Why Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 Suggest an Early Date

PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY Forums Forum Why Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 Suggest an Early Date

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    Revelation 2:9 reads, “I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Revelation 3:9 says, “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” Prior to the fall of Jerusalem, Jewish-Christian persecution was intense and extremely frequent as mentioned in Acts, the letters and secular Roman history (Lives of the Twelve Caesars 5.25.4). However, noteworthy Jewish-Christian persecution seems out of place during the reign of Domitian. Prior to A.D. 70, the Jews were a very rich and influential people. Because much of the wealth of these people was funneled into Jerusalem through its Temple, it seems unlikely that any city, even Rome, was richer per capita than Jerusalem prior to its fall in A.D. 70. Titus appears to confirm this fact when he says the following in the Wars of the Jews “[W]e [the Romans] have given you leave to gather up that tribute which is paid to God [the tithe]. . . till at length you became richer than we [the Romans] ourselves[.]” By contrast, those who converted to Christianity were generally poor (Matthew 19:24, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Revelation 2:9). How could Jews prior to A.D. 70 who disproportionately filled the ranks of the upper class–especially those who lived in Jerusalem–fall down at the feet of these lowly Christians? The only time this could have happened in a worldly sense in the first century was immediately after the Jewish War when the Jewish population was decimated, Jerusalem was destroyed and plundered by the Romans and many of the surviving Jews were sold into slavery (Wars 6.9.2). This dramatic socioeconomic shift in which the first became last and the last, first is depicted in Roman coins minted during the reign of Vespasian which often depicted crestfallen Jewish slaves on the back side of many of these coins.
    Furthermore, the destruction of the Temple made it impossible to fully follow the Law making the practice of Biblical Judaism impossible. Thus after the destruction of the Temple, Biblical Judaism was replaced by Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism was a modified form of Judaism adjusted to the fact that many of the customs prescribed by the Law could no longer be performed without a Temple (i.e. the sacrifice of animals etc). Furthermore, after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 much of the Jewish population was decimated, sold into slavery, oppressed and subjected to a great deal of racial and religious prejudice and discrimination throughout the empire. Interestingly, the intense Anti-Semitism that pervaded the Roman Empire after the Jewish War prevented Caesar Titus from marrying his Jewish lover, Queen Berenice, upon becoming emperor of Rome (Cassius Dio Roman History 66.15; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.7.). The intense Anti Semitism of the post-A.D. 70 Roman world put the Jews in a place in which mass persecutions of Christians–which were a seemingly everyday occurrence prior to the Jewish War–were unlikely as anymore public disturbances of the peace would certainly not have been tolerated in the Anti-Semitic environment after A.D. 70. This point is hammered home by the fact that the Jews had already been cast out of Rome during the reign of Claudius Caesar for causing riots in the city at the instigation of Christ–and this at a time when Jews were more respected and enjoyed higher status (Lives of the Twelve Caesars 5.25.4).

    Adding to the unlikelihood of significant Jewish-Christian persecution so soon after the fall of Jerusalem is the expected growing trend in Jewish agnosticism. I believe this agnosticism would have occurred as a result of the fact that the Jewish messiah failed to arrive on time as predicted in Daniel 9 combined with the fact that their God seemed to have abandoned them when He allowed His holy city and Temple to be destroyed. The Jewish War struck a huge blow to Biblical Judaism while simultaneously bolstering the law-free gospel of the Christians. It seems unlikely that Jews who as a whole were expected to be struggling with their faith would have the passion necessary to molest their Christian brethren to a severe degree. This persecution is made even less likely by the fact that Judaism and Christianity split into two completely separate religions as a direct and immediate consequence of the fall of Jerusalem. It was at that time that Christianity was recognized as an entirely separate religion from Judaism (which had transformed into Rabbinic Judaism at that time) and was thus no longer considered a sub-sect of Judaism as was the case prior to A.D. 70. The official separation of these two faiths at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 made it increasingly more and more unlikely that Christians and Rabbinic Jews would worship in the same churches or synagogues, a fact that caused the tension prior to A.D. 70 to begin with. The fact that Christians and Jews no longer worshipped together to any appreciable degree after A.D. 70 and the fact that the Jews after A.D. 70 were a decimated, oppressed, and largely agnostic population makes oppressing a growing body of Christians to such a degree as to warrant special mention in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 quite unlikely.

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