Son of God in Roman Imperial Titles and Matthew
Robert L. Mowery
In two articles published in this journal, Tae Hun Kim and
Earl S. Johnson, Jr., have debated the legitimacy of interpreting the anarthrous
formula ui(o_j qeou= in
Mark 15,39 in light of the Roman imperial formula qeou= ui(o/j 1. Moving beyond this debate, we will argue
(1) that this Roman imperial formula exactly parallels the distinctive
christological formula in three Matthean passages (14,33; 27,43.54), (2)
that this Roman formula occurred much more widely in first century imperial
titulature than Kim and Johnson have indicated, (3) that various three-word
Roman son of god formulas also deserve notice, and (4) that the Matthean formula
qeou= ui(o/j would have
evoked Roman imperial usage for at least some members of Matthew"s community.
This article contains four sections. The first section
demonstrates the uniqueness of the Matthean formula qeou=
ui(o/j within the NT, while the second section
surveys the son of god formulas in first century Roman imperial titulature,
especially the titulature in Greek inscriptions and other sources from the
eastern portion of the empire. The third section asks how members of Matthew"s
community could have encountered these Roman son of god formulas, while the
final section argues that the Matthean qeou= ui(o/j
would have evoked this Roman imperial usage for at least some members of Matthew"s
1. Son of God Formulas in the NT
The NT contains five Son of God formulas which have only the
governing noun ui(o/j, the genitive noun qeou=,
and perhaps one or two definite articles. These five formulas are (1) o(
ui(o_j tou= qeou=,
(2) ui(o_j tou= qeou=,
(3) o( tou= qeou=
ui(o/j, (4) ui(o_j qeou=,
and (5) qeou= ui(o/j.
The first formula is the most common, for it appears in all four of the
canonical gospels plus Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Hebrews, 1 John, and
Revelation 2. Note that definite articles precede both of the nouns in this
formula. The second formula consists of an anarthrous ui(o/j
followed by the articular genitive tou= qeou=.
In each NT occurrence of this formula, the anarthrous ui(o/j
is either in the nominative case in the predicate3 or in the vocative case4.
The third formula, which appears only in 2 Cor 1,19, has the genitive tou=
embedded in the words o(
... ui(o/j. Paul may have pulled the genitive
forward in this (ad hoc?) construction because he had used the noun qeo/j
in the preceding verse, 2 Cor 1,185.
The fourth and the fifth formulas have only anarthrous nouns.
While the fourth formula (ui(o_j qeou=)
occurs relatively infrequently in the NT, it occurs in a series of
widely-scattered passages, including the centurion"s "confession" in Mark
15,39, the angel"s proclamation in Luke 1,35, the words of Jesus" accusers
in John 19,7, the traditional material in Rom 1,4, and the textually uncertain
words in Mark 1,1. Despite the absence of definite articles, this formula agrees
with most other NT references to the Son of God in placing the noun ui(o/j
before the genitive qeou= 6.
The fifth formula (qeou= ui(o/j),
which has a prepositive genitive qeou=,
occurs in the NT in only three passages, all of them in Matthew (14,33;
27,43.54). Before arguing that this formula would have evoked Roman imperial
usage for some members of Matthew"s community, we must examine the use of this
formula in Roman imperial titulature.
2. Son of God in Roman Imperial Titulature
When surveying the son of god formulas in Roman imperial
titulature, we will focus on Greek inscriptions and other Greek sources from the
eastern part of the empire, since the First Gospel was presumably composed in
Greek in this part of the empire7. We will survey the son of god formulas in
the titulature of first century emperors from Augustus to Domitian; however, we
will delay the consideration of the imperial cult until Section 3.
Julius Caesar"s will named Octavian as his adopted son and
heir. After the deceased Julius was consecrated a divus 8, Octavian
began to call himself divi filius ("son of a divinized man"). Note
that he chose divi filius rather than dei filius; however, since
both phrases were usually translated into Greek as qeou=
ui(o/j, the Latin distinction was lost in
translation 9. Many provincials who read inscriptions containing this Greek
phrase must have assumed that Octavian, who received the title Augustus in 27
BCE, was being honored as "son of (a) god". Indeed, various eastern sources
hail his adoptive father Julius as qeo/j10.
