SNAPSHOT: “Galatians Re-Imagined”, Kahl

Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading With the Eyes of the Vanquished, Brigitte Kahl 2010

From Publisher

Brigitte Kahl brings to this insightful reading of Galatians a deep knowledge of the classical world and especially of Roman imperial ideology. The first wave of scholarship on the Roman imperial context of Paul’s letters raised important questions that only thorough treatments of individual letters can answer.


Introduction: The Critical Re-Imagination of Paul and of Justification by Faith

a Re-Imagining Paul

b Law Criticism and Empire Criticism

1 Jewish Torah or Roman Nomos?

2 Law as Power Construct (F. Nietzsche)

3 Law as Imperial “Compromise Formula” (J. Taubes)

4 Torah Criticism as Affirmation of Roman Nomos

c Re-Imagining justification by Faith

1 Constructing the Protestant Other (M. Luther)

2 “Final Solution”

3 Galatians and the Occidental Semiotics of Combat

4 Pauline Binaries Revisited

5 The Annihilation of the Antinomies (J. Louis Martyn)

6 The Politics of the New Creation

d Overview of the Book

e A Methodological Postscript

1. Remapping Galatia: In Search of a Displaced Context

2. Dying Gauls/Galatians Are Immortal: The Great Altar of Pergamon

3. Creating the World Out of Dead Gauls: Imperial Monotheism, Virgil, and the Arena

4. Roman Galatia: The Imperial Resurrection of the Dying Gauls/Galatians (189 B.C.E.-50 C.E.)

5. Under the Eagle’s Wings and (C)laws: Messianic Insurrection among Dying Gauls and Jews

6. Amen and Anathema: Galatians at the Great Altar of Pergamon

Epilogue: Dying Gauls, Jews, and Christians and Rome’s Three Great Fires (60-75 c.E.)

My Rough Notes

Introduction: The Critical Re-Imagination of Paul and of Justification by Faith

for he [Nero] noticed a monument on which was sculpted the defeat of a Gaul warrior by a Roman cavalryman,

As we shall see, from Nero’s perspective in the West, Galatians (or Gauls), Jews, and Christians as well had one thing in common: all were suspected of subverting law and order.

Visually, they long occupied the Roman imagination as archetypal enemies, quintessential barbarian intruders, remaining dangerous even after their defeat.

We can no longer keep first-century Gauls and Galatians as neatly separated from each other as we have long been accustomed to do.

Rather I seek a more comprehensive understanding of the letter by locating Gaul/Galatia in the Roman imagination, in the world of the eidos (form, shape) and eidolon (image, idol)-that is, at the intersection section of ideology and idolatry. On the ideological map of the Roman Empire, Gaul and Galatia were twin provinces, clearly recognized by their common Celtic origin as antitopoi of Roman law, order, and religion.

Roman authors frequently used the Latin term terror when they discussed Gauls/ Galatians. We should understand the Gallic War not as a singular event under Julius Caesar but as part of an ongoing, multistage Greco-Roman campaign against a Galatian “global terrorism;”

Paul: How do we see him, how do we read him on the blood-soaked terrain of Western war-making history?

A Re-imagining Paul

This book is a new effort to set Paul in the context of his world. It engages in the scholarly endeavor of a critical re-imagination that pays attention to two issues still widely neglected in Galatian studies. First is the power of Rome

It draws into the dialogue between biblical text and its historical context a range of disciplines

the major burden of this exploration is the visual reconstruction of the Galatian world behind Paul’s letter through the lens of ancient sources, images, buildings, spaces, and performances.

Second: this book seeks to re-imagine the historical context in which Paul and the Galatians met, not as an end in itself but as an element of a comprehensive historical-critical critical rereading (relectura) of the letter that has been handed down through history as the material imprint of their encounter.

Galatians is arguably the most influential letter Paul wrote. It became the core document of the Lutheran Reformation.

it has also played a formative and often lethal role with regard to dominant constructions of self and other, of identity and opposite, of ally and enemy, throughout Western civilization and war making.

It is Paul of Tarsus, rather than Jesus of Nazareth, who is most often quoted to confirm the political status quo and to silence voices for social change as faith-less and dogmatically incorrect.` Perhaps more than any other letter, Galatians has contributed to the image of Paul as the theological protagonist of a triumphant Christian Self on the archetypal battleground of Galatia; the fierce fighter engaged in relentless dogmatic struggle with a hostile and inferior Other, his “Judaizing” opponents; and as the authoritarian spokesperson of a normative world order. Is there a new way to read and hear Paul as we have not read or heard him before? Can we re-imagine a “liberating (of) Paul;’ in contrast to his prevailing representation as a misogynistic, homophobic advocate of a disembodied social conservatism and anti-Judaism-a representation firmly rooted in two millennia of Christian-occidental interpretation? Are we at a moment in history when we need to turn “scripture” against tradition”

Critical re-imagination seeks to recover the precious seeds of an alternative meaning that never took root within the dominant history of occidental Pauline interpretation, especially after the emperor Constantine set in motion a history that would convert the Roman Empire to Christianity and conform form Christianity to the empire.

