- Some Biographical Information about Paul
- Situation and Response: Some questions to ask when reading each of Paul’s letters (A Guide)
- Thessalonica: Guilds and Associations in Macedonia
- Thessalonica: Debates about handwork and support among philosophers
- Paul and Slavery in the Greco-Roman World
- Judeans and Jesus-followers at Rome
- Some background to the deutero-Pauline letters
- Mark’s story of Jesus: Suffering Son
- Matthew’s story of Jesus: Davidic Messiah and New Moses
- John’s story of Jesus: Jesus the Son and Revelation (Self-Expression) of the Father
- Outline of John’s Apocalypse
Paul’s letters (autobiographical references: esp. Gal 1:10-2:21; Phil 3:2-11; 2 Cor 11:21-12:10)
- A Hebrew, Israelite, descendant of Abraham, tribe of Benjamin (2 Cor 11:22; cf. Rom 9:3-4; Phil 3:5-6); “I was advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal 1:14)
- Pharisee (Phil 3:6)
- Unmarried (at the time of the writing of 1 Cor 7:8)
- Handworker (1 Thess 2:9; 1 Cor 9:15, 18; 2 Cor 11:9)
- Persecutor of the church (1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6)
- “Calling”/conversion (Gal 1:15-16)
- Visions and revelations (2 Cor 12:1-10)
- Escaped Damascus in order to avoid the governor under king Aretas (2 Cor 11:32)
Acts of the Apostles
- Saul (Acts 9:4, 17; 22:7, etc)
- Born in Tarsus, Cilicia (22:3), and citizen of that city (21:39)
- Brought up in Jerusalem (22:3; 26:4)
- Roman citizen (from birth) (16:37-39; 22:25-29; 23:27; cf. 25:10-11; 28:19)
- Pharisee (22:3; 23:6; 26:5)
- Bilingual (Hebrew and Greek) (cf. 21:37-22:2)
- Education under Gamaliel I (a Pharisaic Rabbi) in Jerusalem (22:3; 26:5)
- Tentmaker (Acts 18:3)
- Persecutor of the church (Acts 9:1-3; 22:4-5; 26:9-11)
- Conversion on the road to Damascus (9; 22:6-16)
- Escapes from the Judeans in Damascus by being lowered in a basket through a hole in the city-wall (9:23-25)
1) The Situation(s) (within the Jesus groups at a particular locality):
What difficulties are there in determining the situation? Is Paul presenting an objective picture of what is happening or does his direct involvement in the situation complicate matters? That is, what is the nature of our evidence? What evidence is there in a particular letter of the social-economic status or ethnic composition of the groups Paul addresses at a specific city? What is going on within these groups? Are there divisions and if so between who? Has Paul’s authority been questioned? Are there other leaders of the Jesus movements who disagree with Paul? That is, what is involved in the situation Paul addresses? How does the situation relate to the specific social-cultural context of the city in which the groups are living? What does Paul object to or agree with concerning the situation? Are the issues or perceived problems primarily ideological (“theological”), practical or social-historical, or a bit of each? How would you characterize the relation between the Jesus groups at a particular city and facets of surrounding society (open/involvement, closed/separation or somewhere in between)?
2) Paul’s response:
What is Paul’s overall tone in addressing Jesus-followers in a particular place? What does this tell us about his relationship with these groups? What are Paul’s main concerns? What does Paul want his addressees to do or not do? What rhetorical and other methods does he use to convince them of what they should do? What economic, social or cultural factors influence the way in which Paul both understands and addresses the situation? What is Paul’s underlying world view or ideological framework and how and when does it emerge?
How do the answers to the above questions compare with Paul’s relations with groups devoted to Jesus at other localities? What does this tell us about the nature of early groups of Jesus devotees and broader issues regarding Christian origins? What does this overall profile reveal about the person of Paul and his purposes?
“The association of purple dyers of the eighteenth street honored Menippos, son of Amios, also called Severus, from Thyatira as a memorial.”(AGRW 55 = IG X.2, no. 291, II CE; trans. Ascough; cf. Acts 16:14 [Lydia the purple-dyer at Philippi, also in Macedonia]).
