The Thessalonian Letters: The Greco-Roman Context

Two weeks ago I “promised” my wife, “this won’t take long.” This is more in-depth than planned, with generous endnotes for the source-hungry. Take time to read and think, look some things up. If what follows is disconcerting, welcome to reading the New Testament in the world of its initial audience, instead of ours. In doing so, we gain a deeper, multi-dimensional and more complete picture of the context of Paul’s messages.

I have long been an admirer of the study guide’s primary contributor’s scholarship. Dr. Paulien’s research was invaluable when I taught Revelation. I also empathize with the challenge of writing a quarter’s lessons; attempting to synthesize tremendous amounts of information on a complex topic.

That said, there are some differences in how we understand the historical context of Thessalonica and the Thessalonian letters.

In the first three days of this week’s lesson, the primary source used to shape the discussion is a research hypothesis formulated by Robert Jewett.[1]  As detailed by other New Testament and Classical scholars, Jewett’s views are largely flawed in relation to Thessalonica and its historical context. Given this, the lesson’s information and conclusions need considerably reshaped. Thus, this week’s comments are a bit of “counter-lesson” in regard to the historical contextual issues of Greco-Roman Thessalonica, its religions, and the moral and religious milieu of the mid-first century CE.[2]

Note: Phrases or terms that follow in quotes are extracted from the lesson.

Greco-Roman Thessalonica

In fairness to the quarterly, provincial Macedonia and the city of Thessalonica experienced a number of positive and negative circumstances after the Roman conquest in 168 BCE through the Late Roman Republic.[3] A positive development, by 120 BCE, was construction of the Via Egnatia, the Roman highway from the Adriatic Sea through Thessalonica.[4]  It helped position the city as capital of Roman provincial Macedonia, given its central location on the road and possession of the largest port on the north Aegean Sea, resulting in benefits significant for the city’s population.

The historical context of Thessalonica as it relates to early Christianity and Paul’s correspondence is primarily shaped by events during the Late Roman Republic and the Julio-Claudian imperium. The city experienced the economic, political and social vagaries of Rome’s civil wars leading to establishment of the empire. It also gained significant advantages in this process.

After the battle of Philippi in 42 BCE, Thessalonica was granted the honor of civitas liberae condicionis (status of a free city) for being a faithful friend of Rome.[5]This civic honor and the obligations Rome swore with Thessalonica included freedom from taxation and unhindered self-governance, local voting for leadership, freedom to hold public assemblies, city-administered courts, and minting money. While Macedonia was a Roman imperial province, Thessalonica had the added privilege of having no Roman troops based within the city.[6] These were the highest honors of a beneficial relationship with Rome, one given to few cities in the eastern empire. It was a further honor for the city to house the Roman governor’s residence, something provincial cities competed for. Additionally, the governor’s administrative and judicial proceedings added traffic of people and goods which economically benefitted the city.

Restored to being a senatorial province in 44 CE, Macedonia was not “occupied” by Roman troops. If Pliny’s later governance of senatorially governed Bithynia is a guide, the governor of Macedonia may have had 10-12 soldiers in his entourage, the only Roman soldiers in the province – hardly an “occupation.”

The result was not “political powerlessness,” but a city governed by its citizens – the demos (assembly) elected a boule (council) consisting of politarchs (council members) who governed Thessalonica, as demonstrated in Acts 17:5-9 and attested in Thessalonian inscriptions.[7] Some politarchs were also members of the koinon (provincial council) of Macedonia, which engaged in direct communication with the emperor in provincial matters.[8]

Thus, the Romans were not “foreign occupiers” from the Thessalonian perspective. The city was faithful and honored Rome for its benefaction and privileges. In turn, Rome was honor-bound to keep faith-sworn agreements in regard to the benefits and civic status of Thessalonica.[9] Furthermore, some politarchs, while celebrating their “Greekness,” did so as Thessalonians holding Roman citizenship.[10] Greek and Roman identities were distinctively intertwined in Thessalonian life.[11] Thessalonica was not “ruled by strangers.” It was a metropolis that saw itself as an integral part of the empire.[12]

Rome did not bring “economic dislocation,” but rather economic relocation, mutually beneficial to Thessalonica and Rome. The lesson’s terminology of “colonial exploitation,” “tax exportation” and “siphoning off” goods to Rome misrepresent the reality of Thessalonian-Roman relations. Thessalonian freedom from Roman taxation meant that citizens and those who settled in the city gained economic advantages in profit and trade. This drew immigrants and traders from across the Eastern Mediterranean, Italy and Rome.

