Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Introducing the Book of Revelation (Part 2 of 3)

Provenance and Destination
     John writes from the Mediterranean island of Patmos (1:9), a rugged, rocky island about 40 miles (24 kms) southwest of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea, used by the Romans as a place of exile (see Pliny, Natural History 4.23). The document is written to the seven churches of the Roman province of Asia in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (1:4, 11; 2:1–3:22).
Date of Writing
     The two main proposals for dating Revelation center on the respective reigns of Nero (54-68) and Domitian (81-96). The key pieces of evidence are as follows:
     1. Persecution of Christians. The Christians to whom Revelation is addressed seem to have been suffering severe and widespread persecution that would eventually worsen (1:9; 2:10, 13; 3:10; 6:9; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2; 20:4). Nero’s persecution lasted from 64 to 68, but it was primarily confined to the city of Rome. The persecution of Domitian was most intense from 95 to 96, and though the strongest evidence for it comes from later writers,1 the imposition of emperor worship during this time (see below) adds more credence to this potential setting than do the alternatives.
     2. Emperor Worship. Christians in the book of Revelation were being pressured to worship the secular ruling power (13:4, 15-16; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). The seeds of emperor worship were to some degree evident in Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Caligula, but it was not until Domitian that the imperial cult was enforced.2
     3. Condition of the churches. A Christian named Antipas had already suffered martyrdom in Pergamum (2:13) and members of the church at Smyrna were soon to face imprisonment and potentially the death penalty (2:10). Spiritual stagnation was a problem in many of the Asian churches (2:4, 5; 3:1-3, 15-17), and the church of Laodicea was wealthy at the time (3:17).3 These conditions are more conducive to the period of Domitian’s reign.
     4. The temple of God. John is called upon to measure “the temple of God” (11:1-2). If this is taken as a reference to the literal Jewish temple in Jerusalem, a date before 70 would be implied. However, since the book of Revelation is filled with signs and symbols, the most natural interpretation of this passage is metaphoric, not literal. Some see a prophecy of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem in the allusion to the “holy city” being trampled for “forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2). However, when Ezekiel saw his vision of the temple being measured (Ezek. 40:1–42:20), the temple and the city had already been destroyed by the Babylonians fourteen years earlier (Ezek. 40:1).
     5. The succession of kings. In 17:9-11 eight kings are mentioned, and the one that appears to have been reigning at the time of writing was number six. If this passage is taken literally and the succession of kings begins with the first recognized emperor, an earlier date is then suggested. However, this argument is not decisive. Are the kings in this vision past, present, or future? Is the count to begin with Julius Caesar (the first dictator), Augustus (the first emperor), or Caligula (the first persecutor)? Should the comparatively insignificant rulers, who were in power for only brief periods (e.g. 68-69), be counted or not? Should the respective numbers be interpreted literally or symbolically?
     Internal evidence places the most probable context of Revelation toward the end of the reign of Domitian, i.e., 95-96. This conclusion is supported by the weight of early testimonies, viz. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 5.30.3; Victorinus, Apoc. 10.11; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.18; Clement of Alexandria, Quis div. 42; Origen, Matt. 16.6.
-- Kevin L. Moore

     1 See Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.18.4; Sulpicius Severus, Chronicle 2.31; Paulus Orosius, Book 7 of Historiarum lib. Vii, adv. paganos. Even though the most definitive information comes from Orosius in the year 417, his history is substantially based on the much earlier works of Justin and Eutropius (see M’Clintock and Strong 7:455-56), and he also had access to other documentation that is no longer extant. 
     2 According to the Latin writer Suetonius (Dom. 13.1-2), Domitian required his subjects to address him as dominus et dues noster (‘our lord and god’). See also Dio Cassius 67.4.7; 67.13.4; and Pliny the Younger, Pan. 33.4; 52.2. The first imperial cult temple in Ephesus was established in the year 89 under Domitian’s rule. In fact, it was during this period that “in some areas – especially in Asia Minor – governors and other local officials demanded public participation in the cult as evidence of citizens’ loyalty and patriotism” (S. L. Harris, Understanding the Bible [7th ed.] 518).
     3 Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 (cf. Tacitus, Annals 14.26-27), and it is commonly assumed that an extensive period of time would have been necessary for the city to be rebuilt and become prosperous. This assumption, however, is tentative at best, since the residents of Laodicea were wealthy enough to rebuild the city without aid from the Roman government. Nevertheless, the fact that a congregation was in existence in Smyrna may be suggestive of a later date (see D. A. Carson and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the NT 710).