“To good fortune! The fellow-worshippers’ association of the great god Sarapis honour their benefactor, Publius Aelius Nikanoras, the most worthy Macedonian in accordance with the decree of the greatest Council and the most sacred People.”(IG X.2, no. 192, III CE [trans. mine]).
Stobi (Northwestern Macedonia):
“…I Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos, also called Achyrios, father of the synagogue at Stobi, having lived my whole life according to Judaism, donated my houses for the holy place–in fulfilment of a vow–along with the dining-room and its fourfold-pillars out of my household accounts without touching the sacred treasury. However, I retain the ownership and disposition of all the upper chambers for myself, Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos, and for my heirs for life. If anyone seeks to make changes beyond what has been set down by me, he shall give the patriarch two hundred fifty thousand denarii; for this have I agreed. As for the upkeep of the rooftiles of the upper chambers, it will be done by me and my heirs.”(CIJ, no. 694, late II-early III CE; trans. by L. Michael White, The Social Origins of Christian Architecture [Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1997] 2.352-56, no. 73, with adaptations).
One of the Pseudo-Socratic epistles (c. II CE) praises Simon the Shoemaker, a Cynic philosopher, since he “continues to devote himself to the teachings of Socrates and uses neither his poverty nor his trade as a pretext for not doing philosophy, as certain others do who do not want to understand fully or to admire Socrates’ teachings and their contents.” (Epistles 18; trans. by A.J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles: A Study Edition [Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977] 267).
Philodemos, an Epicurean philosopher (I BCE), thought it best to live off the manual labour of others, “for then one is least entangled in business, the source of so many annoyances; there indeed is found a becoming way of life, a withdrawal into leisure with one’s friends, and, for those who moderate their desires, the most honourable source of revenue.” (Peri Oikonomias 23; translation by D.L. Balch in Malherbe, Moral Exhortation, A Greco-Roman Sourcebook [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986] 146).
Musonius Rufus (first century CE): What Means of Livelihood Is Appropriate for a Philosopher?)
(translation from Abraham Malherbe, Moral Exhortation, A Greco-Roman Sourcebook [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986], 151-152).
“What, perhaps someone may say, is it not preposterous for an educated man who is able to influence the young to the study of philosophy to work the land and to do manual labor just like a peasant? Yes, that would be really too bad if working the land prevented him from the pursuit of philosophy or from helping others to its attainment. But since that is not so, pupils would seem to me rather benefited by not meeting with their teacher in the city nor listening to his formal lectures and discussions, but by seeing him at work in the fields, demonstrating by his own labor the lessons which philosophy inculcates B that one should endure hardships, and suffer the pains of labor with his own body, rather than depend upon another for sustenance. What is there to prevent a student while he is working from listening to a teacher speaking about self-control or justice or endurance? For those who teach philosophy well do not need many words, nor is there any need that pupils should try to master all this current mass of precepts on which we see our sophists pride themselves; they are enough to consume a whole life-time. But the most necessary and useful things it is not impossible for men to learn in addition to their farm work, especially if they are not kept at work constantly but have periods of rest.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero (first century BCE), On Duties 1.150-151
(translation from Walter Miller, Marcus Tullius Cicero. De Officiis [LCL]; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913]).
“Now in regard to trades and other means of livelihood, which ones are to be considered becoming to a gentleman and which ones are vulgar, we have been taught, in general, as follows. First, those means of livelihood are rejected as undesirable which incur people’s ill will, as those of tax gatherers and usurers. Unbecoming to a gentleman, too, and vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery. Vulgar we must consider those also who buy from wholesale merchants to retail immediately; for they would get no profits without a great deal of downright lying; and verily, there is no action that is meaner than misrepresentation. And all mechanics are engaged in vulgar trades; for no workshop can have anything liberal about it. Least respectable of all are those trades which cater for sensual pleasures: ‘Fishmongers, butchers, cooks, and poulterers, and fishermen,’ as Terence says. Add to these, if you please, the perfumers, dancers, and the whole corps de ballet.”