Although the phrase qeou= 'Iouli/ou
ui(o/j appears in a few sources which refer to
Augustus, especially sources from the early years of his reign11, the two-word
formula qeou= ui(o/j
became much more common. This two-word formula appears in various longer
formulas, including the five-word formula au)tokra/twr
Kai=sar qeou= ui(o_j Sebasto/j which became common after Octavian
received the title Augustus (translated as Sebasto/j)12
and various longer formulas which became common during the final years of his
Augustus was honored as a god in the East during his reign,
and some Greek texts hail him as both qeo/j and qeou=
ui(o/j 14. He was formally designated a divus
in Rome after his death. His successor and adopted son Tiberius could therefore
call himself "son of god Sebastos".
Tiberius, who reigned during 14-37 CE, was the emperor during
the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 3,1). He is identified as qeou=
Sebastou= ui(o/j by
various inscriptions and coins15, and he is called qeou=
ui(o/j by inscriptions located in such
widely-scattered regions as Egypt, Achaia, Asia, Cilicia, and even the northern
shore of the Black Sea16. Tiberius is called a god by various Greek inscriptions
and coins17, and he is hailed as both "god" and "son of god Sebastos" by
a few Greek sources18. Early Christians who heard about these imperial honors
may not have known that Tiberius was never officially declared a divus by
the Roman Senate.
Gaius Caligula"s principate (37-41 CE) was brief and
tumultuous. He was Tiberius" adopted grandson and heir19, and a letter from
the first year of his reign identifies him as "grandson of Tiberius Caesar"
and "descendant of god Sebastos" (qeou= Sebastou=
e!ggonoj)20. Note that this letter recognizes
Sebastos (Augustus) as a god but withholds this honor from Tiberius. While Gaius
apparently never used the formula qeou= ui(o/j,
he demanded divine honors in the East and perhaps even in Rome21. But he was
assassinated, and no successor claimed to be a son of the god Gaius.
Claudius, who reigned during 41-54 CE, did not claim to be
the son of a god. He was the son of Drusus, and various inscriptions call him
simply Drou/sou ui(o/j22.
But he was acclaimed a god in the East during his lifetime23, and he was
declared a divus in Rome after his death24. His adopted son Nero could
therefore call himself "son of god Claudius".
An emphasis on the divine sonship of the emperor reappeared
during the reign of Nero (54-68 CE). Several inscriptions have both the formula qeou=
Klaudi/ou ui(o/j which
calls Nero the son of the god Claudius and the formula qeou=
which traces his lineage back to the god Augustus25. The two-word formula qeou=
ui(o/j occurs in three Athenian inscriptions,
including one which was prominently displayed on the east architrave of the
Parthenon26. This formula also apparently appears on two issues of tetradrachmas
struck in Antioch27. While Nero was hailed as a god by various Greek sources28,
he was compelled to commit suicide. His death marked the end of the
Julio-Claudian line, and no emperor claimed to be a son of the god Nero.
Vespasian, who ruled during 69-79 CE, was the first of the
Flavians. He was neither the biological son nor the adopted son of any divinized
predecessor, and his documents do not assert such a claim. But an Egyptian
papyrus hailed him as a god at the beginning of his reign29, and the same
papyrus may have called him Ammwnoj ui(o/j30.
Other Greek sources also honor him as a divinity31, and he was designated a divus
in Rome after his death. His sons Titus and Domitian could therefore each
claim to be "son of god Vespasian".
Despite the brevity of Titus" reign (79-81 CE), he is
identified as qeou= Ou)espasianou=
ui(o/j by several sources32. His titulature also
revived the two-word formula qeou= ui(o/j.
This formula occurs in an Asian inscription33 and may have stood in a Lycian
inscription34, and the two words in this formula stand in this order in a longer
title in a Laodicean inscription 35. Various Greek sources call Titus a god36,
and he was consecrated a divus after his death. He could be
simultaneously hailed as both "god" and "son of god Vespasian"37.
Domitian, who reigned during 81-96 CE, was the second son of
the deified Vespasian. Though the three-word formula qeou=
occurs in many references to Domitian38, the two-word formula qeou=
ui(o/j appears on nearly eighty coins minted in
Tarsus, Anazarbus, Alexandria, and several Egyptian nomes39. Note that all of
these locations are in the East. While Domitian was hailed as a god by various
Greek sources40, he was assassinated. His death ended the Flavian line, and no
successor claimed to be a son of the god Domitian.
