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Subject: Justice, Peace and Violence


Topic: Pax Romana and Peace of Christ
Submitted to: Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty
Submitted by: Arrangki N Nongkynrih
Date : 16 September 2015

Pax Romana
Background
The Roman Empire was huge and covered a vast territory, it stretches from Atlantic Ocean on
the west to the Euphrates River and the Red Sea on the east, and from the Rhone, the Danube,
the Black Sea, and the Caucasus mountains on the north to Sahara on the south. This vast
empire was under the headship and dictatorship of the emperor named Augustus which is
mentioned in Luke 2:1 in the New Testament.1
The Roman Empire derived its name from the capital city, Rome of Italy. Initially it was only
a community consisting a union of small villages which was ruled by a king, it was founded
in 753 B.C. Later it became organized and then extended its rule progressively through a
series of wars which it won. The conquered people were bound by treaty to keep the peace
and were absorbed gradually into Roman domain.2
Before Augustus became emperor and established his rule there were many wars that Rome
was involve in, some of these were, the war with Carthage (265-146 B.C.), the war in the
eastern part of Asia (around 133 B.C.), with Judea (63 B.C.), campaign in Gaul (58-57 B.C.)
lead by Caesar. It took five hundred years of almost uninterrupted war that Rome grew from
an obscure village on the banks of Tiber to become the ruling empire of the world.3
At this time there was no supreme leader but many generals were present, Rome was ruled by
a republic form of government. With ever increasing territory the general started using their
armies to exert their power in their own land to exert their supremacy. As a result of this there
1 Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Survey (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company: 1953),3.
2 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 3.
3 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 4.
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were series of civil wars that took place among the generals and their armies. At the end
Augustus or Octavian succeeded in exterminating his opponent in 30 B.C., and became the
first emperor. 4
A period of Peace:
It was under the rule of Augustus that peace came to the empire of Rome and also saw the
establishment of the imperial state. The peace that Augustus brought to Rome was called the
Pax Romana. It lasted for 200 years. During these years Rome and its people prospered,
civilization spread, and there was a mixture of cultures. 5 Augustus ruled for 41 years as
emperor from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. Politically, the governing system at this point was a
combination of republicanism and dictatorship. The Senate was recognized as the ruling
body. Augustus was made as the commander-in-chief of the army forces of the empire in 27
B.C. He was given the tribunitial power for life in 23. B.C. and as a result had the power to
control the popular assemblies and was appointed the permanent representative of the people.
All the rights of the emperor was according to the constitution that was effective at the time.6
At this time many reformed took place. There was a reformation in the government as well as
the army in which all the unworthy members of the Senate were removed and a large part of
the army demobilized. The army veteran were given accommodations and well taken care of
in colonies. There was also the creation of a regular professional army which also became a
school for citizen. The retired army personnel especially the veteran were given a bonus and
were settled in colonies in the provinces, were they could make a good living and at the same
time be community leaders loyal to Rome.7
Augustus also revived the state religion and rebuilt many temples. There was also the
introduction of the imperial cult where Rome was worshiped as state. The emperor was also
worshipped as Dominus et Deus (Lord and God) in many places even though he did not
asked for it. He also attempt to restore family life by encouraging marriage and the
establishment of homes through the Julian laws.8
4 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 4.
5
http://www.sugarcreek.k12.oh.us/cms/lib5/oh01000520/centricity/domain/187/ch
ap15.pdf. 16/9/2015.
6 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 4.
7 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 5.
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There was a proper system of taxation and recruitment for the army through an efficient
census of the population that was taken on the command of the emperor. He strengthen the
defense of the frontier and also organized the police and fire department of Rome and also
appointed a supervisor for the grain supply. Augustus manage to bring order out of chaos and
restored confidence in the government, replenished the treasury, introduced an efficient
public work department, and promoted peace and prosperity.9
During his reign there was a literary revival and it was the golden period for Roman poetry,
essays and dramas. There were new construction that continually took place such as bridges,
aqueducts, theaters, and baths. There was also advancement in medical science. 10 Because of
the peace there were increasing trade with other kingdom and the kingdom too was well
connected through new roads that were built throughout the empire, all leading to Rome. 11
These roads were helpful later in the advancement of the Gospel at the time of the Apostels.
After his rule there were many successor that came such as Tiberius (A.D. 14-37), Caligula
(A.D 37 to 41), Claudius (A.D. 41-54), Nero (A.D. 54-68), etc. all these were marked by
violence and tyranny, none of which can be said to be a ruler of peace.
Tiberius was regarded as a tyrant and rule with suspicion and cruelty. Caligula resorted to
violence to replenish the treasury after he depleted it, he did this by confiscation of property,
compulsory legacies, and extortion of every kind. Claudius was responsible for the exclusion
of the Jews from Rome. Nero was believed to have been behind the huge fire that burned
Rome to build his new Golden House. In order to divert the blame from himself blamed the
Christian for it which everybody believed, then followed the persecution of the Christians.
The later emperor like Galba (A.D. 68), Vitellius (A.D. 69), Titus (A.D. 79-81) and other
were all involve in violence so as to maintain peace as they had to suppress and exterminate
many revolt that arose during their rule.12