Over the past decades, Pauline interpretation itself has become a battleground.

two directions

uncompromising deconstruction of hitherto established Pauline readings and of Paul himself, on the one hand, and, on the other, toward a more adequate historical-critical reconstruction of Paul in his historical context.

the latter in one way or another tries to liberate Paul from the “iron cage” built around him by occidental and Christian frameworks of interpretation-the legacy of Aristotle, Constantine, Augustine, Luther, and the Enlightenment.

Not infrequently such analysis has indicted the figure of Paul himself as a co-architect of the oppressive binaries between Self and Other.’

I am convinced that scripture is re-imaginable outside the confines of the occidental pattern, that history matters, and most of all that Paul matters,

B Law Criticism and Empire Criticism

A major point of departure from the prevalent paradigm of Pauline studies was the emergence in the early 1990s of empire-critical studies, under the guidance of Richard Horsley,

The letter to the Galatians up to now has not been subjected to a thorough exegetical exploration that considers the Roman Empire as a major textual and contextual factor.

The primary focus of empire-critical studies so far has been much more on Paul’s world than on his words, on history rather than on theology. The result has been that Galatians and the doctrine of justification by faith have remained relatively untouched as the traditional strongholds of Protestant dogmatic theology, both being understood predominantly in abstract and timeless language far above any concrete historical realities.

This is a task driven as much by contemporary urgency as by historical interest. We live in a precarious time, when imperial globalization extends its grip…

Whether Paul’s theology can (again) become a source of spiritual, social, and ecological restoration, whether the “universalism” of his world mission can be reconceptualized in terms of border-transgressive peace building and justice seeking rather than the aggressive justification of the Western Self and a mentality of conquest, has become a pressing theological question.

Pursuing that question requires first and foremost a reexamination of the core concept at the center of everything Paul says and does: justification by faith rather than by works of the law.

1 Torah or Roman Nomos?

We all know how much our interpretation of a text depends on how we imagine its context. Traditionally, what we had imagined as the context of Galatians was a dispute between Jews and Christians (or, more precisely, between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish “Gentile” Christians) as to whether circumcision was a religious requirement for non-Jews among the Jesus followers.

The Roman Empire, in Paul’s time the most basic reality of life for both Jews and non Jews of all kinds, is programmatically obscured in this theological reading. Yet long before Paul argued with the Galatians about law and freedom from the law in the Jewish “key” of circumcision, the polarity of law versus lawlessness was firmly established in the Greek, then Roman rhetoric of civilized warfare against the barbarians, and especially against the Gauls/Galatians. (Part of the public discourse of the time. She presents the box diagram here.)

A crucial result of the critical re-imagination offered here will be insight into the inseparability of the political, the ideological, and the theological threads that are interwoven in Paul’s confrontation with the Galatians and his rejection of “law.”

A strongly law-critical critical letter addressed to the “civic assemblies [ekklesiai] of Galatia” (Gal 1:2) would hardly have been read in exclusively Jewish terms by the majority of non-Jews in the audience.

whatever the subject of contention between Paul and his “stupid Galatians” regarding Jewish law and Jewish affiliation, it was Roman law that ultimately defined and enforced what was licit or illicit.

2 Nietzsche: Law as Power Construct

3 Taubes: Law as Imperial Compromise Formula 

Paul does not abandon Jewish law but, on the contrary, wrestles, from a rigorously Jewish perspective, with a practice of Torah that has at least partly been “hijacked” and desecrated by Roman imperial law and religion.

Paul’s radical commitment to the first and core commandment of Torah: the Oneness and Otherness of the God of the exodus whose “universal singularity” (to borrow a term from Alain Badiou) opposes the universal oneness of the divine Caesar.”

4 Torah Criticism as Affirmation of Roman Nomos

(N T study has focussed on questions of Paul’s Jewishness or anti-Jewishness and on his Greekness or non-greekness. It has not focussed on his Romanness or anti-Romanness)

It has hardly ever been seen in antithesis to Roman law and its self-justification through war, victory, and power, or through meritorious “good works” attributed within the system of benefactions and euergetism that depended so heavily on competition for honor and social distinctions based on shame

The eclipse of the Roman context of Paul’s text has inevitably channeled the full force of his law criticism to Judaism alone.

Arguably, such concealment of the empire-critical implications of Paul’s gospel was the only way it could survive in a canonized form agreeable to a Christianized empire.

It means that Paul more or less fell prey to a major “identity theft” and that the concepts of law and disorder, of Self and Other, and of male and female that we have come to conceive and confess, or to criticize and condemn as Pauline are highly deceptive. Instead, our misconceptions of Paul’s gospel depict the world as ordered in the image of Caesar, the eidos (form, shape) and eidolon (image, idol) of a master order that the historical Paul himself opposed as idolatrous.