In summary, the two-word formula qeou=
ui(o/j and the three-word formula qeou=-father"s
name-ui(o/j appear in references to the following
five first- century emperors:
Son of god formulas
|| Julius Caesar"s adopted son
ui(o/j and qeou= 'Iouli/ou
|| Augustus" adopted son
ui(o/j and qeou= Sebastou=
|| Claudius" adopted son
ui(o/j and qeou= Klaudi/ou
|| Vespasian"s biological son
ui(o/jand qeou= Ou)espasianou=
|| Vespasian"s biological son
ui(o/j and qeou= Ou)espasianou=
Note that Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero were adopted sons. Not
until Titus became emperor in 79 CE did a biological son succeed his father.
The two-word formula qeou= ui(o/j
appears not only in references to Augustus but also in references to Tiberius,
Nero, Titus, and Domitian. Kim therefore erred when he claimed that this formula
was "unique to Augustus, a title with which no other emperor, with the
possible exception of Tiberius, could be associated"41. Besides occurring in a
host of references to Augustus, this formula appears in a series of epigraphical
references to Tiberius, occasional epigraphical and numismatic references to
Nero, a few epigraphical references to Titus, and nearly eighty coins whose
legends refer to Domitian. This formula even appears in an Athenian dedication
to Drusus Caesar, a member of the imperial family who never became emperor 42.
While this formula occurs much more frequently in epigraphical references to
Augustus than in epigraphical references to any other first century emperor, it
occurs much more frequently in provincial coins whose legends refer to Domitian
than in provincial coins which name any other first century emperor, including
Three-word son of god formulas based on the model qeou=-father"s
name-ui(o/j also appear in references to Augustus,
Tiberius, Nero, Titus, and Domitian. These three-word formulas explicitly
identify the specific god (among the many Greco-Roman gods) whose paternity was
being claimed. Matthew did not face such a problem, for he used the noun qeo/j
only when referring to the one God proclaimed by his community 43. Nevertheless,
there are parallels between the two-word Matthean formula qeou=
ui(o/j and the three-word imperial formula qeou=-father"s
name-ui(o/j, for both have a prepositive genitive qeou=,
both have the governing noun ui(o/j, and both are
The Roman inscriptions and other sources containing these son
of god formulas proclaimed the "good news" that imperial power was being
transferred in an orderly manner from deified fathers to their sons. The titles
of the other first century emperors, however, do not proclaim this message.
Although Gaius Caligula called himself "descendant of god Sebastos" early in
his reign, he eventually demanded divine honors. Claudius eschewed claims of
divine sonship, and various inscriptions identify him as simply "son of Drusus".
Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, the emperors who ruled during the chaotic
year of the four emperors (68-69 CE), were the sons of fathers who were never
deified, and none of these emperors seems to have claimed that his father was a
god, though Vespasian may have been called "son of Ammon" in Alexandria.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that the five emperors whose titulature
contains the formulas qeou= ui(o/j
and qeou=-father"s name-ui(o/j
did not rule for an insignificant amount of time, for they reigned for a
combined total of nearly one hundred years.
3. Matthean Contact with these Imperial Formulas
The first section of this paper has shown that the
christological formula qeou= ui(o/j
occurs in the NT only in three passages in the Gospel of Matthew (14,33;
27,43.54), while the second section has shown that a prepositive genitive qeou=
occurs in two types of Roman imperial son of god phrases: the two-word formula qeou=
ui(o/j and three-word formulas like qeou=
Sebastou= ui(o/j and qeou=
This section will explore ways in which members of Matthew"s community could
have learned about these imperial formulas.
The imperial cult celebrated and promulgated the claims of
Rome and her emperors. As early as 29 BCE, Octavian permitted Pergamum to erect
a provincial temple dedicated to the goddess Roma and himself44. He eventually
became the recipient of cults in many other cities. Price claims that his cult
was found in thirty-four cities in Asia Minor45, and Hänlein-Schäfer studies
sixty-six cult locations scattered throughout the empire46.
Although the First Gospel does not announce where it was
composed, scholars tend to locate the Matthean community in one of two eastern
regions: Palestine, where various sites have been proposed, or Syria, where the
most common choice is Antioch47. Christians who lived in either region could
have known about the imperial cult. Josephus reports that Herod erected temples
for Augustus at Caesarea Maritima, Sebaste (Samaria), and Paneion (Caesarea
Philippi)48, and excavations have identified the probable locations of all
three49. Since the formula qeou= ui(o/j
appears in many references to Augustus, Yarbro Collins makes the reasonable
assumption that this formula would have been celebrated at all three of these
This formula must have also been well-known in Syria. In 27
BCE Augustus received Syria (along with Spain and Gaul, in addition to Egypt) as
his province, and this special relationship continued throughout his reign.
