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860RE: [revelation-list] Rev 2:9; 3:9

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  • John W. Marshall
    Oct 13, 2006

      David Barr's helpful reference to very recent (too recent for libraries at
      my institution) articles from Friesen and Duff has helped turn the
      converstion away from unsupported assumptions about clear distinction of
      Judaism from Christianity and mutual hostility between John and other Jews.

      My own take on it is expressed in Parables of War: Reading John's Jewish
      Apocalypse (Waterloo: 2002):

      And so I read the "synagogue of Satan" as referring to a group of people who
      do not stand in opposition to Rome and the wider Greco-Roman culture in the
      way John does. Given the problems of translating names, I could justifiably
      translate sunagwgh\ tou= Satana as "gathering of the adversary." The
      questions of Jew and Christian that interpreters ask of Rev 2:9 and 3:9 are
      not the questions that occupy John in the messages to the angels of the
      seven assemblies. This makes it difficult to say who his adversaries are in
      terms of a Jew/Christian/Pagan/Godfearer scheme. But to press forward with
      the question here in spite of John's evident lack of interest in it, it
      seems that John's concerns about integration with Greco-Roman religion and
      culture as well as his concerns about using the term "Jew" suggest that the
      group he opposes consists of a mixture of Pagan Godfearers and comfortably
      Hellenizing Jews who welcome the Godfearers without requiring a substantial
      (in John's eyes) separation from Greco-Roman culture in either themselves or
      their adherents. <outbind://9/#_ftn1> [1]


      <outbind://9/#_ftnref1> [1] As noted, the exceptions are Gager (1983:
      132), Shepherd (1971), and Wilson (1992: 614-15; 1995: 163). Kraft suggests
      that John's polemic in Rev 2:9 and 3:9 is undertaken within the "church"
      over issues of syncretism (1974: 60-61). Stephen G. Wilson's quotation of
      Dio Cassius provides a very concrete example of the judaizing phenomenon:
      "This title [I|oudai=oj] is also borne by other persons who, although they
      are of other ethnicity, live by their laws" (fe/rei de\ kai\ e)pi\ tou\j
      a)/llouj a)nqrw/pouj o(/soi ta\ no/mima au)tw=n, kai/per a)lloeqnei=j
      o)/ntej, zhlou=si. Roman History 37.16.4) The unreliability to which Dio
      witnesses for the title "Jew" would apply even more to the less specific
      term sunagwgh/.

      John W. Marshall
      Assistant Professor
      Department for the Study of Religion
      University of Toronto


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