PMT 2014-050 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
I am engaging a brief four-part series on Revelation’s Hebraic character. Rev’s intensely Jewish style fits well with a focus on the events associated with Christ’s judgment on Israel and the closing of the old covenant order in AD 70. In this study I will note its extremely obvious Jewish concerns.
Several times within Rev we discover unambiguous indications of serious Jewish antagonism against Christians, which fits John’s overarching suffering motif. In fact, early in Rev we twice discover express mention of this conflict with the Jews (2:9; 3:9). In 7:4–8 we read of the protective sealing of a limited number of racial Jews — who are but a remnant from “out of [ek]” the specifically named twelve tribes of Israel.
In 11:8 we read of the dead bodies of the Lord’s two prophets lying in the street of the city “where also their Lord was crucified” (i.e., Jerusalem) which now is designated “mystically” as “Sodom and Egypt.” That they die in the very place where Christ is crucified underscores the rebellion of Israel against God, which is so often noted even by their own prophets (1Ki 18:13; 2Ch 24:19–21; Neh 9:26; Jer 2:30), as well as by Christ (Mt 5:12; 21:35–36) and first-century Christians (Ac 7:52; 1Th 2:14–15; Heb 11:36–37). As I will show in my commentary, many evidences point to Israel and the Jews as the opponents of the Lamb’s people.
Faith of Our Fathers (DVDs by Ken Gentry)
Explains the point of creeds for those not familiar with their rationale.
Also defends their biblical warrant and practical usefulness.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
I will focus briefly on two important statements in the seven oracles to the churches. In the proclamation to the church at Smyrna we read of the “blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (2:9). This must be speaking of ethnic Jews for no Gentile outside of Judaism or Christianity would claim to be a Jew since Jews are largely disliked throughout the Roman empire. For instance, according to Augustine (Civ. 6:11) Seneca deemed Jews an “utterly heinous nation.” Tacitus (Hist 5:5) complains that “toward every people they feel only hate and enmity.”
Besides they are well-known to worship in synagogues. We must conclude, then, that “those who call themselves Jews are precisely that” (Trebilco). After all, “the plainest sense of this language is that these are ethnic Jews, members of the local synagogues, who, not surprisingly, lay claim to the title of ‘Jews’” (Stevenson). For these reasons, “the majority of commentators conclude that the reference is to the local Jewish community” (A. Collins; cf. Lambrecht; Stevenson; Rissi; A. Collins 310; Beale; Smalley; Resseguie; Mayo; Boxall).
The blasph mia by these people is slander, i.e., legal charges against Christians. We may discern this because the next verse states that “the devil is about to cast some of you into prison” (2:10). “This juxtaposition [between the “synagogue of Satan” and “the devil”] suggests that the ‘synagogue of Satan’ are instigators of legal action against the persons whom John is addressing. Their blasphemy or slander then would be the charge or accusation which they made to initiate legal proceedings” (A. Collins ).
We should note in this regard that in 12:9–10 “the devil and Satan” is “the accuser [kat gore ] of our brethren.” The term kat gore is “nearly always a legal” technical term (BAGD). Beale notes: “the mention of Roman persecution in v 10 directly following that of Jewish slander conforms to historical reports of Jews allying with and encouraging Romans and Gentiles to oppress Christians (e.g., Acts 13:45, 50; 14:27–7, 19; 17:5–9; 1 Thess. 2:14–16; Martyrdom of Polycarp 12:1–2; 13:1; Tertullian, Scorpiace 10)” (cp. Osborne 131).
Lambrecht provides an extensive argument that blasph mia here must mean legal slander: (1) It is lexically possible (Mk 7:22; Mt 15:19; Col 3:8; Eph 4:31; 1Ti 6:4; 2Ti 3:2). (2) The text offers no allusion to God being cursed. (3) The Smyrnaeans are being “tested” (2:10). (4) The possible outcome includes death from Roman authorities (2:10). (5) It is connected with imprisonment. (6) Christ is a prior target of such (Mk 15:1–15; Jn 18:28–19:15). (7) Other Christians are legal targets (Ac 17:5–8; 18:12–17). (8) The Smyrnaean Jews later denounce Polycarp (Mart. Pol. 12:2; 13:1; 17:2; 18:1.
Bandy (2010: 66) provides ample evidence that this fits the repeated NT experience of Christians under Jewish assault. He lists the following references: Mk 15:12–14; Mt 27:22–23; Lk 23:30–23; Jn 19:6–7, 14–15; Ac 13:5–12, 50; 18:13–17; 22:30; 23:25–30; 24:1–22; 25:1, 7–27; 26:1–7; cp. Mart. Pol. 12:2–3; 13:1, Justin’s Dial. 16:4; 47:4; 93:4; 95:4; 96:2; 108:3; 110:5; 131:2; 133:6; 137:2; Tertullian’s Scorp. 10:10; Irenaeus’ Haer. 26:6) and Eusebius’ Eccl. Hist. 5:16:12.
In 3:9 we find an almost identical complaint against the Jews in the proclamation to Philadelphia, this time declaring that Christ “will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” Interestingly, Jesus speaks here as the one who holds their precious “key of David” while promising that the Jews will be humbled before the Christians (3:7, 9). Regarding his mention of the key of David, Blount argues that “he maintains the mocking tone he established in v. 7, where he declared that he would use the Davidic key to open up the Davidic kingdom exclusively to those whom the alleged people of David persecuted.” This almost certainly speaks of the Jews’ humiliation in AD 70.
1 John: Salvation, Heresy, Assurance (20 sermons on 10 CDs)
by Ken Gentry
First John is a much neglected epistle that deals with crucial issues explains salvation,
warns against heresy, and demonstrates the assurance of salvation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
All of this fits perfectly with Rev’s drama. The slain Lamb is judging those who pierced him and are persecuting his followers. During his earthly ministry, the Lord teaches almost nothing about Gentile-instituted persecution in the Gospel record, though he does frequently warn of Jewish persecution. These expressly Jewish v. Christian concerns fit perfectly with the notion that John is dealing with the AD 70 events. Even many of those who do not see Rev’s focus on AD 70 recognize at least that “John’s work was partly a response to the conflict between Christian and Jewish communities” (Mathewson). We discern this from Beale’s statement above (Beale) and many other scholars (e.g., Swete; Mounce; Smalley).
(To be continued.)
Tagged: Jewish images in Revelation