Antioch was the center of Roman power and authority in the province. Besides
being the third largest city in the empire, Antioch was the seat of the governor
of Syria, the center of the Roman administration of the province, the home of
three or four legions, and the site of numerous temples, administrative
buildings, statues, and other evidences of Roman power and authority51. Coins
struck in Antioch during the first decade BCE may testify to the presence of the
imperial cult in this city52.
Although Augustus was consecrated a divus after his
death, various inscriptions created years after his death honor him as both qeo/j
and qeou= ui(o/j. One
such inscription, for example, was created at Miletus about 50 CE53. These
inscriptions and the many earlier inscriptions which honor Augustus as qeou=
ui(o/j served as mute witnesses to this imperial son
of god formula long after they had been created. The continuing prominence of Augustus is demonstrated by coins issued in his honor by Tiberius, Gaius, and
Augustus was not the only emperor who received a cult. The
cult of Tiberius, Livia, and the Senate was established at Smyrna during
Tiberius" lifetime55, and priests of Tiberius were eventually found in at
least eleven cities in Asia Minor alone56. Gaius ordered the province of Asia to
establish a temple for him at Miletus57, and he even decreed that his statue be
placed in the temple in Jerusalem, though this decree was never carried out. But
two factors suggest that the Flavians and their cult should receive our special
attention. Given the probability that the Gospel of Matthew was composed
sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, it is likely that this gospel was
composed during the reign of one of the Flavians58. And since the cults of the
Julio-Claudian emperors (with the notable exception of Augustus) may not have
survived long after the deaths of these emperors59, it is questionable whether
some of these earlier cults would have still been vital at the time when the
First Gospel was being composed.
The power and authority of the Flavians would have been
well-known in both Palestine and Syria. After being appointed governor of Judea
during the Jewish war of independence, Vespasian subjugated Galilee and most of
Judea before being acclaimed emperor in 69 CE. His son Titus captured Jerusalem
in 70 CE and visited Antioch in triumph during the following year. Christians in
Antioch would have walked by Vespasian"s statue, and they would have seen the
bronze figures that had been conspicuously located on two city gates by Titus to
commemorate his triumph over Jerusalem and to celebrate Roman sovereignty60.
We have seen that various Greek sources not only hail the
Flavians as divinities but also bestow the titles qeou=
ui(o/j and qeou= Ou)espasianou=
ui(o/j on Titus and Domitian. The Flavian cult,
which would have celebrated these claims, has left its mark on various sites
throughout the empire, including several sites in Asia Minor. A cult for
Vespasian was established at Pisidian Antioch61, and dedications to Vespasian
were erected in Pamphylia, Bithynia, and Cilicia62. A colossal statue of one of
the Flavians, probably Titus or Domitian, stood in an imperial temple at
Ephesus; in addition, this temple had thirteen dedications to Domitian that had
been erected by thirteen different cities63. Temples to Domitian were also
established at Laodicea and Anazarbus64. While we lack comparable evidence for
the Flavian cult in Syria and Palestine, a Syrian inscription preserves a letter
in which Domitian refers to his father as "the god father Vespasian"65 and
two inscriptions at Gerasa call Domitian "son of god Vespasian"66.
Although it is difficult to believe that members of Matthew"s
community would have been unaware of the Roman imperial cult, it is impossible
to document the extent of their knowledge. But disciples could have learned
about the imperial son of god claims in other ways. Many of the inscriptions
which touted these claims stood in highly-visible public locations like statue
bases, dedications, honorary steles, public baths, theatres, archs, bridges,
boundary stones, and even milestones. These inscriptions functioned like first
century "billboards" to advertise the power of Rome and her emperors, and
many of these inscriptions remained visible long after they had been created.
Even illiterate members of Matthew"s community who trudged past these
inscriptions could have learned about their imperial claims from literate
members of the community. These claims must have also been proclaimed orally.
