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Scholarly accuracy

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  • RHS
    Dear Frank McCoy, The following dictum was drummed into me very early in my career: VERIFY YOUR REFERENCES. So, when I came across the following in a famous
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2001
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      Dear Frank McCoy,
      The following dictum was drummed into me very early in my career: VERIFY
      YOUR REFERENCES.
      So, when I came across the following in a famous commentary on the
      Apocalypse, I went into verification mode.

      'Patmos was one of the Sporades, a barren rocky island about ten miles
      long and five miles wide. It is first mentioned by Thucydides, iii.33,
      and later by Strabo, x.5.13, and Pliny, H.N. iv.12.23, the last of whom
      (ie Pliny) states that it was used as a penal settlement by the Romans,
      as were other islands… ) (R H Charles, A Critical and Exegetical
      Commentary on the Revelation of St John, T & T Clark, 1920, p. 21)

      Here is what Pliny wrote. 'After these no regular order can be kept, so
      the remaining islands shall be given in a group: Scyro; Nio, 18 miles
      from Naxos, venerable as the burying place of Homer, 22 miles long,
      previously called Phoenice…Telos, noted for its unguent, and called by
      Callimachus Agathusa; Donusa; Patmos 30 miles in circumference; the
      Corossiae, Lebitha, Lero, Zinari…' (Natural History IV.12.23)

      I then went and checked out all the references usually given by
      commentators to Patmos being a place for political exiles.
      Tacitus Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71.
      Strabo Geography 10.5.13
      Thucydides Peloponnesian War 3.33.3

      And lo and behold! There is not one mention of Patmos as a site for
      political exiles!
      Indeed, I went searching through the whole TLG data base of literature
      and found not one mention of Patmos as a prison for political exiles.

      Even the claim that John was ever exiled on this island is based on an
      interpretation of what John said about being on the island 'on account
      of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.' (Rev. 1:9 RSV) You can
      check out the evidence trail for yourself.

      So, Frank McCoy. You are in rather august company. I am still amazed at
      the amount of second-hand referencing that occurs in so many scholarly
      works.

      Ross Saunders from DownUnder
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