(A) second “conversion” in the Christian imagination, one that turned him posthumously into the mouthpiece of the very imperial order that had originally executed him as enemy

C Re-imagining Justification by Faith

Justification by faith and grace, the innermost core of Paul’s teaching, was turned into the Magna Carta of Christian anti-Judaism. Once expressed in the deadly binary logic of Us versus Them, this doctrine could resurface with a ghostly versatility as a powerful ideological weapon in subsequent warfares conducted by the Christian occident against its “Others;’ including the “other” religion, the “other” race or class, the “other” sex or sexual orientation, the “other” faith regarded as “deviant” in its social vision or way of life.

1 Constructing the Protestant Other (M. Luther)

His [Luther’s] self-confessed love affair with Galatians as his “dear epistle” proved seminal for the Reformation. Yet his description of the theology of justification in the introduction to his 1531 commentary appears less as a love message than as a sword irrevocably and irreconcilably dividing humanity into two categories: saved and lost:  Jews Turks, Papists, sectarians.

It is striking that, for Luther, the highly diverse social practices and identities of completely disparate antagonists-like Jews, Catholics, or heretics (including the rebellious commoners of the German peasants’ war)-became entirely irrelevant when measured against the supreme criterion of faith versus works.

Once Paul’s antithesis of grace-and-faith versus law/works righteousness was taken out of its concrete historical context and turned into a totalizing construct, justification by faith could be transformed into an abstract idea, a disembodied principle of “universal truth” behind and above contingent reality.

[Western idealism is older than Luther’s use of it.]

Western appropriations of Paul have extended the ancient dichotomies of spirit/flesh, good/evil, and active/passive to incorporate such diverse groups as Jews, women, savages (whether “natives” or “foreigners”), slaves, people of color, the lower classes, and homosexuals under the broad rubric of Otherness, construing all these groups alike in terms of their inferiority, their materiality, their passivity, their sheer differentness, as measured against the dominant Christian male.29

2 “Final Solution”

And twenty centuries after Paul, this paradigm eventually played a role in what was called the final solution of the judenfrage, the Jewish question, a solution implemented with technological perfection in a Christian nation as the six-million-fold murder of Jewish men, women, and children.

3 Galatians and the Occidental Semiotics of Combat

Irreconcilable polarities-between law and faith, between Jews and Christians seem inextricably woven into the fabric of justification theology and mark the heart of the problem. Galatians is not only the most influential but also the most polemical letter Paul wrote.

On the one hand, it contains the outstanding declaration of unity in Gal 3:28, a declaration that programmatically bridges the gap between One and Other-Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female-and that has had a lasting influence on egalitarian movements throughout church history. On the other hand, Paul consistently develops his argument in Galatians by means of antithetical binaries: faith versus works; grace versus law; Christ versus law; justification by faith versus justification by law or works (see Gal 2:15-21).

Paul hurls an anathema against his opponents (1:9).

The Galatians themselves- or rather, their circumcision-preaching renegade teachers- have become the raw material for countless dogmatic re-makings, being transplanted and re-embodied innumerable times.

Already in antiquity, images of Galatians (Gauls) were prolifically exploited for the perennial ideological (re)production of the hostile Other.

found its most powerful expression at the Great Altar of Pergamon. Altar represent precisely the bifurcated “semiotics of combat”

This structure of hierarchical dualisms was seen as the innermost building principle of the world in its entirety, the foundational order of kosmos itself.

Despite their striking diversity, all these identities had one feature in common: they represented the “wrong religion” and the Other.

How did Paul’s messianic justification of the vanquished Galatian Other become the justification of the victorious occidental Christian Self?

4 Pauline Binaries Revisited

Philosophically speaking, this antithetical way of framing the world as Self over against the Other is based on the ancient conception of binary opposites.

superior -inferior     finite-infinite     odd-even      one-many      right-left       male-female        rest-motion           straight – crooked      light-darkness       good-evil

On this pattern, any of these polarities could be linked to other sets of dualisms, for example, form versus matter, soul versus body, active versus passive, substance versus accident. Male thus became tied to form, soul, active, and substance; on the other hand, female to matter, body, passive, and accident.

This structure of hierarchical dualisms was seen as the innermost building principle of the world in its entirety, the foundational order of kosmos itself.

Air, fire, water, earth

Superior: Male form-soul-active-substance-One/same/Self

Inferior: Female-matter-body-passive-accident-Other

This worldview, which orders everything and everyone into a series of binary polarities, ties, undeniably has become the substructure of occidental Christian philosophy and civilization. Consequently it has had a profound impact on biblical interpretation as well. But how should we position Paul on this hierarchical and dualistic conceptual battlefield?

