Key Precept: The original is still the best.
Stepping stone on the path to eternal life: Trust in God’s eternal word.
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia:” (Revelation 1:4)
Turkey? One looks askance at the idea. Quite like “the Jews?” Why not send the the revelation of the end of the world to Rome, the capitol of the last kingdom?
Because the church at Rome was not a major player in the early Church.
To begin with, in the first century, what we call the Christian Church was unquestionably a minority sect of Judaism.
“all the church…were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch…And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women…There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem…Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation.And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life…they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel…they doubted of them whereunto this would grow…And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said…Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins…When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them…
- For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
- After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.” (Acts 5)
As the capitol of the Empire, Rome had become home to a vast population of Jews who had been brought back as slaves after wars, or had emigrated voluntarily for economic opportunities. Think New York City.
As in Jerusalem, the large population of Jews in Rome presented both opportunities for expansion among the people, and suppression by the entrenched leadership who feared reprisal by Rome for any disruption to Roman law and order.
[Writing in 59 BC] “You know what a big crowd it is, how they stick together, how influential they are in informal assemblies….” Cicero’s remarks…indicate misgivings about their separatist tendencies. “[T]he great section of Rome on the other side of the Tiber is occupied and inhabited by Jews, most of whom were…brought as captives to Italy [then] liberated by their owners… [T]hey have houses of prayer and meet together in them, particularly on the sacred Sabbaths when they receive as a body of training in their ancestral philosophy…
“with the proscription of the Egyptian and Jewish rites…a senatorial edict directed that four thousand descendants of enfranchised slaves…suitable in point of age, were to be shipped to Sardinia and there be employed in suppressing brigandage … The rest had orders to leave Italy, unless they had renounced their impious ceremonial by a given date.”
[In AD 41 The Emperor] Claudius…ordered them, while continuing their traditional mode of life, not to hold meetings”….[and then] “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome…” [Another Roman historian writes] Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because in their resentment against Christ they were continually creating disturbances…’
Paul’s first encounter with Aquila and Priscilla can be dated to around A.D. 49…
Paul addresses Christians in the city…in the late 50’s…[indicating] the development of Christianity in Rome…years before Paul’s direct contact with the people there. Christians such as Prisca and Aquila had returned to Rome after having been banished from the city…
From Paul’s greetings in Romans 16, we can discern the existence of several gatherings of Christians in the city…[S]ome of the individuals are identified as Jews…while many of the remaining are likely Gentiles…mirrors the shared identity the Jews felt in spite of their participation in separate synagogues…
Acts 2:10 includes visitors from Rome in the list of people who witnessed the events of Pentecost…
Once Jewish Christians reached Rome, they would have had relatively unhindered ministry access in the synagogues, since no Jewish controlling authority could step in to quickly and definitively oppose the propagation of the message.
A competing theory promotes Peter as the carrier of the gospel to Rome…More likely, relatively obscure Christians made contributions to the church’s establishment…“It is established that there were Jews living in Rome in the times of the apostles, and that those Jews who had believed [in Christ] passed on to the Romans the tradition that they ought to profess Christ but keep the law … One ought…to praise their faith; because without seeing any signs or miracles and without seeing any apostles, they nevertheless accepted faith in Christ.”
And sure enough, both the Jews as a whole and the sect of believers experienced too much direct persecution in Rome to be in a position to lead anything, the prime examples being Paul and Peter.
In 63 B.C., the Romans conquered Judea…the Jews refused to pay homage to Roman gods. Rome gave in and…recognized Judaism as a legal religion, allowing Jews to worship freely…
Rome had good reasons to tolerate the Jewish religion. First, it was a well-established religion with a long history. Most important, Rome wanted to keep the people of Judea from revolting. Neither of these reasons applied to Christianity. This new offshoot of the Jewish religion had little support at first among the people of Judea…
[W]hen Rome first became aware of Christianity around A.D. 30…[t]hinking this sect might weaken the always bothersome Jewish religion, Emperor Tiberius asked the Senate to legalize the Christian faith and declare Christ a Roman god. But the Senate refused. Instead, it pronounced Christianity to be an “illegal superstition,” a crime under Roman law.
[In] A.D. 64, a fire began in…the great arena in Rome…and for six days consumed much of the city, including Emperor Nero’s palace.
Immediately, the rumor spread that Nero himself had caused the great fire to clear space for a new palace…
Fearful that Roman mobs would turn on him, Nero cast about for a scapegoat…an unpopular small religious minority, the Christians.
Christians made an easy target for scapegoating. The common people of Rome believed rumors about Christians…because they…withdrew from normal social life. Many pagans feared that the gods would become angry and punish the Roman people since Christians refused to participate in the old religious rituals…
Since the Christian religion was still illegal, it was easy to order mass arrests, trials, and executions. The Christian martyrs suffered horrible deaths. Roman historian Tacitus described Nero’s methods of execution:
Dressed in wild animal skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight. Nero provided his Gardens for the spectacle, and exhibited displays in the Circus…
For many years, Christians lived with the uncertainty that another persecution could erupt at any time.
Another reason, as detailed in the post Pick A Side, Paul reluctantly transferred leadership of the body of believers in YHVH’s Savior from Jews to Gentiles, detailed in the his letter to the church in Ephesus, after he could not raise enough leadership among the Jews in Rome.
“And when we came to Rome…Paul called the chief of the Jews together…to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:16-31)
Yet another reason is that, due to infighting and external threats from barbarians, Rome was no longer the real center of government of the Empire.
Rome and Italy were being badly pressured by barbarian forces. In addition, civil war was rife. The period from 235 to 284 AD was one of almost-constant civil war. These problems greatly weakened the city of Rome. It was left vulnerable to attacks by Germanic tribes…
Constantinople was largely safe (at that time) from foreign invasion. It was also located at a major crossroads between Europe and Asia. This made it a very important center of trade. Partly because of this, it was a fairly rich city. For all of these reasons, the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople and that region became the focal point of the Empire.
And last, but not least in this list of reasons: It is not only in the days of the fourth, but of all four kingdoms that the Son of returns to rescue the remnant of his people and repossess the earth.
And Turkey totally makes sense on that account. All four kingdoms rose and fell in power – while surviving as an entity – in Turkey, AKA Anatolia, Asia or Asia Minor.
War and Peace in Asia Minor
Turkey was considered an exceptional piece of land, where we have the two famous rivers flowing through it: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The rivers flowed all the way down to Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”) and gave the land the shape of what became known as the Fertile Crescent…
The second biggest city in Turkey is Istanbul, also known as Constantinople, the only city in the world that belongs to two continents: Asia and Europe. When I was there last time, I drove all the way from Asia to Europe in ten minutes…
The people in Turkey today are likely an extension of former civilizations like the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Turkic…Turks were originally from…Mongolia.
Planted like a bridge between Asia and Europe, the peninsula of Asia Minor has been from the beginning of history a battlefield between the East and the West. Across this bridge the religion, art, and civilisation of the East found their way into Greece; and the civilisation of Greece, under the guidance of Alexander the Macedonian, passed back again across the same bridge to conquer the East and revolutionise Asia as far as the heart of India. Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, have all followed the same route in the many attempts that Asia has made to subdue the West.
Unless otherwise referenced the following is taken from CHRONOLOGY OF ASIA MINOR (ANATOLIA) 500.000 BC – 330 AD. See the post Father Abraham for more details.
- 10,000 BC – preflood or even pre-human era, Gobekle Tepe, billed as the oldest temple and astronomical observatory in the world. Who but fallen angels would map out their home world and continually seek a means of returning? See the post Light and Life for details.
- 3000 BC – preflood era, Troy is established.
- 2500 BC – earliest post flood era, descendants of Heth, son of Canaan son of Ham, settle colonies established by Semite Asshur from home base at Ninevah in Mesopotamia.This is more likely than not following the standard MO of resettling defeated foes to use as slave labor to enrich the empire. Yeah, exactly like Europeans resettling Africans on plantations in the Americas or Americans exploiting cheap Asian labor on the cross-continental railroad.
- 2400 BC – brought under sphere of influence of the Semitic Akkadian Empire of Sargon I.
- 1750 BC – 1600 BC – Hittite kingdom founded and becomes leading power in the Middle East.
- 1500 BC – Hittite king Mursilli “went to Babylon and destroyed Babylon. He took the deportees from Babylon and its goods to Hattusa.”
- 1275 BC – Hittites defeats Egyptians at Kadesh, earliest known international peace treaty which requires Egyptian withdrawal from Syria to allow Hittite hegemony in the region.
- 1112 BC – Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser defeats Hittites in Urartu.
- 1000 BC – Greeks begin settling permanent colonies on the Aegean coastline of Anatolia.
- 717 BC – Assyria captures fortress of Carchemish and gains control of Anatolia.
- 550 BC – Persia takes control of Anatolia under Cyrus the Great
- 400 BC – The Greek philosopher and warrior Xenophon, elected commander of one of the biggest Greek mercenary armies, the Ten Thousand, marched through Anatolia to join Cyrus the Younger’s campaign to claim the Persian throne from Artaxerxes II of Persia. Although the campaign failed they came close to re-capturing Babylon. Xenophon established precedents for many logistical operations, and is considered a military genius. His detailed campaigns in Asia Minor and in Babylon outlining both military and political methods used by Cyrus the Great to conquer the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC inspired Alexander the Great
- 331 BC – Alexander the Great reclaims Anatolia for Greece and continues on to conquer Babylon and the Achaemenid Empire in Persia. On his death Alexander’s empire divided up by his four generals who, as well as other kingdoms, engage in constant bloody wars to expand their territory, wealth and power.
- ~300 BC – Antioch just around the bend “in Syria” to distinguish it from the many cities named after her founder, becomes the seat of the head of government of the sixteen provinces of the Seleucid Empire, named for the Alexander’s general whose allotment was the Near East. Its geographical, military, and economic position for the spice trade, the Silk Road, and the Royal Road brought power rivaling Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East.
- At the Seleucid Empire’s height it covered Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what are now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Turkmenistan. As happened more recently with English domination, an urban Greek elite formed the political class, and civil and economic investments were reinforced by steady immigration from Greece.
- The empire’s western territories were repeatedly contested with its rival Hellenized kingdom, Ptolemaic Egypt.
- Conflict with Chandragupta of the Maurya Empire led to a political alliance ruled by a dynasty of Emperors named Antiochus 1 – X1I1. Who surnamed themselves Soter / Savior, Theos / God, Epiphanes / God Made Manifest.
- 263 – 230 BC – Rise of Pergamum kingdom which becomes strong ally in Rome’s regional interests against the Seleucid Greeks.
- 189 BC – Seleucid hegemony over Asia ended as in battle after battle Rome methodically incorporates the Hellenized city-states of Asia.
- 64 BC – the last Seleucid king Antiochus XIII Asiaticus executed by Pompey the Great. The Romans make Antioch the seat of the governor of the province of Syria. Antioch was called “the cradle of Christianity” as a result of its longevity and the pivotal role that it played in the emergence of both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity. The city may have had up to 250,000 people during Augustan times, but declined to relative insignificance during the Middle Ages because of warfare, repeated earthquakes, and a change in trade routes, which no longer passed through Antioch from the far east.