Romans immigrated to Thessalonica and became a vital part of the community. Many had wealth enough to own slaves and businesses, and their engagement in trade and community development added to the economic vitality of the city.[13] Some intermarried with Thessalonian citizens which enabled them to hold city offices.[14] Roman benefaction – their donations towards civic needs – is praised in inscriptions honoring them by name, and at times, in joint proclamation of the benefaction of the goddess Roma (deified Rome).[15] Other non-citizen immigrants from Caria, Cilicia, Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, and provincial Asia crowded the city’s markets, streets, homes, temples and harbor.[16]

Abuse of taxation was not permitted under Roman law, and Claudius, Roman emperor when Paul preached and wrote to Thessalonica, was known for careful economic management of provincial affairs.[17] Historically, during the early empire, Roman governors of Macedonia were not known to misuse power while in office, an offense prosecutable in Rome. In fact, Publius Memmius Regullus, a Roman senator and imperial Macedonian governor from 35-44 CE, warded off the Emperor Gaius’ order to move the statue of Zeus, the primary deity of the Greek pantheon, from Olympia to Rome. It was an act of resistance to imperial command that likely prevented revolt in Macedonia in 40-41 CE, at the risk of his life and on behalf of the province.[18]

The lesson’s presumption of Roman or Thessalonian elite oppression of the poor and working classes represents the imprint of Jewett’s contemporary perspective – one not reflected in social conventions, relations, or history of the early Roman Empire.[19] As Peter Lampe bluntly summarizes, “In general, class consciousness hardly existed in the Roman Empire.”[20] Socio-economic identity, rank and status were stated and lived within a dynamic web of personal, household, patron-client, familial, benefactor-recipient, ethnic, religious, historical and communal relationships in ongoing collaborative negotiation for all living within the empire, from slaves to emperors.[21]

It is true that from 40-51 CE, the eastern Roman Empire, including Macedonia, was stressed by food shortages and famine. Agabus’ prophecy in Acts 11:28 was fulfilled. The increase in grain prices and resulting social stress caused by inflation and the need to work to survive is reflected in Paul’s imperatives to work in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 and 3:6-12.[22]

Religion in Thessalonica

Thessalonian inhabitants were not “left without meaningful religion,” nor was the imperial cult designed to “suppress” Thessalonians’ spiritual life as suggested in the quarterly. The city of Thessalonica was immersed in religious cult experience that was individually and corporately shared across the Greco-Roman world. The populace worshipped Aphrodite, Demeter, Zeus, Artemis, Apollo, Isis, Serapis and Dionysius, among other deities.[23]

An example of Thessalonian religion: The Cult of Isis and Serapis

Thessalonica contained a Serapeum, a temple dedicated in the 3rd century BCE to Egyptian deities, including Isis, Osiris, Serapis, Anubis and other gods.[24]  The Egyptian gods were worshipped by Greek, Egyptian, Roman and other ethnic adherents in Thessalonica.[25] Isis devotees lived a daily round of worship, sacred meals, and annual festivals, including a religious ceremony and public procession to open the sailing season. Isis was praised in hymns and inscriptions as eternal, creator, savior, goddess of grain, protectress of sailors and ocean travel, lawgiver, who forgave sin (termed Isis Righteousness, among other epithets).[26] The personal and intense experience of the Isaic worship – prayer, physical restoration, miracles, Isis appearing in dreams and visions and individual and communal worship is vividly portrayed in Apuleius’ novel, Metamorphosis, when Lucius, the main character, encounters Isis and becomes her worshiper, then pastor/priest.[27] The point is, most inhabitants of Thessalonica engaged in numerous worship practices with deities they sensed were powerful, caring, and near.