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Thursday, 8 November 2018

Introducing the Book of Revelation (Part 1 of 3)

Distinctive Features
     The title of the last book of the NT comes from the opening line: Apokálupsis Iēsou Christou. The term apokálupsis refers to an uncovering, a revelation, a disclosure of knowledge, thus “A Revelation of Jesus Christ,” or simply “Revelation” or “The Apocalypse.” It is probably the last document of the NT canon to have been written. As the OT book of Genesis is the book of beginnings, the NT book of Revelation is the book of consummation. Revelation is the only NT document that deals primarily with prophetic events, and its message is presented with more symbolism than any of the other NT writings. The theme of the book is VICTORY! (see 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7).
     The author simply identifies himself as Iōannēs or “John” (1:1, 4, 9; 21:2; 22:8). He is clearly known to the seven churches of Asia, his authority is recognized, and he communicates as a spokesman for God (cf. 1:1, 11, 19; 10:10; 22:9, 18-19). The composition is in a Semitic style, and the author writes as if Greek were his second language, indicative of a native of Palestine (see S. L. Harris, Understanding the Bible [7th ed.] 517).
     There is a close relationship between Revelation and John’s Gospel and epistles, i.e., common ideas, theology, and vocabulary. For example, descriptions of Jesus as a lamb, as a shepherd, and as ho logos (“the word”); frequent use of antithesis (light vs. darkness, truth vs. falsehood, power of God vs. power of the world, etc.); common use of technical terms, e.g., alēthinos (“true”), marturia (“testimony”), nikaō (“conquer”), and tērein tas entolas  (“keep the commandments”);1 symbolic use of the number seven; replacement of the temple; metaphoric allusions to water and to manna;2 the highest concentration of the word menō (“abide”) in the NT; etc.
     Early testimony, attributing Revelation to the apostle John, includes the following: Justin [Martyr] (Dial. 81; cf. Apol. 1.28), who for a time lived in Ephesus – location of one of the seven churches of Revelation; Melito (cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.26.2) of Sardis – location of one of the seven churches of Revelation; Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.11.1; 4.14.2; 4.20.11; 4.35.2) of Smyrna – location of one of the seven churches of Revelation. Irenaeus makes mention of “John in the Apocalypse” (Adv. Haer. 4.14.2; 4.17.6; 4.18.6; 4.21.3; 5.28.2; 5.34.2), further described as “John the disciple of the Lord” (Adv. Haer. 4.20.11; 5.26.1), who leaned on Jesus’ breast and later published his Gospel while living in Ephesus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1). Further affirmation is found in the Muratorian canon, Theophilus of Antioch (cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.24), Tertullian (Adv. Marcion 3.14), and Clement of Alexandria (Paed. 2.119; Quis dives 42; Strom. 6.106, 107).
Arguments Against the Apostle John’s Authorship
1. There is no apostolic claim; the writer professes to be a prophet, not an apostle.
2. There are considerable linguistic differences between the Gospel of John and Revelation. “The writer seems on the surface to be unacquainted with the elementary laws of concord. He places nominatives in opposition to other cases, irregularly uses participles, constructs broken sentences, adds unnecessary pronouns, mixes up genders, numbers and cases and introduces several unusual constructions” (D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 940).
3. The theology of Revelation differs from that of the Johannine writings: (a) The God of Revelation is a God of majesty and judgment; the God of the Johannine writings is a God of love. (b) In John’s Gospel Jesus is revealer and redeemer, while in Revelation he is a conquering warrior and king. (c) In John’s Gospel “the last things” are realized in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, yet in Revelation the focus is on the Lord’s return at the end of history.
Responses To These Objections
1. If John’s apostleship was accepted and respected by his readership, there was no need for an explicit claim to be made. Paul asserted his apostleship when it was called into question (e.g. 1 Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:1), but at other times this was unnecessary (i.e., 1-2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Philemon).
2. The vast distinction between the genres of the respective documents would easily account for variations, with special consideration for the highly symbolic (apocalyptic) nature of Revelation, the special circumstances under which it was written, and the importance of concealing its true meaning from the enemies of the Lord’s people. Further, if an amanuensis were employed to pen the Gospel, and John alone transcribed the book of Revelation, linguistic and grammatical differences would be understandable. At the same time, Revelation has a closer affinity to the Greek of the Johannine writings than to any other NT documents.
3. Placing emphasis on separate aspects of the divine nature, function, and purpose to achieve different objectives does not constitute conflicting theologies. D. A. Carson and D. J. Moo correctly point out: “But the contrasts are both overdrawn and incapable of proving much. Both the fourth gospel and Revelation teach that God is both loving and judging, that Christ is both redeemer and sovereign Lord, and that ‘the last things’ have both been realized in Jesus’ death and resurrection (at least in principle) and await the end of history for their consummation” (An Introduction to the NT 703).
     In future posts we will address other introductory matters pertaining to the book of Revelation.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, English translation is the author’s own.
     2 See D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 938-40; F. L. Godet, Gospel of St. John 1:182-90.