Coins provided Coins provided another "public" proclamation of these
imperial claims. Coins struck in Syria honor Augustus and Claudius as qeo/j,
Tiberius as qeou= Sebastou=
ui(o/j, and Augustus and Nero as qeou=
ui(o/j67. While coins minted in Judea during the
reigns of Augustus and many of his successors lack such titles, coins struck in
Judea during Domitian"s reign bear Latin legends which honor Vespasian as divos
[sic] Vespasianus, Titus as divos [sic] T, and Domitian
as divi f 68. Domitian is even honored as divi Vesp f on coins
issued by the last Herodian ruler, Agrippa II69. Since these Judean and Syrian
coins must have remained in circulation for many years, they must have continued
to have advertised these imperial claims long after they had been struck.
4. qeou= ui(o/j
in Roman Imperial Titles and Matthew
The christological formula qeou= ui(o/j
occurs only three times in the NT, and all three are in Matthew. While all three
are in Markan contexts, all three appear to be redactional. The first occurrence
is in the distinctive Matthean conclusion to the story of Jesus walking on the
sea. After seeing Jesus, the disciples in the boat worshiped him saying, "Truly
you are God"s Son (qeou= ui(o/j)"
(14,33). These words have no synoptic parallels; though the final six words of
14,32 repeat words found in the Markan parallel (6,51), the twelve words in Matt
14,33, including this christological formula, occur only in the First Gospel.
The second occurrence of this formula is in the crucifixion narrative in the
religious leaders" assertion that Jesus had said, "I am God"s Son (qeou=
(27,43). This statement occurs only in Matthew; it is absent from the parallel
synoptic accounts70. The third occurrence of qeou= ui(o/j
is in the words "Truly this man was God"s Son (qeou=
ui(o/j)" spoken by the centurion and those who
were with him (27,54). Matthew produced the wording of this christological
formula by inverting the word order of the phrase ui(o_j
qeou= found in Mark 15,39.
While all three of the Matthean occurrences of qeou=
ui(o/j appear to be redactional, this formula does
not possess typical Matthean linguistic features. The three occurrences of this
formula represent (1) three of the four Matthean phrases which have only a
prepositive anarthrous genitive noun and an anarthrous governing noun71, (2)
three of the four Matthean phrases which place a dependent genitive noun ahead
of the governing noun ui(o/j72, and (3) all three of
the Matthean phrases which have a prepositive dependent genitive qeou=73.
How can it be explained that this presumably redactional formula possesses such
atypical linguistic features? Matthew must have been mimicking an existing
formula, either a formula like the imperial son of god formula or a
christological formula that was already in use within his community74.
Scholars who have examined the relationship between early
Christian Son of God formulas and Roman imperial usage have often focused on the
Markan phrase ui(o_j qeou=,
especially its use in the centurion"s "confession" in Mark 15,3975. Yarbro
Collins, for example, has argued that this Markan phrase would have evoked the
imperial cult for at least some members of Mark"s audience76. One objection to
her conclusion, though not a fatal objection, is that first century imperial son
of god formulas normally had the word order qeou= ui(o/j
rather than the inverted word order found in Mark 15,3977. Unlike this Markan
formula, the Matthean qeou= ui(o/j
exactly parallels the two-word son of god formulas found in the Greek titulature
of Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Titus, and Domitian. In addition, this Matthean
formula has the same opening word (qeou=) and the
same closing word (ui(o/j) as the anarthrous
three-word son of god formulas found in the Greek titulature of these five
Whether Matthew created the formula qeou= ui(o/j or was repeating a christological formula
already in use within his community, it is likely that this formula would have
evoked Roman imperial usage for at least some members of his community78.
Whether or not these disciples had learned of the Roman formula qeou= ui(o/j through the imperial cult, some (most?) of
them would have known about this imperial formula through inscriptions located
in highly-visible locations and through legends on their coins, including coins
struck in their own province. For these disciples, the Matthean formula qeou= ui(o/j would have evoked not only an awareness that
Jesus had been given the same title as the emperor but also the recognition that
the qeou= ui(o//j whose
Father is "Lord of heaven and earth" (Matt 11,25) is not the emperor but
The christological formula qeou= ui(o/j,
which appears in the NT only in three Matthean passages (14,33; 27,43.54),
exactly parallels the two-word Roman imperial son of god formula found in the
titulature of Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Titus, and Domitian. This formula
occurred more widely in first century imperial titulature than has previously
been reported; in addition, various three-word imperial son of god formulas also
deserve notice. The Matthean formula qeou= ui(o/j
would have evoked Roman imperial usage for at least some members of Matthew"s
1 T.H. KIM, "The Anarthrous ui(o_j
qeou= in Mark 15,39 and the Roman Imperial
Cult", Bib 79 (1998) 221-241; E.S. JOHNSON, Jr., "Mark 15,39
and the So-Called Confession of the Roman Centurion", Bib 81 (2000)
406-413. For recent attempts to interpret aspects of the canonical gospels in
light of the Roman imperial background, see JOHNSON, "Mark 15,39",
406, n. 2.