The Cult of Cabirus: More Complex and Problematic Than the Lesson States

The lesson draws on Jewett’s argument that worship of Cabirus was the primary cult that challenged and shaped Paul’s preaching Christianity in the city, and his Thessalonian letters. However, evidence of a Cabirus cult in Thessalonica is historically placed later than when Paul conveys the gospel. Jewett’s work was critiqued by Holland Hendrix, who previously wrote on the Thessalonian situation, and aptly summarized Jewett’s key premise as lacking proof: “At present, there is no unequivocal evidence for a cult of the single Cabirus at the city before the second or third century CE.”[28]

Jewett’s and the lesson’s moral arguments in regard to the Cabirus cult are based on a similar Samothracian cult that Jewett conflates with the Thessalonian Cabirus, based upon a sermon/essay of Clement of Alexandria. The Samothracian cults were one target of Clement of Alexandria’s vitriolic polemic against non-Christian worship in the 3rd century CE.[29] Clement’s accusations and characterizations need to be carefully and critically regarded. It was normal practice for opposing cults or religions to disparage their opponents with the language and accusation of behavior, illegal and abhorrent under Roman law, to persuade others of their immoral and un-Roman behavior, to illicit disgust and revulsion from hearers/readers.[30]

To contrast Clement’s vitriol, an earlier and alternate perspective of the Samothracian mysteries, including the Cabiroi or Cabirus cult, is that of Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who wrote between 60-30 BCE:

“Now the details of the initiatory rite are guarded among the matters not to be divulged and are communicated to the initiates alone; but the fame has traveled wide of how these gods appear to mankind and bring unexpected aid to those initiates of theirs who call upon them in the midst of perils. The claim is also made that men who have taken part in the mysteries become more pious and more just and better in every respect than they were before” (Library of History 49.1-6 [LCL]).

Even if historically founded earlier, and active during Paul’s time in Thessalonica, the worship of Cabirus would not be isolated to a particular socio-economic class. Cult practice and coinage bearing Cabirus’ name was authorized by the city politarchs and appropriately regulated. Cults and religious or other associations had to be approved by a city or provincial council.[31]

In summary, it is speculative to presume that the Thessalonian Cabirus cult was the predominant force which shapes the historical context of Paul’s preaching, and particularly the Thessalonian letters. Based upon the evidence, the cult is not “divisive” or “rebellious” as claimed in the lesson. A view that Cabirus cult was “bloody” needs balanced with bloody activities of its contemporary Judean sacrificial system in Jerusalem. 

The worship of Cabirus was only one of many religions or cults practiced in Thessalonica that competed, among others, for worshippers and community honor. That the Cabirus cult held primacy over or “challenged” the imperial cult, or that the imperial cult detracted from the worship of another established deity is conjecture at best.[32]

Roman Morals, Religion, and the Imperial Cult

Romans in Thessalonica and elsewhere were expected to hold and practice high moral standards. A read of Valerius Maximus’ Memorable Doings and Sayings provides a window into the Roman perception of virtues upon which society, law, moral behavior and relations with the gods were based.  Valerius condemned immorality, drunkenness, unchastity, adultery, stealing and other vices that did not match the social conventions of proper Roman living – which called for mercy, piety, intellect, moderation, peace, chastity and faith, among others.[33] For Romans, religion or relations with the gods was based upon piety and faith.[34]

The imperial cult, commencing with the divinized Julius Caesar, was founded in Thessalonica in 42 BCE and combined with that of Augustus in 29-28 BCE, based upon coinage, inscriptions, archaeological remains, and documented temple offices assigned or awarded to community leaders.[35] The Thessalonian imperial cult was an expression of regional relief and thanksgiving for the end of the late Republican wars, Roman benefaction of Thessalonica’s status as free city, and Augustus’s ascent to power.[36] The cult was not forced upon an “oppressed” populace. It was a communal, political and religious action to grant divine honors upon the emperors, using conventions similar to other cities and provinces across the eastern empire. The imperial cult was integrated into the religious fabric of Thessalonica, with a temple, priests, inscriptions and festival days which added economic benefit to the city. It was ultimately a statement of faith in the divine empowerment of the emperor, and epitomized loyal faith sworn at the accession of a new emperor, and annually thereafter.[37]

Judeanism and the Synagogue as Initial Point for Preaching the Gospel

In the midst of these cults, Judeanism thrived in Thessalonica, with a synagogue and a way of life which attracted non-Judeans. Multiple forms of Judeanism were admired by many non-Judeans, while being criticized by others.

Judeanism was granted rights and privileges under Roman law and within the cities where synagogues functioned. It was alternatively or simultaneously perceived as a religion, a way of life, a tradition, an ethnicity, and moral philosophy by various groups in the Greco-Roman world who engaged with it in a range of interaction in the first century.[38]

In the mid-first century CE, Judeanism was attractive across socio-economic groups and genders. This created a natural entry point for the gospel of Jesus Christ into the Greco-Roman world. However, Judeanism’s general response to Paul’s gospel was a rejection of Christ as Messiah, while at the same time, defending its status within Thessalonica.

