2024-02-25 | Romans 4:13-25

Prof. Bruce Worthington
  • Professor of Divinity School of Chung Chi College

Before the writing of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, Caesar Augustus claimed to be a descendent of Aeneas, a character known through Virgil’s Aeneid as the “father of the nations.” Because of Aeneas’ piety, the gods promised Aeneas a royal lineage, culminating in the house of Caesar and the advent of Rome’s destined golden age. It is a story of origins, one meant to corroborate the authority of Caesar in terms of his genealogical lineage to the pious Aeneas, as father to the nations. In the context of this popular story, Paul raises his hand, or his pen, to object. Instead of Aeneas as the father to the nations, Paul writes in Romans 4:13-25 that the father of the nations is, in fact, Abraham (4:18). In suggesting an alternative “father to the nations” Paul deconstructs the Aeneid, undermining the legitimacy of Caesar Augustus as heir to the promises of Aeneas. Deconstructing an origins story in this way is the first step in deconstructing the destiny of an Imperial people altogether. We may not be able to tear down an Empire overnight, but the process begins when we play with, question, and ultimately revise an Empire’s foundational myths, unravelling its sense of origins, threatening its destiny without having to lift a sword.