Priene calendar inscription

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Introduction: The Priene Calendar Inscription is an inscription in stone recovered at Priene (an ancient Greek city sited in Western Turkey [1]) that reveals the meaning of the term "gospel" as it was used in the Roman Empire, in referring to Augustus Caesar, around the period of the birth of Jesus the Christ. It is called the Priene "Calendar" Inscription because it refers to the birthday of Augustus Caesar as the beginning of an era - the beginning of the gospel announcing his kingdom that heralded peace and salvation for his people - and a Roman decree to start a new calendar system based on the year of Augustus Caesar's birth was published. [2] This idea is similar to Anno Domini (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anno_Domini) upon which the most widely used calendar systems, the Julian and Gregorian calendars, were based. The Anno Domini calendar era is based on the traditionally reckoned year of the conception or birth of Jesus of Nazareth, with AD counting years from the start of this epoch, and BC denoting years before the start of the era. In contrast to Augustus Caesar's era, Jesus' movement did not die out like would-be-Messiah figures including Judas Maccabeus and Simon Bar Kochba did, once they were killed, as Jesus' apostles were convinced that they had witnessed Jesus' resurrection from the dead. [3] This demonstrates the basis of the most widespread calendar throughout the world, by which people understand history, through what archaeology and history demonstrates from the Priene Calendar Inscription.

The Priene Calendar Inscription text: It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: “Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him,” which Asia resolved in Smyrna. [4]

Images of the Priene Calendar Inscription are available. [5]

History of the Priene Calendar Inscription: It is generally known as the Priene text for it was found on two stones in the market-place in the old town of Priene, Turkey (or more correctly, Asia Minor). [6]

The calendar inscription of Priene, dated about 9 B.C., is now in the Berlin Museum. [7] Discovered by German archaeologists on two stones of different kinds in the north hall of the market-place at Priene, and published for the first time by Theodor Mommsen and Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff with other allied texts and a commentary, this inscription, designed to introduce the Asian calendar, has been appreciated by Adolf Harnack and Paul Wendland as of great importance in the history of the sacred language of Asia Minor. In the Priene Calendar Inscription, a remarkable sentence appears that refers to the birthday of the Emperor Augustus — 'But the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of tidings of joy on his account.' [8]

The Significance of the Priene Calendar Inscription: The importance of this inscription (dating from around 9 BC) is that it demonstrates the meaning of "good news" or "gospel" in the context of the Roman Empire, at the time when "good news" or "gospel" was applied to Jesus the Christ, for example in the Gospel of Mark. Augustus Caesar was celebrated in this text as a Saviour of his people, with the expectation that with his arrival into this world all trouble and strife would come to an end. Therefore, Fabius Maximus (see the following text of the letter, to which the Priene Calendar Inscription in stone was a reply) ordained that the 23rd September should be commemorated, not just as the birth of Augustus, but also as a new Era. The letter mentioned above from Fabius Maximus to the Provincial Assembly, recommending the lunar year being changed to the Julian calendar, commencing on the 23rd September, is as follows: "Decree of the Greek Assembly in the province of Asia, on motion of the High Priest Apolionios, son of Menophilos, of Aizanoi whereas Providence that orders all our lives has in her display of concern and generosity in our behalf adorned our lives with the highest good: Augustus, whom she has filled with arete [virtue] for the benefit of humanity, and has in her beneficence granted us and those who will come after us [a Saviour (σωτῆρα)] who has made war to cease and who shall put everything [in peaceful] order; and whereas Caesar, [when he was manifest], transcended the expectations of [all who had anticipated the good news], not only by surpassing the benefits conferred by his predecessors but by leaving no expectation of surpassing him to those who would come after him, with the result that the birthday of our God (τοῦ θεοῦ) signalled (ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κὀσμωι τῶι δι᾽ αὐτὸν εὐαγγελίων ἡ γενέυλιος ἡμέρα τοῦ θεοῦ) the beginning of Good News for the world because of him; ..... (proconsul Paul Fabius Maximus) has discovered a way to honour Augustus that was hitherto unknown among the Greeks, namely to reckon time from the date of his nativity; therefore, with the blessings of Good Fortune and for their own welfare, the Greeks in Asia Decreed that the New Year begin for all the cities on September 23, which is the birthday of Augustus; and, to ensure that the dates coincide in every city, all documents are to carry both the Roman and the Greek date, and the first month shall, in accordance with the decree, be observed as the Month of Caesar, beginning with 23 September, the birthday of Caesar." [9]

The Gospel of Mark’s opening verse reads: "The beginning of the proclamation of the good news about Jesus Christ—Son of God (Mark 1:1). This verse in the Gospel of Mark has been compared to the Priene Calendar Inscription in honor of Caesar Augustus (OGIS 458; ca. 9 BCE). [10]

The Priene Calendar Inscription has enormous significance for the understanding of the term "gospel":

1. The term “good news” (Greek euangelion) in the Gospels is not a word picked at random, but already loaded with meaning at the time: it signals “the royal announcement of a new regime or ruler.” For example, the famous Priene Calendar Inscription speaks of Caesar Augustus in this way: "It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [euangelion] for the world that came by reason of him which Asia resolved in Smyrna." According to this Priene Calendar Inscription, Augustus’s birth is praised, for he is the one who will give hope and peace, both now and into the ages, to benefit all humankind. He is savior. His birth signals the beginning of euangelion.