Christianity did not die in the face of Thessalonian opposition, but migrated from synagogue to house churches. It is probable that Jason, the host of Paul and those in his group, was a non-Judean God-fearer, wealthy enough to care for them in his home. It is suggested that the Aristarchus of Thessalonica, (Acts 19:29, 20:4) was a politarch listed in a Thessalonian inscription.[39] If so, his conversion portrays a Greek, perhaps previously attracted to Judeanism, now a Christ-following leader in Paul’s delegation to Jerusalem.

Reflections on Paul and Thessalonica

What does this review reveal about Paul and the Thessalonian letters? First, the Greco-Roman world of Thessalonica was not devoid of meaningful religion, nor grossly immoral as community practice. Second, it maintained good relations with Rome and Romans. Third, Thessalonica was focused on its own concerns and had little framework for appreciation of God’s intervention in human history – a humanity ignorant of, or at enmity with, God.

Yet God intervenes – crashing in and changing human destiny by revelation of the resurrected Christ, by witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit – the indwelling power of God to touch, impress, and change human hearts. The Spirit was at work through Paul and others in interaction with the Thessalonian populace to bring conviction and conversion.[40]

The results of God’s intervention in Thessalonica are clear:  

“… constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction...”

…. “how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”[41]



[1]Robert Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety(Philadelphia, Fortress, 1986).

[2]Judeanism and Judeans are terms used in more recent New Testament studies in place of Judaism and Jews.

[3]Pantelis Nigdelis, Greek and Roman Thessaloniki, http://www.lpth.gr/en/texts/Nigdelis_en.pdf

[4]Strabo, Geographica (Geography) 7.7.4; M. Tullius Cicero, On the Consular Provinces, 4. On the recent  discovery of a Via Egnatia section in Thessalonica, see CBC News, June 26, 2012, “Ancient road unearthed in Greek subway dig”, http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/06/26/greece-ancient-road.html

[5]Pliny, Naturalis Historia (Natural History) 4.10.

[6]Frank Frost Abbott, A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions, 3rd Ed. (Boston, MA: Ginn & Co., 1911), 90-91; Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 18-20.

[7]For city governance see, Green, Thessalonians, 19; On the politarchs see, G.H.R. Horsley, “The Politarchs” in David W. J. Gill and Conrad Gempf, eds., The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, Volume 2, Greco-Roman Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 419-431.

[8]The koinon or provincial council was situated in Berea; Fanoula Papazoglou, “Macedonia Under the Romans: Political and Administrative Developments”in Sakellariou (ed.), Macedonia: 4000 Years of Greek History and Civilization (Athens: Ekdotike Athenon, 1983), 199.

[9]In regard to reciprocity of honor, benefaction, legal precedent and reaffirmation of prior privilege as influential on Roman-provincial relations, see Clifford Ando, “The Administration of the Provinces” in David S. Potter, A Companion to the Roman Empire (Chichester, UK: Blackwell, 2006,repr. John Wiley & Sons, 2009), 184-185.

[10]Papazoglou, “Political and Administrative Developments,” 202.

[11]This was true in Greek cities, but somewhat differently nuanced in a Roman colonia. See Constantina Katsari and S. Mitchell, “The Roman Colonies of Greece and Asia Minor. Questions of State and Civic Identity” in Athenaum 95 (2008), 219-247, (219-220); also, S. Swain, Hellenism and Empire: Language, Classicism, and Power in the Greek World AD 50-250 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996); also see, T. Whitmarsh, Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation, (Oxford: Oxford University, 2001).

[12]Green, Thessalonians, 20-24.

[13]Nigdelis, Greek and Roman Thessaloniki, 7-8.

[14]Nigdelis, Greek and Roman Thessaloniki, 8.

[15]Green, Thessalonians, 24-25.

[16]Nigdelis, Greek and Roman Thessaloniki, 7.

[17]In regard to Roman taxation practices in the empire, see Ando, “The Administration of the Provinces,” 185-188; in regard to Claudius’ provincial policy regarding taxation and development, see Barbara Levick, Claudius (London: B. T. Batsford, 1990), 135.

