kent (University of Manchester)

Roman Patronage and the New Testament: the problem of language

The application of patronage models to the New Testament has been a recurrent feature of NT studies for the last thirty years. Recent criticisms of the use of patronage models (Downs 2009; MacGillivray 2009) have narrowly defined patronage either as a modern sociological construct or as a historical Roman institution. The former is accused of being too broad a framework to say anything of value about specific NT texts, and the latter of being too specific a cultural phenomenon to be applied broadly to NT theologies or ecclesiologies. This paper proposes an alternative option. Understanding the way informal patronage relationships worked in the Greek East in the first century CE provides one way of bringing socio-historical models of patronage closer to the NT texts. This paper proposes a more detailed, linguistic-based method for detecting ‘Graeco-Roman patronage’ relationships within the biblical sources. It presents a vocabulary of Greek terms that goes beyond the limited set of labels used to describe formal Roman patronage (πάτρων, προστάτης, πελάτης). It will conclude by showing how such an approach can help future studies of patronage to root themselves on a firmer, linguistic basis with an application of the Graeco-Roman patronage model to an area of NT study in which it has been little utilised: Pauline Christology and the subordination texts.

Bruce Longenecker (Baylor University)

Crossing the Street: The Protection of the Cross Deity in Districts of Pompeii (and beyond)

A variety of material realia place Jesus-devotion within the town of Pompeii, prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 (as I argue in The Crosses of Pompeii; Fortress Press, 2016). While engaging a few of those realia, this paper foregrounds one artifact type in particular. It postulates a religious function of that artifact type in relation to the ancient fear of evil, notions of liminal space, and strategies for survival and protection. This artifact type, together with other Pompeian artifacts, helps to illuminate the attractions of Jesus-devotion against the backdrop of the insecurities of ancient urban life.

Session 3

Edward Adams (King's College London)

The Social Formation of the Pauline Churches: Questioning the Household Theory