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Competing cosmologies in early Christianity: cosmology in the book of Revelation, Roman imperial ideology, and in the province of Asia
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 02:51 authored by Paul H. Yeates
As Christianity emerged in the first century, individuals and communities that identified with the movement were faced with the need to formulate a Christian identity in the context of their sociopolitical situations and to determine the nature of their engagement with their societies. The rhetoric of the book of Revelation is properly interpreted in this setting with the crucial components of the sociopolitical situation including the Roman Empire and the poleis of the province of Asia. In the present thesis, it is argued that a significant aspect of Revelation's rhetoric is its cosmology, which functioned to legitimate a Christian identity which featured opposition to the power and influence of Rome and which required abstention from social practices that might identify a person with the local polis. The function of cosmology in the narrative of Revelation is analysed primarily in relation to the cosmological dimension of Roman imperial ideology but also in relation to the manifestation of these conceptions in the province of Asia. The thesis demonstrates that in Revelation, cosmic powers are reconfigured and redefined to deny Rome heavenly legitimation of its imperium, which is instead portrayed as a doomed diabolic stratagem intended to prevent the foundation of the true universal kingdom of God and Christ. This cosmological narrative contrasts with the approach of local elites in the province of Asia who established prestige for both themselves and their cities by affirming aspects of Roman cosmology. It may have also contrasted with a rival Christian cosmology which also accommodated aspects of Rome's cosmology to justify a greater degree of identification with the local polis and participation in its society. The thesis demonstrates that the study of cosmology provides valuable insights into the way early Christian communities established identities in the context of diverse and sometimes competing ideologies.