- 53 BC – 44 BC The Battle of Carrhae (present-day Harran, Turkey), one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian / Persian Empires triggered civil war ranging across the Roman world. Crassus, the richest man in Rome, funded and led the expedition to win military glory and amass the finances needed for a coup against Republican Rome by the “first” triumvirate including himself, Julius Caesar and Pompey. When, instead, he was killed and and his legions wiped out, a balance of power could not be maintained between the two remaining powers, and civil war erupted. Julius Caesar won, only to be assassinated in 44 BC for his authoritarian ambitions.
- 43 BC – After Caesar’s assassination Caesar’s grand-nephew and adopted son and heir Octavian and Caesar’s military general Marc Antony openly avenged the assassination of Rome’s populist leader while secretly strategizing to complete his transformation of the chaotic and ineffectual Republic into an efficient and powerful Dictatorship. To most effectively wage civil war, they split the over-extended empire into West ruled by Octavian and East ruled by Antony.
- Not surprisingly, their alliance soon imploded into war between rivals for supreme authority.
- 37 BC – Antony logically allies with Egypt’s resources to support his bid, meets with Cleopatra at Tarsus in Asia Minor to form an alliance. Yep, as in “Saul of”.
- 32 BC – Antony the soldier and Cleopatra the queen get married at Antioch, the agreement being that this capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire and the capitol of the Western Roman Empire in Rome would be transferred to Alexandria in Egypt. Rome responds to this outrage by declaring war on Queen Cleopatra’s Egypt.
- 31 BC – Cleopatra and Antony defeated by Octavian at the battle of Actium.
- 30 BC – Octavius visits Antioch to flex his muscles, Cleopatra and Antony commit suicide.
- 30 BC – Roman Senate rewards the man of peace who ended a decade of world war by voting him (with a white stone) into a new political position with higher authority and bestowing on him a new name / title of Augustus projecting his new way / power. He was now Augustus / godlike, the first emperor of the new Roman Empire. Previously only applied to Roman deities of the Empire, this ushered in the Roman Imperial cult.
- A deceased emperor…could be voted a state divinity (divus, plural divi) by the Senate and elevated as such in an act of apotheosis. The granting of apotheosis…allowed living Emperors to associate themselves with a well-regarded lineage of Imperial divi…This proved a useful instrument to Vespasian in his establishment of the Flavian Imperial Dynasty following the death of Nero and civil war, and to Septimius in his consolidation of the Severan dynasty after the assassination of Commodus.
- The imperial cult was inseparable from that of Rome’s official deities, whose cult was essential to Rome’s survival and whose neglect was therefore treasonous. Traditional cult was a focus of Imperial revivalist legislation under Decius and Diocletian. It therefore became a focus of theological and political debate during the legalization of Christianity under Constantine I.
- 29 BC – Ephesus replaces Pergamum as capital of the Roman province of Asia.
- 48-58 AD – Paul naturally crossed the same bridge to revolutionize the West with the Eastern Semitic religion of YHVH’s Savior, leaving behind churches throughout the Roman province of Asia.
- 70 AD – Antioch becomes the main center of Hellenistic Judaism after the Second Temple is destroyed.
- 379-395 – Theodosius I adopts Christ as the imperial cult and Christianity as Rome’s state religion while perpetuating the rites and practices that characterized the imperial cult in the theology and politics of the Christianized Empire.
We see that the ancient theocratic systems changed very little over thousands of years from Sumer to Rome, adapting more or less smoothly to the changed nationalities, languages, customs, even the atheistic influence of certain Greek philosophers and the Wizard of Oz-like facade of a republican government in the Roman Empire.
Bear in mind as you read the following that there are no straight lines of ancestry for the ancient gods. From their origins they weave and warp through time and divergent cultures. As detailed in the post The Seed of the Serpent, undying hyper dimensional beings must reproduce by cloning, so lines of descent really get messy. Relationships and identities between similar gods are impossible to keep straight. As detailed in the post Light and Life, immortals are hermaphrodites, so gender assignments change with culture shift or are lost over time in missing pieces of cuneiform tablets, left to the best guess of archeologists with a vested interest in a revolutionary new thesis. A sibling pair will be alternatively referred to as husband-wife and both can be true, note the pharaonic practice of keeping its power all in the family. And of course, the gods themselves are liars.
With such murky depths to plumb, the principles of Occam’s razor are used in the following analysis:
a scientific and philosophical rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.
- Inanna is the ancient Sumerian goddess of love, sensuality, fertility, procreation, and also of war.
- She later became identified by the Akkadians and Assyrians as the goddess Ishtar,
- with the Phoenician Astarte
- and the Greek Aphrodite, among many others…through her great beauty and sensuality…
She is often shown in the company of a lion, denoting courage, and sometimes even riding the lion as a sign of her supremacy over the ‘king of beasts’. In her aspect as goddess of war, Inanna is depicted in the armor of a male, in battle dress (statues frequently show her armed with a quiver and bow)…
We can see in the Adversary’s iconography “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” who, who in biblical prophecy ultimately prevails after millennia of apparent defeats (Revelation 1:1-5), and the triumphant woman who rides a beast who, from the opposing perspective, is named The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth. (Revelation 17:3-5)
Inanna is an independent woman who does as she pleases, quite often without regard for consequences and either manipulates, threatens, or tries to seduce others to fix the difficulties her behaviour creates…
Her husband / son Dumuzi – who suffers for her rash choices in the poem The Descent of Inanna – transforms in time into the dying-and-reviving god Tammuz and, annually at the autumn equinox, the people would celebrate the sacred marriage rites of Inanna and Dumuzi (Ishtar and Tammuz) as he returned from the underworld to mate again with her, thus bringing the land to life. The Sacred Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi was central to the fertility of the land and was re-enacted at important festivals (such as the Akitu Festival at Babylon) by the king and a priestess having sexual intercourse
Archeologists of Turkey, have recently unearthed an 16,000 year-old mother goddess figurine…the eldest in Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Near East…
As with Greek Gaia (the “Earth”)…Cybele embodies the fertile Earth…
Followers of Cybele…expressed her ecstatic and orgiastic cult in music, especially drumming, clashing of shields and spears, dancing, singing, and shouting—all at night.
At Ephesus, the Romanized Diana was passionately venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood, and kept decorated with jewelry. Most similar to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities, and least like Greek ones, her body and legs were enclosed within a tapering, pillar-like enclosure from which her feet protrude, and her breast was covered with many egg-shaped forms. She wears a mural crown (like a city’s walls), an attribute of Cybele. Shrines, bulls’ horns, and goddess images were found in her temple, showing the continuation linked to other mother goddesses of classical times like Artemis (whose cult flourished at Ephesus, and thus preceded that of the Christian Mary, who was imaged there with a crescent moon, just as her predecessor), Cybele and Aphrodite…
The Temple of Diana, the equivalent Roman goddess…was located in an economically robust region, visited by merchants and travelers from all over Asia Minor. Influenced by many beliefs, the temple was…for peoples of all faiths from many lands.
With this historical background, we can better understand that the Lord Jesus Christ sent his last apostolic messages to the seven churches in Asia. For the same reason that he sent his first apostolic message by Paul to establish these churches here. Ever been to a bustling international airport? The international travelers through these cities who heard about YHVH’s Savior would carry his message back to far-away lands.
Ephesus, which we’ll be exploring shortly, was a Greek and Roman city. The Greeks came here about 3,000 years ago, right after the…Trojan War….At the end of the (10 year) war the…legendary leader of the Greeks…decided…to build a new city.
Ephesus had a major port located at the end of the famous Silk Road. So imagine all the goods brought here with the caravans, and then distributed to the then known world through this Ephesian port. Ephesians needed a port…
Apostle Paul…spent considerable time on his second visit, from 52 to 55 A.D., more than two years. (Acts 19:1- 41) The longest time Paul stayed in one place during his missionary journeys was Ephesus. Why did Paul pick this spot? Why John came here? What was the big deal for these two disciples in Ephesus? The population. Almost 300,000 people at its peak, and about 200,000 in the first century. We mentioned earlier that Ephesus was the western end of the Silk Road, which means it’s not only the goods, but also the words spread out very easily through this port. And the majority of the population of Ephesus were pagan (or gentiles). So it was a virgin territory for Christianity. In other words, that was the best place where Paul meant to be, having the opportunity, the chance, to convert a civilized Ephesus, which was the capital of the Asian province of the Roman Empire, known as Lumen-Asia (“the light of Asia”). This was a major move on Paul’s part to spread out the words of the Lord. That’s why he spent such a long time here in Ephesus.
“a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus…he began to speak boldly in the synagogue…he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ…And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul…came to Ephesus: and…went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:24-19:10)
The monotheistic Jews in the synagogues were disputing
- IF Yeshua of Nazareth was The Messiah prophecied by the prophets,
- IF resurrection was true, and
- HOW one attains righteousness to ensure a good experience after death.
The pagan Greeks and international peoples traipsing through this bottleneck trade route from the Far East had no problem with believing any of this.
After all, resurrection to godhood had happened to many of their heroes like Gilgamesh, Alexander the Great and the Caesars. Accepting the god-man Yeshua of Judea – with a cultural twist – into their pantheon of existing gods and goddesses was business as usual for the Greeks.
The problem that the Gentile Ephesians had with Paul was NOT believing in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Son of God, but excluding all other gods for the worship of only one.
“ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands [as fit vessels for the spirits of the gods]: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” (Acts 19:26-28)
Ephesus – The Calculating Church
“Unto the angel / Messenger / Pastor of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.”
When we learn the background of each individual city we catch the unique references to each locality. The church of “Lumen Asia” and her satellite churches were very much lights in a dark place, but Jesus Christ reminds her that he holds and keeps the lights lit. The clear message here is that they need to stay connected to him.
Ephesus was the logical place to begin evangelizing Asia, but doesn’t it boggle your mind that Paul sent just one couple to start the work? Established by Paul’s students Aquila, Priscilla and and later aided by the brilliant Torah scholar Apollos around 51 AD, the first assembly of Christ at Ephesus was a Messianic synagogue. Their first bishop was Timothy, who Paul had expressly confirmed a Jew for the purpose of reaching Jews. Under Paul’s direct guidance it grew and multiplied, as in Antioch, with both circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles accepted into the assembly. See the post Your First Love for more detail.
“Paul…came to Ephesus…and he went into the synagogue…But when divers…spake evil of that way [Jewish sect] before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus…by the space of two years…all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks…So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed…And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.” (Acts 19:1-23)
Have you ever gotten discouraged to the point of giving up when all your efforts seem pointless? Almost 20 years after the establishment of the church of Ephesus, knowing that the mother church at Jerusalem was about to be smashed and scattered, Paul wrote his literary and doctrinal masterpiece on the form and function of joint Jewish-Gentile leadership. This was the first time this doctrine was articulated.
Ephesus’ location and sphere of influence made their assembly the logical one to pick up the reigns of leadership dropped by Jerusalem. But Paul’s letter went over like a lead balloon. The Ephesian church rejected Paul’s teaching, sacked Timothy who turned to evangelism instead, and used their influence to lead all in Asia to abandon Paul as well.
Not what you were taught? Check out the timeline and the content in the letters Paul wrote to the other Gentile churches. Details in the post Your First Love.
Jesus informs them, and us – that she fell away from her first love. What would that be?
