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Thoughts about this video?
Well, I had a “Duh” moment the other day when someone mentioned ads that were showing up on this blog. Why should I have been surprised since they show up on the blogs of others and endlessly on Facebook? My wife confirmed that she, too, had seen them on my blog. I was most bothered by the fact that sometimes it showed, I was told, movie ads that contained murders and violence.
Now, before anyone thinks I am going to tell them what to do or attempt to infringe upon their God given right to watch anything they want, let me assure you that I am not. I decided, however, to pay the small fee necessary to make my blog ad-free, at least until I can have more control over the content of the ads. So, hopefully no more murders, violent movies, etc. on this blog.
Growing up many years ago in the “old Texas,” ethical choices were simple. In case you don’t know, the “old Texas” was before there was a Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex and before the sacred boundaries of the Rio Grande and Red River had been totally breached. In particular, the Red River was breached by “undocumented Yankees.” In any case, in those days it was hard to improve on the moral compass expressed in the words of the summum bonum, “Don’t Smoke, Drink, Dance, and Chew or Date Girls Who Do.” Since it was the “old Texas” most folk were pleased if you kept three of the four, and they didn’t really care which three you kept.
Since those young days I have tried to add some more specifically Christian contours to my values, even to the point of thinking about entertainment and the like, such as movies, movie ads, and song lyrics. Consequently, I have found it helpful to ask myself, “What is there about this particular movie or current song that entertains me?” We do, after all, call it entertainment, or the entertainment industry, or the popular show Entertainment Tonight. Please, do NOT worry! I am not envisioning external judges, censors wagging their finger at you in criticism, or even a Bible-thumper hurling verses at you; no, just a question for reflection. If you have chosen to step across the line in the sand and take your place where Christ stands, why and how does a particular piece of Hollywood or New York entertain you? It’s just a question. For a maturing follower of Christ there is hardly a better guide than the Scripture informed conscience “also bearing witness, thoughts now accusing, now even defending” (Rom. 2:15b) our actions and entertainment choices.
Interestingly, a Roman Stoic philosopher named Seneca, living during the reign of Nero, was candid enough to discuss the impact on his own life of exposure to excessive violence. Here is a summary of this much discussed text from one of Seneca’s epistles to a friend,
I turned in to the games one mid-day hoping for a little wit and humor there. I was bitterly disappointed. It was really mere butchery. The morning’s show was merciful compared to it. Then men were thrown to lions and to bears: but at midday to the audience. There was no escape for them. The slayer was kept fighting until he could be slain. “Kill him! flog him! burn him alive” was the cry: “Why is he such a coward? Why won’t he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won’t he die willingly?”
Unhappy that I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/seneca-letters7.asp)
This pagan Roman philosopher seems to have had more introspection and ethical integrity in this regard than some followers of Christ I have known (FYI, Seneca was the brother of the Roman politician Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, and defender of Paul, Acts 18:12-17).
Marred and scarred though it be, the image of God residing in all humans seems to have still been working, at least on this one point, in the conscience of Seneca.
This URL will take you to a second page of color photos from the commentary. I am not including the ones that were never in color, like many of the coin photos, but the rest that are enjoyable to see in color. Due to the number of color photos I will not try to display all of them at one time.
So, enjoy. Over the next week or so I hope to get all of them from the commentary on this blog.
Click this link, or copy and paste it: http://richardoster.com/color-photos-for-seven-congregations-in-a-roman-crucible-part-2/
I have included the page numbers and figure numbers from the commentary to help you see where belong.
For those of you who have purchased a copy of the commentary, THANKS.
I have pointed out earlier in this blog and now in my recent commentary (Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible) that many Graeco-Roman pagans also believed in postmortem punishment in the afterlife. You might not be aware, however, that they actually believed they had discovered some of the entrance portals to Hell, Hades, and the underworld where one encountered smoky streams and lakes of fire and sulfur. Think of the science fiction TV series Stargate SG-1, but imagine a portal that does not transport you to another region of the universe, but into the underworld where the dead reside. Or, perhaps better known to those of us more familiar with earlier science fiction culture, think of Jules Verne’s 19th century work Journey to the Center of the Earth. This view about entrance points into the underworld was generally accepted in antiquity and even Jesus spoke of gates into the afterlife/underworld (Matt. 16:18). In Graeco-Roman mythology this type of site was called a Plutonium, named after the pagan deity of the underworld, Pluto, a.k.a. Hades.
