If you’re new to this series, you can catch up here:
Part 1 @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/the-seven-churches-of-revelation/
Part 2 @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-two/
Part 3 @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-three/
Who were the Nicolaitans? @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/who-were-the-nicolaitans/
Part 4 @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-four/
Part 5 @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-five/
A Brief Review of History @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/a-brief-review-of-history-313-to-1000-ad/
Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verses 12-18:
To the angel of the church in Pergamum, write this:
The one with the sharp two-edged sword says this:
I know that you live where Satan’s throne is, and yet you hold fast to my name and have not denied your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was martyred among you, where Satan lives. Yet I have a few things against you. You have some people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the Israelites: to eat food sacrificed to idols and to play the harlot. Likewise, you also have some people who hold to the teaching of [the] Nicolaitans. Therefore, repent. Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.
I’ve introduced my idea about the seven churches being periods in church history; I’m not at all sure I’m right so take all this with pounds of salt. Please. That being said …
Pergamum seems to work beautifully as a type for the church during the early Middle Ages (roughly 313 AD to 1,000 AD).
The description of Jesus as “the one with the sharp two-edged sword” refers to the passage shortly before (Rev 1:16) where Jesus is described as having a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth which is a clear references to Hebrews 4:12-16:
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Consider how apropos are references:
to a sharp sword penetrating joints and marrow for this period when barbarian and Muslim warriors invaded repeatedly;
to Jesus as high priest and to his throne for this period when Christianity became the official state church;
to discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart for this period when the Church developed a sophisticated theology;
to the word of God for this period during which the Church assembled the canon of the New Testament; and,
to holding fast to our confession for this period when the Church formulated a creed.
I was intrigued by the TWO in two-edged sword when considered with the TWO broad strokes of this period in Church history:
1. The struggles for dominance between Church and State.
2. The division of the Church between East and West.
Pergamum was the center of the official pagan religion of the Roman Empire and the site of the oldest temple of the imperial cult. (Cf. The letter’s references to Satan’s throne where Satan lives and where a faithful witness was martyred.)
In 330 AD, the Christianizing Emperor Constantine declared Constantinople the new capital of the Roman Empire. Thus, Pergamum works well as a meaningful type for both religious centers, Rome in the West and Constantinople in the East.
Neat, huh? There’s lots more to talk about with this letter. For now, let me just end with this factoid:
Tradition has it that Antipas was a disciple of John who became Bishop of Pergamum and was burned to death there, ca. 92 AD, in a brazen bull-shaped altar. But there is apparently no surviving record of Antipas apart from this brief mention in Revelation.
Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity [Eerdmans Publishing, 1977]
The New Bible Dictionary [Eerdmans Publishing, 1962]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergamon – note alt spelling
13 responses to “The Seven Churches of Revelation, part six”
Chrissy, I admit that I have not had time to give this series the attention that it deserves, but I am printing it all out and putting it in my bag to take on a trip the end of January. I am looking forward to thinking about it in a relaxed atmosphere. I read a book called “The Church The Apostles Left Behind” about 5 years ago and I loved every word of it, so this is something that really interests me.
I’m flattered. 🙂
I haven’t been too bothered about the lack of buzz (comments, likes) for these articles, partly because I feel so COMPELLED to write them that it almost (almost! LOL) seems beside the point who reads them! Also, Grunt kindly sent me a nice email about how much he was getting out of them.
I would want to print them myself, since I find this kind of reading difficult to digest off a computer monitor. When I really want to study and learn something, I need to print it on to paper and get into my Study Mode … pillows, couch, coffee, pencils, paper, poodles. (My brain seems to work best with a poodle or two sitting on my feet.)
I can’t even research and write these from the computer initially. Every morning, I’m hitting the couch with my Bible, Bible Dictionary, History of Christianity, multiple sharp pencils, a yellow pad … and of course brain stimulating fur people. 🙂 When I’m done reading, I sort the pages I’ve written by topic and take the ones I’m going to work on during the day to my computer for online researching and blog writing.
I’m having so much fun with this, especially since I finally began to get a glimmer of what the last three letters might be about. Ephesus and Smyrna were dead easy. I figured the plague in Thyatira was the Black Plague, but I was not at all understanding how Pergamum and Thyatira broke down date wise or what the references were really about. Then, I remembered I had that History of Christianity and, when I dug into it, I got a series of “Oh duh!” moments. I mean, there were paragraphs I’d read that felt like they’d been written specifically for this purpose!
But I’ve been writing for a few weeks now and, apart from some vague suspicions, was feeling pretty much clueless about the last three. I wasn’t even sure I was on the right track with the whole period of history thing. I mean … if it’s a valid interpretation, it has to work for all seven letters, right?
But today, I had an actual “Eureka!” moment about the last three. And that is Just. So. Cool. !!
Well, I like being able to imagine you at work now! I really am looking forward to having the leisure to absorb it all, and to the next installments.
Well, Pete’s pic of me came really close … except I wear glasses and never put pencils in my mouth. I also never wear fur or earphones. Let’s see … my monitor is a slim line and my keyboard slides out on a shelf into my lap where I prefer it. Plus, what else … oh right. I’m not a giant rodent. But other than THAT, it’s totally me! 🙂
Chrissy, I owe you for finding the Hebrews verse about the Word of God, living and effective. I’ve been trying to find that verse for something I was trying to write. For some reason, I was looking in the Old Testament. Thanks for that!
Glad it was useful, but can’t take credit, since it was cited in the NAB footnote.
However, for future reference (as one Bible quote challenged Catholic to another), googling works really well. I just popped “word of god living and effective” into google search and it popped Hebrews 4:12 in the two top finds.
Can’t say this works all the time. I got stumped by something I wanted to find that I didn’t remember correctly. Forget the exact thing, just that I stumbled for a long time with Google and at various Bibles online until I finally found the misremembered passage. Good thing too, since the correct wording ended up not being appropriate for what I was writing.
Some Scripture resources online:
The USCCB site has a list of approved English translations other than the NAB @ http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/
New American Bible Revised Edition (new official Catholic translation, includes introductions to each book and footnotes, but so far as I can tell is not searchable) @ http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm
Bible Gateway (lots of translations, including some approved by USCCB, and in multiple languages) @ http://www.biblegateway.com/
Bible Suite (parallel Protestant and Jewish translations, but none I saw that are on the USCCB Catholic approved list) @ http://bible.cc/
Angelaisms also sent me the link to the Latter Day Saints translation which I sometimes compare with the others @ http://www.lds.org/scriptures/?lang=eng
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