Basing our analysis on the biblical record, that can only be love for the Hebrew Bible, Paul’s Torah based teaching, and identification with the Israel of God. Not popular after 70 AD when the Jews were declared enemies of Rome.
First love is an impetuous force that drives actions from the heart that benefit the loved one. This is so contrary to human nature that it needs to be continuously re-energized by actions from the heart, or it gets lost over time, gradually replaced by a cost-benefit analysis calculating what’s best for the giver or returns the highest numbers.
The primacy of this church – not the one in Rome – can be seen in the fact that Jesus sent his last apostle, John, to shore up their ministry after he was released from Patmos. And it appears he was successful in executing Paul’s vision of including Gentiles in leadership. Timothy was welcomed back as bishop. Various traditions report that Paul’s devoted disciple Onesimus became the bishop of Ephesus. John was often asked to go to the neighboring districts to appoint Gentile bishops and ordain pastors. Clement of Alexandria, writing towards the end of the seco
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” (Revelation 2:5-6)
Ephesus’ repentance didn’t last, and Yeshua’s judgment was imposed on Ephesus.
Ephesus was taken in 655 and 717 by Islamic Arabs.
The city was captured in 1090 and destroyed by the Turko-Persian Sunni Moslem Seljuk Turks, but the Byzantines succeeded in retaking it and rebuilt it on the neighbouring hills around the church of St. John. The city was again plundered by the Turks in the first years of the fourteenth century, then by the Catalonian mercenaries in the pay of the Byzantines, and once more by the Turks. The church of St. John was transformed into a mosque, and the city was ruled by a Turkish ameer, who carried on a little trade with the West, but it could no longer maintain its Greek bishop.
The ruin of Ephesus was completed by Timur-Leng / Tamerlane in 1403 and by nearly a half-century of civil wars among its Turkish masters…in 1439 Mark of Ephesus (Marcus Eugenicus)…was the pastor of a miserable village, all that remained of the great city which Pliny once called…lumen Asiae.
Smyrna – The Crisis Church
“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”
During the Roman period, Smyrna was apparently a city of great beauty and impressive architecture that circled Mount Pagus like a “crown”... (cf. Revelation 2:10 “crown of life”). Walking through the city, one would a see…temples to Zeus (including a large altar), Cybele (the Mother Goddess, near the harbor), Aphrodite, Dionysius, and the Emperors (probably Tiberius in 26 AD and Domitian before 96 AD), the harbor, a library, and a massive agora…In the 2nd century AD, Smyrna built another imperial temple to Hadrian. Along with inscriptions honoring the emperors and statues of Domitian and Trajan, coins issued by the city often depicted emperors and even the imperial temples, so it is obvious that Smyrna was dedicated to the worship of the emperor and the imperial cult…
Written during the time of Domitian and Christian persecution, the church at Smyrna faced even more opposition than most, due to the strong influence of emperor worship in the city, which at that time was required by law and punishable by imprisonment or death. An interpretation of the reference to the “synagogue of Satan” is tentative, but it may refer to Jews who not only opposed Christianity, but also participated in the imperial cult. Like many other cities of Asia Minor, there was a significant community of Jews, including at least one synagogue. Unfortunately, many of these Jews were fiercely opposed to Christianity, and just as Paul and his friends had been opposed and attacked by Jews in other cities, the Christians in Smyrna also faced persecution from not only the pagans, but the Jews. Polycarp, who had known and been taught by John the Apostle, was martyred in Smyrna at the instigation of Jews in about 156 AD (Martyrdom of Polycarp; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History).
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
The ten days / eras of tribulation can be tentatively identified through history documented in Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ, and the reports of the early church historian Eusebius.
- Nero (reigned 54-68) ushered in the first empire-wide persecution of Christians in 64 when a fire burned out of control in Rome for nine days, destroying two thirds of Rome. Thousands of people were killed, hundreds of thousands made homeless and destitute. A hostile public accused Nero of torching Rome in order to rebuild a more luxuriant capitol like Alexandria or Antioch. To deflect their anger away from himself, Nero accused and convicted a defenseless and expendable minority. Christians were executed with exquisite cruelty topped by mocker. Some were covered with skins of wild beasts and left to be devoured by feral dogs; others were crucified; numbers were burned alive with some being covered with pitch and set on fire to serve as torches. Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome during Nero’s rule.
- Domitian (81-96) was a profligate like Nero who elevated himself to godhood. He required officials to refer to him in their documents as “Our Lord and God,” and the populace to sacrifice to his image. Remember, a sacrifice unites the identity of the god with the human, and “no man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). In 93 he organized persecution against Jews and Christians who refused. During this time John was banished to Patmos.
Notice that these two periods of persecution preceded John’s writing while at Patmos, so they aren’t included in the ten “day” but gave the Smyrnans a solid basis to understand and prepare for what was to come.
- By 112 persecution of Christians had become so intense that Trajan (98-117) issued a decree that Christians should not be hunted, only punished if encountered. Persecution broke out sporadically in one city at a time as a result of popular uprisings in the same way that riots in America were aroused by certain incidents in particular cities.
- In 156 under Antonius Pius Smyrna came under most savage persecution. Consistent with Jesus’ characterization of the unbelieving Jews as belonging to the synagogue of Satan, they inflamed the persecution. We can deduce that the church at Smyrna, like the church at Ephesus under Paul, were winning too many converts and disrupting the financial and power base of the status quo. In a letter sent to other churches detailing the persecution, some martyrs were whipped with scourges to a degree that their entrails and internal organs were laid bare. Some were forced to lie on sharp spikes. After going through every kind of torture they were thrown to the beasts for food. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and a companion of the Apostle John, was burned alive. It is reported of him that “at all times he taught the things which he had learnt from the apostles.”
- In 177 under Marcus Aurelius persecution flared up in mob onslaughts in city after city. Martyrs “heroically endured whatever the surging crowd heaped on them, noisy abuse, blows, dragging along the ground, plundering, stoning, imprisonment and everything that an infuriated mob normally does to hated enemies.” Torture was inflicted through the rack, whipping, mauling by beasts, being roasted in an iron chair, and being burned alive.”
- In 193-211 under Severus many overcame torture to remain faithful unto death, like Potameaena of Alexandria. “The judge, Aquila, subjected her whole body to dreadful agonies, and finally threatened to hand her over to the gladiators for bodily insult…Slowly, drop by drop, boiling pitch was poured over different parts of her body, from her toes to the crown of her head. Such was the battle won by this splendid girl.”
- In 235-238 Maximin instigated persecution of the leaders only of the churches.
- In 249-251 Decius ordered Christians to participate in heathen sacrifices. A letter to the church in Antioch describes how “they all ran in a body to the houses of the Christians, charged in by groups on those they knew as neighbors, raided, plundered, and looted.” One man who refused to utter blasphemous words was cudgeled, had pointed reeds driven into his face and eyes, and stoned to death. One woman was dragged by her feet over the cobbled street, beaten as they went, then stoned to death. One old lady was battered until her teeth were knocked out, then threatened with being burned unless she uttered the heathen incantations. She jumped into the fire on her own. No roadway was safe to traverse, always and everywhere everybody was shouting that anyone who did not join the blasphemous changes must at once be dragged away and burned. A vast number fled the cities, wandering over deserts and mountains until hunger, thirst, cold, sickness, bandits or wild beasts destroyed them. Many were enslaved by Saracens.
- In 253-260 Valarien’s seven year reign was marked by strong parallels with John’s description of the Antichrist. At first friendly and cooperative with Christians, he then took measures to rid his empire of them.
- In 284 during Diocletian’s reign, despite these persecutions, the church had swelled in numbers and strength throughout the empire. Even the Emperor’s wife and daughter were professing Christians. Old places of worship were torn down and spacious edifices built. “But increasing freedom transformed our character to arrogance…we began envying and abusing each other…with weapons of sharp-edged words.” (Eusebius) An imperial decree ordered the heads of churches everywhere to be imprisoned. During this time a Christian who refused to sacrifice was stripped, hoisted up naked, and his whole body scourged. Vinegar and salt was poured over his lacerated body, then piece by piece his body was roasted in a brazier. Some martyrs were torn to bits from head to foot with shards of pottery as sharp as claws, some crucified, some crucified head-down which allowed breathing so extended the torture even longer, and left to starve to death. Women were stripped naked, tied by one foot and hoisted high in the air head down presenting the most shameful and brutal spectacles. Others had their legs tied to tree branches forced down by the aid of machinery, which, when released back to their upright positions would slowly tear about the limbs of the victims. There are accounts of occasions where on a single day 100 men, women and children were tortured to death in an ever-changing succession of torments for the entertainment of the masses.
- in 286-305 under Maximian martyrs were killed in Arabia by the ax (doesn’t sound so bad in comparison, right?) in Cappadocia by breaking their legs, in Mesopotamia by being hung head down over a slow fire to be smothered by smoke, in Alexandria butchered like meat, in Antioch slow roasted over a brazier, In Pontus unmentionable and shameful suffering inflicted in their private parts and bowels.
- In 305-313 Maximin, the eastern potentate of a divided and crumbling Roman Empire, banished and attacked Christians.
After Constantine seized the day and the empire from Maximin and legalized Christianity, Smyrna prospered as a commercial gateway to the East, which then attracted the attention of many invaders.
- In 1084 the Seljuk Turks destroyed Smyrna and gave their name to the region.
- In 1130 the Persians destroyed the rebuilt Smyrna
- In 1402 Tamerlaine razed Smyrna and butchered the inhabitants in a legendary orgy of cruelty, raising a monument to himself with a thousand skulls.
In 1922 Smyrna was erased from the map, replaced by the Moslem city of Izmir.
in the final act in Turkey’s genocide of its Christian minorities...Mustapha Kemal’s army entered Smyrna on September 9th, 1922. By September 22nd…fire — lit by Turkish forces — swept through the city and burned the Greek and Armenian quarters to the ground, erasing anything that would remind future generations of their presence…
At the time, the city of Smyrna was predominantly Greek [Orthodox], known for its thriving commercial trade.
Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the Turkish troops, was a firebrand who made it known that he wanted to be called the founder of “New Islam…” The Allied Navy, comprised of the American, British and French ships anchored off the port…were a guarantee of their safety, they thought…
However…The Allied sailors and soldiers watched the Turkish troops unleash their hate on the non-Turkish residents — but…did nothing to intervene in the atrocity. Patriarch Chrysostomos, the head of all the Greek Orthodox faithful around the world, was hanged by Turkish soldiers after being brutally tortured. The atrocities had no end until Smyrna was emptied [of Christians].
Pergamos – The Corrupt Church
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.”
Wow. Satan’s seat, his government headquarters where he keeps a permanent residence, would be the equivalent of Washington DC. Wouldn’t that be in Rome? But our Lord is telling us that it is in Pergamos! Why on earth in Pergamos?
There must surely be a connection with the nearby prehistoric temple complex Gobekli Tepe.
“This is the first human-built holy place…”
we can see to the horizon in nearly every direction…”This area was like a paradise,” says Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute. Indeed, Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant. And partly because Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity’s first “cathedral on a hill.”
So where did the vast number of laborers needed for such a building project reside? Close we find “the world’s oldest town” Catalhoyuk.
One of the primary goals of the archaeological work is to gain some insight into why people chose to settle in communities like Catalhoyuk…The village had no streets or alleyways. Houses were packed so close together people entered their houses through their roofs and often went from place to place via the roofs, which were made of wood and reeds plastered with mud and often reached by ladders and stairways.
