Though New Testament scholars have written extensively on the Roman Empire, the topic of the military has been conspicuously neglected, leading many academics to defer to popular wisdom. Against this trend, The Roman Army and the New Testament provides a clear discussion of issues that are often taken for granted: Who served in the military of early Roman Palestine? Why did men join the Roman army, seemingly at odds with their own interests as subject peoples? What roles did soldiers serve beyond combat? How did civilians interact with and perceive soldiers? These questions are answered through careful analysis of ancient literature, inscriptions, papyri, and archaeological findings to paint a detailed portrait of soldier-civilian interactions in early Roman Palestine. Contrary to common assumption, Judaea and Galilee were not crawling with Roman legionaries with a penchant for cruelty. Rather, a diverse mix of men from Palestine and nearby regions served as soldiers in a variety of social roles: infrastructure construction, dispute mediation, bodyguarding officials like tax-collectors, etc. Readers will discover a variety of complex attitudes civilians held toward men of Roman violence throughout the Roman East.
The importance of these historical issues for biblical scholarship is demonstrated through a verse-by-verse commentary on relevant passages that stretches across the entire New Testament, from the Slaughter of the Innocents in Matthew’s nativity to the climactic battle with the Great Beast in Revelation. Biblical scholars, seminarians, and military enthusiasts will find much to learn about the Roman army in both the New Testament and early Roman Palestine.
To the question whether contemporaries denounced the Roman army as an occupying war machine, the author candidly acknowledges that "The New Testament lacks a single, consistent depiction of the military" (p. 139). Though sprinkled with allusions to John Wayne, the Life of Brian, and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, the narrative is judicious, clear, and devoid of jargon. . . university, seminary, and military libraries may wish to acquire a copy for its updated scholarly references to a vital eastern military zone and for its analytical close-readings of the New Testament. * Journal of Military History * Zeichmann's well-written and engaging study of the Roman military throughout the NT is both illuminating and provocative. * Journal for the Study of the New Testament * Zeichmann's study should be required reading for anyone serious about the military presence in first-century Palestine, and its political, social, and economic ramifications. * The Bible and Critical Theory * Zeichmann's study gives helpful insight in the military in Palestine. . . . Zeichmann's study is quite valuable and debunks several popular ideas in NT scholarship. * NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion * Christopher Zeichmann offers a fascinating and much needed study on the Roman military and its implications for the study of the New Testament. Zeichmann's work brings necessary clarity and correction to long held popular and scholarly assumptions, and will no doubt be an asset for both specialists working in this particular area as well as for generalists reconstructing the political landscape of the New Testament world. -- Adam Winn, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor In this stimulating and needed book, Christopher Zeichmann brings into focus a neglected but important topic in New Testament studies. He identifies the complexities and diverse depictions of the Roman army in NT writings and highlights a variety of perspectives. Not everyone will find all the analysis convincing but the discussion is insightful, researched, and significant. -- Warren Carter, Brite Divinity School at TCU Fort Worth TX