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Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Pastoral Epistles (Part 2 of 2): Authorship

Each of the three letters claims to be from “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus,” followed by personal comments by him (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14; 2 Tim. 1:15-18; 4:9-13; Tit. 1:5; 3:12). In Titus the appellation doulos theou (“a slave of God”) is added (as in Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1).1 By the time of Irenaeus (ca. 125-200) the Pastorals were unquestionably regarded as genuinely Pauline (Against Heresies 1.1; 1.16.3; 2.14.7; 3.14.1). These letters were utilized by Polycarp, Justin, Heracleon, and others. Clement of Rome betrays familiarity with these writings; also Ignatius, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and the Muratorian Fragment. In fact, “the external attestation for the [Pastoral] Epistles … is as strong as that for most of the other Epistles of Paul, with the exception of I Corinthians and Romans” (D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 585-86). No early Christian writer ever doubted the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals.  
Nonetheless, the Pastorals are the most disputed of all the writings in the NT bearing Paul’s name and are widely regarded among current NT scholars as forgeries composed in the apostle’s name near the end of the 1st century or early in the 2nd century.2 As far back as 1807, F. D. E. Schleiermacher was disputing the Pauline authorship of these letters (Über den sogenannten ersten Brief des Paulus an Timotheus), followed by F. C. Baur in 1835 (Die sogenannten Pastoralbrief des Apostels Paulus). However, not everyone assented to the Schleiermacher-Baur tradition (e.g. J. B. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays 399-418; T. Zahn, Introduction 2:1-133). H. Richards comments: “The reader might like to make his own mind up on this question, since a good case can be made for both sides. Whatever conclusion he comes to, he is assured of being in good company” (St Paul and His Epistles 143).3

The Main Issues

1. The language and writing style of these epistles are quite different when compared to the other letters in the Pauline corpus.

2. The historical situation behind the Pastorals does not fit the framework of Acts.

3. The established positions of episkopoi (“overseers”) and diakonoi (“deacons”) reflect a later, more sophisticated form of church organization.

4. The theology of the Pastorals lacks emphasis on typical Pauline doctrines.

5. Marcion’s canon (mid-2nd century) did not contain the Pastorals, and they are missing from the mid-3rd-century Chester Beatty Papyri (P46).

Responses to these objections

1. The role of amanuenses in Paul’s writings, as well as differences in time, circumstances, addressees, and subject matter, would readily account for any apparent differences in language and style. With reference to the criteria of vocabulary, style and theological motifs, E. E. Ellis observes: “the pseudepigraphal viewpoint was undermined by three new insights of twentieth-century criticism: the role of the secretary; the function of cosenders; and the presence of a considerable number of preformed, non-Pauline pieces in almost all of Paul’s letters” (“Pastoral Letters” 659, cf. 661; also “Pastorals and Paul” 45).4 If heavy use was made in the Pastorals of traditional material, the appearance of so-called “non-Pauline vocabulary” does not make a legitimate case against Pauline authorship (see J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 399-400).
M. Prior argues that at least some of the differences between the Pastorals and the other letters of Paul may be due to the fact that the Pastorals were written as personal letters by Paul alone, whereas the rest were written with secretarial assistance (Letter-Writer 50). Other factors would include Paul’s advancing age and the potential effect of the Latin environment of Rome (E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 364-65). Since these were the final letters in the Pauline corpus to have been written, differences in writing style would be expected. Scholars have observed stylistic differences between the first and seventh books of Julius Caesar’s Gallic War, likely the result of several years between compositions (see J. C. Sang, Selections from Julius Caesar’s Gallic War 2). Further, approximately 80% of the Pastorals’ hapax legomena are found in the LXX, the text in which the apostle Paul was steeped.
If an amanuensis had been used to draft these letters, it is interesting that several words in the Pastorals which have been identified as “non-Pauline” are found in Luke’s writings, and since Luke was with Paul at least when 2 Timothy was written (4:11), it has been suggested that Luke may have been his writing partner.5 Remembering that Luke was a physician, it is of further interest to consider that only in the Pastorals is the metaphorical use of certain words that mean to be sick and to be well. The theme of true and false riches is especially prominent in Luke’s writings and in the Pastorals, and a clear parallel is evident between Paul’s statement in 2 Tim. 4:7 and Luke’s record of Paul’s statement in Acts 20:24. “Perhaps the Lukan affinities in the Pastorals have a simpler explanation. Luke was Paul’s longtime companion. It is likely that the two would have had some mutual influence on the language and expression of each other” (J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 400).6

2. The simplest explanation for why the Pastorals do not fit the framework of Acts is that the letters were written after the historical account in Acts was concluded.7

3. The absence of organization and a lack of perceived sophistication in the early stages of Christianity is an unwarranted assumption (cf. Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:6; 20:17; Phil. 1:1). Even R. E. Brown acknowledges that an argument “that draws on comparative theology is very weak, since ‘advanced’ theological insights did not all come at the same time in every place” (An Introduction to the NT 697).