This describes a fort or a prison.
a 32-acre site in southern Turkey… Çatalhöyük was home to as many as 8,000 people at its peak…
Recently, archaeologists…discovered “a compelling record of elevated levels of interpersonal violence”…About 25% of the 95 examined skulls showed healed injuries made by small spherical projectiles, probably a clay ball flung by a slingshot. Many of these clay spheres were also preserved around the site, according to the study.
See the post Sin City for details on the development and use of cities by Cain and his line to achieve domination. It’s just basic military strategy of gathering necessary resources.
Pergamos, AKA Pergamon, benefited greatly from becoming one of the first and most loyal supporters of Rome during the transition of power from Greece to Rome during the first and second Macedonian Wars (~240-200 BC).
Ah-ha! This makes sense now, in light of the spiritual forces behind the scenes in human government.
“Fear not, Daniel…I am come for thy words.
- Babylon, the first empire of this series, was already conquered by Persian at the time of this prophecy
- But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me…and when I am gone forth, lo,
- the prince of Grecia shall come…And a mighty king [Alexander the Great] shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And…his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity [Alexander’s four generals]…
- even for others beside those…the king of the north shall come (Daniel 11)
While Seleucid kings can certainly be identified in some of the actions of one or another individual labeled a king of the north, that doesn’t exclude Roman rulers from also being referenced. Cycles and repeating patterns of history are not only common but reported in announcements like “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be…” (Luke 17:26). Specific to the prophecy, actions known to have been performed by the third empire ruler Antiochus Epiphanes are prophecied to be repeated by a Roman emperor in the 1st Century
“arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. (v 31)
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…” (Matthew 24:15)
Daniel wouldn’t name Rome because, at the time of the prophecy in the 6th century BC, it was only a backwater frontier fort.
Possibly Carthage could have won the Punic Wars and become the fourth great Empire, Carthage was certainly fighting for the honor. Based on Daniel’s revelation, spirit beings swayed the balance of power to Rome.
Including Satan himself, naturally. But that doesn’t mean he moved his seat of government to Europe. He is deeply attached to the cradle of his civilization.
The known history of Babylon…begins with its most famous king: Hammurabi...This obscure Amorite [AKA hybrid giant, see the post A Nimrod By Any Name]…transformed the city into one of the most powerful and influential in all of Mesopotamia…
The Assyrian Ashurbanipal of Nineveh (r. 668-627 BCE)…besieged and defeated the city but did not damage it to any great extent and, in fact, personally purified Babylon of the evil spirits which were thought to have led to the trouble. The reputation of the city as a center of learning and culture was already well established by this time.
Under Persian rule…Cyrus and his successors…made it the administrative capital of their empire…Babylonian mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy were highly respected.
Alexander the Great in 331 BCE…also gave great reverence to the city.
Alexander also kept the seat of government of his conquered eastern territories in Babylon.
For those of us who believe in the spirit world, Satan’s backing of Seleucus is evident by the transfer of Babylon to Seleucus, and Seleucus’ success during the interminable power struggles between Alexander’s hopeful successors in the Wars of the Diadochi. However, the many battles over Alexander’s empire in general, and the city of Babylon specifically, led to the destruction of Babylon. By the time the Parthian Empire ruled the region in 141 BCE, Babylon was deserted and forgotten.
Forcing Satan to move his seat of government. Remember, Satan knows scripture, so he was aware of the upcoming fourth empire, so he moved East.
This was unfolding during the Punic [for Phoenician] Wars from 264 BC – 146 BC between Rome, which had become the dominant power in the Italian peninsula, and Carthage, the greatest marine power in the Mediterranean. Built on the considerable wealth, knowledge and connections of Phoenician refugees from Alexander’s destruction of the great industrial and trade center of Tyre in 332 BCE, Carthage had a really good shot at becoming the fourth empire.
So the logical place to face off against the rising power of the fourth empire was the western tip of his Seleucid empire.
And that was Pergamon. It all makes sense when we view world history from military strategy perspectives.
After backing the right horse in the Roman–Seleucid War of 192-188, Pergamon was rewarded with the bulk of the Seleucid territories, making it one of the major cultural centres of the Greek world, This kingdom was so large and rich that when the king of Pergamon died without an heir in 133 BC and bequeathed Pergamon to Rome, it was divided between Rome, Pontus, and Cappadocia, with the bulk of its territory becoming the new Roman province of Asia.
- Pliny the Elder refers to the city as the most important in the province of Asia at the time, and the local aristocracy reached the highest circles of power in government at Rome. Think of the governor of Georgia becoming president of the country.
- In 123 Hadrian elevated Pergamos above its local rivals, Ephesus and Smyrna by rewarding it the rank of metropolis – a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. At this time Pergamon was one of the largest cities in the province of Asia, along with Ephesus and Smyrna, and had around 200,000 inhabitants.
- Pergamos expanded its shrine to Asclepius (the god of healing) into a lavish spa which was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers of the Roman world. Galen, the most famous physician of antiquity aside from Hippocrates, was born at Pergamon and received his early training at the Asclepeion.
Most significant of all, the first imperial cult in the province of Asia was established in Pergamos, for Augustus, the first imperial cultist. Pergamos was rewarded with a coveted neocorate, a rank or dignity granted to cities which built temples to the Emperor or established cults of the Imperial family. The city received a second neocorate, from Trajan in AD 113/4, and its third from Caracalla about a hundred years later.
Many remains of Pergamon’s cult temples can still be seen – especially the masterpiece of the Pergamon Altar.
Pop quiz: Who is being worshipped at the this altar?
The Gigantomachy frieze on the outside walls of the Pergamon altar…The struggle of the Olympian gods, supported by Heracles, the astrological deities governing the days and hours and originating in the ancient race of the Titans, personifications of the forces of war and fate, sea creatures, and Dionysus with his followers, appears much rather to be a cosmological event of general ethical relevance. It…was certainly not designed without political considerations, as was the case with all artistic image metaphors depicting the struggle between the good and just principle — the Olympian gods and their helpers — and evil — the chaotic forces of nature in the form of the earthbound Giants…especially Zeus [deduced to be Satan in the post The Seed of the Serpent] father of the gods, and his daughter Athena, since they appear in prominent locations of the Gigantomachy frieze…
No research is undisputed concerning this most famous artistic masterpiece of Pergamon, neither the builder nor the date nor the occasion nor the purpose of the construction. –Wolfgang Radt
it is undisputed that the great altar of Pergamon is one of the most significant works, if not the apex, of Hellenistic art.
Its thousands of fragments were painstakingly excavated from 1878 until 1886 and its pieces transported to Berlin and the altar reconstructed and displayed in the new museum named the Pergamon Museum. This museum also houses a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon.
So the church at Pergamos were up against the lead adversary of all, and Jesus Christ understood that. Over and over he reminds us that the criteria by which our works are judged are faithfulness and perseverance, not productivity.
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.”
“Nicolaitans”...derived from two Gr. words, nikan, which meant “to conquer” and laos, which meant “people…”Balaam…from two Heb. words, bela which meant “to conquer” and ha’am, which meant “people…” the Gr. and Heb. forms of the same name…the seduction of the Israelites into immoral and idolatrous unions wth the women of Moab (Num 25:1-5…Numbers 31:16) [is] attributed…to the evil influence of a prophet named Balaam…The decree of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:28, 29) had laid down…two specific conditions upon which Gentiles were to be admitted into Christian fellowship: they were to abstain from things offered to idols and from fornication. These were the very regulations which the Nicolaitans violated.
IIrenaeus said that they were followers of Nicolaus of Antioch, a proselyte who was among the seven men chosen to serve the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 6:5), who had forsaken true Christian doctrine…Clement of Alexandria…observed that the Nicolaitans abandoned themselves to pleasures like goats in a life of shameless self-indulgence (The Miscellianes 2:20).
They were a people who used Christian liberty as an occasion for the flesh, against such Paul warned (Gal 5:13). The…pagan society in which Christians lived…eating meat offered to idols was common. Sex relations outside marriage were completely acceptable…The Nicolaitans attempted to establish a compromise with the pagan society of the Graeco-Roman world that surrounded them. The people most susceptible to such teaching were, no doubt, the upper classes who stood to lose the most by a separation from the culture…
They prob. reasoned that…A Christian…was the recipient of grace which meant that grace and forgiveness were his no matter what he did. They were those ready to compromise with the world. They were judged by the author of Revelation to be most dangerous because the result of their teaching would have conformed Christianity to the world rather than have Christianity change the world.
And isn’t that exactly what happened? Like Gomer, Pergamos committed spiritual adultery with her pagan neighbors, and her bastard son is politicized Christianity.
“Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)
Pop quiz. Where did Satan move his seat? No, not Rome.
[T]he empire would see over 20 emperors rise and fall in the almost 50 years between 235-284 CE as compared with the 26 emperors who reigned from the time of Augustus Caesar (27 BCE – 14 CE) to Severus, 27 BCE – 235 CE, a period of over 250 years. The empire was restored through the efforts of Emperor Aurelian (270-275 CE) whose initiatives were developed further by Diocletian (284-305 CE) who is credited with ending the crisis and ensuring the future survival of the empire…
His final solution…was his famous division of the realm between the Eastern and the Western Roman Empires, which made each more manageable under the reign of their respective emperors…the Western Roman Empire for almost 200 years and the Eastern Roman Empire (known as the Byzantine Empire) until 1453 CE.
Thyatira – The Collaborating Church
“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” (Revelation 2:18-2)
Thyatira is not as famous as the preceding cities. The only archeological history that relates to the letter to the church is that the twins Artemis and Apollo were especially worshipped in Thyatria.
Jezebel’s father, King Eth-baal, held absolute power and was ‘a priest of Astarte’… thus, many present-day scholars accept that Jezebel herself was given the position of a priestess of Baal.
As detailed above, the Greek gods were the same entities worshipped by the preceding societies. The highest ranking was the Mother Goddess – the Sumerian Inana, her later Akkadian manifestation as Ishtar, and the Phoenician Astarte. These divinities were associated with power, fertility, and war, and were characterized by fierce jealousy and aggressive sexuality.
And that describes Jezebel.
No biblical female is more synonymous with evil than Jezebel…This ninth-century B.C. pagan queen of Israel is the epitome of “the wicked woman”. For more than 2,000 years, she has evolved as such an enduring symbol of female depravity that it’s highly unlikely any Christian children have ever been baptized in her name.
Uh, not true.
The woman in Thyatira may have actually been named Jezebel – like the Spanish Queen Isabela and many Christian medieval queen consorts of England, France, Portugal, the Holy Roman Empire and Hungary.
“Its meaning “Devoted to God” is lovely.” For more than 2,000 years Christians have embraced the name by allowing the root word bel or Baal, which is a generic term for any one of the horde of minor pagan lords or gods, to also reference the one and only Christian Lord.
And then there’s Bella of Twilight fame, the meek girl who becomes an empowered feminist, and inspires young girls to hunger for the same experience and mothers to vicariously meet their needs by naming their daughters some version of that name. The tidal wave of influence that one single Isa-Jeze / Belle can wreak is demonstrated in our day.
