The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire
by Neil Elliott
Fortress Press 2008
Elliott offers a fresh and surprising reinterpretation of Paul's letter to the Romans in the context of Roman imperial ideology, bringing to the text the latest insights from classical studies, rhetorical criticism, postcolonial criticism, and people's history.
By setting the letter alongside Roman texts (Cicero, Virgil, the Res Gestae of Augustus, Seneca, poets from the age of Nero, as well as later historians and satirists), Elliott provides a dramatic new reading of the letter as Paul's confrontation with the arrogance of empire—and with an emerging Christianity already tempted by the seductive ideology of imperial power. The Arrogance of Nations explores such topics as:
- Empire and the obedience of faith
- Justice and the arrogance of nations
- Mercy and the prerogatives of power
- Piety and the scandal of an irreligious race
- Virtue and the fortunes of peoples
- Paul and the horizon of the possible
- Bibliographical references
- Notes and indexes
Praise for the Print Edition
A tour de force, The Arrogance of Nations is one of the most thought-provoking books on Paul in years. Making sophisticated use of post-colonial theory while also reading with remarkable exegetical sensitivity, Elliott's interpretation of Paul as a sharp and subtle critic of empire is cogent, compelling, and a much-needed corrective to the conventional image of the Apostle. Anyone who thinks the discussion of Paul is hackneyed and irrelevant to the issues of our day needs to read this book.
—Pamela Eisenbaum, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins, Iliff School of Theology
Elliott demonstrates skillfully and boldly how indispensable the Roman Empire is for interpreting Romans. He synthesizes an impressive array of historical data with wide-ranging political and ideological theory, challenges deceptions on the part of imperial propaganda (ancient and modern) that suppresses the truth, and makes eye-opening correlations with contemporary realities of empire. Even interpreters with different perspectives need to dialogue seriously with this book.
—Robert L. Brawley, Professor of New Testament Emeritus, McCormick Theological Seminary
This is a remarkable book. A sophisticated practitioner of rhetorical criticism, Neil Elliott also brings to Romans knowledge of Roman imperial ideology and its constraining effects on subject peoples and critical awareness of the imperial ideology and practices of the United States as well. His remarkable analysis makes Romans jump alive as never before. Under Elliott's discerning eye, Paul's most important letter becomes a challenge to North Americans' privileged position as the beneficiaries of empire.
—Richard A. Horsley, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion, University of Massachusetts, Boston
- Title: The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire
- Author: Neil Elliott
- Publisher: Fortress Press
- Publication Date: 2008
- Pages: 238
About Neil Elliott
Neil Elliott received his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary and has taught New Testament for more than fifteen years, chiefly at the College of St. Catherine and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He is biblical studies editor at Fortress Press and author of The Rhetoric of Romans. An Episcopal priest, he is also a frequent contributor to The Witness, the online social-justice journal.