It has been known for a long time that one such imagined portal into the underworld was located in the city of Hierapolis, not far from the city of Laodicea mentioned in Rev. 3:14-22. Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae (4:13-15) also mentions Hierapolis and Laodicea as all three of these were located in the Lycus Valley, about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Recently Italian archaeologists have extended their excavations at the site of the Plutonium in Hierapolis and even created some digital views of what it might have looked like.
Both friend and foe of the biblical message have acknowledged that the writers of Scripture often used the common language of the day to communicate Christian doctrine, values, and ideas to the surrounding culture. This is clearly the case regarding ideas about the afterlife, at least at times. 2 Peter 2:4, for example, contains the Greek verb ταρταρόω, tartaroō which means “to cast into Tartarus.” Tartarus is defined in the best lexicon for the Greek NT as a location, “thought of by the Greeks as a subterranean place lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out,” and was also viewed this way by the Jewish author Philo and also in “Israelite apocalyptic” literature (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, eds. Walter Bauer & F. W. Danker). It is no surprise that the archaeological museum at Hierapolis contains a clear example of the Greek deity Hades.
So if and when you make your way to Hierapolis, Turkey try to get your guide to show you the remains of the Plutonium. If and when you make your way into the Gospels or the book of Revelation, keep two points in mind. First, Jesus and his earliest followers certainly felt compelled to announce the painful consequences of rejecting God and his ways. Secondly, when apostolic authors did announce this, they did it in a way that was intelligible to their audiences by using the vernacular to communicate their theology.
One of the current mantras in American theological education is globalization, and rightly so. Globalization should be built into the DNA of every congregation of followers of Christ. The world of Jesus was a world replete with views of globalization. Alexander the Great had created a world of globalization from Albania to Afghanistan and the Romans from the Thames to the Tigris (for Roman globalism see Oster, Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible, pp. 29-40).
In fact, globalism was an integral part of Roman politics and theology and contributed to the Roman State’s hostility and aspersions toward the church’s geopolitical Jesus. Buddhist “missionaries” had come to the Mediterranean before the time of nascent Christianity.
There exists a Greek navigation guide from the mid-first century AD, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, that demonstrates Roman sea trade into sub-Saharan Africa as far south as Tanzania and as far east as Sri Lanka and eastern India. In addition, the very presence of silk garments in the Roman world testified to the existence of China and the famous Silk Route, since it was not until centuries later, when China lost its monopoly on silk, that the West could produce its own silk.
When Dr. James Allan Francis, a Baptist minister, presented his essay (eventually) called One Solitary Life, he could not have known that it would become a Christmas classic. Nor did later believers realize the profound accuracy and significance of his words,
He never went to college.
He never put his foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.
Jesus’ provincial travel resume of “he never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born” stands in stark contrast to Paul and his co-workers, the itinerant Jewish exorcists of Acts 19, the tens of thousands of pagans and Jews who sailed in and out of the Herodian port at Caesarea, the first century AD, Lycus Valley merchant, Titus Flavius Zeuxis who made 72 journeys from his hometown of Hierapolis to Rome on business (according to his epitaph preserved in Hierapolis).
Had it been within the purview of Jesus’ divine calling to reach out to pagan sinners, it would have been relatively easy for him to travel the less than 30 miles from Nazareth to the major port city of Caesarea Maritima and to catch one of the many ships that would take him to Alexandria, Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, or Rome. What God did through Jesus to ignite the fuse of the Abrahamic Great Commission (Gen. 12:1-3) apparently required that Jesus not wander too far from home, which meant Christ, unlike Paul and virtually all Diaspora Jews, had little opportunity to mix and mingle with those who represented the seamy underbelly of pagan life and idolatry.
It is the uniform theological outlook of the New Testament that Jesus did exactly what he was supposed to do by his ministry primarily among the Jews in the Land of Promise and that the church did exactly what it was supposed to do by both declaring a divine globalism and living in a way that was commensurate with its declaration. It is certainly significant for us that neither the Gospels, nor Acts, nor Paul, etc. see a need, either doctrinally or missionally. to re-locate Jesus in the world of the Diaspora. If all of the canonical writers were at peace in confronting their own world of paganism with a Christ that never rubbed shoulders with true paganism, then, perhaps we could also.