Isabella is a major superstar among popular girls’ names. Isabella was the top girls’ name in the US for two years running- from 2009 to 2010—due at least in part to the ‘Twilight‘ effect and lead character Isabella ‘Bella’ Swan.
“I don’t have the strength to stay away from you any more,” says Edward Cullen to Bella Swan in the first Twilight movie. “You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.”
Thus began the unforeseen addiction of millions of human teenagers to the five-film vampire saga, which took $3.3bn worldwide, became a cultural phenomenon, and altered the future of female-led cinema for ever…
“The part that shocked Hollywood was that the film’s stunning success was fuelled by ‘girl power.’”
Let’s, just for the sake of argument, assume that Jesus Christ is flagging the scripture which features Jezebel. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.) There we find the same situation of opportunistic collaboration, “defined as cooperation between elements of the population of a defeated state and representatives of a victorious power.” Jezebel is the puppet master to her husband Ahab who constantly wavers between standing up for God and falling into Jezebel’s arms.
Sidon was wicked, yes, but rich. And people can wink at an awful (in case you miss it that’s a double entendre) lot of wrong-doing when money is involved.
Sidon [was] both rich and famous and…known for being very cosmopolitan and ‘progressive’….In the 10th century BCE, the balance of power shifted [from Sidon] to Tyre primarily due to…trade agreements with the newly minted kingdom of Israel-Judah and her king David…Sidon, trying to compete, entered into their own pacts with the kingdom of Israel.
A diplomatic marriage to Jezebel meant advantageous connections…With his marriage to Jezebel, Ahab inherited connections with foreign lands and commodities such as cedar and ivory, as well as craftsmen to be at his disposal. In other words, for him this was a very beneficial marriage. What Jezebel herself thought of the marriage we will never knowons. It must also be recalled that the Bible stated that Ahab fathered 70 sons, all living in Samaria (2 Kings 10:1), which meant that if we do take this as being historically accurate, that he must have been involved sexually with several women and either had other wives besides Jezebel or several concubines…”it is an immutable principle that the same person cannot invoke two sacred fires or two series of ancestors…”realistically, international marriage introduced foreign practices to the new homeland.
It is important here to outline briefly the juxtaposition between the religious attitudes of Phoenicia and Israel, and the magnitude of importance of cult in the everyday life of citizens, and more importantly, the royal household. It must be noted that although monotheism (Yahweh) was the state religion of Israel, other forms of religion, primarily paganism, encompassing household cults…persisted and were perceived in the eyes of the biblical authors as a hazard that threatened the very foundations of Yahwism…
Historian Morton Smith once stated that “in a monotheistic environment, monolatry is perfectly sensible; you worship one god because it is the only one. In contrast, restricting worship to one god when others are acknowledged to exist is difficult to uphold…”
Although for centuries Yahwism had struggled with the suppression of goddess worship, the prophet stories of the two Books of Kings bear eloquent testimony to a time of extreme crisis in Israel: Ahab, his sons and especially his Phoenician wife were promoting Baalism and the religion of Israel was facing a great threat…Elijah, the chief prophet of God, publicly and feverishly protests against proclivity towards the cult of Baal, the Canaanite fertility cult and the amoral nature of worship in Canaan…
Jezebel’s death was the most vividly described murder in the entire Bible—no other comes close. This woman’s death is a grotesque and frightening example to all (especially women) flirting with the concept of venerating foreign deities and turning away from their one true God, and additionally, in the case of women, disregarding their submissive roles and transgressing the sphere to which God appointed them (Genesis 3:16).
The Bible states overtly that Jezebel was a Phoenician, and her wicked religion was attested to in several chapters—especially regarding the immoral act of child sacrifice by flame (Judges 10:6; 2 Kings 16:13; Isaiah 57:5; Ezekiel 16:21).
Anyone who advocates absolutely for women’s rights, no holds barred, has to overlook the practice of burning a living child to death – wether by flames or caustic additives to amniotic fluid in the uterus. The photo seen here is that of a baby killed by this method after attempting to pummel and kick his way out of the uterus for two hours. Be grateful I didn’t attach a video of a screaming toddler being burned to death in a blazing fire.
The Deuteronomistic Historians blamed Jezebel, a convenient scapegoat, for the apostasy of the Israelites. Due to her marriage to Ahab, she was able to advocate a form of paganism that threatened Israelite monotheistic religion…
Are you hearing this argument? “What” is being advocated is unimportant. The only consideration by the feminist author of this thesis is that Jezebel was “scapegoated because” she was a powerful and influential woman.
a challenge was set between Yahweh and the pagan Baal and Asherah cults. Asherah and Astarte are the later evolved versions of Athirat, an Ugaritic Goddess dating before 1200 BCE. The term asherah as Gaines (2013, 8–9) explains, appears at least 50 times within the Hebrew Bible (often translated as “sacred post or pillar” or grove). It is used to refer to three manifestations of the goddess (e.g., 2 Kings 21:7); a tree (Deuteronomy 16:21); and a tree trunk, or sacred post (Deuteronomy 7:5, 12:3)…at one time was considered the consort of Yahweh, only to die out with the beginning of the monotheistic religion of Yahweh.
Jezebel (not Ahab) has her own table of prophets; thus, some scholars deduce that she would have had control of her own wealth…as the feeding and maintaining of 900 prophets would be costly. It would also imply that it was initially Jezebel committing the sin of apostasy and that Ahab was a gullible follower, linked by marriage. Therefore, it could be stated that Jezebel herself held considerable power within the royal courts and was a force to be reckoned with…
We should be hearing the intonation of pride when reading “a force to be reckoned with.”
The site of Mount Carmel was a particularly significant choice of battle ground for the contest between Gods, as it was part of the border territory disputed by the Phoenicians and Israelites…
the Phoenician Baal…dwelt upon Mount Saphon…the Minoans and many Mediterranean cultures also honoured their gods at peak sanctuaries; archaeologists have an impressive quantity of evidence authenticating this.
Jezebel’s Phoenician bloodline boasted many omnipotent kings who held virtually unlimited authority to do as they pleased, when they pleased, unlike Ahab, whose power was circumscribed by his people’s religion.
Do we not hear the schizophrenic contradictory elements of this thought process? The Yahwist religion circumscribed the power of the ruler but in the case of YHVH that’s a bad thing and Jezebel gets to exercise totalitarianism in the name of feminism.
Although both theocratic in rule, in Phoenicia, “temple and palace retained an almost absolute power in this sense, especially if we bear in mind that the function of the chief priest was in the hands of the king himself or of members of the royal family.” As a result, Jezebel the Phoenician princess was accustomed to royal prerogative…Therefore, Jezebel perceived the refusal of Naboth to sell his vineyard as insubordination towards the king. It must be remembered that Jezebel, royally educated from birth to govern, daughter of the king of Tyre,318 priestess of the cult of Baal,319 wife of the king of the Northern Kingdom, was accustomed to taking political matters in hand, making decisions and achieving goals; in which the latter two could possibly be seen as similar to the ‘ideal woman’ presented within the Bible (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 31)…
Jezebel formulated a plan…clever Jezebel is careful not to overstep the boundaries of established royal prerogative within Israelite society. She seems to know her place, first as a woman, second as a queen, and observes the appropriate royal conventions. She writes, but she does so in the name of Ahab. In these letters, Jezebel proclaims a feast day, during which she plans to have two ‘scoundrels’ testify that Naboth, while at the feast day table, cursed both God and king—a formidable charge which will cost Naboth his life (1 Kings 21:12). Subsequently, Naboth is found guilty and taken outside the city and stoned (1 Kings 21:13)…The Bible records that “the elders and the nobles who lived in [Naboth’s] town…did as Jezebel had instructed them” (1 Kings 21:11). If this story is true, it appears that Jezebel wielded a great deal of power over Northern Israel, as she was able to enlist the support of many significant townspeople, none of whom betrayed her or her plan. Thus they aided her in orchestrating the murder of a man whom they had probably known for their entire lives and who was completely innocent…
Most would perceive the treatment of Naboth as a malicious act by Jezebel, yet Tikva Frymer-Kensky states that “[the] picture of the supporting wife is consistent, so that even the villainess Queen Jezebel acts as a model wife when she steps in to help her husband realise his desire for Naboth’s vineyard, defying Israelite limitations on her royal power.” As soon as Jezebel hears that Naboth was stoned and is dead, she commands Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead” (1 Kings 21:15). Of the Ten Commandments Jezebel has grossly violated four: coveting a neighbour’s field (Law 10), bearing false witness (Law 9), theft (Law 8), and finally murder (Law 6) (Deuteronomy 5:6–21)…
when Jehu makes his comments about Jezebel’s ‘whoredoms’ and ‘sorceries’ (2 Kings 9:22), Jezebel’s first ‘crime’ against Yahweh returns to mind…The same religious aspects (in regards to the worship of Asherah) which Jezebel and Ahab took part of was also mentioned with prejudice in another biblical passage about pagan ‘whoredoms’. In Hosea 4:12–13, the prophet claims:
My people consult a piece of wood, and their divining rod gives them oracles, for a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have played the whore, forsaking their god. They sacrifice on the tops of mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery.
Although Jezebel’s life features in only two books of the Bible, her name resonates throughout history and when mentioned now still evokes a reaction (albeit mostly negative).
Thus, “Jezebel is not single, but multiple; she is not restricted to one [era], but belongs to many eras.”
There must be a good reason why so much space in the Bible’s 4,000 year history of humanity is given to Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel. The following is summarized from I Kings 16-22, but additional history is found in II Kings 1-10 and II Chronicles 18-22. The reason is so that we will recognize patterns of behavior and act accordingly.
“Ahab…took to wife Jeze-bel the daughter of Eth-baal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him…and..Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord…there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up..
Ahab’s kingdom was inferior to Sidon. He had majorly married above himself with Jezebel, so we can understand how he would defer to her. But there is another ruler whose actions are completely unexpected.
Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel…doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD…And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel…And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramothgilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.”
Why would righteous Jehoshaphat allow puppet-master Jezebel to dictate his behavior, however subtly through Ahab? We can’t guess, we must derive the answer from the evidence given. It should not come as a surprise that Jehoshaphat also wanted to benefit his domain by piggy-backing onto Ahab-Jezebel’s connections.
However well intentioned good King Jehoshaphat was in protecting his own kingdom by forging a military alliance against a formidable foe, or even hoping to win the malleable – i.e. two-faced – Ahab to the LORD through friendship, the ends don’t justify the means. Christ doesn’t suffer / tolerate people who violate his commands to come out from pagan society and be separate in spiritual matters.
“The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin…said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.” (Ezra 4:1-2)
Not entirely true. Not if you think of truth as clearcut as black and white. But most people handle the truth in shades of gray. Given the patterns of behavior of pagan cultures, this undoubtedly was one of their fifty shades of gray.
“the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day [“this day” being the same as the documentation of the voluntary return of captives from the Assyrian captivity of Israel along with captives from the Babylonian captivity of Judah.] And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sephardim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria…And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them. Wherefore…the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence…and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Howbeit every [polytheistic] nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt…So these nations feared the LORD [with sacrifices to placate him], AND served their graven images.” (II Kings 17)
But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel… And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat, And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful…to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 4,6)
The work of the house of God is no different in the New Testament.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for
- what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?
- what communion hath light with darkness?
- what concord hath Christ with Bel-ial?
