August 15, 2017
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v2.1 Reference

Civilized Piety

The Rhetoric of Pietas in the Pastoral Epistles and the Roman Empire

Early Christians in Asia Minor had to navigate the troubled waters of Roman social, political, and economic life while also preserving their faith. The church faced a double threat: Greeks and Romans viewed Christianity as a barbaric and potentially seditious superstition and, at the same moment, wealthy Christian benefactors, and their client teachers, were both perceived to threaten the integrity of the Christian community.

Christopher Hoklotubbe investigates how the author of the Pastoral Epistles (1, 2 Timothy and Titus) strategically appealed to the Greek and Roman virtues of piety (eusebeia, pietas) to ease these external and internal sociocultural threats. The Pastoral Epistles' rhetoric of piety—a term not found in the genuine Pauline epistles—becomes pointed when read alongside ancient discourses on piety from Roman imperial propaganda, civic benefaction/patronage, and moral philosophy. As Hoklotubbe demonstrates, piety was rhetorically potent in the efforts of the Pastoral Epistles to present the fledgling Christian communities in a compelling cultural light, as well as efforts to unite communities around a socially conservative vision of the household of God.
Civilized Piety reveals the value of pietas within an ideological marketplace of emperors, benefactors, and philosophers, all of whom contend with one another to monopolize cultural prestige. The Pastoral Epistles, by employing a virtue so highly esteemed by forces hostile to Christianity, manifest a deep desire to establish good order within the church as well as to foster goodwill with the church's non-Christian neighbors.

About the Author

T. Christopher Hoklotubbe (Th.D., Harvard University) is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa. He is a former Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow and a Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow in Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA. Hoklotubbe has been recognized as a Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholar for 2017, having been nominated by the New England and Eastern Canada Region.


"'Piety' was an enormously important concept in political, civic, philosophical, and religious discourse in both the Greek (eusebeia) and Latin (pietas) worlds of the first and second centuries C.E. Although the apostle Paul strikingly never mentions it in his undisputed letters, the Pastoral Epistles make it a central characteristic of Christian life and identity. In this marvelous treatment, Christopher Hoklotubbe discusses not only the elevation and use of piety language in these letters but also shows how such language functioned in the world that these documents reflect."—John T. Fitzgerald, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of Notre Dame

"Should Christians participate in politics? Since the second century, Christ-followers have occupied strange space on the political map of their day. Proclaiming exclusive commitment to Jesus, some make exceptions for issues related to state while others understand such exceptions as paradoxical at best. Explanations of this phenomenon often fall along ideological lines—noble martyrs versus the ignoble apostate. With a fresh approach, Chris Hoklotubbe argues that the Pastoral Epistles translate the gospel in terms of Roman pietas—a broad array of social, political, and religious obligations thought to sustain the cosmos and everything in it."—Clare K. Rothschild, Associate Professor of Scripture Studies, Lewis University

"T. Christopher Hoklotubbe is to be commended for furnishing us with the first monograph-length treatment of the theme of pietas (eusebeia)—one of the Roman Empire's most celebrated ideals—in the Pastoral Epistles. In doing so he expands Paul and Empire scholarship beyond the confines of the earlier Pauline corpus to consider the presence of this as well as other imperial motifs in these later letters. The result is an exciting and thorough new study that every person interested in the emergence of Christianity as well as method in the study of Paul in the Roman Empire needs to read. I heartily recommend it."—Harry O. Maier, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, Vancouver School of Theology

9781481307178 : civilized-piety-hoklotubbe
264 Pages
$49.95 USD

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