November 9, 2012

Appeal to Nero? To Nero you will go!

Luke-Acts names "Tiberius" and "Claudius", but with Festus and Paul, it says "Caesar". Not "Nero". Seven times, in Acts 25-28, the text avoids all opportunities to name the specific Emperor and add credibility. But why?

That this Caesar is Nero has been already flatly implied. Any readers familiar with the time of Felix and Festus would have understood this was Nero's era. So why not name drop? I'm no expert on the 5th (6th) Roman Autocrat (Dictator), but I've never heard of any taboo against using his name.

This, along with the inclusion of "Augustus" (Gk: Sebastos) at 25:21 suggests (to me) that Luke was deliberately attempting to honor Nero, because his writing was intended to defend Paul before Nero. Using the imperial title repeatedly and throwing in the superlative honorarium to boot?

It's no smoking gun, but it's absolutely something Luke would have been wise to do at the time.

Note: I just noticed this today, so if it's been discussed before feel free to enlighten me, anyone, though I'm sure the late-date advocates can offer some other explanation, if they haven't already. Personally, I will always believe the bulk of Luke-Acts was researched and written drafted during Paul's two year Judean imprisonment. Still, this observation seemed remarkable enough to post on. So there it is, FWIW.


Peter Kirk said...

Perhaps it's just how people refer to a present incumbent. If today someone was writing an account of the last 20 years or so, they might call Obama just "The President", but add "Bush", "Clinton" etc to identify previous incumbents. Luke may have been doing something similar.

Bill Heroman said...

Thanks, Peter. You just made my point even better than I did. (!)

Peter Kirk said...

In that case perhaps I misunderstood your point. I see no evidence for Paul giving particular honor to Nero, rather than using the customary title. But if your real point is simply that this is evidence for the dating of Acts, then I agree with you.

Bill Heroman said...

Yes, that's my main point - that this seems like good circumstantial evidence.

Btw, I also take it that the customary title was customary, at least in part, *because* of it's honorific aspect. In other words, my emphasizing honor and your emphasizing custom were, I think, twin sides of the same observation. (?)

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