Luke’s Jesus in the Roman Empire and the Emperor in the Gospel of Luke

By Pyung-Soo Seo

An insightful re-examination of Luke’s Gospel showing how the moral stature of Jesus is emphasised through his conflict with the tax collectors.

ISBN: 9780227175439


Shrewd and thoughtful, Pyung-Soo Seo offers an exciting and refreshing perspective on Luke’s Gospel, which provides valuable clues to a deeper understanding of the vast power of the Roman Empire through Jesus’ birth and trial accounts. Seo analyses the political role the Gospel played in the decades following the Crucifixion, and presents a compelling argument: the Bible emphasises Jesus’ relationships with tax collectors as a way of displaying his moral authority, seen as he confronts one of the most hated aspects of the empire: the corruption and intimidation for which the emperor was ultimately responsible. Seo suggests that Luke wants us to compare Jesus and the emperor to show us how the emperor is found wanting. Concentrating on the titles of “benefactor” and “saviour”, his analysis of Christ’s moral authority is both discerning and erudite.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Pyung-Soo Seo, a Korean scholar, completed his PhD at the University of Manchester.


Abbreviations of Periodicals, Reference Works
Ancient Sources: Editions and Abbreviations


1. Jesus’ Birth and Trial in Relation to the Issue of Authority
2. Census, Tribute, and Tax Collectors
3. Benefactor: Who is Greater?
4. Savior: Victory-Peace-Salvation
5. Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

Scholars typically get sidetracked in dealing with tax collectors in the Gospels, thinking the main issue is collaboration with Rome. Pyung-Soo Seo gets down to the more basic issue of unpopularity due to corrupt practices. From there he maps a more convincing route to seeing Luke interacting with the Empire. Seo shows Luke depicting Jesus as the one able to change tax collectors’ corrupt practices, showing Jesus as possessing more moral auctoritas than the emperor, responsible for tax collectors but failing to rein them in.
Peter Oakes, University of Manchester

The reassessment of the relationship of early Christianity to Roman Imperial power has produced extreme and contradictory claims. … Pyung-Soo Seo offers a well-argued, balanced, and moderate case for Luke’s Jesus needing to be seen in relation to the power structures of the Roman Empire and for implicit critique of the emperor as an important Lukan technique for exalting Jesus.
John Nolland, Trinity College, Bristol

The book is full of information about the imperial background to Luke’s account; its thesis is interesting and worthwhile …
David Wenham, in Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Vol 38, No 5