- what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
- what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?
for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the LORD Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:14-18)
in contrast to… ‘religions of the book’, which are based on an authoritative text or texts, traditional polytheisms possess no single legitimate (and legitimizing) written statement of their beliefs, no ‘scripture’. Therefore they are not centred on dogmas whose acceptance is obligatory for all members of the community…”The ancients knew what they were about when they ‘did’ religion…
There is no culture recorded in human history which has not practices some form of religion…consisted of regular rituals based on a belief in higher supernatural entities who created and continued to maintain the world and surrounding cosmos…a human being’s place in the world, life after death, eternity, and how to escape from suffering in this world or in the next…
The many gods of the…ancient world…functioned as specialists in their respective areas.
Most Roman households featured a niche or altar designed for private worship, called the lararium...Families would arrange religious statuettes, such as the ones included in this exhibit, within lararia. [Reminds me of a display of prized action figures.]
The statuettes featured in this exhibition illustrate the polytheistic and cross-cultural confluence of ancient Mediterranean religions…exemplify the Romans’ assimilation of foreign religious cults…
Humans were created…to work with and for the gods toward a mutually beneficial end…The gods repaid humans for their service by taking care of their daily needs in life…These gods intimately knew the needs of the people because they were not distant entities who lived in the heavens but dwelt in homes on earth built for them by their people; these homes were the temples which were raised in every Mesopotamian city…where their statues were fed, bathed, and clothed daily as the priests and priestesses cared for them as one would a king or queen…Marduk, for example.
See the post Seed of the Serpent for details on this individual.
Inanna…was greatly revered as the goddess of love, sex, and war…one the earliest examples of the dying-and-reviving god figure who goes down into the underworld and returns to life…her worship spread across all of Mesopotamia from…Sumer. She became Ishtar of the Akkadians (and later the Assyrians), Astarte of the Phoenicians…and was associated with Aphrodite of the Greeks, Isis of the Egyptians, and Venus of the Romans…
there were many different deities (over 250), all of whom had their own special sphere of influence. They controlled the weather, the harvest, they dictated one’s mate, presided over every birth, and were present at one’s death…
The importance of remembrance of the dead as part of one’s religious devotions by the living kept the soul of the deceased alive in the afterlife…
In Rome, the worship of the gods was intimately tied to affairs of state and the stability of the society was thought to rest on how well the people revered the gods and participated in the rituals which honored them…
The religions of the ancient world shared many of the same patterns with each other even though the cultures may never have had any contact with each other…belief structures, stories, and most significant figures in ancient mythology are remarkably similar from culture to culture…the existence of many gods who take a personal interest in the lives of people; creation by a supernatural entity who speaks it, fashions it, or commands it into existence; other supernatural beings emanating from the first and greatest one; a supernatural explanation for the creation of…human beings; a relationship between the created humans and their creator god requiring worship and sacrifice.
There is also the repetition of the figure known as the Dying and Reviving God, often a powerful entity himself, who is killed or dies and comes back to life for the good of his people: Osiris in Egypt, Krishna in India, the Maize God in Mesoamerica, Bacchus in Rome, Attis in Greece, Tammuz in Mesopotamia…
The Phoenician tale of the great god Baal who dies and returns to life to battle the chaos of the god Yamm was already old in 2750 BCE when the city of Tyre was founded (according to Herodotus) and the Greek story of the dying and reviving god Adonis (c. 600 BCE) was derived from earlier Phoenician tales based on Tammuz which was borrowed by the Sumerians (and later the Persians) in the famous Descent of Inanna myth. There is often an afterlife…
Christians were simply following in the footsteps of the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans all of whom had their own stylized rituals for the worship of their gods…to provide human beings with the understanding that they are not alone in their struggles, suffering, and triumphs, that they can restrain their baser urges, and that death is not the end of existence. The religions of the ancient world…are no different than those faiths practiced in the world today.
Oh, but the vast majority of the faiths practiced in the world today are monotheistic! Only a fringe element are pagans!
But here’s the rub. The antithesis of “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) is actually not polytheism but self-empowerment – making self the lord instead of worshipping the LORD.
Self-empowerment, not polytheism, strikes at the very heart of darkness, going back to the original sin in the Garden of Evil. Remember, the Serpent didn’t seduce the woman into worshipping him instead of YHVH. The Serpent seduced the woman into becoming her own power and authority by the expedient of knowledge obtained through relationships with lesser gods who, unlike that “control freak”, were willing to share their resources.
That’s what polytheism offers. No rules. No long-term commitment. Just fee-for-service empowerment of the self-centered individual, however much a sociopath he or she might be.
As you read the following feminist perspective of Jezebel of Tyre, consider how Jezebel of Thyatira could have so easily used these same arguments to seduce her followers, just like Bella of the Twilight series, not with overt wickedness but with visions of self empowerment.
The Biblical Jezebel has been ‘reclaimed’ by feminists and ‘denounced’ by fundamentalists (at Jezebel’s time known as ‘passionate’ Yahweh adherents) for nearly three millennia. These contrasting extremes often lack a judicious assessment of the evidence…this thesis takes a ‘middle road’ by looking at powerful women (mortal or semi-divine) and goddesses contemporary to Jezebel…
I will argue that Jezebel, like many other women of the Bible, has been unfairly tarred with the brush of the Deuteronomistic Historians, devout monotheists…
In the biblical story, Jezebel appears as a Machiavellian woman, a murderer, who follows a different god, turning the king and the kingdom’s back on Yahweh… Jezebel’s death is the lesson of 2 Kings 9. God does not take betrayal lightly…
When Phoenicians commissioned works of art, we see women participating in the activities of their cities and being presented in a confident and respected manner, all sharing and interacting in the same sphere as their men…
By briefly viewing some of the ancient Near Eastern law codes, it can be ascertained whether everyday women were often at odds within these law codes. Although Jezebel was a woman, royalty could often transgress these codes. In Israelite law, however, it essentially was the idyllic belief within the Bible was that the law codes were adhered to by all—even by the king and his house.
I wonder if this same author takes the view that expecting the Presidents of the United States to adhere to the law is “idyllic” and so shrugged off President Nixon’s Watergate affair.
Given its specific and precise documentation, another notable irreverent action that Jezebel role modeled was public display of seductive beauty.
“And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?” (II Kings 9:29-31)
Why would the author of this military passage document Jezebel’s makeup session? Because it was part of the military strategy detailed in the passage! Jezebel’s behavior can only be understood in the context of the sexualized Middle Eastern culture which even pagan nations had tried to rein in with laws.
The rules of veiling- specifying which women must veil and which could not- were carefully detailed [as early as] in Assyrian law.Wives and daughters of “seigniors” had to veil; concubines accompanying their mistresses had to veil, former sacred prostitutes, now married had to veil, but harlots and slaves were forbidden to veil.
Thus, female head covering in public places…indicated that the wearer was under the protection of a nobleman and therefore entitled to be treated with respect and deference, that is, not sexually harassed…the lack of a head cover ‘served…fundamentally, to differentiate between “respectable” women and those who were publicly available.’ The punishment for a slave or harlot, who, if caught covering her head, was potentially flogging, having boiling pitch poured on her head or having her ears cut off for daring to misrepresent herself as a woman of elevated social standing.
Contrast Jezebel’s behavior with that of Vashti, Queen of Persia.
“when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him…On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded…the seven chamberlains…to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.”
I’ve heard the explanation that the reason Queen V refused to come to the party must have been – without any evidence for this supposition – because King A was planning to strip her naked like one of the other slaves in the standard entertainment venue. But when we apply the customs of the day to our interpretation, we understand that all King A intended to show off was her face headlined by her magnificent royal crown, symbol of the wealth and power brought by her marriage alliance. But even this insult was intolerable to Queen V, as even this fairly limited exposure demoted her – assuredly another king’s daughter – to the status of a slave.
Hijab…predates Islam and has been practiced since the inception of Judaism, among other faiths and cultures! In Judaism, the head covering is worn as a show of modesty in addition to denoting the married woman’s marital status…
With this background information, we recognize that Jezebel’s lack of veiling but rather her notable actions of making up her face and (at)tiring her hair, AKA hair dressing in order to look her best when she revealed herself to Jehu at the window was to present herself as an available sex partner to Jehu! And not just any old sex partner. Her reminder of Zimri’s revolt resulting in civil war was a not-so-subtle proposal that he marry her to legitimize his status as Ahab’s heir and gain access to all Jezebel’s resources in not just Israel but Tyre as well. Come on, people! Think strategically.
St. Paul, one of the early Christian evangelists, wrote to the Church in Corinth, “Every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head…Hence, we can surmise that covering the head for women was practiced in the early Church.
Uh, no. Continuing with further instructions in the passage in I Corinthians 11:13-16 we realize that Paul was struggling to establish this practice.
“Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.”
Just a shot in the dark here, but do you think there is possibly a cultural explanation for Paul’s statement?
It is a fundamental basic of Roman polytheism that in most religious rites one, whether male or female, covers the head…
Plutarch (1st century CE) [at the same time Paul is instructing the new churches]“… they thus worshipped the Gods, either humbling themselves by concealing the head, or rather by pulling the toga over their ears as a precaution lest any ill-omened and baleful sound from without should reach them while they were praying…
Paul is therefore instructing new believers about the differences in the way they relate to pagan gods and the One True God. “Come boldly unto the throne of grace! Nothing can separate us from God! Come out from among them and be ye separate, clearly distinguishable from their behaviors!”
And a lot of behaviors that had to change were about entertainment.
prostitution…in the ancient world had] a strict hierarchy of sex-workers who had different degrees of…respect.
At the bottom end of the Greek sexual spectrum were the πόρναι (pornai), who were rented out by pimps and generally forced to give them most of their earnings. These women were almost always slaves and often originated from foreign lands...
ancient prostitution…played a role in religion…
It was customary in ancient Greece for a worshipper to leave offerings at a temple in order to win the favour of its patron god or goddess…certain wealthy worshippers had dedicated a huge number of prostitutes to Aphrodite at her temple in Corinth!
Yep. Same city where Paul is giving instructions on a new way of life to converts.
“Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
Prostitutes were key characters in the theatres and literature of the ancient world…often…to express the bawdiest jokes and enact the most scandalous scenes. The fact that only men were permitted to act on stage only increased the sense of ridicule with which female prostitutes were depicted in drama…
the Roman perception of prostitution…still attracted a certain level of social condemnation.
Power and sex were intertwined in ancient Rome, particularly in same-sex
As a powerful man in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar probably had sexual experiences with both men and women. This wouldn’t have been a cause for concern among his contemporaries. Bisexuality was more or less the norm during that era.
“It was pretty much accepted among the men. The difference was, it was about power. If you were of a certain position, you needed to be on top. It only worked one way. Also, the Romans would, when they conquered a people, it was very common for the men in the Roman legions to rape the other men that they had conquered. That was also a show of power and force.”
This short hairstyle is still called The Caesar Haircut, emulating this famous warrior throughout the ages. And which of the two depictions – long hair or short hair – projects an image of God’s power residing in and reflected through the male believer?
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
Remember what “glory” means. A victory won!