2 Matt 26,63; Mark 3,11; Luke 4,41; 22,70; John 1,34.49;
5,25; 11,4.27; 20,31; Acts 9,20; Gal 2,20; Eph 4,13; Heb 4,14; 6,6; 7,3; 10,29;
1 John 3,8; 4,15; 5,22.214.171.124.20; Rev 2,18. Cf. also Matt 16,16; John 3,18.
3 Matt 4,3.6; 27,40; Luke 4,3.9; John 10,36.
4 Matt 8,29. Cf. Mark 5,7; Luke 8,28.
5 Commentators are curiously silent concerning the
uniqueness of this formula within the NT.
6 This wording also occurs in Wis 2,18, and the same word
order occurs in 4Q246, the "son of God" text from Qumran.
7 For an overview regarding these issues, see W.D. DAVIES
– D.C. ALLISON, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel
According to Saint Matthew (ICC; Edinburgh 1988-1997) I, 7-9, 72-85,
8 S. WEINSTOCK, Divus Julius (Oxford 1971) 364-410.
9 For reflections on this problem, see S.R.F. PRICE,
"Gods and Emperors: The Greek Language of the Roman Imperial Cult", JHS
104 (1984) 79-95.
10 IGRR IV 7, 1718; SEG XXXVII 1007.
11 SIG III 768; SEG XXXII 833, 1128.
12 IGRR I 1109; IV 310; SEG XXXV 1256; R.K.
SHERK, Roman Documents from the Greek East (Baltimore 1969) no. 61.
13 IGRR I 853; III 137; SEG XXXIX 1210; W.H.
BUCKLER, "Auguste, Zeus Patroos", RPh 9 (1935) 177-188; V.
EHRENBERG – A.H.M. JONES, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and
Tiberius (Oxford 21976) no. 99.
14 IGRR I 853; SIG III 778; SEG XXXIX
15 IGRR I 1164, 1166; IV 207, 1042; SEG XXVIII
1205; A. BURNETT – M. AMANDRY – P. RIPOLLÈS, Roman Provincial Coinage
(London – Paris 1992-) I, 3620, 4006.
16 IGRR I 853, 1150; III 845; IV 1288; SIG III
791A; SB 8317; SEG XXXVII 484. Since KIM, "Anarthrous",
233, was aware of only one of these inscriptions, he erroneously viewed it as an
17 IGRR III 715; IV 144; SEG XXXVI 1092;
BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, I, 2344-2346.
18 IGRR I 659; III 933 = EHRENBERG – JONES, Documents,
no. 134. Cf. IGRR III 721.
19 Augustus forced Tiberius to adopt Gaius" father
Germanicus. Though Tiberius designated Gaius and Gemellus as his joint-heirs,
the Senate deprived Gemellus of his share.
20 IG VII 2711 = M. SMALLWOOD, Documents
Illustrating the Principates of Gaius, Claudius and Nero (London 1967) no.
21 A.A. BARRETT, Caligula. The Corruption of Power
(New Haven – London 1990) 143-153. A damaged Attic fragment apparently called
Gaius jArh[oj] ui(o/n
(CIA III 444a), though this reading is not certain.
22 IGRR III 768 = M.P. CHARLESWORTH, Documents
Illustrating the Reigns of Claudius & Nero (Cambridge 1939) Part I, no.
24; IGRR IV 1505; SEG XLIV 1205.
23 POxy 2555; SEG XXXVII 1221; SMALLWOOD, Documents,
24 Note the striking words "by the grace of the god
Claudius" in IGRR I 1263. Claudius is simply called "Claudius" in
Acts 11,28; 18,2.
25 Both formulas occur in IGRR III 15; IV 1124 =
SMALLWOOD, Documents, no. 412(b); SIG III 808; SEG IX 352 =
CHARLESWORTH, Documents, Part II, no. 4b; SEG XLVI 2189. At least
three of these inscriptions date from the early years of Nero"s reign.
