Ruling the Empire and its readers

An example of imperial order. Basilica Cistern. Theophilos Papadoulos. CCBY-NC-ND 2.0

This blog is part of a wider project looking at the connections between early Christianity and modern colonialism. It comes from a couple of ideas I had while writing a chapter that was recently published on Junillus Africanus and the rules that he thought governed the text of the Bible. Understanding these linguistic rules is necessary, he believed, for understanding the Bible. While focussed on the biblical text, Junillus’s book tells us something about how rule and governance themselves were understood in the Roman Empire.

In the sixth century CE, Justinian, the ruler of the Roman Empire, tried to bring order to the Christian Church. One man who worked closely with Justinian at this time was Junillus Africanus, who acted as Justinian’s quaestor (a sort-of spokesman and drafter of imperial laws). As a legal expert, Junillus also agreed to write a book of divine rules to help people read the Bible. Like the Empire itself, Junillus explained, the Bible was governed by a clear set of rules, the understanding of which would allow the astute reader to prosper in this ordered kingdom.

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