5 The Annihilation of the Antinomies (J. Louis Martyn)

He comes to the threefold conclusion that the “elements” in this text are synonymous with law and that the phrase stoicheia tou kosmou refers specifically to air, fire, water, and earth, or more precisely to these four elements in their oppositional structure, which is seen as the foundational order of the world. Martyn contends, however, that Paul wipes these binaries out and, with them, the old cosmos.

The new creation that is the centerpiece of Paul’s apocalyptic theology is “marked by anthropological unity in Christ … [it] does not have pairs of opposites.” This statement refers in particular to the oppositions between law and not-law, circumcision and foreskin. “The gospel of the cross announces the end of the elemental antinomy that formerly consisted of the law/not-law.

The “slavery” involved in these binary oppositions is both spiritual and physical, since it results from a systemic politics of conquest and is based precisely on the nexus between Roman religion, Roman law, and the Roman construction of Self and Other.

One of the most fundamental insights for our investigation is the recognition that the supposedly “Pauline” semiotics of Christianity versus Judaism that has so powerfully shaped the identity of Western Christianity and its constructions of power is, in fact, not a part of Paul’s language at all: it did not even exist at his time. Throughout out his letters Paul never calls himself or his congregations “Christian.”

Both Paul and his uncircumcised, Christ-believing Galatians were still part of Judaism.

In particular, the Paul of Galatians thinks in terms of Jews versus Gentiles/nations (ethne), not Jews versus Christians.

We must take account of how disturbing the Roman imperial repercussions of just the integration that Paul advocates would have seemed to some of his contemporaries.

As we will see, the Paul-opposing circumcision party in Galatia was driven much more by concrete sociopolitical concerns than by purely religious anxieties.

6 The Politics of the New Creation

At this point, the colorful picture of Paul as primeval Christian warrior, defending the purity of the Christian gospel against the onslaught ofJewish law and otherness, begins to fade.

Another oppositional configuration emerges, however, in which the oneness of Abraham’s God is posed over against the idolatrous oneness of the divine Caesar.

This means that Paul’s gospel is not the erasure of just any polarity, but is rather the emergence of a new polarity that marks the simultaneous existence of old cosmos and new creation in the time “that remains.”

To the contrary, Paul’s “war” against the existing world order that has crucified the Messiah is an “anti-war:’ a war of the wounded warriors and thus a war not to be fought in the old way.

Instead of heroes, it mobilizes, as Nietzsche already perceived, the losers, the crippled and limping, the never-victorious, who are branded on their bodies and souls with the stigmata of the Dying Gauls/Galatians-or of a dying Jew like Paul himself (Gal 6:14-17).

If one needs to call this “war;” one must add that this conflict subverts any established semiotics of war-making.

The powerful and all-pervasive hierarchical polarities of the imperial cosmos remain as the “last enemy” to be conquered (see 1 Cor 15:24-28), but their erasure means the erasure of the principle of enmity itself.

for this evil order is located primarily in the dominant representation of the Self over against the Other.

In this way the abandonment of the old binaries does not create a new “Christian” binary but produces a nonbinary space where the old cosmos and its meanings, including the old Self with its identities, prides, antagonisms, and alliances, is put to death and turned into Nothingness.

(Battle cry is ‘peace’. Method is love.)

It is the practice of Selves who no longer try to vanquish their Others.

D Overview of the Book

1. Remapping Galatia: In Search of a Displaced Context

addresses the visual presence of Dying Gauls/Galatians in classical antiquity.

confronts the “Christian” construct of Galatia and Galatians with a historical exploration that traces the ancient perception of the Gauls/Galatians-and and the ideology behind that perception-over half a millennium.

(Attacked Rome in 387 BCE)

2. Dying Gauls/Galatians Are Immortal: The Great Altar of Pergamon

presents a semiotic analysis of the Great Altar of Pergamon as a paradigmatic image of the Dying Galatians/Gauls within the imperial law and religion of Western civilization.

3. Creating the World Out of Dead Gauls: Imperial Monotheism, Virgil, and the Arena

deals with Roman imperial religion. Contrary to the prevailing description of that religion in terms of “polytheism” and religious tolerance, I trace a peculiar Roman “monotheism” that integrated polytheism but always (and often tacitly) placed the emperor and Rome at the center.

The imagery of Aeneas’s shield in Virgil’s Aeneid and the public spectacle of the Roman arenas are explored

4. Roman Galatia: The Imperial Resurrection of the Dying Gauls/Galatians (189 B.C.E.-50 C.E.)

turns to the province of Roman Galatia in Paul’s time, the actual destination of his letter. It explores the imperial “resurrection” of the Dying Gauls/ Galatians as Sebasteni Galatai (that is, “Augustan” Galatians) through a whole set of devices that reinscribed the Galatian body. These included the building of imperial roads, cities, temples, and dynastic power structures among the vanquished, the integration of the Galatians as soldiers into the war machine of empire, and most of all the performances and public rituals of imperial religion centered around the koinon, the provincial assembly, and the temple to Rome and Augustus at Ancyra, the provincial capital.

