The Rhetoric of Pietas in the Pastoral Epistles and the Roman Empire
Imprint: Baylor University Press
264 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 4 b&w photos
- Published: September 2017
Early Christians in Asia Minor had to navigate the troubled waters of Roman social, political, and economic life while also preserving their faith. The church faced a double threat: Greeks and Romans viewed Christianity as a barbaric and potentially seditious superstition and, at the same moment, wealthy Christian benefactors, and their client teachers, were both perceived to threaten the integrity of the Christian community.
Christopher Hoklotubbe investigates how the author of the Pastoral Epistles (1, 2 Timothy and Titus) strategically appealed to the Greek and Roman virtues of piety ( eusebeia, pietas) to ease these external and internal sociocultural threats. The Pastoral Epistles’ rhetoric of piety—a term not found in the genuine Pauline epistles—becomes pointed when read alongside ancient discourses on piety from Roman imperial propaganda, civic benefaction/patronage, and moral philosophy. As Hoklotubbe demonstrates, piety was rhetorically potent in the efforts of the Pastoral Epistles to present the fledgling Christian communities in a compelling cultural light, as well as efforts to unite communities around a socially conservative vision of the household of God.
Civilized Piety reveals the value of pietas within an ideological marketplace of emperors, benefactors, and philosophers, all of whom contend with one another to monopolize cultural prestige. The Pastoral Epistles, by employing a virtue so highly esteemed by forces hostile to Christianity, manifest a deep desire to establish good order within the church as well as to foster goodwill with the church’s non-Christian neighbors.
Introduction: The Politics of Piety in the Pastoral Epistles
1. Piety in Caesar’s House
2. Piety in God’s House
3. Honoring Piety in the City
4. Honoring Piety in the Ekklēsia
5. The Mystery of Philosophical Piety
6. The Mystery of Pastoral Piety
Conclusion: A Pious and Civilized Christian in the Roman Empire
'Piety' was an enormously important concept in political, civic, philosophical, and religious discourse in both the Greek ( eusebeia) and Latin ( pietas) worlds of the first and second centuries C.E. Although the apostle Paul strikingly never mentions it in his undisputed letters, the Pastoral Epistles make it a central characteristic of Christian life and identity. In this marvelous treatment, Christopher Hoklotubbe discusses not only the elevation and use of piety language in these letters but also shows how such language functioned in the world that these documents reflect.~John T. Fitzgerald, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of Notre Dame
Should Christians participate in politics? Since the second century, Christ-followers have occupied strange space on the political map of their day. Proclaiming exclusive commitment to Jesus, some make exceptions for issues related to state while others understand such exceptions as paradoxical at best. Explanations of this phenomenon often fall along ideological lines—noble martyrs versus the ignoble apostate. With a fresh approach, Chris Hoklotubbe argues that the Pastoral Epistles translate the gospel in terms of Roman pietas—a broad array of social, political, and religious obligations thought to sustain the cosmos and everything in it.~Clare K. Rothschild, Associate Professor of Scripture Studies, Lewis University
T. Christopher Hoklotubbe is to be commended for furnishing us with the first monograph-length treatment of the theme of pietas ( eusebeia)—one of the Roman Empire’s most celebrated ideals—in the Pastoral Epistles. In doing so he expands Paul and Empire scholarship beyond the confines of the earlier Pauline corpus to consider the presence of this as well as other imperial motifs in these later letters. The result is an exciting and thorough new study that every person interested in the emergence of Christianity as well as method in the study of Paul in the Roman Empire needs to read. I heartily recommend it.~Harry O. Maier, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, Vancouver School of Theology
Scholarly attention to the rhetorical strategies of the New Testament writers has been one of the happy outcomes of the last thirty years or so of biblical research. Civilized Piety makes an outstanding contribution to this enterprise, even more so given the relative paucity of such treatments with respect to the Pastorals.~Mark Harding, Review of Biblical Literature
"Exceptional and elegantly argued."
Hoklotubbe argues insightfully that the notion of piety is an important feature of the rhetoric of the Pastorals, all the more so given the significance of the virtue in the Greco-Roman culture in which the Pastorals were written.~Raymond F. Collins, Interpretation: Journal of Bible and Theology
- Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise