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More on Rome vs Jerusalem

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  • Otto Erlend Nordgreen
    Regarding the on-going debate on the identity of Babylon (the great) I would like to present some (critical) comments of my own -- here in response to Ed
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 27, 2001
      Regarding the on-going debate on the identity of 'Babylon (the great)' I would like to present some (critical) comments of my own -- here in response to Ed Garcia�s posting of 24.08.01

      (1) Ed Garcia wrote:

      "The evidence, I believe, points overwhelmingly to Jerusalem as the harlot. Rome is an obvious solution but such a conclusion has always struck me as too pat, too clean. I am suspicious. Rome as a solution is obvious but maybe too obvious."

      Now, if the evidence at hand "points overwhelmingly to Jerusalem as the harlot", how can an identification of  'her' with Rome be "too obvious" and "too clean"?

      (2) Ad Rev 17:6, Ed Garcia wrote:

      "To see pagan Rome depicted as a drunken, bloodied and blasphemous harlot would be nothing to marvel at, yet John marvels. However if we understand the harlot as Jerusalem then truly we have something to marvel at."

      Obviously, (at least) Don K. Preston does not seem to have any problems with Jerusalem as "a drunken, bloodied and blasphemous harlot"  cf. his reference to Mt 23:33-37 as a background for Rev 18:24. Most advocates of an identification of �Babylon� with Jerusalem would here see a clear reference to 'unfaithful' Jerusalem.

      Furthermore, does Rev 17:6ff actually say that John was mystified becaause 'Babylon' was described as "a drunken, bloodied and blasphemous harlot"? I mean, the explanation provided by the angel in vv. does focus on the whole image (viz. both harlot and beast).

      In fact, the designation of Rome - a pagan city - as 'harlot� could be taken as somewhat extraordinary. Rome was never 'married' to YHWH, Israel was. Nevertheless, in the OT harlotry is related to sorceries (Nah 3:4) and commerce (Is 23:15-18) as well. Sorcery is explicitly related to 'Babylon' in Rev 18:23 and the over-all context seems to connect 'Babylon' and commerce. Thus, Rome could very well have been condemned for harlotry.

      The  metaphor 'prostitute' was -- although uncommon -- also used in relation to the enemies of Israel (cf. Nah 3:4 [of Nineveh] and Is 23:16f [of Tyre]). Thus, "Babylon (the great)" being a harlot does not point to Jerusalem more than to Rome.

      To me, Rev 18:24 is, perhaps, t h e (strongest) 'index' for an identification of "Babylon (the great)" with Jerusalem -- cf. Mt 23:34ff (and Lk 11:50f). However, the relation between the so-called 'Q-sayings' and Rev is uncertain. For one thing, John and Jesus might very well both have utilised a common tradition (cf. Ruiz 1995, ad loc.).
      Personally, I think John could have known the 'Q-apocalypse' (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21) and used it for his own discourse (just as he elsewhere utilises OT material). What Jesus said about Jerusalem, John could have said about Rome. During the Neronic persecutions, Rome killed the 'saints'. We do know that Christians prophets existed in the Church at Rome at a slightly later time. That there were several prophets in the early church is stated in the NT. John was one of them! We should also note that Rev 18:24 not only mentions the blood of the prophets but also the blood of the 'saints�. I feel that this could be a reference to the Neronian persecution (and later Roman persecutions) of Christians. In fact, I believe John has exchanged Jerusalem with Rome in his eschatological perspective; just as Jesus exchanged the kingdom of Antiochus IV. with Jerusalem for His apocalyptic prophecy:

      The Book of Daniel: the end is related to the fall of Egypt/Syria
      The 'Q-Apocalypse': the end is related to the fall of Jerusalem
      John's Apocalypse: the end is related to the fall of Rome (Babylon)

      (3) Ed Garcia wrote:

      "As for Rome, I do not see that it plays a role of any importance in the Book of Revelation."

      This is, of course, interesting. I guess he than would opt for an alternative understanding of the beast in Rev 13 and 13 and its number. If Rome does not play any important role in the Apocalypse, I guess its hard to see any reference to Nero in "666" (or "616").

      (4) Ed Garcia suggests that the Apocalypse is about the replacement of old, earthly Jerusalem with the new, heavenly Jerusalem. But from this it does not necessarily follow that 'Babylon' = old Jerusalem. As I see it, it would be quite possible to understand 'Babylon' as a new Babylon, viz. a second temple destroyer. J.-P. Ruiz (1989) has demonstrated that it is possible to understand the 'great city' in Rev 16,19a as different from 'Babylon' in v. 19c. Ruiz has more recently been followed by Rissi (1995).


      Rissi, M. (1995): Die Hure Babylon und die Verfuehrung der Heiligen: Eine Studie zur Apokalypse des Johannes (BWANT 7/16). Stuttgart etc.: Kohlhammer

      Ruiz, J.-P. (1989): Ezekiel in the Apocalypse: The Transformation of Prophetic Language in Revelation 16,17  19,10. Frankfurt etc.: Peter Lang

      Best wishes,

      Otto E. Nordgreen

               Otto Erlend Nordgreen                               
               Student at Department of Germanic
               Studies, University of Oslo, Norway
               E-mail: otton@...
               Website: http://www.uio.no/~otton/English1.htm

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