Emperor and “Divus”

So, here is a real geek moment: Can I tell you how much fun it is to translate Latin and Greek inscriptions on stones with John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg? Really…more fun that humans should be allowed to have. And I can’t believe that I can still remember Latin from college.
The inscription above is on a stone sitting in the courtyard of the National Archeological Museum in Naples where we spent several hours today. And they wouldn’t let me do a rubbing of any of the stones…which other people were sitting on. 😦 What you see here in stone is basically a “Who’s Who” listing of one of the emperors, Hadrian (of wall fame).
One of the points of interest is that he is listed as a “divus,” which mean a divinity who has been raised to that status from human status….unlike, say, Zeus, who was a “deus”… a god from the get-go. Not only does being a “divus” raise your street cred, it puts you in the tradition of Julius Caesar and his adoptive son, Augustus, who both got “promoted.” Julius died first; Augustus didn’t have to wait.
Think of that not so much in terms of pagan theology, but of the beginnings of Christian theology. If Augustus could be raised to the level of a god, why couldn’t Jesus. It wasn’t such a big leap for the ancient mind as it is for the modern way of thinking.
As I continue to read Constantine and the Bishops, I’m stuck by how the concept of “being of one substance with the Father” (homo-ousias) played out for fourth-century bishops. Did that set the divine Christ apart from the Roman emperors who, in centuries past, had been declared divine? Were they trying to say that Jesus was not a “divus,” but rather a “deus?” (Latin authors did use “deus,” by the way.) Just some thoughts for now. Dominic has the first lecture tonight, which I’m looking forward to…but now out for a quick espresso!
Here is a wonderful statue of Augustus now in the National Arch. Museum, but which was buried for over a millennium in the ash of Vesuvius at Pompeii.