[18]Cassius Dio, 59.28.3-4 in Cassius Dio, Roman History, 9 Vols., Earnest Cary and H.B. Foster (trans.), LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1914-27); Suetonius, Caligula 57.1 in Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesarswith an English translation,J.C. Rolfe(trans.), LCL (London: Heinemann, 1913-14); Anthony A. Barrett, Caligula: The Corruption of Power (Manchester, UK: Batsford, 1989), 90.

[19]Jewett, Thessalonian Correspondence.

[20]See Peter Lampe, “Paul, Patrons and Clients” in J. Paul Sampley, (ed.), Paul in the Greco-Roman World (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 2003), 488-523, (488).

[21]For a seminal synopsis, see E. A. Judge, “Rank and Status in the World of the Caesars and St Paul” in David M. Scholer, (ed.), Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century: Pivotal Essays by E.A Judge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), 137-156; for further consideration in conjunction with the New Testament, see David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture  (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 95-119.

[22]For a brief summation of the topic see Bruce Winter, “Acts and Food Shortages” in David W. J. Gill and Conrad Gempf, eds., The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, Volume 2, Greco-Roman Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 59-78; for more, see Peter Garnsey, Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1988).

[23]Green, Thessalonians, 33-38.

[24]Michael Vickers, “Hellenistic Thessaloniki” in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 92 (1972), 156-170, (164-165); Theodosia Stefanidou-Tiveriou, “Thessaloniki from Alexander to Galerius”, 3, 5-6, http://www.lpth.gr/en/texts/Tiveriou_en.pdf

[25]Polla Caellia, a Roman woman, is named in a Thessalonica inscription for involvement in the cult or making a dedication to Isis and Serapis in the early 1st century BCE, see Sharon Kelly Heyob, The Cult of Isis Among Women in the Graeco-Roman World, Études preliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'Empire romain, 51(Leiden: Brill, 1975), 86.

[26]For a longer treatment, see Vera Frederika Vanderlip, The Four Greek Hymns of Isidorus and the Cult of Isis (Toronto: Hakkert, 1972). For a summation of the Isis cult, see Ben Holdsworth, Reading Romans in Rome: A Reception of Romans in the Roman Context of Ethnicity and Faith, (Durham University, 298-305.   http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/214/1/BenHoldsworthThesis_Apr8_2010.pdf?DDD32

[27]Apuleius of Madaruros, and J. Gwyn Griffiths, The Isis-book - Metamorphoses, J. Gwyn Griffiths (trans.), J. Gwyn Griffiths (ed.), (Leiden: Brill Academic, 1975, 1997), Book XI.

[28]Holland Hendrix, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 107, No. 4 (December, 1988), 766.

[29]Clement of Alexandria, “Exhortation to the Heathen”, in Peter Schaff (ed.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 2 Vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library), Vol. 2, 387.

[30]Clement of Alexandria’s accusations echo those against ceremonies of the cult of Dionysius by earlier (non-Christian) Roman writers. For similar critical attack upon the Dionysius or Bacchus cult, see Livy, History of Rome 39.8-19 in Titus Livy, History of Rome, 14 Vols., B.O. Foster, et al., (trans.), LCL (Cambridge: Harvard University; London: Heinemann, 1919-59); For an excellent treatment of cult or sectarian rivalry, see Philip A. Harland, Dynamics of Identity in the World of Early Christians (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 145-181; Where the Dionysian or Bacchic cult was practiced, archaeology demonstrates it was governed by external regulation and its internal rules were particular and focused on preserving order in their meetings, see Philip A. Harland, Associations, Synagogues and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003), 75-83; Edson, “Cults of Thessalonica,” HTR 41/3 (1948), 188-204 (188-189); Also, see Green, Thessalonians, 43-44; While supporting Jewett’s conclusion, Donfried details the differences between the Thessalonian and Samothracian cults of the  Corybantes, Karl P. Donfried, Paul, Thessalonica and Early Christianity (London: T&T Clark, 2002), 25-28; Stone-engraved inscriptions commemorated cult initiations, see Nora M. Dimitrova, Theoroi and Initiates in Samothrace: The Epigraphical Evidence , Hesperia 37 (Princeton, NJ: The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2008); More recently, one Samothracian inscription was found that claims the initiate saw the Cabirus, and as a result entreats for a place with the pious dead in the afterlife.“The phrase Καβίρου δίχ᾿ ἱερὸν φῶς (line 14) is convincingly interpreted by the authors as a poetic manner to say “the sacred light of the two Kabiroi” (not “the doubly sacred light of Kabiros”) ….  The last lines of the epigram demonstrate the interconnection between initiation and blissful afterlife (lines 19-22: ἄλλ᾿ ᾿Αΐδα σκοτίου χέ<ρ> ἀ|[γ]ασθενὲς ἕρκος ἀνάγκης | [χῶρ]ον ἐς εὐσεβέων τόνδ᾿ ἀ|[γ]αγὼν κάθισον; “but you hand of gloomy Hades, extremely powerful bastion of necessity, lead this man to the region of the reverent and place him there”).  C. Karadima-Matsa – N. Dimitrova, “Epitaph for an Initiate at Samothrace and Eleusis”, Chiron 33 (2003), p. 335-345, [BE 2004, 247]. http://kernos.revues.org/469; Another Samothracian inscription lists a number of Thessalonians who became initiates into a similar, or perhaps, the original, Cabirus cult – the Corybantes – worshipped at Samothrace. The earliest Thessalonian initiation was in approximately 37 BCE, see Susan Guettel Cole, Theoi Megaloi: The Cult of the Great Gods at Samothrace, Etudes Preliminaires aux Religions Orientales dans l'Empire Romain, Volumes 96-97 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1984) 90-91, 93-98; Also see Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 5; Also, Green, Thessalonians, 43-44; and Nora M. Dimitrova, Theoroi and Initiates in Samothrace; Thessalonians who became Samothracian mystery inductees were likely leaders or those with the economic means to do so from the city – not the poor or slaves, unless part of a group or family accompanying wealthier initiates – whether Greeks or Romans,see Harland, Associations, Synagogues and Congregations.

[31]For a full treatment, see Harland, Associations, Synagogues and Congregations.

[32]Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 5; for a more detailed treatment, see James R. Harrison, Paul and the Imperial Authorities in Thessalonica and Rome: A Study in the Conflict of Ideology, WUNT I 273 (Tϋbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 55-56.

[33]Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings, 2 Vols. D. R. Shackleton Bailey (ed.), D. R. Shackleton Bailey (trans.), LCL, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2000); For the centrality of living Roman virtues in relation to the afterlife in the heavens and a summation of Valerius Maximus, see Holdsworth, Reading Romans in Rome, 45-58.

[34]Livy succinctly summarized the Roman ethnic perspective of interrelated piety and faith: “…The gods show favor, or are well disposed (favere) to piety (pietas) and faith (fides), through which the Roman people arrived at so great a peak.” Livy, History of Rome, 44.1.11; Cicero gives a glimpse of Roman moral and virtue impacting one’s ascent into heaven. It was not only worship of “those who have always lived in heaven,” but as “those qualities through which an ascent to heaven is granted to man: Intellect, Virtue, Piety, Faith.” Cicero, De Legibus 2.19.9 in Cicero, Marcus Tullius, De Re Publica, De Legibus, C.W. Keyes, (trans.), LCL (London: Heinemann, 1928).

[35]The cult of the emperors was probably founded in Thessalonica before the Cabirus cult. For the divinization of Julius as foundation of imperial cult see, Hans-Josef Klauck, The Religious Context of Early Christianity (London: T&T Clark, 2000), 288-294; On Thessalonian imperial coinage, see Karsten Dhaman, “The Numismatic Evidence” in Joseph Roisman, Ian Worthington (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Macedonia (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 41-62 (57, 57 n.69); The imperial cult, see Harrison, Paul and the Imperial Authorities, 53-56, 62-70.

[36]Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 3-6; “Augustus, Son of God” see Harrison, Paul and Imperial Authorities, 55-56; for a longer treatment of the imperial cult see S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power, The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University, repr. 1994, c1984).

[37]For the imperial cult and the expression of sworn faith with the emperor, see Harrison, Paul and Imperial Authorities, 53-54; also Holdsworth, Reading Romans in Rome, 194-197.

[38]For a fuller treatment, see John M.G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1996).

[39]Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, (Tϋbingen:  J.C.B. Mohr, 1989), 236.

[40]See Zeba Crook, Reconceptualising Conversion: Patronage, Loyalty, And Conversion In The Religions Of The Ancient Mediterranean, Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Alteren Kirche (Book 130) (Berlin, Walter de Grueyter, 2004).

[41]1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 9-10.





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