Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Acta Theologica]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/rss.php?pid=1015-875820160002&lang=en vol. 36 num. lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/img/en/fbpelogp.gif http://www.scielo.org.za <![CDATA[<b>Preface</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200001&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en <![CDATA[<b>Social welfare in the Greco-Roman world as a background for Early Christian practice</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200002&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The essay investigates if and how Greco-Roman theorists attempted to motivate altruistic behaviour and devise a social-welfare ethics. In comparison, it studies actual social-welfare practices on both the private and the state level. Various social-welfare tasks are touched upon - health care; care for the elderly, widows, orphans and invalids; the patron-client system as countermeasure to unemployment; distribution of land, grain, meals and money; alms, donations, foundations as well as education - with hardly any one of them being especially tailored to the poor. The enormous role of civil society - private persons, their households and associations - in holding up social-welfare functions is shown. By contrast, the state was comparatively less involved, the commonwealth of the Romans, especially in Republican times, even less than the Greek city-states. The Greek poleis often invested income such as wealthy citizens' donations in social welfare, thus brokering between wealthy private donors and less well-to-do persons. The church, living in private household structures during the first centuries, took over the social-welfare tasks of the Greco-Roman household and reviewed them in the light of Hebrew and Hellenistic-Jewish moral traditions. <![CDATA[<b>Orphans in Mediterranean antiquity and Early Christianity</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200003&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article provides an overview of the problem of orphans in the ancient Mediterranean world and identifies ways in which various societies acknowledged orphans' plight and sought to address it. Part 1 gives the ancient definition of "orphan" as a "fatherless child" and statistical estimates for the percentage of children who had lost their father. Part 2 identifies five factors (inadequate public health care, low life expectancy, war deaths, death during childbirth, and differences in age at first marriage for men and women) that contributed to the high incidence of orphans in antiquity. Part 3 surveys the recognition of orphans' vulnerability in ancient Babylon, ancient Israel and early Judaism, ancient Greece, and imperial Rome. Part 4 discusses the treatment of orphans in early Christianity, focusing on the pre-Constantinian period. Part 5 offers a brief conclusion that notes both personal and institutional responses by Christians to the plight of orphans. <![CDATA[<b>Ancient Christian care for prisoners: First and second centuries</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200004&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This study deals with the question as to whether first- and second-century sources reflect ancient Christian practices of care for prisoners and in how far these sources help clarify the reasons why Christians cared for prisoners in different contexts. The study explores material not only from the New Testament Gospels (Matt. 25; Luke 4) and Acts, but also from the Pauline Corpus and extra-canonical literature such as Ignatius of Antioch's Epistles, later Acts of the Apostles, Martyrdom literature and even a passage from Lucian of Samosata's Life of Peregrinus. The article concludes that the evidence for Christian care for prisoners is earlier and more widespread than usually assumed. While some sources do not reflect on reasons for this practice, others put it into wider horizons: Matthew links care for prisoners with the notion that actions toward people in need are actions toward Christ, the judge himself - an innovative view that is certainly tied to the special circumstances of early Christians. Luke, however, borrows Isaianic motifs, linking freedom for captives with the Messianic Age. <![CDATA[<b>Slavery and Early Christianity - A reflection from a human rights perspective</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200005&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Addressing the topic "slavery and Early Christianity" is a difficult task for various reasons. First, it is complex to reach an understanding of slavery of that time. Secondly, there is the hermeneutic challenge of approaching the issue with a current mind-set that includes the notion of the abolition of slavery. Furthermore, from a contemporary perspective, a critical account of slavery and Early Christianity is possible, with the temporal distance protecting one from the consequences linked to a judgement about slavery. Finally, there is the hermeneutic challenge of engaging with texts from Early Christianity from an ethical perspective in order to reach present-day normative propositions, while respecting the original intention of the texts. In light of these challenges, this article will offer a brief overview of opinions on slavery in Hellenistic philosophy and in the Jewish tradition, and then discuss slavery and Early Christianity, followed by a reflection on slavery and Early Christianity from a human rights perspective. <![CDATA[<b>Food for thought: Interpreting the parable of the loyal and wise slave in Q 12:42-44</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The parable of the loyal and wise slave appears in Q 12:42-46 (Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-46). I have argued elsewhere that verses 45-46 were added to verses 42-44 by Q's main redactor. If so, only Q 12:42-44 originally appeared in Kloppenborg's formative stratum, or Q¹. The purpose of the present article is to ascertain the parable's meaning as it seemingly appeared on the level of Q's formative stratum. The latter is mainly achieved by taking seriously the parable's application of the slavery metaphor. It should not come as a surprise that the parable in Q 12:42-44 is all about feeding God's people. <![CDATA[<b>Meek or oppressed? Reading Matthew 5:5 in context</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en According to the Gospel of Matthew 5:5, Jesus pronounces a blessing on "the meek" (Greek οί πραεΐς), promising that they will receive the inheritance of the earth (or land). The words of Jesus are a quotation from the LXX of Psalm 37:11 and each of the Hebrew terms (subject, object and verb) need careful consideration. Following, the Hebrew original we might translate the verse in Psalm 37:11 as "The oppressed/ humiliated will take possession of the land". The force of the original saying finds its meaning in the wider context of the Psalm, where wealthy landowners threaten the interests of ordinary peasants and they cry out to God for justice. The variance between the Hebrew (MT) and the Greek (LXX) raises anew the interpretation of these words of Jesus. Who did Matthew's Jesus have in mind - the meek of emerging Christianity or the poor and humiliated peasants, who made up the majority of his