Judean manumission inscription from the Black Sea region
“During the reign of king Tiberius Julius Rheskouporis, friend of Caesar and friend of the Romans, pious one, in the year 377 on the twelfth of the month Pereitios, I, Chreste, former wife of Drusus, permanently set free my house–bred slave, Heraklas, in the prayer–house in accordance with my vow. Not subject to control and undisturbed (10) by any heir, he can go wherever he wants unhindered, just as I have vowed, apart from respect towards and service (or: attendance) at the prayer–house (proseuchē). My heirs, Herakleides and Helikonias, have agreed to this and the synagogue (synagōgē) of the Judeans has been designated joint guardian” (AGRW 86; inscription from Pantikapaion in the Bosporan kingdom; trans. Harland).
Contemporaries of Paul on the treatment of slaves
Jokes in the Laughter-Lover (Philolegos)
“An egghead [or airhead] was on a sea voyage when a big storm blew up, causing his slaves to weep in terror. ‘Don’t cry,’ he consoled them, ‘I have freed you all in my will’.” (Philolegos, no. 25; trans. from B. Baldwin, The Philolegos or Laughter-Lover [Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1983]).
“When an egghead had a child by a slave girl, his father advised him to kill it. But he replied, ‘First, you kill your own children, then you can talk about me killing mine.'” (Philolegos, no. 57).
Musonius Rufus on the sexual use of slaves (first century Cynic-Stoic philosopher)
“So no one with any self-control would think of having relations with a prostitute or a free woman apart from marriage, no, nor even with his own female servant (therapaina). The fact that those relationships are not lawful or seemly makes them a disgrace and a reproach to those seeking them. . . Not to mention the injustice of the thing, there must be sheer wantonness in anyone yielding to the temptation of shameful pleasure and like swine rejoicing in his own vileness. In this category belongs the man who has relations with his own female slave (doule), a thing which some people consider quite without shame, since every master is held to have it in his power to use his slave as he wishes. In reply to this I have just one thing to say: if it seems neither shameful nor out of place for a master to have relations with his own slave, particularly if she happens to be unmarried, let him consider how he would like it if his wife had relations with a male slave. Would it not seems completely intolerable not only if the woman who had a lawful husband had relations with a slave, but even if a woman without a husband should have? And yet surely one will not expect men to be less moral than women, nor less capable of disciplining their desires, thereby revealing the stronger in judgement inferior to the weaker, the rulers to the ruled.” (fragment 12, “On Sexual Indulgence”; trans. Lutz 1947, with adaptations).
Galen on punishment and self-control (first century physician / philosopher)
“If a man adheres to the practice of never striking any of his slaves with his hand, he will be less likely to succumb [to a fit of anger] later on…my father trained me to behave in this way myself…There are other people who don’t just hit their slaves, but kick them and gouge out their eyes…The story is told that the Emperor Hadrian struck one of his attendants in the eye with a pen. When he realised that [the slave] had become blind in one eye as a result of this stroke, he called him to him and offered to let him ask him for any gift to make up for what he had suffered. When the victim remained silent, Hadrian again asked him to make a request of whatever he wanted. He declined to accept anything else, but asked for his eye back — for what gift could provide compensation for the loss of an eye?” (Galen, The Diseases of the Mind, 4; second century CE. Trans. from T. Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery [London: Croom Helm, 1981] 180-81).
Seneca on self-control (first century Stoic philosopher)
“Why do I have to punish my slave with a whipping or imprisonment if he gives me a cheeky answer or disrespectful look or mutters something which I can’t quite hear? Is my status so special that offending my ears should be a crime? There are many people who have forgiven defeated enemies — am I not to forgive someone for being lazy or careless or talkative? If he’s a child, his age should excuse him, if female, her sex, if he doesn’t belong to me, his independence, and if he does belong to my household, the ties of family” (Seneca, Dialogue 5: On Anger, 3,24; first century CE. Translation from Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery, 179-80).
