Periodical Reviews -- By: Jefferson P. Webster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 170:677 (Jan 2013)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Jefferson P. Webster

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Jefferson P. Webster


“ ‘Peace and Security’ (1 Thess 5.3): Prophetic Warning or Political Propaganda?” Jeffrey A. D. Weima, New Testament Studies 58 (2012): 331-59.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:3 Paul wrote, “When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them” (NRSV). Many have maintained that the phrase “peace and security” refers back to Old Testament prophetic warnings (Jer. 6:14; Ezek. 13:10; Mic. 3:5). However, Weima argues that this Old Testament background is unlikely for four reasons. (1) There is no explicit citation of the Old Testament in 1 or 2 Thessalonians. (2) The Thessalonian church was primarily Gentile, for whom an Old Testament prophetic warning may have had little meaning. (3) The rather ambiguous introduction “When they say” does not introduce any quotation of or allusion to the Old Testament. (4) Most importantly, the three Old Testament prophetic texts mentioned include only the word “peace” and not the word “security.”

Weima argues that a more likely context for this phrase is imperial propaganda. The Roman state claimed that it was the provider of “peace and security” for its people. The Pax Romana was in effect and its existence was strongly promoted. In support of this view Weima draws evidence from coins, monuments, inscriptions, and literature.

In discussing numismatic evidence Weima describes and shows a number of coins that refer to the peace achieved by Rome and the present state of the Pax Romana (pp. 333-40). Although not as extensive, coins promoting security are also described (pp. 340-41). However, no example is produced that contains both peace and security.

Weima comments on two monuments that refer to both peace and security. A prominent statue of Pompey from Ilium mentions these two terms on its base, and the twin altars of Pax Augusta and Securitas, erected after Augustus was victorious in the civil wars, place “peace” and “security” side by side.

The third group of evidence comes from inscriptions. For example in Augustus’s Res Gestae the theme of peace is very strong. In the famous inscription from Priene (9 BC) peace again is an important theme. Two further inscriptions from Halicarnassus and Baetica emphasize Augustan benefaction and peace. And ...

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