Palestinian audience? In this article, I consider the implications of Jesus addressing a peasant audience in a conversation about taking possession of farming land and then extend this discussion into the emerging peasant realities of the post-revolutionary context in Galilee and Judaea. In the light of the present archaeological data, and the rabbinic sources, peasant life continued more or less unchanged with little indication of large-scale estates. <![CDATA[<b>The reception of the Deuteronomic social law in the Primitive Church of Jerusalem according to the Book of Acts</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200010&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The Book of Deuteronomy was extant in the Jewish cultural memory and played an important role in shaping Jewish identity. Its concept of the holy people of God, who live according to the social order given by YHWH and who stand in contrast to the pagan world, forms the social model for the Primitive Church in Jerusalem. Since New Testament exegesis has, to a large extent, neglected the role of this book of the Torah in understanding the Primitive Church, this study investigates the reception of Deuteronomy's social law in Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35, and 6:1-7, in terms of its theological or ecclesiological importance. <![CDATA[<b>Paul, military imagery and social disadvantage</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en In the past, attention for the social position or standing of the early Jesus followers was overrun by concerns for the theological and religious dimensions of those communities. The role of the Roman Empire and the impact of its military forces on the lives of people have generated even less attention. Paul's use of military images in the context of the Roman Empire underlines the prevalence and influence of the military, and provides an important perspective for understanding first-century social location. <![CDATA[<b>Social equality and Christian life in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200012&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This contribution seeks to clarify how the category of eschatological equality in 1 Corinthians is to be ascertained. Is equality, in this instance, to be understood as the annulment of status differences within the Christian congregation, or does it belong to an eschatological plan of an ideal or utopic world? Is the new Christian existence of the Corinthians conceived as real, as outwardly visible or as socially perceivable? This study is aimed at understanding the theological construction connected with these questions by interpreting the paradigmatic relation of the status-designating pairs Ιουδαίοι and 'Έλληνες; ελεύθερος and δούλος; ανθρωπος/άνήρ, and γυνή (or άρσεν and θηλυ) within the Pauline argument. <![CDATA[<b>Apocalyptic groups and socially disadvantaged contexts</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200013&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This study investigates the theory that apocalyptic texts originated in, and reflect the convictions and activities of socially disadvantaged groups on the margins of society. After a brief introduction to the nature of this understanding of apocalyptic groups, the article investigates the issue in more depth by analysing an essay on Revelation written by D.H. Lawrence as concrete example of this theory from a non-scholarly perspective, followed by various scholarly readings of apocalyptic groups. In a following section, it analyses various formal, literary, hermeneutical and topical themes questioning the validity of this approach as well as research insights that revealed major weaknesses in this understanding. The article then concludes with an investigation of material that, ironically, indicates that apocalypses generally reflect a learned hermeneutical movement wishing to discover the ongoing relevance of sacred traditions in new situations. <![CDATA[<b>The punishment of slaves in Early Christianity: The views of some selected Church Fathers</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200014&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en With few exceptions, many of the Church Fathers approved, in principle, of the punishment of slaves. However, there were very specific guidelines on why, how, and when to punish slaves. The purpose of this article is to analyse more closely how some of the early Church Fathers conceptualised the punishment of slaves. The study begins, first, by examining the theological justifications for the punishment of slaves. Secondly, it assesses the reasons for punishment - for what reasons did these Church Fathers admonish their slaveholding audiences to punish their slaves? Thirdly, the author investigates some selected Church Fathers' advice on how to punish, in terms of both the psychological disposition of the owner and the various methods for punishment directed towards the slave body. Finally, the article more specifically explores how these Church Fathers understood some of the main elements that were present in, during, and after punishment, namely fear and pain. <![CDATA[<b>The reception of Apphia in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E.</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200015&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The aim of this study is to investigate the reception of Apphia (who is mentioned in Philemon 2 as one of the recipients of the letter) in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E. For this purpose the available sources are investigated in a chronological order: Jerome, John Chrysostom, Pelagius, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret of Cyrus (Apphia is not mentioned in the commentary of Ambrosiaster). Firstly, it is shown that the difference in the Biblical texts that were used by these five scholars may have had an influence on the way in which they interpreted Apphia's role. Secondly, it is argued that one can identify a slow progression in the way in which the relationship between Philemon, Apphia and Archippus was interpreted. Lastly it is shown that personal views on women and their role had no mean influence on the perception of Apphia. For example, this can be seen in the way in which some of these authors tried to explain why Apphia was mentioned before Archippus in Paul's letter. <![CDATA[<b>Christian prisoners: Fifth and sixth century inscriptions from Corinth</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582016000200016&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Among the inscriptions from Corinth (in publication), there are graffiti carved into the floor of a prison in Corinth. They shed interesting light on the hopes, beliefs and opinions of Christians from late antiquity. This study offers an overview of the insights to be gained from these graffiti. Now that IG IV² 3 Fasc. 3. Inscriptiones Corinthi, regionis Corinthiae is available, the evidence on Christian prisoners in the later Roman Empire will be easily accessible.2 The texts consist of graffiti on limestone floor tiles. They were found at the back of the "Boudroumi" arches.3 The vaults were shops north-west of the agora of ancient Corinth. Currently, these fragments of the limestone slabs that are still available are kept in the museum's storerooms.