Pliny the Younger on a runaway freedman (former slave)
9.21 To Sabinianus
Your freedman, whom you lately mentioned to me with displeasure, has been with me, and threw himself at my feet with as much submission as he could have fallen at yours. He earnestly requested me with many tears, and even with all the eloquence of silent sorrow, to intercede for him; in short, he convinced me by his whole behaviour that he sincerely repents of his fault. I am persuaded he is thoroughly reformed, because he seems deeply sensible of his guilt. I know you are angry with him, and I know, too, it is not without reason; but clemency can never exert itself more laudably than when there is the most cause for resentment. You once had an affection for this man, and, I hope, will have again; meanwhile, let me only prevail with you to pardon him. If he should incur your displeasure hereafter, you will have so much the stronger plea in excuse for your anger as you show yourself more merciful to him now. Concede something to his youth, to his tears, and to your own natural mildness of temper: do not make him uneasy any longer, and I will add too, do not make yourself so; for a man of your kindness of heart cannot he angry without feeling great uneasiness. I am afraid, were I to join my entreaties with his, I should seem rather to compel than request you to forgive him. Yet I will not scruple even to write mine with his; and in so much the stronger terms as I have very sharply and severely reproved him, positively threatening never to interpose again in his behalf. But though it was proper to say this to him, in order to make him more fearful of offending, I do not say so to you. I may perhaps, again have occasion to entreat you upon this account, and again obtain your forgiveness; supposing, I mean, his fault should be such as may become me to intercede for, and you to pardon. Farewell.
9.23 To Sabinianus
I greatly approve of your having, in compliance with my letter, received again into your favour and family a discarded freedman, who you once admitted into a share of your affection. This will afford you, I doubt not, great satisfaction. It certainly has me, both as a proof that your passion can be controlled, and as an instance of your paying so much regard to me, as either to yield to my authority or to comply with my request. Let me, therefore, at once both praise and thank you. At the same time I must advise you to be disposed for the future to pardon the faults of your people, though there should be none to interecede in their behalf. Farewell. (trans. William Melmoth, Letters of Pliny the Consul [Boston: E. Larkin, 1809]; public domain).
1) Synagogues and the Judeans at Rome
There were at least 10-15 synagogues in Rome, one of which named itself in honour of Augustus, as this epitaph shows:
“Here lies Annius, the chief-elder of the synagogue of the Augustesians. He sleeps in peace” (CIJ 301; trans. mine).
The Roman historian Suetonius refers to the expulsion of Judeans from Rome in the 40s C.E.:
“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from the city” (Claudius 5.25; cf. Acts 18:2. Trans. from Robert Graves, Suetonius. The Twelve Caesars [London: Penguin Books, 1957] 202).
2) Stories of Paul’s death (at Rome?)
Clement, a leader at Rome, wrote to the church at Corinth in the 90s C.E., referring to Paul’s death:
“Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our own generation…After [Paul] had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance” (1 Clement 5.1-7. Trans. from J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers [2nd. edition; Michael W. Holmes, ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989] 31).
1) Colossians (2:8-23) and angels in the religious life of Asia Minor
A Greco-Roman association of angel devotees (north-western Asia Minor):
“Aurelius…and the association of friends of angels set up this votive offering for Holiness (personified) and Justice (personified)” (SEG 31 1130; trans. mine).
Judean magic amulet from Kyzikos invokes protection of angels:
“Michael, Gabriel, Ouriel, Raphael, protect the one who wears this amulet. Holy, holy, holy…. Evil angel Araaph, flee, O hated one; Solomon pursues you.” (Trans. with adaptions from Clinton E. Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996] 64-65).
Judean grave inscription from Eumeneia (western Asia Minor):
“If anyone tries to bury someone else here, he will have to reckon with God and the angel of Roubes” (Robert, Hellenica 11-12  429-35; trans. mine).
