Language:

New Testament Studies

Articles

The Eagle and the Dove: Roman Imperial Sonship and the Baptism of Jesus (Mark 1.9-11)*

Michael Pepparda1

a1 Dept. of Theology, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458, USA. email: mpeppard@fordham.edu

Abstract

This essay argues that the common understanding of imperial divine sonship among biblical scholars can be reframed by emphasizing the importance of adoption in Roman society and imperial ideology. A case study from the Gospel of Mark—the portrayal of Jesus' baptism—demonstrates some of the pay-off for reading the NT with a newly contextualized perspective on divine sonship. Through engagement with diverse sources from the Hellenistic and Roman eras, the dove will be interpreted as an omen and counter-symbol to the Roman eagle, which was a public portent of divine favor, election, and ascension to power.

Keywords

  • Son of God;
  • divi filius;
  • baptism;
  • dove;
  • emperor;
  • adoption;
  • mimicry

Footnotes

* A version of this essay was presented at the 2006 New England SBL Meeting. Subsequently I received helpful suggestions from many colleagues, especially Adela Yarbro Collins and the anonymous reviewer for NTS.