That this analysis - notwithstanding its indisputable element of truth (particula veri) - runs, nevertheless, the risk of oversimplifying things a bit,10 we shall see in the next paragraphs. For the moment, we should recall another important presupposition of early Christian 'political' thinking: the Christians' attitude(s) towards the surrounding 'world'. Of course, we cannot treat this problem exhaustively, either, but we must again be content with tracing the most essential shifts.

We start with the apostle Paul. In his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 7:29-31), he writes that the time we live in (ho kairos) will not last long (literally: it 'is pressed together'). It is therefore advisable for all those who meanwhile 'use the world' not to count on 'using it to the full, because this world in its specific frame is vanishing'. Only a few decades later (c.96 ce), in the so-called first letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (1 Clem.), we meet a remarkably different climate. The 'world' (kosmos) is now presented as persevering in peace and harmony (ch. 20), under the rule (dioikesis) of the divine Word (logos) which permeates the universe; it appropriately serves as an ethical paradigm for Christians.

A next marked stage of development is documented by the correspondence of bishop Ignatius of Antioch. In his letter to the Ephesians (before 115 ce?), the author describes Christ's epiphany as a cosmic crisis (ch. 19): 'Now began what God had prepared. The whole created universe henceforth started to move in all its parts [cf. Rom 8:19-22], because [God] worked for the destruction of death' (19:3).

At the turning-point from the second to the third century ce, the unknown author of the Epistle to Diognetus, presumably a cultivated Alexandrian Christian, already dares to depict the Christian church as a political society disseminated throughout other political societies, saying:

what the soul is in the body (i.e. the centre from which all its motions start, the vital as well as the spiritual and intellectual), that the Christians are in the world. The soul is disseminated throughout all members ofthe body, and Christians throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but is not of the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world. (Ep. Diognet. 6:1-3; cf. 5:9; John 15:19; 17:11,14,16)

This represents a breathtaking development, no doubt, or at least a remarkable progress of thought, from the Pauline conviction that 'this world in its

10 A glance at the New Testament should already alert us to the fact that this is a real danger (cf.Theissen, Gospel writing; his Gospels in context; as well as his 'Political dimension of Jesus' activities'; see also Popkes in his review article, 'Zum Thema "Anti-imperiale Deutung"').

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