26 K.K. CARROLL, The Parthenon Inscription (GRBM 9)
(Durham, NC 1982) 16-17, 41-43. The other two inscriptions are on marble bases;
see SEG XXXII 252.
27 BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, I,
4174-4175. The name "Claudius" in the genitive sequence Ne/rwnoj
Klaudi/ou qeou= ui(
Kai/saroj Seb on these
coins is ambiguous, for it could refer to Nero"s adoptive father Claudius or
to Nero himself as "Nero Claudius". The latter interpretation is supported
by the fact that the name "Nero Claudius" appears in unambiguous legends on
many coins issued during Nero"s reign; see BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial
Coinage, I, Part II, 777-778.
28 SMALLWOOD, Documents, no. 64, 387; BURNETT et al., Roman
Provincial Coinage, I, 2433-2434, 2923, 3107.
29 P. JOUGUET, "Vespasien acclamé dans l"hippodrome d"Alexandrie",
Mélanges de philologie, de littérature et d"histoire anciennes offerts à
Alfred Ernout (Paris 1940) 201-210. This reading and date are accepted by A.
HENRICHS, "Vespasian"s Visit to Alexandria", ZPE 3 (1968) 59;
B. LEVICK, Vespasian (London 1999) 69.
30 HENRICHS, "Vespasian"s Visit", 59; LEVICK, Vespasian,
69. This conclusion is rejected by JOUGUET, "Vespasien", 207-208.
31 K. SCOTT, The Imperial Cult under the Flavians
(Stuttgart 1936) 33-34; P. BURETH, Les Titulatures impériales dans les
papyrus, les ostraca et les inscriptions d"Égypte (30 a.C. – 284 p.C.) (Bruxelles
1964) 39; BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, II, 726-729.
32 IGRR III 690; IV 211; M. MCCRUM – A.G. WOODHEAD, Select
Documents of the Principates of the Flavian Emperors Including the Year of
Revolution A.D. 68-96 (Cambridge 1966) no. 199. An expanded formula occurs
in IGRR IV 845.
33 IGRR IV 1559.
34 IGRR III 724.
35 IGRR IV 846.
36 SEG XXXIX 1388; BURETH, Titulatures, 40;
MCCRUM – WOODHEAD, Select Documents, no. 111, 138(b).
37 IGRR IV 211 = MCCRUM – WOODHEAD, Select
Documents, no. 136.
38 SEG XXVII 1009-1010; MCCRUM – WOODHEAD, Select
Documents, no. 121, 123, 463. Cf. also the expanded formula in IGRR
39 BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, II,
1727-1728, 1746-1749, 1752-1756, 2598-2601, 2603-2605, 2610, 2615, 2619, 2657,
2667, 2671-2678, 2694-2713, 2721-2733, 2735, 2771-2774, 2777-2781; cf. also
40 IGRR I 862; SCOTT, Imperial Cult, 96-98;
BURETH, Titulatures, 44; MCCRUM – WOODHEAD, Select Documents,
41 KIM, "Anarthrous", 225.
42 EHRENBERG – JONES, Documents, no. 136.
43 W. SCHENK, Die Sprache des Matthäus. Die
Text-Konstituenten in ihren makro- und mikrostrukturellen Relationen (Göttingen
44 S.J. FRIESEN, Twice Neokoros. Ephesus, Asia and the
Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family (RGRW 116; Leiden – New York – Köln
45 S.R.F. PRICE, Rituals and Power. The Roman Imperial
Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge 1984) 58.
46 H. HÄNLEIN-SCHÄFER, Veneratio Augusti. Eine
Studie zu den Tempeln des ersten römischen Kaisers (Archaeologica 39; Rome
47 For a survey of the locations proposed by forty scholars,
see DAVIES – ALLISON, Matthew, I, 138-139.
48 Josephus, Bell. iud., 1.403, 404, 414; Ant.,
15.298, 339, 363-364.
49 HÄNLEIN-SCHÄFER, Veneratio Augusti, 198-203; Z.U.
MA"OZ, "Banias", The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological
Excavations in the Holy Land (ed. E. STERN) (Jerusalem – New York 1993) I,
136-143, esp. 140; L.C. KAHN, "King Herod"s Temple of Roma and Augustus
at Caesarea Maritima", Caesarea Maritima. A Retrospective after Two
Millenia (ed. A. RABAN – K.G. HOLUM) (DMOA 21; Leiden 1996) 130-145. All three
of these temples were probably dedicated to both Roma and Augustus.