God created the original Adam in his image and won the battle for, not only for Adam’s life but all who share his DNA through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The woman was not created but cloned from Adam, and Adam won the battle for her life after she ate the fruit and he joined her in death as well as victory over death, thereby getting the glory that comes with that victory. See the post The King Is Dead, Long Live the King for details. Adam’s actions have been desecrated by Christianity and therefore the man’s responsibilities and self-sacrificing on behalf of the woman distorted into prerogatives and abdication.
And here comes the balancing act for which Paul is famous.
“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
In any case, only the rare males who actively and persistently allow the Holy Spirit to control their actions can treat a woman with the honor and care accorded them by God. So women pick up the reins for sheer survival of self and children, leading to a hostile feminism, except those who put their trust in God.
Paul is not subjugating women, he is recognizing the vulnerability of women to sexual harassment in the workplace, and rape when isolated, and exhaustion with poor health if having to raise a family as a single mother. He is establishing a godly principal that women are to be protected.
“For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels…Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?…If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God
So, as previously in chapter 6 of this same letter, Paul recommends but does not order.
“I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful…And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you…she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.” (Stated rather dryly, don’t you think?)
Paul always applied principles of behavior, not rules.
“our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (II Corinthians 3:5-11)
“If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”(I Corinthians 11:31-32)
“Not as though I…were already perfect: but…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore…be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation [lifestyle] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 3:12-20)
And this is seconded by Peter.
“our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you…in all his epistles…which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also…fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” ( II Peter 3:15-18)
On the matter of women covering their heads, either with a veil or long hair:
Many converts to Christianity were Jewish…the head covering was an expected custom for women…Upon conversion, their attire remained the same, and the head covering was integrated into the new Christian faith…
As countries formed within Europe and unique ethnic identities took political shape, clothing customs evolved but…women continued to wear a head covering in both Catholicism and Protestantism. Eventually, the smaller cap started to replace the veil in some Protestant faiths…During this time, societal expectations remained the same – women of a certain status in society were expected to present themselves modestly.
With the dawn of the 20th century, life changed dramatically and quickly in Western society...attire changed – especially for women. Skirts became shorter around WWI, and head coverings were not considered essential…
For the first time in history, the Catholic Church required head covering for Catholic women in their 1917 Code of Canon Law…[and] was not abrogated until the 1983 Canon Law revision. In recent years, there has been a renewal of head covering within Catholicism, most especially from the post-Vatican II generation…Even so, hats, scarves, hoods, mantillas, (a sheer lace veil) or even handkerchiefs [replace the veil in most cases.]
Amish and Mennonite women wear prayer coverings called Kapps that cover the back of the head. These women cover their hair for modesty reasons, as well as carrying out the words ordained in Scripture…
While the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have differences, we have common practices – one of which is the head covering for women. It is a beautiful tradition dating back thousands of years and does not suppress a woman’s individuality and strength, but quite the opposite – it liberates women in that they are not judged by outward appearance but through piety, dignity, value, intelligence, and humility.
And this Islamic author mirrors Paul’s teaching to the early church.
“I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that
- men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, [oh, now there’s another change in practice]
- without wrath and doubting.
- that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
- Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
- But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:7-14)
However, in another letter Paul does allow a woman to speak in church .
“every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head:” (I Corinthians 11:5)
How do we reconcile these two apparently contradictory instructions? I propose finding the answer in both the narrow and broad contexts.
Paul has just stated that “the head of the woman is the man.” (I Corinthians 11:3). As described above, a proper woman wore a head covering in public to publicize her status as a woman with a male protector, off-limits for sexual encounters either voluntary or forced. Something like wearing a wedding ring. We can understand by this that her head covering was symbolic for the man himself, whose threat of retaliation whether at her side or on the other side of town prevented any encroachments on her person.
Dinah, daughter of Jacob son of Isaac, is a good example of this veiled threat. (Got to admit, that’s a great play on words.)
“And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her…Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s [full brethren from same mother], took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out…And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” (Genesis 34)
The Godfather, which portrays the ancient Mediterranean ways still at play, opens with this theme. A father indentures himself to the Mafia in payment for service rendered by them to avenge the sexual assault on his daughter.
Priscilla was a major player in the early church, and the prime example of a woman’s qualification to teach in church, as long as her “head is covered”, i.e. she is under the protection of male authority. In Priscilla’s case, that was her husband.
“when Aquila and Priscilla had heard Apollo, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:26)
Can a single woman operate under a different male relationship, or a married woman with a “spiritual” leader instead of her husband? I would say they were playing with fire.
In an anonymous survey, 33% of pastors admitted to crossing the line with a woman not their spouse without having been caught. In another study, the respondents revealed that one in nine pastors (around 11%) had committed adultery…
the majority of data we have specifically addresses males. So for our female readers, we ask that you translate the data we present…
Men who commit infidelity can be motivated by several factors: any one of these or a combination of them:
- Desire for Instant Gratification
- Lack of Discipline / Self-control
- False Feelings of Invincibility
- Delusions of Grandeur
- Corroding Family / Marital Relationships
- Justification of Selfish Choices (i.e. lack of sex)
Church leaders are a very busy group of people…Because of the amount of attention the church requires, it can be challenging to…make time for their family…
because they overstretch themselves, their capacity for intimacy and connection with their spouse diminishes, leading to a fading relationship at home…
If the pastor does not maintain a professional position, this…can allow close emotional commitments to occur. This is a common way a pastor can find themselves in an extra-marital relationship despite not intending to do so at the start…
The Particular Challenge of Narcissism
Narcissism has gained higher visibility in recent years, and for good reason. According to Ruffing et al. (2018), there is evidence that narcissism levels have been increasing in Western society over the past few decades…
pathological narcissism is…an out-of-control compulsion to meet the needs of the ego [for admiration]…
research into clergy populations…shows higher than average levels of narcissism…one…study…found that 31.2% would likely have a diagnosable narcissistic personality disorder. [This is the most severe, with “traits” instead of “disorder’ being less problematic.]…
Like many people who are in professions that seek to help others, pastors often come from dysfunctional families. As a result, they often have attachment and nurturing needs that are left unmet.
This kind of background in pastors is heavily correlated with marital infidelity:
- 91% of cheating pastors came from chronic dysfunctional families.
And people come to church to deal with their own dysfunction, setting up the church to be the equivalent of a bar for connecting with someone you feel understands and accepts you.
Instead of creating unmarried male-female leadership teams, Paul urges Timothy to treat “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (I Timothy 5:2), and “The aged women…teach the young women.” (Titus 2:3-4)
“And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins [control over behaviors] and hearts [motives]: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:20-22)
[After WWI] there were between 3 and 4 million Christians in what [was the Ottoman Empire’s territory of what] is now Turkey—around 20 percent of the total population. By 1924, through three successive waves of massacre, deportation, abduction, and forced conversion, Christians had been reduced to 2 percent of Turkey, and almost all who remained would depart in the following decades. The Thirty-Year Genocide tells the story of this religious cleansing.
Sardis – The Collapsed Church
Around 612 BCE, the Assyrian Empire was conquered by the Neo-Babylon Empire. This opened up new horizons for the wealthy kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia, with its capitol at Sardis, which turned its attention from defending the eastern front to overrunning its western rivals, the Greek Ionian cities along the coast.
Lydian rulers, however, admired the Greeks and treated the Ionian cities leniently… Croesus, the last Lydian king, even paid for the construction of the temple of Artemis, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Thus, the Ionian coast city-states and the Lydians remained on peaceful terms with very tight cultural and commercial relations. Sardis was a centre for the traffic of goods and ideas between Mesopotamia and the Greek Ionian settlements, a crossroad of trade, and an ideal meeting point for the exchange of ideas, beliefs, customs, knowledge, and new insights. This rich exchange was one of the factors that, around 600 BCE, allowed the Ionian cities to turn into the intellectual leaders of the Greek world.
Once Sardis was taken, the Persians also occupied the Ionian cities. About 500 BCE, the Ionian cities…declared their independence, triggering the Ionian revolt with the city of Miletus as the leading state, the first of many military conflicts between Greeks and Persians. A Greek army marched upon Sardis [as the capitol of the Persian province] and burned it to the ground…
the city surrendered to Alexander the Great in 334 BCE…
In 215 BCE Sardis was…made Seleucid’s administrative centre for the Anatolia region.
Sardis came under Roman rule in 133 BCE…and was the principal centre of a judicial district that included almost 30 Lydian and Phrygian settlements…made a provincial capital when Lydia was re-established as an administrative centre.
That same year twelve famous cities of Asia fell by an earthquake in the night, so that the destruction was all the more unforeseen and fearful. Nor were there the means of escape usual in, such a disaster, by rushing out into the open country, for there people were swallowed up by the yawning earth. Vast mountains, it is said, collapsed; what had been level ground seemed to be raised aloft, and fires blazed out amid the ruin. The calamity fell most fatally on the inhabitants of Sardis, and it attracted to them the largest share of sympathy. (Tacitus, 2.47)
“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
As we read the following account of Christianity in the generation of leadership immediately following John’s letter ~100 AD, we must take into account that this movement, so evidently falling away from biblical precepts, was developed, like Naziism, by the previous generation and passed down to the youth. In other words, as we read the beliefs held and propagated by the church at Sardis in ~140, we can see that they are the culmination of what John warned them was happening. “You have a name” – are famous – for being a vibrant source of life for the church, but “you are dead.”
Melito was a highly educated person, of illustrious origin, a „great luminary“ having remarkable retorical and prophetic abilities, who was chosento head the church of Sardis (aprox. AD 138-180)…
Melito is the first of the apologists who, in this acid polemics, openly accused the Jews of deicide, or put in other words he accused them of killing Jesus as incarnate God. According to him, they killed the One who created them, who honoured them, whom they confessed to and who called them Israel...They are responsible for every aspect of the crucification of Jesus, they got the nails ready that were supposed to perforate his limbs, they committed perjury against him, they had him drink vinegar and gall as if he were a thief, they had him whip-ped and they put a crown of thorns on his head, then sent him to death on the Great Celebration day.
According to Melito, the relationship between Judaism and Christianity could be defined as follows: Judaism served the divine plans for a while, but after the Christ made himself manifest in the world as incarnate God, its existence became futile and without any hope for the future. Judaism served as a model for the past ages, but with…the emergence of the Church, they replaced the law of Israel and Judaism…
We should ask ourselves what could be the real cause of such a harsh reaction from the part of Melito of Sardis. The first explanation at hand could be that the relationship between the Jewish and the Christian communities in Sardis were very tense...Therefore, it is important first to see how these relations evolved…the Seleucid king Antiochos III…transferred two thousand Jewish families to the most important cities of Phrygia and Lydia…who initially belonged to Mesopotamia and Babylonia…As a reward for their loyalty, Antiochos reconfirmed the rights of the Jews to live according to the laws of their fathers and reduced their taxes…some decrees from the time of Caesar…prove that the Jews were supposed to live according to their own customs and laws…There is no mention of any conflict at all...By the middle of the 3rd century, the Jewish community in the city was attested as wealthy and prominent, counting nine city councillors…an indication of the high degree of social integration of the Jews in Sardis. The situation was similar in other cities…
Some researchers, like Reader Aasgaard, believe that the above mentioned passage of Melito represented a reaction of a tiny Christian community in Asia Minor, composed mostly of Jewish converts and their descendants…to…claim its own identity in…competition…with a highly powerful and influent Jewish community.