2) Greco-Roman parallels to the household codes
Aristotle (the Greek philosopher) discusses the importance of instruction on household management:
“[W]e have first of all to discuss household management; for every city is composed of households. Household management falls into departments corresponding to the parts of which the household in its turn is composed…The investigation of everything should begin with its smallest parts, and the primary and smallest parts of the household are master and slave, husband and wife, father and children; we ought, therefore to examine the proper constitution and character of each of these three relationships…” (Aristotle, Politics, 1253b; trans. by H. Rackham, Aristotle, Volume 21 [Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1944]).
Central themes in Mark’s narrative:
- Jesus’ identity (as son of God and Messiah): Jesus’ authority; Secrecy about Jesus’ identity
- Jesus’ message about the impending rule of God
- Jesus at odds with others: Ongoing conflicts between Jesus and other characters, especially a) Non-human forces (demons); b) Authorities (Pharisees, scribes, Herodians); c) Disciples/students
Flow of the narrative:
- 1 – Introduction of Jesus and the key themes of the plot
- 2:1-3:6 – Conflict with Judean authorities in Galilee
- 3:7-4:34 – Exemplary public and private teaching: Theme of misunderstanding
- 4:35-6:56 – Exemplary miracles illustrating Jesus authority and identity
- 7:1-8:26 – Conflicts with Judean authorities, reception by Gentiles
- 8:27-9:10 – Core of the story – Revelation of Jesus’ identity and his impending death
- 9:11-12 – Impending crisis and suffering in Judea (Son of Man and his sufferings) and the final week of conflicts with authorities
- 13 – The apocalyptic discourse
- 14-16: Preparation, arrest, death and resurrection: Tragedy and triumph
- Identity: “Are you the Messiah?” (Judean high-priest); “Are you the king of the Judeans” (Roman governor); “Truly this man was God’s son!” (Roman centurion)
Central themes in Matthew’s narrative:
- Presence of God: Jesus is “God with us” (1:23; cf. 28:20)
- Identity: Jesus as fulfilment of God’s plan for the salvation of Israel
- Fulfilment of Judean scripture and prophecy
- Davidic Messiah and Son of God
- New Moses
- Jesus’ conflict with the Judean authorities
- Rejection of Jesus
Flow of the Narrative
(3-part structure based on Jack Dean Kingsbury, Matthew as Story [2nd edition; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988].)
Part I: Presentation of Jesus (1-4:16)
- Jesus’ identity and purpose: God has come in Jesus to bring to completion his plan for saving God’s people
- Fulfilment motif (1:22-23; 2:5-6, 15, 17-18, 23; 4:14-16; etc.)
- Birth narrative (ch. 2): Jesus, the new Moses
- Baptism (ch. 3): “This is my Son, the Beloved…”
Part II a): Teaching and Healing Activity of Jesus (4:17-11:1)
- Transition phrase: “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
- Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7; Discourse 1) — Jesus and the Judean law
- Miracles (ch. 8-9): Rehabilitating the disciples — “You of little faith” (8:26)
- Missionary discourse (ch. 10; Discourse 2)
Part II b): Repudiation of Jesus (11:2-16:20)
- Key motifs: Identity and “offence”/repudiation (11:2-6; cf. 13:54-58)
- Jesus, the “glutton and drunkard” (11:19), the demon (12:24)
- Galilean cities’ rejection of Jesus message (11:20-24)
- Building tensions and conflict with Judean leaders: Sabbath (12:1-21)
- Kingdom parables (ch. 13; Discourse 3): Eschatological worldview of Mt’s Jesus
- Worshipping Jesus? (14:33; cf. 2:11; 28:9-10, 17)
Part III: Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and his passion and resurrection (16:21-28:20)
- Transition phrase: “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem…”
- Transfiguration (ch. 17)
- Community discourse (ch. 18; Discourse 4): Jesus on “the church”
- Conflicts with Judean leaders come to culmination (chs. 21-23)
- Eschatological discourse (chs. 24-25; Discourse 5)
- Arrest, trial, death and resurrection (chs. 26-28): Who was guilty?
