PMW 2022-060 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is the second and final part of a brief series arguing that the “many waters” of Rev. 17:1, 15 refer to Jerusalem’s influence over the diaspora Jews, many of whom were proselyte from the nations.

My second observation regarding the Babylonian-harlot’s sitting on many waters represents Jerusalem’s political influence exercised by means of the diaspora — particularly against Christians —- which is exerted throughout the empire and among the “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (17:15).

Remembering the Jewish danger to Christians (Rev. 2:9; 3:9; cp. Acts 4:3; 5:18; 8:3; 9:2; 12:4; 18:6; 22:4; 24:27; 26:10; Rom 15:31; 2 Cor. 11:24; 1 Thess. 2:14-17; Heb. 10:33-34) and the role of the martyrs in Rev (Rev. 6:9-10; see also: Rev 1:9; 2:9-10; 3:9-10; 11:7-8, 11-13, 18; 12:10; 13:10; 14:11-13; 16:5-6; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:2; 20:4, 6), this is a quite significant implication of John’s image. After all, we discover “the common reflection of Jewish opposition in the NT writings” (Rick Van de Water, “Reconsidering the Beast from the Sea (Rev 13.1),” 248).

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We read in Acts that the Jews “won over the multitudes [ochlous]” against Paul and stoned him (Ac 14:19; cp. 13:45, 50; 14:2). In Ac 17:5 we read that “the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob [ochlopoiēsantes] and set the city in an uproar.” In Thessalonica they were “agitating and stirring up the crowds [ochlous]” (Ac 17:13). “This regularly established link between Jerusalem and the diaspora was of particular importance during the time of organised hostility to the early church. Concerted plans could be made and consistent action followed in many parts at once” (James Parks, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, 11).

By excommunicating Jewish-Christians and resisting them in the public sphere (see Exc 10 at 11:2), the traditional Jews effectively expose Christians to Roman oppression by removing their status as Jews and the protections of religio licita. “The privileges given by the Romans to the Jews . . . were confined to practising Jews, so that by excommunication the Jewish authorities could deprive a Jews of his legal privileges” with the result that “by this simple act of excommunication they could expel a Christian from these privileges and report against him as an atheist” (James Parks, 62, 64).

But it goes even farther, the Jews specifically charge Christians with resistance to Roman rule. In Ac 17:6-7 they drag Christians before the Thessalonican city authorities charging that “they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” This is similar to their actions in the trial of Jesus where they assert “we have no king but Caesar” in demanding Jesus’ death (Jn 19:15, cf. v 15). Parks (1961: 66) notes that “the Jews of Corinth dragged Paul before the Romans. The charge they brought was that Paul was trying to persuade them to ‘worship God contrary to the Law.’ This is certainly a charge with which they could technically have dealt themselves. . . . The Jews preferred to lay the responsibility on the Romans for deciding what to do.”

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Earlier Parks (65) noted that in Acts “Gallio refuses to hear the charge” which shows that for Luke “the Jews were not compelled to bring Paul before the Roman court.” The Jewish community is using the Roman judicial apparatus to stir up trouble for the Christians.

Consequently, I believe a strong and compelling case may be made for the waters of Rev. 17 representing the influence of Jerusalem over her far-flung diaspora.

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  1. Fred V. Squillante August 12, 2022 at 9:04 am

    You are correct in what you say. However, those nations where the Jews of the earlier diaspora settled were, by and large, Roman colonies, provinces and territories, etc. of the 1st century Roman Empire, the period in view in Revelation. If the “woman” is apostate Israel, she is either sitting on her own people or her protector and enabler, Rome. And if the beast is the Roman Empire, the many waters between the woman and Rome are her own people or the Empire. In the end, for what it’s worth, whether the many waters were Diaspora Jews or Roman territories may probably be a matter of semantics. I can’t see where it makes a difference.

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