5. Under the Eagle’s Wings and (C)laws: Messianic Insurrection among Dying Gauls and Jews

deals with the specific issue at stake in Paul’s letter, the issue of circumcision and foreskin. I decipher Paul’s messianic community practice as a radical subversion of those Roman principles that governed the “ordering” of associations among the vanquished nations through relation to Rome.

6. Amen and Anathema: Galatians at the Great Altar of Pergamon

moves at last from context to text and offers a “critical re-imagination” of the letter at the foot of the Great Altar of Pergamon. The first lines of Paul’s letter in particular are read, on the one hand, in terms of a visual intertextuality with the Pergamene imagery and, on the other, in terms of scriptural intertextuality with the biblical root narratives of exodus and exile.


considers the two decades following the Galatian correspondence. It traces visual and textual clues that establish the imagery of Dying Gauls/Galatians, dying Jews, and dying “Christians” (including the image of “Christ crucified”) as three strands of Roman imagination woven together into a single fabric during the Neronian massacre and the carnage that ended the Jewish War.

E A Methodological Postscript

Critical re-imagination is a method that supplements the traditional set of historical-critical and ideological-critical methodologies.

Critical re-imagination seeks to restore Paul, his Galatian congregations, and their dissention about justification by law or faith to their specific material, sociopolitical, and historical context.

Historically speaking, the Galatia of Paul’s time was not first and foremost the place Christianity had to conquer from Judaism, but a region where Galatians and other nations had already been conquered by Rome.

Images are, to use an expression of art historian Natalie Kampen, the “mental wallpaper” of the ancient world that shows what was before everybody’s eyes-but what we unfortunately can no longer see when we read an ancient text.

  1. Remapping Galatia: In Search of a Displaced Context

Focusing on the three pivotal locations of Rome, Delphi, and Pergamon, I will trace four centuries turies of dramatic clashes between the Greco-Roman world and its Galatian Other that culminated in the establishment of the Roman Empire and Roman law across the Mediterranean.

Celtic counter-nation. Paul’s letter gives away no info about Galatia or any Galatians.

The debate about North or South Galatia is at best relevant for the data of Paul’s biography and his missionary itinerary, but its impact on the actual interpretation of Galatians as a text and the much-needed clarification of its sociohistorical context has been marginal.

One would not know from the standard New Testament textbooks that the Galatians paid taxes and tributes to Rome, or walked on Roman roads, or assembled at Roman temples; nor that they fought in the Roman legions or attended Roman meals and games.

Pale and abstract figures, they remained faceless and disembodied-except for the one striking male physical feature at the heart of the whole debate: their foreskins.’

“methodological docetism”

One concern in the present work will be to challenge that implicit docetism by emphasizing the concrete historical-material contextuality of the Galatian correspondence. If the North-South controversy was not primarily about interpreting Galatians in its sociohistorical context, the dominant concern to reconcile Galatians with the apostolic itinerary of Acts, on the other hand, has allowed for Lukan themes to influence our perception of Paul and Galatia even more than Paul’s letter itself. Luke’s protrayal of Paul and his travel narrative in Acts has seeped almost imperceptibly into what has subsequently become the dominant image of the apostle. Thus, Paul has been turned into an entirely agreeable and politically correct model Roman citizen;

The ideological pro-Romanization of Paul went hand in hand with his theological de-Judaization and historical decontextualization. Not all of this can be blamed on the narrative in Acts, of course. But the ultimate result is that Galatia is usually not seen as part of Caesar’s empire.

William Ramsey actually looked at the ? of Galatians

Yet for Ramsay there was not the slightest doubt that Paul not only spoke within a Roman imperial setting but also spoke as its uncompromising advocate and ally.

The second challenge to a reinterpetation of Galatians (as observed above in the introduction) is the “combat semiotics”

Paul’s harsh polemic against his “opponents” nents” and the strongly antithetical structure of his argument seems inevitably to turn every reading of Paul’s letter into a weapon to be used against the “Other,

A third challenge is that it seems always to be the “Other” as defined by imperial culture that is the object of Paul’s most passionate polemics-not the empire itself. Thus, it has come to seem almost self-evident that Paul is at once anti-Jewish and pro-imperial. This, too, is a myth of Pauline interpretation in need of revision.


first, that the proper historical context and hermeneutical key to understanding Paul’s justification by faith is not the desperate struggle of an individual with sin, but Paul’s practical concern with holding a community of Jews and Gentiles together; and, second, that Paul’s Damascus experience was not a “conversion” to a new religion, Christianity, but a prophetic “call” to a new mission within Judaism toward the Gentiles. Paul subsequently did not fight against Jews or Judaism but worked to justify the status of uncircumcised Gentiles as “honorary Jews.”

