terça-feira, 4 de setembro de 2012


By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr

Nero coin 2
Paul’s reference to the Man of Lawlessness setting  himself up for worship speaks of emperor worship in general, and the actions of Nero Caesar in particular. Yesterday I began focusing on this portion of Paul’s prophecy. I will now continue that study.
Regarding the imperial development of the emperor cult, Caligula (Gaius) and Nero “abandoned all reserve” [1] in promoting emperor worship. In fact, “Caligula and Nero, the only two of the Julio-Claudians who were direct descendants of Augustus, demanded divine honors while they were still alive.”[2]
Perhaps we may best see this demand for worship by Nero in the following incident. In A.D. 66 Tiridates, King of Armenia, approaches Nero in devout and reverential worship, according to Roman historian Dio Cassius (A.D. 150-235):
Indeed, the proceedings of the conference were not limited to mere conversations, but a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of the Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and paid them reverence; then, after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names, he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them.
. . .
Tiridates publicly fell before Nero seated upon the rostra in the Forum: “Master, I am the descendant of Arsaces, brother of the kings Vologaesus and Pacorus, and thy slave. And I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras. The destiny thou spinnest for me shall be mine; for thou art my Fortune and my Fate. (Dio Cassius, Roman History 62:5:2)
Dio Cassius notes also the fate of one senator who does not appreciate Nero’s “divine” musical abilities: “Thrasaea was executed because he failed to appear regularly in the senate, . . . and because he never would listen to the emperor’s singing and lyre-playing, nor sacrifice to Nero’s Divine Voice as did the rest”(Ibid., 62:26:3). This senator fails to worship the Man of Lawlessness and is summarily executed.
In A.D. 67 Nero goes to Greece, where he remains for more than a year performing as a musician and an actor in the Grecian festivals. Arthur Weigall gives the response of the Greeks, as he comments upon Dio Cassius’s history of Rome: “Soon Nero was actually deified by the Greeks as ‘Zeus, Our Liberator.’ On the altar of Zeus in the chief temple of the city they inscribed the words ‘to Zeus, our Liberator’ namely Nero, for ever and ever; in the temple of Apollo they set up his statue; and they called him ‘The new Sun, illuminating the Hellenes,’ and ‘the one and only lover of the Greeks of all time.’”[3]
When Nero returns to Rome from Greece in A.D. 68, it is to the triumphant praise of the city as he enters the Palace and Apollo’s Temple on the Palatine. Dio Cassius records the scene: “The city was all decked with garlands, was ablaze with lights and reeking with incense, and the whole population, the senators themselves most of all, kept shouting in chorus: ‘Hail, Olympian Victor! Hail, Pythian Victor! Augustus! Augustus! Hail to Nero, our Hercules! Hail to Nero, our Apollo! The only Victor of the Grand Tour, the only one from the beginning of time! Augustus! Augustus! O, Divine Voice! Blessed are they that hear thee’” (Dio Cassius, Roman History 62:20:5).
Finally the future emperor Titus actually accomplishes this “intention” when he completes the devastation of Jerusalem set in motion by Nero. Titus invades the Temple in A.D. 70 and his soldiers worship Rome within: “And now the Romans . . . brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy” (Josephus, Wars 6:6:1).
By September, A.D. 70, the very Temple of which Paul speaks in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is forever gone. This fact also supports the preterist understanding of the passage. [4] In fact, it parallels Matthew 24:15 and functions as Paul’s treatment of the “abomination of desolation,” which is to occur in “this generation” (Matt. 24:34).
[1] Eduard Lohse, The New Testament Environment, trans. by John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976), 220.
[2] Joseph Ward Swain, The Harper History of Civilization, Vol. 1 (New York: Harper, 1958), 229.
[3] Arthur Weigall, Nero: Emperor of Rome (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1933), 276.
[4] W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament, trans. by Howard Clark Kee (17th ed.: Nashville: Abingdon, 1973), 267. The dispensationalist idea of a rebuilt Temple here has to be read eisegetically into the text, in that the reference to the Temple in 2 Thess. 2:4 (1) is written while the Jewish Temple is still standing as the obvious referent, (2) lacks any allusion to a rebuilding of the Temple, and (3) if speaking of a rebuilt Temple, would be contrary to the clear, divinely ordained disestablishment of the Temple (e.g., John 4:24; Matt. 24; Hebrews).

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