What the Gospel writers such as Mark said was revolutionary: “Yeah….about that savior and good news business. Caesar can’t deliver. Jesus does. Let us explain what we mean by that, because it’s not what you might expect. Let us unpack what ‘savior’ and ‘good news’ are all about. Let us tell you about his reign, his kingdom–and what it means for you to be a part of it.” 2. This meaning is reinforced by Jesus’ title, Christos, messiah, which in Judaism (as in the Old Testament) referred to God’s appointed king of Israel. Messiah, in other words, is a royal title–Jesus is King (which is pretty much the point of Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited). 3. Mark’s Gospel begins in 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.” The story that Mark tells of Jesus is the gospel. 4. Mark 1 uses some telling Old Testament quotations that refer to God’s coming and final rule over Israel as “good news,” which, again, aligns “gospel” with “kingdom of God.” 5. The exorcisms and healings that follow in Mark are the demonstration of Jesus’ royal authority, the concrete demonstration that King Jesus is here. 6. Jesus’ death and resurrection are non-negotiable features of the Son of Man’s royal mission and, therefore, “part of His own divinely appointed Messianic task.” David Williams wrote: "Long story made short, if the gospel is the story of Jesus that Mark is telling, then the gospel is the good news that the God of Israel has deigned to effect His gracious rule over the world in and through Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and risen King. All of the Gospels–not just the Gospel According to Mark–more or less narrate this story in longhand. But, short or long, it is at once the story both of the dawning of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ, the crucified, who is autobasileia, the Kingdom Himself, and who demands of us far more than mere cognitive assent. He demands we take up our crosses and follow Him so that in losing our lives, we paradoxically might just save them."

[11]
  1. ^ citation: Priene - Turkey. URL http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/priene
  2. ^ Citation: THE PRIENE INSCRIPTION OR CALENDAR INSCRIPTION OF PRIENE. URL http://www.masseiana.org/priene.htm
  3. ^ Citation: JESUS: RISE TO POWER - National Geographic television series with presenter Dr. Michael Scott, Assistant Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. URL http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/jesus-rise-to-power/
  4. ^ Citation: Evans, Craig A. Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel. Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism. 2000; 1:67-81. Written by Craig A. Evans, Trinity Western University. URL: http://www.craigaevans.com/Priene%20art.pdf
  5. ^ Images of "Priene Calendar Inscription" https://www.google.com.au/search?q=priene+calendar+inscription&safe=strict&rlz=1C1NOOH_enAU728AU728&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjZjPr70f7UAhVBJpQKHdxdAUMQsAQIRg
  6. ^ Citation: THE PRIENE INSCRIPTION OR CALENDAR INSCRIPTION OF PRIENE. URL http://www.masseiana.org/priene.htm
  7. ^ Citation: THE PRIENE INSCRIPTION OR CALENDAR INSCRIPTION OF PRIENE. URL http://www.masseiana.org/priene.htm
  8. ^ Citation: THE PRIENE INSCRIPTION OR CALENDAR INSCRIPTION OF PRIENE. URL http://www.masseiana.org/priene.htm
  9. ^ Citation: Frederick W. Danker, Benefactor: Epigraphic Study of a Graeco-Roman and New Testament Semantic Field (St. Louis, MO.: Clayton Pub. House, 1982), 217. As quoted at URL http://www.masseiana.org/priene.htm
  10. ^ Citations: M. E. Boring, K. Berger, and C. Colpe, Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995). The relevant part of the Priene Inscription is cited along with Mark 1:1 on p. 169. For the Greek text of the whole inscription, see W. Dittenberger (ed.), Orientis Graecae Inscriptiones Selectae (2 vols., Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1903-5; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1960) 2.48-60 [ = OGIS 458]. See also L. R. Taylor, The Divinity of the Roman Emperor (APAMS 1; New York: Arno, 1931; repr. Chico: Scholars Press, 1975) 273; V. Ehrenberg and A. H. M. Jones, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius (2nd ed., Oxford: Clarendon, 1955) 82. For discussion of this famous inscription, see A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (New York: Harper & Row, 1927) 366; G. Pfohl (ed.), Griechische Inschriften als Zeugnisse des privaten und öffentlichen Lebens (Munich: Heimeran, 1966; rev. ed., 1980) 134-35; H. Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990) 3-4.
  11. ^ Citation: Good News: King Jesus is in the House. URL http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/08/good-news-king-jesus-is-in-the-house/