Such kind of a competition was also demonstrated for the pagan…ethno-cultural environments…[which] contributed to the creation of a common religious phenomenology of this area, irrespective of the numerous local peculiarities…a melting pot where…influences from very heterogenous…Hittite, Luwian, Iranian, Lydian, Thracian, Celtic, Semitical, Egyptian, etc…
In brief, what this research paper is saying is that Christianity aligned itself with paganism against Judaism for political, economic and social benefits.
Another option [to explain Mellito’s polemic against the Jews] is…about a much more general attempt…to discourage those who frequently placed themselves on the fringes of [developing] Christianity…by adopting [maintaining] Jewish [read biblical] practices and conceptions…The contents of the writing reflects…motivations that were designed…to make a clear-cut distinction between the Jewish and Christian environments and to eliminate any Jewish influence on the newborn Christianity.
“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments [during an assault, begins symbolically with verbal assaults but escalates to physical]; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.”
in the year 616 CE, Sardis’ life came to an end…that region fell to the Persians…and Sardis was sacked and devastated so completely that no attempt to restore the city has been recorded. This incident constitutes the end of Sardis’ civic life.
Philadelphia – The Close Church
Philadelphia was established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon I…[who] named the city for…his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159–138 BC), whose loyalty earned him the nickname, “Philadelphos”, literally meaning “one who loves his brother”.
Philadelphia was included in the kingdom of Pergamum that Attalus III Philometer bequeathed to his Roman allies when he died in 133 BC, assigned to the administrative district of Sardis. As noted above in the section on Sardis, the Jewish population was influential in Sardis and there was a synagogue of Hellenizing Jews in Philadelphia.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
The locality was subject to constant earthquakes. The frequent experiences of fleeing their homes and the city because of falling debris must have been foremost in their desire for security, which Jesus Christ assures them are in his hands, while Philadelphia’s “open door” can be nothing other than the opportunity to preach and teach the true, the biblical gospel.
“I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” (I Corinthians 16:8-9)
“I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” (II Corinthians 2:12)
“praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ. (Colossians 4:3)
In contrast to the Christians at Sardis, this church, although in the same district, kept the word of God and did not deny the name of YHVH’s Savior. This identification as “The People of the Book” segregated them from the pagans while incurring the same opposition from the non-Messianic synagogue as experienced by Yeshua, Steven, James, Paul, etc.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Philadelphia was called the “little Athens” in the 6th century AD because of its festivals and temples. This indicates that the city wasn’t entirely converted to Christianity, and also the reverse – that the Church at Philadelphia hadn’t absorbed paganism.
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
As described previously, any close companion / co-ruler with Christ, will experience trials and tribulations. The church at Philadelphia apparently had their fair share in the early days, so its faith was not put the test as happened with other churches which had it much easier. A reasonable definition of “The hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world” limits it to a shorter period of time than a “day / era”, and locates it within the parameters of the account it is referenced, i.e., the Roman world.
Attila the Hun is a likely candidate for this event, known at the time as the The Scourge of God. For whatever reason, Atilla did not invade Asia Minor.
In 439 CE Attila brokered the Treaty of Margus with Rome.
The annual payment of 700 pounds of gold, or about $19M in today’s dollars, bought the promise not to attack Roman towns. With a tenuous treaty in place, Roman legions guarding the border were pulled to fight in Sicily against the Vandals. With unguarded territory before them, Attila and his brother saw an opportunity to return to their raiding ways. They invented outrage and declared the treaty invalid.
Over the next ten years, the Huns invaded territory which today encompasses Hungary, Greece, Spain, and Italy. Attila sent captured riches back to his homeland and drafted soldiers into his own army while often burning the overrun towns and killing their civilian occupants.
In 441 CE, they launched their Danube campaign…a full-scale invasion that ravaged cities and towns in the trading province of Illyricum. D`espite the fact the legions were not there, these cities were well fortified and well defended. But…Attila ensured that the Huns mastered siege technology and were able to attack and capture fortified cities by means of textbook Roman military tactics…
Attila…brought his army within twenty miles of Constantinople…attacked and pillaged forts and cities, lacerating almost all of the territory surrounding the capital…he negotiated peace and an annual payment of 1400 pounds of gold, which is equivalent to $40M in today’s dollars…
In 446, Attila again manufactures outrage with the Romans, breaks the treaty, and begins to capture forts along the frontier. He invaded the Roman region of Moesia, in the present-day Balkans. In the process, he destroyed more than 70 cities, took survivors as slaves, and sent the loot back to his stronghold at the city of Buda, which is thought to be modern-day Budapest. He was considered invincible and “having bled the East to his heart’s content, Attila turned to the West…the Balkans in 446 and Italy in 452.
The city was taken by the Seljuk Turks in 1074 and 1093–94 but rapidly recovered in 1098, during the First Crusade, by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. While all the other cities of Asia Minor surrendered to the Ottomans, Philadelphia remained a free city until 1390, when after a prolonged resistance, the Byzantine emperor Manuel II assisted Sultan Bayezid I in subjugating Philadelphia to Turkish rule. Twelve years later it was captured by Timur, who built a wall with the corpses of his prisoners.
During the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) the retreating Greek army carried out a scorched-earth policy while it was retreating from Anatolia during the final phase of the war, which included what once was known as The City of Brotherly Love.
Laodicea – The Civilized Church
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
“The city was at the crossroads of north-south traffic between Sardis and Perga and east-west from the Euphrates to Ephesus. Laodicea quickly became a rich city, rich enough to be able to rebuild itself without outside help [I am rich and have need of nothing!] after the destructive earthquake of 60 A.D.
Laodicea was…a great center for the manufacturing of clothing – the sheep which grazed around Laodicea were famous for the soft, black wool they produced. [buy white raiment that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear]
Laodicea was also well known for it’s school of medicine.
One of the compounds used for…the eyes made of Phrygian stone (eye salve)…The term used by John in Revelation is the same that Galen uses to describe the preparation of the Phrygian stone. [Anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see!]
No other city on the Lycus Valley was as dependent on external water supplies as Laodicea…
“The lukewarmness for which, thanks to this letter, the name of Laodicea has become proverbial, may reflect the condition of the city’s water supply. The water supplied by the spring … was tepid and nauseous by the time it was piped to Laodicea, unlike the therapeutic hot water of Hierapolis or the refreshing cold water of Colossae (Rudwick and Green 1958); hence the Lord’s words, ‘Would that you were cold or hot!’” (The Anchor Bible Dictionary).
Our Lord did not accuse the brethren in Laodicea of apostasy, nor with following some false prophet or engaging in emperor worship. The church is accused of being “lukewarm” — this is the only congregation about which the Lord had nothing good to say!
Its wealth allowed its citizens to indulge in Greek art, embellish the city with beautiful monuments, contribute to the advancement of science and literature and establish a great medical school. The city minted its own coins with inscriptions to Zeus, Æsculapius, Apollo, and the emperors.
There was a large Jewish community in Laodicea, who sent the considerable sum of 9 kilograms (20 lb) of gold annually to Jerusalem for the Temple (Pro Flacco 28-68). Because early Christianity originated in, and depended upon Judaism, Laodicea very early became a seat of Christianity as a bishopric.
Sixty canons of a Council of Laodicea, written in Greek, exist. They are of great importance in the history of discipline and liturgy.
Liturgy. Now there’s an element of Christianity we need to understand.
[L]iturgy was not a later ‘add-on’ instituted by a stultified church but was a vital part of Christian worship from the very beginning.The New Testament contains many references to the ongoing practice of liturgical worship as well as actual examples of first century liturgy…
In Acts 2:42, we read that the early believers “devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to THE prayers”. This…is a clear reference to set prayers that were repeated corporately when the believers met for worship. Similarly, in Acts 5:42, the Apostles appointed deacons to administer the distribution of food to the poor, so that they (the Apostles) could continue to “be devoted to THE prayers and to the ministry of the Word.”Once again, this is how it is written in the Greek, and it is a reference to liturgical, set prayers.
Not only do we have these references to the ongoing liturgical practices of the early Christians, but we have many actual examples of first century liturgy quoted within the New Testament letters themselves. Some of them are brief excerpts from well-known liturgy, such as:
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14)
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).
“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
These are just a small sample of the many liturgical quotes contained within the New Testament…Philippians 2 contains a lengthy quote from what appears to be a well-known Christian creed:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Similar liturgical excerpts can be found in Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-3, 1 Peter 2:21-25 and 1 Timothy 3:16.
So far, so good. But at some point The simplicity of early church practices, grounded in the study and application of the holy scriptures in the synagogue, went baroque.
The evolution of Christian liturgy and its relationship with Jewish liturgy include the names of temple functionaries, such as readers, lectors, levites, and singers indicate appropriation from the temple liturgy not the synagogue, which at the time…consisted [simply] of scripture readings, with the Shema and Amidah. The elements from the Temple services retained in Christian liturgy include ceremonial actions such as processions and prostrations, and the antiphonal nature of prayers…
when the temple was destroyed, there were twenty-four kinds / sects of Judaism…Christianity started out as another expression of Judaism…which like that of the DSS sectarians, and the Samaritans…did not accept the oral Torah, which became enshrined in the Mishnah, Talmuds, and Midrash from 200 CE…
The written torah which Christians generally call the Old Testament (Tanakh) was retained. The New Testament, was added to the Scriptures that were accepted by the Christian Church…converts of non-Jewish origin also would have imported their world views. This would have contributed to a variety of forms in the Christian stance...the increasingly gentile background of its converts who soon outnumbered those of Jewish origin…Certainly, the growth of the non-Jewish membership of Christianity led to the ‘mutation’ becoming unacceptable to so-called normative Judaism by the end of the first century…
The problem faced by the developing Christian theology was the harmonizing…of monotheism with the independent existence and the divine activity of Jesus as related in the gospels. From the second century onwards, the various Christological controversies were attempts to come to terms with monotheism, culminating in credal formulations and statements by ecumenical church councils on Christology.
Within the church itself, the definition of Christology led to…different strands of Christianity in the east and west…the establishment of authority within the church itself…
A specific Christian practice was the weekly Sunday, which commemorated the resurrection of Jesus…it appears to have been an established practice by the time of Ignatius in the early second century.
The primitive Christian festival calendar seems originally only to have celebrated Passover… the Epiphany, Ascension, and Pentecost being added at the earliest by the fourth century…in the mid second century, rites of initiation into the church were being practised, so that it could be surmised that Christianity had begun to forge a separate identity from Judaism…
In the first century, Christians could continue to pray in synagogues, though tensions were developing about the position of Jesus…the growing number of gentile believers who were not obliged to keep Jewish law was a major block to both common worship and social relations.
From the second century, specifically Christian liturgies began to be developed in a less Jewish style. As time progressed, east and west took differing paths, while schisms wracked the church in the wake of doctrinal conflicts not resolved by the numerous church councils.
And when the early Church separated from its Jewish roots, where did it go?
The Laodicean church must have been the first among the seven to master the art of ingratiating itself into society as an acceptable variation on broader religious and philosophical constructs. It was no longer good for God’s spiritual healing ministry, neither hot nor cold.
To Infinity And Beyond!
We have demonstrated that these chapters are Live! From Patmos! to the actual churches in Asia (Minor) in the 2nd century BC. But they are also TO ALL readers since then. That includes us, people, according to the advice given at the end of each church’s letter.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”