the imposition revealed the individualistic and self-absorbed concerns of the “introspective conscience” of the West.22

In the place of a “combat semiotics” pitting Christianity against Judaism, Stendahl insisted that Paul’s concern was how Jews and Gentiles could live together in a new community. Reconciliation, not combat, was central.24

These questions bring us back to the concern at the heart of this book: What is it that Paul opposes as “law” and “works”? Valuable as the insights of the New Perspective tive are, they do not go far enough in contextualizing the argument of Galatians in its real-life world. Recovered Paul’s Jewishness, but failed to see it in a Roman context.

his wrestling with the community of Jews and Gentiles/nations under the watchful eyes of a colonial superpower.

In stark contrast to the somewhat nebulous Christian imagination of Galatians, the Greco-Roman world at Paul’s time had a surprisingly vivid, if hostile, picture of how Galatians/Gauls looked and behaved. Quoted Roman authors. Diodorus

Some of them go into battle naked and they cut off the heads of their defeated enemies, later nailing them as trophies to their houses (5.29). They practice human sacrifice and some of the most beastlike of their tribes living far in the north and on the borders of Scythia probably even eat human beings (5.31, 32). They are also sexually promiscuous and transgressive, men and women alike. The men “rage with lust, in outlandish fashion, for the embraces of males;’

Diodorus had in mind. For him, Galatians were a worldwide ethnic group that included the European Gauls and the Celts in general.

“The Romans, however, include all these nations [ethne] together under a single name, calling them one and all Galatians [Galatas hapantes]”

Rather, they used terms that made clear that the Gauls/Galatians were one and the same phenomenon in the history of the world that Rome now dominated: a single people of warlike and uncivilized barbarians who had ultimately been tamed and subjugated by Rome.

Celts Originally settling in central Europe, in numerous migrations they conquered new dwelling places as far west as Iberia in Spain, as far north as Britannia (Scotland and Wales), as far south as the Po Valley in Italy, and as far east as Macedonia, Thrace, and Asia Minor,

The Galatians had grown in the Roman imagination into an enemy of mythological stature ure who represented the primeval threat to Rome per se. Were in conflict with them for over 400 years.

Greeks decided to hang up the shields of the defeated Celts next to those of the defeated Persians in the temple of Apollo at Delphi.”

They were an enemy that Rome repeatedly encountered, in more places around the Roman world and throughout out more centuries than any other antagonist.

Caesar’s Gallic wars.  All together, over one million Gauls were killed and a similar number enslaved.

Of the original estimated population of Gaul, only one-third remained.

It seems noteworthy thy that the birth of the empire and the death of its last grand-style Gallic/Galatian opponent-whose victory would have prevented Caesar’s triumph in Gaul and thus his takeover of Rome, reversing the course of history-happened simultaneously.

Rome’s global war on Galatian terror.

The more monstrous, lawless, and ubiquitous the enemy is portrayed, the more salvific, justified, and universal its victor’s power. If Brennus and his Celts who attacked Rome and Delphi, if the pillaging and ravaging Galatians of Asia Minor had not existed, one would have needed to invent them. Rome could not rule without them. Livy’s report demonstrates that at the threshold of Paul’s era the Celtic myth was very much alive and one of the foundational great narratives of the Roman Empire.

World-wide wide Galatia was the prototypical battlefield of the Roman ideology of domination that derived its law and legitimacy from the triumph over the barbarian Other,

2. Dying Gauls/Galatians Are Immortal: The Great Altar of Pergamon

3. Creating the World Out of Dead Gauls: Imperial Monotheism, Virgil, and the Arena
He immediately pledges the dedication of no fewer than three hundred mighty temples to the gods of Italy all over the city as his “immortal votive gift” (8.715-16). While the figure of three hundred seems somewhat overstated-at the end of his life Augustus will report in the Res Gestae the no less impressive number of eighty-two temples rebuilt or restored (Res Gestae 20)-it makes a crucial statement: piety and religion are foundational practices for Augustan Rome.

Augustus is the center and climax of everything: victor in the cosmogonic world battle, world ruler who implements law and order on a global level, the one who establishes the world city-and the founder, prime devotee, and supreme god of an imperial world religion.

with Augustus sitting in front of Apollo’s temple looking ing at the gifts of the nations and watching the march of the vanquished not only signals the dawn of the Roman imperial world order, but also the birth of a new imperial world religion.

The nations of the world parading in front of him are submitting both to the Roman world order and to Roman world religion.

In fact, the divide between mortals and gods does break down as traditional religion has to come to terms with a new chief deity that completely remodels the old religious universe, though under the pretense that everything stays the same

The bestowal of this title [Augustus] on Octavian thus right from the outset comes close to a kind of deification; it implies supreme piety and supreme power at the same time.