Distinctive features and key themes:
- Widespread use of symbolism (“I am” sayings; dualism)
- Content and style of Jesus teaching: Lengthy discourses primarily about himself
- Emphasis on the role of the Spirit/Paraclete as revealer of truth
- Jesus’ miracles as “signs”
- Emphasis on love of one another as the key commandment of Jesus
- Salvation and life in the present (lack of references to future return [parousia])
1. Intro: Jesus as Son and Word (self-expression) / revelation of God (1:1-18)
2. Signs of being the Son (1:19-12:50)
- Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, King of Israel, Son of Man — no secrecy here (1:19-51)
- Sign 1: Water into wine (2:1-4:42)
- Cleansing of the Temple / death and resurrection
- Son of Man “lifted up” (cf. 8:27-29; Nicodemus discourse)
- Messiah and Saviour of the world (Samaritan woman)
- Signs 2 and 3: Healing of the official’s son, healing of the sick man at the pool (4:43-5:47)
- Son sent by the Father to judge and give life
- Sign 4: feeding 5000 = Festival of Passover fulfilment no.1 (ch. 6)
- I am the bread of life
- Festival of Tabernacles / Booths fulfilment no. 2 (chs. 7-8)
- The water and the light
- “I am” (8:58)
- Sign 5: Healing of the blind man (9:1-10:21)
- I am the light, I am the gate, I am the shepherd
- Festival of Temple-dedication (Hannukah) fulfilment no. 3 (10:22-38)
- God’s Son: “The Father and I are one” (10:30)
- Sign 6: Raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:1-54)
- I am the resurrection and the life
- Jesus, the triumphant king (11:55-12:50)
3. Preparation, passion and resurrection (chs. 13-20) – Festival of Passover fulfilment no. 4 (see no. 1 and “Lamb” – Jesus death on the day of preparation when lambs are slaughtered)
- Discourses for the disciples in the upper room (chs. 13-17; “farewell discourse”)
- Love commandment
- Oneness of Father, Son and Advocate (Spirit): “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (17:21)
- Death and resurrection (chs. 18-20)
- Purpose of the work (20:30-31): “Now Jesus did many other signs….But these are written so that…”
4. Epilogue: Mission of the church (ch. 21)
- Sign 7: Miraculous catch of fish
- 1-3 Opening, vision of Jesus and messages to the churches in Asia
- 4-11 Vision in Heaven:
- Heavenly worship around the throne (4)
- The Lamb (= Jesus) and the scroll with the seven seals
- six opened (5-6)
- The twelve tribes of Israel (144,000) worship God and the Lamb (7)
- The seventh seal and the six of seven trumpets/disasters (8-9)
- The little scroll and its consumption (10)
- The heavenly temple (measuring it), the two witnesses and the seventh trumpet (11)
- 12-14 Vision of Signs:
- The woman giving birth (to the Messiah = Jesus), the great dragon (= Satan) and the cosmic battle (12)
- Religious and military critique of the empire: Worship of the beast from the sea (= emperor), the beast from the land and the image of the first beast (13)
- The song of the 144,000 virgins, the messages of the three angels and the “one like a son of man” (14)
- 15-16 Vision of plagues:
- Seven angels/seven plagues/seven bowls of wrath and the songs of those who “conquered the beast” (15-16)
- 17-18 Vision of Babylon (= Rome), the great harlot, riding the beast:
- Babylon’s fornication and the meaning of the seven heads of the beast (17)
- Economic critique of the empire: Fall of Babylon (= Rome) and the lament of the nations, kings, merchants and shippers (18)
- Call to God’s people in Asia: “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins….” (18:4-8)
- 19-20 Vision of final judgement and victory for those who refused to worship the beast:
- Heavenly celebration at the fall of Babylon and the marriage banquet of the Lamb (“to eat the flesh of kings….”) (19)
- Thousand year reign with Christ and the defeat of Satan, the dragon (20)
- 21-22 Vision of the New Jerusalem:
- Description of the heavenly city (21)
- The coming of Christ and the call to “worship God”