Reconfiguring the Universe: The Contest for Time and Space in the Roman Imperial Cults and 1 Peter
Wan, Wei Hsien
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Evaluations of the stance of 1 Peter toward the Roman Empire have for the most part concluded that its author adopted a submissive or conformist posture toward imperial authority and influence. Recently, however, David Horrell and Travis Williams have argued that the letter engages in a subtle, calculated (“polite”) form of resistance to Rome that has often gone undetected. Nevertheless, discussion of the matter has remained largely focused on the letter’s stance toward specific Roman institutions, such as the emperor, household structures, and the imperial cults. Taking the conversation beyond these confines, the present work examines 1 Peter’s critique of the Empire from a wider angle, looking instead to the letter’s ideology or worldview. Using James Scott’s work to think about ideological resistance against domination, I consider how the imperial cults of Anatolia and 1 Peter offered distinct constructions of time and space—that is, how they envisioned reality differently. Insofar as these differences led to divergent ways of conceiving the social order, they acquired political valences and generated potential for conflict. 1 Peter, I argue, confronted Rome on a cosmic scale with its alternative construal of time and space. For each of the axes of time and space, I first investigate how it was constructed in cultic veneration of the emperor, and then read 1 Peter comparatively in light of the findings. Although both sides employed similar strategies in conceptualizing time and space, they parted ways on fundamental points. We have evidence that the Petrine author consciously, if cautiously, interrogated the imperial imagination at its most foundational levels, and set forth in its place a theocentric, Christological understanding of the world.
University of Exeter, College of Humanities - International Student Doctoral Awards
Horrell, David G., and Wei Hsien Wan. “Christology, Eschatology and the Politics of Time in 1 Peter.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, January 20, 2016, 1–14. doi:10.1177/0142064X16628768.
Wan, Wei Hsien. “Repairing Social Vertigo: Spatial Production and Belonging in 1 Peter.” In Cities of God? An Interdisciplinary Assessment of Early Christian Engagement with the Ancient Urban Environment(s), edited by Steve Walton, Paul Trebilco, and David Gill. Eerdmans, forthcoming (2016).
Wan, Wei Hsien. “Whose Time? Which Rationality? Reflections on Empire, 1 Peter, and the ‘Common Era.’” Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds 7, no. 3 (2015): 279–94.
PhD in Theology and Religion