The Way It Happened

Revelation 2:9, They say they are Jews and are not!

I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

//These words are written by John to the city of Smyrna, one of seven cities to whom the book of Revelation is addressed. There are two ways to interpret John’s frustration:

[1] There are Gentiles in Asia Minor who are masquerading as Jews.

[2] There are Jews up in Asia Minor who have forsaken their heritage, and are frolicking with Gentile beliefs.

Most scholars lean toward [2], finding it unimaginable that John would deny Christian fellowship to Gentiles. But I’m actually not so sure. I waffle on the topic in my own book about Revelation. The fact is, Revelation is a very Jewish book, repeating age-old dreams of redemption for the Jewish nation. John never once uses the word “Christian”; he sees himself as a Jew who acknowledges Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Regardless of the way you interpret this verse, it becomes one of many in Revelation that verify that Christianity and Judaism had not yet separated. The intense schism between Jew and Christians revealed in such books as John’s Gospel does not yet exist in Revelation. Yet, Revelation and John’s Gospel share many common themes, though their eschatology, cosmology, and vision of Jesus remain so different. Clearly, one drew from the other, or both drew from a common religious language.

How is it possible, then, that scholars pretend both were written in the 90’s, in the same area of the world? Could they reflect two different views by two different competing men, arguing over the meaning of Jesus?

I find it far more likely that Revelation’s primitive cosmology precedes John’s Gospel by a dozen years or more, and that John’s Gospel reflects a “growing up,” discarding the vengeful, messianic dreams of Revelation. It’s from this perspective that I write my two books, about Revelation and John’s Gospel

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