Earl S. Johnson, «Mark 15,39 and the So-Called Confession of the Roman Centurion», Vol. 81 (2000) 406-413
Continuing examination of the grammatical, literary and historical evidence indicates that the centurion's remarks about Jesus in Mark 15,39 cannot be understood as a full Christian confession of Jesus' divine sonship, and cannot be taken as a direct challenge to any Roman emperor in particular. Jesus' identity in the gospel is not revealed by the centurion, the demons, the disciples or in the introduction to the gospel. It is made clear by God's declaration that he truly is the Son (1,11; 9,7), and in the faith of the readers as they search for Jesus' presence in their own community.
between his brother-gods Castor and Pollux, or Commodus dressing up as Hercules. The Antonian flaunts religious orders by destroying religious buildings or by refusing to have them repaired, by failing to observe the traditional religious calendars, or by having statues erected to his own honor in precious metals. As Wardman concludes, It would be difficult to get complete agreement on a list of Antonians, but it would certainly include, for one reason or another, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Caracalla and Elagabalus. The tradition accuses nearly all of them of religious presumption, in claiming identity with a god18.
In both cases, the populace eventually views the emperor as divine. In Mark 15,39 the use of the indefinite ui(o_j qeou= provides little evidence and no certitude to substantiate the conclusion that this statement is a challenge to a particular emperor. It could have been to Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, Caligula or even Vespasian or Titus (depending upon the date of composition); it could have been a challenge to all of them at once; or, as is more likely, to none at all.
Supposing that Mark was trying to draw a contrast between the declaration of the emperor as a god and Jesus as the Son of God through the use of the soldiers confession is made even more problematic when the complexity of Roman concepts of divinity in general is taken into account. An emperor could be worshiped as a son of god not only by being given the title but by being granted divine status through the worship of his Genius.
A deeply religious people, the Romans attributed their dominion over the world to their piety and care for the gods. The most Roman of these, and some of the most widely worshiped ones, were [...] the multitude of the more shapeless powers and spirits that held in their care every action and event, every person and every place. To these belong the Genii. Their cult was overwhelmingly popular [...]
A new major cult of the Genius in the public sphere emerged with the establishment of the Empire. The Genius Imperatoris or Genius Augusti was the key vehicle of emperor-worship, the religious acknowlegement of the imperial order. In this, the army was definitely to the fore its monuments to the Genius of the Emperors are so numerous that they reflect a particular attachment of the army to their supreme commanders, even if one allows for the unusually rich documentation from the army camps19.
Religion in the army, moreover, went beyond the worship of the emperor as a god.
The cult of the standards, the use of the sacred oath (sacramentum), the importance of the military religious calendar20, the veneration of various