The divine and human power pyramids are remodeled in such a way that they intersect in the person of Caesar as the supreme power in both realms.

Explanation: Both human and divine spheres are hierarchically ordered as pyramids of power.

The construct of an imperial monotheism is not without precursors. a kind of Zeus monotheism in Stoic thinking.

One could also say that Jupiter/Zeus as active principle of the cosmos has in reality been replaced, or displaced, by Augustus, who acts as the present defender of Rome.

(Alexander was deified, but after he died; whereas, Augustus was made a dety during his life time. This was a change.)

The de facto imperial monotheism of the 40s and 50s c.E., which celebrated Caesar as the dominant divine figure through the various channels of imperial religion and ideology, constituted a fundamental challenge that Paul confronted fronted in his Jewish-messianic theology of the One God-a god who is Other than Caesar.

Prior to S. R. F. Price’s influential study of rituals and power, scholars tended to describe the Roman emperor cult primarily in terms of its shortcomings compared to proper religion. It was seen mostly as only a ritual, political, and external observance without deeper religious gious meaning in terms of true individual faith and religious feelings. Based on the work of Clifford Geertz, Price strongly challenged this concept and its underlying-mainly mainly Protestant-individualistic and antiritualistic presuppositions.

it showed how inseparably religion and politics, “ritual and power” were linked in an imperial context like that of Asia Minor. Imperial ritual was seen as a powerful way to “conceptualize the world” in public and for the public, most notably with regard to the position of the emperor and the relationship between emperor and subjects. Imperial ritual, second, not only reflected the political reality of the Roman Empire; it also constructed it by universally inscribing it on time, space, and concrete human bodies:

The core issue was not primarily what someone really believed but what was embodied, depicted, monumentalized in stone and marble, and collectively practiced by concrete human actors. As Price states, “A Christianizing theory of religion which assumes that religion is essentially designed to provide guidance through the personal crises of life and to grant salvation into life everlasting imposes on the imperial cult a distinction between religion and politics.” This distinction, however, obscures the basic similarity between politics and religion: both are a way of systematically constructing power…. the cult was a major part of the web of power that formed the fabric of society.”

However, the way imperial religion spread its “web of power” needs further consideration. No matter how modest the disguise under which Caesar attached and assimilated lated himself to existing temples, festivals and cults, he was the chief deity.

Within the framework of imperial religion, an individual’s understanding and acceptance of the way the world was built and functioned would start with an indispensable faith act on the most personal level. The term faith/faithfulness here renders the notion of Greek pistis and Latin fides as defined by the socioreligious and political dictionary of Paul’s time-namely, as a mutual bond of responsibility between rulers and ruled. Its essence is the same on the Shield as it is at the Great Altar: with a faithful pledge of allegiance, an act of subjection.

the “small” individual self submits to the “big” victorious Self of the divine power(s) and their human representative(s). In return for this faithful subjection, the dominant promise faithful protection.

acknowledgment of victory-based law as the righteous, divinely ordained, and cosmic order that is embodied in the legitimate ruler. This act of submission elevates the ones/us far above the rebellious and lawless others/them that stay out and down as dying and dead,

As we submit ourselves to him and his law we enter into the family of the civilized under god-father Caesar. A new master race stands in irreconcilable opposition to the seditious counter-race below that violates the law and order of patriarchy:

Yet the space where this emerging imperial worldview in its totality and in every single one of its individual aspects would unfold its most formative and transformative power among the masses of the empire, was not the books of the writers nor the temples and altars of imperial religion, but the arenas.

Human beings in the image of caesar: Arena, Self, and the Other’s Blood

Although we are inclined not to see any political or religious implications connected to this term, games in the Roman Empire were neither secular nor nonpolitical events.

The arenas were the training ground for an imperial worldview and self-perception that restaged the order and piety of the Great Altar with enormous visual effect and propagandistic efficiency.

One of the great innovations that Augustus and his successors brought to the sphere of mass entertainment was a new way to stage hunts, executions, and gladiatorial combats,

Something fundamentally changed, however, when Augustus came to power.

In the first two centuries C.E. amphitheaters were built throughout the empire, with the Colosseum in Rome eventually emerging as the most famous. The arenas, that is, the sand-covered round or elliptical space at the bottom,’ became the space where in every part of the Roman world more or less the same sequence of events would unfold:

wild beast hunts and fights (venationes) in the morning, involving the display and slaughter of fierce and exotic animals;

public execution of criminals by animals, fire, or crucifixion around noon; Jesus 6th hour]

gladiatorial contests (the actual munera) in the afternoon.

When games took place over a longer period, this same sequence was probably followed lowed every day.

The provision of eight gladiatorial shows with no fewer than ten thousand men confronting each other in single combat, as well as twenty-six fights with `African wild beasts;’ which left thirty-five hundred animals dead, was proudly proclaimed by the emperor when he listed his lifetime achievements in the Res Gestae

superior way for the provincials to express their newly won Romanness and loyalty to the emperor.

