Sunday, September 28, 2008

Warren Carter on Negotiating the Empire

I had the pleasure of attending Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity yesterday who offered a series of lectures on Negotiating the Roman Empire in the New Testament by the esteemed Professor of New Testament Dr. Warren Carter from Brite Divinity School (TCU). Carter has written extensively on the Gospels in their Imperial context (such titles as: Matthew and the Margins, Matthew and Empire, and most recently John and Empire).

He presented three engaging lecture/discussion sessions. Each format provided initial discussions into the imperial foreground of the texts of the New Testament. He unpacked the socio-economic stratification of the elite vis-a-vis the rest of society (i.e. the 97% of people!). Underscoring the convergence of economic, political, religious, and civic life in the first century, he provided a robust reorientation to the gospels. I personally found Carter's style a model approach for presenting imperial and postcolonial concerns in a manner conducive to reception within the local church. What was most intriguing, and in my case encouraging for my own future vocational pursuits, was his ability to present the information in such a practical way, stripped of technical academically oriented terms, while never failing to deliver the content of those terms in a way anyone could perceive. Certainly, these are the hallmarks of good education in the local church context.

Further, he set forth the contours of much of his published material. The final lecture/discussion took on John and Empire wherein he described some of the factors relative to the "eternal life" found in Jesus over against the "Roma aeterna." I found this the most interesting area of the discussion, largely because it was so new to me. Previously, I considered John a difficult text to navigate in terms of imperial interaction, yet in the few brief minutes that he spoke, it became clear that John may well be one of the easier texts to analyze with respect to empire. Carter's works and thoughts are certainly on the cutting edge of reading the Gospels in their context. I suggest highly picking up, as I have, his recent publication John and Empire: Initial Explorations [T & T Clark, 2008]).

1 comment:

Richard said...

I've just started reading Warren Carter “The Roman Empire and the New Testament An Essential Guide”.
Fascinated by his exegesis revealing how the anti-Empire message of the Gospels is so pervasive. I can see that I will need to read his other books