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Archaeology and the Letters of Paul$
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Laura Salah Nasrallah

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199699674

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199699674.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 January 2022

On Time, Race, and Obelisks

On Time, Race, and Obelisks

Rome and the Letter to the Romans

(p.179) Chapter 6 On Time, Race, and Obelisks
Archaeology and the Letters of Paul

Laura Salah Nasrallah

Oxford University Press

The Letter to the Romans has been interpreted as articulating a new understanding of history: “messianic time,” in Agamben’s words. In addition, the letter’s language of ethnicity has been used to support Christian supersessionism, rather than read within the context of Paul’s Jewish identity. This chapter investigates the themes of race and time in the Letter to the Romans within two ancient contexts: evidence from ancient papyri and literature which show the precarity of Jewish life under the Roman Empire and the Mausoleum complex of Augustus. The Mausoleum reveals a shard of Egypt at the heart of Rome: an obelisk that marks Roman power and time, as it serves as a gnomon. This chapter argues that interpreters should guard against doing to the Letter to the Romans what Mussolini did in his “excavation” of Augustus’s Mausoleum complex: stripping its context, making it into an “authentic ruin,” collapsing history between modernity and antiquity, promulgating anti-Semitism.

Keywords:   race, ethnicity, obelisk, Rome, Philo of Alexandria, Augustus, Mussolini, early Christianity, Roman Empire, Letter to the Romans, anti-Semitism

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