The arena was one of the most compelling places where imperial ideology was generated and enacted through the power of images: living images that were images of dying and of imposing death.

The poet Martial in a set of epigrams dedicated to the Roman emperor under the title Liber de spectaculis (“About the shows/games”) celebrated the Colosseum as the most wonderful of all the wonders of the world, more magnificent than the pyramids of Egypt, the walls of Babylon, the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, or the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Spectators from all over the world are present in Caesar’s city and amphitheater, theater, even members of the most remote and barbarous races. The arena integrates and creates unity.

[games were given- paid for- by the elite.]

The recognition of the person at the top of the human power pyramid, with unlimited power over life and death, is the recognition of his divinity too.

Neither Caesar’s presence nor the elbow rubbing and camaraderie among the audience would by itself have had the power to integrate social diversity and polarities into the new imperial one-self, if it were not for the magical object that drew all eyes to the sand-covered circular floor at the center and that was collectively consumed: the blood of the Other.

It was as agents and partakers in the supreme sacrifice that all were becoming one and self: the life of the Other.

victims fall into three basic categories:

Nature to be subdued [venationes]

Lawless criminals to be punished and eliminated

Gladiators Gladiators are mainly prisoners of war, criminals, or slaves sold into gladiatorial schools as punishment for certain (less severe) offenses.

beastly, barbarian, rebellious, hostile, criminal, and liminal otherness that makes them archetypal and prototypical enemies of the Roman imperial city and of civilization as such.

division of humanity into deserving and undeserving.80

The decision to attach oneself to the victorious ones, against the vanquished others, is presented as natural, moral, and without alternative.

The death shown in the arena was death required by law and therefore right; watching ing it with approval meant moral steadfastness and submission to law and emperor. Compassion toward the suffering fellow creature was to be avoided at all costs and was instead to be rechanneled into the fun of watching and participating in the lawful events of a slaughterhouse.

The segregation of humanity and the dehumanization of the other was at the core of the arena production.

The blood of the other drenching the sand of the arena becomes the magical substance that gives birth to the civic self.

The rules of the game

Being transformed into the likeness and oneness of the imperial body, the participants of the games also had to accept domination and subordination as constitutive of this body-for it reflected cosmic law and order.

Everyone else-senators, boys and their tutors, married men-had to sit in precisely determined areas and rows according to social ranking.86

The arena taught people that this strictly hierarchical, competitive, and violence-obsessed obsessed order of inclusion and exclusion is not only universal but also beneficial: after a day of games even the lowest ranking and most marginalized spectator had been elevated above someone more inferior and outcast: the victims of the arena.

The arenas as ‘Megachurches’ of Imperial Religion.

Cross and Arena

Over a distance of about two hundred kilometers the six thousand survivors of Spartacus’s army were nailed to crosses on the road between Capua and Rome after the defeat of the gladiators’ rebellion in 71 B.C.E.

two thousand crucifixions took place in Judea under Varus to quell unrest after the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C.E.

five hundred Jewish fugitives were crucified per day in front of besieged Jerusalem under Titus in 70 C.E. so that “there was not enough room for the crosses and not enough crosses for the bodies”

in Luke’s passion narrative, where the crucifixion of Jesus is called a theoria, that is, a spectacle

What needs to be shown is not just the execution of a criminal but the elimination of a rebellious, transgressive other and the restoration of the proper order of the world

In this context, the earliest Christian message of the crucified messiah demonstrated the “solidarity” of the love of God with the unspeakable suffering of those who were tortured and put to death by human cruelty.”‘

Salvation and justification, damnation and moral exhortation, communion and excommunication, law and works-all the theological and ecclesiological concepts that we have come to perceive as part of a largely disembodied and dehistorized discourse in Paul’s Galatian correspondence were alive in the arena, embodied in images of flesh and blood rather than words.

What if the primary mary clash took place not between Christ and the Jewish God in Galatia, but between Paul’s Jewish God-in-Christ and the imperial god-in-Caesar?

What if the Galatian controversy does not primarily concern Jews and Christians at all, but rather Jewish-messianic monotheism disputing the claims of imperial monotheism?

4. Roman Galatia: The Imperial Resurrection of the Dying Gauls/Galatians (189 B.C.E.-50 C.E.)

5. Under the Eagle’s Wings and (C)laws: Messianic Insurrection among Dying Gauls and Jews

6. Amen and Anathema: Galatians at the Great Altar of Pergamon

Epilogue: Dying Gauls, Jews, and Christians and Rome’s Three Great Fires (60-75 c.E.)

“For these I set no bounds in space or time; but have given empire without end…. The Romans, lords of the world, and the nation of the toga. Thus it is decreed” (1.278–83).

Crossan, John Dominic. God and Empire (p. 16). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s