In exploring the exegetically significant patron-client dynamic of Paul’s day, we can look to Seneca, a Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and humorist that was a contemporary of the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “Let us, therefore, show how acceptable a gift is by loudly expressing our gratitude for it; and let us do so, not only in the hearing of the giver, but everywhere. He who receives a benefit with gratitude, repays the first installment of it.” This would reflect the general attitude of a client towards his patron, who would be looked upon as the source of gifts. For what it’s worth, Seneca himself was a tutor of the Emperor Nero, later becoming an advisor. Most assuredly, he would have considered Nero to be his patron, so though these words would be generally reflective of the patron-client relationship, they would most likely be penned with the Caesar in mind.
A client would also be expected to publicly attest to the honor of his patron. If and when possible, a client would expend the effort to make a lasting, public pronouncement of said honor by having an inscription placed on a public monument of a public building, that all may see and realize the honor and generosity of their patron. On a monument in Corinth that dates from the middle of the first century, we can read an inscription in honor of a man named Julius Spartiaticus, who was looked upon and acknowledge as an important patron to the tribe of Calpurnia. He too would have been a contemporary of Paul. The inscription, offered by his clients, reads: “Gaius Julius, Son of Laco, Grandson of Eurycles, [of the tribe] Fabia, Spartiaticus, Procurator of Caesar and Augusta Agrippina, Tribume of the Soldiers, Awarded a Public Horse By the Deified Claudius, Flamen Of the Deified Julius, Pontifex, Duovir Quinquennalis twice, Agonthete of the Isthmian and Caesar-Augustan Games, High Priest of the House of Augustus In Perpetuity, First of the Achaeans. Because of his Virtue and Eager and all-encompassing munificence toward the Divine House And toward our Colony, the tribesmen Of the Tribe Calpurnia [Dedicated this] to their Patron.”
Apart from inscriptions on monuments and building, which, understandably, could be quite expensive and therefore limited only to wealthier clients of even wealthier patrons (remembering that, apart from the Caesar himself, everybody was a client of somebody at some level), the honor of a patron could be expressed through the employment of a herald. We can find some excellent Scriptural example of somebody being heralded in the book of Esther. There, Mordecai is heralded by Haman. “He led him about on the horse throughout the city, calling before him, ‘So shall it be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor!’” (6:11b) Though this is not an instance of a client heralding a patron, it is an example of somebody being honored through the employment of a herald---in this case, an unwilling herald.
In the Gospel of Luke we can find something that would have been understood as a clear instance of heralding. Given the early church’s position concerning who Jesus was and how He was worshiped in the years between His Resurrection and the composition of Luke’s Gospel, the angel of the Lord making an appearance to the shepherds in the field, telling them “Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord” (2:10b-11), would have been perceived as an instance of a patron (God manifest) being heralded (by one of His angels). This is not a ground-breaking thought, especially considering the song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” However, the activity being referenced by the song asks to be comprehended according to a world defined by honor, the role of heralding, and the governing dynamics of the patron-client relationship.
Speaking to this activity, and doing so from the basis of a clear knowledge of and undoubted participation in the patron-client system, along with a thoroughgoing knowledge of the role of honor in his world, Dio Chrysostom, an orator, writer, philosopher, and historian of the Roman Empire who was also contemporary with the Apostle Paul, wrote: “But when we come to men, they require crowns, images, the right of precedence, and being kept in remembrance; and many in times past have even given up their lives just in order that they might get a statue and have their name announced by the herald or receive some other honor and leave to succeeding generations a fair name and remembrance of themselves.” We could even take these words and compose an imaginary speech by a client, in honor of a patron, hearing something like “This man deserves crowns upon his head. He should have images erected in his honor. He and his family should have precedence of place at all public functions. His name should be kept in remembrance. With complete disregard for his own safety, he risked his life, though he expected no statues. He placed himself at the mercy of the gods, though the idea of a herald announcing his exploits was far from his mind. Because he had acted in complete altruism, with no regard for honor, he should be honored, as should his progeny, for generations to come.”