4. It is not realistic to expect Paul to have addressed the exact same themes in all of his letters (irrespective of audience, circumstances, and occasion), particularly in view of the fact that the Pastorals are addressed to his close colleagues who were already intimately familiar with the doctrines he taught.8 Furthermore, the letters to Timothy were sent to Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), where Paul had previously spent three years proclaiming the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27, 31). Even the “preeminent” epistle to the Romans lacks some notable Pauline themes (e.g. the Lord’s Supper, the church, Christ’s second coming).

5. Marcion was a heretic who rejected any writings that did not support his views, including Matthew, Mark, John, and portions of Luke (cf. Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 5.1, 21). The Chester Betty Papyri are fragmentary, and the latter part of P46 (where the Pastorals would have been included) has not survived. Toward the end the copyist responsible for P46 appears to have been progressively writing in a smaller hand, thus the seven missing leaves could have contained the Pastorals (J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 399). Alternatively, in view of the fact that Philemon is also missing from P46, J. D. Quinn proposes two separate collections of Paul’s writings, one for congregational letters and one for letters addressed to individuals, and that P46 only represents the former (“P46–the Pauline Canon?” 379-85).


If the Pastorals were in fact written by someone other than Paul, by using Paul’s name and other personal comments supposedly from or about the apostle,9 the pseudonymous writer was obviously being deceptive – the fact of which is perplexing in view of the warnings given in each letter against deceivers (1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:13; Tit. 1:10).10 While accepting the self-claims of authorship of only the seven undisputed letters of Paul and the book of Revelation (by an unknown John) and attributing the rest of the NT documents to pseudonymous authors, B. D. Ehrman casually remarks: “A large number of books in the early church were written by authors who falsely claimed to be apostles in order to deceive their readers into accepting their books and the views they represented” (Jesus Interrupted 136). Unfortunately, this is the all-too-common assumption that undergirds the bulk of scholarly literature today.
The least complicated and least problematic solution is to simply accept what the texts claim for themselves. A number of critical scholars still argue in favor of (or at least lean toward) the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, including D. A. Carson, D. J. Moo and L. Morris, An Introduction to the NT 359-71; E. E. Ellis, “Pastorals and Paul” 45-47; Paul’s Use of OT 5-9; D. Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles 48-53; J. P. Holding, “A Defense”; G. W. Knight, Pastoral Epistles 21-45; C. Spain, Letters 8-15; B. Witherington III, Paul Quest 110-13; K. Wuest, Pastoral Epistles 13-15, 21-23; see also the commentaries of J. Jeremias, J. N. D. Kelly, R. C. H. Lenski, and C. Spicq. While some do not recognize the authenticity of all the Pastorals, they support the Pauline authorship of 1-2 Timothy (A. Kenny, Stylometric 80-100) or at least 2 Timothy (J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life 356-59).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 J. D. Quinn and W. C. Wacker, First and Second Letters to Timothy 1-23; J. Veitch, Faith for a New Age 165-66.
     3 For a survey of arguments for and against Pauline authorship, see D. Barr, NT Story 167-71; E. E. Ellis, “Pastoral Letters” 659-61; D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 584-622; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 351-63.
     4 See also I. H. Marshall, “Prospects” 137-55; C. F. D. Moule, “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles” 430-52; M. Prior, Letter-Writer 24-35, 45-59; B. Witherington, Paul Quest 10 n. 3, 110-13.
     5 See C. F. D. Moule, Essays in NT Interpretation 113-32; “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles” 430-52; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 365-66; G. D. Fee, First and Second Timothy, Titus 26; E. E. Ellis, Pauline Theology: Ministry and Society 104-111.
     6 See also G. W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles 50-52. Others have granted an even greater compositional role to Luke (cf. S. G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastorals; J. D. Quinn, “The Last Volume of Luke” 62-75).
     7 See What Happened After Acts? 
     8 For valid responses to arguments based on the nature of the false teaching addressed, theology, church organization, and social/ethical perspective, see J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 400-404; also D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 589-606.
     9 1 Tim. 1:1; 1:3, 12-20; 2:1, 7, 8, 12; 3:14-15; 4:13; 5:14, 21; 6:13; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1:3-6, 8, 11, 12, 15-18; 2:1-2, 7, 9, 10; 3:10-11; 4:1, 6-21; Tit. 1:1; 1:3, 5; 3:12-15.
     10 See D. A. Caron and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the NT 337-50; D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 671-84; “Development of Canonical Pseudepigraphy” 43-59; B. M. Metzger, “Literary Forgeries” 3-24.

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