8 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 5.


9 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 5.
10 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 51.
11
http://www.sugarcreek.k12.oh.us/cms/lib5/oh01000520/centricity/domain/187/ch
ap15.pdf. 16/9/2015.
12 Tenney, New Testament Survey, 6-13.
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Peace of Christ
It is interesting to note that Jesus never was found to advocate the death penalty as describe in
the Old Testament or telling his disciples or his people to take up arms against Rome. He
never uses his power to destroy, except on occasion of cursing of the fig tree (Matt 21:18-19;
Mark 11:12-14). We can see that Jesus is portrait differently in different Gospel and we will
see a bit of these here.13
Peace in the Gospel of Mark
Only once the word peace (eirene) appears in Mark where Jesus dismissed the women with
the issue of blood (5:34). One important aspect of Mark is his portrayal of Jesus as the
inaugurator of the Kingdom, a Kingdom which centered on service and not on domination
where Jesus himself serve the people by healing the sick and telling them saying Your faith
has made you well; go in peace(Mark 5:34).There is a saying of Jesus which is found only in
Mark 9:50 which says Have salt in yourself, and be at peace (verb) with one another. Here
Jesus agrees with the Psalmist that in order to live a long life and enjoy it one must turn from
evil and do good and seek peace and pursue it (Ps 34:14).14
The Child of Peace in Luke
Luke is the one who strongly projected Jesus as a bringer of peace. Jesus as child of peace is
understood not as someone who can only produce peace but also one who is destined for
peace, in other words someone whose total existence shalom is the key ingredient.15
In the first chapter of Luke in the song of Mary and the song of Zechariah it is observed that
the way of peace is one which is longed and hope for. This can be seen in the prophecy of
Zechariah in chapter 1:79 of Jesus as the one who will guide the feet of the people in the way
of peace. In Luke 2 the promise is made that peace will come to earth through the birth of
Jesus announced by the angel.16
13 William Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace (Philadelphia: Fortress
press,1984), 73.
14 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 73.
15 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 94.
16 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 81.
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Luke brings out the message Love Your Enemies very strongly in the parable of the Good
Samaritan and also in Jesus sermon on the Plain found in Luke 6:20-49. Jesus not only gave
the commandment to love ones enemies but also was seen to practice this himself. Jesus did
use the parables as a way of confrontation but in doing so he was consistent with the teaching
love your enemies. Jesus treated his enemies as people who could respond to the gracious
drawing of God. Even when he was betrayed by Judas he still addressed him as friend (Mat
20:13; 22:12). Luke records the prayer that Jesus made when at the cross where he prayed for
his enemies (Luke 23:34). Luke also reports in 19:42 which says If only you had known, on
this great day, the way that leads to peace! where Jesus was weeping over the city of
Jerusalem for their rejection on his message of peace. In Act 10:36 Luke summarized the
work of Jesus as the good news of peace.17
In all this we see that Jesus did not respond to rejection and violence with violence rather
with love and he taught the same to the disciple to follow. In doing so he is showing a new
way of peace that is contrary to the way the world understood peace.
Peace as a Gift from God in Fourth Gospel:
Johns Gospel has its own way of expressing peace in the farewell discourse (14:27-28)
where Jesus says Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I
give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. This peace as
Raymond Brown puts it is not a peace where there is absents of warfare but rather has to do
with the hope that the messiah will bring peace to the nation (Zech 9:10). Johns Gospel also
speaks of the inner peace (16:33), where all those who are in Christ have peace in them.18
Johns Gospel also affirms that those who follow Jesus have the responsibility to be
peacemakers in the world. Three times the risen Christ appears among his followers and
declares his peace to them (20:19, 21, 26). Peace for Gospel of John means much more than
the absence of warfare. It is the inner peace mention earlier and this peace stems from the fact
that Christ has won the victory over the world. Thus this implies that even thought a Christian
may face difficulties as he live and struggle in this world he or she is at peace.19
17 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 81-91.
18 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 103.
19 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 103-104.
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Paul and the Peace of Christ:


The term peace (eirene) appears ninety-nine times in the New Testament and half of them are
found in the letters of Paul which indicates that peace was an important concept for Paul.
Paul in the epistles to the Romans talked of the miracle of love and justice of Christ through
the cross, through the cross we humans can received justification through faith in Christ. This
is seen clearly in these words of Paul which says Therefore since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ(Rom 5:1). Here love and justice is
applied explicitly to peace and this state of peace exists because the justified ones have
entered the sphere of Gods grace.20
The ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18), and the ministry of justification (2 Cor 3:9) is
what is later called the the gospel of peace in the letter to the Ephesians (6:15). The good
news that those who believe in Jesus are now at peace with God and this peace from a
believer can then translate to a fellow being, even to their enemies.21 Paul in various places in
his letters gave teaching on how to live at peace within the family, within the community of
believers and with everyone else.
Evaluation
It is seen that Pax Romana was defined by the rulers of the Roman Empire without any
sentimental or humanistic facade. Peace and security to the Roman rulers meant the
subjugation and victory over other nations. Any hint of rebellion or revolt was quickly
suppressed or exterminated. One of the tools used to remind the people the importance and
maintenance of Roman peace was the cross. Thus crucifixion was the normal manner of
imposing death to anyone who set themselves against Rome and its Emperor.22 Thus the way
Rome maintain peace was through violence and subjugation.
On the other hand Jesus Christ came as a human and also as God and sought to live in peace
with everyone. He never did once condone violence except the oak tree incident, even in the
face of rejection and facing violence from others his way of dealing with it was to retaliate to
a place of solitude or keeping silent. Having said this He was constantly in confrontation with
20 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 112.
21 Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace, 112-113.
22 Christopher A.B. Tirkey, Peace and Peacemaking: S Christian Perspective
(Delhi: ISPCK, 2005), 17.
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the religious groups through his teachings and the use of parables. The religious groups hated
him for it and sought to kill him but could never succeed until it was Gods timing through
the work of the cross.
Jesus all through his ministry taught his disciples to love their enemies thus living at peace
with everyone and in doing so he led the way by being a role model in this regard.
Jesus overcame violence and injustice at the cross and once and for all fulfilled all
requirement of righteousness and divine justice. Jesus at the cross established reconciliation
between humans and God thus making peace with the two. He is the price of peace and he
gives peace to all those who would believe and receive his message of peace.
Looking from the eschatological perspective as written in the book of Revelation, Jesus will
come again and established his Kingdom of peace once and for all in this Earth. This will
truly be that age of true peace where there will be no violence and injustice, no evil of any
kind in all creation.
Thus Pax Romana and Peace of Christ can never co-exist with each other but stand in sharp
contrast to each other. Thus only one of them can exist and certainly the peace of Christ far
out weights the Pax Romana at all levels.

Bibliography:
Klassen, William. Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace .Philadelphia: Fortress press,1984.
Tenney, Merrill C. New Testament Survey .Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company: 1953.
Tirkey, Christopher A.B. Peace and Peacemaking: S Christian Perspective .Delhi: ISPCK,
2005.
Webliography:
http://www.sugarcreek.k12.oh.us/cms/lib5/oh01000520/centricity/domain/187/ch
ap15.pdf.

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