50 A. YARBRO COLLINS, "The Worship of Jesus and the
Imperial Cult", The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism. Papers
from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of
Jesus (ed. C.C. NEWMAN – J.R. DAVILA – G.S. LEWIS) (JSJSup 63.; Leiden –
Boston – Köln 1999) 256-257.
51 G. DOWNEY, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus
to the Arab Conquest (Princeton 1961) 179-182, 183, 191, 196, 202, 206-207;
W. CARTER, Matthew and the Margins. A Sociopolitical and Religious
Reading (JSNTSS 204; Sheffield 2000) 36-38.
52 DOWNEY, History of Antioch, 167.
53 SEG XLIV 938. See also SEG XI 922-23; XXXVII
54 BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, I, Part
II, 773; II, Part II, 362.
55 FRIESEN, Twice Neokoros, 15-21.
56 PRICE, Rituals and Power, 58.
57 L. ROBERT, "Le culte de Caligula à Milet et la
province d"Asie", Hellenica 7 (1949) 206-238; FRIESEN, Twice
58 DAVIES – ALLISON, Matthew, I, 138, for example,
conclude that "Matthew was almost certainly written between A.D. 70 and
A.D. 100, in all probability between A.D. 80 and 95".
59 PRICE, Rituals and Power, 61-62.
60 CARTER, Matthew and the Margins, 37-38.
61 PRICE, Rituals and Power, 89.
62 PRICE, Rituals and Power, 266, 273; LEVICK, Vespasian,
63 PRICE, Rituals and Power, 140, 178, 182, 187, and
esp. 255; FRIESEN, Twice Neokoros, 29-75; G. Biguzzi, "Ephesus, Its
Artemision, Its Temple to the Flavian Emperors, and Idolatry in
Revelation", NT 40 (1998) 276-290.
64 PRICE, Rituals and Power, 183, 264, 272. The
Flavian cult was also established in the West; see P. SOUTHERN, Domitian. Tragic
Tyrant (Bloomington – Indianapolis 1997) 37-38, 46.
65 MCCRUM – WOODHEAD, Select Documents, no. 466.
66 SEG XXVII 1009-1010. Concerning Domitian"s
possible use of the title dominus et deus noster, see L.L. THOMPSON, The
Book of Revelation. Apocalypse and Empire (New York – Oxford 1990)
104-107; B.W. JONES, The Emperor Domitian (London – New York 1992)
67 W. WRUCK, Die syrische Provinzialprägung von Augustus
bis Traian (Stuttgart 1931) 17-18, 44, 178-181; BURNETT et al., Roman
Provincial Coinage, I, 4006, 4087 (?), 4150, 4161, 4174-4175. Coins struck
in Tarsus and Anazarbus, cities which had been part of the province of Syria
prior to about 72 CE, call Domitian qeou= ui(o/j;
see BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, II, 1727-1728; 1746-1749,
68 BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, II, 2231,
2300-2303. A coin struck in Paneas even used the word diva when referring
to Poppaea and Claudia. See BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, I,
69 BURNETT et al., Roman Provincial Coinage, II,
70 Cf. Mark 15,32; Luke 23,35.
71 The fourth phrase is in Matt 27,33.
72 The fourth phrase is in Matt 13,55. Note, in contrast, the
word order of the phrase ui(oi_ qeou=
in 5,9. Cf. also 5,45.
73 R.L. MOWERY, "Subtle Differences: The Matthean "Son
of God" References", NT 32 (1990) 198-199.
74 Such a christological formula, if it existed, could have
originally been modeled after an existing formula like the imperial son of god
75 See KIM, "Anarthrous", 221-241; JOHNSON,
"Mark 15,39", 406-413; and the other studies they cite.
76 YARBRO COLLINS, "Worship of Jesus", 257, though
she claims that the royal and messianic use of this epithet in Jewish tradition
represents "the best analogy and perhaps the source of its application to
Jesus" in Mark.
77 A rare exception occurs in IGRR IV 1173.
78 KIM, "Anarthrous", 240, concludes that Mark"s
use of the language of the Roman imperial cult in 1,1 and 15,39 was "deliberate".
This conclusion is rightly rejected by JOHNSON, "Mark 15,39", 407-408.
We are focusing not on Matthew"s intentions but on the likely response of some
members of his community. Cf. CARTER, Matthew and the Margins, 537.